kenya: first thoughts

I am totally at awe with the culture and nature of Kenya. Such a beautiful, humbling country. I cannot think where to begin describing Kenya to you. It commands an unusual excitement that grabs you as soon as you step off the plane - giddy yet very self aware. No third hand experience can ever really prepare you.

For me, it was the smell of the country that struck me immediately. A mixture of burning sweet smelling wood, fresh foliage and sandalwood greets you as you emerge from the plane and grows stronger and stronger as you travel into the depth of the country. It's a perfume that you never quite get used to, always lingering at your nostrils, seeking to remind you of where you are. It becomes a comfort blanket, something to warm the already excited soul.

As we queue nervously in line to present our visa and yellow fever certificates, we find ourselves practicing what little Swahili we know - "Jambo" the double entendre meaning hello, but also "problems?" We quickly decide that it may not be the best opener with which to greet Government officials, so we settle for the cheesy grin over the elaborately craved ebony counter. We needn't have worried: Kenyan people are a law unto themselves - incredibly friendly, to whom nothing is too much trouble. Eager to meet every new tourist passing through, the ambush of friendly faces - a sea of smiles - greet you as you enter the "arrivals lounge." It's a world away from Heathrow - there's no denying that, but you immediately find yourself asking if this is a better world? They have nothing but the clothes on their back, the corrugated iron shack they live in on the outskirts of Nairobi (if they are lucky) and a family to feed and nurture, yet they are more open, friendly and intriguing than us westerners - with our designer luggage, an array of digital cameras and mobile phones - could ever be.

It's a dichotomy pitched at the start of the holiday, which is prevalent throughout; who truly is the better off? Us with our modern day wizardry, gadgets and distractions or a race who place their love, energy and soul into preservation of family and culture? I hope, in some way, to be able to draw an answer for you through my observations.