Safari Kenya – Africa Yoga Project 2019

Safari Kenya

Safari means journey in Swahili. Together with three other (adoptive) moms, I traveled back to the land of our children. We met in 2009 when we were all in the midst of our adoption processes and became friends. For all of us, a long-held wish came true. Ten years have passed since then and our children are now around twelve years old. We still see each other and remain close. I often joke: “We didn’t just adopt a daughter, we adopted an entire extended family.”

It had been a while since the last time we’d spoken, so the eight-hour flight was over before we knew it. The benefit of flying from the Netherlands to Africa is that the time difference is minimal. We got on board at the end of the morning and arrived in a completely different world as the evening fell.

Mr. Jones

Upon arrival, we, of course, had to jump through the usual customs hoops. “Mr. Jones”, my spine, was in my luggage and left quite an impression 👀☠️. I had to open my suitcase and explain that the spine was made of plastic. Within moments, the inquiry turned into a fun conversation. The customs officers were really interested in yoga. I immediately informed them about the free community yoga class that the Africa Yoga Project teaches every Saturday.

Our first night in Kenya, we stayed at a hotel in the center of Nairobi. A taxi from the hotel picked us up and the driver informed us that the hotel bar had already closed. And thus, a little later on the balcony of our hotel, we toasted to the start of our safari with “Tusker”, the local Kenya beer, bought at the gas station.

A morning dive while indulging in the spectacular view over Nairobi, felt very decadent. After reuniting with my good friend Eric Okeyo from Optiride, and a cappuccino with carrot cake at our favorite tent Java House, it was time to leave Nairobi for a few days. Our loyal taxi driver Wareru (now slightly older than the last time we saw each other) drove us to Craterlake Naivasha Kenya. Time to relax. We were the only guests and host Raphael and his crew treated us like kings. What an amazing place!

The next day, we went on a walking safari. I think walking safaris are much cooler than those bumpy car rides. Our guide Walter showed us the very best of Africa. Zebras up close, birds in so many colors, beautiful, blooming cacti, and the smell of the red African soil… needless to say, I was completely in my element.

Daily Kenyan life

Back in Nairobi, we first visited a few familiar places and went on a huge trip down memory lane. A 14-kilometer walk through Nairobi is pretty intense, as the city is located at an altitude of 1795 meters. Although some parts of the city had changed a lot since our last visit, we could still recognize everything well. There was so much to see. All those people and colors… They give off a type of energy that is hard to describe. Brave, hard-working people, who get up every day to earn a living wage. Who make long days, often seven days a week, and then walk back home (in the slum) in the evening. No medical provisions and no pensions. The image of the ‘lazy African’, lying in a hammock under a palm tree, is far from true. I have nothing but deep admiration and respect for them!

Visiting the Africa Yoga Project and the Academy

The main goal of my trip to Kenya was to visit the Africa Yoga Project on June 6th. In the morning, I met Patrick Kiragu, who coordinated this day for us. During our introduction, I told him that I had been David Maina’s mentor. I couldn’t hold back my tears.  Jose immediately grabbed a stack of napkins and remarked that that pile should be enough for today. Patrick could also barely keep his eyes dry and told me that he had been David’s best friend. He excused himself and returned with coffee a little later.

Workshop Back Care Basics

I had the entire morning to give my “Back Care Basics” workshop of more than two and a half hours. Due to the rain, it was expected that not everyone would be on time. While I started my workshop, Yoga teachers in training trickled in. I tried my very best to remember all their names. If I do this with attention, I often go a long way and I quickly noticed that this made a good impression. After the introduction, we went to work. I alternated between explaining and letting my trainees experience the postures themselves. The morning flew by in full attention and concentration. I was so in my element I didn’t even notice that Jose was filming me and taking pictures.

After lunch, Patrick told us that he had contacted David Maina’s widow and that we would visit her that afternoon. Something I had secretly hoped for but hadn’t said out loud. That’s what he had been doing during our workshop. Packed with groceries from the supermarket and accompanied by Patrick and yoga teacher Joy, taxi driver James drove us to her. We arrived in a part of Nairobi that I hadn’t visited before and went deeper into the slums. The yoga teachers who are trained by the Africa Yoga Project often come from similar situations and communities. We faced some harsh realities. We were, of course, escorted well. There we walked, Jose and I, privileged mzungus (white people), between iron sheet shacks that had to suffice as homes.

Visiting the slums

She was waiting for us, shyly. Almost afraid to speak. I muttered my name and followed her. Many eyes followed us. We were, of course, also quite an attraction ourselves. Her tiny cabin held a couch and a large mattress. The walls were covered with clothes on hangers. We later found out that she earns her living by washing clothes for others. They all hung inside to dry. David himself no longer had parents and his family had taken everything they owned after his death. She was lucky to be allowed to keep their son, who is now 7 years old. Though it’s hard for us to imagine, this is not uncommon. As a result, she had to suffer twice. After a while, we decided to leave, leaving her some money.

The outreach program

So, that made quite an impact. We were escorted back to the taxi and then went to the Kingeroo primary school, where yoga teacher Joy gives her weekly outreach yoga class. It had rained a lot the night before. No yoga mats here, but with our feet in the red African soil. Together with Joy, I taught the class. In the corner of my eye, I saw a couple of small children. They started to participate from a distance. As I turned towards them, they slowly got closer. Trust arose. One of them briefly touched my blonde hair. After the lesson, we said goodbye by giving everyone a high five or a fist bump. Tired and satisfied we were safely escorted back to our hotel. This was a day to remember. I already knew one thing for sure: it’s not a goodbye, it’s a new beginning. Plans are already in the making!

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