Thursday, 18 November 2010

WATAMU Nov 16th
My last full day in Watamu was spent cleaning turtle tanks and giving two of the turtles a sea bath. In taking it all in, once again, I am perfectly able to see how a European, with cash, would find this an entirely agreeable way of life. Satellite TV helps. The acceptance of the fact that you will employ a cook, cleaner and gardener also contributes to the lifestyle. The absolute selling point is the environment and climate. To wake up to the sound of breaking waves on a tropical beach consisting of pure white sand, even if it is covered in seaweed at this time of year, is worth a huge amount that money cannot buy. It is warm, sometimes too warm in the evenings and hot in the middle of the day. How much better is that than cold and damp, even so? Having said all that, it is probably a young person’s game. Children over the age of 13 almost have to be educated in another country, it is no place to be sick or elderly, driving is distinctly hazardous and friendships have to be conducted over long distances.
Nicky took me and another friend a few miles inland, where there is the last patch of unspoilt coastal rag forest, yesterday evening. We sipped a beer and watched while a family of elephants meandered down to a nearby water hole. They are magnificent creatures and it is very easy to project many human-like qualities on to them. They were led by a boisterous young male, all trunk and trousers, while the aunts and other siblings proceeded more cautiously. Mum brought up the rear, keeping them all in sight and drinking only once she had made certain there were no hidden dangers. As ever, their very existence is threatened by the encroachment of humans into their territory. What they have represents only a fraction of their original range, which extended right inland to Tsavo, about 120 miles west. They now have this ever-diminishing 400 sq mile area, which is fenced to keep them away from human populations but does not stop human populations bothering them.
I will not see Giovanni again, as he is off somewhere on business tomorrow. His is a fascinating background. He asked me to guess his African birthplace and I got nowhere near Addis Ababa. I should have. He is 67, born in 1943, when Abyssinia was still an Italian colony. His parents, living in Bologna, were amongst those encouraged by Mussolini to move to the land of new opportunity and did so in 1936. After the war and the loss of Abyssinia and Somaliland, his parents moved to Uganda. Giovanni went to school in Kampala and to university in Cape Town. All his family moved out in 1970, when Idi Amin became too much for them and Giovanni established a highly successful advertising company in Kenya. He ran this until he sold the company to Saatchi and Saatchi. It is a huge mix of national experiences but Giovanni is still staunchly Italian, despite having never lived there and sounding for all the world like a regular English speaking South African. Somehow Africa and Giovanni, and Nicky for that matter, are made for each other and vice versa. I suppose that, more than anything, determines the way the dice rolls when coming up with answers to the sort of questions I alluded to earlier. I like Kenya but I’m not made for it.

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