The Literary Side of Safari Jenn

If you know me at all, you know that I always have a book with me. I was once compared to Rory from Gilmore Girls for this fact alone – I am a total Book Worm. This is okay with me, there are worse things to be and, it turns out, being an avid reader is a good thing in a place like Africa where half of your day is spent waiting. Irene is late, I take out my book. The bus hasn’t arrived, I take out my book. Tami is held up in the visa line, I take out my book. Who’s laughing now?

And what’s better than reading a book in Africa? Reading a book about Africa while in Africa! I’ll admit, I try to hide the cover when doing so as not to stand out more than I do already (hey, check out the tourist reading the book about Safari!) but that’s half of the fun. My current page turner is Paul Theroux’s travel memoir, Dark Star Safari, a tale of an overland journey from Cairo to Cape Town. Like Theroux, this is my return to Africa – a place that was once my home. Although I wasn’t absent nearly as long as he was, (my three years to his thirty-some) a lot has happened in Kenya in the past couple of years and although the place is exactly the same, it’s totally different.

Reading about Theroux’s time in Nairobi had me smiling to myself, especially since he threw in a Dickens reference!

“Prime pickpocket territory, for it was so crowded, so crammed with urchins snatching and begging, as well as the blind, the leprous, the maimed. I was reminded again that medieval cities were all like this. African cities – a motley liveliness that lends color and vitality to old folktales and much of early English literature. An obvious example was Dickens’s London, an improvised city populated by hangers-on, hustlers, and newly arrived bumpkins – like Nairobi today… My idea was to walk fast and look busy and not dress like a soldier or a tourist – no khakis, no camera, no short pants, no wallet, no valuables, just a cheap watch and loose change, for it was a rapacious and hungry and scavenging society.”

This is especially ironic seeing as this is my second copy of Theroux’s book – the first one was stolen along with my backpack. And, of course as I write this I have my bag wrapped around my ankles, my wallet in the secret pocket, all valuables safe at home and my watch hooked on my belt loop. Just had to throw that one out there. Nairobi: the city I love to hate.

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