Once we were notified of our imminent transfer back to the United States, Donanne and I entered a time of transition. We began to make myriad arrangements. These involved travel bookings, ordering lift vans for household effects, getting various forms in order: taxes, work permits and crucially important a birth certificate for Pauly. On an assignment from my editors, I went south to Mozambique, Rhodesia and Angola, leaving Donanne to wrestle with many of these preparations.
While schlepping around Beira, Mozambique, and Sao da Bandeira, Angola, I wondered what the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference would be like in August. My drama The Hemingway Play would be given a staged reading there. Would that lead to opportunities outside journalism? That seemed unlikely, but one could always dream. What I would be doing back in Boston at the Monitor’s home offices had not yet been determined, another reason I was reluctant to embrace the idea of a transfer.
As is characteristic of editors, mine in Boston assumed that in the throes of leaving I would be filing stories at the usual pace. Still I needed a temporary replacement. I found an aspiring journalist, bright, eager and capable, young and American, to take over my Monitor responsibilities. I continued to record radio spots for Group W because they could be written over a cup of coffee and recorded over the phone. The Monitor editor heard one of these and fired off a cable, taking me to task for continuing to work for Group W while he was paying my keep in Nairobi. That was just part of an editor’s DNA and, as it worked out, I filed a story for the Monitor the very day we left.
We had our farewell ceremonies with Laban and Murugi and moved out of the house on Riverside Paddocks. We relocated temporarily to a small house farther out of town in Kabete. Mururgi was sometimes available to stay with Pauly – who was now beginning to walk – and sometimes not; we engaged the services of a young woman to keep her eyes on him.
Since we had been living a very comfortable life with a pleasant circle of friends, saying goodbye to people whom we had come to know was in some ways the hardest part of leaving. This was especially true in the case of Ursula Johnson who had seen Donanne through the baby’s arrival. Her husband Ted had passed on only a month or two before. Ursula had asked me to read a memorial service for him which I was happy to do. Most of Nairobi’s professional people turned up for that service. Ursula would soon be moving to South Africa where her son Michael had established himself.
We would fly out of East Africa on a British Airways plane that originated in Johannesburg, leaving there in the early evening. The flight did not depart Nairobi until almost midnight. At the airport we found that our plane was not at all crowded. We got seats behind a bulkhead. I was able to stretch out on the floor with Pauly next to me. What great luck, I thought! Pauly and I would be able to get some sleep. But, no, Pauly wanted to watch the movie.
When we arrived at London’s Heathrow, he walked by himself throughout the transit lounge in a white infant suit with footies.
Friends drove us to Embakasi Airport as the last light was fading from the sky. Out by the game park, passing a stand of trees, I noticed the long shapes of giraffes moving among those trees, their heads lifted into the leaves on long necks. For one reason or another, we have never been back to Nairobi. I still have a mental picture of those giraffes, my final wildlife sighting in East Africa.
Leave a Reply