As I said in my previous post, my godfather is heartbroken over why I have not brought anyone home. We are perpetually fighting over the qualities of this prince Charming and he is like “Veroh, what has travelling got to do with anything?” Everything. Everything. When I came into the newsroom in Nation Media group in Nakuru straight from the university, my then boss Muchemi Wachira told me “journalism is great, you will travel a lot”. My eyes lit. I love travelling! Duh.
Then he sent me to cover a story in arid Naivasha—Ndabibi— and I wanted to bite his head off. I did not mean this kind of travelling. I wanted five star hotels, plane tickets and sunglasses Bermuda Triangle kind of excursions. However, from that first trip, my eyes were opened to what travelling is. Last year, I visited Lamu, my first time in that county. I had visited the county to check the progress of Kenya’s Sh38billion managed equipment service. Read a little story here.
Lamu is breathtaking… my country is beautiful.
So I went to a small village called Faza, with a population of about 50,000. While on the speedboat for two hours, and after knowing it would cost Sh2,00 to ride it, I wondered “what would happen if I were living here and I developed a little complication while on labour and I did not have that Sh2,000 to come to the hospital?”
Thank God there was a facility being constructed. After crossing over to the other side (Faza), my attention was drawn…by someone and I completely forgot that I had come here to see a hospital. I saw a man who, to me, was a genetic wonder. He was Kenyan born and bred, to a man and a woman of the Bajuni tribe that is common here but his eyes bore a narrowness that resembles the Chinese’s. He must have felt so uncomfortable at how I looked at him, in awe and perplexity. Before I was over the shock of his eyes, a middle aged Bajuni woman passed me. She had blue eyes, instead of the normal brown eyes that is genetic colour of the eyes of the Negroid (black) race. Then I was told of the stories about these people. A ship that carried the Chinese was wrecked in this island (Pate) during the “Sino-African” trade in which Kenya participated, and specifically at the Lamu Port. So people intermarried. This racial uniqueness has been hidden due to lack of basic infrastructure and illiteracy, two impediments that has cut them not only from healthcare but from the rest of the world as well.
Travelling is to a journalist what internship is to a doctor. On my shoulders lie the responsibility to inform, educate and entertain a population that is as diverse as it is desensitised to what is important. If I want to talk about, say maternal health, I will only have done my work well when I grab the attention of the senior gynaecologist and that of uneducated woman who is not even aware that decent hospital care is her right. That kind of professional maturity can only come to you through three things: one, an attitude of openness that allows to listen to both lay and expert opinions on a subject; two, reading as far as you can about that subject and this includes books, peer reviewed journals, international magazines and newspapers; three, wait for it… travelling! Go to low resources setting hospitals and watch as doctors work nonstop without food, with the same enthusiasm you would have while visiting Netherlands and be in awe at how multinationals like Philips craft their business ideas to survive in a dynamic healthcare business.
Life can teach you resilience and compassion in two ways: experience or watching someone else go through it. I find it difficult to connect and relate to people whose experiences do not stretch beyond their circumstances. If you have never been hungry, you would never see the urgency to help someone who is starving because you have no idea what it means to be hungry. When you visit impoverished places, you develop gratitude for what you have no matter how little it is. All the places I have been gave me a new perception, made me less judgemental, a little more tolerant, a little more courageous to love and give. All those places became part of my experience. I have sung karaoke in bars in Manhattan, a rich city and realised that each of us carry struggle even in the privilege address; I have become content of a meal a day in Turkana and became conscious that human generosity cannot be quantified in money but in the sacrifice the giver makes. When you meet people, they tell you where they grew up, what makes them happy and that adds to your stories…something you did not have before.
So travel. It is not about money.
#### Excerpts from the book