Travel Journal: I Know Africa and She Knows Me

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A little background

“I'm finally going to Africa” is what I thought once the last payment of my trip was paid and I had finally figured out how and which flight I would be on to get to Kenya.

My first visit to the Motherland was back when I was 16 years old. It was Spring Break and I was traveling with fellow classmates of my Spanish class to Spain. During our time there we had a day trip to Morocco. Hey Northern Africa! Couscous, tea, time spent in a rug stall, and after endless snaps of the camera of ancient archways, hidden faces, curious gazes and quiet & narrow alleyways and just like that our trip to the Motherland was over. We headed back to the dock and waited for the boat to take us back to the Spanish harbor.

Fast forward to 27 years old where I'm going through an adulting life crisis of trying to figure out life, love and career. I needed to escape and reconnect.

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Misfortunes enroute

T-minus 24 hours and I'll be in Nairobi!!! This is unreal and I can't wait. I'll be staying in London for my overnight layover. It will give me a chance to lay in an actual bed, shower, visit the Soul of a Nation: Art In The Age of Black Power exhibit at the Tate Museum and meet up with Teneshia who will be joining the group as well. I decided to be a part of a group trip to visit Kenya. It's a curated trip where the only people I would “know” was Wilizé who I met in person once at her Women's Healing Retreat 4 months prior and Teneshia who I would be meeting up with during my 20 hour layover in London for dinner because she lived there and her flight would be leaving the following day as well -- she had a layover in Dubai and I would be traveling from London straight to Nairobi.

Made it to my Airbnb, check.
Made it to the Tate Museum, check.
Made it to Nandos which was the restaurant of choice to meet up with Teneshia, check.
We connected and had a great time at dinner, we danced in the car with excitement thinking about our impending trip & she dropped me off at my Airbnb, check.
Got my airplane outfit ready and went to bed, check.
Woke up the next morning, grabbed my luggage, found my way back to the Underground -- Paddington Station -- Heathrow Express -- Heathrow Airport Terminal 3, check.
Walked up, a representative asked, “Are you heading to Nairobi?” And I replied, “Yes” with a smile. I was the second person in line to check in (that never happens), check.
Get to the counter presented my Passport and reservation number, check.

I patiently wait and beam with pride as she flips through my passport filled with stamps and then she sharply asks, “Do you know your passport is expiring” I say, “Yes I'm aware it expires in December” She responds by saying, “you know you need at least 6mo. validity on your passport to travel to Kenya?” She picked up the phone. Hangs up and says, “You won't be able to get on the flight.” As I stood there in shock and feeling numb the only question I had was, “What do I do?” I don't even remember what her response was, but I do remember that the look that she gave me would essentially translate to the phrase “That ain't my problem.”

I walked away from the counter defeated and broken I truly didn't know what to do. As a seasoned traveler I had never encountered or faced such a dilemma while on my travels. I was petrified that I wouldn't be able to make it to the Motherland after all.

Called my Beau sobbing and probably inaudible. Called my host from the previous night sobbing and inconsolable. Headed back to the Heathrow Express -- Paddington Station -- Barbican.

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3 days: loss of appetite, a trial run on how to get to the American Embassy, official visit to the Embassy, emergency passport, missed flight and three days later I made it to Nairobi.

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Finally here

My first day was spent on the beach in Mombasa, which is a two hour plane ride from Nairobi. White, sandy beach, warm, clear water, palm trees and the backdrop of the vast Indian Ocean -- I was in Heaven. Daiquiris, true organic coconut water where the coconuts were picked off the tree and chucked with a machete in front me. A gorgeous Camel that appeared out of nowhere it seemed. Side note: I literally just remembered that my first time being up close to a camel was while in Morocco. I was asked if I wanted to ride in the Rolls Royce of Morocco, which was a camel, and I did.

This time around I declined to ride but opted to appreciate the camel while still on the ground and did a Boomerang instead.

Later in the day I joined a few others in exploring the city/market area of Mombasa. It was gritty, crazy, colorful and ancient. It felt like a mixture of Morocco and Cuba. I had never seen so many Niqābs being worn by the women who traveled with companions or children while in the streets. It was a frenzy.

I forgot to mention that with me being stuck in London for three days that I missed the overnight Safari of the Rift Valley and missed being able to meet with the Masai people. Heartbreaking I know.

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My second day was the true definition of relaxed. I started off my morning with tea and Ta Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years In Power. I got ready to participate in the yoga session in the perfect Nairobi sun, which was followed by massages and conversation. That evening everyone who was anyone joined us at our compound, including artists and influencers of Nairobi and even the son of the Kenyan President (and his body guards lol). We enjoyed music, dancing and local Kenyan spirits. We danced into the wee hrs in the morning with myself being one of the very last standing. It was electric.

The next morning was a lazy morning but we headed to the Massai-Market later in the day. There my senses were overloaded by color, noise and merchants saying, “Karibu” which means welcome in Swahili. I was being followed as I walked through the market place by an eager woman who wanted me to follow her and check out her merchandise. I walked through the market exploring all of the many treasures it possessed. Necklaces, earrings, intricately adorned beaded sandals where the soles are made of recycled tire, shavings of a tree that made up a canvas with the map of Africa imprinted on it, pure brass bracelets & earrings, beautifully woven bowls & baskets and so much more. I purposefully packed lightly with my checked luggage for this very day. The people were charming, funny and endearing. The man that I purchased the sandals from shared with me that I had made his day because he hadn't made any sales all day. I couldn't believe that was true because he work was amazing.

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I spotted her. There another. Would I be able to? I asked a friend who was from Kenya and who was with us as we traveled through the market to help us with negotiating prices. I pulled him aside and asked would there be any way that I could take a picture of one the Maasai women I had spotted in the market. He said, “Sure, I don't see why not”. The price -- purchase one of her necklaces, I bought two! I was elated and she adorned me with necklaces for our photo.

Later that evening we went to a nightclub. It felt like it was the pulse of Nairobi. Street food being grilled near the entrance, crowded bar where the hottest bartender I had ever seen was concocting mixtures that I had never seen before, but of course tried for myself. The vibes, energy and music was on point. There was even a point where the power went out. The crowd utilized that time to catch their breaths and check their phones. Fifteen minutes later the DJ had us under his control and all was right.

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Our last full day was spent at the Giraffe sanctuary where we were able to feed the giraffes. It was pretty slimy and awesome to say the least. The sun kissed my skin and I felt the presence of what felt like the Universe saying, “ Welcome back home, we've been waiting for you”. The evening commenced with a concert that included some of Nairobi’s most amazing talent. The concert was held at a popular venue that served smoothies and coconut water alongside beer & alcohol and the entrance was lined up with food trucks that would make you do a double take because you would have thought that you were back in Los Angeles. It was great.

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Reflecting and feeling free

My last day in Nairobi I reflected on finally being able to make it to Mama Africa. I felt like I belonged. So many times before when traveling to new and exciting places people don't let me forget my skin color, the texture of my hair or the curves on my body. But here I felt free. Free of judgement, free of unconscious thoughts or looks, free from criticism based on appearance, free from materialism, free from the button that resides in all of us that automatically switches on because it senses when the need to code switch -- it was on airplane mode. I was free to be the beautiful, free to be the brown paper bag with undertones of red and yellow. Free to embrace the sun and soak up all of the rays that enrich my melanin and make it glow. I felt strong. I was strengthened by being in the presence of my ancestors. My thoughts shifted. My outlook changed. I felt emboldened by life and possibility.

I was in Africa and she knew who I was.

For more information on trips like this and more, visit WorldChangerLife.com.

 

Jazmine Jones is an LA- native with a love for travel and culture. She has the "unabashed passion of @AmandaSeales, sassy attitude of #AuntieMaxine, diligence of @Beyoncé, relatability of @IssaRae, soulful authenticity of @SaintRecords, and optimism & friendliness of Susie Carmichael (Rugrats)." 

Nikia Phoenix