Nearly a year and a half. That is the time that has passed since I’d seen him last. The day he had started his 1000-day journey. By hitchhiking.
You are raising your kid for twenty-something years and, like it is supposed to be, you give him everything he wants, try to make him see the right way. And then, that same kid comes to you and simply says – Dad, I’m going on a trip around the world.
I must have made some kind of a mistake.
He’s been trying to convince me for years that it’s not necessarily so, that he simply has another way of looking at things and that his way is not a bad one. He says that he is looking for something. I wonder what. I wish he knew that. When I was his age I was already married, had a child and a job. And he? True, he has his university degree, but everything else…I don’t understand his way of life. He has no home, no girlfriend, no job (also, he doesn’t have any work experience written in his work permit), he travels like a beggar around the world, waiting for someone to show him some mercy – to pick him up in the middle of the road, to offer him a couch to sleep on, to give him some food. What kind of life is that?
At least he calls us on a daily basis. Also, we get to see him through Skype. We usually talk for an hour, that is, usually he talks. And we ask questions. Later, we retell it to our family and friends. They don’t understand him either but they always want to know where he’s at, what he’s doing. They want to know about the people he meets or whether he has lost any weight. We talk about him a lot. Today not in the same way as they used to a couple of years ago when he started the whole travelling thing. Since he’s begun writing, giving lectures, showing up in papers, radio and TV and receiving money from the sponsors – people have slowly changed their attitude. They aren’t that rigid, at least.
To be fully honest – I’ve changed my attitude, too. That is why I’m at the airport in Nairobi, happy to see him.
During my first day in the capital of Kenya I was surprised by everything. We checked in a hotel, and later he took me for a walk leading me self-confidently through the streets that were unknown even to him. With a smile on his face he gently turned down all kinds of people that would sell you anything. He kept on telling me that I should stick with him and be careful not to get hit by a some strange vehicle since here people were driving at the opposite side. He takes me to a fine restaurant where I had my first African beer. I knew that usually he didn’t eat at that kind of places, but I guess that he didn’t want to spoil my two-week stay in Africa by some stomach problems.
Have you considered going back home with me? – I asked him a few days after our safari adventure had begun.
For years I had watched African animals on TV, and now they’re here, just a few meters from us. The feeling was amazing. Unreal. We saw a bunch of zebras, antelopes, wildebeests, giraffes and even a group of six rhinos crossing a road just a couple of meters away from us. We drove past them, sometimes even walked next to them.
I’d always dreamt about doing that. However, knowing that wishes don’t always come true I only expected that my wishes would remain a dream. And that is when this little piece of work called me from Australia, told me that he was on his way to Africa and told me to straight to a travel agency and choose when I’d be visiting him and how long I’d be staying. MasterCard treats, he said. I couldn’t refuse, even though the last time I flew in an airplane was in ’91.
No, dad – he said, obviously prepared for that question. Filip’s wedding isn’t for another few months, so after you’re gone I’ll visit the rest of Africa and be home just in time for his wedding.
I didn’t talk about going home anymore. I knew him very well and I knew that by doing so I could only make it worse and he’d miss the wedding. However, I noticed that he didn’t feel like travelling as he used to. His mother noticed the same thing in his e-mails, messages, his posts on blog, his latest photos. We saw that there was something bothering him; he had lost his energy. Still, I knew he would find the solution, on his own. After all, he wasn’t a baby anymore.
I was the one feeling like a baby in this Africa. I didn’t know a single word in English; I just kept on smiling and nodding to the other people in our group and the only way I could participate in a conversation was when Tomislav pretended to be a simultaneous translator. Or when I was talking to him, of course. Sometimes all I needed to do was observe: I could tell by observing their body language what they were talking about, especially when Tomislav was describing some of his adventures and the rest were quietly listening to him.
There were 14 of us in a group. There are all kinds of people here: old, young, people who are travelling alone, those travelling in pairs – people from all around the world. We did all the assignments together: we were divided in four groups – we helped with the cooking, doing the dishes, cleaning the bus, and another thing which I can’t remember now. However, the point is: everyone did everything. Apart from that fourth thing, obviously.
When was the last time you did your own laundry? – he asked me while we were washing manually one of his scarves.
Before I got married; it must’ve been more than thirty years – I said.
Tell me one thing. How did mom managed to take care of the three of us, all the while working full-time, cleaning the house, cooking and doing the other chores around the house? Filip and me weren’t that ready to help her – he said, without raising his head.
Frankly, I have no idea – I admitted.
You guys have been too good parents to us – he continued – you’ve always tried to make it easier for us, to give us everything we need. Still, at the same time, you’ve created us – people who don’t know much about the house chores, don’t know how to cook, who are lazy when things need to be done. Now you understand why I had to go. I needed to grow up and become independent. I need to see how can I work my way out in this world without my parents’ help, without anyone I know. See dad, that’s why I’m travelling.
I understood. Just like I had come from Herzegovina to Zagreb, although for all the different reasons, he wandered around the world. The same story, with some differences. Some of them are too much for me, but okay. It is his way, after all. He’s always been a bit extreme.
The day after our doing the laundry we visited the village inhabited by the people from the Masai tribe. We listened about their customs, way of life, they showed us how they used some plants for medical reasons; they taught us how to throw spear to kill a lion, if a lion happens to come in our way.
Those were the people who were considered primitive by the Westerners. However, there were many similarities. For instance, the position of women: the position of a woman in a Kenyan village is completely the same as the position of a woman in a Croatian village. Her place is in the house, while the man is the one who earns money in order to feed the family. Another thing is the relationship with the nature: Masai tribe depends on the nature and uses everything that can be found in the nature to make medicines, find food, make clothes and shoes; nearly everything. I think my mother worked her way through craggy Herzegovinian nature just like these Masai warriors worked their way through their harsh nature.
And even though we look completely different and we speak different languages, believe in different god, and have different eating habits – deep down we’re basically the same. We share same principles, raise families, give our children everything we can, try to treat nature with respect. Okay, they’re probably better than us as far as the nature thing is concerned. But yes. We’re the same. We’re human beings. Brothers and sisters.
Now I finally understood what he’d been talking about the whole time: about knocking down all the prejudices while travelling. It’s not that easy to realize it until you see it with your own eyes.
On our eighth day of the safari we said goodbye to our group who left us on a crossroads. We took our backpacks and headed towards north, towards Subukia. Father Miro, the man who was running Mali dom – an orphanage I’d heard all the best about, was waiting for us there.
After we departed from our group on one crossroad, Subukia was some 100 kilometres away, and we were supposed to get there by – hitchhiking. At first, I thought Tomislav was joking, that he was simply taking a photo of me with my thumb stuck out, but since we didn’t move for a few minutes I realized that he wasn’t. I fell into carefully planned trap – if we hitchhiked together and arrived to our destination safe and sound I wouldn’t be able to complain any longer about that way of travelling. He’d always be able to say to me – Hey, I didn’t hear you complain when we hitchhiked together in Kenya.
After watching some twenty cars pass us by I hoped we would stop and catch a bus, get a taxi, anything. Boy, was I wrong. He simply said that once, in southern Spain, he’d waited for seven hours and that he didn’t plan on stopping before breaking that record.
Just as he finished his sentence, a car pulled over. It was going in our direction. The driver said he’d give us a ride. Also, he asked for some money, but it wasn’t much. Anyway, it was cheaper than the amount of money he would have to pay for a bus ticket. We put our stuff in the trunk, got in and the ride could begin.
We were hitchhiking in Kenya, and very successfully. If anyone had told me that I’d be doing that a few days, weeks, months before…I’d say they were crazy. Now I was the crazy one.
The road was at a time great, and at a time awful, but, finally, we arrived to Subukia. We found father Miro who welcomed us with a smile and took us straight away for a lunch he’d already arranged with his colleagues after the mass. He was very nice. Also, he spoke Croatian so I could finally ask all those questions I had in mind. He responded to all of them.
We got into Miro’s Land Rover and with the sounds of Croatian music went towards our new small home. Tomislav was pensive and simply watched the distance in front of us. It’d been a while since he heared the familiar songs. He missed them, no matter how hard he tried to deny it.
We drove almost for an hour and the road we drove on was in such a bad condition that in a normal world couldn’t be called a road at all. Miro said that the road tended to change when it rained. Very often they got stuck in the mud so they had to call someone to help them move on. Sometimes he was late for a mass, but people would wait for him knowing that in Africa time was different than in Croatia. Mass doesn’t start at ten o’clock, but when the priest comes.
We entered the yard of an enormous estate, and put our things in the rooms where volunteers would usually stay. We met one of them: his name was Mijo and he had been there for eight months. Mijo is hilarious. He worked with the children in the orphanage, helped around, and he now calls them his family.
The following day Mijo took us to the orphanage that was four kilometres away from our current home. We spent the day playing with the kids, laughing, thinking about how they’re happy with the little they have, while most of us aren’t, even though we have much more. Happiness truly is relative.
We also met other volunteers and since Filip, who had also been there for a few months, was visited by his parents I started feeling like I was in Croatia and not in the heart of Africa. I could speak Croatian, we played soccer, grilled, sang, celebrated Miro’s birthday.
My stay in Kenya was slowly coming to an end. In less that three days I would be flying back home. So many impressions, so many new experiences, new acquaintances – I’ll be able to talk about it for years. I didn’t expect anything to happen. Maybe that’s the reason why it was that beautiful.
Just like the following beautiful sentence came unexpectedly:
Dad, I’m coming back home with you.
GALLERY – KENYA.
YT VIDEO – KENYA (2):