I have written a fair bit about our life in Kenya and Zaire in the eighties, when Ben was working for a multi-national company: our arrival from England with first one, then two babies. There will be more to come but today I have been thinking about our departures from those countries. This is perhaps down to the time of year, August being when we usually took annual leave and is also when we left both Kenya and Zaire for good. Leaving was so much more than just going home – it was the end of a way of life that came with sadnesses as well as a certain pleasure at being back in the swim of a more regular family life in Cambridge.
Leaving the people with whom Ben had spent his working life in the field in Kenya was one such – as was leaving our boys at the house. They threw a party for us at the office where a goat was ceremoniously roasted and speeches made. The mood at the end was lightened by an announcement that Ben’s secretary, Beatrice, who had just given birth to a baby boy, father unknown, had called her son Ben Travers which led to uproarious laughter and cheering. The refrain ‘Cheers, not tears’ followed us to our car and is something I have never forgotten. For months after we left, as we walked about Cambridge, if Amelia saw a black man, she would say joyously, ‘Joseph!’, the name of our guard who she loved playing with, truncheon and all. Several months after our return I got a letter in Cambridge written by Boniface, our general factotum. He had gone to a letter-writer at a stall in the town and dictated what he wanted to say, ‘Darling Madam’ it began. High and low I have searched for that letter and hope that one day I might find it again and be transported back to the green and friendly place that we called home for a few years at
Migori. I dream that I slipped it into a book and that along with the dried frangipani blossom that I tucked into a biography of Karen Blixen (Isaak Dinesen really) and found not long ago, it could be added to my treasure trove of letters, photograph and most of all, memories. Leaving Bunia in Zaire deserves its own chapter so I shall think on that for my next post.