May & June are the usual slow months on the island and a time for me to go back to the sunny shores of Cornwall – UK to reconnect with my roots. I leave Diamond Beach, Lamu for 3 months and immerse myself and my daughter, Tima, in the other life for a whole quarter of a year.
It is not always easy to move from one to another. Cornwall is a shift to a more European way of life and of routine. Tima goes to school in the local village for 3 months. If your child misses a day or more you get fined, you can’t be late every day and blame the donkey or your boat captain, one has to conform to the rules, we are grateful at having the privilege of being allowed access the Great British school system for just 12 weeks so we better respect it.
Tima adores life in the depths of Cornwall, she has me to herself (pretty much) she thrives on the structure that has to be in place when you have 120 kids in a school and 23 in your class as opposed to 8 in her Kenyan ‘school’ of all different ages. I feel extremely lucky that she strives to be clever and wants to please. To have a child with learning difficulties in the UK, let alone on a remote island, with little or no understanding of the issues would be a huge challenge and more guilt must ensue. I do have pangs of ‘am I dong the right thing’ when we take our last steps out of the school gates at the end of July and say bye to that safe, organized, encouraging, all encompassing world of school: lunches, after school clubs, play dates, tombollas, sports days and so on. In the UK it is a given, we don’t have to think about it, its done for us, we turn up and most of it is wonderful. I have no understanding of people choosing to home school. Of course I had to consider it before we built the school in Kenya but to choose it in the UK, I don’t have it in me. There are of course elements to the schooling system I would change but we are within its grips for such a short amount of time we take what we can, bleed it almost, for the richness it gives Tima and then say bye. See you next summer term.
I aways have a large tear in my eye as we walk out and Tima nonchalantly bids farewell to her friends for another 9 months.
I have said that good bye every year for 18 years, I could have chosen to travel for the rainy season and see the world, but every year I have returned to Penzance and slotted back into this small community, which can sometimes be frustrating, but its home. As much as I enjoy being away, I must also need that familiar sense of belonging too. I feel I owe it to Tima to allow her the opportunity to not just call Penzance home in some abstract sense, but to experience the feeling of belonging and to make connections and roots that I think give one the knowledge to explore. Knowing that Tima is making friendships that she will potentially have forever in a place that she can call home, if indeed she chooses to maintain her connection with Penwith and the friends and family we have here. That of course is up to her. However for Tima her connection to both will be much stronger than for me, I was 21 when I moved to Lamu but she is half Kenyan and has been there since day 1 so she has 2 very strong identities to carry. Time will tell how she follows them through, but to have both is a great privilege.
As much as she loves the life in the UK with the normality, the familiarity as the weeks pass; the food, the ease, the TV, the parks, the fair coming to town, the cinema, friends, family, ice cream on Monday & Friday after school, the train to see Granddad, she also happily transitions back to Kenya.
Diamond slows down but the pizza oven still burns in May & July. In our absence I know the hotel is not quite the same without us but Kalama, Kazungu, Lenox and the crew do me proud and how the weeks fly by. Its soon time to pack the bags and leave in the knowledge that not much will change in Penzance in 9 months. All will be pretty much the same which is a reassurance that allows the insecurity and unknown of Africa to envelop us again with its smells and warmth and smiles for another season of shocks and surprises and wonders in all their extremes that one can guarantee in Kenya.
I wasn’t expecting this post to be so personal and about Tima but I guess the months in the UK are now more about her than me. We are half way though being here, its always a funny shift between being here for 3 months and then only having 6 weeks left. The sun is shining, the festivals are booked and we are going to enjoy it.