The moment when I first met my true love was in December of 2016, I recall sitting in a boat in the middle of the ocean from Manda Airport thinking, “I must be crazy, what am I doing here?” I was hung up on unrequited love, feeling stuck in an unfulfilling career and just trying to get away from it all. My heart was heavy with heartache but empty and craving deep self reflection. When I looked up from my phone and our eyes met, I forgot everything.
That feeling came back a year later when I landed at the same airport, dragging the same suitcase along the same road to the end of the same run down pier but carrying a different heart. You see I was healed from the pain in the past and focused on this new adventure but terrified that I would not feel as welcome as I did the first time. But my lover is the type to wrap you up in his arms softly and whispers in your ear until you fall asleep. And when you wake up you will have forgotten everything and everyone and just want to be with him. His is the kind of love that is not obsessive but is compulsive enough that you want to be addicted to being wanted by him. I still feel him rock me to sleep gently when I sit still enough and his beauty and culture is like nothing I ever dreamed of.
He pushes you to discover things about yourself that you did not know you had in you. Like how I first learned how to sail a dhow. Sitting on the Galaxy; nose almost touching the water as she rode the waves gracefully, forgetting that I can barely swim if we tipped over but savouring each passing second regardless. Lamu for me is like the lover I could leave and come back to each year and even after being away for many years he would still embrace me like I never left.
This trip I saw a different side of Lamu. He taught me how to find my strength and work in a team along with other beautiful brave women (and men) including 12 year old Amber and our amazing Captain Ayme Sinclair. She was determined to make history by sailing the very first Womens’ team in the New Year Dhow Regatta. When Ayme first sent me an email I thought it was a hoax and some Yahoo boys were trying to con me out of my coin but after we had a video chat and I established that she actually existed I was ecstatic, I was going back to meet with my love. Can I add that the company I work for, The Gina Din Group was more than happy to have sponsored me on the trip.
Nostalgia hits me anytime I look at photos from the trip. The memories are still vivid in my mind, they like to tease me like a soft feather’s touch when I’m bored. Living at the Beach House in a Big Brother type situation was very intimidating at first. My housemates were all Africans except Alison who’s from Australia; they had a friendship going on for years and for the most part either lived or still live in New York. Despite all that I received a warm welcome from everyone and soon learned that sometimes your insecurities are based on absolutely nothing but your own mind. There was a little bit of everyone that I could relate with or learn from and if you are the type of person who like me prefers to sit in a corner and observe you will miss out on all the moments. Sometimes you need more of that jump into the pool from the second floor mentality, and I learned more and more of that each day I spent in Lamu.
On the morning of the 31st the team assembled at the beach for our first training session. The Sailing Noire team on the Galaxy was a group of lovely Africans from across the continent including two Ethiopians, Bette Mengesha & Hashim Abdi; our TED fellow from Liberia, Saran Kaba Jones; Oga in the house, The Danjuma (just Google, don’t ask questions), and from Kenya Farhana Oberson (hey Rafiki!), Amber, Jane Mukami (never once saw her separated from her bottle of water) and myself. Our cheering squad also had more Kenyans, Nigerians, a dash of Ghana and a little bit of Europe, USA & Australia. Let’s just agree that there was enough global representation to get tongues wagging, because while my lover is open minded to new people not once has he been challenged to have these many women on a single dhow sailing competitively against seasoned sailors. The crew, let’s just say that it was extremely supportive of them to let us aboard the Galaxy and live out this crazy dream.
I said it on my interview with Supersport (had to name drop) and I will repeat it here again; if ever in my life I never do anything worthwhile for the society I shall have been part of the very first majority women’s team sailing in a Dhow Race in Lamu. Our tagline at work and the one thing we are always looking to do with all our work and clients is Shaping African Conversations, in my own little way I walked the walk. We did not win but we were not last either, our dhow wasn’t among the ones that capsized or disqualified and the icing on the cake was when we beat one of the sailors who had said Women had no place in a dhow race.
Am I mad because Lamu awakened in me a little lust for the open seas?! I want to be back in the water flirting with a sharuti, pulling on dimani, screaming STEAM and responding to the Captain’s calls of Wekshteba. If you have to take a trip anywhere this year, make sure it’s to Lamu. While I don’t like to share lovers, just this once I will allow you to be loved by Lamu. And like Captain Aswif of Lamu Uber says, I’ll Be Back.
Lamu Tamu kweli!
*Don’t forget to support the dream Sailing Noire, you can get awesome prints from here
*While I still have your attention check out FACE AFRICA our lovely sponsors and donate to their cause
Look out for the vlog (I will get to that editing really soon)
Team Sailing Noire on D-day…
Just a taste of the race from Farhana;