When I was 11 years old, an event was about to happen that changed the course of my life forever. The day was just another dull day in Germany. Sitting in the school bus on the way home I had already forgotten every single word that the teacher’s had spoken to me. I sucked at math and would again fail my next test making me hate life even more. Little did I know what I would be told by my parents in less than 20 minutes.
I walked into my house, my mum was home asking me: “How was school today”? The standard, kind of robotic and thoughtless response came out of my mouth, “Good”, while I was praying that she wouldn’t ask about my math homework. Suprise! She did not and said: We have thought about leaving Germany and moving to Kenya for two years for work. I knew she was serious. Kenya?, I thought, what is that? A country in Africa?
Later that day, my parents sat me down on the couch and started showing me all kinds of flyers and pictures of the hotel resort where we would be staying at. While they were pretty worried that I would not like it and would feel like I am leaving my home, my friends and my comfortable environment. I was sitting there and thinking:” Alright, please… I don’t want to wake up right now. Just let me dream for a little longer. To me it felt like we were going on holiday. My father said, “You will be going to an English speaking school”, with a serious tone. I was thinking to myself, I would learn Chinese to be going to school in a place like this.
In 2007 on Christmas eve, the 24th December, we left for Kenya. Arriving at the hotel resort was really strange. I was wearing shorts and T-shirt while it was 30 degrees Celsius outside. In the hotel lobby when we entered, soft Christmas music was coming from the speakers. A plastic Christmas tree with fake snow and lots of presents around it stood in the corner of the lobby. The next months were like paradise for a 12 year old, animators, swimming pools, buffet with unlimited pancakes and pizzas. Other kids to play with all the time. Music shows and performances. I was even allowed into the casino once and mad some big money at the slot machine (about 10 Euros).
It gets better…
After living in the hotel for a while, we were moved to the private residence of the owners of the hotel. We were to live in the guest house on the same plot. At that time I did not know how an owner of more than 10 hotels, one of the first Europeans do start in the tourism business in East Africa and Switzerland’s 4th richest man lived.
After a 10 minute drive from the hotel through pitch black dirt road with potholes as big as Africa itself, we arrive at the gate. As a kid I think, right behind this gate must be the house. No, the security guard opened that gate, did a small security check, and we drove on. But, there was no house. We get to yet another dirt road, without all the potholes though, and for another 200 meters we are in deep jungle area. It felt like the insects and animals were playing a welcome orchestra for us.
Suddenly, we stop. And I was freaking out a little, thinking Mufasa will come and attack us any second from the left or right. No, it was another gate. The driver said, do not step outside the car. There is a dog called Chilli guarding this property at night. Chilli turned out to be way worse than any Mufasa could ever be.
So we had now passed the double security check, drive on the property, and the next thing I hear is a loud ‘eeeeeeeeeeeeeooooooooooooooooooooooo’. There were 8 donkeys living there too. We keep driving down a little hill, when on the left I see something running in the bush, really fast. It was not Chilli, it was a full grown Ostrich. The feet the size of my whole body. Maybe the driver misunderstood and thought we were going to a zoo?
Later on I found out that the hotel tycoon who owned this property would drive with his lion on shotgun through the streets of Mombasa when he was younger. Then the Ostriches did not even seem so impressive anymore.
At this exact plot, we would stay in the guest house. We lived with 8 donkeys, 2 Ostriches, 15 normal dogs to guard the property at night…and Chilli. To be honest, Chilli would have been enough to guard to whole of Kenya! She was the devil put in a dogs body. Chilli was a Rodveiler, pitch black and big. My father had the honor to release her at night from her cage because her cage was right next to the guest house. But there was a whole procedure to that. If you would go to her cage it was very clear if you would simply open the door, you would be no more. Did I mention that she had killed one of the security guards before?
The procedure started like this: He had to go to her cage, with some special dog treats and make peace with her for about 5 minutes until she would even start to consider not to kill him. He would throw her food and when she was preoccupied eating, he would silently open her cage door, trying not to make the squeaking noise. If he moved too fast she would be hanging of the cage trying to consume his soul.
When the gate was open there was about a 20 meter walk to the backdoor of the house. It was like a horror movie every night watching that scene of my father walking those 20 meters.
This was my beginning in Kenya, and until today I still feel home there but after 2009, there were a lot of changes that happend in the country. The elections came and there was violence and unrest in parts of the country which would lead to a collapse of the economy and the hotel tycoon going bankrupt, my parents splitting up and me staying in Kenya with my mum until 2014.
What exactly happened ? I will write another part about my journey next week. Stay tuned.