“If you come here in the mornings, the scent is divine,” I said and lifted up my arms as if praying to the Heavenly Father to showed down that scent and prove my point.
I proceeded to explain to Caroline how the Eucalyptus trees that stand like an army next to Karura Forest’s car park smell so good in the morning. Caro looked at the trees, half expecting them to instantly start emitting the said scent. They didn’t, but she still rewarded them with her dimpled smile. She was wearing blue ripped jeans, flat shoes and an ankara kimono. An instant breeze ruffled her long hair.
Walking gracefully a few feet behind us was Uwineza, Caroline’s little sister. The last born in their family. An artist, a trained public health expert who was in the process of defecting to the environmental sector through the Masters degree she was finalizing at Kenyatta University. Masters in Sustainable Urban Development. Her light complexion was basking in the soft glow of the forest.
Some leaves crunched beneath my feet and I noted their sound as I walked on, next to Caroline. Whenever I was in Karura Forest, I usually tried to pick out the different forest sounds.
“Can you hear the ten sounds?” I loved to say to her whenever we were together in the forest.
Don’t worry who ‘her’ is. Today we are talking about the two Rwandan sisters. Its their day. More specifically, its Caroline’s day. She has been in Kenya for one week now on official assignment. She works with an international Foundation and her work covers several countries in the region. She had been in Dar es Salaam then Mombasa before landing in Nairobi the previous night.
Knowing how much she loves the freshness and thrill of adventure, I had sent her an audio text informing her that we would be taking her to Karura Forest the following day. So there we were, ten minutes into the forest and sitting on one of those green benches that can be found in some choice locations in the forest. Uwineza had walked on.
“You have a very graceful walk!” I had shouted after her, causing her to throw me a backward glance that was suffering an identity crisis between pleased and indifferent.
As a bird, probably an African Goshawk chirped, Caroline and I dove into warm, deep conversation.
“I get so many positive messages from my readers that I consciously make an effort not to let it get into my head.” She said in her usual cheerful way.
She was talking about her latest book, ‘Between Wild and Free.’ An amazing book that explores the inner voyage of Linda, in modern Rwanda, as she pursues love, passion and freedom.
Notice I said, ‘latest’ book. That’s because she already has two books under her belt. L'oncle gynécologue is a French novel that was published in Paris, France. Then there is ‘Mirror of Stolen Hearts,’ a collection of short stories, a work of fiction, inspired by everyday life of people living in her home country Rwanda.
As you may have noticed, Caroline writes in both French and English. I have a feeling, a strong hunch, the she is poised to eventually become the most consequential bi-lingual author of this generation. Watch that space.
A few minutes later, we caught up with Uwineza and walked together towards the river. There was a spot, behind a bunch of bamboo trees, that I loved to sit and just gaze at the waters whistling beneath my feet. I sat on the rugged wooden bridge.
Caroline sat a few feet away on the moist ground. She told me about her dream house one of Kigali’s most exclusive locations on a hill with spectacular views. She was already building it and it was just above the foundation stage. I sighed deeply, challenged to the core. While she was already building her dream house, I had only started building mine in my mind. Its time to birth it to the ground, where it belongs.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Uwineza bending close to the ground, studying something. Although I was deep in conversation with Caroline at the time, I noticed the bend and knew instantly that she must be studying the dazzling artistic intricacies of a seemingly mundane piece of nature. It could even be a normal dry leaf, which to ordinary mortals is just that - a dry leaf. But Uwineza’s eyes will see the leaf’s veins flowing from the sides of the leaf and merging into one big vein that cuts across the leaf. She will notice a tiny strand of grass that is resting diagonally across the leaf and marvel at the contrast of the grass’s bright green and the dry leaf’s earthen brown. She will then pick up the dry leaf and study it even more.
One hour later when we were at the waterfalls, rain began falling, so we took refuge under a tree. Caroline and I sat on the ground and just inhaled the beautiful breath of this awesome forest. Uwineza was studying a rough stone that she had just discovered nestled into the trunk of a silver oak tree. Momentary silence descended on us and all we could hear were a thousand beautiful forest sounds seeping into our spirits.