Phil and I drink our morning coffee on the upstairs patio while black and white colobus monkeys climb through the branches of the acacia trees in front of us. They stare at us with their old man faces, eat orange berries, swing fluffy bottle brush tails. We consider taking hikes, reading books, washing dishes, but can’t bear to leave, all those swinging, tussling, elegant creatures at our eye level, watching us watching them.
The girls play pirates, shout the crudest words they know and bang on the floors. Not wanting to give up their peppermint tea, they pretend it’s doused with rotten milk, gross enough to be pirate fare, though sipped from porcelain tea cups.
We walk through the woods to get closer to the monkeys. P is bitten by safari ants, wails as we pull them out of her sparkly shoes, her pajama pants.
The girls wake while it’s still dark, whisper as they pour bowls of chocolatey cereal, then pull on hoodies and runners and walk down to the river in the growing light. Later they appear at our bed, breathless and giddy, tell “the scariest story” of being chased back to the house by dogs from the neighbouring farm.
The rain falls in sheets, blurs the greens of the forest at the edge of the yard. I crochet small stitches on a blue hat, think of winter in the northern hemisphere, a distant memory.
J and P take off their clothes, jump into the muddy stream, shriek about crocodiles and sinking mud. I imagine pythons in the murky water, keep my fears quiet, take smiling photos.
We sit in the dark by the fire, drink wine from red coffee mugs, talk about family and terrorism and The Remains of the Day.
Phil and J hike up the escarpment. I hear their laughter float through the trees, wave at them when they appear above the tree line.
Two naked bodies flit across the grass, sparkle in the morning sun, then disappear over the river bank, slide into brown muddy water.
We play games- Taboo, Ziggedy, Connect Four, Deer in the Headlights- do puzzles under a thatched roof, crochet warm hats, paint water colour portraits. Later we hike up the rock face, leap over thick black ropes of safari ants, eat chocolate at the look out.
The girls roll balls of spelt dough between their palms, then flatten them into small bannock cakes that we cook over charcoal. I remember learning about bannock in elementary school, never imagined I’d be eating it with my Kenyan daughters in the Great Rift Valley.