Tag Archives: Nairobi

Terrorism and Travel

22 Mar

Gothic Sainte-Chapelle stained glass

A shooting involving a terrorist at Paris’ Orly Airport, while I was going through the security check there, was an anticlimactic end to my 60th birthday celebration in Venice and Paris with my middle son, Michael. Orly is France’s second largest airport. Just before I was scheduled to board my flight home to Alicante, Spain, I noticed the departure gate had changed to the downstairs departure area. As I tried to go to the new departure gate, the airport security officers told me there would be no more flights that day from Orly. Without explanation, they corralled us into the far half of the boarding area, not allowing anyone to leave. The televisions were switched off, and the departure screens frozen, which continued for several hours. We never received any notification from airport staff as to what was occurring, but I googled “Orly news” where I learned that a terrorist had tried to wrestle a gun from an airport police officer, and that he was shot. I did not learn the details until after returning home. Even though I had been told around 845 a.m. that there would be no further flights from Orly that day, around mid-day, without any speaker announcement, the boarding boards were turned back on, although without accurate, updated information on departure times. We finally boarded and departed around 330 p.m. As I write this on March 22, 2017, there has been a terrorist attack in London near the Parliament, and possibly inside.


There is no place in the world in which one is free from the possibility to violence, terrorism or even natural

Sacré Couer

disasters. In 1998, not long after the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, my oldest son and I went to Nairobi and then on safari the Tsavo Park area. Of course, at the time, we didn’t know that the attack was part of an organized terrorist organization. Not long after an American Airlines flight crashed in Queens, a borough in New York, in November 2001, only two months after New York’s September 2001 attacks, we flew to Europe. It was initially speculated the crash could have been a terrorist attack, but it was later determined to be caused by human error. During a tour of eight African countries, while in Bamako, Mali, the nation’s capital, we stayed at a hotel, where several years later, in spite of security, Islamist extremists took 170 people hostage, shooting 20.


Enjoying live classical and Brazilian music at Venice’s Caffè Florian, reported to be the oldest café in the world, dating back to 1720

That said, as a psychologist, particularly a forensic psychologist where we rely heavily on statistics, I make informed decisions based on statistics rather than irrational fears. By far, I have a significantly greater chance of being killed by violence, particularly in the U.S., or by disease, or accidents. I choose to live my life with joie de vivre, focusing on relationships, food, culture, adventure, and curiosity. And if I should meet my end in a travelling accident, for me, that is far better than being holed up in my home or a bunker, or living my life in fear. To that end, I will be providing future blog posts on my Venice and Paris trip, and am providing a sampling of those photos here.


4 Aug
Mother and baby elephant in Tsavo

Mother and baby elephant in Tsavo

Almost everyone who has been to Africa describes it as among his or her favorite travel destinations. I am no different. When as a single mother, I took my 11 year-old son by myself to Kenya, some wondered about that decision, especially as it was shortly after the 1998 Kenyan bombings.

After a couple of unmemorable days in Nairobi (perhaps I shouldn’t elaborate), we headed toward the Tsavo National Park, one of the largest and oldest game reserves in Kenya. Because it was only the two of us, our driver, whose name we later learned was Muguro, picked us up in a smaller van rather than the usual larger Landcruiser. As we headed down what they call a “major road” or highway, we were wide-eyed with clenched fists as he navigated the road’s huge craters. Littered along the road were many overturned trucks and other vehicles sacrificed by the perilous road, but we relaxed as Muguro deftly maneuvered the van.

The flight fiascoes we faced en route to Nairobi won’t be revisited here, but suffice it to say we missed our original flight, arriving late sans luggage.  While staying in Nairobi and waiting for our luggage to arrive, we purchased one spare set of clothes each and the most basic toiletries. The suitcases had not arrived by the time we left for the safari.  As we travelled the potholed road, it quickly became evident our luggage would never make it to the safari site. That actually turned out to be a freeing experience-in the morning, we hung our dirty clothing outside our hotel room door to be washed by the staff, and donned our clean apparel-no decisions to be made about clothing or other grooming.

While driving toward Tsavo, Muguro pointed out wildlife in the hills or on the distant horizon.  Asking how he spotted them, he said you look for movement or a change in color. That lesson has helped me be far more vigilant in spotting wildlife, whether in Africa, home or other places.

Muguro was a quiet, dignified man, speaking only those things that needed to be said.  As he took us on our dawn and dusk safari rides with the backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro, we gradually got to know him a little better. Besides his excellent skills at sighting wildlife on land, he was keen at identifying the many different birds.  He also explained there were about 40 tribes in Kenya, each which had its own language, with most Kenyans speaking English and Swahili.  He taught us some Swahili; my favorite word was “twiga” which fittingly means giraffe. Muguro related there were good relationships between the tribes and various minorities at that time.

We asked what area he was from, and he told us the Mt. Kenya area. Knowing the Mt. Kenya Safari Club was a popular big game safari and celebrity destination, I asked if he led big game safaris. When he affirmed he had, I asked if he had any interesting memories. By this time, we had been with him for five days, so he was somewhat less reserved, and related that he used to take William Holden on safari. Though not particularly impressed by celebrities, I asked him how those ventures went. He replied that Mr. Holden had sat around and in the tent all day drinking.

We loved our twice daily drives with Muguro, his beautiful countenance and incredible skills at spotting and tracking animals. We learned he was a loving father and husband. It was with sadness that we said our good-byes when he returned us to Nairobi. When we were at the Nairobi airport, as we were ready to depart, my son spotted Muguro and ran to give him a hug; Muguro smiled and hugged him in return.

Last letter from Muguro

Last letter from Muguro

We had already exchanged addresses, and kept in touch, receiving a last letter from him in 2003. Sadly, the next letter I sent came back as undeliverable, and I have never been able to contact him again. Near my home, I recently spotted a camouflaged fox traversing the landscape-a fond reminder our special time with Muguro.