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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Our Friend, Kicoo




Beccy, Matt, Abby & me, plus others


Being more than happy to wave us off, Sam and his daddy stayed firmly on the ground that day, but they did manage to sneak into the group photo with us before take off.


We'd risen well before dawn in order to witness the spectacular wildebeest migration from the air, and it certainly proved a magnificent sight.

Yes, we spent a wonderful three weeks in Kenya, but you can relax, I am not about to publish an endless array of mind-numbing holiday snap-shots, that's not at all what this post is about. No, my story here today centres more around a remarkable young man, one whose path we happened to cross along our travels there.

Although the tale tells much about him, it perhaps tells us more about this country of his, and something of the culture from which he hails from, too.


This picture speaks volumes. Sam's body language (arms behind his back) may not seem all that at ease, but for a lad who rarely likes to be touched, it demonstrates the trust and affection that blossomed between this pair, during their short time they had together.

Spending up to ten hours each day travelling in a mini-coach with someone, is a sure fire way of getting to know each other. It also can exaggerate any mild, irritating traits anyone has, 'til they become nigh' on unbearable.

Like most people who live with Autism, our son Sam doesn't take too well to change, and I must confess as to having some major reservations before going on this safari. I guess I went along with it mainly because I knew how often in the past his three other siblings have had to "step down", in order to make allowances for Sam's limitations, and I reasoned this holiday was something long over-due to them.


It still didn't quell my fears that we'd be travelling with our own little unexploded time bomb in tow, but thankfully, we knew we'd have the whole mini-bus all to ourselves, well, except that is, for the addition of our driver/guide.

I must confess, when Lynus first stepped up and introduced himself to us, my heart dropped in to my boots.

He was younger than I'd expected, had a loud, booming voice, and spoke in an almost indecipherable accent which we all strained to understand. Acutely aware that we weren't the only ones to have pulled the short straw, I resigned myself to making the best of things, and tried to put a brave face on it.

Hubby and I went on this same safari on our honeymoon. Our guide then was a gentle, wise and amazing man whom we have kept in touch with down the years. We knew we would never be so lucky as to find another Lawrence, but the young man standing before me couldn't have been the more opposite had he tried.

It wasn't an auspicious start.

Driving us on that first day, Lynus had no idea that organised sing-along's terrorised Sam, but the others did. He'd probably never before encountered such a sullen group of unwilling kids in his life.

Another unexpected development for us was the installment of a two-way radio, this hadn't been around on our last trip. The piercing jolts of static that randomly screeched from it sent Sam in to an instant panic attack, and apparently it was against company regulations to turn it off. Understandable of course, there were good safety reasons behind it, but I began to dread what we were putting Sam through.

On one of our many stop off's I managed to pull Lynus aside, and explain a little about some of our family peculiarities. I hate doing that, it's as though we're looking for sympathy, which I absolutely detest. Most people can tell without my having to spell it out to them that Sam is very different from most teenagers. I resented Lynus for not picking up on this, for forcing me to state the obvious. Unreasonably, although I've never worked out why, it always makes me feel like I'm betraying my son, if I need to point out his difficulties.

Score two against Lynus.

But immediately after this Lynus switched off his gregarious clown persona, toned his voice down, and allowed the real person behind the jolly tour guide to gradually shine through. As everyone became more relaxed, we slowly started to glimpse the real man behind the mask, and the more we learned about him, the more we came to respect, admire and understand him.

His is quite a tale, and one I think is well worth the sharing of. I am ashamed to confess, at the time I believed most, if not entirely all of what he said, telling myself he was young and possibly prone to exaggeration. But as time moved on, I witnessed first hand, that honesty and trust truly are an integral part of his African village culture. My cynicism soon vanished.

(I do not include the cities in this, as just as in any other large crowded place filled with people who do not know each other, Cities all the world over are prone to engender mis-trust and suspicion amidst those who live there. Sure, at every stop on our travels we found persistent groups of people eager to sell us something, and the bands of children approaching us for pens and money were endless; they are punishingly poor, and tourists are fabulously rich. However, once outside the urban sprawl, things are very different.)

Whenever we left the coach, whether it be for a pit-stop, to tour the country-side, or to visit one of many far-flung villages, leaving all of our expensive camera equipment and luggage still on board, completely unlocked and with the doors wide open, I'd be thunderstruck. All those beggars and ne'er-do-Wells were bound to have it all away. Lynus simply laughed, assuring me, "It doesn't belong to them, it's safe."

And so it was.

Always.

Being on Safari, we rarely stayed in the same lodge for more than one night, and most of our time we spent travelling vast distances in the mini-coach with Lynus.

Lynus wasn't his given name, his father called him Kicoo, at least he did the last time he saw him, but that had been over three years ago.

Kicoo came from a small nomadic tribe and had eighteen brothers and sisters, not all of them from his own mother. His father had two families, as he had two wives. Each wife lived separately, in their own homes, as custom dictated. Kicoo grew to be a skilled warrior, able to hunt and kill with nothing more than a stout club and a deadly sling-shot.


As a warrior, he was not allowed to take a wife. His duty was to defend the village against raiding neighbours and warring tribes, as well as to protect the livestock from being stolen or picked off by the wild animals that constantly patrolled the village perimeter.

Like any hot-blooded young man, this did not prevent him from having girlfriends, but he was careful not to spread his seed. Should he make a girl pregnant, he could no longer be allowed to continue as a warrior, as he would need to marry. In turn, this would bring a huge disgrace upon him and his family, since the custom dictated all men should remain warriors until the minimum age of thirty.

Kicoo often walked vast distances to visit with his extended family, and this is how he became familiar with Nairobi. He spoke no English, but he was fluent in three tribal tongues, and could easily get by in several more. Nairobi is known locally as "Ni-robbery", as it has high unemployment and a soaring crime rate. Initially, Kicoo felt intimidated by the crush of people, of how abrupt everyone seemed, and the noise and smell of all the traffic made his head hurt.


But gradually as he became more used to the place, he enjoyed the clean, running water, marvelled at the power of electricity, and most of all, he could not believe how many beautiful women lived there!

He had never before seen a ghost (white person), but he had heard lots about them, none of it good. They frightened him, and he found he would rather cross the street than to pass one.


Young men in Kicoo's village are eventually expected to take a wife, become an elder, and supervise the training and education of younger warriors. It is written in stone no one marries outside of their own tribe, and certainly not without their fathers blessing.

So how did Kicoo become Lynus?

Even the most educated and westernised of young men find it almost impossible to land the plum position that he presently holds, that is, working as a guide for a prestigious safari tour company.

It's a curious tale.. 






Kicoo became torn. The more he sampled of this alien world, the less appealing village life became to him. He loved his family dearly, knew his duties lay there, but he felt restless.

For the first time in his life he had glimpsed an alternative possible future, and it called out to him so loudly, it was soon all that he could hear.

Eventually he came to a hard decision, at the next given opportunity he felt he had to leave, and he would not come back. He could say no goodbyes, would need to go without any hint that he would not return.

It was hard to hide his grief on that last day. As he hugged his sisters, he looked down at their smiling faces and thought that his heart might break. His mother waved him off with various messages to pass along to her distant relatives, as she bid him a speedy return.

In his early twenties, Kicoo had already forged some easy friendships with the other young men he'd encountered along his travels, and they were more than happy to offer him the support and shelter he needed in those early days. He set about to learn everything he could about this new culture he found himself immersed in. His friends coached him for hours each evening, and soon he found a basic grasp of how to make himself understood in English.

Abandoning his tribal name, Kicoo became Lynus. His transformation was almost complete. Learning how to drive, within a year he found he could support himself by renting a taxi, ferrying tourists in and around the busy streets of Nairobi.

After a while, he met a girl and fell in love. When she became pregnant and gave him a son, his joy was almost complete. But as she was half-Egyptian, Lynus knew his father would never approve of this relationship, and it made the prospect of any future reconciliation with his family even more remote. This pained him, as he missed his parents, and worried about his siblings.

One day he happened to spot a young man he recognised. He was dressed in the tribal garb of his village, and was obviously passing through Nairobi on his way to visiting some relative or other. Delighted, Lynus called out to him, but to his dismay, his friend turned and fled.

Lynus chased after him; eventually able to catch up, he put his hand on his shoulder.

"My brother, what's wrong, don't you recognise me? Look, it's me, your friend Kicoo."

His friend was shaking, he knelt down in the road and burst in to tears. Finally, he was able to compose himself, confessing he thought Kicoo was a spirit. Everyone in the village believed he was dead, his family were distraught over the loss of him. Lynus, no longer Kicoo, felt ashamed. He tried to explain, justify his actions, but his words felt hollow.

Life continued, but Lynus no longer felt content. He fretted over the news that two of his youngest sisters were about to be married. He had witnessed first hand how many opportunities women in the city had, and longed to open their eyes to this. He knew how hard life would be for them in the village. Eventually, he decided he must rescue them.

Although he knew he did not dare to approach his village in person, he was able to smuggle a message through to his sisters, via his friend. His friend helped to smuggle them away, and Lynus (no longer Kicoo) met them halfway, bringing them home with him, to Nairobi.

If he had wronged his parents before, this last act far, far surpassed it. Daughters are a valuable commodity. A family's wealth is measured by how many cows they own. When a daughter marries, several cows can be demanded in payment. Lynus (no longer Kicoo) knew how deeply this act of betrayal would wound his family. It was a dilemma that caused him a great deal of grief.

His sisters soon prospered, learned how to speak English, and adapted to their new and strange environment. Lynus enrolled them in a secretarial college, and soothed himself with the knowledge he had opened up a much brighter and secure future for them. He continued driving his taxi, ushering the tourists to and fro.

One day, after dropping off a fare, he discovered an American family had left a fat wallet behind. Aside from containing several hundreds of dollars and a batch of travellers cheques inside, their passports were also there, as well as numerous credit cards. Lynus was poor, and this remember, is Ni-robbery.

He sought out his friends to seek their advice. Each and every city friend advised the same. "Take it!"

But Lynus (no longer Kicoo) had a problem. In his village, theft, taking that which is not yours, is akin to murder. It murders your most precious treasure, that which is held most dear, your honour.

He wrestled long and hard all night. This money would make a huge impact upon the lives of him and his family. It would be so easy. Who would know?

In the morning, he contacted the tour company's address he'd found with the wallet, and arranged for it to be collected.

His friends were outraged, called him crazy, what a fool they thought he was.

The tour company was also surprised. Who was this honest man? They contacted him and offered him a position. You have to understand, for every post they had available, more than two hundred people would apply. They had a minimum educational requirement which would have precluded Lynus from ever even filling out one of those applications.

They also had a strenuous six month training course that many failed to complete. No one under thirty had ever been recruited for this position before.

So this is how Lynus (no longer Kicoo) came to hold such a prestigious position at this early stage of his life.

But this is not quite the end of his tale.

I have an extra chapter to add about Lynus (no longer Kicoo), which if you think about it, makes perfect sense..

The highlight of our trip was an overnight stay at "Tree-tops", a lodge literally built in to the trees, overlooking a large, popular watering hole for all of the "big five" animals. It's where our present Queen was lodging, when she heard of the death of her father. We stayed awake most of the night, and had a wonderful view of some of the rarest creatures left to roam the wild. It wasn't until we were many hours in to our drive away that Beccy then discovered she had left her purse, with all of her precious savings in it, behind in the lodge.

It contained around a hundred pounds - money we thought she had lost for good, especially after Lynus later telephoned, to be told it hadn't been found. It was her own silly fault for not allowing me to keep it for her, and a valuable lesson for her to better look after her belongings.

At the end of our journey, as Lynus brought us to the airport, he told us to wait for him. He disappeared to talk with someone outside. When he reappeared, he had Beccy's purse with him, completely intact with all of her money. A chambermaid had found it, and through a succession of various drivers, it had been faithfully transported back to us.

A hundred pounds is the equivalent of around six months salary to her. Lynus reluctantly agreed to give the reward we forced upon him, to the chambermaid, and we have no reason to doubt that that is exactly what he went and did.

I have one more happy note to end on. Lynus confided to me before we left, he'd decided he would try to reconcile with his father. Before daring to return to his village, he planned on purchasing several goats and two cows, to send them on ahead as a peace offering.

I have absolutely no idea how it worked out, but I do have a really good feeling about it..

65 comments:

Ami said...

That was lovely. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell it.

#1Nana said...

What a great story and a wonderful adventure for your family. When the spouse and I were in the Peace Corp we left all our money on a counter at the airport in Nicaragua. Imagine our surprise when we returned to Nicaragua two weeks later to have it returned intact to us. There are good people everywhere.

Ms. A said...

*Clapping wildly

Shrinky said...

Thank you for taking the time to read it, Ami.

Shrinky said...

Wow Nana, it's truly enough to renew your faith in human nature, isn't it? (Smile)

Shrinky said...

Awww, Ms A, that's such a wonderful response - thank you kindly, dear lady!

Bijoux said...

What a wonderful experience for all of you! And an amazing story about Lynus.

I can so relate to your experiences traveling with Sam. My daughter also struggles with travel; our family is always prepared for lots of tears at unexpected moments. But afterwards,she's always glad that she went!

Brian Miller said...

seriously jealous here...that sounds like an amazing trip...and def when you travel you learn a lot about people you travel with...not always the good things though...ha

Linda Sue said...

I held my breath through the entire tale, seriously expecting something horrid to occur...what a pleasant , fabulous, mind blowing read! I do hope your son was not too tramatized by the demands...and I do hope that Kicoo reunites with his father- in a positive outcome sort of way!I do believe that doing the "right" thing leads to the right thing being done back at you...
Next time your tribe goes on such an adventure you really must take me, you know.

The Future Was Yesterday said...

I knew how often in the past his three other siblings have had to "step down", in order to make allowances for Sam's limitations

Says the most caring Woman and Mother I've never met.

mrsnesbitt said...

When I see the photos of Sam, Jon and moi, I feel truly blessed to have earned his trust and love. Dxxx

foam said...

Wow! What a story! That's not perhaps Lynus' wife in the photo of momma and child?

mythopolis said...

I was utterly fascinated reading all this. And about Kicoo. The whole safari experience. And what a challenge for Sam knowing his need for structure and predictablity, and so on.

Vince said...

Frankly I don't give a shit what you or anyone says. Until they get their brains in gear and start using kevlar or some such extra strong modern components for the basket I'm not getting into one of those things. And twelve people. Well really.

There was a running joke in Kenya for quite some time that was a play on the 'climbed up a princess, down a queen' quote from the papers, but not I stress in connection to ER2. Where the punchline was 'not a lady'.

Vince said...

What was I saying there's near twenty in that Moses basket. And it's not the going up that worries me but that it would become so much like lances should it smash up on a forced landing. You've had canes split in your hand.
Anywho. I'm only jealous :-).

tattytiara said...

I'm so glad an awe-inspiring story like his became known to somebody who could tell it as beautifully as you could. Incredible post.

Leslie: said...

Sounds like a trip of a lifetime!

bill lisleman said...

Your travels there brought more than sights of wildlife. Your ability to pick up the culture made the story.

Shrinky said...

Hi there Bijoux, we no longer go on family holidays now, Sam and his dad tend to take off around Ireland and the UK for several days at a time, following Sam's obsession of spectating at his beloved motorbike racing. My eldest prefers to holiday with his friends these days, and the girls are only interested in sun, sand and sea type vacations, which Sam hates. It works out easier not to push him into situations outside his comfort zone (shrug).

Shrinky said...

Actually Brian, spending so much time on the road with your own family, can also have it's challenging moments, I've found (wink)!

Shrinky said...

Ha! Linda Sue, a couple of my kids are now at that age where they'd sooner be seen dead, than be on holiday with their parents (inserting a deep sigh), those family trips are just a fond memory now..

Shrinky said...

Oh Dan, I doubt my kids echo those sentiments - just the other day my eldest daughter told me how much she hates me - I just had to laugh, like, this is news?? I'll be the coolest mum on the planet for something else - she changes her mind daily!

Shrinky said...

Yup, Denise, he always holds a special place in his heart for you and Jon (smile).

Shrinky said...

No, foam, this is a tribal girl from one of the villages we visited - I never met his wife, but I believe she was quite westernised, as she worked in the city.

Shrinky said...

Yeah Dan, booking that holiday was quite a gamble for us, but overall he coped quite well. He was also very glad to come home again..

Shrinky said...

Ha! Vince, you and my hubby would get along like a house on fire - wild horses wouldn't drag him or Sam up on that thing. Must admit, the landing was a bit of a shock - I hadn't really thought it through until the end bit..

Shrinky said...

Aw Tatty, what a gorgeous thing to say, now you've gone and turned me ears all pink, so's you have!

Shrinky said...

Thanks Leslie for bearing with me, I know you've read this before, first time around!

Shrinky said...

Ah, cheers for that, Bill, I hope I was able to relay that, you've made my day (grin).

Chantel said...

You have such an engaging way of telling a story, my love, really sweeps one away. This was facinating and an amazing reminder of what we take for granted--our lives of privilege rarely have such clashes between tradition and family.

I think I'm a bit sweet on Sam...

MarkD60 said...

Fantastic story!

Akelamalu said...

What a wonderful story, it restores your faith in human nature doesn't it? :)

Sandi McBride said...

Like we don't love your photos! This was so nice and we thank you for sharing.
Sandi

Hilary said...

What a wonderful story. And told so beautifully. I wonder.. will you be able to stay in touch with him?

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

what a wonderful story...

Choco said...

Such a wonderful tale about a brave, noble young man. Thanks for sharing Shrinky.
ps: You should try to get this one published.

Rock Chef said...

That is a great story - I am sure that he was able to make peace in the end.

Reminds me of a friend of mine who used to be a Safari guide. He had some wonderful tales to tell.

Some of the river crossings required the driver to wade across first to mark a shallow crossing. He sometimes pretended to be attacked by a croc when half way across...

Or when people wanted to stop for a tiolet break in the middle of nowhere he would give them time to get started and then shout that there was a lion coming...


I am glad that Sam warmed to your guide. I know how bad things can get, especially when routine is nowhere to be seen...

The Vegetable Assassin said...

I totally LOVED this. I read every word. It really is affirming to know that there are still good people in the world. Stories like this just make me happy! (And your trip sounded amazing too!)

Barbara Shallue said...

Thank you so much for sharing this story. People are amazing when we take the time to get behind the surface. If you ever get in contact with him, I'd love to know if the reunion was successful. I hope it was. (And I've always wanted to stay in Tree-Tops!)

Shrinky said...

I know, Chantel, when you consider all what this young lad has already overcome in his brief life, it makes me feel quite humble. Not once, did he ever give a hint of being in the least bit sorry for himself, he feels so blessed and grateful for everything he's been able to achieve.

Shrinky said...

Cheers Mark, I'm glad you read it.

Shrinky said...

It sure did, Ake, the world is a better place for having the likes of Kicoo in it.

Shrinky said...

Hi there Sandi, beware of what you wish for, I may sic them on you all yet (evil grin)!

Shrinky said...

Hello Hilary, I am so touched you took all that time reading through so many of my back posts - it meant a huge deal to me (smiling).

We did write to the tour company once we came home, expressing how glad we were to have had the pleasure of knowing him, but we never heard anything back. We have since lost touch with Lawrence, too, which concerns us hugely - his wife and children lived in a troubled spot, and I know he was trying to move them away from the danger area. That was the last we ever heard, despite our attempts to trace him.

Shrinky said...

Thanks Jac, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Shrinky said...

Hi RC, now THAT is a guy I'd love to have round for dinner! I'm sure these lads have so much to tell - we met up with the same mini-coach loads of folk throughout our journey, aside from when we were tracking, off on our own, we'd share the same lodges and lunch stop-off's. Most of the others were a pretty decent bunch, but you always get one or two that make you cringe - those with that sense of entitlement and superiority, and who make us all feel embarrassed to be linked with!

Shrinky said...

Hey there Veggie-girl, I read your brilliantly, witty and funny post, and coukldn't wait to comment on it - it's a beauty, and really made me laugh. WHY HAVE YOU DISABLED YOUR COMMENTS BOX?? I'm guessing you meant to only disable your comment moderation function? I sure hope so, and that you can put it back up again soon! I tried to email you, but couldn't - let's hope I can contact you later..!

Shrinky said...

Actually Barbara, I have a lovely tale about Tree Tops. On our honeymoon, we made a pledge to come back one day with our children, which we were lucky enough to finally do. The first time around, I signed the guest book in my maiden name (as we married in the Seychelles, a week after our stay there). Our children FOUND that book in the library - what are the odds on that? I had a lot of explaining to do, as to why we weren't married at the time!

TexWisGirl said...

a wonderful tale of an amazing life (even thus far as a young man). i hope his good life will continue for many years. what a brave soul.

~Babs said...

Loved this story. Makes one ashamed for ever complaining about anything in our own world.
Brave Sam,,and wonderful you. I'm sure this trip meant tons to the other kids.
I (stoooopidly) left my wallet in a shop last year, something I've never done. Ever. I hadn't yet realized it, and
we were at a restaurant a couple of hours later, when my phone rang: "have you lost your wallet?"
It had been delivered to the police station, with all it's contents fully intact. Unbelievable.Credit cards,cash,,,so much personal information. And no one to thank. Anonymously turned in.
So yes, still good people everywhere. Heart warming, to say the least!

Shrinky said...

Hi there Babs, sometimes good things really do happen to good people, it was a kind of karma that your wallet found it's way back to you. Maybe the anonymous person who handed it in was passing on another kindness some stranger had once shown them? We hear so much doom, gloom and disaster on the news, but the little heart-warming, affirming stories such as these very rarely get reported, do they? It's small wonder we always assume the worst in human nature, and actually do a double-take when we actually trip over the best of it!

Emille said...

Hope you know you have the gift of writing! I was in the middle, and couldn't stop!
Also, because I want to tell you that you've raised your son well! He looks at the other person and smiles - a great accomplishment for an autistic person!

Secret Agent Woman said...

That's a wonderful story. We had a lovely guide, Samwel, when we went to the Serengeti to see the great migration. His mother was a Maasai and over the days we spent with him he told us stories about life in the village and about his own children. It was an amazing experience.

Cloudia said...

Biblical and humbling!



Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

>< } } ( ° >

Shrinky said...

Hello Emille, how lovely to see you in here, thank you for stopping by, and especially for the kind words! As you probably know, autism encompases a wide spectrum, Sam does readily engage with others, for which I am thankful (smile).

Shrinky said...

Goodness, Secret Agent, we may well have been there at the same time, together! We went on the Cheetah safari, which one did you take?

Shrinky said...

Hi TexWisGirl, that's so true, he has achieved a great deal over the course of his life, thusfar, hasn't he?

Shrinky said...

Yes, isn't it, Claudia?

Margaret Benbow said...

Shrinky, this is beautifully written. It gives such an honest, complete portrait of Kicoo and his life. My son spent many months in Tanzania, and so much of what you said reminded me of his impressions. This is a post to ponder, and cherish.

Shrinky said...

Hello Margaret, my friend - why am I not surprised your son chose to spend some time there? The apple never falls very far from the tree (smile)..

chewy said...

I don't recall seeing these hot air balloon photos before. The quality of them is gorgeous, crisp, clear. Must have been a beautiful flight. I remember the Kiko photos. What a story he has.

Shrinky said...

I just discovered them, Chewy - they were hiding on a disc I'd long forgotten! (Smile)

Pat Tillett said...

What an adventure you are having! That story was very uplifting! It was a long one, but well worth the read. Have a great week...

Dr Zibbs said...

I had no idea that they made balloon baskets that big!

Suldog said...

What a magnificent story, and what a wonderful friend to have made! God bless Lynus (no longer Kicoo) in whatever he may do!