In 2009, I (David) found myself in Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya, located on the shore of Lake Victoria. Having finished college two years before, I was discovering my passion for travel.
I journeyed with two other ‘wazungu’ or ‘mzungus’, the Kiswahili words for white people. My friends were starting a non-profit organization, and I was tagging along, assisting whenever possible. It was a wonderful trip, with many exciting and new experiences. The Kenyan people are amazing, and I now have many lifelong friends on the other side of the world.
However, 6 years later, one memory stands out vividly in my mind.
Traveling cheap, we took the main form of public transportation in Kisumu, the matatu. A matatu is a minivan that runs on a predetermined circuit. They seat about 15 people on 5 rows. However, I call them party wagons, as you often see up to 25 people in one, including two or more men standing on the running board, holding onto the frame as they hang out the open sliding door. From inside, rap music thumps from a TV mounted over the driver’s seat, as the screen flashes with music videos. To top it all off, each matatu comes complete with its own highly-original name, like Spank or Pimpin’, or the more religiously inclined, Blessed.
Needless to say, not many mzungus travel by matatu. Taxis were the mode of choice for the few foreigners in the city. Summoning all of our courage, we crowded into a matatu, hoping it was the correct one. Immediately, the crowd inside the van fell silent as we paid the fair. The only noise breaking the silence was the rap music, still blaring from the speakers.
After what seemed to be a lifetime, a Kenyan man in the front seat turned around, looked directly at me, and demanded, “Where are you from?”
I answered simply, “Texas.”
Considering my reply, he gradually smiled, and proclaimed, “Texas? Like Chuck Norris?”
Instantly, the whole atmosphere changed. With the simple word, “Texas,” I was no longer a stranger from a foreign country, but a new friend from the land of Chuck Norris, Texas Ranger! Everyone laughed, and the party atmosphere continued as we arrived at our destination.
After this memorable interaction, I always answer people the same way…”I am from Texas.” Being from Texas means something. I have always been proud of being a Texan, but I never realized the power this simple truth holds on others, even on the streets of Kenya. People around the world know of Texas, the land of Chuck Norris, cowboys, horses and longhorns. Now all of the preconceptions may not be true, but Texas truly is a special place.
As I alluded to before, I love to travel. This love has not only opened doors to new friends in my life, but more specifically, the other authors of this blog. My second international trip landed me in Italy with a good friend. Through the course of hopping trains across that wonderful country, Matt and I became great friends. Our dreams of traveling together changed when he found a new travel partner and wife, Rachel. Their journey together took them away from Texas for a few years, but have now returned. Their stories will be told in the coming posts.
In 2012, I married a wonderful woman, Rebekah, who loves to travel as much as I do. You will learn more about her in an upcoming post. We love traveling together but also enjoy our beautiful home state.
I invite you to join the four of us as we travel, learning about the world and the people around us. I love Texas, and I hope this blog introduces you to our amazing home, and that you will join us as we share our journeys exploring the world. Whether we travel across our city, state, country or world, there is always something new to learn.