Wooden Men do Break

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In my last post, I talked about the #RealmanGetaway and how we left Nairobi after a heavy breakfast at Nairobi Serena. Our destination: the slopes of Mount Kenya at the Serena Mountain Lodge.

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We left Nairobi Serena in two tour vans and this promised to be a wonderful escapade and a great opportunity to #tembeaKenya. You could tell the excitement by the chitchat in our van as one Nelson took over the role of entertainer reminding us that he only insured cars bearing the plates KCG and above. Wamathai, whom we simply called ‘Blogger’, was perched on the back seat, like an invigilator silently watching over an examination room, interjecting only when he had something witty to contribute and knew he was well versed in the topic to command authority. And then there was Timothy, the father figure who reminded me of my own father by the cowboy hat he wore. And like any father, Timo, peering behind his hat, sized up every situation and then took the middle ground, cautiously navigating us through lousy first encounters. Yes, men are lousy at starting conversations outside the pub, but Timo ensured there was a middle ground for introvert to meet extrovert. It was fun.

Serena Mountain Lodge is located about 193 kilometers from Nairobi, a journey of about two hours along a smooth and well-marked road. Difficult to get lost.

Our first stop was at Sagana a where we bought some drinks and took our bathroom break. Most of all, Sagana was the point where all the men in both vans and personal cars congregated and exchanged notes. It was here that I was to meet the man of the moment, Jasiel Njau, author of Real Man. But let’s leave Njau for later. For it is here that my first lesson was to be learnt.

Sagana has a beautiful curios shop stocked with all manner of local crafts. In fact, some of the finest wooden carvings you will ever see in this country are either in or from this very place.

As a wannabe photographer, I quickly shifted from taking photos of real men to snapping at the wooden men of Sagana. Until a warning was given by one concerned sculptor, “be careful, these are wooden! They break!”, he warned in impeccable Swahili.

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Soon afterwards, we proceeded to our destination.

Serena Mountain Lodge stands majestically yet humbly blended in the rich, green Mount Kenya forest. It captivates without stunning. It has all the grandeur of a five star hotel yet sits pretty in the bush, happy to be among the trees, and look like the trees; inconspicuous. Never before had I seen so much wood ingeniously stacked so beautifully. This hotel, like the wooden men of Sagana is a work of art. An architectural masterpiece of sorts.

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After a hearty welcome by Sylvia and her friendly team. We, being men, quickly found out that the restaurant was upstairs and in no time had congregated to gorge ourselves with whatever edibles were to placed before us. This was food from The Serena; quality you don’t get too often!

At the door to the restaurant, I encountered another wooden man. I wondered whether he’d been purchased at Sagana. It was clear to me, as must have been to many (or so I hoped) that this man was old and that he was from the Central Kenya bantu communities. And that he was there to symbolically welcome us to the hotel and also to the Mount Kenya region. So I got my camera ready and photographed him from a safe distance, reminding myself that “wooden men do break!”

After lunch, we met at the conference room to listen to our speaker for the day, Jasiel Njau (budaboss). #RealmanGetaway was now underway and before long, as if to recap events of the day, Jasiel was taking us through the process of boyhood to manhood. And slowly it was dawning to me…

You see, men are like wood. When perfectly finished and polished they glow and are pleasant to be around. And just like the sturdy wooden structure we now sat in, men are the strength of the society; able to hold together and build villages and cities. But men are brittle too, and more often than we note, or care to admit, men do break!

#RealmanGetaway was an opportunity for us all to introspectively come to terms with our brittleness and learn to share in our pains. We analysed our relationships with society and family. We learnt to appreciate love and give more than we received. We learnt that being a real man is not about how majestic we stood in our strength but how we avoided that fatal fall that could spell doom and ultimately break us.

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