I’ve known my oldest friend Yuki since before going to preschool. According to him, he saw my dad and me walking in the street, thought we were aliens, and decided to say hello. Despite years and continents, we’ve stayed friends ever since. So when he told me he wanted to visit me in Africa with his girlfriend, I wasn’t that surprised.
They arrived on Friday night and we spent the next day seeing the sights of Nairobi. After viewing pretty much everything there is to see in a single day, they went on a 2-night safari to the Masai Mara. We spent another day resting up in Nairobi, before flying down to Mombasa for a few days of relaxation and beach time.
The first thing I found out about Yuki’s girlfriend was that she’s fairly famous in Japan. They don’t usually go out together in public because it could generate negative publicity. Kenya was a perfect getaway where they could breathe some fresh air, get out of the limelight and relax. In Knowing this, I was worried that the “budget” safari and hotel accommodations I booked wouldn’t meet their expectations. They were total troopers though, enthusiastically doing everything and being excited about Kenya. It was great catching up over nyama choma and Indian Tikka in Nairobi and all-inclusive drinks at our hotel in Mombasa. My Japanese got a serious workout too.
Being with a somewhat famous person also made me realize how normal famous people are and how overrated being famous is. We put people on such high pedestals that we forget they’re completely human, just like us. At the same time, I can’t imagine having my every movement criticized and publicized. I’ve decided that having the lifestyle of a famous person without the fame is the most favorable combination.
Spending time with Japanese friends gives me mixed emotions about wanting to go back someday. Although I haven’t lived there as an adult, I still love Japan. The sights, smells, sounds, foods, culture, people etc. are home to me, at least more than anywhere else is. At the same time, I can’t imagine working for a Japanese company. Forget 9 to 5, for most Japanese “salarymen” it’s more like 7AM to 10PM including the commute, having to stay later than your boss, nomikai (drinking parties) and everything else. I have a standing job offer at a Japanese company, but haven’t taken the opportunity because I don’t know if I could stay sane. Maybe I could grit my teeth and get through a year or two, but after that, I think I’d like my life back.
All this to say, I had a great week tour-guiding in Kenya for my Japanese friends. I’m seriously contemplating starting a business like this in Colorado and this gave me valuable experience. Yuki and I joked that the fact we’ve known each other for over 20 years makes us sound like old guys. Here’s to another 20 years and all the memories I’ll create with friends around the world.