Week 29 Rachel’s Post: Out of Africa

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hills…up in this high air you breathed easily …you woke up in the morning and thought, “Here I am, where I ought to be”.

-Isak Dinesen


Karen Blixen wrote Out of Africa as a memoir about her life in Kenya.  She wrote the novel under the pen name Isak Dinesen.  The book was made into the Oscar-winning film starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in 1985.  In real life, Blixen’s life was plagued with tragedy and adventure.  She was born in Denmark in 1885 to a wealthy bourgeois family and married her second cousin, Baron Bror von Blixen.  They they moved to Africa in 1914 to start a coffee plantation.  The marriage did not work out, and the couple separated and eventually divorced. Von Blixen was unfaithful to Karen and also gave her syphilis.  Her life continued to be an adventure in Africa as she entertained aristocratic friends, wrote fiction novels, managed the farm, and had a prolonged affair with playboy and safari guide, Denys Finch Hatton.  Finch-Hatton tragically died in an airplane accident in 1931.  Isak left Africa this year, after an economic crash affected the price of coffee.  She died in 1962 on her family estate in Denmark at the age of 77 from malnutrition. 

This week I am staying in the neighborhood of Karen, named after the author, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.  Karen is a suburb of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.  We visited Karen Blixen’s home today, which has been converted into a museum.  It features the phonograph, lion skin rugs, china, and ornately carved wooden chests seen in the movie, all of which are rarities in Kenya.
Karen Blixen Museum:

The landscape is a rust colored dust that infiltrates socks and shoes, despite my best efforts to avoid it.  Brilliant flowers grow naturally here.  Vendors sell fresh bananas, papayas, and guavas on the side of the road.  It is easy to breathe here.  The air is clean and fresh, and the weather hovers between 70 and 78 degrees every day. 

It is easy to agree with Blixen.  I wake up every morning and think, “This is where I am meant to be today”.

Rachel

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