D + S | Elopement in Masai Mara, Kenya
Ten years ago (or even five years ago), never in my wildest dreams have I pictured myself working full-time as a destination wedding photographer, let alone shooting an elopement in Kenya. That's crazy. I even hated taking pictures at that time for heaven's sake!
Sam and Doris live in Beijing. I'm a 100% Vietnamese dude (with darker skin tone that Vietnamese don't even think I'm a fellow-countryman) who has been living in Germany for almost ten years. But our paths crossed, our lives touched!
On April 20, 1994, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) built the first cable connected to the Internet, establishing email communication with North America and Europe. A few years after turning it on, China’s government started working on ways to restrict the interweb. Now it’s known and despised as China’s Great Firewall. Google, Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, Twitter, Vimeo, Youtube and thousands of other foreign websites are banned in mainland China. Heck, even my website is also blocked in China - god knows why!
But somehow, we found each other on Instagram, a US-based social network site by using an VPN server from India. After three weeks of planning (that's the beauty of having an elopement instead of traditional wedding), we flew into Kenya with two different middle east airlines. 6177 and 9214 km from Germany and China to Kenya, respectively. That alone speaks volumes about this adventure.
Stepping into the enormous, chartreuse nine-seater Land Cruiser Jeep at Lake Naivasha, our game driver has warned us about the undeveloped road systems to (and in) Masaai Mara deter heavy traffic and help to preserve the exclusivity of the experience for those who visit. That this 100-km road is the real deal of Masai Mara Game Reserve.
I only smiled. "Come at me", I whispered.
Let me tell you, the first bumpy part of the road was such a joy. I kept talking in my head, "What a truly unforgettable experience."
I pictured myself writing some fancy words. Something poetic and thought provoking about human and nature. There are bound to be some bumps along the way. Embrace them as an adventurous spirit. That kind of shit.
What remained in my mind during the second part of the road was only, "Damn, when will this freaking road end!?" And came the third act, also the last part. I endured it in the absolute silence, let it beat me, one stroke at a time. But only then I saw the lush green savannah of Mara! Endless green field tears up the horizon. Huge numbers of Masaai people's cattle grazing in the reserve. And zebras, lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, hippos, antelopes, buffalos, giraffes, baboons, crocs, gazelles... Despite of having seen them endless times on screen but watching them here up close with my own five senses is another story.
And the night at Governor's Camp was full of star. The hippos at Masaai River which flows right in front of our tents started roaring, paddling and ended their glory speeches with a fart. Behind my bathroom, a horde of warthogs sniffed the ground then they used their tusks to dig up the food. The night was still young.
Sam and Doris could totally share the same vivid wanderlust feeling toward Mara as me - You never know what's around the corner. It could be everything. Or It could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back, you climbed a snow-covered mountain summit. A few. Or got married in Kenya, somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, with your best friend, surrounded by lions, elephants, leopards, buffalos and rhinos. I remember Sam singing, dancing and whooping with the young Masaai men - the traditional Masaai jumping dance to prove their strength and manpower to the women. I remember the Masai elders spitting milk on the feet of Sam and Doris as a blessing of always having plenty of food and healthy children.
How could I even put it into words and images? Is there even a slightest chance?
I just felt that we have something different in our souls now, our hearts feel heavier because of the spirit of a new world that has just been built. After spending a couple of days in Mara, the Land Cruiser rolled back over the familiar road, which connects two worlds that are near in number but somehow far away. Feeling like just passing through a mist so thick that you can feel water sticking on your face. Feeling of companion's heartbeat: the murmur of the sound, the hard dry engine, the wheels grinding through the dirty road. You know over time, these brilliant images will keep dancing and showing up as the most beautiful memories: friends, lover and fellow human beings.
My adventure with Sam and Doris has come to an end, to open up a new journey into the future.
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