It was Thursday night. After having something light to eat because he didn’t have much of an appetite because he was so excited to be going out with Karine even though it was just to play ping pong, he showered and changed into a grey shirt and dark blue pants. He put his luggage away. He had taken it out because he couldn’t find the charger for his phone. He searched it, hoping that he would find it somewhere in there and he did. It was in the front zipper. Relieved, he put the luggage back into the closet.
He had just enough time to charge his cell before he headed down to the lobby to wait for Karine. He debated whether or not to wear a jacket and decided that he would leave it. His cell rang as he was about to hang up the jacket. It was his cousin, Mark. He left the voice mail pick up. He would call him some time tomorrow. He slipped the cell into the breast pocket of his shirt, hung up his jacket and hurried out of the apartment, anxious to get to the lobby before Karine did. The last thing he wanted was for her to be waiting for him.
He barely got there five minutes before she showed up. “Hello, Jason Cheung,” she greeted him with a smile which made his heart skip a beat.
“Hello, Karine.” Nervousness and excitement filled him. He knew that he was staring at her but he couldn’t help it. No woman had ever had such an affect on him before.
“Let’s go and play some ping pong. My car is parked out front.”
He followed her to a silver grey Volkswagen Polo.
Soon they were off. “Did you have a good day today?”
“Yes, I did. It was busy and productive. How about you?”
“It was busy as usual. Where do you work?”
He told her. “And where do you work?”
“At the UNICEF.”
“How long have you been working there?”
“For ten years. Before there, I was working at UNFPA.”
“How long were you working at UNFPA?”
“For five years. It was my first job after I graduated from the University of Nairobi.”
“Do you have family here in Nairobi?”
“No. They’re in Mombasa. That’s where I’m from.”
“How far is it from Nairobi?”
“45 minutes by plane and four hours, forty three minutes by express train. Most times I fly.”
“Tell me about Mombasa.”
“Well, it’s the second-largest city in Kenya and is mainly famous for its beaches and history. It’s the destination for both local and international tourists. It borders the Indian Ocean. It has award-winning beaches most notably Diani Beach which is my favorite of the beaches. It has been voted Africa’s leading beach destination for the fifth time since 2015.”
“Why did you leave there to come here?”
“I’ve always wanted to move to Nairobi. It’s such a lively city. Besides, you and I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t left Mombasa.”
“That’s true. In that case, I’m very thankful that you left.”
She smiled. “Do you like art?”
“Here in Nairobi you will find Kenya’s art museums which feature African masterpieces from centuries. Maybe one of these days, I’ll take you to one of them.”
“I would like that very much,” he said quietly, looking at her. Their eyes held for several minutes and then, she turned away as the traffic light turned green.
“So, are you homesick as yet?” she asked.
“Not really. I miss my parents, of course and certain things like bent bristles and blended bananas.“
“Bent bristles and blended bananas?”
“Yes, when I was a kid, I used to help my father do odd paint jobs during the summer. I didn’t mind doing them because I earned money and learned how to fix bent bristles. And it was always a treat to have ice-cream which my mother made from blended bananas.”
“Those are nice memories. Are you an only child?”
“So am I.”
Minutes later, they were in the parking lot of St. Teresa Table Tennis Club. They walked in and after she introduced him to a few of the other players, they found a table. And the game was on.
The match fun and competitive. They both played well and five games later, he being the winner with a 2 point lead in the last game, they left. “I don’t know about you but I’ve worked up an appetite,” Karine said as they walked to her car. “Let’s grab a bite to eat.”
“Sure.” He was happy that they weren’t going straight back to the apartment.
She took him to Marita’s Bhajias. “They sell the best Bhajias,” she told him.
“What are Bhajias?” he asked.
“They’re thin potato slices coated in a spicy gram flour and deep-fried. They are delicious. Try them. Trust me, you’ll love them.”
“All right, I’ll try them.”
“What would you like to drink?”
He looked at the menu displayed. “Mango.”
She ordered two Maru’s Bhajias with Tomato Chutney and two Mango drinks. The Bhajias looked and smelled really good. His mouth was watering. They went over to a table by the window and sat down.
“Is this the first time you’re having a Kenyan dish?” she asked.
“So, how do you like it?”
“These Bhajias are delicious.”
She smiled. “Food of the reasons why I moved to Nairobi. The first time I had Nyama Choma, I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven.”
“What’s Nyama Choma?”
“It’s is the famous barbecued meat which Nairobians love. It’s served in many local restaurants and corners across Nairobi.”
Now was the perfect opportunity to ask her what had been on his mind since the first time they met. “Karine, will you have dinner with me this Saturday evening?”
“Sure. Call me and let me know the time.”
He smiled, relief washing over him. “I will. And I’ll arrange the transportation.”
They spent the rest of the evening talking about many things. It was the best time he ever had in his entire life and he couldn’t wait for Saturday to come.