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On 20 July 2013 I took the photo like you might steal a sweet. Instinctively. Stealthily. The snow-covered summit jumped out at me as, with my arms tight around your body, I was gently emerging from a restorative siesta.

I did not move. I could not take my eyes off it. I stayed with my nose stuck to the window and even when it had completely disappeared, when the plane had left the legendary sphere of that cradle of the world, I knew I would always carry with me the timeless image of its grandeur.

It was to take four years, four long years wondering if it was not all pure folly, but in the end we climbed it, our Kilimanjaro.

At the foot of the mountain, there were hesitations at first. We would never make it. There were too many obstacles to overcome. And that mischievous little voice always whispering to you that the battle was lost before it was begun.

And then some beautiful encounters. The kind that change a man. Like when we met Khan, a Masai warrior. He stayed with us, guided us, encouraged and protected us. He smiled the first time he saw us scarper, suddenly, clumsily with our awkward legs, to go and relieve the disturbed rollercoaster of our intestines. It was far, very far from our antiseptic world where tinned animal products sit alongside water that has been demineralized then re-mineralized and other products of an increasingly aberrant consumer society. Of course, we were as sure-footed as gazelles on the main street in Mombasa.

Then came the discovery of lands that were more hostile. That was when I realized that the air was getting thinner. I dug down into my resources, and I searched into the deepest part of me for that visceral oxygen that would allow me to keep going even if it was with the energy of despair.

An ascent in pain. Endless formalities and registration procedures.

Slowly, hope returned. Every step, every signature was bringing us closer to our goal.
And then I saw you. We were there at last. I sat down and let you come to me in your own time. When, an hour later, I was holding you close, you swept your eyes over the walls of the orphanage and stared at me for a long time, with your eyes still full of questions.

I promise you that one day, if you like, we will really do it, that ascent of Kilimanjaro. We will return to the land of your ancestors and try to answer all your questions.

My little treasure of far-flung lands. I have put the photo above your bed. It will be your talisman.

Translated by Wendy Cross


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Image of Mary Kay
Mary Kay · ago
A story of mystery, culminating in kindness.
Image of Céline Laurent-Santran

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