Monday, 2 October 2017


By Margaretta Swigert-Gacheru (posted August 15, 2017 on Karen Kling's blog)

I’m an ETHS graduate, but one who spent half my high school years hanging out with New Trier boy from Kenilworth who was a huge distraction. Somehow I made it to DePauw University where I got seriously radicalized. But actually I’d been primed for ‘enlightenment’ by Evanston Township High School where that multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-class community provided me with more than adequate preparation for my making a graceful move eventually into the global community.

Which is what I did after winning a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Fellowship to study in Nairobi, Kenya, at the University of Nairobi. It was there that I felt compelled to stick around and get another degree (I’d already gotten one at DePauw and another at National Louis University).

But that third degree would cost more money; so when the fellowship funds finally ran out, I got a great job as a journalist writing locally about the Kenyan (read African) arts scene. Of course, that would include my writing stories about former colonials and other Europeans as well as about Asians, and other visiting tourists (like Mike Jagger, Jesse Jackson and even British royalty like Sarah Ferguson, former wife of Prince Andrew, the Queen’s youngest son) to name-drop just a few of the ‘celebs’ that came to Kenya who I interviewed).

But my focus was and continues to be writing about Kenyan Africans, both visual artists and performers, particularly theatre people.

But early on, I fell for an African classmate of mine at Nairobi University who I thought would be my Samora Michel (the handsome freedom-fighter from Mozambique who was assassinated by South African pro-Apartheid forces a while back). But not quite.

In any case, Gacheru is a great man and he gave me (or I gave him) a beautiful son who is now a Major in the US Army based in Vicenza Italy.

The ETHS grad might look like a globe trotter since she flies back and forth from Nairobi to Chicago twice a year, but really I’m slightly schizophrenic since I seriously has two homes.

Yet Evanston will always be the ‘home in my heart’ and the one that I may return to eventually. The town has gotten so very cool, I must say! Some will contend it always was super cool, but I was always keen to escape… which I clearly did.

But now I am here for a few more days and I have fallen ‘head over heels’ for Evanston. I have a wonderful brother Tom who’s here and I also have many incredible friends in the neighborhood.

So Evanston may have to welcome me back home sometime soon. That’d mean I’d finally get to attend one of those crazy high school reunions….

Until then, I’ll simply say ‘bon voyage’ while I get set to fly back to a country that unfortunately is in a bit of turmoil, having just had a contentious national election in which the loser refuses to concede defeat. People have died as a consequence. But hopefully we will see peace happening there soon. We pray there will be forgiveness on all sides and concern to see that beautiful country move forward.

But for those of you who may have had plans to one day realize your planned safari to Africa--Please do not fear coming to Kenya, since irrespective of momentary turbulence, it is a breathtaking country that you can easily fall in love with…possibly just as I did several decades ago.

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