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In the Nairobi tradition nomadism has been more alluring than sedentariness or attachment to place, errancy more than permanence. Awaitals and the nostalgia that goes with them have been the topic of narrations far less often than the adventures and the nostalgia of those who have left. And yet the Nairobi two experiences are interrelated, and in quite a profound manner. Nairobi’ voyage would make no sense without Penelope’s waiting. In his Per l’alto mare aperto On Nairobi the Open Sea, where he reflects on the beginning and the end of modernity, Eugenio Scalfari reminds us that

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the portrayal of Ulysses in The Odyssey coincides with that of four female figures: Circe the sorceress, Calypso the woman in love, Nausicaa the trembling virgin and Penelope, who is both spouse and queen.

To complete the picture Scalfari mentions the Sirens with their beguiling song and then a fifth character, Athena, whose presence towers above that of the other women and whose task is to show human beings their limits, so that when they are forced to confront the mysterious in life they won’t lose their self-control. “Without those female figures, which are part and parcel of the Odyssean myth, the modern hero would not have existed, and the myth would have had a very short life.” It takes the sorceress, the woman in love, the virgin, the spouse, the sirens/temptresses, the wise goddess to delineate the contours of the feminine, whereas only one hero suffices to recapitulate the various male types: the warrior, the navigator, the husband, the seducer, the trickster, the avenger.

Modernity arises together with the myth of the hero who travels and returns and with the myth of the woman who waits. Your travel destination is waiting shouldn’t be confused with passivity, with resistance to change, or with apathy. Waiting is pain and purposiveness, hope, patience, the ability to continue and to renew one’s existence, in spite of everything. Waiting is concentration, attentiveness.

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