As we always do when we go to Kenya, Christmas is all about visiting the family in Kitui. So we all hopped in the cars and headed out.
The ride there is always scenic. The route is very green carrying us through Machakos, crossing over a plateau with some spectacular views, and into what has been called Kitui County since 2013. That’s when Kenya went from eight provinces to 47 counties. I’ve had conversations with several Kenyans in the past when the central government ran everything. I argued that breaking up the country into individual parts and letting those parts run themselves would be more beneficial. Of course an American thinks like that because it kind of works for us.
How could a bunch of people in Washington, DC, know what’s best on a local level in Fayetteville, NC? And not get it mixed up with all the other Fayettevilles in the U.S.?
Last visit was just after the change, so everything seemed the same as my first visit. This visit, I noticed the change right away. As soon as we crossed into Kitui County, there was street lights lining the road. The reason I noticed is because when driving at night along twisty roads, along cliffs, with random speed bumps, that pitch darkness is dangerous. Then again, these lights didn’t work yet, but they’re getting there!
During previous visits, I was trying to imagination life relying on a water tank, mini solar panels for electricity and growing your primary source of food, whether it be maize or livestock. That was about it. For a spoiler American, it seemed to be an uncomfortable way to live, though no one seemed bothered by it. There was plenty of quality time with family since there really wasn’t much to do. From my opinion anyway.
When I walked into the house this time, there was one significant change. Nduku’s grandfather was watching a Beyonce video. You really had to be there to understand how striking this looked. One moment they’re tending to the maize crops, making sure the water tank is full, laying out all the solar panels to charge the lanterns; the next moment it’s all booty shaking.
But family was in town so the TV went off, or at least the volume went down, and it was all about family. Nduku has a large family. Najwa has a lot of great aunts, a ton of cousins fascinated with their American cousin, and I definitely felt less overwhelmed compared to the first visit.
Mzee [Nduku’s dad] and I then went for a ride around Kitui County. He took me to an organization based atop a large hill with stunning views of the land. You hear about how the “big rains” didn’t came this year threatening crops, but then you see how green the area is and wonder what it would be like if the “big rains” did pour.
I’m not sure what it is about Kitui, this way of living, but I’m drawn to it. It’s simple, probably too simple for me to make it a full time lifestyle, but I feel myself wanting to indulge more in the way life is in Kitui. And just as I did during the last visit, I stayed the night while everyone else, other than Nduku’s dad, headed back to Nairobi.
The hotel I stayed last time was sold out so mzee got me a stay at Parkside Villa. It’s not the Holiday Inn, but it was fancier than the last place. It’s gated. Much larger. Has a separate and huge dining space. But the bathroom still confounds me. For starters, the toilet had no toilet seat. My butt’s not that big. And the shower isn’t separate. It’s a spigot sticking out the wall that sprays the entire bathroom. And there’s a small window that faces the hall that’s just an opening with bars but no glass so you can hear people as they walk by. It’s too high up for anyone to look in, but when you’re butt naked and can hear people chatting away just feet away, it takes some getting used to.
I may come from a complex country, but I’m simple. No qualms about my room. That’s not the focal point of my overnight stay. I was intrigued about the night life. And that’s when how fast grew in the past two years became obvious. See, most everything is in Kitui’s main town area. I’m not sure what to call it, but it has grown. But it’s not the only place to go anymore. The road leading to Kitui town went from all nature to all development.
I was strolling around the streets of Kitui town, poking my head into some small establishments where the music was bumping, but they were just bars with loud music. I asked around and was told I needed to head out of the town area to the clubs down the street. So I hopped on a boda boda, the motorcycle taxis, without a helmet because this is Kenya, arms wrapped around some dude because I did get a drink at the bar and they make them a bit stronger than I’m used to and I didn’t want to fall off, and off we went.
I got dropped off at this place called Riverside Motel. Not sure why it was called motel when it was all club. It was around 9 pm and there were people there, but not really that crowded. So I headed to the bar to grab a drink and wait for the party to start. As we approached midnight, I was thinking I was at the wrong club. More people came in but it wasn’t wall to wall. I asked the bartender about this and maybe I was a bit too early:
I hung out outside a bit and it definitely started to get more lively. I random started talking to some dude. Cool dude. I think he said his name was Paul. Paul’s cousin worked the door at Kitui Beach Club, the club next door called, and invited me to come hang out. Beach club. Funny. This is a landlocked county.
Now this club was already packed. Wall to wall. And it had this small raised stage that was also packed, but the only ones dancing were the guys. Every now and again when a daring young lady did hop on the stage, she was immediately surrounded by half a dozen guys getting their grind on. It was weird. I could see why the ladies preferred to simply sit and watch.
No matter. I hung out another hour or so but after being out and drinking for nearly five hours, it was time to head back to the room. Good night. Interesting night. I’ll be better prepared for our next trip.