A walk through Kericho-Kenya’s tea country

Early morning tea picker

Last week I completed another set of Kiva borrower verifications (BVs) for KADET and Juhudi Kilimo.  (Don’t worry, we’ll talk more about KADET, Juhudi, and borrower verifications later.) Luckily for me, BVs mean a trip into the beautiful Kenyan countryside where I have the chance to breathe the fresh clean air, see some nice farms and meet some great people.  At the end of my last set of travels I visited Kericho, in the heart of Kenyan tea country.  Major tea companies like Lipton source tea from the cool, verdant Kenyan Highlands.

Living in Nairobi, I don’t have the chance to get out on long rambles, and I miss that.  After filling up on chef John’s delicious breakfast at Teavale, I set out for some wandering each day.  I walked the five miles to the quaint Chagaik Arboretum one morning, passing through the grounds of the historic Tea Hotel, past the Ketepa tea factory, shaking hands and exchanging “Habari yakos?” (“How are you?”) with the locals; I even wandered into a field day between local teachers’ colleges.  As I was checking out the trees in the arboretum, a gregarious group of youngsters started shouting in unison at me.  How did I realize I was the target, you might wonder?  They started out by yelling, “Hey mzungu!”, which basically means, “Hey foreigner!”.  I couldn’t resist them, especially because they were from Sally Ann School; Sally Ann is my mother’s name.  After shaking hands with approximately half a gazillion tiny hands and being latched onto by another fifty strong little hands, I was relieved when they all shouted, “MONKEEEEEEE!” and they released me to torment the monkeys wandering through the arboretum.  I took them up on their offer of a ride on the school bus into town, and I just missed the afternoon downpour.

Another morning I ventured through the local market, much to the delight of the local women and my stomach.  If I have any sort of pride, it gets shoved to the bottom of my backpack when I walk through the stalls and people laugh when they see me.  I can’t blame them–I look pretty ridiculous by their standards, and I’ve come to look at what amounts to their grocery store.  What sort of nut walks through the supermarket for fun?  I do, and I love it.  I met an entomologist who earned his PhD in Australia, and a woman who took my hand and told me how happy she was to see me in Kenya–“We are one, my sister!”

These kids couldn't curb their enthusiasm--they really wanted to shake hands with a mzungu!

My other ramble was through the hills facing my balcony.  I wandered down the cow path, between homes with the laundry drying on the fences and bushes that had no electricity and no running water,  but plenty of politely curious children.  They’d shout to each other, run to the fence, pause, giggle at me, and then slowly come shake my hand, then turn around and giggle to all their brothers and sisters.

“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind, involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don’t know and trusting them with your life.”
Paul Theroux, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star


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