Kenya redux IV: bioverse of Musevi & Kyanika co-ops, Kamba grain-grinding, Kwanini?s & the final malarial stretch of the Kenyan marathon


millet cache

30.05.2011. Kitui, Kenya

yesterday i went into the field with j & her Bioversity colleagues. they had a church school bus for the occasion but i rode with gli italiani in a separate car to practice my italian. we went first to the village of Musevi, some 15 minutes or so in the rolling hills outside Kitui. we visited some farms & women's groups & a primary school. i was the unofficial video guy so was videotaping most of it & taking pictures, some footage of which is included here.


Musevi kids

Musevi primary school kids


Musevi model pose

striking a pose


Musevi girls


Musevi women

Musevi women's cooperative showing us their plot


then we went to another village on the other side of Kitui to visit another group of very gracious women [Kyanika cooperative] who made us lunch & shared with us some of their agricultural & nutrition projects. when we walked into the village they welcomed us in traditional fashion with song & dance [recruiting j to dance with them]:

had millet porridge & popcorn [not only corn, but puffed millet, amaranth & other grains] then toured some farms & nurseries. for lunch they made us all sorts of dishes: chapati, «African rice» [split & processed corn], cassava, various leafy greens [sukuma wiki, pumpkin leaves, managu], githeri, muù [strange fruit that tasted like bittersweet marzipan] & some other things i forget the names of, all quite tasty.


kyanika women cooking

Kyanika women prepare githeri & sukuma wiki



some of the indigenous seeds


pointing at cow

touring the farms


picking nightshade

picking managu


mchichi beads

mchicha seeds


popcorn machine

high pressure popcorn maker


we were going to go to Nzambani rock after [where i went by myself the day before], but right as we pulled on to the main road the bus broke down. we were jackknifed across both lanes & the driver couldn't get it started. after a while some trucks & matatus stopped & we all got out to at least push the bus out of the way. then we waited around, i chewed on some sugarcane & some of the women took it upon themselves to teach j one of their songs, in Kamba, a song they sung while they grinded grain that goes like this:

Muthii wa ikie nukuthia.
Maliamu ndaya mbeke syendoloka
muthi wa ikie nukuthia.

they never did get the bus started so we got back to Kitui with a smaller matatu & then a few of us went back to Parkside Villa for tusker & barbecued chicken.

gourd view

looking out from the Kyanika gourd museum

31.05.2011. Nairobi, Kenya

went to the last day of their conference yesterday & sat in the back observing & processing these videos then had lunch. i met the district commissioner of the Kitui region & he took one look at me & exclaimed: «Jesus!». after a lot of waiting, managed to wrangle everyone together on the bus to head back to Nairobi, hitting the dusty clusterfuck of Thika road under construction at sunset. after dropping everyone else off we got to the Jacaranda hotel late.


cows hanging in the tree shade

woke up & had breakfast [lots of fresh fruit & coffee that isn't nescafe!] then j went into work & i went with F around Westlands. he bought a Masai knife & i got a Masai camel bone club. whereas in Tanzania everyone called me Chuck Norris, everyone in Kenya has been calling me Jesus [followed by a: «he's come again!»], to which i'd just spread my arms in crucifix pose. apparently i'm badly in need of a shave & a haircut. & being Jesus wasn't getting me any discounts either.

hung out by the pool that was being drained, read more of Cuore di Tenebra [Heart of Darkness in Italian] & also read The Cock Thief by Parselelo Kantai, a little Kwani? publication [a «Kwanini?»] that i picked up at a bookstore [along with another Kwanini chapbook, Running by Jackie Lebo—two of their recent publications since i've read most of their others]. a good quick read about a guy [presumably Moi's driver & confidante] who steals a prized golden rooster given to Moi by the queen of England, then goes by matatu to Uganda carrying this cock in his lap, fantasizing [or not] that a slutty girl is sitting next to him. it's all a sort of fatalistic allegory summarized by this passage:

And now he knew she was a malaya, heading west for new flesh markets. The bile in him rose so suddenly he turned away in case she saw it in his eyes. There was nothing left in Kenya. Everybody was leaving and lying about it.

those that stay [successful ones that have the means to leave] end up like Sammy Wanjiru—driven mad by the others that want a piece of your success. or those that leave in exile & think it's safe to return end up like Ngugi wa Thiong'o—robbed & his wife raped within weeks of his return. the matatu trip goes north up towards the rift valley on the same road we were on two & three weekends ago, until The Cock Thief takes the fork towards Uganda.

j came back & we had some G&Ts by the pool then walked to Haandi, passing a buck naked man being whipped & paraded down the middle of the street by two cops. not sure what the back-story of it was but the vision seemed an ominous curse that suddenly weighed over us. while we sat waiting for our food F started feeling flushed & sick so he went back to the hotel leaving us to ponder those mosquitoes 9 days ago [how long it takes malaria to incubate] in Rumuruti. we ordered enough for 3 & j didn't have much of an appetite so i ended up eating it all for myself [Haandi was great as ever—one of the better Indian restaurants in the world].

roadside bomb

01.06.2011. Nairobi to Rome

woke up & F still wasn't feeling great, he'd been throwing up most of the night & a bit achey & it came in waves—classic malaria symptoms. chills & nausea & his eyes glazed over. they have these self-diagnosis tests here [& we already have doses of coartem]—things that are impossible to get or very expensive in Rome. but since president Kibaki is giving some speech this morning nothing is open until later [everyone afraid to open while he is speaking], so now we are just waiting. F had gone out earlier to find a pharmacy & saw the naked man again walking the streets & apparently in broad daylight the vision seemed even scarier.

since we couldn't get a malaria kit we put F on coartem. it kicked in right away & F slept most of the day. we still wanted to get the diagnostic kit though, to be sure & also because j & i were in the same place at the same time & j wasn't feeling well. i found a few open pharmacies but they didn't have the kits for whatever reason. found one pharmacy that could track me down some but they had to send some guy across town by matatu to fetch it, so finally we got 2 kits later in the afternoon, which at that point was a mute point for F since the coartem had already kicked in, but still good to have in case j or i develop symptoms [j throwing up her breakfast was a one-time thing that has since passed]. my paranoia about getting up in the middle of the night to breach the mosquito net to take a piss in retrospect was justified. hard to believe that both j & i lived & traveled in Africa for over a year & neither of us have had malaria [though we have also taken our fair share of malarone as a preventative in really bad areas].

hung out more killing time before our flight. i read Running by Jackie Lebo, which was a fascinating little book about the marathoners culture around Iken in Western Kenya, not far from where we were in Laikipia [& where F likely contracted his malaria]. she follows one runner in particular, Elias—at a loss with what to do with his life & exposed to the hundreds of runners that train in & around Iken, he just starts running, barefoot, with the slightest clue what he's doing. eventually he he gets noticed by Martin Lel, who helps him get into his camp & gives his second piece of meat he's had in his life [subsisting to this point purely on ugali & sukuma wiki]. & then it chronicles what he has to go through to get a passport & a visa & a plane ticket to Amsterdam & then it ends there, because i guess that's the point—it's not a matter of whether he wins or loses, it's more like he got the opportunity, to leave the country & see another part of the world, because of running. it also talks some about Laikipia & the history of white settlers in the region, the dozen or so families who own 2 million acres there, which undoubtedly includes the land we were staying on when we were there. & how after independence the government let the settlers keep it rather than give it back to the Masai/Samuburu, not recognizing ancestral claims to lands. not particularly in a negative way, as she also mentions Zimbabwe & the economic disaster that ensued after the government there forcibly stole land from the white settlers there [including Logo & Leadbelly].

the flight back was uneventful, hardly anyone on the plane so we had rows to ourselves & F was able to sleep off his malaria. it would seem coartem works wonders if you can catch malaria in time—unfortunately many Africans for whatever reason don't have access to this medicine that only costs a few bucks. watched the sun rise over Italy from the plane & then taxied back to Trastevere as Rome prepared for it's independence day parade with italians feeling a bit rejuvenated & hopeful after Berlusconi's big setback a few days ago.

little brahma


©om.Posted 2011 Derek White