Friday, 11 July 2008

Time to call - Heads or Hearts?

It is now more than a quarter year since I was last in Kenya. And I am getting withdrawal symptoms ... cold turkey.

So, having planned out what I must do with regards business and the River Cottage Kenya project, I am now looking at my personal plans, aspirations and whatever else I should be looking at in my circumstance.

I suppose the question is 'where, when I make the final plunge, should I be based?'

I only know three little bits of Kenya, all poles apart - location, ethnicity - different in every way!Firstly, the Nairobi area. When in Kenya, I work in the Business district, where we have an office, and I stay with a colleague and friend in the eastern suburbs. I have an important client in the Lang'ata area, who I would like to visit from time to time.

Then there is Malindi, or a village close thereto. I rent a house there and my girlfriend and children are installed. One of the schools/orphanages that we support is situated here.

Lastly, but not leastly (if there is such a word), Kisii. My business is located here. I have some very good friends, and, of course, the other orphanage.

In the best case scenario, I will have to make a decision as to where to set up "home".

So, toss a coin! Heads or Hearts?


  • The centre of everything business.
  • The centre of opportunity in Kenya. [?]
  • The altitude keeps me breathless for days. Still, I would acclimatise if I stayed long enough.
  • Getting into town from the eastern suburbs is a nightmare, but how about from the Lang'ata, Ngong, Karen area?
  • Close to the airport, so I can get home easily (the UK one, that is).


  • My business is here, but Vincent is perfectly able to run it without me. Still, it would be nice to have an active part in it.
  • The larger orphanage is there. But I don't need to be there to work for it.
  • The altitude keeps me breathless for days, but I would acclimatise if I stayed long enough.
  • Housing is cheaper than on the Coast or Nairobi.
  • Kisii does not rely on tourism.
  • River Cottage Kenya is to be based in Kisii.


  • No altitude problems here, but the heat ... I can't bear it. As for working in it!
  • My girlfriend and children live here. But would she be willing to move? Yes, if it meant a better life and prospects, especially for the children.
  • We support a school/orphanage in the village, but I don't have to be there to support it.

So I have pretty well ruled out Coast, unless of course better half digs in her heels. Here we have an ethnic problem. Although she was born and raised near Malindi, she is, in fact a Luuya, from near Lake Victoria (for those who are not familiar with tribal homelands). Apparently, the Luuya and Kisii historically were not the best of friends and she is a little reticent about living in Kisii.

The Nairobi/Narok/Bomet/Sotik/Kisii roads are being repaired and the journey will eventually be acceptable, even by matatu.

I am talking myself into setting up base in Kisii, aren't I? So, for those of you who don't know the town or the area, what is it like?

Firstly, it is off the tourist map. It is a largely agricultural area and the economy of the area is strong in its own right. The land is fertile, not too hot, (average daytime temp is 26°C) and humid. The town itself is typically African, bustling, chaotic and big enough to boast two supermarkets.

It is cosmopolitan. I have met Kisii, Luo, Kikuyu, Maasai, Luuya, an Afrikaner and probably many others. They seem to be able to live together for the common good.

It is in the mountains, there are a lot of trees, it is very green, although the earth is a rich red.

Yep! My heart says Kisii! My head though, still whispers Nairobi.

But I think my heart will win.

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