Ants the size of small horses, mosquitoes flying in attack formation, flying bugs of every shape and size, things that bite, sting or just annoy, snakes more poisonous than a Brit could ever imagine; showers consisting of a soapy rub-down then a bowl of water tipped over the head, a toilet where you have to squat and hope the aim is good, water that has to be boiled before it is safe to drink, a place where, during the rainy season, nothing is ever really dry, where half the countryside sticks to your boots and gives the impression of walking on sloping ice – why do I love this country?
It’s the people.
Kenyans are the friendliest people I have ever encountered and the Gusii are no exception. OK, maybe people want to ask Habari? because I am white and white people are few and far between in the Kisii district. Maybe it is because I am working for the community in my own small way, but I like to think it is just because they are friendly.
Admittedly, if a child comes to shake my hand, it is probably so that he can boast at school that he shook the hand of a mzungu, but what the heck?
But at least the kids at “home” and at Twiga have accepted me. They do make fun of my colour, but openly, in front of me, including me in their joke. I tell them that I am not white, but the colour of a plucked chicken. But then, they are not black. They are the colour of rich, dark chocolate. As they all like chocolate, that tends to please them and they accept the joke.
I am not alone in finding Kisii a rather grubby, noisy, bustling heaven on earth. I met another Englishman in town today. He is a translator of Scandinavian languages. I just had to ask why he was in Kisii. He simply found it one day, liked it and has been here ever since. I can relate to that. It is said that if you visit Kenya, a little bit of you remains. In the case of Kisii, it is a lot of you that remains.
But it is not for everyone. If you like order, cleanliness, proper pavements, order in your life, Kisii is not for you. If you don’t like corruption around every corner, people trying to rip you off because of your skin colour, Kenya is not for you.
But if you like a happy go lucky, easy-going environment, you could well find that Kenya, or even Kisii could trip your trigger. It certainly has mine!