Samburu National Reserve---6 hours of long, hard, bumpy, dusty drive from Nairobi. Much of it is interesting as we pass through what to our eyes are squalid villages with lean-to shacks housing businesses and homes. People mingle, mill and walk--intent on their purposes and destinations. Women line the roadways selling bags of charcoal freshly produced nearby from burning tree limbs. I wonder how many they sell a day--not many as each only has 3 or 4 bags. Surely the income cannot buy much.
Other women walk long distances to get water which they collect in small gasoline can size plastic bottles; then they face the long walk back. In some places there are water bores provided by the government. Here women congregate and talk while children play. We see most of these out in the bush where the Maasai live much as they have for decades. Other women balance baskets of bananas on their heads as they gracefully walk the road. Children in ill-fitting clothes play as all children do—laughing and having fun together, not realizing that theirs is a life of hardship. There isn't much stimulation or variety in what surrounds them.
However, Kenya now requires that all children go to school. Government and private schools dot the landscape. On school days we see uniformed, barefooted children walking many kilometers to reach their schools. A friend of mine here in the United States who is from Kenya has told me the educational system there is very good. Clearly, the educated younger generation is going to want more from life than their parents did. Will that be good?
As we pass the shanty villages, it becomes clear that people are living in the modern 21st century world in spite of appearances of poverty and backwardness in time. A hand painted sign atop a topsy-turvy door proclaims computer repair services. Down the street stands another building where air blows through spaces between wall planks and dust swirls in the doorway. This business offers "clean copies and fax services as you wait."
Entrepreneurs manning small lean-to sheds selling specialized wares--here it may be candy and small goodies; there it may soft drinks--dot the landscape. Beauty parlors, butcheries, furniture sellers, shoe stores—all that is part of a sustaining community—are open for business. Like many countries, men congregate and discuss the day's business, world affairs, women, whatever. And as in almost every place in the world today, mobile phones seem to be de rigueur.
We pass many "hotels" that are puzzling at first because they are so small with flailing cloth blowing out the window and doorway. Andrew explains that they are really restaurants or more accurately little places to get something to eat or drink. More often than not men crowd around the building, spilling out the door, finishing a quaff of something—maybe the famous Kenyan coffee.
There is an established rhythm to life in these villages as well defined and meaningful as anywhere on earth. Love, happiness, weddings, children, disappointments, death, success and failure—they are all there. There is also hunger and illness and despair. Perhaps the abundance of small churches and larger tent meetings address these things and bring hope and acceptance.
**********If you wonder about the lack of pictures to accompany the narrative, I don't have any. Often I would want to snap the camera as we passed by or stopped but I was governed by a sense that this would infringe on the dignity of the people. As I would pick up the camera and flip off the lens cover, it just didn't seem right. So, I have my visual memories which I've tried to paint in words.
I was going to write about Samburu but still haven't gotten us there yet….next time! And, there will be pictures.