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Staying in a Kenyan Home

KENYA | Thursday, 20 February 2014 | Views [3161]

As a traveller – or even worse, as a tourist – it can be very difficult to come face-to-face with the normal, day-to-day life of a place, especially if faced with barriers of language, culture and ethnicity. Having been lucky enough to spend a year living in a small Kenyan community, we made some particularly good friends, including a wonderful man of the Kelenjin people – they of long-distance running fame – by the name of Richard Yegon.

The first time we stayed with Yegon and his family, they vacated their bedroom for us and moved into the children’s room. The first wazungu ever to set foot there, our introductory stroll around the village and its surrounding tea plantations turned into a five-hour affair of handshakes, copious amounts of incredibly sweet tea, and a following of a good dozen children whose emotions ranged from curious to terrified. I spent at least five minutes gripping the hand of a particularly old man (Yegon’s great uncle, I believe) who, having worked for the British administration in the 1950s and 60s, was delighted to “welcome me back” to Kenya after all these years.

When we first arrived at Yegon’s house, the family’s rather old rooster strutted his stuff proudly across the garden. The next morning, his absence went some way to explain the chewiness of what we had thought to be a chicken stew – served, of course, with the ubiquitous side of ugali (maize meal), beans, and milk fresh from the family cow. Yegon’s wife, having never had wazungu guests before, even went through the trouble of finding and cooking us half a kilo of spaghetti.

Over the next year we came back to visit twice more, each time with different friends in tow, and always receiving the warmest of welcome. The visits invariably begin with a long afternoon walks, complete with tea visits and children giddy with excitement. Fortunately, the house had been added to by our second visit, so the family no longer had to move out to host us. By our last visit, our presence was even tolerated by Yegon’s son, who had run away screaming in terror the first time he laid eyes on us, apparently believing us to be ghosts.

Watching the days go by here was a revelation in many ways. The members of this little community kept it meticulously clean – we never once saw a single piece of litter – and we were told that there was no crime of any kind. The children, their parents convinced of their safety, came and went as they wished, usually with young siblings thrown across their backs. Life here was by no means without worry – several funerals reminded us of the prevalence of deadly disease here as well as in other parts – but unlike villages set up specifically for tourist visits, it was real. And the warmth of Yegon and his family never fades from memory, especially as we still receive monthly invites to come back.

Yegon’s father on our first visit to his home

Yegon and his wife serve up dinner; this time we had brought Kate’s parents along

A foot-bath and fresh corncobs: perfect finish to a day spent walking around the village

Groups of children constantly trailed our wanderings around the village, gradually becoming less afraid

About the Author

Marcus Westberg is an award-winning photographer and a regular contributor to Africa Geographic, NationalGeographic.com, Vagabond and Huffington Post. View more of his work on his website and on Facebook.

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Tags: connect locally, guesthouse, kenya, travel

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