The news from Kenya, part five

Okay, first off, spoiler alert: I’m actually writing this from Philadelphia, so now you know I made it home safely.

Happy New Year to all!

Sorry to leave you in the lurch for so long after my last post. My time in Kaimosi ended up becoming quite filled with activity and I couldn’t keep up with posting. So now I’m going to reach back as best I can to reconstruct over the next few weeks the remainder of my trip. I’ll try to do this chronologically, but I have a feeling things may end up becoming a bit more impressionistic as I go along. Here goes:

The news from Kenya part 5

Jamhuri Day!

December 12, Kenya’s Independence Day. I’d made plans with both Silas and John to go visit a local Jamhuri celebration, and although I’d awakened feeling even worse than the day before, I was looking forward to getting out of my room.

When Ruth brought the morning milk she also had news about the crowds and police I’d seen my first day. It was related to Jamhuri, she said. At first the crowds had been celebrating independence, but when a government official arrived to make a speech, the crowd began protesting against fuel prices and rising inflation, and the police had chased them down the road and into the forest.

Plans for seeing a local Jamhuri celebration quickly fell apart, but I arranged with John to get a tour of the Friends Theological College campus instead, including the library, chapel, and his office. On the way I met Hesborne Apida, another faculty member. One of the classes he teaches is church administration, and when he learned I have graduate degrees in both education and business, he said, “You must come speak to my class!”

So my schedule was beginning to fill up: an interview with John at 8:30 the next morning after chapel, then a visit to Hesborne’s class at 9:30. I had also started arranging interviews with others before the term ended that week, including Ann, the principal, and Meshack Musindi, the dean of students. I also hoped to interview a student, but wasn’t sure what the sensitivities might be about that, so I put that on my list of questions for Ann.

I was arranging all of these interviews in connection with writing articles for Quaker and other publications in the States. Ann had started to define “these wonderful articles you are going to write about us” as my payment for housing, which was a great offer, but feeling as sick as I did, I was also starting to feel under some pressure.

I also was trying to arrange for someone to go with me into the forest, which I’d been told I shouldn’t do alone, plus I wanted to explore the mission more, get down to the Galigoli river, and also get inside my old house once the current residents were back from holiday.

Just the thought of all I was planning was exhausting me, and I felt too weak and nauseous to do much besides sleep. Still, I continued on with John on our tour of campus. Along the way he became the first of what would turn out to be quite a number of people who would ask me to give them a computer. I told him, no, that was not something I could do.

We eventually headed toward the dining hall for morning tea.  Tea time in the dining hall was just the way I remembered it as a child! Tea leaves, milk, and sugar all boiled together in a huge vat and ladled out, steaming, into mugs. Delicious!

The TV in the dining hall was broadcasting the Jamhuri celebration from Nairobi, and we pulled up benches to watch what ended up being HOURS of processions of military personnel and marching bands, along with political speeches and entertainers that included singers, comedians, rappers, dancers, and children’s choirs. Both President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga spoke, and at least 20 minutes were filled with simply marching the original Kenyan flag, which looked quite worn but also quite moving, around the stadium. The local favorite, though, was a performance of traditional dance and music by students of the Tiriki Friends School, just down the road from Kaimosi.

Throughout the broadcast, a banner news headline crawled across the bottom of the screen that read, “48th Jamhuri Day. 2nd since new constitution. Inflation stands at 195%.”

As soon as I got back to my room, I collapsed again into bed and slept away the rest of the day until nearly 6:00. When Ruth came to ask what I wanted for dinner, I told her I still wasn’t hungry. I went back to bed, thinking about the Kaimosi Hospital just down the road and wondering if I might end up needing its services.

Next: a magic potion!


  1. Welcome home, David. These chronicles are great and especially illuminating to read in parallel with your last novel chapters. Can’t wait to hear more details in person. I was worried about the reports of your illness (the last thing you needed), so glad you made it through. See you soon.

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