How are you, mzungu?

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Africa » Kenya » Rift Valley Province » Eldoret
October 24th 2011
Published: October 24th 2011
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The first thing you think when you do hear the town Eldoret is cheese and elite runners of the world. The development in this small town is considerably high and it is one of the most develop places in the country we have seen except Nairobi. And the best thing, you won’t be bothered by annoying people (just rarely street children will ask you for money) and you’ll walk through the town with smiling people around you who will great you with a nice “Hello muzungu! How are you, mzungu?”. This is because unlike most of the rest of the country this town does not rely mostly on tourism to support itself so tourists are pretty much left alone.

Actually we got a great explanation of “mzungu” since we though this word has a negative meaning but fortunately it has a positive meaning which means white, clean, smart person. So Kenyans with respect calls you a mzungu and you should be more than happy to hear it. You’ll notice that many Kenyans think that you’re really smart since you have a white face.

Mmm… cheese… Well Eldoret has the biggest factory of cheese in Kenya but this small, quite it is dirty and is in a bad location, overall not a big deal at all. But we have to agree with Kenyans that this cheese does taste good but we wouldn’t like to know the preparation of it. Unfortunately this small factory is the main attraction in this area (according the “Lonely Planet” book – it is becoming our “bible” under this trip) and many tourists are skipping or just passing this town. But we did find many nice areas around Eldoret and we think it is much nicer than the cheese factory. Unfortunately (or very lucky for us), the areas around Eldoret aren’t explored but couchsurfing helped us to come closer to unseen places in Kenya.

It says that Eldoret’s future development depends on elite runners who are coming from around the world for the training. Yeah, we did see quite many runners and the condition of this town is perfect for them since the roads, landscape and attitude is ideal. The economy of this small town is increased by them since the shopping centers are full of mzungus and non-local people. You won’t often see homeless people on the street in the center of town. It is a stylish town where people are going with nice clothes – suits, dresses, high-heels (this is rarely seen in other small towns). Some areas of Eldoret are just amazing and full of big houses with green gardens.

The high light by far of this town is the wonderful family we stayed with. It is amazing to follow the daily Kenyan life which is full of surprises, smiles, problems and solutions. We were surprised at how good English the children and parents speak. The whole family is intelligent, big family and is spreading a lot love and warmth to others. Frank, Jane, Faith, Ian, Marion and June were so wonderful to us and we came right into the family within the first two days. It was the hardest time we have experienced trying to leave this family, we sincerely hope to see them again.

They also helped us to volunteer at a school which was a great experience. On our arrival we were put with some kindergarten kids, into a bus and of to the fire station and train station for an excursion. We thought that the children may have been little too young for this as after twenty or so minutes their minds begun to wander and start to run all over the place. The funniest thing was when they gave a demonstration of the fire engine and the poor little kids must have never seen this before and because it was so close we had a class full of crying babies. English, math’s and creative arts are the other classes we were able to teach, mainly with the grade ones. The best part of the school was on the final day the all the classes came together to perform an act to do with Christmas. We taught our class ‘Santa Clause is coming to town’ which no one in the school had heard off so it went down really well. Actually, it did surprise us when all teacher call the children for “babies” and it doesn’t matter what grade in they are. When a teenager is arriving to the class, the teacher greats him/her with “How is doing my baby today?”. Hm, this was really unusual for us and we were looking around where she see a baby!

On one of the weekends during our stay we went to the village that the parents are originally coming from and it is also located close to a cliff face that is overlooking the Great Rift Valley. This was a wow-experience and we couldn’t believe that these wonderful places aren’t explored of tourist yet. It is one hour drive south of Eldoret on the dirty, small roads and sometimes isn’t easy to come through and especially if it is after a rainy day. The scenario is changing colorfully from hills to mountains, waterfalls to forests. The villages are quite developed and the schools look better than in the cities sometimes. Through they haven’t seen many white tourists in this side of villages, just the ones that the family takes out here.

The eyes of surprise are hilarious and sometimes it seems that they are seeing a ghost. It is indescribable how much it means a “hi” to a child from a muzungu. Often you would love to go and give a cuddle to one of them but if you’ll give to one so whole village will be around you, and the competition will lead to many conflicts. These children make you happy and sad in the same time… it is really strange feeling. You would like to take the bunch of children home with you and give them an easier life but we don’t know if it would be a better life since they are happy with their big families in the countryside, and they don’t know what it is behind the boarders of their villages (this is a paradox). But they are hoping for a better life and have many dreams which unfortunately true rarely. To see a white a person is like a blessing or some sign from a higher dimension, a person who is existing in their world and they have heart just about it…. and suddenly it appears from nowhere in their villages. It is like an alien is coming from a clear sky.

It is possible that one white person will remain and leave the prints in their mind for whole life, and we see the child just one of the big bunch and nothing special. It doesn’t need a lot attention or afford to these children and small things are making the day for them… a simple think like a smile to them is something really huge. Maybe at times we are the first and the last white person they will see in their life and the life style is really limited in these places, especially for girls.

The villages are quite small but close one to each other which makes the world a little bigger and richer with social network. Of course everyone knows everyone, and the mzungu is turning to the village so everyone has to take part. We were really welcomed warmly in this small village and it is a big party than – the chicken has been caught and prepared for a fresh meal, the ugali is done, corn is picked and cooked and the family attends. Of course village made alcohol is a must but never arrived (Afrtica time)! This we are calling a real Kenyan life.

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25th October 2011

hello, nice story and I need to find out about this couchsurfimg thing I believe :) good luck on your trip.
26th October 2011

Nice to see such a positive blog on Kenya...Eldoret bravo

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