Machakos is a big town and a district about one hour drive from Nairobi. Our driver Charles was born there and his family still lives there. He has invited me there several times and the Saturday morning after Lisa & Grace left Kenya we went there together. It was a pleasant drive and Machakos turned out to be much hillier than I had envisioned.
Charles was overly excited and told me that of all the white people he had worked for I was the first to come to his house.
Charles had told me that he was building a small stone house for his family and the construction had been going on for quite some time, interrupted by lack of funds for cement. So when we got to Machakos town I told him I would buy him 5 bags of cement (I thought more would ruin the car’s suspension). After that purchase he was so grateful and we went to the supermarket, as his wife had given him a list of things to buy in town (see, wives are the same all over the world!). In the supermarket, he had to make a tough decision as he had promised his son a soccer ball but the good ones turned out to be very expensive. I told him to get the good one and some extra food and baby stuff and then I would pay for it. We proceeded from town into a more rural area and up the mountain as our route took us on a small dirt road. Charles drove slower and slower and started greeting almost everybody on our way. He told me that now that he had been seen driving a car with a white person he would never have a problem borrowing money from those people or paying them late as they now would assume he had money. He also told me that white people were seen as being closer to God, maybe because Jesus was white or because of the missionaries.
He eventually stopped the car and I learned that his house/plot of land was on a beautiful steep hillside right off the road. We parked the car on the road since it wouldn’t disturb any traffic; only about 15 cars would pass there every day. Now Charles was the boss! A few boys on the street were told to carry up the heavy cement bags to the house and Charles could walk up the hill with me without carrying much. We were greeted by his uncle, sister, niece, nephew, wife, son + baby girl, and his mother. They all seemed very excited to meet me, almost like they couldn’t believe it. But they were so relaxed and we joked, played some football and Charles showed me the small house he was building. He was very proud. I walked down and saw from where they fetched water, we talked about the rains, the drought, the baby, the teaching course his wife wants to take, the son, the local fruits I tasted, the price of maize, one day having enough money to buy a car, the church, water pumps and education. Then we drove around the area in my car, Charles driving with his son on his lap and his uncle and niece in the back seat. They greeted everybody who we met and I saw their church, the little local marked, amazing views and the niece’s high school. I tried to talk about gender and how unfair I thought it was that only women fetch/carry water. That didn’t help the mood so I changed to a lower gear again (baby steps).
Earlier this year an American woman visited us in Nairobi for a few nights, she was the cousin of the one who hurt her shoulder. Anyway, she accidentally left a pair of shoes, which I donated to Charles’ niece who is in the last year of high school. She got very excited. We went back to the house and just enjoyed the day together and ate some ugali and spinach. I brought my camera and took a lot of family photos, which I can print for them later.
There was no tv or radio running so we were just chatting and enjoying the time together. I was joking and trying to speak Kiswahili to everybody’s amusement. I was looking at the 3 month-old baby who was wrapped in several thick blankets on a hot day. The sweat was running from her forehead, but that is how they do it in Kenya.
After about 7 hours I drove back to Nairobi after a great day. Surely I’ll take Lisa and Grace there when they come back to Kenya.