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Kenya

Kisses from Kisii

No, I am not in Kisii. I was though and that’s what matters. I just wanted to use that title.

First of all, Kisii is the most beautiful town I have ever approached at night in Kenya. That’s not saying much because I am not the most well-travelled person in the world, but on the other hand it’s saying a lot because I bet half of you haven’t been to Kisii either. πŸ˜› Yeah, I went down that comparison lane.

Anyhuuuuu, I had some nice little preconceptions about Kisii. You know, a little town with lots of people, bananas and humble houses. I have never been more wrong in my entire life. You see, I travelled to Kisii quite late in the day. If you know me, you know I hate travelling, be it by motor or feet, at night. Fortunately or unfortunately, my friends are the complete opposite. So when I asked Lilian, my very good friend who was going to be my super generous host, what time was okay for me to leave Nairobi, she said it was totally okay to leave after my afternoon driving class. I had my doubts but hey, she’s the all-knowing host, no? So I arrived in Kisii town past nine pm. And my, what a sight to behold! You see, unlike most other towns in Kenya, Kisii builds up into hills and hills of settlements. And they are all lit up, as opposed to, say, Eldoret, the town I was used to that is mostly flat all around. So you’re not welcomed by lights jotting the entire view across the road into the town like you are in Kisii. That is what you see as you approach Kisii, right into Kisii School and up into the town and way past Daraja Mbili.

Kisii
Neat right? New building

On alighting the Transline Classic PSV (I am avoiding to say matatu because I honestly don’t consider these kinds of vehicles to be matatus. They lack all the hullabaloo of actual everyday matatus.), I was hit by major activity on every side I turned. Like seriously, the town was not anywhere near asleep yet. I was already impressed. By the way, you know how North Rift shuttle is the Safaricom of Eldoret travel? Same thing, Transline is the one for your Kisii travels. Did I mention that they give you bottled water for your travel? Yessir.

By the way, back up to Nairobi, since I was completely lost at that booking office near Afya Centre, I had to initiate an actual talk with the passenger seated next to me. Because I didn’t want to end up lost in Western Kenya! At night! I never talk to people seated next to me in PSVs, leave alone even look at them. You might sit next to me and I will not know it’s you for kilometres and kilometres, only for me to realize it when we’re handing the kange fare. And trust me, this is not a hypothetical claim. It has been tried and tested. So I ask this guy, even before we’re out of the capital, if the socket works. There are sockets in here. He looks like a Kisii and like he knows these vehicles well. Turns out he does. He even tries to insert my charger into two sockets for me. Aawww. In case you’re wondering, no, they don’t work. Anyway, so far so good. Now I have announced subtly that I do not know where I am going and I have never been on a Transline and I will need help from here on out.

We take ten light-years to get out of the CBD. By the time we’re out, I’m very anxious but still pretending to read my new book. Everyone is Kisii in that vehicle, so I can be sure I’ll not understand any of those convos unless they have β€˜e’s before kawaida Kikuyu words. Even then, Kisiis talk too fast, probably to counter the loudness so the someone-eavesdropping-will-hear-everything effect cancels out. They will, thus, not help me know where we are at. Neither will my very useless Shindroid 2.1 (Sorry dear phone, but it’s true, for all purposes and intents, you’re not very useful away from a charger. Damn you Lollipop!) I have to announce even more clearly that I have no idea where I am going and will need a tour guide.

We stop at Transline booking office at Uthiru and a voila! A chance presents itself.

β€œHaiya, mnapewa hadi maji!” I exclaim loud enough for seat mate to hear.
β€œEehh,” he responds.
β€œSijai ona hivi,” I continue. And indeed I am amazed.
β€œMara nyingi hata tunapewa mbili mbili,” he adds.
β€œWow, mko mbele,” I insist.
β€œNa kwani hujawahi enda Kisii?” He asks, knowing the answer all too well.
Mission accomplished! I think.
β€œImagine,” I smile.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I got myself a guide. I’m a genius, no? All the way to Kisii. He will even probably read this, because he ended up asking whether I was a blogger, now that I was reading a million books all the way. Apparently that’s the mark of a blogger. Lol. We even tried taking photos of the sunset in turns, didn’t work out, but it was something. This journey worked out too well. Or Kisiis are just great people. So I can now even drive you to Kisii. Another story you’ll read soon. πŸ˜‰

Clearly...
Clearly…

Anyway, back to Kisii. Lilian pulls all the stops to make sure I’m at home. Even on that first night, I’m driven around Kisii streets to savour the flavours and streets. I noticed lots of Ugandan number plates on cars. Apparently they are way cheaper across the border. Speaking of border, bodabodas! These are a menace in Kisii. If you thought the ones in your area code are messed up, think again. Traffic jams are caused by these things. They are everywhere, especially during market days. I also think Kisii has a million hotels. Seriously, everywhere you turn, there’s a hotel. And I’m not talking about Sonford and Sons, or is it Fish and Chips? I’m talking a hotels with gates and parking and food that is cooked as you wait for two hours.

Kuna kuku?
Eh, lakini mtangoja ichinjwe.
Sorry, what?

Lol. Kisii is just awesome. Everything you get around Nairobi but wrapped in fresh air, greenness and people who look at you very closely. Plus they get to have Zuku and I don’t. Nkt. I suspect it’s because everyone knows everyone up there. What I’m trying to say is that Kisii is a rich town and needs a dual carriageway for crying out loud!

In an effort to help me tembea Kenya, my hosts drove to all the way to Kisumu. Yayy! Was super excited about this one too. I know all the towns along that road now, I think. Loved the fish wrapped in sukuma wiki! I ate so much ugali those few days I felt so at home! I love me some ugali! Of course I would love to go back to these two hubs and learn more as I learn more Kisii and Luo, but that’s it for now. Now I know why the coast has never grabbed me. That temperature, nah-ah. If you marry me, be prepared for vacations in Western Kenya. Thanks in advance.

To the next town! :*

22 replies on “Kisses from Kisii”

I heard there were some on a tree on the news, but hakuna cha flying around during the day… Anyhuuuuu, bats are harmless, no? We watch too many motion pictures. Hehe

Your writing style is quite captivating. But to be frank, I felt your article did not go deep into the surface to tell us more about Kisii town.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o in Moving the Centre criticised the middle class as pretending to represent the life of a place, ignoring the existence of the lower classes. And I felt you fell into this trap. The poster-card image of any town rarely represents the total truth.

I would have wished to read more about the ordinary folk and stuff they talk about not just the big hotels and roads. E.g. Kisii is facing a major problem of commercial sex workers coming in from the villages in droves (a sizeable number are also students from Kisii University).

What about the history of the town? It’s original name is Getembe. And what is the meaning of the names behind Ouru Towers and Sakagwa Towers? Any meaningof place names?

Language would also have been a window into the lives of the people. Did you hear any phrases being repeated a lot? Any unique gestures and mannerisms you observed?

Your article looked at Kisii from a telescope while it would have been more interesting viewed from a microscope.

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