a journey to the heart (3a)

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Homestays on the Kikuyu shambas
artbul1ax.gif (978 bytes)Arriving in the country
Jonathan Tourzan
Our rural homestay was in the district of Muranga located in fertile highlands north of Nairobi. This region was the home of the Kikuyu tribe, the largest in Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president, was a Kikuyu.
The Muranga District is populated by families who make a living by working a shamba, a Kiswahili word describing a small plot of land with just a few acres. The families grow staple crops, such as maize, beans, potatoes, bananas, and cash crops, such as coffee or tea. Muranga's rich soil and frequent rainfall make it a beautifully green and lush paradise, and one of the most fertile farming areas in Kenya.
We traveled for over an hour to reach a small town which was the end of the line for our bus. The bus dropped us off at Kandara Market where we went into a small hotel (restaurant) and had lunch while we waited for Maina to find matatu to take us the last few miles to our destination.
The open market offered a variety of fruits and vegetables, including multicolored bananas that were particularly delicious. We were the center of attention at the market where strangers were not a common sight.

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A young Kikuyu girl

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artbul1ax.gif (978 bytes)Arriving in Paradise
Julie Paiva
I found myself surrounded by the most beautiful country I had ever seen—the bright red dirt, the dark green trees, and the biggest, bluest sky in the world. I felt as if I were in paradise and, more than once, seriously questioned whether I was dreaming. In the fear of waking up, I quickly started running around, trying to see all that I could. I did not want to miss anything.
I walked down to a river behind Baba Maina's house and ran into some children along the path. I greeted them and tried to shake their hands, but they just laughed and ran away.
I continued walking to the river while the children continued running up to me, touching my hands and running away. I felt so happy and so curious. Just like the children touching my hands, I wanted to touch every part of Kenya, the land and the people.
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Laura and her homestay family
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Laura with her homestay family
It was not uncommon to be thrust into a family of eight or nine people.
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artbul1ax.gif (978 bytes)Getting Aquainted
Jonathan Tourzan
The matatu had taken us on a bumpy ride through lush green hills to Baba Maina's house. In Kenya, adults are addressed as the parent of their eldest child; therefore, the name Baba Maina means “father of Maina.”
David Maina's father had played a large role in organizing our homestays in Muranga and turned out to be an invaluable friend. Baba Maina welcomed us to his home. He explained that our homestay families would not arrive for a while and that we were free to explore his land while we waited for our families.
The scenery in Muranga was spectacular. Green terraced hills stretched out across the land as far as I could see. Almost all the land was used to grow crops of one kind or another. Baba Maina's house was beautiful; he had one of the few houses with a concrete foundation in the area. There were several goats in his front yard, and on the side of the yard were two cows eating banana tree branches in a wooden cage. Below Baba Maina's house was a beautiful stream that cut through the valley. We walked down the shamba to the stream where we met a group of curious children. They would say, “How are you?” and then bashfully run away. Some of them would hide in bushes when they saw us coming and then jump out giggling after we had passed by. I think they thought that we might eat them for lunch. They were so innocent, so pure.

Read second excerpt from chapter 3


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