Along life’s journey it becomes necessary, every
now and then to take an unplanned road trip back to the farthest rural corners of Kenya in the name of “Farming”.
So as I barrel down a B-Class road to some remote rural destination,
it is easy to randomly choose one of the
hundreds of roadside shopping centres that line our roads for brief stop over to stretch legs numbed by the long drive.
But I’ve not told you why I had to take this tedious unplanned road trip to the village;
Alfred,my farm hand,called in the middle of the night to let me know that it has started raining and I was to send 10K urgently on his MPESA account urgently to help in “planting the farm”.
Last time I sent that kind of money to him for “planting”,he was drunk for a whole week,and had a resident girlfriend in his quarters,who is also a local barmaid in my village.
Suffice to say that no planting was done and the long explanation was too painful for me to listen.
Anyway,back to the road trip.
ROADSIDE SHOPPING CENTRES
You can’t miss them because most are
announced by an untidy speed bump designed to slow down your momentum and remind you that you are entering a zone where people are likely to stroll across the road to greet their friends.
Having sacrificed your speed, you scan the names to see if there is an inn worthy of quenching your thirst.
A quarter of the shops adopt the name of the town for their business: the chemist, the mini- market, the photographer – while others overflow with various degrees of joy – especially the inevitable eatery.
For some reason rural inns that deal in food or drink are always multipurpose.
They are a “bar and restaurant” or “boarding and lodging” or “hotel and cafe.”
In front of the description of the dual functionality of the place is a name
associated with joy and happiness, and
deservedly so,like “Njenga’s Happy Butchery”-not easy to picture a face of a “Happy Butchery”.
The wait staff smile brightly as they serve steaming hot mixed tea poured from a height through the spout of an old-fashioned tin teapot.
We, the “City Farmers”, try to choose something to accompany the drink from the simple menu.
We believe that hot sizzling cooking fat is an effective disinfectant so chapatis, mandazis, and other fried foods are a
If there is one overwhelming fear that is
collectively lodged in the minds of Kenyans it is the fear of germs!
SOURCE OF JOY
Another source of joy is the simple innovations of the catering industry.
One is the meat roasting chimney.
The juicy meat is visible enough to tempt
passing clients while directing the aroma towards the lodgers upstairs in a way that motivates them to reach for the room service menu.
Another invention is the handwashing barrel with a tap which makes it possible to enjoy the meat in the best way possible: by hand eating and licking off the yummy gravy on your fingers.
There is always a meat expert among any group of travellers and it is this person who is entrusted with the task of selecting the right cut of meat from all those roasting on the grill. Daisy,my partner is an expert in sniffing off donkey meat!
The chosen cut is slapped onto a partly charred, wooden chopping board and skillfully chopped into bite-sized pieces using a razor-sharp knife with the inevitable broken handle.
Then we all gather round and dig in, communally enjoying the unbelievable taste of fresh, Kenyan meat,not knowing whether it is actually beef,or our neighbour’s poached donkey.
Forget about the actual source of meat: Nothing engages all five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch, in the same way that a meal eaten by hand from a shared platter does.
Having filled the tummy with hot food and hotter drinks the traveller has just three needs left to fulfil: empty the plumbing, clean up, and get
back on the road.
A visit to the bathrooms reveals that they are cleaner and tidier than expected.
However, there is one curiosity – a
cistern fixed firmly to the wall, upside down!
Maybe the flushing mechanism produces the second urgent need of the meat eater, a cold shower to wash away the grease!
Now as comfortable as one is likely to get in the middle of a long journey, it is time to resume the travels.
Unfortunately, one was foolish enough to
park the vehicle immediately in front of the meat inn,forgetting the other great characteristic of roadside towns: street markets.
The vehicle is now surrounded by neatly
arranged displays of everything from used handbags up to fresh vegetables by pavement hawkers.
Getting out will be a fine combination of expert driving and diplomacy.
Apparently, a normal visit to the village pub is an all-day affair-be ready for an enforced parking the whole for no fee when you park at the front of a roadside inn!
Eventually we are back on the road again.
There is a temptation to open the windows wide and let the wind blow the cobwebs away from our minds, to sing and laugh and tell outrageous stories.
The pit-stop has re-energised us and we are ready to move a little further on the road of life until another town and its unsophisticated pleasures beckons us
Take a road trip this coming weekend,and be happy again!