Friday, February 10, 2012

Kenya Diaries: Day 3, Part 1 - From Nairobi to Thika

On my third day, I left Nairobi to visit the nearby city of Thika. Thika is in Central province, which is home to the Kikuyu ethnic group, the largest ethnic group in Kenya. Two of the three presidents that Kenya has had since independence (Kenyatta and Kibaki) are Kikuyu. It wasn't long ago that the ride from Nairobi to Thika took 3 hours. Now that they are putting the finishing touches on a "superhighway" between the two cities, the drive took us a mere 45 minutes.

As we left the upscale part of Nairobi I'm staying in, Karen, we passed an area where very nice but expensive furniture is sold.

Because this is an area without much access to clean water, there are water trucks that park nearby, allowing people to come and purchase water.

Carrying water.

A billboard for a Coca-Cola product.

We arranged to meet Samuel from G-BIACK (Grow Biointensive Agriculture Center of Kenya) at the supermarket, Tusky's, in Thika. While waiting for him, I browsed through the beaded jewelry. Made in China. Talk about bringing coals to Newcastle.

Valentines Day is heavily marketed here. Tuskys had not yet completely geared up their marketing of red and heart-shaped items, but they had begun. The idiocy of Valentines Day has become so much more clear to me since I began learning about Kenya. Roses grown in Kenya for export to the UK for Valentines Day are having a very harmful effect where they are grown.

I entertained myself taking pictures around the store:

Tusky's marketing. The Big Five in Kenya are the five animals tourists most want to see: lions, buffalos, cheetahs, elephants, and rhinos.

Milk, sold powdered and in bags.

The dairy case

Birthday Cakes. Notice that an entire cake costs about the same as a meal at KFC here.

Kenya's British influence

Kenyan sugar.

The price of sugar. $3.26 for 2 kilos, or $0.74 per lb.

Rice, grains, and beans. Corn flour is a staple here.

"Mung dal" - a very Indian names for a food sold in Kenya. There is a huge Indian population here.

Another Indian name. In the U.S. we call these mung beans.

Lablab beans, locally known as njahe.

Lablab beans are an important food to the Kikuyu, the dominant ethnic group in this province. A woman who gives birth is given lablab beans to eat, and you must give lablab beans to your in-laws.

Chapati and ugali are both staples here. Chapati is an Indian food, a sort of tortilla made with wheat flour. Ugali is a stiff Kenyan porridge.

Cooking oil. I checked the label and it is palm oil of some sort. But it's golden colored, not red.

Next I checked out the infant formula. They had brands from Nestle, Wyeth, and a brand I've never heard of called Milupa. I'm usually very opposed to infant formula, but here it is necessary for mothers with HIV/AIDS because they could transmit the disease to their babies through breast milk. Of course, since HIV/AIDS tends to be a disease of the poor far too often, women who have it probably cannot afford to buy formula.

Infant formula.

The price. Very expensive to a poor Kenyan. For a farm laborer, this is equivalent to several days' pay.

The price.

The price for a different infant formula product.

A sign on the mirror in the Tusky's bathroom. Thika has a huge HIV/AIDS problem.

At that point, Samuel of G-BIACK picked me up and Samson of ANAW left to return to Nairobi. Samuel drove me directly to G-BIACK, which is just outside the boundaries of Thika. Here is what we saw on the way there.

A huge grain mill.

And another one.

And a third.

A field of corn.

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