Today our dear guide Florence – about 100 lbs of warmth and charm and smarts – picks us up at our Kenyan home – the Thompson Falls Lodge and we are going to walk into Nyahururu Town to visit Mina’s property management company, Patrick’s print shop, David’s cyber café and Elisha’s Milk Bar. Elisha also works in real estate, banking and one other field. This tendency toward multiple business lines is a frequently found Kenyan trait.
So I study the path we take so I am better suited to fend for myself. We start on a road, then to a path in a field to another road to a path that looks like every other path, to cross a field of cows and sheep and two friendly shepherds that greet us “Jambo” which is hello in Kikuyu and we chat a bit in English, to a deserted railroad track to an abandoned rail station to a parking lot and on into the edge of town.
The day is long but fruitful and I am happy to hear I am not the only trainer that collapses into bed each night – completely drained. I find it invigorating but exhausting to meet with two or three or four business owners in a day, learn more about their business, assess the issues and ops, probe to find more details, make recommendations and answer questions. Our Kenyan students have so much ability and ingenuity; we just have to help them clear some hurdles, analyze the best path and find a way to make it work.
The way to work is complex and I test myself on the walk home – I master some of it – but far from the local experts. After a quick rest back at the hotel Molly, Alex, Todd, Mandy and I head to our student Peter’s home for dinner. What a treat. Peter’s parents are charming and warm and we tour the Catfish and Tilapia ponds, the beehives in the distance, the garden, Peter’s brick making business (which he runs in addition to his copy shop in town – remember that Kenyan multi-business trait?) , the cows and geese in the barn – I think I caught it all. We meet the neighbors that helped make us a wonderful dinner and settle in for a delicious traditional meal of goat stew, chapatti (a pea and potato and beans mash) and several other dishes.
The meal is only surpassed by a vast and varied chat with Peter’s dad about politics, U.S. farm policies, family, life and work. We all laugh and learn and I may have to include this as one of the highlights of the trip. Over hot milk tea and honey, I see traces of my favorite life Sherpa in this man, so smart, so simple, such a joy to be around.
And now the Mile 11 wall is gone and it’s back to my love affair with Kenya. The hard work is a joy again and I realize I will be leaving in 3 days. The names that started just as ink on a page have now come to life. Each student’s story so rich and varied. Each one working diligently to be successful. I hope our work together brings another tread of peace and prosperity to the world.