Witches[1]

While staying in Muguga House, transport was a problem as, to get to Nairobi it meant a 10km ride to access the main road and then find public transportation to and from the capital city. That meant that the shortest of the trips would involve a full day! The situation improved later when I got the VW Kombi. This allowed us also to move out of the temporary Muguga House’s bungalow to a proper house in Tigoni.

In the meantime, we explored the Muguga surroundings on foot following the many tracks used by the local inhabitants in their daily errands. The soil was red, seriously red, and slippery and the paths narrow and sinuous! Falls were funny affairs until we realized that to wash the red stains from our clothes demanded quite an effort so, after the first experience we strode with great care! It was good exercise and it gave us a chance to come into contact with the local people, particularly the women and children.

Among the colleagues sharing Muguga House was Ranjini, a British expert on plant viruses, particularly maize streak, who was also starting her career with the Overseas Development Administration[2] on the plant health section of the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute. Although she was reserved at first, my wife and I became friends with her (up to today!). She had a sharp sense of humour that, according to her, she inherited from her Sri Lankan father. She had very long dark hair worn loose.

Ranjini and other British colleagues of hers were used to walking and they did it frequently. Walking was not an activity that was performed in Uruguay so we were rather unfit and the few ocassions we tried it was a bit of an embarrassment as we lagged behind! Of course we attributed this to the Muguga altitude knowing very well that we were unfit! The situation improved after a while and we could join the ramblers more comfortably although we could not match them. We frequently walked with Ranjini, who had a slower pace and with whom we shared more interests.

The day in question was a Sunday and we left a bit late. We took the path towards a patch of indigenous forest as there were always interesting birds to be seen there. Mabel and Ranjini were walking in the front and I followed. As usual we met a few people who greeted us with the well known “jambo[3] or its Kikuyu equivalent. A few women were on their daily errands which included carrying a 20lt jerry can of water on their heads, and a bunch of firewood on their backs all while knitting some pullover for their children. I never stopped admiring them! Oh yes, and walking more steadily and faster than me. Others were going to catch a “matatu[4] to go to town or visit relatives while quite a number were dressed for mass.

We were traversing a bit of open ground and a little boy of about 4 years dressed in his best Sunday clothes never saw us coming, busy looking where he was stepping, probably following his mother’s directions to keep his shoes clean! Two of his sisters, his mother and another lady (his auntie?) accompanied him, also dressed up. The boy was at the front of the group.

The moment the boy heard people coming towards him, he looked up. Until that instant he wore a happy face and we had seen it. It took only a split second for his expression to change into a look of terror, followed by a loud scream. He immediately started crying. Unfortunately for him he had just seen three white aliens without warning! I am sure that what was particularly terrifying for him was to face two of them with very long hair advancing on him. His instinctive response, after the initial shock, was to turn and run for the safety of his mother. It would have worked if only he would not have slipped and fallen.

Although his mother moved towards him, the witches were closer and got to him first with the intention of helping. Somehow, this was not the little boy’s perception of the situation and, finding himself “alien handled” he cried even louder in a fit of deeper terror! While his immediate relatives started to chuckle at the scene unfolding, eventually, with the help provided by the witches, he regained the needed mobility and rushed to his mother, burying himself in her skirts and almost disappearing from sight!

Our concern for the boy’s welfare turned into amusement the moment we saw his family laughing whole-heartedly at the incident. I am sure that somehow the encounter remained with the youngster for sometime!

 

[1] See also: https://bushsnobinafrica.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/kenya-muguga1/ and https://bushsnobinafrica.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/life-and-work-in-kenya-muguga1/

[2] Now known as The Department for International Development (DFID).

[3] Swahili for “Hello”.

[4] Swahili for a minibus used for public transportation.

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