Tag Archives: upcountry

Going to Shem’s Aunt’s House


We walked for about 3 hours up and over, down and around; passing many mountains until we finally came to a small cluster of mud-wall, thatched-roof huts that were cupped in a valley of shambas, surrounded by a horseshoe of mountains. It was beautiful. This aunt was his mom’s older sister and once again she was thrilled and surprised at our coming all in the same. After meeting the family Shem’s aunt (he calls her mom) packed us a picnic of soda and cookies and Shem and I just kept on walking. This time it was straight up the mountain! Our mission- conquer the peak and see a 360 view of the mountains and homes that were tucked between. 

The views were amazing and it was so peaceful on top that we actually repeated out trip up the mountain again the very next day. We ended up staying 2 nights total at his mom’s place even though we didn’t even intend on staying one night. First night she insisted we stay because she hadn’t seen Shem in so long and then the next evening it started down pouring buckets. Shem was so determined to go that night though that despite the rain he told me to get ready to leave. Because my refusals to walk in the rain for 3 hours did not seem to sway him I let him go say goodbye to his aunt, knowing that she would also completely refuse his idea of leaving, so once again we stayed another night! Back home at Rose’s place apparently both evenings that we were gone people from the surrounding churches and homes had come in a large number to visit and welcome us. I was told they wanted to see a white “Mazungu” and both days people prepared food for us and awaited our coming, only to return home disappointed. When we finally returned home on Friday is when we heard from Shem’s uncle that he had bought fish as a special meal for us to have and then had also prepared special food the second night because he was so sure of our return. This uncle was the one whom especially put pressure on Shem to build his home next to the family there, while at the same time Shem’s mom was making the same request on the other side of the mountains. Both are good offers, but I think time and thought will bring clarity to Shem’s decision on that.

During my entire stay I felt completely relaxed, at home, and at peace right where I was… surrounded by mountains, shambas, fresh air, birds chirping, people caring for me with such thoughtfulness even though we had just met, good food, outdoor bucket baths, and I was able to spend more time with someone who I am enjoying getting to know very much. My phone was off. I woke up with the sun and birds and fell asleep by candlelight. You would have thought time would drag on and days would be slow, but actually in my opinion it went way too fast.


Once Upon a Time in Upcountry


Shem and I took a trip to his family’s home upcountry a few days after my mom left Kenya. It seems like if you go anywhere nirth of Nairobi people refer to it as “upcountry”. Upcountry describes the homeland of a person, the place where their tribe and family is; it is rural and represents a significant part of a person’s identity. Upcountry is visited on holidays and when a guy becomes “of age” and starts a family he is expected to travel upcountry and build a house there to represent his presence to the community.

So now that you have a background of what I’m talking about when I say “upcountry” let me give you specifics…

Chooch feeds the chickens outside of her home

Shem and I traveled to Nyanza by taking an overnight bus to Homa Bay which overlooks Lake Victoria. After arrival at 5 am last monday morning we took a matatu for over an hour on a rural muddy road until we finally alighted by a road leading to Ruma National Park. Shem and I stood for a few minutes looking at the next leg of our adventure… a 10-12 kilometer walk with our luggage in a game park until we would arrive at his mother’s family’s homes. Their tribe in Jaluo.

Rose and I

As we walked along this dirt road we passed giraffe, antelope, and gazelle very close by. There are also cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas in the area but I was very glad not to see any of them since Shem was not carrying his rungu (a wooden maasai club). Finally when we arrived to his family’s shambas of corn, beans, spinach, and sunflowers we were warmly welcomed even though we surprised them since Shem likes showing up without much notice. Immediately we were taken around to all the of the homes that were spaced out between shambas (gardens) and I was introduced to uncles, aunts, cousins, second- cousins, and others. Lastly we landed at Rose’s home who is wife to Shem’s great aunt’s son (I think). This was one of my “home-bases” during my stay here and I loved getting to know this mother and her 2 1/2 year old daughter Mercy (or fondly called Chooch!).