Rural Kenya and Jesus is Lord Hair Salon

I could have stayed at Masai Mara NP for longer, but there is so much more to see in Kenya, so we were on our way to Nakuru NP, which is northwest of Nairobi.

Driving around Kenya is as interesting as visiting the “official” sights. Along the way from Masai Mara NP to the other national parks, we passed over some rough roads and through villages and farming country.

Outside of the cities, daily life is lived outdoors and in the shade whenever possible. The weather is mild to hot, air conditioning is expensive, and even if it wasn’t, power is not available out here. As a result, rural Africa is leapfrogging from no power to solar power. Wires and generators are a serious investment, but single solar panels are a manageable one-time cost for them. The people here are not trying to run a whole house full of appliances because they can’t afford those, either. They are generally trying to run lights, charge phones, and maybe a TV and satellite dish.

Credit cards require electricity to process, and cash is vulnerable to theft, so “Mpesa,” a money-by-phone service, is commonly used. The money transfers from your bank account to the vendor’s bank account, and the transaction is verified on your phones. So what you will see are two people standing together, holding their phones. One is initiating the transfer from their account, and the other is waiting for the verification of transfer to show on their phone. When it’s done, it’s done, no billing necessary, and it seems to take about thirty seconds, sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on the speed of the system being used. Businesses advertise that they use M-pesa (as you can see below) just like the MasterCard or VISA decals.

Motorcycles are very popular in African countries because they are less expensive than cars to buy and operate, and in Nairobi, they are much easier to negotiate through the horrible traffic jams. It was not unusual to see motorcycles with three passengers, plus the driver, and maybe cargo, driving down the highway or through the traffic snarls. The safety vests on the drivers meant they were probably running a motorcycle “taxi” business, and the passengers were paying. Helmets are not required in Kenya.

A lot of people sell clothing in the open-air markets, which includes on the street. From the styles, logos, and emblems, I am convinced that most of the clothing comes from the United States, probably over-stocks and remainders. A lot of it looked brand new, but the selection seemed very random: college logos, designer names, other off-brand styles.

Vendors used the sides of the highways leading into and going out of the villages. I didn’t get a photo of the entire line-up. There were about ten of them, and they all looked like this, but the vegetables varied:

In the villages, vendors lined up along the road, too, but the traffic was slower, so the stands were less compact. Onions, potatoes, and seasonal fruits such as oranges and watermelon are grown by small farmers and sold in these produce stands. The yellow plastic containers carry cooking oil or water. Houses outside of the villages rarely have running water.

Villages have their version of a strip mall that offered a variety of services – butchers, computer services, markets, cell phone sales and air time, and “hotels” that didn’t seem to have any rooms. When I asked Evans about that, he said that Kenyans sometimes equated the English words “hotel” and “restaurant.”

And, some vendors were more aggressive, standing in the middle of the road to hawk whatever they were selling. Evans bought a slingshot. He said baboons are afraid of them because many people actually shoot rocks at the baboons. All he has to do is hold the slingshot up and pretend, and the baboons run away.

This was a roadside meeting of a group of Maasai. According to Evans, they hold these meetings to make group decisions and to communicate as a tribe with the national government.

Transporting people and goods – I often saw people riding in the backs of trucks and on top of trucks with loads.

Animals being taken to market or simply moving from one grazing area to another were frequent road hazards. Evans just drove through the herds. More than once I was convinced we were going to kill a cow, but amazingly, it never happened. I almost didn’t get these photos because I was gripping my seat, waiting for impact.

The cattle are “Zebu,” and are common across Africa. Evans was insistent that these were unique to Africa, but I think that was a point of pride – it looks to me like they have been bred with Brahmas, which I believe originated in India. The cows have a high shoulder rather than a real hump, but the bulls have the tell-tale high hump at their shoulders, like Brahma bulls.

Through some Google research, I discovered later that Zebu are a “species or subspecies” of domestic cattle that originated in South Asia, and are resistant to parasites and disease. Often used as draft animals, they are milked and used for beef. We often saw Zebu cows harnessed like oxen, and Zebu appeared regularly on local menus, although their meat is not exported to places outside of Africa.

Accidents like this are not uncommon. We saw three or four of these – no one was injured in this one, fortunately. In one place, we saw a similar truck that apparently went over the side of a bridge into a river. While the river was not deep (making drowning unlikely,) I don’t know how a driver would have escaped injury. There was quite a crowd watching the people trying to figure out how to move the truck, and it was not clear whether the driver had been removed for care, so I passed on taking a photo so as not to appear ghoulish. Effective or not, I try to be sensitive to being the “white tourist.”

And, of course, this is Kenya, so we got to see a baby giraffe, only a few hours old by Evans’ estimate, with his family and friends, crossing the highway near Amboseli National Park. Wild animals don’t know about boundaries.

Buses are colorful! They are decorated in a variety of ways – advertising, religious declarations, supporting sports teams, and some that I haven’t figured out. And, the last one is not the only one I saw that expressed admiration for Obama, whose father was Kenyan, and the USA, in the form of Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. These buses are used to transport passengers and cargo along their routes. If the driver, who is like a franchisee, changes the decoration, you might not recognize your bus!

Kenya has significant Christian (Evangelical and Anglican) and Muslim populations, and the Christians are not shy about advertising their beliefs. I started making a list of some of the more interesting business names, but sadly, the list was lost somewhere in a luggage clean-out.

I remember my two favorites, the “Jesus is Lord Hair Salon,” and the “Exodus Funeral Services.” (I thought the Exodus Funeral Services was especially apt. ) In Nairobi and Mombasa, businesses were generally more conventionally named, and not nearly so exuberant.

Compilation, July 2 – 6, 2019

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