Friday, 10 July 2009

An Introduction to Kisii

There was a noticeable change in the terrain from Narok and Sotik (two places we passed through on the matatu journey) to Kisii. From flat, dusty plains with deep brown soil to hilly, lush and green farmland with rich, dense reddish earth. Kisii's unique economy of great agricultural produce mixed with financial poverty is written on the land - Kisii farmers grow maize, beans, small mangoes, bananas, yams, potatoies, avocados, tea (as a cash crop), sugar cane, tomatoes and ground nuts in abundance. But the poor dirt roads, narrow andvulnerably to the frquent heavy rains, especially in November and December, and the small size of the strips of farm land prevent a large scale export of produce far beyond Kisii town. The great hospitality of the region can be partly explained by the simple fact that it is difficult for families to sell or consume all they can produce.

Just as Nairobi was full of contrasts, so too with Kisii. We were trust into what is fairly described as a rubbish-strewn town that often smells of sewage in the heat, as visibly unappealing as its surroundings are beautiful. Several main, dusty streets are lined with a mixture of small electronics stores and book suppliers and branches of international banks and supermarkets. The main market is a thrilling experience - a myriad of small stall offer a wide range of staples as well as fruit and vegetables, including large mangoes from the coast and deliciously sweet pinapples. Not a comfortable area to spend a great deal of time in though as children would inevitably pounce on any muzungu (white 'visitors') foolish enough to stand still. Hydra-like, the children endlessly multiply if given sweets or even acknowledged, as they call up what seems like every child living in Kisii. But the centre is full of character: market stall owners, friendly and apparently delighted to see muzungus trying to bargain for their goods, the casual greetings of many passers by, and the unique atmosphere of the bars and restaurants make for a strangely charming Kisiicombination.

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