Today I finished reading Out of Africa. I think I read it a long time ago, and I love the movie, although the movie is not much like the book. But it is so different reading the book here… an amazing and accurate recollection of this place!
Isak Dinesen basically lived right here, within a few miles of where we are spending our year. Her weather was the same, her views were the same, and the people groups around her were the same.
She starts, In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful and the nights were cold.
As she finishes the book she describes her goodbyes, including the grief of saying goodbye to the Kikuyu women on her farm. (Kikuyu are the dominant tribe in Kenya …a very tribally divided place!!...and they are the dominant tribe and language here in Kijabe.) I have also found myself intrigued by the women.
The old Kikuyu women have had a hard life, and have themselves become flint-hard under it.…They were more difficult for any disease to kill off than their men…and they were wilder than the men……They had borne a number of children and had seen many of them die; they were afraid of nothing. They carried loads of firewood---with a rein round their foreheads to steady them---of three hundred pounds, tottering below them, but unsubdued; they worked in the hard ground of their shambas, standing on their heads from the early morning till late in the evening…..And they had a stock of energy in them still; they radiated vitality. The old women took a keen interest in everything…This strength, and love of life in them, to me seemed not only highly respectable, but glorious and bewitching.
Last night Warren was out working on the piki as our neighbor’s helper Aidah walked by, headed home after working all day. I love her. When I need something for my kitchen she happily helps me, when I need to communicate within the local “network” she does it for me, when I look for the strawberry lady she appears because Aidah calls her???...It is like magic, but really it is Aidah. She works so hard but she genuinely feels bad for me when one of us is sick, when we don’t have water, when anything is off…I do think she sees us as more fragile than she is. Which we are! Anyway, Warren offered her a ride home. She already had her arms full, but she asked for a few minutes to cut some grass in a nearby field…with her machete! When Warren met up with her they tied this big load of burlap wrapped grass to the back of the piki , Aidah and her bags got on the back of the bike, and off they went. Warren was gone so long that I was starting to get concerned. When he got home he could not believe how far he had gone…straight up! She walks to the top of the escarpment, loaded like I described, for at least 40 minutes…both directions…every day…6 days/week.
And this morning as she half walked, half jogged by my kitchen window, she purposefully looked for me…and gave the biggest smile and wave…as she always does…