We recently moved from Busia to Kisumu Kenya – a difference most of you reading this probably don’t appreciate. They’re both little known places on the global scene.
But for us, the difference has been immense. Busia is a small border town with one main road, flanked by dukas (shops) and fundis (carpenters/welders) and small hotels, lots of foot traffic and wandering livestock. Walk 10 minutes off the road and you are basically amid shambas.
|A 10 minute walk away from the main road|
Kisumu is the third largest city in Kenya with paved roads and restaurants that serve more than ugali and beans. There’s actual traffic and sidewalks. You can buy more than one variety of cheese. There’s a hospital with fancy new equipment and doctors who have studied abroad. There’s an international school.
And… where we live in Kisumu is quiet.
But, then again, where we live in Kisumu is quiet.
Let me explain. Kisumu has neighborhoods complete with the inevitable class divisions – something we did not experience in Busia. So, of course, we picked a “safe” neighborhood close to the office and immediately find ourselves surrounded by quiet. You’d think this would be a relief.
But we had come to enjoy being so surrounded by people in Busia - so unavoidably enmeshed in the community. Sure, there were not a lot of things you could "plan" to do other than visit a hotel/restaurant or go to the market. But something unplanned always seemed to happen. Visitors stop by unannounced. A 10 minute walk around the house would mean an encounter with an old friend or someone looking to be new friend.
And best of all, Caleb had instant spontaneous playgroups just by stepping outside our house. What he lacked in playgrounds, he more than made up for in playmates.
Here. This picture pretty much sums it up.
We’re just outside our house in Busia. Smiles on our faces, waving to people we know, Caleb with ball in hand assured of playmates.
This is the view from just outside our new compound.
And the street we live on...
It's definitely pretty, but also pretty desolate.
Colin and I are busy enough to not mind the boring quiet. Caleb is quite another story. The other day, after searching the neighborhood for playmates to be met by only locked gates and quiet streets, he turned to me and said, “Where are all my little friends? I want to find some little friends.” and it nearly broke my heart.
I guess it’s an age old story. You move from a village to a city and gain in convenience and opportunity what you lose in community.
We’re actually lucky in that we have 3 other houses in our compound of friendly people, some of whom have invited us for tea and all of whom are lovely to Caleb. There are even a few kids.
But something seems to happen when you move up the socio-economic ladder. People’s time is precious and planned out and there’s not the same expectation and appreciation for unplanned visits or easy way of just being together without an agenda.
It's funny. There is one sliver of our lives here that is reminiscent of village life. At night, the househelp and guards of the compound get together and sit outside around that modern campfire, the television, with their kids, forming an easy and relaxed kind of community. The kind you don’t plan for or drive to but just exists. The kind we left in Busia. I know I’ll never be totally a part of that. But sometimes I go out there with Caleb and he plays with the groundskeepers little girl and I just sit with them and try and revel a bit in what we left behind.