Kenya’s Prolific Green Highlands ~ Thursday’s Special

napier grass on the Rift


Nothing could have prepared me for my first glimpse of Kenya’s fertile uplands all  those years ago when I ran away to Africa. I’d flown out from Paris on the overnight Air France flight to Nairobi. It was my first long-haul flight, a good eight hours, and I did not sleep a wink despite being served a very delicious small-hours’ supper, and having a whole row of seats to myself.

I was pent up with the prospect of meeting up with Graham, whom I had not seen for some weeks, rather than wondering about my destination. Quite ridiculous I know. I was flying blind, having done not a scrap of  research on Kenya. In fact I had set out armed with only my brother-in-law’s comment: you’ll either love it or hate it; there’s no in between.

And so early one February morning as the great jumbo jet slid down the valleys of Central Province towards Nairobi, I could scarcely believe my eyes. Volcanic hillsides unfolded beneath us – every scrap of earth burgeoning green to their summits, the patchwork plots of Kenya’s smallholder farmers. Before we set down at Jomo Kenyatta International I was already in love. I did not know then that this was the start of an eight year affair with a land that could not be more different from my Shropshire homeland. I am still infected.

Some years after this arrival, when Graham was combining his project work at Kenya Agriculture Research Institute with some field work for his doctorate, I had the chance to visit many of those highland farms and meet the farmers and see at first hand the kind of crops that they were growing so prolifically – maize, tea, bananas, fodder grass, squash, beans, potatoes, plums, apples, cabbages and kale. This photo was taken on one of these expeditions, and like me it has aged somewhat. But it was the first image I thought of when I read through Paula’s list of word prompts as this week’s Thursday’s Special. Do drop in there to join in the ‘pick a word’ challenge.

For more of my Kenya story see also:

Valentine Day’s Runaway

Looking for smut on Kenya’s Highland Farms

26 thoughts on “Kenya’s Prolific Green Highlands ~ Thursday’s Special

  1. I ran off to Israel in much the same way, minus the boyfriend, but adding on young son and a complete blank about what I was going to do. Oddly, I don’t think more research would have helped. Things are what they are and no matter how much you read, it’s never what you thought it would be. Sometimes, youth and a blind willingness to just take whatever comes turns out better.

  2. I love your African posts and the glimpses of a past Tish. You have a way with words and an exquisite memory for feelings. The photo is perfect for prolific.

    As an aside, I’m into vol.2 of Paul Scott. I don’t know whether to thank you or curse you! I’m absorbed in the unfolding of the story through so many eyes, and his insight into interracial relations is finely tuned.

  3. I don’t think anyone is prepared for their first visit to an African country, even those who are ‘prepared’, I haven’t been to Kenya, but I think your brother-in-law was right.

    1. Sometimes our Kenyan friends and G’s work colleagues would look around wide-eyed, as if totally bemused by something they had just witnessed, and then say, ‘anything can happen in Kenya.’ It made me rather realize that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t ‘prepared’.

    1. Thanks, Joan. It’s an interesting thought – all our memories feeding each others’ memories. I think it’s one of the key features of blogs and blogging.

  4. When it is 8 years long I would hardly call it an affair, it is a serious relationship 😀 Prolific by Tish from her first encounter with Kenya, and the only (so far) for this challenge. I am honoured. Thanks, Tish.

  5. This is a terrific post!
    Loved the pic at first sight and then your somehow nostalgic words…
    What an experience, Tish!
    And thanks for the share!

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