Last weekend I travelled to my shags by the slopes of Mount Kenya. This is one of the benefits of my public service jobs. I guess they pay me with experiences instead of money, which is not too bad. There is something about driving towards the mountain that I started appreciating over the last three years. My soul behaves like my son when we are on a journey asking repeatedly, “Are we there yet?”
As I wrapped up at work last Friday eager to drive off, a pal of mine commented in a chat group how excited she was because she was also headed shags. That got me thinking. Has shags become more exciting or is it us who have changed? I think it’s the latter. As my siblings and I grew up, we would be shipped off to shags (mostly against our wishes) during the school holidays to spend time with our grandparents and many cousins. One highlight for me was the food. I loved waking up to tea, which was fresh cow milk boiled with tealeaves and sugar all together and having that smoky taste from the firewood. Then add those jogoo kienyeji eggs fried with cowboy cooking fat. We would make egg sandwiches using those huge Broadway loaves that Dad bought near Pangani as we headed to Nyeri. Man, I’m already salivating as I recall the taste. Cucu was the real chef.
The taste of that food was so natural that we would just keep eating the whole day. That was the fuel we needed to slide down those muddy slopes on improvised carton sledges and run up the hill again to repeat the slide. I remember while in the kitchen waiting for food to get ready, my eyes would be stung with the smoke from the three stone stove that Cucu used. But that was not enough to get me out of the kitchen. No wonder food is my love language up to this day. Though my size contradicts that fact. It’s converted to brain food, I tell myself…
By the way, what happened to those metal cups we used to take tea in? They were called fifteen (no idea why that number). I should get myself a few plus the cream, metallic birika with a flower on it to go with them. My baby sharks need to see how life before Java cups looked like. This is the only point I agree I’m old and proud of it, to have gone through such experiences growing up.
My grandparents are in their mansions up stairs now so I hardly visit their homes, but I like going to Nyeri (and Nyanyuki where I plan to retire) whenever I can. One thing that’s different now compared to when I was growing up is, I notice and appreciate the scenery and environment more. Trees in my shags seem happier than Nairobi trees as they dance in the wind. Even the cows, chickens and goats look healthier and more content. I even saw donkeys that seem to have work life balance.
The other thing that stood out for me was the generosity of folks in shags. It’s like there’s a competition of who will outdo the other in giving, especially foodstuff. We could argue that they grow food in their backyard, while here our backyard (Zucchini) has a till where we pay for everything, including the new non-plastic carrier bags. But it’s beyond that. For instance, when I ordered lunch at the club that hosted our event, the portions were huge. The same applied to the BnB where I was putting up. Their breakfast came in like four containers; fruits, cereals, uji, tea, eggs, toast, arrowroots and sweet potatoes. The pleasant waiter serving me almost wanted to put a bib on me and feed me, just like how we feed my last baby shark at home. To me that’s more than just having food readily available. I sensed a desire in folks there to be courteous and generous to visitors.
Shags is now representing an abundance mentality that I don’t see much of here in our city. Yes, they do have their fair share of challenges huko that we may not have here but shags represents simple to me, which is the one word I want to describe my life this year.
I am and always have been a big city boy. Somehow I thrive in the chaos and even look for it subconsciously. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism that I have adapted over time. My second half is going to unfold here in the city but with frequent trips to shags (including other folk’s shags). Let’s call it a necessary and regular detox of the mind and soul that I will need so as to live out a life of significance. I met a lady a few days ago (I’ll tell you about her next week) who said to me, “Let you passion be your compass.” Shags to me has become the calibration I constantly need for my compass to ensure my true north remains accurate.
Folks I hope you are enjoying going shags more now. For me, it’s taken 40 years to embrace it all and I love it. So forgive me if in our next meeting I show up with my car covered in red soil dust on the outside and the smell of onions inside.