Of Pounding Maize, Whatsapp and Countryside Upbringing

I don’t know about you, but me? I’m borne Nairobae, raised in a farm.

I look forward to going home. It’s the pull of Mom and Dad, the cows, new calfs and chickens.

Fresh air.

Just the simple living.

I perhaps lived the best of childhoods. It surely was my best years (unbeknownst to me at the time).

Image of my son Theo in the countryside in Kitale

I hear urban folks say,
“Let’s plant this and that”. Or
“I’m thinking of learning how to cook”.

And I think – that should not be a thought! It should just be done. It should be automatic.

Urban life has a way of making living so frivolous and can at times, be empty. Don’t be cooshy. Plant the darn tomatoes and skuma wiki, get in the kitchen and get on with it! It will do you good.

Urban lifestyle too, can be a tad snobby which in turn, equates to laziness and boredom.

I loved the life of no tv, but read books instead. I long for the fresh air walks in the shamba, rather than the endless scrolling and “likes” on Instagram. The afternoon siestas, rather than the bottomless coffee to stay awake to meet client deadline. I crave for real, fresh milk, free range eggs, organic grown “chisaka” from mamas garden rather than the curiously bright artificial “veges” that most city stores offer.

Image of a panoramic view of my dads farm

And boy won’t you toughen up. You will practically understand the anatomy and physiology of a chicken as you dissect it for your dinner meal. So well will you get to master it, you will in future impress your in-laws by offering to make them the meal from scratch – from the ‘chase’ to cooking “ugali” to feed a football team while you are at it!

You will first hand witness that child birth is no joke as you wake up at night with a torch to follow Dad in the night to help settle and celebrate new born pups.

Winnowing beans, pounding a sack of maize cobs, harvesting, ripening and selling ready bananas by the village roadside and climbing trees for their fruit will be a norm. Whether you are a boy or girl, in the farm there is no discrimination of gender. Sweat is good. Life won’t shock you.

I’d say, any day of bees buzzing and stings, rather than the clicking sound of our MacBooks. At least the honey is sweet.
Image of workers shelling maize
It’s came later in life for me. This appreciation for the simple. The accomplishment. Toughening. Learning. The nostalgia is rich with vivid examples of the things that are authentic in their truths.

I question urban life and hope that we can see the endless unnecessary things. Like the struggle to diet, the obsessiveness of pressing clothes, the watching of time… All this is.. Not living, it’s existing. All a distraction from real life.

We shouldn’t stress over the unimportant. Time should be let to stop. Freedom to exhale should be a part of work culture. Health should precede wealth. Thrive should precede strife. Chitchat and high-fives should precede Whatssup.

Most of all, tune out endless digital experiences and tune to your kids. Listen to them. They need you to give them affection and attention. Sing them a lullaby in your mother tongue. Teach them to cook. Make and fly a kite. Discipline. Faith. And yes, take them in that jalopy, to the country. So they may know the difference between a privileged life and perhaps stop those tantrums and entitlement behaviors. Be intentional. No postponing. Go.

I go into my little backyard garden and sit under a parasol umbrella (pretending it’s 5 acres of land thinking about what plants to grow next 😉 and wish people knew what joy there is to simple life. It’s normally found upcountry. It’s the “poshest” life there is.

I wish I could invite them to my parents country home to stay for a day or two and experience true tranquility no spa can offer. Food no gourmet can match. Breeze no air-conditioning can mimic. To bucket bath. To read with rationed electricity/ rusty blue kerosene lamp. Or taste the “bhusuma” and “ingokho” that’s been seasoned only by spring onions, wild tomatoes and mamas love.

It’s different. It’s authentic. It’s real.

It has a lack of fakeness. No “Extras”. It’s simply awe-mazing. Zero consumerism mentality. Zero materialism. Just real.

This country life makes you imaginative. It makes you curious enough to know how to “kongoa Mahindi” for your next ration of ugali. It makes you learn how to ride a bike before you can do simple math. It makes you know by heart the farm to fork process of most crops. It makes you appreciate and train your palate to know the ‘tasty’ benefits of cassava over “whole bread”.

Money is not an “end to itself” but a “means to an end”. Less money means being more selective, getting more value, exhausting all options that may not have cost implications before considering an actual purchase.

Country side living most importantly grounds you. You realize that one can live on very little. Simple values like one needs to share when they have more than enough. Or, the visitor is from a long way and would appreciate a glass of water or a meal. Values of family, togetherness and love.

Our friendly neighbours kid

Photography by Teresa Lubano

At night, as kids we would sing aloud or dance for our parents. We were the entertainers. We were the participants and the viewers of our own pastime. And it was wholesome good content. It was genuinely entertaining. We would tell stories of boarding school and would laugh at our pranks, challenges and fears. Our parents listened, shared their experiences and guided us on how life should be lived and the best paths to take when we see oncoming danger/ harm. At the same time they would encourage us to be who we wanted to be. Being a woman was no excuse to pursuing your own destiny. This chats were very comforting, inspiring and forever live in us. We are our parents pride.

Grounded. Bold. Imaginative. Curious. Prepared. We face the world.

I am grateful for such a childhood. What I do for a living, my work, this, and my character are manifestation of the socialization of my countryside living and home-inspired childhood. These values I plan to pass along, #payitforward not to my children alone. But to the greater good of society.

Mine is not to judge. But to enquire. To challenge the status quo that country living is shady.

I would rather live in a tiny shack that has open space, flora and fauna than in a fancy mansion with all sorts of trinkets and not feel, breathe, live. After all, they say the best thing in life are free. Take charge. Go back to the country-side. Live.



*Dedicated to the Lubanos #khuliontop

Photography shot by Teresa Lubano

Image of my parents Kitale country home



3 replies on “Of Pounding Maize, Whatsapp and Countryside Upbringing

  • rcmpharm420

    Great article Theresa. You hit all the points. Yes “shags” upbringing is not something that can be taught. You actually have to experience and live it to know how rich you are. There is also something about growing up in Kitale. Wheather y’all were rich , middle class or barely getting by but with different calibers of life “we” or rather if you grew up in Kitale you had the same Raquel opportunity, maize shelling, chunaring mboga, fungaring the animals but it’s something you cannot put a finger to it but you understood each other n even upto now we still do. Whether u lived in cherangany, kibomet, bikeke, kimilili, machinjoni yu can name it or schooled in Kitale academy, st Joesephs, st Monica’s etc but experience you got living in Kitale is the same throughout. I have friends and friends of friend and never knew them growing up BUT are now friends in social settings like Facebook and sometimes I wonder how we even met with half of these people but ur article has actually summed it all. It’s that unspoken “shags” living that brings us together and become friends even if yu never met and the stories they lived/stilling has the same ending as yours. The freshness be it food, living is something that CANNOT be passed on to someone else unless they experience it!!! Bravo loved every bit of it… you shud write a book about Kitale yefwe….. (hahaha yu can always tell if one is from Kitale when they pretend the can speak Lunje yet they are Kikuyus, kales etc.

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