I always heard about people, known to my parents, who left our small town for the big city. As the years progressed it became every young person’s dream to go to the big city, where it was rumored, with much exaggeration that people had a good life; lived in luxurious apartments and drove the newest models of cars. Indeed the few who returned from the big city looked different. The young men wore flashy, expensive looking clothes while their lady counterparts would adorn themselves in colorful dresses, high heeled shoes and when the occasion demanded, knee high boots. When asked about their experiences, they would without hesitation confirm the rumors of their high-end life, analyzing their busy schedules, and the much money they seemingly had forfeited in order to make this trip home to their “beloved small town”. I was born, and grew up in this small town but never had it crossed my mind that I would one day leave the town for the big city of Nairobi, for any other reason other than a visit.
Nanyuki, was the name of our town. People fondly referred to it as “small town” owing to the size of its beautiful streets lined up with well-manicured grass and a canopies of ever green trees. The best mornings were during the summer season when the town would be greeted by the dazzling rays of the sun, seemingly rising from the top of the snowcapped Mt. Kenya, One of the two phenomenal mountains with snow in the continent of Africa. In the evenings, the sun would sink into the Aberdare ranges overlooking the town on the Western side, leaving a brightly colored orange sky beaming over the town. Nanyuki, despite its size had more visitors from all over the world than most of the major towns within the country. This was because it was the gateway to the snowcapped Mt. Kenya. As a result, it enjoyed a booming economy especially in the hotel industry. Good economic times meant high employment rate for the locals whose population was about 30,000 people. I taught in one of the few high cost Independent schools in the region.
Much of my holiday time was spent with family members. My grandfather, who frequently visited us was a great source of inspiration. He had fought during the war to free our country from colonialism. His stories were stimulating. He would tell us about the long treks they had to make through the forests and how sometimes they had to persevere rain and cold. “Our resolve was to never give up, until we attain our freedom,” he would often conclude. Sometimes, we would go hiking in the mountains, climb a few thousand meters, and watch the panoramic view of the town and the land below us. Other times we would travel to the coastal town of Mombasa and spend a few days in our beach house. I would often sit at the balcony of the house watching the waves breaking, and the boats crisscrossing the waters. Once in a while, a big ship would pass in the distance breaking the silence with its blaring horns as it approached the Mombasa harbor, which was a few miles from our house. These were cherished moments of my life, and I always looked forward to holidays. There was always something to do.
Nobody expected the economic prowess of Nanyuki to be shaken by the down trends in the rest of the country’s economy in the year 2003.Industries in neighboring towns were closing down due to lack of profitability. Our town depended largely on the tourism industry, so we all expected the town to overcome the looming crisis hanging over the country. This was not to be the case. Rising insecurity as a result of attacks from Somalia militants and political wrangles started having their effects on the industry. Many hotels reported that patrons had shortened their stay, while others had cancelled their bookings all together. As a result, many of the town hotels started laying off their staff for lack of