Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Road to Hortonville: Reminiscences of Western Kenya

I took my daughter Camille to Hortonville today to see the orthodontist. As I drove down County JJ, sort of a back way to get into town, I felt like I was driving down the highway in Western Province, Kenya. It was a combination of rolling hills and fields of corn that reminded me of the road from Kisumu to Kakamega, the beginning of a long climb to the extinct volcano, Mt. Elgon (right). Mt. Elgon, 14,178 feet high, has a wide, flat-looking peak, usually covered by clouds, and a rare sight from Maragoli, where I worked.

The fields of corn lining the road in Hortonville (left) are reminiscent of Maragoli, but there is a vast difference in technology, scale and wealth. I remember taking postcards with me on my second trip, to show the people in the village where I lived and what it was like. I had some pictures of farms with gigantic silos, surrounded by vast stretches of land. In Maragoli, the grain is stored in a grainery barely higher than a rural mud and thatched house, and farmland -- ever diminishing with population growth -- averages one or two hectares or less.

When I came back from Kenya, I would flash back and forth between Candice driving in Maragoli and Candice driving in Wisconsin. I did know where I was, but my experience was that I could have been anywhere. Today I had the same feeling. I was back in Africa, driving on the road to Mt. Elgon.

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