Tuala and the arrival of the Chinese (I)
2020/10/8 18:01:00 本站


Author: Eric Mugenya

Tuala, the land of “vumbi" as I call it, that's Swahili for Dust. I call it the land of Dust because on a good day the walk from where I live to the bus stop which is only about 2km away, your shoes will have completely changed color from the original to a whitish with a little brown color which is the color of the sand that has covered most of the small fast upcoming town called Tuala.



Tuala is located 25km away from Nairobi the capital city of Kenya, in between Tuala and Nairobi city is the Nairobi National Park that is more or less joined with Tuala town, which means part of the park that host a wide array of wild animals is also part of Tuala. Tuala as compared to the closest another town Ongata Rongai is small and is more rural looking with small businesses; shops, kiosks, mini-marts, mini petrol stations, bars, restaurants, hard wares are just enough to cater to the fast-growing population. Most buildings in the town are grounded, with very few upstairs buildings. About a Kilometer from the main shopping center is an estate and this is filled now with more houses for living as compared to businesses. The main shopping center is filled with businesses of all kinds that if you live in Tuala you don't have to get a bus to the closest town to get daily needs, it’s a self-sustaining small town.


So now back to the national park being what separates us from the capital city Nairobi, when we moved into this town 3 years ago it was very much less populated than now and it felt like we had moved into a rural upcountry farmers type of lifestyle and that was the last thing I and my three brothers wanted having come from an already urbanized town. We always heard of neighbors and other people in the town saying to watch out for wild animals at night, explaining that the park is just over there as they pointed towards the area where you can see the towering skyscrapers of Nairobi city in a distance. From where we stood with my neighbor as he pointed to the towers in the far distance you can see a huge area almost triple the size of Tuala town all covered in dark green trees and shrubs and another part to the east a large open portion of grass and scattered shrubs all that belonging to the wild of Nairobi National Park. My neighbor as he points explains that the park is just over there so those wild animals escape their area sometimes and come to this side especially if they are looking for food. I, only having moved there just a week earlier take it lightly in my head thinking, so this guy wants me to believe those wild animals can escape a well-enclosed park and come into a human-populated town!? No way, maybe just the monkeys.


Three days later I wake up and step out to catch a glimpse of the rising sun, the advantage of this area is that it's so lowly populated that the few houses in the estate are scattered so there is a lot of open fields meaning a great view of sunrise and sunset. I step out and as I look up I notice that my eyes have caught some strange looking cattle a few meters from my house grazing on grass, I look away and look back thinking my eyes are deceiving me but, right smack in front of my eyes are about 9 Zebras casually grazing on the fields, in my amazement a guy walks a few meters past them and they briefly watch him as he passes and then they continue eating, in my mind, I'm so confused as to why the man didn't stop to stare at the wild animals or take pictures as I quickly rushed into the house to get my phone and take pictures.



I woke up the rest of the family to see the wild at our doorstep. As we stared and took pictures of the Zebras outside our house and as more people casual walked past the herd with a glance I remembered the words of my neighbor telling me about wild animals, this made me realize the locals who have already lived here have been accustomed to seeing Zebras around like how in a normal town you see a group of doves at a corner.


After this day, Tuala had gotten a bit more interesting. So, I had seen Zebras and was amazed at how close to people they could get. This was just Zebras though quite harmless animals that eat grass and mind their own business, I'm sure the wilder animals, more dangerous animals are more enclosed and they can't break out and come close to people, but another warning I always heard from Tuala residents was don't walk very late in the night there are hyenas that come around the town and the estate. This always gave me chills, no way, 'Isn't that dangerous!? Shouldn't the park be better enclosed to avoid a tragedy?' I asked back to the shop owner who informed me of this. All he said back was ' well, usually the animals keep away from humans as humans keep away from wild animals, so even when they come at night they are not here for people.'


A month had passed, and I had already gotten used to Tuala and grew to like it, there was peace and quietness in the air. It was such a calm place as compared to the hustle and bustle of living in an up paced urban area where there is constant motor and human traffic everywhere, people running up and down rushing to somewhere, noise from cars, people, businesses, bars. In Tuala, there are fewer people meaningless activity meaning a more quiet and calm area, and this was Tuala, every time I alighted from the public transportation to Tuala I felt like I got into a relaxed, meditative state. Public transportation in Tuala is a taxi that instead of carrying one or two people who have ordered the taxi it carries to its full capacity to a particular stop and everyone pays the same amount, in Kenya this transport system is very popular and the cars are usually vans, minibusses or buses that are called 'matatus'.


So a month after living and getting used to Tuala one late night, I was in the house watching a movie, it was around 2 am, as I laid covered in my blanket on the couch watching this movie intensely I heard a faint noise from outside I couldn't make what the sound was but it prompted me to pause my movie and try to listen again and I went to one of our windows opened slightly so that I could hear better and undoubtedly I heard the cries of a hyena, I was so sure this was a hyena as I had watched enough wildlife shows that I knew the sound made by hyenas. It was a high pitched bark almost like a scream and I heard over and over again that night, it did not sound too close to our house but it was definitely in the estate and I was told they always move in packs, as I listened I could try to picture them and imagine if anyone is walking at that time, scary thought as I was remembering from the show I watched on hyenas I could remember them say that as a pack, the hyenas can easily even take down a lion, so I was asking myself how about a person.


A year passed and seeing Zebras and strange birds and sounds of hyenas late in the night became a norm. But the craziest had not happened yet. About one and a half years of living in Tuala on one Sunday, my younger brother came back home at around 4 pm after a long walk around the area including a part of Tuala that is not frequently visited by people, he claimed to have seen a leopard under a tree, when he told us we all dismissed it, he said he was walking on this secluded path and a few meters from him in the cover of long grass there was a huge tree and as he was passing he looked under the tree and swears he saw a leopard that looked very tired and weak and skinny, he says he sped up real quick but he says the wild cat looked like it was sick, almost dying. This was the amongst the most chilling stories I had heard from Tuala, scariest one I had heard was one of the people who a few years earlier had been eaten by a pack of hyenas and only his shoes were recovered.



By the time it was almost two years in Tuala, the news of a railway line being built passing Tuala heading to Naivasha had already been confirmed even by the government on TV. This had brought about new excitement in Tuala town you could almost always hear people talking about it when they formed random discussion groups around the town streets. The railway line dubbed SGR, Standard Gauge Railway was a  Kenyan development project that had already been commissioned earlier and part of the railway was already up and functional in Nairobi to  Kenya's Coast Mombasa, the project was being taken on by a Chinese building company and everyone already now knew that Tuala the small town will soon have visitors, visitors who are not from around these parts, visitors from another side of the world. This was particularly the most interesting, and people were looking forward to this. There were mixed feelings but the more prevailing ones were one of excitement many were seeing this as a blessing saying that finally, someone will bring development to Tuala. Many jobless in the area was particularly happy because the railway would need builders and lots of workers and the immediate community would benefit.

(To be continued.)