A useful tip from a Kenyan elder

By now you will have guessed that I tend to travel quite a lot, whether it’s within my own neck of the woods here in BC, or overseas.

And I seem to be blessed with enough shekels to do it with as well as pay the bills, for which I am eternally grateful…who wouldn’t be.

During one such trip of mine to Kenya, in East Africa, I walked out of Nairobi town, which like any modern city, is crowded with people, buses, donkeys, stray dogs, you name it. I kept walking, trying to get as far away from town as possible, for that is where you get to meet the real people.

Soon the town was far, far away and a quiet peace had descended, with just the chirping of colourful birds to be heard.

Not long afterwards, I came upon a small town, with a row of about 4 or 5 shops, and dozens of huts constucted of mud, grass, corrugated iron sheets etc where the towns people lived I guess. These were very definitely poor people.

As I was walking past, an old gentleman caught my eye, so I waved to him. He waved back and then beckoned to me. I thought it bad manners if I carried on walking past, so I turned around and walked up to the hut he was sitting outside and said Jambo (hello).

Anyway, he spoke w few words of broken english, and mixed with my jumble of swahili that I’d picked up, we got on ok! He asked me if I wanted a cold drink, to which I said no, as I told him I had a headache (kichua-uma). That’s no problem he said and told me to wait while he went inside to get something.

A few minutes later, he came out with a cup of hot tea and a root of some kind cut into pieces. He told me to eat the root up and then drink the tea, and the headache will go away just like a bird flying away.

I tasted the root cautiously, not knowing what it might be, but then realised it was raw ginger, so I ate it all up and then sipped at the scorching hot tea.

We carried on chatting about weather, animals, politics of Kenya, tribal problems etc and when I’d finished the tea, I noticed that my headache had indeed completely gone!

I thanked the wise old guy many times for his hospitality and walked off on my travels again, just thinking about how much trust total strangers in a foreign country place on people they’ve never, ever met before. And would I ever offer any stranger I see in my town a cup of tea or invite him/her into my home? It’s just not the done thing in our western way of life, is it? And yet we call ourselves “civilised”. Does being civilised mean that we close ourselves off from everybody, and become caring only to our own family unit and nobody else?

Anyway, ever since that day, any time I get a headache, I rush to my vegetable basket for a piece of ginger, just as the old man had taught me. And it works!

Is there truth in some stories you hear?

During my many visits to the Far East, I heard this story from an old lady in a remote village, which she relayed through her son who spoke English.


Respect all living things as you would respect your own humankind, she said. If you ever see a bird who has made a nest in your house or garden, or who is making a nest, do not stop it, or do not destroy it’s nest. For if you do, your own house will suffer.


Back home, one day I was just clearing up the used dishes in my kitchen, while looking through the window at my neighbour’s opposite house some distance away.

I noticed the guy who lives there, climbing a ladder outside his house, reaching up just underneath the rain gutter, and pulling out what looked like grass. I looked again and then noticed he had a round bird nest in his hand, and as he tilted it, out fell some eggs.

I didn’t think twice about it until 2 months later, when we met briefly as I was washing my car. He came over and said hello, etc but looked kind of sad. I asked him if anything was wrong, and he said yes, his wife walked out on him recently and left him on his own with 3 kids to take care of.

Then I remembered that old lady’s story above….

Is there truth in that story? You tell me….