Walking with Mr. Kariuki

One of the activities we suggest our guests do whilst staying at Olepangi Farm is a walk with Mr Kariuki. Recently Laura Lisowski went on a walk with Mr Kariuki and here is what she thought!

Remember how I said that Clinton and Elizabeth have an uncanny ability to turn neighbors and community into family? Well, it didn’t surprise me then that one of the activities to choose from was literally “a community walk with our neighbor, Mr. Kariuki”.

Sounds great in theory, right? But would it live up to expectations? With a healthy level of cynicism/skepticism, I signed up. Let’s give this a whirl. Mr. Kariuki picked me up at 9am. I agreed to the long waterfall hike (“no, I have nowhere else to be today”) and we began walking.

I quickly learned that Mr. Kariuki grew up the son of an entrepreneurial farmer, an upbringing he credits for instilling the values of curiosity, connection, and collaboration. He carried these values through into his teaching career, where he obsessed over history & learning from the past - pouring over “real books” (“I love the smell of real paper”) and finding company in his favorite authors.

We spoke about the importance of broadening ones world view, not thinking too narrow. How things that look secure usually are anything but, so you might as well take the risk. How everything is interconnected, so being too laser focused can be detrimental, as we all have a duty to find points of common ground, not points of conflict.

He shared with me his favorite authors, lessons learned and life metaphors from his favorite books. His current obsession is Yuval Harari’s ‘Homo Deus’, and he is not so patiently waiting for him to release his next novel - as “he’s the only person who is willing to speak the truth - even if people don’t like to hear it.” He also can’t get enough of Neil Macgregor (A History of the World in 100 Objects is his favorite & he emphasizes how much it makes you appreciate life’s simple things), Dan Brown, and his favorite Kenyan author, Ngugi wa Thiong’o. The names rattle off his tongue like old friends.

He has faith in some of the leaders of Africa. Others - not so much. When I ask which one he admires most, he cites the Rwandan president, because he admires the way he has turned the country’s plights and post-genocide era into a chance for new beginnings. There is a lot of forward progress. Hope for the future.

I ask how many of these walks he has been on in the last few years. “Hundreds,” he replies. I hesitatingly follow up with “so what’s your opinion on humankind after keeping the company of so many diverse individuals over the years?” He replies that they are generally good, but sometimes scarily narrow minded, stuck in their modes of thinking, & at times lacking self awareness. The recurring theme is that he wishes people would be more willing to create their own version of their lives, not the ones prescribed.

We walk & talk, stopping at a beautiful waterfall, and making a surprise visit to the local school, where I meet hundreds of kids - including several of his nephews. Their smiles are a reminder of how little we need to be happy. Now I sound like a curated tour guide. Screw it.

“What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made?” I ask, given our newfound intimacy. “I’m not a rich man, and I’ll never go far from this country in my remaining years - and I’m ok with that. I’m also okay with every mistake or misstep I have ever made. They’ve given me wisdom.” He thinks for a second and continues, “I’m a lucky man, because many people now come from around the world to Olepangi & I have the chance to go for these walks with them, and we learn from each other. I am very fulfilled. But the one regret I have is not spending the time when I had it to better educate myself. I wish I had opened my mind, and exposed myself to different ways of thinking. Now I am here in Kenya, and will probably not go far from here so have missed that opportunity.”

“But Mr. Kariuki,” I said, “maybe where you are meant to be is right here then after all - where you can both learn from others around the world who now come to YOU - and in return, you can teach them about Kenya, so that we can learn about your home, and maybe understand how to give something back. You couldn’t do that if you weren’t here. Maybe THAT is your calling.”

“Maybe,” he chuckled, “maybe.”

Images by Laura Lisowski

To read Laura's full article click here...

 

SPOTLIGHT ON OLEPANGI FARM, LAIKIPIA

 Olepangi Farm recently featured in Nomad Magazine.

“There is so much to love about Olepangi Farm, a place where cliche hospitality industry phrases like “home away from home” and “slice of paradise” indeed find true meaning. And so we stepped through the looking glass and began to wonder and wander.”

Images by Brian Siambi

To read the full article on Olepangi Farm please click here...