Hanging Out In Kitui With Family Before Hitting The Night Scene
After our trip to the coast, as usual, we had plans to go to Kitui, Kenya, and visit Nduku’s extended family. This was my third trip out there, every two years, and boy was I in for a surprise.
During the second trip, there was some obvious development in Kitui town, the building of a Naivas, a large grocery store chain. And you can see other projects starting to take off. But on this visit, the third time was definitely a charm. Not only has Kitui town experienced significant development, including another large grocery store chain setting up shop, but the road leading to Kitui town went from nothing to dense development with a ton of new businesses.
It once was a pretty lonely road to travel, but now it’s crowded with boda bodas, people all along the route, new restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, clubs and everything in between fighting for attention. What took place over the past two years is quite impressive. Even the new government buildings are modern, relatively speaking, and continues to add to Kitui blowing up.
Of course, we were there for family. And it’s always great to see four generations standing together.
We did our usual travels, visiting several locations to catch up with all of Nduku’s family and visiting the house that her dad is building. I like Kitui. So near the end of the day, I’m dropped off at a hotel in Kitui town, on my own, to explore and really experience an unfiltered look at life in Kitui.
After settling in at the Parkside Villa, I headed out to check out the night scene. My first stop was Fuse Club. It was perhaps 10 pm, and not that busy. To kill time, I figured might as well order a drink and just wait for it. When I asked the bartender how much for Jack Daniels, he told me KSH 2500, essentially $25. Thinking I was in a less wealthy part of the world, this shocked me a bit.
So, I asked for the cheapest whisky, settling for the next cheapest — Top Secret, a locally’ made whisky. It was roughly $5, but to my surprise, when the bartender grabbed the half pint, instead of pouring a glass, he handed my the entire bottle. Apparently, the KSH 2500 for Jack Daniels was for the entire bottle, which was a fifth. Much cheaper than the beverage stores back home.
However, when ordering a drink, you also have to order a bottle of Coke and ask for a glass.
Satisfied, I made myself at home. After about an hour, though, the crowd was still a bit light. When I finally left, I asked one of the guards where is there a club where there’s more people, more dancing, more music, more what I was looking for. He mentioned a place called Riverside, located along the stretch of road which was pretty barren during my last visit.
To get there, I had to catch a boda boda. They’re motorcycles that people catch like cabs. And there are dozens if not hundreds of them everywhere. No helmet, and never have ridden a motorcycle, it was an experience. They don’t go fast, for our safety, but it was cool crossing town on the back of a bike, wondering what would happen if I fell off when we hit a speed bump.
I made it safely, though, and Riverside wasn’t quite what I was expecting from the looks of it on the outside.
Though, from the outside, it didn’t look like much, the inside was pretty chill and more spacious than I was expecting. It had a bit of a being outdoors feel rather than closed in with walls. And they let me in with my bottle from Fuse Club, so I was happy about that.
Though there were more people, some dancing, many lounging around, I went to the bartender and asked if there was a time when the place was more crowded, more people dancing, and so forth. It was already late, I had to meet mzee early in the morning, and wasn’t planning on staying out that long.
Without hesitation, as if this is normal, the bartender said 3:00 am. I wondered if her English was bad, considering clubs and bars in Washington, DC, tend to shut down around 2:00 am. At least they did when I used to be in the club scene. Whereas here in Kitui, she was telling me that I still had about three hours to go before it even got started!
Well, as much as I wanted to stick around and see what a club in Kitui was like when it got started, that wasn’t feasible. I did stick around a bit longer, but me being me, I decided to go out to the street, which was bustling with people, and just make friends. The Akamba, the dominant tribe in Kitui, Nduku’s tribe, are friendly people.
I met a guy named Paul. I could tell he already had a few drinks, so he had to know where the party was. We talked a bit, then he invited me to a club not far away called Kitui Beach Club. Interesting name since Kitui was nowhere near a beach. He said his cousin worked the door so he could get us in. There was a cover charge of KSH 200 ($2) but it also came with a bottle of Tusker, Kenya’s local beer and unofficial national symbol. I don’t drink beer, so he let me in for KSH 80 ($0.80 cents). Imagine if I carried with me $100, the kind of night I could have.
[I only have maybe $20, not wanting to carry a lot of cash, and not expecting to really party all night. Just enough to relax, witness the scene and go back to the hotel.]
Kitui Beach Club was different from Riverside. It was closed in, making the music that much louder; it felt smaller in space, making it that much more crowded; and there were a lot of people already dancing. No need to wait until 3:00 am. But there was only one minor issue. Of the two or three dozen of dancers, there were all guys. Literally, me and a bunch of men on a raised platform for the dancing stage, with several dozen of people facing the stage watching us. I felt awkward.
Every now and again a female would join the dancing, but almost instantaneously, three, four, maybe seven guys would dance around her, with her, on her, and this all seemed normal to everyone. Including the females. I mean, before a single one of her hips wiggled, she was covered in men. And this was normal!
I didn’t stay on stage long. I lost Paul somewhere in the crowd. It was crowded. So I went back to his cousin and asked if he knew where Paul was. He said Paul was looking for me to meet his friends. It was getting closer to 2:00 am by now, I was still curious about Riverside, which seemed more laid back, and since Riverside didn’t have a cover, maybe I’d stop by there before heading back to the hotel.
I asked Paul’s cousin if I could get back in in case I left, I could, and what time they closed. As if it was a dumb question, he looked at me quizzically, and said, “when the last person leaves.” Huh!? I asked what if someone is still there at 6 in the morning. He chuckled and said the last people leave around 9 in the morning.
I’m thinking I’m out late, and he’s telling me I still had 7 or 8 hours to go!
I thought about it for a moment, but decided to stop fooling myself. I’m long retired from hanging out until the sun comes up, so I found a boda boda and headed back to the hotel. And while I was heading back, I could see streams of people heading out for the night.
I admire their endurance.