A Journey to Kenya


In September, I participated in the Slapshot Readathon and got the idea to read the new book Hockey Night in Kenya. So I decided I would fake travel to Kenya for my monthly trip. Finding a restaurant with specifically Kenyan food necessitated driving about an hour and a half to another state, so it was more of a real journey than I’m used to. It took a little planning, but I had a good time with it.

I packed a cooler, put on a good audiobook, and hit the road. After picking up my meal, I headed to a town park not too far away where there would be picnic tables. I timed it so that I’d miss the lunch crowd, but I didn’t realize that the park was hosting a town picnic. There were food trucks, rides for kids, and more. The parking lot and all picnic tables were full, so I ended up with my plan B, parking at the end of a the lot and picnicking in the back of my car. I had a lovely view of trees and a stream as I ate and read. I packed the leftovers in my cooler so they would survive my long drive back home again. I ate the second helping while watching a movie set in Kenya.

My Choices

Meal: I drove to Beltsville, Maryland, to pick up an order from Swahili Village, a black, family-owned business boasting a true taste of Kenya. They have a few locations in my area, and one close to me opening next spring. But the Beltsville location is the original. I had the ndengu, a slow simmered lentil coconut stew, with a side of ugali, cornmeal mash. The combination was delicious, and it was enough to last me two meals. I had a difficult time deciding between the ndengu and the maharagwe, red beans in coconut stew. If I ever find myself in the area, I know exactly what I’m ordering.

Dessert: I also got a side of ndizi kaanga, fried plantains. I wasn’t sure if they would be sweet enough for dessert, so I also ordered a mango mouse. There really aren’t a lot of traditional Kenyan sweets, so Kenyan restaurants  in the US usually have typical US desserts. It turns out the fried plantains were indeed sweet, and they were amazing. My second dessert, the mango mousse, was as Kenyan as I could get, and it was equally delicious. With my sweet tooth, having two desserts was an absolute treat.

Book: Hockey Night in Kenya by Danson Mutinda and Eric Walters is the story of a boy in a Kenyan orphanage. He loves reading but had read every book in their small library. The librarian gifted him a few old books in poor condition, and one showed ice hockey players and sparked his curiosity. They story revolves around him getting to see some street hockey players, learning to skate with a secondhand pair of roller blades, and getting to play with players on the only indoor ice rink in the country. The story brings awareness about the author’s orphanages as well as the Kenyan ice hockey team who are determined to get to the Winter Olympics in 2022.

Music: I did several Kukuwa Fitness videos that featured at least one song from Kenya. A friend of mine sent me a link to one of their videos a few years back, and when I thought about workouts with authentically African music, they came to mind. Most of their videos feature songs from all over Africa, so I ended up doing quite a few different ones until Kenya was featured. My favorite was this one filmed in Karibu, Kenya:

Movie: I watched an incredibly, understandably depressing movie about sex trafficking in Africa called Òlòtūré. Only after I finished the movie did I discover it was set in Lagos, Nigeria, instead of Kenya. Oops! After some more searching, I finally found the movie Disconnect, a 2018 Kenyan romantic comedy. The cast of diverse characters explore the dating scene in Nairobi. And though it started off with a death, it was definitely a lighter film than the first one I watched. It had a number of familiar tropes in romantic stories, including “am I falling in love with my best friend?”