I have used the same route going home for as long as I can remember, but somehow I missed the long stretch of flora that lined the busy tarmacked Mombasa road. Maybe it's because it was veiled by the vast footbridge spanning two middle-class localities and camouflaged by the umbrella-like trees, or the matatus always accelerated whenever we drove by. Either way, today was the day I would survey the premises.
The place was abuzz with activity. Pedestrians strolling and walking at brisk paces alike. A swarm of honey bees settling into its nest atop a tree. Horticulturists busy tending to their plants. A casually attired man with a receding hairline, gray circle beard, a pot-belly and wreathed in smiles got up hurriedly as I drew near. He must have assumed that I was there to splurge. I wish I always saw myself the way he saw me; swimming in money.
For months now I had been planning on purchasing a plant. I wanted something that needed little maintenance but still contributed to the aesthetic value of my surroundings. Cactii and succulent plants fit the bill perfectly. That would be our conversation starter.
Lenges to me sounded like a person hailing from the Northern-Central parts of Kenya, Samburu. Never would I have imagined that the land to one of the only two freshwater lakes in the Rift-Valley and occasionally flamingoes, was the place he called home. But it all made sense after he mentioned that he'd omitted the prefix Kip, synonymous with the Kalenjin community.
Despite being caned on several occasions for abandoning cattle herding to collect flower cuttings and seeds, his fascination for plants stood the test of time. When his father could no longer afford to sell his cows to pay for his school fees, he dropped out but was later taken into the National Youth Service (NYS) program. As part of the curriculum, he had a chance to revisit his vocation, even with his redeployment to the Prisons sector. Almost three decades later and not even lack of funding to pursue a degree in landscaping could dim his light.
He was able to acquire land for free at his current location, thanks to one of his many other hustles of working as a security guard. During the day he'll carry out casual jobs revolving around landscaping for his regular clients. In the afternoon he'll check into his botanical garden of sorts but only for a supervisory role as he has employed a young lady to be watching the business on a full-time basis. When night falls, he switches into his security guard hat. One wonders when he is able to catch a wink.
I walked away having a newfound appreciation for what it is to be resilient, having bought no plant (he didn't have what I was looking for) and a pending marriage proposal. If only it was that easy to get a husband or wife.