Kenya glossary










Cooked food vendor




November 1996



Section 1
Could you start by telling me your name?
My name is Patrola Kipkut Serimon

When were you born?
I was born in 1951

Were you born here or somewhere else?
Here in Mount Elgon

Which area?

Where did you attend school?
I was not lucky [enough] to attended school.

What were you doing when you were young?
I got polio when I was still young, that is, the same year that I was born in 1951. I was taken to Mombasa for treatment. I thought I would get better but I wasn't lucky. I became lame and to date, I now run my small Jua Kali (informal sector) business.
[Jua Kali refers to hard labour in the scorching sun - jua is Kiswahili for sun while Kali is kiswahili word for serious]

When you were still young, how were you surviving, or had you been given the wheelchair?
Wheelchair…no, I used to crawl.

Then what were you doing?
I used to stay at home

Up to which year?
Until 1967, when I bought this wheelchair.

You bought it yourself?
I bought it myself.

You started moving around after you bought the wheelchair?
I could move a bit.
Section 2
Then you used to stay at home. You could not go far?
I could not take a walk because I am not able to walk.

After you got the wheelchair, you could go up to Kimilili?
I could go up to Kimilili…even now I still go there.

What kind of work have you taught yourself, and can you do it?
The work that I believe in, is to go and buy cattle heads from the slaughter house. I come, cook and prepare ugali, then the people eat.

For how long have you been doing this job?
I have been doing this job for eight years.

What made you think of doing this job?
I thought of this work, after God helped me get a wife. I realised that there was nobody to help me at home. I thought of what kind of thing could enable me educate my children. Even up to now, since I have started business, I have three of my children in secondary school, one has just completed, and one more ahead with her.

You have been educating them with...
From my Jua Kali work.

Just your work?

When you started this business, who was cooking for you?
Myself, you even got me doing the work.

You buy the animal head by yourself?
I do it myself. I then put it at the back of the wheelchair, and then I am pushed by the person I have employed up to my house. Since I started my business, I recently bought a plot. That is when I built a shop. It has been plastered but it has not been floored.

It is just you who thought you could do this work.
I thought I could do it, and I still do it.

Could we move back a bit and start on how you got to meet your wife and married?
We were circumcised the same year, my wife and I…in 1970. Then we talked and talked, till we fell in love, and then got married. We married in 1972.

And you got circumcised in 1970. Were there any problems you encountered? Maybe people, because you are lame, [thought] you could not be circumcised.
There were people who said that I'm lame, so it is not good for me to get circumcised. But I told them there was no way I would go to hospital. I will get circumcised with the rest of the age mates. I was taken to the river in a wheelbarrow; I was brought back and sat on a four-legged chair, then I was circumcised.
Section 3
What did the people say?
People were surprised, I was given a lot of money, though I am not sure how much I got, but I know I got a lot.

Did you dance along with the fellow initiates?
I just sat while my fellow initiates danced. We were 21 initiates that were in that area of initiation. We were 21 in one single day.

You were not circumcised from your home?
It was home, even up to now we still do it from home

You had 21 people in one home?
Yes 21.

Were there any neighbours’ sons?
My father's sons, that is my brothers

Your father, I met him.
My father had eight wives.

Your mother was number...
My mother was number two, but God has taken away some of them.

You’ve told me that you come from a big family, were your brothers helpful considering your situation?
Very helpful, they were very helpful.

Like when you would ask for water and they would bring it to you?
Yes, water, they fetched for me water, washed clothes for me. My brothers were very helpful. By then my mother was still alive. It was her who was very helpful. Had she been alive, I wouldn't have decided to marry. It was her who looked after my needs and took care of me.

Since you married, have you realised the importance of having a wife?
Right, a wife is someone who can help you, and she takes care of your needs, washes your clothes, everything.

How were people relating to you?
Business wise.

You as a disabled person how do they relate to you when you meet?
When we meet, you can never know this world. In the world, you ought to know someone who loves you and someone who hates you, it is just like that.

What about when you started doing business. How did they view you?
In business, there are people who will feel jealous because of your business, and there are others who would wish you to progress. But in business, if you were to listen to what people say, you can not progress. In business, you learn to survive, you believe that it is either your gain or loss.
Section 4
What do they say now?
We have got used to each other nowadays.

Do you have special friendly customers who specifically come to your Hotel Patrolas?
I have enough customers. On a Sunday, I can slaughter eight chickens, and all of them are eaten. Three gorogoro (2kg tin – standard measure) of maize meal are cleared. I get good money. In a day, I get a profit of around two hundred or three hundred shillings. Sometimes I get even more.

You told me you have been doing that business for eight years. Where did you get the initial capital?
The initial capital. Before going into this business, I used to practice poultry farming. I was selling eggs in Busaa clubs. We used to sell boiled eggs in Busaa clubs, that way I got skilled to do business.

Explain more about that, you say you were selling eggs, where did the idea of selling eggs come from?
This is how I got the idea of selling eggs. I realised staying at home was a hard way to live. Then I was staying in Kapsokwony and I had a lot of chickens that were layers. And as we had learnt in Mabange, I was given fifty chickens. I took good care of them until they grew up. There were people who used to come and visit and advise me on how to take care of the chicken. They used to tell me that I could sell the eggs to pay back the loan for the chicken. You see, we had been given chicks which we were supposed to pay for. I managed to pay back their money through selling eggs. That is how I got those skills.

You say you went to Mabange?

How did you go there?
There was an agricultural meeting in Kapsokwony. I was picked up by a car from Kimilili. It came to pick me up from home. They said that they wanted to teach people how to rear chicken. I was taken to Kapsokwony and became one of them, and later went to Mabange.

What did you learn at Mabange?
We learnt about poultry keeping.

Did people raise any objections when you were chosen?
Most people were saying that now if we take this one, who will be putting him to bed? Who will carry him to the toilet? I told them not to worry, I will know how to crawl by myself. If it rained, I would fold my trouser and go to the toilet. Since the bed was too high, I pulled the mattress down because I could not climb up to the bed.
Section 5
Until you finished the course?
Until I studied and finished.

You were given chicks upon completion?

Fifty? You started with that!
I started with that.

You were boiling eggs?
I used to boil them myself at home then, I went and sold them at the market.

You brought them to the market?
My home is very near the market, about a hundred yards away

Which year was that?
It was between 1970-1971.

So you started a long time ago. How much was one egg?
One egg was 30 cents.

How many eggs could you sell in a day?
I could [only] sell about 30 eggs in a day, since there were so many of us selling eggs.

Was that a lot of money or a little?
Before, it was a lot of money.

What could you buy with that?
Those days, you could buy a good shirt at ten shillings. A good shirt.

You bought things for yourself?
I used to buy things for myself

From rearing of chicken, how did you proceed?
I reared the chicken until they were four months old, then I could not afford the drugs. When we were given chicks, we were using kerosene lamps because they did not have their mothers. We were given one-week-old chicks. They grew until they were three months old. When they started laying eggs, that is when the disease came and killed them. That is also when I thought of doing what I had not done before. I bought cattle heads and sold them. This is what I am still doing now I have enough skills.

Is there another business that you do apart from the hotel?
There are other kinds of businesses but they are not very good. Like buying maize and other small businesses. But something else that I do is buying bananas and selling them in Kitale.
Section 6
How do you take them to town?
I buy bananas from the farms then I send for a handcart from the town. Then I sell them to those who sell in Kitale.

That is what you do?
That is what I do. The two businesses support each other. If one is going down, I inject money in the other business.

You said your kids are in secondary school?
Two of them are in Kabuyebwe and one completed at Mukumu.

A girl?
A girl

You have been educating your children…do they have any problems?
There is no problem, though one of the boys has eye problems. However, God will help me take him to a doctor. I wanted to go to Eldoret but I did not have enough for the fare to go to Eldoret.

In your view, if you are a disabled, people should not be saying that you are a lesser human being because you can educate your children and you are trying hard?
I am trying as much as I can. Even recently when they passed their exams, I called for a fundraising, and through God's power - you know not everybody can refuse you - they raised forty-one thousand. I used that money to pay for the first term, second term and now, I will try to call another fundraising for the third term. If not, I will just seek for help.

Is there any group that has given you help like Action Aid?
I tried to ask for help but I wasn't successful. I also tried to talk to the chief and sub-chiefs to give me a bursary but it was not possible because the government no longer gives bursaries. That is the world. The government does not help people as per their needs.

When you look at this area, what kind of help do you think should be given to the disabled?
That one, brother I am grateful that you have asked that question. I can't say there is any kind of help. If companies or the government could think of how to assist the disabled in a way, it could have been better, because those of us who were disabled, unless if you slept and seriously thought of how to sustain yourself, you would not survive. If you were to think of assistance, you are lost because you can not know where aid will come from. If there was aid, for a person like me, I could not go up to Kapsokwony unless I used a vehicle, because my wheelchair cannot go up the mountain. You ought to have some money to board a vehicle to Kapsokwony.
So the government and companies should think of giving assistance, because we do not have a way to help ourselves. We do not wish to be disabled, it was God's wish. Even in the business I am doing, you will see Public Health Officers, the council and the government people wanting you to have a licence. They can not even question themselves that I am lame. Like me, it is good that God gave me a good brain, I do not want to go begging on the roads. What I think is, the government should think of giving us a free hand to operate business without a licence, and also assist us with initial capital to start a business. They should stop us from paying for a licence, give us a public health letter and issue us with a medical check up certificate. That is what I think ought to be done, so that we think we feel like the rest the people, so that those of us who are disabled can feel like those who are able.
Section 7
In Nairobi, they do not chase away the disabled?
They are not chased away, but you see in Nairobi, they sell newspapers. They are out to sell newspapers and when you sell a certain number of newspapers, you will be paid according to that number, but here…

What I mean is, in Nairobi, the disabled do not pay for a licence and when they are chasing the rest of the people from the streets, they are spared. Here, there is no special treatment that you are given.
Here, I haven't seen anything, nothing

Is there any other problem that you have noticed in Mount Elgon?
We have a very big problem in Mount Elgon. It is because we do not have enough roads. Like me, if it rains, it will be hard for me to go up to Kimilili. It is really a problem we do not have roads. Even if you were to look at the big men we voted for, they do not help in any way. They go and disappear for five years and only come back to seek for more votes. But the roads…you yourself have witnessed as you walked around the road. Even now if there was a sick person on the mountain, the only option we have is to push him on a bed and carry him to Kimilili up to here, and then he is put on a bicycle.

Has there been any change since you were born, like improvement in the roads or anything you feel has improved since you were born?
Since I was born, there have been a lot of changes, first of all, diseases. There was a typhoid outbreak, which made many people suffer very much, because we did not have enough drugs. So many people died. I too was affected by typhoid, but I prayed to God, and was taken to Webuye Nursing Home. That time I had gone to one of my brothers who had oxen. He ploughed my land for me and I managed to get some harvest of one hundred bags of maize. I sold the maize and paid fourteen thousand in the hospital. I spared some to take care of the children's food, the rest, I sold to buy seeds and fertilisers. Those are the changes.

Otherwise, how would you say the creation of a new district has helped?
The district was created recently, but it has not been of any help to the disabled. Like here in Mount Elgon, when there was the clashes, they chased away people. When the people went away, the population went down. There used to be many people, now they say that they want one tribe, and that one tribe is not good. There is no sense of competition. Like if you were to go on this mountain, and talk in Kiswahili, they will ask you where you come from and what you want. We chased away other people and you are coming with your talk here! In most cases if you see houses like that one there, they are for the people who ran away from the mountain, their houses were burnt and their cattle stolen. Now they just rent houses here. Now since the district was created, I have not seen any form of development, nothing.
Section 8
You mean that some people have not gone back to their farms?
They haven't, just one, one. If you go, even your posts, they come at night and uproot them. Now people fear going back.

Did you experience the clashes here?
I am one of those who suffered a lot. When the people ran away, my wife ran away, I stayed in the bush for three days. There was no drinking water, nobody to cook for me, until one of my neighbours saw my wheelchair in the coffee plantation. I was hiding there, it was ten o'clock on the thirteenth, and the houses started burning. People in this area ran away. People on the mountain ran away with the cattle to Kimilili. But nobody could help me. A grown up like me, nobody could carry me up to Kapsokwony…it is hard. I just stayed up in the forest. I saw strange things. When it was dark, policemen started shooting in the air. I thought that they were looking for me. I thought they were enemies. I moved to the coffee plantation. I unfortunately fell into a hole full of safari ants. I was bitten by the ants, until nine o'clock in the morning when I crawled out of the hole. That is the greatest suffering I have ever encountered and I will never forget it.

What do people say about the cause of the clashes?
They said it was because of multi party politics of FORD Kenya, FORD Asili and DP. But here in Mount Elgon it was KANU alone.

So many people were telling me there were no conflicts here…they just started from another place.
The problem started in Kaptama. It was the CPK. It started with Katakwa. The people of Katakwa wanted to call Kaptama Nambale. The people of Kaptama said that the Katakwa church has come to spoil things. It moved to Kitwamba from Ilikesa; from there it moved to Chembesa, then to Chemrui, then it came Kapsokwony, to Namario, from Namario it moved to Sambojo, from Sambojo, it moved to Kapkatenyi. Now things were hot, people suffered very much.

Nobody could tell whether his cattle had been stolen.
You can not tell…you had to run away from home. Even some people would leave their children at home.

As you were saying earlier, after you left your hide-out what did you do?
The following day, my wife came back. I then decided that I would rather go home so that my wife could remove the ants from my body. On reaching home, by good luck, there were policemen guarding the water supply against poisoning. Then I thought if I roam around, I wouldn't sleep. I decided to go and put up during the night with the policemen at the water supply. By the grace of God, they were good people and they let me stay with them. I stayed with them for one week, then things cooled. That is when I went back home.
Shortly after I went home again, things turned hot again, My brother David who stays in Kapsokwony, said the best thing was for me to be taken to Kaptama to my stepmother. On reaching there - I had moved with my cattle - but since the grass there is not the same as this one here, the cows died. At that same time, there were some cattle that had been stolen in a place called Kalekisa. The G.S.U were tracking down these cattle, and where I was staying was near the road. Unfortunately, the G.S.U came up to the compound and found the two dead animals. They asked to whom the two cattle belonged. I said that they were mine, and I had run away with them to take refuge here, since I could not leave them behind. They said it could not happen that two cows could die at the same time, maybe you stole them. They started beating me up, and the owner of the homestead ran away.
I told them that even my village headman was arrested yesterday and that if I was cheating, to try and ring the police station, even bring him here. I then came with them up to Kapsokwony and they rang the police station and found him. They wanted to leave me in Kapsokwony but I told them that they had found the truth that they had been looking for. Then one of the G.S.U. helicopters told them to throw me in the lorry. Now instead of holding slowly and putting me in the vehicle, they just threw me in. I even still have a scar here. I got hurt very much. They took me back…the occupants of the homestead had run away, and the cows rotted just like that.
Section 9
Later you came back.
I came home, I think it could have been in May that is why I am staying here.

You still go on with farming?
I go on with life normally.

Then, had you already started your business?
The business was on. I had bought the plot and I had started making plans to put posts and buy old iron sheets from the clash victims.

Where were you operating from before you built a shop?
I used to buy meat and sell it from home.

To beer drinkers?
Beer drinkers come to buy.

You weren't taking it to beer places?
I couldn't because I couldn't walk. They just knew on particular days, you can't miss meat at Patrola's place.

So after seeking beer, they pass your place?

Were your neighbours buying it too?
They used to buy there. In most cases they could bring maize, meat worth ten shillings, and they bring for me thirty cobs of maize. That is where I used to buy
Section 10
Were you selling the maize?
I could sell, the wife could also make beer, then people come to take beer that is how quick profit used to come.

In your view, what could you tell other disabled people?
I can tell my fellow disabled people to have heart. They should not forget that they are lame. They should put up efforts and realise that they too are human beings. God created the world with hills and valleys, there are short and tall people. They should compete with those who are blessed by God to walk. They should not have a heart to say that because I am lame, I can not do this, I will not succeed. Or you might end up begging from people on the roads. No! No! Begging is inviting poverty.

Has there been any instance when you had been badly abused by someone?
There are people who can tell you…someone comes to your home, he asks for something. When you tell him that it is not there, they tell you that you are showing off. Even in most cases, people tell me that had I been able to walk, I would already have been dead or I could be a thief. That is why I say, when god created me and gave me this chance…each person has his own chance. I even tell them how come they came from the womb of one mother yet each of them was blessed with something different. Each has his own gift. That is what I tell them.

After having stayed with them, and seeing what you can do, has that changed their way of looking at you?
They have changed their view, some say someone like this one (me) does not beg from anybody, he works up and down to feed himself. In my house, my children can not miss tea with bread in the morning. They know that their father works hard. They also work hard at home. Now they are in the coffee plantation, they are weeding bananas. Their mother is preparing bananas. You even saw me telling her to work fast because customers are about to come. I close my hotel at seven thirty in the evening.

How many children do you have?
I have eight children.

They also come to help in the hotel or they work at home?
If they finish their work at home and their is a lot of work here, I send someone to go and call them, to come and help me. I sit at the counter and they work from behind.

While others serve?
I have employed the one who serves. It is only one person who serves food in front.

The girl you said completed form four, did she complete this year?
She completed form four this year. She is waiting for her results.

Any hopes?
She will go ahead. She will pass, I am confidant that she will pass, all her reports are very good.
Section 11
What importance do you attach to your children's education?
Education is the first key. If a child does not learn, he/she is digging his/her own grave. Education is the first thing. Even me, had I gone to school, I would be working. My father thought that if I were taken to school, who would carry me to school. Now I tell my father, “Father, you should have taken me to school. I would not have regretted the type of skills that I have now. You did not take me to school up to now. Even those who went to school and me who did not go, we are alike”. Nowadays, my father regrets not having taken me to school, and what surprises my brother is that even though I did not go to school, I know how to speak in English. I can try to speak it.

You just taught yourself?
It is God who gave me that talent.

In what language were they teaching you in Mabange?
In Kiswahili. They were just using the mouth words, you see this, but we were not writing.

Is there anything, which in your view if it were to be brought here in Mount Elgon could be of help?
One thing I felt should be here in Mount Elgon is a school for the disabled. The government should be close to give us wheelchairs. Those of us who are lame should be given wheelchairs because we can not crawl in the mud to school. They should assist us with wheelchairs, and some little money to sustain us. A rim wears off…it is you to buy. A tyre gets old…it is you to buy and already you can not sustain yourself.

I can see here you speak so many languages. You talk with this one in Kibukusu, how did you come to know different languages?
It is because we stay together. We are neighbours. Now if we meet with this one, you must know this language. However, it is not easy for a Bukusu to speak Kisabaot, he very much believes in his own language. He has no interest in leaving Kisabaot.

He only wants others to learn his language.

Thank you.
Thank you.