A rather normal middle class Swedish couple in their fifties left their suburban life in Sweden in search of something new - a contrast to the secure Swedish Welfare State. They sold their small house, packed their belongings in a shipping container, and left Sweden behind. They went to Africa. This book tells the true story of how they, during five years, lived as the only Europeans in a small village at the edge of one of the last rainforests in Kenya. They moved from a stressed life to a simple one, a clay hut on a maize field in Western Kenya, without any of the modern conveniences. On their own, they built a small rainforest hotel as the start of a new life. But life turned out difficult; corruption, tribal traditions and witchcraft hindered the blue-eyed couple in their efforts to help the suffering villagers. The story reflects this turbulent time with a lot of positive and negative experiences, arising in the meeting of contrasting cultures and traditions; Swedish meeting tribal Kenyan.
This is that rare thing an original, authentic and unvarnished view of Africa as told by an unbiased, idealistic yet pragmatic witness. This is a highly individual and admittedly European perspective but it may be more useful to establish here what it is not. It is not a travelogue, a sentimental sightseeing safari; it is not sensationalist journalism; nor is it a political manifesto with the familiar pre-packed conclusions; not an 'I was there' self-congratulatory and self-important tale of heroism, not another empty instalment of the New Age agenda. Rather, it is a factual, human (originally diarised) account of a remarkable and ultimately tragic adventure which took place in the unfamiliar, remote region of Western Kenya, deep in the emerald green forest on the slopes of Mount Elgon and close to Lake Victoria. Here, in the most densely populated yet least known, least 'developed' part of Kenya, there existed (still exists) a world remarkably untouched by western influence. This provides the backdrop to the couple's valiant efforts to establish a livelihood - through farming, then building and running a hotel (with a bit of gold-panning thrown in for fun) and finally pioneering a new form of enterprise in the form of mushroom cultivation. The scenes towards the end of the book (glimpsed in the opening chapter), of the couple literally fleeing the threat of mob violence, is as gripping as any fiction, with all the vividness and stark brutality we associate with the worst side of Africa, all the more powerful for its gradual build up through the story and, of course, its utter veracity.
This is a good antidote for the all too numerous superficial, lightweight and stereotypical pot-boilers coming off the press and jumping into airport terminal bookstalls (where they belong). Beautifully written, keenly observed and with a true sense of narrative, I found it hard to put down once caught up in the unerringly convincing and intensely human story.
The adventures of moving your life to a corrupt society2010/4/9
Blue-eyed in Luhya-land is a non-fiction adventure story, which I recommend to every adventure-loving person having a dream of exchanging his/her sheltered and comfortable life for a new one in a developing country.
A middle-aged Swedish couple moves to Africa in full assurance that the public law of their new country, like it has been in Sweden, will guarantee them protection and freedom of action. But as they are trying to build a new and better life, they find that they can not trust anyone or anything. Their dreams fall apart in a harsh reality where no laws are carried out in a correct way and where bribery is expected if you want to start any project, even if it is for the benefit of the suffering locals. Their life turns out a real roller-coaster ride; from one moment to the next they never know what will happen.
In their rural village, near the rainforest, corruption is regarded as normal; death is hiding behind the corner; your best friends steal your belongings but still expect to be regarded as friends. It is impossible to communicate because words do not mean the same thing for you as for them. The couple's dreams about helping others are gradually destroyed as they, the hard way, find out that tribal traditions and loyalty, witchcraft and violence are stronger than their wish to succeed. The couple and their belongings seem to be fair game for everyone. And they can not expect any help from the authorities either... Will the blue-eyed couple succeed or will they be defeated by local traditions, witchcraft and violence?
This book, in certain aspects, reminds me of another book that I liked very much as a child: Alice in Wonderland. Erik
A Swedish couple in Kenya2011/1/22
I'm in the safari business, so I have been to Kenya many times and made many friends in Kenya. I love that country very much. The people are so genuinely friendly and accommodating. However, I've never lived in Kenya, I always wanted to, but .... Anyway, it was with great anticipation that I embarked on reading this book, in my native Swedish. What an eye-opener! Wow! This very brave couple gave up all their comforts, everything they were accustomed to in their Swedish socialistic society and moved to Kenya where you are on your own to fend for yourself as they quickly found out. The laws of Kenya are not there to protect you, as they so naively thought, but to be used by those in power. I give this book three thumbs up for suspense and adventure with some very powerful witchcraft thrown in. A very different book from your regular safari journal.
Enjoyed this book. During parts of it I could feel myself getting discouraged along with the author because of all the mishaps they faced. However, if you have been to Africa, that is the general way things run - TIA.
Interesting book. It gave a normally unseen view of Kenya, at least for people that do not have much knowledge of the country. I think I'll stay away from there!