Family living 8,895 miles away


Anita Gichuki

Anita Gichuki 9 and her family visiting traditional Kikuyu homes. "The last time I was there was actually this past summer, 2018."

Anna Icke, Ranger Review Reporter

The ability to visit our relatives by only a short drive or plane ride is a privilege many Americans take for granted. But for Anita Gichuki 9 to visit her cousins, aunts and uncles, she has to fly 8,895 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to the Kikuyu tribe in Nairobi, Kenya.

“My brother and I were born in Kenya. My parents are actually immigrants and they can both speak their tribal language fluently and Swahili as well; they’re multilingual,” Gichuki said.

Gichuki was only one year old when her parents made the move cross-continent, but her family still keeps in touch with their Kikuyu culture, and they visit Kenya often. They continue to practice Kenyan traditions at home, and sometimes their Kenyan family will come to America.

“For Thanksgiving, we’ll make all traditional Kenyan foods instead of American food. And birthdays are really fun when we get our relatives to come over, they all sing in Kikuyu, their tribal language, Happy Birthday and they’ll dance,” Gichuki said.

Gichuki does not speak her native language like her parents, but her parents still have Kikuyu and Swahili conversations at home. Gichuki says she now wishes she knew their languages, especially after her recent visit to Kenya.

“When I was really young, my parents tried to teach us their languages, so a lot of objects and stuff I only knew were in their languages. I didn’t know their actual names until I went to school and the Americans said them in different ways,” Gichuki said.

One instance Gichuki mentioned was how her parents only referred to medicine as ‘dowa’. She didn’t even know the American word for medicine until she attended American preschool in New York.

Gichuki did not move straight from Kenya to Colorado. When they initially immigrated, the Gichuki family lived in Maryland.

“About ten years ago I lived in New York, but since my dad was in the army, we moved to Colorado and I lived in Colorado Springs. We lived there for about six or seven years until my dad got a new job in Monument,” Gichuki said.

With the Kikuyu people being one of the more prominent ethnic groups in Kenya, the Kikuyu people are scattered throughout Nairobi and the surrounding areas. Many of them live in small villages, but some even have city apartments.

“My dad lived in a big city, Nairobi, you’ve definitely heard of it, but my mom came from more of a farm town, down way below Nairobi in a place called Gnong.” Gichuki said.

Gichuki refers to Kenya as a predominately beautiful place, but some of the environment  leaves something to be desired. “Their government is a lot messier than ours. In Kenya it’s really dirty, there’s trash everywhere. Because littering isn’t considered a law, no one will get fined for it, so people will leave a lot of trash everywhere,” Gichuki said.

Because Kenya’s government  is not as powerful as ours, they don’t have paved streets. Although the streets are quite messy, many people still make a living along them.

“People will  still set up stands along the streets. So you can just walk by and it’s almost annoying. ‘Hey buy my stuff, hey buy my stuff,’ there’s stuff all along the corners and the streets that you can just buy,” Gichuki said.

Adjusting to high school, Gichuki takes many honors classes and gets mostly A’s. She is also a trumpet player in the band, “I love the director, Mr. Chapman, he’s hilarious,” Gichuki said.

Her parents moved to America for their son and daughters to have a better life, and Anita says that she believes that despite living away from their family, she and her siblings have lived up to their parents’ expectations.