I am overwhelmed by Kitale when we arrive. I'm surprised to be overwhelmed; I felt this way entering Kigali in Rwanda, and again coming into Kabale in Uganda. Each country has a lively street scene, and as we move from country to country in progression, the activity pushes forward into the street just a bit more.
Roast nuts are for sale in paper cones. Women use penknives to cut wedges of potato into pans of boiling oil. Eggs for sale are very fresh: the egg sellers along the sidewalk have walls of caged chickens behind them.
Boys stand in wooden donkey-carts, driving their teams with short sticks.
Boda-bodas are lined up along the roadside, calling to us and offering rides. Outside a furniture store, a three-seat couch is being loaded onto the back of a balanced motorcycle. Young men cluster around a samosa stand, spooning a fresh tomato salsa onto the deep fried triangles. They invite us to join them as we walk past.
We stay a night at a cheap hotel by the edge of town. The room is not great, but it's $17 for the both of us (breakfast included), and the staff is kind. They let us hang our laundry on the clothesline, between drying hotel towels. The next day, they let us leave our packs at reception long after checkout so we can go into town.
I have a letter to send, so I find an envelope at a small general store. The woman lets me address it at the counter and use her tape to seal it.
We go looking for swimming shorts at the open-air clothing stalls. These are square platforms heaped with the clothes Value Village didn't sell– you can tell because some of them still carry the thrift store price tags.
We walk the thin, muddy paths between the pallets. "How are you, my sister, I have missed you," the young men call to me from atop their booths.
When we pause to look at shorts, sellers dig through the pile to toss similar items in our direction. We each find quick-dry shorts that suit our needs for a total cost of $2.
The post office is at the far end of town, and the building is crowded like a DMV. People take numbers and wait in chairs to pay utility bills. I'm only buying a stamp, so I can just go to the counter. I make a gluey mess affixing postage, but I think it will send.
It rains on our walk back. We should expect these rainstorms by now, but I'm always struck by the build in intensity. It's just a suggestion of rain, then a few heavy drops…