Arboretum Kukai

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Arboretum Kukai, 29 March 2008


The fifth kukai of Kenya Saijiki was set for a mystery destination, unknown even by the organisers themselves until a few days before the event.

The day started with a lot of excitement, as the members of Kenya Saijiki gathered at Kayole Police Post, and the driver of the Jimcy School Bus worked his way through the traffic chaos of Nairobi. Haijin and bus met together a bit later than expected, the traffic chaos having won out. Bamboochas and Peacocks boarded in an orderly manner, one by one from each club, with friendly teasing and a feeling of joy at sharing this new adventure together. We were joined by some smiling members of the Cocks, out of their school uniforms now, and still strong haijin together. We all squeezed in as best we could for a while, until a willing matatu was hired to drive the overflow to the Arboretum.

.. Nairobi Arboretum ..
is a wonderful, historical place, where the trees of Kenya and East Africa have been planted in a beautiful park for our pleasure and education. Each tree is clearly labelled, with the Latin and English names of the tree, as well as the family of plants to which it belongs. The park is famous for its serenity, its peaceful and natural ambiance.

The Arboretum is sponsored by the charity FONA (Friends of Nairobi Arboretum), is kept beautifully clean and safe for groups, and is very popular with schools for outings and with the population of Nairobi for picnics and games.

When we arrived, the ground was still wet from the previous night’s heavy rains, and it took us a while to find a suitable location for our Kukai.

We organised ourselves around the trunk of a fallen tree, and set up our blackboard, which we had brought from Kayole.

Computer graduates

After the introduction by Patrick Wafula sensei, we turned to the awarding of computer certificates and prizes for the students who had persevered for the year and had passed the recent computing examinations.

It was a great joy to congratulate the following successful students on their well deserved certificates :

Hussein Haji (Peacock)
Margaret Ndunge (Peacock)
Malcolm Arnold (Peacock)
Winslause Yamame (Peacock)
Beatrice Awuor (Peacock)
Amarpreet Munayan (Peacock)
Peninah Mutheu (Peacock)

The computer graduates

The graduates were encouraged to practise their computing skills and start sending in their own haiku to Kenya Saijiki.

We agreed that the computer courses would be resumed, so that the new Form One members of both schools could learn the same skills, with an invitation extended also to those who may wish to repeat and gain their certificates.

Haiku on Ageing

The members of Kenya Saijiki had submitted a number of entries on the topic of AGEING to the Shiki Kukia, March 2008. Several of these had been awarded points by the voters, and we celebrated the haijin who had contributed their poems.

Njoroge and Beth, discussing haiku on ageing
Photo © David Kimani Mwangi

It was enjoyable to discuss the haiku first, without announcing the names of the authors. The following six haiku were taken up in an open discussion, and many haijin explained why they enjoyed the poems, and what in particular appealed to them. Here are the haiku, with the authors’ names included :

my grandfather --
using less and less
of his cane

~ Abraham Muuo

The discussion of this haiku made us see the grandfather either with a walking stick, or with a cane to punish the children... We had very good explanations as to why he was using each of these less and less... It just shows that a good haiku can give rise to various different pictures in the readers' minds!

my grandmother
looking at me closely --
the frown on her face

~ Anne Wairimu

sunny evening --
my grandmother talking
to herself

~ Solomon Kilelu

breezy evening --
my grandmother

~ Wandera David

my grandmother
brushing a toothless mouth--

~ Joseph Kilunda

my grandfather
holding onto my hand --
a slow walk

~ Onesmus

my grandfather
chewing soft vegetables --
his toothless mouth

~ John Mwangi

We also discussed several of the top prizewinners of the kukai, and appreciated the many different views of ageing that have been brought by writers from different countries. The poem that the haijin found most attractive, was :

face in the mirror
a map
of my life

~ Frances McCarthy

More on Ageing in Kenya



After a lunch of bread and milk, during which we relaxed in the pleasant atmosphere of the park and watched the children and the monkeys playing around us, we started into the ginkoo, the event that everyone had been looking forward to.

The idea was this :

We walk around and compose our haiku, writing the first two lines about what we have observed. The third line will, in each case, read :

"this makes me feel happy"
"this makes me feel sad"
"this makes me feel lonely".

We would then come back together and carry out an exercise on the first five prize-winning haiku, replacing the third line with an appropriate kigo.

The idea I wanted to teach, was that a good haiku expresses an emotion -- not by saying "it makes me feel happy / sad / lonely" etc, but by using an appropriate kigo.

But first, we set out to observe, to see and listen, and to compose haiku.


Patrick Wafula wrote about the ginkoo as follows :

Shortly after Isabelle san had issued guidelines and instructions for the Ginkoo, a grasshopper daringly walked across the flipchart on which she had written the guidelines:

a grasshopper
walking across the flipchart --
Arboretum ginkoo

During the ginkoo among the green trees -- it is the start of the long rains here -- I was saddened by one tree near the ginkoo site which was dry and leafless. I walked to the huge trunk and found that termites were busy eating up its roots and building their nest at the base :

eating into its roots --
the dead bunchananii

And then there was the walk and writing haiku among the trees :

the golden blooms
of the cassia tree --
first rains

leaves of the bocare --
first rains

moss growing
on the bark of the pinus --
first rains

monkey playground --
brown carpet of pine

It was the loveliest ginkoo ever; in the heart of nature's abundance of trees and sounds of monkeys, birds, insects and children.


At the end of the Ginkoo, the haijin enjoyed a moment of interaction, telling each other about the participation of the Bamboochas in the Japanese Cultural Week, counting up to ten in Japanese, and having a song and dance session, while the jury selected the prize winners.

Song and dance, and Japanese!

Here they are :

the Caledonian pine
deserted by its needles --
this makes me feel sad

~ Arnold Ambogo

under a tree
two lovers seated --
makes me happy

~ Emily Wanga

staring at the clouds
under a Polynesian tree --
I feel lonely

~ Catherine Maina

kids in red
play and run around
looking happy

~ Beatrice Awuor

down the hill
two monkeys scratching each other --
makes me happy

~ Anne Wairimu

African wisteria
dry, leafless and bent --
it makes me feel sad

~ Margaret Nzilili

cool breeze
coming from the shaking trees --
making me feel happy

~ Sebastian Kimeu

Photo © David Kimani Mwangi

up and down
kids swing on a trunk --
happy mood

~ Loice Wangeci

a troop of monkeys
climbing from tree to tree --
it makes me feel happy

~ Angeline Muthoki

young grasshopper
stuck in the mud --
makes me sad

~ Joan Barasa

Haiku 11 to 20 (in no particular order)

happy afternoon
students watching flowering trees --
I feel happy

~ Abraham Mulwa

with leafless branches --
making me feel sad

~ Khadija Rajab

cold breeze
under rathmannia tree --
I feel happy

~ Wandera David

under a tree
crawling of insects --
this makes me feel lonely

~ Gilbert Livuku

on a bunya bunya tree
black ants moving silently on a path --
makes me feel lonely

~ Hussein Haji

weeping banyan tree
reminds me of a weeping philosopher --
it makes me feel sad

~ Paul Alala

small monkeys
perching across the trees --
I feel happy

~ Onesmus Kyalo

araucariaceae tree
with ugly spread branches --
it makes me feel sad

~ Elphas Libusi

one legged grasshopper
strolling under the bignoniaceae tree --
it makes me feel sad

~ James Mbudi

cheeky monkeys
playing in a bunya pine --
make me feel excited

~ Duncan Omoto

Congratulations to all the prize winners!

Kokeshi doll, won by Emily Wanga



Rain clouds threatened. The Arboretum sent word that they would be closing. Our bus driver was ready, and another matatu had been hired.

Very sadly and reluctantly, we packed up to leave and make our traffic-choked way home, without having concluded the lesson on feelings conveyed by kigo. This will be for another day.

Big thanks to the Patrons (particularly Patrick sensei and Madame Mercy), to Anthony Njoroge (the Master of Entertainment!), to David Kimani (without whom the computer graduates would not be able to communicate with each other), the other teachers and the adult haijin -- all of whom did so much to make it a great day! And the haijin themselves -- the star attractions! Already looking forward to the next kukai...

More photos of the event
© Isabelle Prondzynski and David Kimani Mwangi here :

ALBUM : Arboretum Kukai 29 March 2008

Text and photos
Isabelle Prondzynski (unless otherwise stated)

Related words

***** More on Ageing in Kenya

***** The Haiku Clubs of Nairobi


Back to the Worldkigo Index


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