My Kingdom for a Key

For over a year now, we have had but one key for our apartment, despite the fact that we have two doors with locks. One has one key, the other has no keys. It's been a recurrent minor convenience, but shocking that it hasn't been a bigger deal. However, what with our upcoming familial expansion, we are moving upstairs to a larger apartment (Thanks Alyssa and Heather!), and the new occupants will require more than one copy of a key.

Yesterday, we took our friend Jeff, a visiting family practice doc from Ann Arbor, to the town of Kericho, one hour away, to see the vast tea plantations and have lunch. As an aside, here's a current family photo from the Tea Hotel.

After lunch, Jeff and I dropped Maggie and Rachel off at the grocery store, and Jeff and I headed out to get some copies made of our lone key. We had gotten the inside scoop that the best place was "Kipsigis Traders Ltd", which we thankfully found without too much difficulty.

Inside, I told them I was looking to get copies of this key made. They looked at it, and asked if it had a number on it. It did not. They shook their heads doubtfully, and said that maybe, if I could find the number somewhere, they could special order copies from Nairobi. Apparently our keys are too old to get copies made. In Kenya. Which is quite remarkable, really.

I think the gentleman at the counter read the exasperation on my face. His eyes seemed to dart back and forth before saying "You could always get one of the fundi." I didn't know that word, though I had vague recollections that Al Pacino used it in the second Godfather. "They cut keys?" "Yes. There are several just here in Kericho. You could go out, turn right, and then right again, on the bad road. There is one near the Old Sunshine Hotel."

Having no other options, and convinced that key-cutting can't be a totally contraband activity here in our fair Kenya, Jeff and I headed out in search of the aforementioned bad road (which usually just means dirt road) and the fundi who plies his trade by the Old Sunshine Hotel. Well, it wasn't far down the road, before we found the following little kiosk (of sorts).

A close up view. We looked around, and on the opposite of the bad road was a guy sitting in a broken down wooden chair. He appeared interested in us, so I asked him if he knew how we could get 2 copies of this key made. He said yes, he could do it in just a couple of minutes while we waited. We settled on 500 shillings for the job, and he offered us the rickety chair, as I handed him the key. He took it, and promptly bolted down the road, and out of sight.

Jeff and I looked at each other, and immediately proceeded to try and reassure each other. "He has no motive to steal my key, right?" "Right. He has no reason to take your key." "OK, because, you know, that's the only key we have." "Yeah, don't worry," he says with just a little less reassurance than I would like. "I mean, his little stand is right here." "Yeah, but it's probably like a satellite operation for somewhere else in town." "Yeah, right..." And on it went.

So we took turns sitting in the rickety chair, and greeting the passerbys. Every few minutes, we would return to the topic. "I mean, he did say fundi with kind of a weird intonation, didn't he?" "Hmm, weird that he would try to order keys if there was a legit key-maker just behind his shop..." But about 10 minutes later, the same guy came running down the dirt road. He went straight to his blue kiosk, and pulled out a rusty can, and subsequently dumped out a pile of rusty keys. I was a bit more worried, until he pulled out my new keys from his pocket, then searched through the rusty pile for a little keyring to put the keys on. The package complete, the money changed hands, and we thanked the fundi for his service. In triumph, we returned to the grocery store, and even better, upon arrival back at Tenwek, we found that the keys did indeed work.


Anonymous said...

Did you ask around for a better translation of fundi? Congrats on the new keys! Nana

Anonymous said...

Another great Kenyan experience! Thank you for sharing. JMcC

afreakforjc said...

Fricking awesome signage. Excellent shadowing on the keys and locks.

Anonymous said...

Eric, you are so funny!

Mike said...

hahaha..very funny- was actually curious to see if he would return with the key!
so fundi is a kiswahili word for tradesman/ skilled artisan/ or any person with some technical expertise

Abbs said...

How much will you give me to NOT bring that adorable little girl of yours home with me when I come to visit?!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your soon to be expanded family...
A2 friend