A Kenyan man and his American wife have opened up about their decision to move from the US to live and raise their children in a village in Meru County.
George Limiri from Kibirichi village in Meru moved to the US in 2005 as a student at the University of Georgia and was trying to find ways to make ends meet after completing his studies when he met his wife Mekenze Limiri in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2012. At the time, George was trying his hand in business, running a music record label.
“We met through a mutual friend. George was looking for a vocalist and this friend told me about it. I grew up singing, so when I heard of the opportunity, I was all in,” Mekenze told Nation in a recent interview.
The two worked on a number of music projects and they quickly became friends before their friendship blossomed into a romantic relationship that culminated in a wedding in Utah towards the end of 2012.
“We fell in love and decided to tie the knot even though I hadn’t met his family back in Kenya,” says Mekenze.
In 2016, the couple came to Kenya to visit George’s family for the first time since he left the country more than 10 years earlier.
“George had been away from home for over a decade and it was quite a reunion. We stayed for six weeks before returning to the US,” she said.
During their six-week stay in Kenya, the two toured many parts including the mountainous areas in Meru and the famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve. It was during these expeditions that the idea of starting a tour company occurred to them.
“We realized there were people in our networks and family who would love to experience the game drives and beauty of Kenya. So, we developed the idea into a tour company and named it Limiri Travels. We registered the business, got a van for the safaris and launched the company. It is one of our income sources to date,” Mekenze said.
She admits that her brief visit to Kenya in 2016 triggered the couple’s desire to relocate here permanently.
“I fell in love with the country, it was nothing like what I grew up seeing in the media. It was my first time to visit Africa as well. I was amazed to see how productive and beautiful the country was. It was during this visit that I began toying with the idea of moving to Kenya permanently,” she said.
In 2019, the couple and their two kids decided to come to Kenya for a year with the intention of testing the waters before making the big decision to settle down permanently.
“Raising our children in the US was great. We lived close to my family and got to see them a lot. However, as the children got older and more active, we figured it would be best to introduce them to a different environment, one that allowed them to stay outdoors for longer and explore their curiosity. Having visited Kenya, and specifically Meru, I knew it would be the best environment for them,” explains Mekenze.
“Visiting a place is very different from staying long enough to experience everyday life. However, there was nothing to worry about as Meru already felt like our second home. Still, there were a few challenges like adjusting to a new diet, especially for the kids. And also new ways of cooking. Till now, I can’t slaughter a chicken or watch it being processed. It would ruin my appetite or make me go vegan. Fortunately, George is the primary chef of our family and his cooking is way better than mine.”
The family was still in Meru when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Kenya and other parts of the world at the beginning of 2020. With the uncertainties that followed the onset of the pandemic, they rushed back to the US.
By this time, the couple had made a decision to relocate to Kenya and they began building their own home in Meru while still in the US. George often traveled to Kenya to supervise the construction.
Their house was completed towards the end of 2021 and in March this year, the family moved in, this time for good.
“As soon as we settled into our new home in Kenya, I began making short videos to keep my family updated on how we were all settling in. A few videos in, I thought of starting a YouTube channel which I named Mekenze in Kenya. I still upload videos on that channel. I never expected to get such a warm reception online and I am grateful for my viewers and subscribers. The channel is a creative outlet for me,” she said.
George and Mekenze chose to home-school their three children—Lukas, Nkirote and Liam—as they are keen to spend a lot of time with them. They learn core school subjects including Math, Language, Science, History and Art.
“We have always wanted to ensure our children thrive in all areas. Back in the US, my parents and family were very supportive of the idea of home-schooling. Here, the concept was initially unclear to George’s family. They kept wondering when we would enroll the children to regular school. Eventually, they came around after seeing that the children were learning well at home,” shares Mekenze.
George is a passionate farmer and keeps pigs, sheep, goats and poultry as well as growing vegetables and fruits. Most of their food is sourced from their farm.
“We have beehives and harvest honey for sale. We also keep goats, sheep, pigs and chicken. I followed in the steps of my grandma who was a successful farmer. I am happy to see my children doing chores around the farm. I am glad we got the chance to come back to Kenya, it was something I always hoped for back when I was living in the US,” George says.
Mekenze says: “Truth is, it can be hard to be away from family. Like I mentioned, my family in the US is particularly close. But we have found a way to bridge that gap thanks to frequent video messages and calls. We are all excited for my mum to come and visit later this year. Other family members will visit for sure too, next year.”