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Woman in viral video on equator phenomenon speaks

 Ann Keter speaks five foreign languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, and French in addition to Swahili and English. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard][

As the sun peeks out from behind the clouds, painting the Equator area in Mogotio, Baringo County with a golden hue, Ann Keter diligently tends to her collection of woodcarvings within the cosy confines of her curio shop.

The walls are adorned with a stunning array of sculptures depicting the vibrant wildlife and cultural heritage of the people around, each piece telling a story of its own.

 Ann Keter at her Curio shop at Equator area in Mogotio, Baringo county on April 4, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

"Welcome to Mogotio Equator Point," Ann greets us warmly, her hands cradling a well-carved elephant.

Beside her shop stands a brightly painted monument marking the Equator line, the main attraction in this area. Visitors from far and wide flock here to take photos and witness the fascinating phenomena that occur at this unique geographical location.

Ann's expertise was captured in a viral video while explaining the natural phenomenon along the Equator to a Chinese tourist. She said she didn’t even notice she was trending.

"A few days ago in the evening hours, my colleagues here had gone home because of the rains, and I was also about to close. A man came here with a tourist from China, and they wanted me to guide them through the Equator and explain to them, so I did it, and they left after spending a few minutes here," she recalls.

Hours later she said she received calls informing her she was all over social media. It took the effort of her in-laws to come and show her the video for her to see.

"I didn’t know I was trending because I don’t have a smartphone," she said.

 Ann Keter demonstrates the phenomena surrounding the Equator, distinguishing between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres to tourists in Mogotio, Baringo County, on April 4, 2024. [ Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Ann understands five foreign languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, and French, in addition to Swahili and English.

The basic communication skills like greetings and counting money, she says, are crucial for welcoming and interacting with tourists from diverse backgrounds. Tourists visiting the area she said taught her the basics.

Ann's journey has been far from easy. Coming from a humble background she said she faced significant challenges after her parents passed away following her completion of high school education at Kabimoi High School in 2002.

Despite the challenges, she pursued short courses in secretarial and computer studies.

"We, along with my siblings, were left under the care of our relatives. I stayed with my grandmother, who is now 97 years old. Unable to secure a job, I resorted to manual labour and eventually worked as a shopkeeper to support my siblings' education," she recounts.

Later, after getting married, Ann found herself responsible for both her siblings and her own family. Fortunately, a relative helped her secure a space to sell artefacts and ornaments at the Mogotio Equator. This opportunity led her to become a member of the Mogotio Equator Curio Self-Help Group, consisting mostly of women, which was established in 2004.

"Our self-help group, of which I am now the secretary, operates collectively, engaging in various income-generating activities and applying for loans. When I conduct such a demonstration, the earnings primarily benefit the group, if I get Sh500 I only take home Sh100. We are sacrificing individually for the collective good of the group's growth and sustainability," she explains.

Looking ahead, Ann envisions expansion and collaboration to enhance the attractiveness of the Equator Point and its surrounding attractions.

"We call for support from the Ministry of Tourism and the county government to uplift businessmen and women in the tourism sector. Proper marketing of the county's attractions is very important for global awareness and visitor expectations," she emphasizes.

During the interview with The Standard, a tour van pulls up and halts near the Equator line, just outside Ann's shop.

Two tourists alight, expressing their desire to meet Ann after stumbling on a viral video showcasing her expertise explaining the mysteries of the Equator to a Chinese visitor.

"Good afternoon, it's a pleasure to meet you," Ann responds, picking up a jug, a bowl with a central small hole, and a small piece of stick, simple yet powerful tools featured in the viral video.

She then guides her guests a few meters northwards from the Equator mark. Confidently she illustrates the differences between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, capturing the attention of her visitors with every detailed explanation.

She skilfully poured water into the bowl and carefully placed the stick inside to demonstrate the phenomena that occur at different points along the Equator.

"Observe the clockwise rotation of the stick as water flows out of the bowl and back into the jug through the central hole. In the Northern Hemisphere, water displays a consistent clockwise motion,” she explained.

She then directs her visitors towards the south. Repeat the same experiment on the southern side of the Equator line, this time the stick rotates anticlockwise. Along the equator, the stick remains still.

The visitors thanked her for the elaborate explanation and demonstration and handed her a few notes as they bid her farewell, promising to return at a later time.

A short while later, another car arrives, carrying two ladies and a man eager to learn from Ann after seeing the viral video.

 Rebecca Likami, a local tourist, during an interview at Equator point in Mogotio, Baringo County, on April 4, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Rebecca Likami who described herself as a local tourist said together with her aunt and cousin they had travelled from Eldoret, driving through Kabarnet to take in the scenic beauty of the area. Their journey was hindered by heavy fog, and when they attempted to access Lake Baringo, they encountered a flooded river on the way and decided to turn back.

They found solace in visiting the Equator and capturing some memorable photos.

 Purity Kipsabul, a member of the Equator Curio Self-Help Group during an interview at Equator Point in Mogotio, Baringo County, on April 4, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Purity Kipsabul, another member of the Equator Curio Self-Help Group, echoes the need for effective marketing strategies to boost tourism in Baringo County.

"Baringo County holds immense potential as a tourist destination, with rich cultural heritage and breath-taking scenery. We urge the county leadership, including Governor Benjamin Cheboi and President William Ruto, to strategically enhance the tourism sector," Purity urges.

She passionately calls upon President William Ruto to visit the Equator and witness the extraordinary efforts they are making first-hand.

Purity emphasizes the crucial need for empowerment to catalyse the transformation of Baringo into a vibrant tourist destination.  

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