For Ms Nzioki, shiatsu offers a way to consign years of neglect
, isolation and derision
to the past. The reason: she is blind. Her disability carries challenges everywhere, but life in Africa adds the extra burdens of poverty, poor healthcare, uninterested governments and ignorance.
The massage clinic, a narrow plywood
room overlooking the bus station in a small town, offers her the possibility of a career and financial independence. She got her break from the Machakos Technical Institute for the Blind, a school 70km east of Nairobi, which for Ks6,000 (EUR62) a term offers training in knitting, leather-making, carpentry - and shiatsu. It is the first place where Ms Nzioki, who was born blind and lived with her parents until their deaths, felt she belonged.
Providing joby for the blind
Shiatsu training in Machakos is managed by a voluble
Kenyan and a pensive
masseur from Tokyo. Tetsuya Gomi, a 35-year-old, is one of nearly 900 volunteers working in Africa for Jica. Mr Gomi established the school with Catherine Muthengi, as stout as he is slight and as chatty as he is taciturn
Shiatsu, which means "finger pressure", has provided jobs to many blind Japanese - who bring a heightened sense of touch
to the technique - and it is a popular therapy for stressed Tokyo office workers. Mr Gomi wants to make it part of Kenyan culture too.
His first task was to overcome local prejudice
over massage's association with prostitution. "People were making fun, saying it was just the department of touching people's bodies," says Ms Muthengi.
Mr Gomi's response was to pin up posters around town with the slogan: "Come and feel the difference with your clothes on", and he recruited as his first students the 23-year-old Ms Nzioki and her friend Leah Achio, 19.
To inspire them to stay motivated, Ms Muthengi points to the example of their teacher. "Mr Gomi-san is always doing more than he should," she says. "He sacrifices
a lot. It's good discipline. I don't mind it at all."