It’s a hot Sunday afternoon and a procession of dapper churchgoers are making their way home through the potholed streets of Thika. Like those bad dreams where you find yourself clinging to the edge of a mysteriously steepening slope, Thika sits on a slum-covered hillside, leading down to a valley that produces pineapples, coffee and an unimaginable stench every 2 or 3 days. After a few hasty decisions made in the huddle, we find ourselves here, at the tips of the
Three things dominate the news here in
The parable, though, would be incomplete without resolution and a lesson. Thus, the third, and most significant story in
Our names changed overnight from “Mzungu” (white guy) and “Johnny” (same) to “Obama”. Shoes for sale on the street became “Obama Shoes”. Fish yanked out of
“Yay Capitalism!” - Austin Powers.
Now we bring you back LIVE! To
Kisumu is the third largest city in
The bus ride snaked along Rift Valley cliff roads and through police spike strips –laid every 20km to create drug traffic inspection points – for about 8 hrs. We listened to Dark Side of The Moon on the ipod jack splitter. We arrived at 3am and reluctantly got into a taxi with a driver as tired as we were, in a totally foreign place. He drove us to the hotel after taking an actual short-cut through some dodgy-looking alleyways. I picked my head up from rummaging my backpack for my knife (like an idiot) when we were parked safely in front of our hotel.
In the morning, we walked into town and met a very friendly, young insurance salesman named “Wycliff” who was heading down to the fishermen’s wharf for some lunch. He insisted we join him. I had the pleasure of watching Anneliese swallow her better judgment and actually attack a juicy, stinking tilapia (eyeballs, fins, bones and scales still intact) with her bare hands. Wycliff showed us how to use mashed corn as a utensil-bowl-swap thing. So hectic. We only wish we had brought the immodium with us.
In Kisumu, the events taking place in
We all watched together, the odd Americans and the Luo people of Kisumu (members of Obama’s ancestral tribe), and for those minutes we were not hassled or singled-out or reminded at all that we were foreign. We were watching history take place and our imaginations were running wild. The strange new lack of anger and contempt I felt when watching this new American president speak, the wonderfully surreal images of Cheney wheeled out of his fortress, hunched over and broken, and the Bushes jettisoned away for one last free ride to Crawford…the word is glee. I imagine the sensations were probably very similar to what the Kenyans around us were feeling. Obama symbolizes so starkly a real leader – that by some magic trick seems to be raised from everyone’s own stock, both Kenyan and American, black and white, past and future. It overwhelmed the skeptic in me.
It felt very obvious that everyone watching wanted only to believe that a world like the one he described is possible. The waving of the American flags in this far away place, the dancing, the screaming joy, amidst all the despair ravaging this part of the world, is something remarkable: citizens without borders, hinting at a coming paradigm shift, taking place under the same old laws of “power perceived is power achieved”. For once, this truism may be put to use as the stuff of revolution.
The new “power perceived” was tangible in that audience in Kisumu, in