Kisumu!!! We start off at 9 in the morning at a leisurely pace. There is Boniface, Martin (the man in charge of nutrition and advising the community on balanced diets at the Foundation) and the gentleman driver. Less than 15 minutes out of Kakamega, we are stopped by the police. They ask for lunch money, or some bottled water – not because anything is amiss but because apparently this is what happens when Ma or Papa Witaba are in the car. This time around they are out of luck. Martin points out to me the police accommodation. He tells me that although they look okay from outside (they don’t to me), they are pretty bad inside with two or three members of the police force and their families sharing one two-bedroomed unit. Then on our right he points to me some prisoners in stripped gear. ‘It’s even worse for Prison Authorities. They are seriously underpaid and the state accommodation they have are huts.’ Whaaat? So the abuse of folks working in prisons might be a universal African thing then? In Kisumu, there are still some very vivid signs of the post election violence that rocked this country after the 2007 elections. I get a photograph of a hotel that I hear was quite top-notch but was brunt down for belonging to a man from the wrong tribe. Then I am told that a building I am admiring was finished just recently as the original building was razed to the ground. I start questioning why, in light of such horror some renowned local politicians still continue using the type of fractious language they have been quoted saying on the news. Elections are in 2012…will this country I am very affectionate towards avoid a repeat of 2007?
Kisumu is beautiful, wide roads like those in Bulawayo sans the potholes so its tragic when one hears what happened in 2007 or worse – witnesses the result (I am by no means advocating that violence only takes place in only ugly places. Rather that it not take place anywhere at all).
On a less serious note, we stop in town so I can ask in a bookstore whether the managers might know how I can trace Asenath. I know. It sounds crazy. But what am I to do? I have failed dismally to get hold of her via telephone – either it rings incessantly or I hear a recording ‘the number you have dialled is temporarily out of service.’ The bookstore manager knows Asenath’s son but doesn’t know her or even that she is a writer – yet another case of prophets never being appreciated in their own town. We get to the shores of Lake Victoria where there are tons of zinc restaurants that offer to make the fish for you – kwaMereki chaiko. We select one but I am deeply disappointed when I walk right through and realise that I cannot enjoy the Lake because it is full of that horrible hyacinth weed. I shrug my shoulders and decide not to let that destroy my enjoyment of Kisumu.
While the fish is being prepared, I get greedy and order a dried one to snack on. The result of this is that when the fish is prepared, I am no longer able to eat it – too full. And it looked very good too with sukuma on top. Eish!
When we were leaving, I spotted next to us, a Mandela Restaurant. Ja neh?
A tuk-tuk trip to the other side of the lake where the hyacinth wasn’t so bad ensured I went on a boat ride. The other two members were not keen but Martin was game. Not only did I spot quite a few people brewing changa’a (a local toxic brew equivalent to Barberton I hear) but I also saw a hippo that kept popping out and swimming but would disappear the moment I pointed my lens at it. This hippo was less than a 100 metres from the shore where some children were bathing so with concern I asked the boat operator, ‘but won’t something happen to the children?’ and he responded lightly, ‘don’t worry madam. The hippos here are friendly.’ Awww-kay!
We leave Kisumu for Kakamega using the Busia route, primarily because I want to have a book cover moment..and I have it. Certainly I am better looking than Sihle Khumalo on the cover of Heart of Africa and I am in a neighbouring country and not Uganda but I am certain I got the sunglasses almost right.
The heat has got to me so although it has been less than 2hrs ride back and forth, I am exhausted when I return and head straight to bed. Tomorrow I have the toughest and most enjoyable part of the assignment yet…I get to talk to the Lit students at MMUST. I am looking forward.