Saturday, September 12, 2015

Kisumu: Mixed affluence and poverty

As you drop to Kisumu along the Kakamega-Kisumu highway, grotesque rocks of the Maragoli hills and an oppressive warmth of Kisumu County conspire to give you a warm welcome.

The expansive view of the  sea gives you a break from the tongue-twisters of Luhya names like Shamakhokho.

The warmth of the Luo people complements the oppressive lake side
heat. I am seated next to a young Luo woman who is going to 'dala'(home). The Luo people are known for their characteristic swag.
We strike a cordial conversation after exchanging greetings.

"What do you do for a living?" I ask her.

"I am a fish farmer", she says confidently.

I ask her where she gets market for her fish. She goes on to explain
how her business spans as far as Eldoret, Nairobi and even Mombasa! I
am torn between believing what this suave girl is telling me and the
fact that I had a feeling that this was a well-crafted tale.

It is time to part. We alight and bid each other warm bye. I step out
into the tumult of the Kisumu bus stage. A sea of humanity is gathered
here. The air is suffocating. Human sweat  and foul air combine to
assault our nostrils in the most unpleasant of ways.

Motorcycles ridden by seemingly manic 'Okoda men' zoom past in
neck-breaking speeds. It is only  God who can save the people of Kisumu from this murderers on wheels.

The tragedy of motorcycles is manifested in Kisumu. The County
government seems to have lost the fight to control the numerous riders who have jammed the city.

The suffocation of the city  by humanity coupled with the dirty eating joints dotted along the streets can turn any hard stomach in-out.

Yet despite all this chaotic  display by Kisumu, one cannot fail to note the boom in the construction industry in the region. New houses are being put up virtually everywhere. A number of roads leading in and out of the town. Notable is the massive Airport bypass that rivals the Thika superhighway.

As you check into your room, the incessant whirr of the mosquitoes
disturb your peace. The Kisumu mosquitoes are as precise as the US drones searching for Al shaabab militants. When they accidentally find
you, they drill into your flesh with the meanness of Arab oil merchants who have recieved a new order from their Western masters!

Fish is a King's meal here. The Luo people will be offended if you refuse to eat fish when they welcome you to their homes.

The red ball of the receding sun will jolt you from your reverie. It is time to retire into the comfort of your little hotel 'dala'.

You will not miss the characteristic Luo swag as you head to your hotel. A young Luo man is holding  the latest i-gadget against his ears. The phone is five times larger than his ears! It conjurs in me the image of a man holding a dinner plate against his ears! But as
they say here, do I say? The cardinal rule here is that if you must own a phone, it should be large enough to be visible!
Benga music rocks in Kisumu. Every joint worth its name must belt Benga tunes to soothe the spirits of the eccentric Luo men and women. You will occasionally hear Jaguar lamenting from a street music shop.
  Indeed, Kisumu city is a hotbed of vibrancy. As they say, Luo is not a tribe, but a lifestye. I now understand why being Luo is a responsibility.

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