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I’ve traveled the world,

Soared, sailed, trekked, biked, driven…I have.

I’ve traveled the galaxies,

Loved, hurt, broken, wounded, scarred, indebted, promised, cherished…I have.

I’ve seen you,

Oh, you who chose to stay when everyone including me, left.

Woman in White Dress
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How is it that you smile given what you’ve been through?

How is it that in your scars dwell more light than in mine?

How is it that you who has been shattered dare comfort me, without hurting me?

How?

You smile, oh, Beauty, and say…”I have been through it all, will still endure some more, but the one place I’ve learned to make habitable is my home. I carry my essence, my being, everywhere I go, so no matter what comes my way…I’m always home.”

Sometimes in life you eat sweet potatoes

It’s good to be back home in the city by the lakeside! Kisumu is beautiful and full of surprises but I still get that small town girl feeling whenever I return.

The hairdresser under the tree is still there. She comes and spreads her mat on the ground, positions her bench and waits for clients who need their hair braided. The shopkeeper is also there and he opens and closes his shop as he pleases. Then, there is the barber who always listens to Kiss 100- so I am treated to replays of songs! And who can forget the cobbler who comes to work wearing white linen pants and goes back home without a smear or dirt, polish or glue on his pants! (Goals, I tell you!)

However, I have been unwell since I came home. Mom insists that it is Malaria and my doctor confirms it with a dosage of nasty medicine that I am supposed to swallow within a period of eight hours!

So, with the heat and the medicine I have been doing nothing much aside from reading and staying away from the kitchen but something happened that made me get up and drag my feet to this computer, some bit of gossip if you please.

 Mom bought sweet potatoes.

You see, these big sweet potatoes that when cooked they are all white and powdery!

I love sweet potatoes.

We were having sweet potatoes with tea at four yesterday evening when suddenly the piece I had in my mouth seemed to be working against me. I felt my eyes bulge out and nothing made sense or eased the pain, not even the gulps of ginger tea I was taking- and for a split second it felt like that piece of sweet potato would be the death of me!

Mom just sat there laughing! They were laughing so hard that tears filled their eyes and they couldn’t stop. When I composed myself, and glared at mom, she said “Jawuoro!”

Now, allow me to welcome you into my native language-Dholuo. See, there are certain words that can be used to tease or jest or simply insult someone but they have never really been meant as such. Take that word up there! Jawuoro…it’s just, aargh!

I was dying (or it felt like it) and mom chose that precise moment to call me a “Glutton!”

Now, isn’t that sending a dagger to my Luo heart? That piece of sweet potato was stuck like it was a fat cat sitting in my spot reluctant to move. Have you ever tried to move a fat cat off your seat or better yet, have you ever tried pushing a donkey from behind? Ghai!

And I couldn’t help but remember that you have not valued your life until you are choked by two kinds of food: sweet potatoes and pumpkins a.k.a ‘budho”

My Day so far.

So, hello I am seated in a restaurant in Homabay typing this post in between light and dark.
In between you say? Yes, when the lights go out and they come back in a span of five minutes, that’s what I call a flicker.
I traveled to Homabay County on Sunday for work related duties and it’s been a great joy working with the people here, and I also realized that I could travel for an hour on a motorcycle within the same division like it’s no big deal.
The man ferrying me was stopped by policemen near a stream by the road. The police woman asked him for her due.
She was a short beautiful lady with a sweet voice ( it’s true, I liked her voice) and she said, “Nipe ile uko nayo kama ya soda.” (Give me what you have even if it could buy a soda)
And the man carrying me insisted that he had none because he had to drop me and get his pay.
The police insisted, “Ni sawa nipe hata ya maji, hiyo tu uko nayo.” (It’s fine, but give me at least to buy water, just the little that you have)
He gave her forty shillings and she let us proceed.
After that I went to meet some senior officials and found myself in between them and someone who refused to obey their order, and I had to sit back and look at my finger nails. Have you ever been in a room where suited up men get angry in a flash?
Words were exchanged, insults and threats delivered but in the end the one who was junior had to submit to authority and I had clean fingernails.
But, when you have had a crazy day and you miss home what do you do?
Take a stroll and take pictures of the scenery and in Homabay it’s the Lake Victoria.

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Memories in pictures

I’ll tell you about what stumped me the most while I was home after a very long time.
First, it was the church.
The St. Peter’s Church where we used to attend the first service every Sunday morning during the Christmas holidays. We would sit on wooden benches or the floor depending on how full the church was and listen to Reverend Walter’s sermon.

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The main entrance of the church

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I also took pictures of the home like I knew it, but it’s been years since anything made it feel like home. The cow shed is gone, the passion fruit tree withered away and in place of the open entrance there’s a gate.

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Fashion, Drama, Hangovers, Food and Grief at a Funeral.

My great-grandmother was laid to rest this past Saturday, in what might have seemed more like a play or let’s say many acts in one scene. We left the house at eight with my sister and nephew and headed for the bus stop where we boarded “Nyangoye Senior.” It’s this big blue forty eight seater bus that plies that route. There was a big placard on the dashboard that read “Kisumu- Uyoma-Luanda/Ferry.”

Our destination was Uyoma, and “Kilo/Chianda,” to be precise.

We let my nephew pick the seats and just like the five year old adventurer in him, he chose the seats next to the driver. The bus took ten minutes at the stage then took off for the petrol station. A woman seated right behind me got into an argument with the driver and tout because the vehicle was taking too long to leave the stage. She kept telling them that she had a funeral to attend, and did not want to be late. The tout shouted back at her, “Was I the one who killed the one you are going to bury? If you wanted to arrive there early you should have traveled yesterday! You can get off and board another vehicle if you are in such a hurry.” It took another ten minutes as the attendants filled the tank and we moved to the next station because they needed some air for the wheels. I have never operated those, but if they work like bicycle pumps, then ours took forever to get done! I kept my eye on the pressure indicated in the machine but all I could see were numbers that did not resonate with me.

We took off and I leaned in my seat glad because the road was smooth. I even had this feeling that we’d be home by noon. But, I had gotten ahead of myself like I always do and forgotten that this was public transportation. They stopped wherever they could and passengers only alighted at the bus stop. It took us a while but we got home safe.

But, it was finally stepping on the ground and watching the bus drive away that I was reminded of where I was. I was home. I was finally at my Father’s home. I rarely visit home, but I knew every turn and how to get to my ancestral home and my feet led the way.

When we got home, we looked for our mom for we had bought some supplies for her: Juice and Ice Cold water mostly, yeah and a tab of yoghurt.

But as we made our way around the tents I could not help but wonder how much of a festivity funerals had become. I have only attended one funeral that sucked the life out of me and that was eighteen years ago when we laid our dad to rest. I remember choking on my grief and the worst part was looking at the homestead after he’d been buried. What was left standing were the chairs and tents, and it’s been just me, my mom and sister since then.

My great-grandmother was famous for one thing,  she loved cigarettes. She would scold us for buying her sugar and forgetting to buy at least a cigarette for her. She’d lived long enough to see 86 grandchildren, 200 great grandchildren and 100 great great grandchildren. I remember her crying out to God to take her life the last time I saw her because her peers and siblings had died and left her.

But the highlight of the funeral to me was the people. You see all kinds of people at the funeral, it’s more like a market but strictly like a classroom. There are the people who sit quietly and follow the programme. They listen to the sermon, eulogies, testimonies and sing along to the hymns. They stand when they are told and sit when they should.

There are also the watchers. Yes, these are the people who come from nearby places and they just come to watch how many cars and people showed up for the funeral. In most cases, these include children who collect the water bottles in between seats and who chase the dogs away while they nibble on pieces of meat. They always have so much stories to tell of the family and the people who are bereaved, if only you’d listen to them.

There are the people from diaspora. I’ll split this category into two; the family and the entourage.

The family from diaspora are those who live in the cities and who make rare appearances. In other words they only come home when they have to, and you’ll walk around wondering where your cousin Henry went to- thinking you’ll see the skinny boy who could climb mango trees or outrun the neighbors whenever he stole mandazis from their tables or guavas from their farms. Instead you will see a tall, dark and well built man with a light skinned woman by his side and a kid hugging his right leg. He’ll tell you she’s his girlfriend and the kid is his son who has turned four. You’ll step back and shift your weight from one leg to the other and only manage to say, “long time! How’ve you been, lakini?”

Then there’s the entourage from diaspora, these are the friends of some of the family members who come home in cars. They are self sufficient holding their own Keringet Water bottles and wearing the best sunglasses that mask either their hangovers or their fabulosity! Pick one. They are the life of the party, and the villagers would look at them wondering, “magi to oya kanye?” (Where are these clowns from?) But, they don’t care, they take wonderful selfies with their Samsung Tablets and fill Instagram with #funeralthings #life #ochamanenos #friendsforlife. But, before you dismiss them, know that they drove for twelve hours and they kept sharing jokes and drinks and doing their best to cheer up their friend.

Then, my favorite are the women and the shoes. I am more of a tee-shirt and jeans kinda girl when it comes to a funeral, but most people now wear black.

I love my black and wear it to work or when I’m doing my favorite things: buying stationery, buying novels and hanging out at Java. Most people seem to wear it to funerals, but for me I do not like to mix my grief with discomfort especially given the crazy heat that’s experienced this side of the world.

Going back to what I was saying, you realize that people wear shoes and the old women are taking to doll shoes and leaving the Ngoma’s to the young and restless youth who flaunt their pouts for selfies. But as you notice these things, you cannot help but be reminded of how fickle life is, for what is there will be taken and you cannot help but wonder why your mind is making you feel such deep stuff and you suddenly say to yourself, “Where’s the food? I’m hungry.”

And…the story continues tomorrow