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The Main Event

August 6, 2012

Our actual purpose in going to Kenya was to meet family. No, not to see the donkeys or to re-live those glory days from my Peace Corps days, but so that my almost 8-year-old could meet her other grandparents, aunts, and cousins. I mean, it was time, right?

That said, I was stressed about it. While I was pretty confident that the family would be happy to see us (no, I had not told them–we have no communication), I was very concerned about actually getting there. They probably live 80 kilometers from Kisumu, but I didn’t have an exact plan for getting there. The information I did have was: a knowledge of the name of the closest town, the name of the market that is 1-2 km from their home, the name of the “village” (in quotation marks because there is no actual infrastructure–it is just a clan) and the name of the grandfather. That should be enough to find a home, right? Beyond not knowing exactly where I was going, I still had my kids and all our luggage to lug around. I hate that.

I asked for some advice from staff at the hotel (the location of the vehicles for that route, the price to expect, etc) and they rallied around us. Through our trip, people became attached to my kids and this staff became very invested in my kids and our trip. They REALLY liked the idea that we were there to visit family and repeatedly referred to them as “our” kids. When I said I was going to walk to the stage, they balked and insisted on summoning a tuk-tuk for us. Lucky for my kids–tuk-tuks quickly became their favorite form of transportation.

This tuk-tuk was supposed to take us to the stage, but the driver pitched to me that he could take us all the way. It would be more expensive than a matatu, sure, but I was blinded by the idea that he could take us through Ugunja (the town we needed to pass through), which seemed preferable to unloading from a vehicle there and then scrambling for our next transportation. I hate Ugunja. I REALLY hate Ugunja when I’m carrying around three duffle bags of treasure. I accepted the tuk-tuk driver’s offer.

Which was kind of crazy, even for me.

3 hours later, we were outside the closest market to where the grandparents home, asking around to see if anyone knew the grandfather. Some people didn’t. Another woman assured me that he was dead. Very dead. She was sure. Finally, I remembered that I had a phone number for the grandmother–since I didn’t have a phone, the number was fairly useless, but my tuk-tuk driver was very eager to be rid of us at that point, and he called and ascertained that she would walk to the market to get us. He off-loaded our stuff. Amos immediately started distributing hot wheels (except the helicopter–he needed verification he could keep that one) so we made LOTS of friends quickly. A man told me he knew how to get where we were going and could take us. He suggested we put the luggage on motorcycles (the current version of the bicycle taxis of yesteryear). The boys balked at walking and the Lily balked at riding a motorcycle, so she and I walked and the boys had the ride of their lives.

Since I was walking, I missed the actual arrival. But the grandparents were very happy to see us when we got there, and the boys had already made themselves at home in the mere 5 minutes they beat us. We were invited to each house on the compound* where we prayed. At each house. And then we were taken down to my house. Where we prayed.

I had never seen “my” house before–last time I was a here, a house Odhiambo had built for himself was in this spot. It was relatively spacious with three rooms, but totally unfurnished. Still, we were happy to be there.
Here is a picture of the kids inside, the plastic chairs are borrowed.

It’s pretty fancy: it has cement floors, and everything. The lizards were NOT happy to be dethroned, but I needed to establish some boundaries: humans rule. Not geckos, not spiders, not roaches. Me: I’m the boss. It’s a full-time job.

I had to get busy cleaning out the house, hanging mosquito nets, and trying to get the house in a little bit of order before nightfall. Nightfall is swift and regular, right after 7. After that, you can’t see well enough to do anything of worth. I blame Kenya for my very very strong propensity to shut down at sundown and do nothing productive afterwards. That may work OK on the equator, but it can be a real liability when the sun goes down around 4 pm!

Anyway, that day, I was hustling while the kids were making friends, sharing toys, and spouting total gibberish, at least, that’s what it sounded like to their cousins.

Here is Amos, still high on his new Gameboy (from Aunt Meg), show his grandfather.

Eventually, someone provided water for us to bathe, some foam mattresses arrived from Ugunja, and that was a wrap for that day. Hallelujah.


*A compound is interchangeable with home. A home is a man’s land which may have many (small) houses one it. Typically, he will have a house, each wife would have a house, and any of his sons who had reached maturity could have a house on the home. Many of the houses would also have a separate kitchen.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Abbey permalink
    September 3, 2012 9:46 pm

    Wowowow. Didn’t know that it was just a show-up sort of situation. Fascinating.

  2. Deborah Pulley permalink
    September 4, 2012 10:16 pm

    I’m so happy to see the houses.

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