Dreams of My President’s Father

by Spencer

Truly, it’s amazing. The father to most powerful person in the world grew up in a hut on the other side of the world. Who would’ve thought? From here? Kogelo, Kenya?

Barack Obama still has family in Kogelo, namely his grandmother, Sarah Hussein Obama. By American standards she is his step grandmother, but by Kenyan tradition she is his grandmother. She raised his father. After his undergrad, when Barack Obama went to Kenya, it was her home in Kogelo he visited.

Her home is like that of many grandmothers, decorated with the grandkids’ achievements. In this case, senatorial and presidential campaign advertisements. Most are signed by the President, with a note addressed to Granny Sarah.

I had the honor of briefly speaking to her, through a family member who helps out, translating and organizing her business. I asked to what she attributed Barack’s success. She replied that it is a great thing, so great it can only be attributed to God’s hands. She said that he has much work left. There is not yet peace on earth. She hoped that during his presidency we would all become better at living with one another.

Obama’s grandma – she keeps it real.

Her life, and the village’s, has changed dramatically. A couple months back Al Qaeda said they were going to assassinate her. The Kenyan government built a police station to protect her. The primary and secondary school are named after Barack Obama. The road is getting paved. They’re building a welcome center for the President’s impending visit.

updated 1/1/2015

Cycling Southern Kenya

by Spencer

I was cycling along and whaddya know but ahead of me was a tractor. A tractor! I hadn’t seen a tractor in months. Wow! A tractor!!! Kenya had all sorts of golden nuggets: Paved country roads, food that was more than starch and mangy meat, decent English comprehension, even buildings ten stories high. Kenya has had a stable (if autocratic) market orientated government (kind-of) since independence. You see that.

Though, buildings are largely in disrepair, the roads are potholed and youth are abundantly unemployed. Lake Victoria is tragic. There used to be ferries that went to Uganda and Tanzania. Today it’s carcinogenic. I camped in a dilapidated lakeside hotel, comfortable with a cold beer in a cushy chair. An Indian businessman told me, “All the fish are gone. It’s pathetic – these people don’t even care.” And there’s little else to do but sit back, enjoy and await the next racist comment.

edited 1/1/2015

Note: Eldoret is the home of Kenyan Olympian marathon runners and there’s a neat dirt track you can check out. Early mornings, you see folks running. It reminds me of home.

Across a Desert: Kenya’s Northern Fronteir

by Spencer

From South Sudan, we traveled east, into Kenya. The border town is Lokichogio, nicknamed Loki. When things were at their worst in Sudan, the United Nations and dozens of NGOs were headquartered there to disseminate food, shelter and medical aid. Loki’s airport was said to be busier than Nairobi’s. It’s an ironic sad story, to Loki, peace brought an economic catastrophe. Most of the NGOs have left. The airport takes in but a couple flights.