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

Bicycling into South Sudan’s Independence

by Spencer

It was an epic week. A nation born. The people had a palpable joy – flags fluttering from tree tops, mountains, pickups and people, celebratory honking, singing, fireworks and gunfire. It was a beautiful.

And yet, everywhere was the evidence that South Sudan isn’t truly a nation. It’s landlocked with barely a paved road. Less than 5% graduate from primary school. Tribalism rules, many do not speak a common language. The central government is weak.

There was an air of violence. It’s hard to articulate. You just felt it. I’d look at a guy and he’d look back without expression, stone cold. And then you wonder, where does that go?

In South Sudan, you see how far we’ve come. You see what it means to be a nation. And how very important that struggle is, to do the necessary maintenance, to remain one, indivisible.

Here’s photos of South Sudan’s Independence, of Nimule and the first national soccer game in Juba. An incredible experience, from being threatened by bandits, to the nonexistent infrastructure contrasted to the mass joy of the people.

edited 1/1/2015

Africa = Wild West??

by Spencer

Africa = Wild West??

Bicycling through Africa, excluding the big cities, I can easily imagine myself in a classic Western film. The land is dusty, sun omnipresent, buildings stout, industry absent, law more a suggestion and at every turn there’s the palpable sense of both opportunity and danger. The highway is littered with the hulking remains of automobiles stripped to the frame. Subsistence farmers with goat powered carts trot along as a 2011 BMW whizzes by. The highway is sparse, uninterrupted but for potholes and the few occasional cows.