Karibu Kisumu

My first impression of Kenya was filling out the immigration and customs form in the airport of Nairobi in front of some Indian looking person who somehow had a Kenyan passport and kept coughing in my direction as if he was at the edge of dying from tuberculosis. My first real experience in Kenya was in no way more promising and consisted of getting through the absolutely chaotic immigration process where I kept being moved from one line to the other (always again being placed at the tail end in the new line). After two hours of line swapping I was the third in line to the next immigration officer when some security officer fairly aggressively urged me to move yet again when the nice lady (Mary) in front of me stood up for me and yelled in at her most diplomatic British at him that I had to catch another flight and had been waiting in lines in two hours so that they had to stop changing their mind about which queue was for VISA applicants and which one wasn’t. Before I reached the end of the line I had asked an immigration officer if they accepted VISA who had replied with a hakuna matata expression that they did. He lied. Consequently, right when I thought my line-waiting nightmare was about to end, I had to go back to get money from an ATM. Returning from the ATM with a stack of freshly withdrawn Kenyan shillings, the immigration officer first tried to rip me off asking me for a 1000 shilling more than the correct conversion rate; when I politely disagreed to already start bribing before I even legally entered the country, he changed his mind and only wanted to accept dollars. Luckily when I found the gate to Kisumu I met a nice Frenchman Olivier and an old friendly professor from Kisumu to vent to and restore my positive energy.

Now, two days later, Kenya –or at least Kisumu- has started growing on me.
When I first entered my tiny house without fridge and hot water, questionably smelling sink and bathroom, eternal insect invasion above the sink and a not really two-people sized bed I share with my host mom Edder, I had to swallow my nostalgia to Western comfort away. However, yesterday when I spent the day at the K-MET office –while the Meaghan, Shane and Emily were still somewhere in the air above the ocean – I was brought back to the real reason of why I really came to Kenya in the first place and cold showers or personal space aren’t then all that important anymore. My inspiring day in the office consisted of listening and reading up on how different K-MET programs operated; learned about some of the ins and outs of misoprostol to decrease mortality due to post partum haemorrhages (a leading cause of death in Kenya) for which I edited some program proposals; and shaking hands with about thirty people of the friendly K-MET employees.

Right now I am waiting for Agnes to come pick me up and go with all of us mzungus (white people) to shop, so hopefully I will be able to buy an internet modem and a SIM-card to call (o how I love my 21st century social life). Mainly I am excited to go shopping for two reasons:
a) I will finally get to take a step out of my house (so far I have only commuted between the airport, my house and the office and hence cannot really claim I have really set foot in Kisumu). Plus, I am allergic to doing nothing and am at day two already devouring my second book as going out at night implies certain dangers that go beyond the scary, loudly barking dogs in our court yard (how about that rabies shot again?) Hence I will need to postpone my exploration urges for when Shane is ready to be my body guard to protect me from the dangers inside my house while and for when I have a phone to call the owner of the house to hold off the dogs while I enter the house at night.
b) I hope to get to use the Kiswahili I have learned so far of which the coolest non-standard phrases are probably: “pao kama ndizi” (as cool as a banana) and the Kiswahili translation of my Hindi bargain success line: “mimi ni mzungu, lakini mimi sin mjunga” (I’m white but I’m not stupid).

So far Kisumu and I,
Ludi Achieng
(the last means born in the afternoon in Luo, which is the basis on which they give nicknames in Luo land (aka Kisumu and everything around it)

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