Sometime last December I was travelling to Alego Siaya for my friend’s graduation party. She graduated from Moi University in Eldoret, yet the celebration was in another continent altogether. Ujaluao haijamuua bado. We however had to make a stop in Kisumu and sleep over. Her brother is a cool kid who cannot do the whole trip in one go. Such a diva he is. Not particularly. He just has diva tendencies.

We got to Kisumu a little later than expected. That’s a lie. We arrived in Kisumu at a time we didn’t really care to expect.

We got lost around Naivasha. We started the journey with a guy who kept calling me Rose. Because my surname is Muhando, I have to be Rose Muhando. Such a prick. Anyway we should have stopped him before we started since he had confusion written all over him, but did we? We were experimenting. Don’t worry, after getting lost at least five times around the same area, we know better now. Experiments are for the laboratory and chemistry classes.

So we get to Kisumu. It’s close to dark now. Nature loves us. We get to see the amazing sunset. Its an amazing salutation. You want to wave goodbye to the beauty that is a slowly disappearing disk of brightness. It gets to a dim shade of yellow, spreads calm and delicate reddish around the skies close by. Then it gets golden and falls off the sky completely. Like a picture frame from a wall.

The city centre is not as chaotic as Nairobi. That was a welcome relief. It’s not as quiet either. But we didn’t expect serenity in a town that is alive every beat of the heart. For all you know, fish mongering is a full time 24 hour business. Min Achieng’ shouting at Min Amondi not to serve the next customer because she looked at wuon Achieng lugubriously.

Make no mistake. Every Kisumu resident reads the dictionary before bed.

Heavy vocabulary is of utmost prudence here. But they will go about their business and not notice you. We are looking for accommodation but that thing about kuku mgeni is haunting us. We keep circling some roundabout near Aga Khan until it gets suspicious.

“Omera where is this thing trying to go”, a strange fellow asks pointing at our fielder using all his fingers. I felt hurt.

Would he point with such disgust if it was a Mercedes? Was his palm necessary? He belittled our ride and it hurt so bad that it wasn’t even ours. “We are trying to get accommodation but I seem to have forgotten where the hotel is in this darkness”. The driver gave him the name and he clicked so hard I thought his tongue malfunctioned. He stood legs wide apart, his right hand on his waist and his left giving directions. Pointing all over the place as if he was joining dots to get us there. I paid no attention because I am as good at taking directions as a fish is at living on land.

We get to our hotel. All of us are already full from the heavy meal we enjoyed in Nakuru, so we gather for a glass of cold fresh juice at the lobby. The service came with such hostility it felt like Guantanamo bay. The big body waitress was horrible. Standing at about 5”4, dark skin (we are in Kisumu after all), stunted hair (I know roots on a head when I see them) sausage fingers, a bosom for ages and very brief legs. After her peeping waist it’s just over. She was mean but the juice was amazing so ignoring her ill manners was easy. We went to bed exhausted and the next thing I remember is it was morning. It felt like Kisumu has 22 hours or something less than 24.

As we were about to leave without breakfast, for fear of being tortured at a fee, the manager came to have a word with us.

I wasn’t having it and neither was the rest of the crew. We left in a huff. So dramatic but rightly so. I was convinced Kisumu people are just a boorish lot who point at your car with an entire hand, serve you with insurmountable hostility and invite authority to clean up. That was my experience after all. I was wrong. I couldn’t be more wrong. A few kilometers into our departure from Kisumu, we had car issues. We had the knowhow but along with a diva who couldn’t go under the car, myself: a clueless automobile lover, another oblivious girl travelling with us and the driver. I could have sworn I felt my heart in my pinky toe when he said he couldn’t fix the f issue. I’m not a coward per se but having car trouble in an area completely cut off from civilization with thick forest vegetation on both sides of the road is not a situation that brings out cowardice. It shakes you. Especially if you watch too much TV like myself.

Two young lads emerge from the bushes. Out of nowhere. Literally. It didn’t help that they both had on black Gor t-shirts and one an additional black jersey. Why couldn’t it be green? I start to prepare everything I would be surrendering. I saved my chewing gum. That shit is expensive. I was a little shocked when they asked what the problem was in that bulging Luo accent. The driver looked at them as if they were gods in yebo yebo sandals.

One of the jersey wearing lad takes it off and lies on his back as if he was sent on assignment.

I relax the grip on my handbag and I can tell the other girl doesn’t feel like peeing anymore. The men just put on brave face but I could tell they were shitting their pants seconds ago. In a matter of minutes the car was ready. Nobody spoke to the other until the commandeering mechanic got up from under the car. We said thank you profusely and waited for the price.

The two lads started for the bushes as if they had just walked by us. Like they did not just go through the trouble of fixing a strange crowds car. The driver rushed to them and pressed something in their hands. They resisted, he insisted and they caved. They looked back and waved goodbye at us. Then like the sun that had greeted our entrance to Kisumu, they disappeared slowly into the bushes.

We got to Asembo earlier than expected and it was because of the generosity of young men who did not expect anything in return.

I wasn’t born, raised and bred in Kisumu. But if this is what they strive to be to strangers, I want Kisumu as my home and its people as my people 🙂

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