Hey guys! Ceci, Keke, Emily (and Emily) here ready to you about our trip to Kisumu! This was a new component to replace the Mombasa component, which was canceled due to security concerns along the coast. Kisumu is in the west of Kenya and is the third largest city in the country; it’s on the shores of Lake Victoria so much of the economy is based on fishing and is largely populated by the Luo people.
Our journey took about 8 hours and much of it was on very underdeveloped (AKA bumpy) roads. The area of Kisumu is one of the more historically underdeveloped regions in the nation because of its’ adherence to the opposition party. We arrived at the St. Anna’s Guest House (hostel) a little before dinner time and were eager to relax after a long day of travel. Compared to our luxurious stay in the Amboseli region the previous week, St. Anna’s was modest at best.
The following day we met up with African Studies Department Chair Matt Carotentuto’s friend Henry, who assisted us as the Kisumu component coordinator for the week. Henry is Matt’s host brother and boasted about Matt being more of a Luo than him many times. We proceeded to Dunga Beach on Lake Victoria, which is the second largest freshwater lake in the world and the source of the Nile. Here, we had the opportunity to interview local fishermen and fish traders about challenges they face in their industry such as exploitation, HIV/AIDS and the Fish For Sex industry.
Afterwards we ventured into the city for some Java lunch (our favorite) and Henry gave us a little tour where we could do some shopping. We noticed that Kisumu was slightly underdeveloped than Nairobi, again due to their historical lack of funding and resources. We were also aware of it’s less globalized state as several people tried to take our pictures on the sly. We were often greeted with, “How are you-ni?” which is a mixture of English and Swahili.
The following morning we boarded the bus once again to visit the historical site of Kit Mikayi which is considered a sacred location for the Luo. Kit Mikayi also known as “The First Wife’s Rock,” is a large, rather obscure, rock formation which serves as a holy place for the Luo. We met with members of the Council of Elders and they gave us a tour of the different “caves” formed by the rocks. They explained to us the sacrificial areas on the rock, and although we were assured a sacrifice (of an animal) hadn’t happened in many years, a few of us had the pleasure of standing next to some fresh… remains. Traditional Luo beliefs maintain that the ritual of sacrifice is thought to bring rain “to the world.” One might say that they, literally, “bless the rains of Africa”
Sinnary got a little feisty in our Q&A session with the elders and wanted to know why they believed they were held in opposition for governmental positions. They asserted it was due to the amount of corruption present within the government and how officials didn’t want it to come to an end (which would be done by an elected Luo). They also told us how they believe Luo’s are known to be very trustworthy, honest and clever.
Later that night some of us decided we wanted to experience a night on the town in Kisumu as compared to Nairobi. We went to a French (which turned out to be a more Italian) restaurant, the Mon Mai. Afterwards we went out to a nearly empty club, which just so happened to have a karaoke night, and quickly began to be known and referred to as, “The Americans.” After a few horrible renditions of our favorite songs, we headed back to the St. Anna’s Hostel.
Around 5:30 am the next morning, we were awoken by a Catholic mass going on in the neighboring “TV room.” That morning we attended a guest lecture, who was a member of the Council of Elders, and also happened to be Henry’s father. After he gave us a brief history on the Luo people and culture, we ventured off to meet with two more groups, educated Luo men and educated Luo women. They provided us with more insight, offering different perspectives, on Luo politics, culture, gender and fishing. After that we had a free afternoon because our other guest lecturer had to unfortunately cancel and we decided to use the time to make a last trip into the city of Kisumu. Some of us went and bought fabric while others enjoyed time in the air-conditioned upper scale mall. When the rainy-season skies began to look ominous, a few of us decided to use the preferred form of local transportation to return to our designated meeting area, the tuktuk – a small cart with three wheels. Later that night a bunch of us got together for the favorite game of, “Cards Against Humanity” which was further enhanced by multiple power outages.
The next morning we awoke to another early morning service and were eager to set out for our final destination, the Kembo Camp in Nakuru. We were once again afforded the luxury of top-notch accommodations where groups of four got to spend the night in unique yet beautiful houses. That afternoon a few of us got to visit the local community development organization which was devoted towards the empowerment of women via knitting projects; through the processing, harvesting, spinning, dyeing, knitting, and selling the group employs over 300 women in the area. The group proceeded to get a tour of the ranch the camp was on where we got to spend some quality time with the horses. The next morning we were all eager to return to our comfortable and familiar home in Karen, and were looking forward to being able to spend the next two weeks in the place we’ve come to call “home.”