Turkana

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The sun turns everything into a crisp. The leaves recoil in horror at the heat. Even the wind blowing through this withered tableau provides no relief; just gusts of hot air and dust. The air is both heavy and musky. Under your shirt, you feel a bead of sweat make its way down your spine. There are no birds in the sky. The grass, or what’s left of it, lethargic strands spiking out from the hot ground, give the landscape a malnourished look, like the Christian Louboutin Canada look worn by the kids that now rise from this gritty montage; willowy and bony with glassy eyes that refuse to blink. Trailing behind these children is a large crowd of men and women, garbed in reds, browns, yellows and blues, shukas slung across their bony shoulders. Struggling at the end are old women, shuffling slowly, shoulders bowed, but with heads that refuse to bow, their breasts shriveled up empty bags that lie flat against their dry chests.

This is Turkana, a place called Longe’Christian Louboutin outlet elup. Folk here are resilient. Like this crowd of  Turkana who have walked over five kilometers to witness a small – but important – chapter of their children’s future. Six classrooms Louboutin outlet and twenty four latrines built by Safaricom are being opened at this school at Loreng’elup. We take washrooms for granted, but out there if you need to go, it will have to be in the thicket. A snake might bite your ass. A blade of dry grass might poke your ass (which, I realize may be a turn on for some people).

Here children are used to having their classes under trees, in this heat, on just one meal a day. And you think hardship is sitting in a traffic jam? So today is a big deal. The parents, grandparents and elders are here to witness something huge. There is dance and song. Ululation. Dancing feet stomp the ground feverishly. Dust rises in the air. Under a small tent sits the important people. The politicians. The representatives from Safaricom. The community elders. They sip warm soda and squint at this dusty production. Journalists like vultures, hover around. The TV cameramen have it particularly rough, lugging around heavy equipment, making sure they don’t miss a shot. We, the writers, sit under the tents trying not to dream of ice-cold beers.

The speeches are painful. But there is protocol to be followed. The villagers want to say something. Most of them. They want a hospital and a new dam and a fence and better roads and a new mast for network, and food. They mostly want food. The big kahuna from Safaricom nods. Here Safaricom is the government. Or they see it as the government. The speeches drag on. The Turkana speak like they are quarreling. They gesticulate wildly. They shout. They throw their hands in the air. They pause dramatically for effect and stare at the ground as if they are trying to recall an important point. Sometimes the crowd breaks into song. Or they grunt in unison, which sounds like a rumble. But this is not a speech, Giuseppe Zanotti Shoes it’s a conversation. Often the speaker will ask one of the village elders or the area politician a direct question, which he will answer. Sometimes someone from the tent will pose a question which the speaker will answer. Then they might launch into a brief discussion. The crowd, crouching or sitting on the ekicholong, nod or moan in agreement, or burst into laughter. When they laugh nothing looks that desperate anymore.

Later when the ribbon has been cut, the women have danced and the pictures have been taken, I find myself clutching a small forest of microphones before a politician so a TV reporter can take notes. Doesn’t make sense, why take notes when you will watch the footage again? But this is TV; it’s a different animal. As I hold these microphones, she keeps whispering that I’m holding them too low and her cameraman is hissing behind me that I’m holding them too high, or that I’m moving into the shot; which I am because the world needs to see my forehead too.

The politician is talking about what he has done for the community. How he has the interests of the community at heart. I want to snort and I’m trying not to roll my eyes, because it’s heartbreaking how they get away with all this talk. It’s tragic how we constantly give them a platform to sell us down the river. After this he will go and stand with his mates under a tree, as a whole crowd of villagers with raised cheeks mill about, expectantly waiting for his handouts, which his people will duly hand out, after his big land cruisers have snaked out of the school which he will have immediately forgotten about as soon as his air conditioner kicks in. It’s such royal bullshit.

It’s easy to go to Turkana with the noble intentions of finding positive stories about the people. Sure their regalia is cheerful and their traditional dance is stirring but the desperation still http://www.elleno.ca/ elbows its way through everything. It’s so hard to get past those hollow looks and their sinking situation.

Turkana Women

What do you do after you have seen these faces of desperation? You need escape; you need to seek assurance that it’s not all that bad. So you look for a drink. But it’s Lodwar, where do you go to in Lodwar? You can either go to Sharpa pub…(the “r” is a weed) or you go to Youngster club. Sharpa is like what Java would have looked like in 1975; a hall, but with a deejay deck and a small dance floor with echoing music. A 6’5’’ chap with one hand tries to sell me weed at the entrance. He picked me out from the group of five. I feel greatly flattered. We don’t stay. We leave for Youngsters; maybe there we will reclaim our youth.

Youngster club has an entrance charge because it’s the hottest club in Lodwar. You pay 200bob and a rubberstamp is slapped on your wrist. The inside is dark with flashy lights. It’s called Youngster for a reason; the young chaps drink elsewhere and rock up at midnight when it’s cooler outside. It’s a rectangular space that plunges two-meters in the middle to form a dance-floor. It looks like an old Roman arena where lions would maul hapless chaps for entertainment.

Everybody is dark in the club. Light chicks, like Kate, from Ogilvy look like florescent tube lights in the darkness. Chaps wander around with beers poking out of their back pockets. The girls of Lodwar are out tonight, and they remind me of Kalenjin women. I don’t know why, but they do.

A bottle of Johnnie Walker lands on our table and someone cracks it open. There are no whisky glasses, just water glasses. Don’t even ask for ice-cubes, you might end up offending someone. The waitress is this foul long-faced lady with a colored fringe clutching at a pair of large scissors. I ask her what the scissors are for and – I swear – she says, “ ya kutaharisha watu.” I cheka. I don’t suppose she read . I pour my drink and before I take my first sip I lean over to Njoki Chege and tell her, “Look, you can’t write about today should this night go to the dogs.” Besides, she doesn’t drink and drinking with people who don’t drink is disconcerting. She gives me that look like I have insulted her, “Of course I can’t.” We slowly start working our way down that bottle until the small hours of the evening when the shadows of Lodwar have resigned.

But those women and men of Lodwar stay in my head the whole time. They are ghosts in my head. Ghosts of desperation.

 

[Photo credit: Charles Kinyanjui]

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26 Comments
  1. The Turkana speak like they are quarreling. They gesticulate wildly. They shout. They throw their hands in the air. They pause dramatically for effect and stare at the ground as if they are trying to recall an important point.

  2. “I’m moving into the shot; which I am because the world needs to see my forehead too.” Mmmmh! Then came this one “I ask her what the scissors are for and – I swear – she says, “ ya kutaharisha watu.” I swear she killed it. When you visit such places atleast you remember congratulate God for having directed your parents to settle in other arable parts of the country. Nice piece of art Jackson atleast you went, saw, conquered and came back with a story to write home about.

  3. A 6’5’’ chap with one hand tries to sell me weed at the entrance. He picked me out from the group of five…. hilarious!

    Nice one, but when will all those resources in Turkana come to be?

  4. Vivid…’a snake might bite your ass’. Don’t doubt that. But aren’t 24 latrines too many for one school? Great read Biko, as always.

    1. I echo your thoughts..versus the number of classrooms that were opened, yes, twenty four latrines seem quite a number. Well, not unless the whole village will also be using them!

  5. Nice one as always…what story with men spotting socks and sandals in Turkana, sure Biko has a story about that 🙂

  6. . A blade of dry grass might poke your ass (which, I realize may be a turn on for some people). rib cracking piece Biko as always

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  7. Hell hats off for this nigga,painting pictures with words impeccably.But Biko let me whine,blog more frequently.I waited for this so much,will you?

  8. Everybody is dark in the club. Light chicks, like Kate, from Ogilvy look like florescent tube lights in the darkness…hahaha. You should have found something shiny for your forehead too. May I ask, are you sure the real Johnnie Walker bottles find their way to such far flung places? The heat may have confused your tastes, and that was………. oloured Meakins.

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  9. I was in Lodwar town late last year, gosh you just described Youngsters exactly as it is. You took me down memory lane. Nice read as always

  10. Nice piece. By the way Biko, I noted that you keep on mentioning your forehead. You must sure be loving it. I should get a shot of it LOL. Seems like yours is a special kind 😀

  11. and all of us like the politician, will offer our ‘royal bullshit’. Unless of course this school can ‘donate’ a classroom to the children of Longe’elup. Headmaster, will you collect the cash? Naomba number ya MPESA. Bibi and I will raise 3bags of simiti.

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  12. “Royal Bullshit” Nice one! Well painted description of Lodwar. Did those guyz vote the new constitution? Really they are not in Kenya for all intents and purposes, which is sad anyway

  13. Great piece…hope the school latrines will start a culture in the community that can help eradicate open defecation…having the structures is one thing, usage is another thing altogether….in many ways, we are still some way off in owning our sh*t…..(including the royal bullshit)…

  14. I am happy that women with heads that refuse to bow – proud and held high; shriveled breasts??? (ouch), dark skinned… reminds you of us, Kalenjin women, actually I like the first part only without the breasts part…..