26 March 2009

When the President Comes to Town: The Words

Feeling better, I went about my usual Thursday morning at the Honey Drop with the Masai.  I ate my mandazi, drank chai and went to work.  Sue and I hung out in the office, checked over the books and chatted as the few kids played.  Joy arrived at about 9:30 and sat down.  "The President is coming to town today.  Did you see the people getting ready?"  With that a day that was intended to be relaxing was kicked into gear.  She said that he would be arriving at 11 to speak for a half hour.  With no camera, I dashed home to collect my camera and camcorder to record the events.  Walking over, I called Michael and told him to get off work and get back to town as quickly as possibly.  Five minutes later I was at the SJC and Michael was out of the school. 

Upon my return, Judi was waiting and wanting me to come 

with her to do the financial reports for February.  We had been delayed for a few weeks due to accounting issues but I was finally given the go and she needed it done by the end of today.  Upset at the possibility of missing the occasion, I tried to come up with a way to work around the issue.  Fortunately, Joy offered to give me a ride back after the event.  However, she would call her policeman friend to ask when the President would be arriving.

A phone call and a quick conversation revealed that he would not come until 2pm.  With the chance to do the work early, I rode with Judi back to the compound and worked furiously on the computer to finish up at around 12:30.  Sue had come home in the mean time and returned back to town because the President had taken a helicopter to a town 20km north and would be coming shortly.  Frazzled and concerned, I made sure to complete my work but thought of how mad I would be if I was to miss this day.  As if to make me more nervous, I had to go with Judi to have one of the boards I cut set to be made into a table and then back to the SJC to move all the necessary items into my house before tomorrow's meeting.  I was on edge and doing

 my best to hide it.

By 1:15 we were done and sitting in the house.  A bathroom break and a walk uptown put us at the scene before 1:40.  The hot sun forced the girls to shade and Michael and I to soda refreshments.  Two men were performing, one on a single string violin and the other on a tin pan drum set.  The crowd was multiplying around and we thought it would be worth checking out.  Immediately, the man saw us and began to sing about us being there.  The crowd had a few laughs and more came to see not the performer but the mzungus.  Soon they were all gathered around us as if we were the performers.  Eyes fixed upon our shiny whiteness baking in the sun, made all of us uncomfortable.  We stepped away only to be followed by the two men who wanted to introduce themselves to us.  They are featured first in the video and the man's smile is hard to miss in the pictures.

Drinks completed and the time upon us, we jostled our way to get ready.  The police began to move everyone across the street from where the President would be speaking and kept all off the road.  Being tall we were at an advantage, but we were becoming uncomfortably friendly with our neighbors.  Then it was time to wait.  We waited and waited and waited.  My legs were starting to cramp up.  It felt as if all the blood had run downward and left the top to crisp in UV rays.  

Behind my knees was a filling wrench of solid from the ceasing of flow.  I had to march in place and rock back and forth to keep circulation going and not go crazy.

As we waited, the police lined the street in front.  With all sort of variations on blue, white, green and tan, the soldiers stood and chatted.  There was at least one every yard of pavement from the top of town to the bottom.  The crowd stretched down the tarmac like a fairway for Tiger Woods.  We were lucky to be in the action at the tee box area, but hundreds of yards down people waited with the hopes of catching a glimpse of the president.  Behind, people hung from buildings, stood on bikes, leaned on poles, ascended trees, and huddled under the shade.

One police officer came over to say hello, and pulled me onto the road.  He whispered and said that the female officers found both Michael and I very attractive and he would be glad to pass on our numbers.  I laughed and said we were flattered to hear, but would not be giving up our phone numbers.  I returned back to the masses and waited. 

Being that there is a drought, the dust can be nasty.  Today was windy and the fire department had the solution.  Water the barren soil.  People have empty wells, no drinking water, no water for plants, some are starving, but spray they did.  I saw them do two treatments and Joy saw one earlier this morning.  Water put to good use.  In addition, the President needs a red carpet whenever he goes anywhere.  Only the most regal of accommodations can be had.  Also, the carpet must not be dusty.  So have a young boy dust it every few minutes to prevent the President from getting too much dirt on the bottom of his does.  That would not be good, not at all.

Then, a siren sounded the parade of cars that was to follow as a police motorcycle ripped past.  Shortly after, a few SUV's kicked up dust as a group of black Mercedes Benzs slowed down.  From the second emerged a fat man with a white shirt and no jacket.  He hobbled along, clearly overheated after riding a helicopter and sitting in an air conditioned car.  Not terribly tall, the president looked much like the villain the people here make him out to be.  He was introduced, and spoke for a whole five minutes.  From what I am told he said nothing.  He spoke with a slow Swahili that was both political and age-bearing.  His speech was not careful and he had to check his notes as he spoke.  A few jokes/remarks brought about laughter, but he did not bring forth any feeling of national unity.  For a man who is the President of a country, he was an under-whelming figure.  After he left, it was the Agricultural Minister William Ruto who had greater applause when he simply stopped and rolled down his window.  The people called out his name and cheered. 

Kikaki did not thank the people for coming to see him.  He said he had to go and had to be convinced to speak more.  His response was that he promised nothing and had to go to Kakamega.  So off he went in a hurry to his next destination.  There were no handshakes, all business.  He was attempting to rebuild his image in an area that has not been supportive of his administration and he failed miserably.  His visit left people more angry with him and his actions.