A chat with the world’s most famous grandma
Posted Friday, February 20 2009 at 13:22
We dash from Lake Victoria Safari Village to make it to the ferry that runs like clockwork between Mbita and Luanda Kotieno on the shores of Lake Victoria.
Even a five-minute delay can mean a three-hour wait.
The ferry crossing is always the highlight of the journey, for the lake is beautiful, studded with tiny islets and edged by massifs of the Gembe and Gwassi, Homa Bay and Kendu Bay. We also watch out for hippos and the rich profusion of birds.
We dock at Luanda Kotieno and we’re on our way to visit the world’s most famous grandma, Mama Sarah Obama in the now famous Kogelo village.
Kogelo is only an hour’s drive from Luanda Kotieno and just a small detour on our way to Kisumu.
It’s the opportune time to visit the ancestral home of President Barack Obama of the United States of America.
We turn in at Ndori on the Kisumu-Bondo road, where the sign for the school named after the then Senator is. Perhaps another school will be built and called President Barack Obama, or maybe the current school will be renamed.
The tarmac ends at Ndori, from where a fine murram road leads us through local homesteads, farms and the school with its name painted bold: Senator Barack Obama Secondary School.
There’s no need to ask for directions because every time we stop to do that, someone points it out even before we ask; obviously, the route to the Obama homestead has become very popular.
We cross the bridge over the heavy flow of the Yala River, which empties its waters into Lake Victoria.
An inscription on the bridge reads “PWD 1930”. It seems as if that was the last time any major investment in infrastructure was made here by the public works department.
It is said that at the turn of the 20th Century, the slave traders broke their journey on the banks of the river and cried out to Allah for delivering them to water, hence the name, Yala.
A sign points to Mwisho Hotel, meaning we’re on track and the right turn will lead us to Mama Sarah’s, Obama’s step-grandmother, who raised the American president’s father.
Even without any signpost to say that it’s the presidential ancestral home, we guess that it is for who in the midst of such rural setting would have military tents and guards at the gate? We’ve arrived.
We look through the high fence of slim metal bars into the Obama homestead.
It’s simple and unpretentious – a green lawn dotted with three small, single-story buildings, a few chickens running around, tall mango trees spreading their shade in front of the main house and a vegetable garden on the side.
A group of people is seated under the shade of the mango trees in front of the main house; one is a woman in red.
We guess she is Mama Sarah. The security guards at the gate ask why we’re there.