By Mangoa Mosota
Jackie Adams*** gyrated her curvy hips in a sexy motion that resembled a fertility dance. The young woman from New York was among the multi-racial throng that celebrated Barack Obama’s inauguration at Kogelo village in Siaya.
The 30-year-old tourist had more on her mind than the change of guard at her country’s highest office many thousands of kilometres away.
A day before Obama was declared the winner of the presidential election on November 4 last year, the communications consultant met a man on a visit to Kogelo who could change her life in significant ways. Her new boyfriend is an accountant in Kisumu and like Obama’s father, hails from Siaya.
To Jackie, there is magic and infinity possibility in that connection.
She was not the only person drawn to Kogelo last week by a desire some are hesitant to put into words. At Nyangoma Kogelo Primary School, where the inauguration was screened live on huge TV screens, many relationships were born between local young men and foreign women that could provide ‘new beginnings’ of a kind not contemplated by the new US President when he coined his now famous political credo.
From discussions with some of the foreign women, Crazy Monday gathered that some were drawn to the village by the dream of a union with a local man that might result in a ‘wonder child’ a la Obama.
Jackie, for instance, admits that the thought may have crossed her mind although the matter of a child has not yet been settled with her new boyfriend. "Let’s wait and see how it goes," she smiles. "Perhaps before the end of the year we might have a baby." For now, she would prefer to keep her boyfriend’s identity and their plans close to her chest.
Another white woman, who only gave her name as Faith, said she was not interested in a serious relationship with "Obama’s relatives".
"Most African men do not like settling down to marriage," she said. "That’s why I have only had two flings in Kisumu. In fact one of the men told me he comes from Kogelo," says the 26-year-old journalist from the US.
Faith was more forthright about the purpose of her flings. She engaged in the fleeting relationships with the sole aim of conceiving, she confessed. "Children born to black and white parents are fantastic!" she quipped.
It is suspected that such unions did take place on Tuesday at Nyangoma Kogelo Primary School and its environs. In some cases, darkness provided the perfect cover. For instance, one white woman was spotted stripping her clothes and moments later, she was transported to another world with a local man.
The two seemed oblivious that some people were aware of their unusual celebration of Obama’s inauguration.
"Jameni, dunia imegeuka. Kweli hawa wasichana wazungu wamependa vijana wetu (The world has really changed. These white women like our men very much)," an elderly local woman was heard to remark in astonishment.
At the Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground in Kisumu as in Kogelo, incidents were witnessed of men and women letting down more than their hair. "Maybe those white women wanted to ensure that they left the country with something to tell their countrymen about," a man who claims to have witnessed a few liaisons speculated.
The interest was two-way, however. Some local people could be seen frantically taking down the contacts of the white men and women, perhaps with the hope of establishing long-term friendships.
Crazy Monday established that some Kenyan men travelled to Kogelo with the express aim of hooking up with tourists who attended the feat.
One man told us that he achieved remarkable success with a female tourist. "She liked me as I was able to give her lot of information about Kenya. For this I got $200 (Sh16, 000)," he says.
As love was blossoming, some shrewd locals were cashing in on the ‘Obamamania’ in other ways. Some set up ‘hotels’ in the school’s classrooms.
There were about 10 makeshift eateries that operated for about a week with names like ‘Mama Sister Hotel’, ‘Karidi Hotel’ and ‘Connie Nya Siaya Hotel’.
They offered tea and mandazi, chapati, ugali and matumbo (tripe), fish, beef and traditional vegetables.
An excited Miriam Odhiambo says she made about Sh10,000 for the four days she operated an eatery, serving traditional vegetables, saga and ugali.
She barely slept for the days she operated the business. "Haya ni mahajabu. Sijawahi fahamu kuwa biashara ya mkahawa ni nzuri hivyo. Ni siku gani tena tutakuwa na watu wengi (This is a miracle. I never knew that the restaurant business was this good. When will we again witness an event with so many visitors)?" she exclaims.
Odhiambo, a mother of five, sells vegetables at the nearby Nyangoma market and now plans to set up a proper restaurant.
The businesswoman says she recruited two casuals to assist in running the brisk business, and over 300 guests including foreigners were served.
When the face of Sarah Obama, the president’s grandmother, appeared on the screen in Kogelo the crowd went wild.
In Kogelo and Kisumu, the US flag was aflutter everywhere, with bicycle taxi operators sporting miniature flags on their machines.
Women ululated and screamed when Obama rose to make his inaugural speech. "Huyu ni kijana wetu. Tuko na furaha tele (This is our son. We are overwhelmed with happiness)," said an elderly woman.
Her words were drowned by deafening screams when Obama mentioned the "small village where my father was born."
Some tourists, sporting T-shorts emblazoned with Obama’s name, seemed even more elated than locals, and many watched as they danced animatedly.
At one point, there was near disaster as some who claimed to be more conversant with matters tried to sing the US national anthem along with Obama. After mumbling a few inaudible words, they gave up.
On the giant TV screens, viewers were able to identify local people present at the US Capitol, including Obama’s ‘granny’ Sarah, brother Malik and stepmother Kezia.
Strenuous demands to the organisers to have the faces of Kenyan ministers such as Anyang’ Nyong’o and Moses Wetangula appear on screen.
Not surprisingly, the organisers were unable to oblige.
The ministers attended the inauguration without official invitation. As a result they might probably have followed the proceedings from their hotel rooms.
In the wee hours of the inauguration day, word went round that some striking teachers from Siaya were planning to disrupt the celebrations.
Police lined the roads leading to the village to ensure the event was not disrupted.
A local comedy group, Big Tyme Comedians, staged a mock inauguration in Kisumu.
The man selected to be an Obama look-alike, Joseph Orwa, caused a stir when residents caught a glimpse of him, so closely did he resemble the President. Some people were fooled.
"Huyu ni Obama mwenyewe. Amekuja kutoka America (This is Obama himself come from the US)," a woman told another as they joined the crowd following the convoy.
During the US Presidential election on November 4, the comedians organised a mock election in Kisumu.
In the polls, Obama overwhelming beat his rival, Republican John McCain
At the Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground, an elderly man argued that Obama, the 44th President of the US, has achieved godly status.
"It is God, Jesus Christ, Obama and then the Pope. It is obvious that Obama is more powerful than the Pope," Jameck Otieno blasphemed.
In many a house in Kisumu pictures of Obama and his wife Michelle have been pinned on walls, some using thorns.
Meanwhile, Kogelo, which not long ago was a sleepy village that few beyond the locality had heard about, has witnessed an astonishing transformation over the last two months.
Electricity was supplied in less than a week after Obama won the US poll.
Roads in the village have been rehabilitated and a Sh5 million water project is being implemented in earnest.
The vigour with which various Government departments are working to bring basic amenities to the area has demonstrated that Vision 2030 is not a pipedream.
All this has prompted a local sage to conclude: "If another Kenyan village hopes to see this kind of transformations, it must thrive to produce a president for South Africa or a Prime Minister for Britain."
Towards this end, tourism of the kind lately witnessed in Kisumu and Kogelo would not hurt.