K24 Day 2(Part II): A Grandmother in Kibera July 11, 2010
I snapped her picture. Leaning over a broom, sweeping the dust, she was beautiful. Aged, full-figured. Wearing soiled white. The camera clicked at just the right moment. And she didn’t like it.
The Swahili flew out of her lips like a child dropping a bowl of marbles. Wyclef laughed and tried to appease her.
“Is she upset?” I asked. “Tell her I’m sorry.”
She wouldn’t stop. Nearby, two ladies watched closely. Marching towards me, her arms pumped and I saw the smile in her eyes, before I saw the grin of her lips. She was ok.
“Tell her I’m sorry.”
Wyclef told her. She spoke to Wyclef, who said to me, “She says ‘when you want to take a picture….’”
“Yes…” I said.
“’You must ask the person first. When they say yes, everything is ok.’”
“Tell her I am sorry. Ask her to forgive me.”
She smiled and went back to her home.
Caleb went to interview her and we prepared to leave.
“Ask if I can take a picture with her,” I told Wyclef.
“With her? You want to take a picture with her?” he asked and from his voice, I could tell that such a thing is rare.
I sat next to her and we smiled. Being so close to her I had to get a good look. Her breasts hung low. How many babies had she nourished? Her skin was gleaming. Does she use cocoa butter? Wisdom twinkled like stars in her eyes and the firmness of her body contrasted the smallness of my own. Who am I to be sitting so close to African beauty in all its wise pomp and circumstance?
“She’s from Nigeria,” Wyclef told her.
“Eh! I am your grandmother!” She said and I fell into the embrace of her arms. Comforted by her softness.
My verbal thanks seemed insufficient.
“I am your grandmother,” she said again in English, nodding her head to punctuate her words. “Tell your mother, your grandmother is here.”
“I’ve been wondering where you were, after all these years, I’ve finally found you.” I said.
Wyclef, Caleb, cameraman, and grandmother laughed. Her hand on the small of my back– it felt like friendship.
Karibu! July 2, 2010
I used to dream about Kenya as a little girl. Lying on my belly, I’d watch the clouds drifting from beyond the ivory lace curtains in my bedroom. Slowly drifting clouds. And I’d wonder if those were the same clouds that children see in Kenya.
In my mind, Kenya evoked excitement and romanticism. And at 13 years old, my idea of romance was sitting in a field of tall grass listening to exotic birds and drinking mango juice. I’d fallen in love with Karen Blixen’s “Out of Africa,” with the lilting guitar riffs and tight harmonies of local musicians, with the beautiful syllables of kiswahili (“hakuna matata”) and with the legacy of Jomo Kenyatta.
I promised myself that I’d go to Kenya and perhaps have a home there. I’ve constructed the home in my mind numerous times. Red in color. Bungalow in shape. Quaint in design. Close to nature.
A decade later, I’m in Kenya. The next three months, I plan to soak up everything: the language, the food, the clothing, the colors of the earth, the smell of the air, everything.
I’m a Nigerian-American in Kenya. You are welcome to share my experiences. Karibu!
For more info about me, visit: www.chika-oduah.com