My journey to Muhoroni...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Luos don´t kill. Blackberries grow on trees

Mtwala is classics. A hill that is covered with various types of huts, gardens divided by green fences. Many trees.
A shortcut leads through the river. As it have been raining a lot in the past days we decided for a longer route. We typically look for families using the name of the father or the information about how far they are from the source of water – the river.

We inspect the first house that we come across.  A cabin made of clay with a tin roof. The earthen floor is decorated in an interesting way – as if you rake the sand on a playground. There are different  pictures hanging on the walls and an old man is just closing his Bible.
People know each other in Mtwala. This is not Shauri yako. The way of life is more traditional here.  
A youngster from the first house became our guide. He finished the primary school, sent out letters for high schools, got his results from the national final exam and is waiting to see if he gets a response. He managed to earn 340 out of 400 points. A very good result. He has a chance to enter the best high schools in Kenya. He dreams about a school in Nairobi. Slumdog millionaire?
We are walking up, passing the green fences. After my last experience in Shauri yako Solo draws my attention to the improvements. Muddy pathways were very reasonably covered with leaves. When you know that, you can read the country. Without words. The house that is directed at the gate is the house of the father. The house to the right hand is the house of his first son. I also saw a one-year-old Lina sitting under the tree – alone. Her mother was far away in the field. 11-year-old Otieno is the boss now making tea for his younger siblings. There were cows inside the fencing. They will go grazinh when the frogs leave. Those can be deadly for a cow.
In two years Otieno will probably have to leave the house. He can´t sleep in one room with his mother. And there is usually only one room in each house.

They can afford building a little house of clay for him. That does not have to be possible in the city. Slums around Nairobi don´t have the space capacity for such traditions. Boys can easily end up on the street.
Luo names for boys usually start with O (Otieno, Onyango, Omondi, Ouma), girls´ names with A (Atieno, Anyango, Amondi, Akinyi). They also decide for the names according to the time of the delivery.
Atieno means night. I adopted this Luo name. 
The next visit leads to Atieno. His mother Marion lives with her mother, sister and daughter. So the positioning of the houses is different. There is a big tree in front of the house and it bears fruit that tastes similar to our blackberries.
While I am watching the mother preparing milk for her child in the kitchen, the boys outside discuss the differences in their languages. Not every Luo is the same. „Yen“ in common Luo means a tree, and „yat“ means medicine. In the other Luo it´s quite the contrary – „yen“ is medicine and „yat“ is a tree. I remarked that „yen“ is „strom“ in Slovak, just to keep the conversation. Or „yat“?
The last family was not Luo but Maragoli. It is a small tribe that lives at the Maragoli hill in the west of Kenya. They were talking in Swahili. While shaking hands I noticed that they were supporting their right hand with the left one. We were welcomed by the grandfather. Our mother introduced herself as a „co-wife“. Solo spoke most of the time and I let him. I understood intuitively that the man needs to speak to the man and the woman is silent. Then I joined the mother walking to the house. She showed me all of her things, the dishes. Older siblings were following us with curiousity. Little Chrispus looked as if he was afraid that I might kidnap him.
The family earns money by making wicker baskets that are placed upside down to make shelter for little chicks.

Supporting your right hand with the left one while greeting someone is a sign of respect to the other person – not a sign of exhaustion or problems with the hand as I thought first. It is a Luo tradition that this family adopted.
Luos do not kill, they burn. I found it out on the way home. They are afraid to shed the blood because the believe that their whole family could be cursed because of that. Instead they burn the things that they consider important for their enemies – their matatu, field, house, garden.
During tribal fights in 2007 when Luos and Kukuyu were fighting each other Luos were burning whatever came to their hands. But they have friends among the tribe of Kalenjin that get out of control and do not mind killing people. Maybe Luos do not kill in this area but I don´t know about the area around Eldoret...

On the way we encountered three Muhoroni policemen with automatic guns. When I greeted one of them with Luo greeting, he despised me. They were standing by the main road stopping the cars. The policemen are modern beggars. They stand by the road and the drivers throw the money at their feet. A matatu drove by. A head stuck out, then a hand. The car slowed down and the head looked at the policemen. The car was gone. In a while the policeman picked something from the ground. This is „bribery live“. If the policemen were not fed by the appropriate sum their further journey might not be very smooth. They would find a problem even in a flawless matatu. (Not mentioning the fact that there is no flawless matatu...)

The journey back lasted four hours on foot and I was rewarded by a burnt neck.

Yesterday I prepared Slovak potato griddlecakes for my Irish visitors. They were happy to find out that they would have Irish traditional food for dinner. It seems that we have more in common with the Irish than we think.

1 comment:

  1. Of course Luos don’t kill, but they do burn stuff every once in a decade when they cannot take it anymore. What I am saying is that us Luos we let kikuyu live and thrive among us. I dare you to go to central Kikuyu land and find me a Luo business owner , resident, farmer or even School teacher. Try even Kibakis Mungiki ridden home town. They were run out of town in the 1960s. As a testament to our tolerance in Kisumu Asians own all the big business since 1900s and we rarely bother them. Asians were run out of central province in 1950s. All Kenyans are tribalists deep down. Tribes look down on each other openly. Kikuyu are thieves (healthy supply of bank robbers, car jackers, lousy road builders), Luos are boastful, brash and so convinced of their personal greatness (Obama anyone), Luhya (e.g. Maragolis) are glutton who think with their stomachs first(thus their votes can be bought like in 1991). Kissi's are unreasonable and mildly violent, Coast tribes are beach bums with no work ethic, and Somalis are khat chewing, gun-running bandits. Maasais/Samburu are backward spear chucker’s who prance around shrieking for tourist dollars, Pokot/Turkana violent AK-47 wielding cattle rustlers, Kalenjin are backward long distance runners who are undeserving of their wealth due to being in control of Govt. for 30 years. By the way my full name is Steve Onyango (born in the mid morning). I grew up there in late 80s and 90s. Like that kid i took my KCPE exam in 1993 and passed with flying colors. Back then it was out of 700(a terrible load, that occasionally led to weekend school). I scored 630 points. And thus i went to a national school in Nairobi called "Nairobi School". Worst mistake of my life. A small town kid like me did not belong their. All of a sudden i was rubbing shoulders with the spoilt children of Kenya's corrupt overlords and was forced to assume position at the bottom of the social hierarchy. I got their by studying hard like crazy while those spoiled brats got their through their Dad's bribing the School Principal. It was an unhealthy mix which resulted in other students dragging others down. But I rallied for a B+ grade on exit. That kid you talked about would even rank lower than i did their. He would be served much better going to school further westward in tough strict mostly Luo schools. But who knows. By the way, by Muhoroni standards i grew up very privileged compared to your Friends in Mtwala. My dad worked for that Sugar company in Muhoroni that controls life their. That Company by the way is always teetering on the brink of collapse for the last 20 years due to the usual Kenyan reasons. It once shut down in 1995 and that whole town came to a stand still. Without that company that town is shut down. Since you want to try reaching, try visiting Success Primary School. At one time the best school in western Kenya and nationally ranked before those categories were abolished due to school shopping for students and forcing weak candidates to bad government schools. We even have a face book page. We pupils their in the 1990s were super smart. We used to pride ourselves in things like being able to name all world countries (remember Czechoslovakia) and capitals (Prague/praha) etc. All word leaders from Reagan to Thatcher etc.