Mama Sarah

On our way from Mbita to Gilgil yesterday, we took a little detour to Kogelo for a little visit with Mama Sarah.

We didn’t know what to expect. We thought we were just going to visit the town, maybe take a few photos of signs saying “this is the place, blah blah blah.” It wasn’t like that at all.

mama_sarahWe drove up to the homestead and got out of the van. We walked through the gate, and there were two army tents right inside. The gate and the fence surrounding the homestead were new. They had a table set up, and we approached the guard — a Kenyan police officer — at the table. He demanded our passports, which we gave him. We signed the register, including names, addresses, purpose of visit, etc. He gave our passports back and let us go.

We walked up the drive toward the house, which was about 100 yards away. It’s a simple house with a corrugated metal roof. There’s a solar panel, satellite dish, and radio antenna on the roof, which are a bit unusual for the area. There were lots of animals around — cows, turkeys (the first we’ve seen in Kenya), and other edible animals. On the left side of the house, there are two graves. One is the father, who was born in 1936 and died in 1982. Behind that is the grandfather, Mama Sarah’s husband, who died in 1975. His tombstone said he was born in 1870, which would have made him 105 years old when he died. If he were still alive, he would be 134 now.

There were chairs set up in a semicircle in front of the house, maybe 40 feet away. After a while, an assistant came out and asked us to sign Mama Sarah’s guest book. A few minutes later, Mama Sarah came out. She went around the circle and shook everyone’s hand. There were about 10 of us. She sat down, and welcomed us to her home, and thanked us for coming. We each introduced ourselves, and told her where we’re from. Sharon also explained the mission of Teachers Without Borders – Canada, and she seemed pleased. Zac asked her if things had changed much for her in the last year. We were happy to hear that, although she has more visitors, life for her is still very peaceful and very much the same. Sharon asked her if she had advice to give to teachers, and she told them they should teach well, and teach the students to be respectful. After a few minutes, we had our picture taken with her, thanked her for her hospitality, and left.

That’s how I met the grandmother of the President of the United States.

Okay, so biologically, that’s not entirely accurate. Sarah was the third wife of President Obama’s grandfather. His grandmother was the second wife. But still, it was very cool.

The whole experience was very strange. I’m very glad we went. I’m happy that it’s not a tourist trap, and it’s not overrun with American tourists or secret service people. It was very peaceful. Nice.

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Author: John Schinker

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