LOYINGALANI: I got bewitched

I was not ready to leave Loyingalani quite so soon. And so I started looking for ways to stay longer. It turns out there were people who were sticking around. I told Hardy I was thinking of staying a bit longer. The following morning I waved people goodbye and went back to sleep. I had come in very late, at around 3 am. I had walked all the way by myself from palm shade. The place is safe and I never felt any fear.

My friend Richie introduced me to his friend Kawive who was doing a peace campaign around Northern Kenya. Kawive said he did not mind giving me a ride to Marsabit.

I joined Kawive and met his people. I hang out with him in the morning. It was difficult getting decent breakfast late in the day.

During the day, I met Arnold.  He was asking the locals if there was a guy with a boat who could take him to the Southern Island. He said he had found someone at El Molo but they were expensive. They were asking for 25,000/-. Now that shocked me. Southern Island is not very far from Loyingalani. Why would a fisherman ask for all that money?

Later on I saw him and asked him how he had traveled he told me he had hitchhiked and would hitchhike back the same way. I felt quite encouraged now. But he also told me there were two chics  who were looking for someone to split costs with. They would be going to Marsabit.

Perhaps I could go with the ladies. They would be leaving a day later than Kawive and his team and I was still not ready to leave Loyingalani. I joined Kawive and his team for lunch. As we ate, I convinced them we go visit a Turkana seer called Ekron. Only the driver was excited about it but I insisted until we went.

We did not know the way, we had to keep stopping the car to ask for directions. I was excited by the adventure. We went round the lake to the Western shores. There was a boat that had been covered up. I wondered whose it was.

Ekron lived near the game trackers camp site. He helped the cook make meals and takes care of the guests.

It was nice meeting Ekron. He did not have anything particularly interesting to tell me but he told the driver something. He told him not to drink too much and to treat his wife better. I think that was a very positive side to the trip.

Kawive and his pal kept trying to find something devious about Ekron but they never could. The other guy and the chic were quiet about the whole affair. Kawive said he was contemptuous. He was convinced Ekron is a con man. I was happy Ekron gave the driver advice that would improve his life.

In the evening I told Kawive I would not be leaving on the following day. I was still enchanted by Loyingalani. He laughed at me. What could I possibly have seen in this dusty back-ward place? Was I not yet bored with the silence?

I stayed one more day. That night I slept early. I also visited the Oasis and got invited for salad by the owner. He is not the most pleasant man in the world though. He is known to be quite nasty. Well, I just saw a bitter man who was also confused about his life.

The following day was the best. That is when I met Hagar and Ophir. The day before, I had gone to their camp and met Hassan who said he could hook me up with a ride. It had given me confidence to stay a day longer.

When I woke up, I decided that I would enjoy every little bit of my last day in Loyingalani.  I organized for some breakfast and supper and then I asked the women who took care of the camp to ask around for someone who made a Turkana woman’s belt. The first woman to come had the very thing I was looking for but she was asking for too much. She wanted 3,000/-

The second woman’s belt was made using metal. It was not as beautiful as the first one. I tried negotiating but she stuck at 2,000/-. In the end I bought it at that price. It is a priceless thing to have. I found out how it is made. It seems fewer and fewer people are making them now. They take time and too much energy according to Paulina, my guide for the day.

This belt is unique even amongst the Turkana. I saw what was in the market and it had been of inferior quality. This is a very high quality belt. I was happy I bought it from someone who had not made it for sale but as something for them to wear.

Paulina took me around the village. I asked her to take me to the woman who was selling the belt first. While I was there I put on the belt seller’ neck beads and took photos. It was a wonderful experience even for the young girl-the woman’s daughter who did not wear the beads. She said I looked beautiful in the beads and decided to wear them as well. I taught her how to take photos and she has quite the eye.

Her name is Margaret Amogo. She is the one who suggested I take more photos in the evening. She had  a little boy but was unmarried. It made me wonder about a lot of things. Her mother kept talking about marrying her off.

Afterwards, I went with Paulina to see if she could sell me her guard. I had seen one in the market as well. She sold it to me at 800/-. On our way back we met her husband. He seemed annoyed that she had sold his kibuyu for meat. I felt like returning it back. I made a point to ask her but she quickly dismissed my worries.

I have to say, all these people felt sad to depart with their possessions. They felt they needed the money but money goes quite fast. I wonder if the will feel any remorse for selling their personal stuff like that?

I asked Paulina how the guard is made. Again the materials could not be found within Loyingalani which has become a town. They could only be found in the interior. What is known as the reserve. To make another belt or another guard, the people in Loyingalani would have to travel far from Loyingalani just to find the material.

I got a feeling this is how people got colonized. The never even saw poverty coming at them. But that is what is happening to the Turkana in the town. They have no cattle or goats. They need money. They will have to work for other people. They will keep getting crowded there. The will sell their few possessions and soon they will be left with nothing. Just fake plasticware from China.

But still it was a magical day. Paulina put beads in my hair. We asked the woman who was selling the belt to give me some beads and the put them in my hair.

I had supper at the camp and went to hang out at palm shade. I met Hagar and Ophir there. Juma who had driven up with them was hanging out with them. He is a very interesting guy. When business does not work he goes elsewhere to look for another opportunity. He came across as an easy going and strong-in-the-face-of-adversity man. He told me how he settled in Loyingalani to sell fish but had to move because there is no more fish now. Before that he had worked as a conductor in Eastleigh and had set up a pool bar in Kibera. He said all this with a smile on his face.

They introduced me to Phillip- the driver and Mike. Mike then asked me for cash. I told Hagar and Ophir who confronted him. He denied. He later on threatened to have me left behind for having told them. I saw a short man who was struggling to be relevant but in the wrong way.

The following morning, he tried to have me sit in the back but the ladies over ruled him. His friend- who must have paid something to him as well- had to sit in the back. Later on Mike had to switch and sit in the back.  I hope he learnt something.

I slept most of the way to Marsabit. I had not slept at all the night before. Some small invisible insects on my skin and in my hair kept me awake. It had been a miserable night. I think applying olive oil had been a bad idea. Or I could have picked them up at Paulina’s. She kept chicken.

We stayed in a triple room at Jey Jey center. It was not a very nice place but it was cheap and had hot water. The following morning we went for a drive at Marsabit National Park. We never saw a single animal.

I decided not to stick in Marsabit for too long. I took the bus to Nairobi that day.

It was a long ride and very bumpy until we got to Merille, where the tarmac road begins. We got to Eastleigh at 5 am in the morning. The guard attracted a lot of attention on my way home. This was especially amongst the older people. It has many memories for them. The man I sat next to on my way home said the last time he had seen a guard like that had been with his grandfather.

Well, I loved Northern Kenya. It was a beautiful opportunity to experience some of that traditional lifestyle for a bit. It was safe, everyone looked beautiful, the sunsets were amazing and I will go back there again.


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