I was waiting this moment for the last 3 months. I wanted to leave Nairobi so badly that I couldn’t get hold of myself. I worked so much for the community, the skatepark and the children that I was just incredibly tired and wanted just to go off traveling as my trip was meant to be. Why did I put myself in this position? Why did I decide to work my bat off in Nairobi?
J. left me at the bus stop. He was crying. So I did after I left him. We built an exceptional bond and friendship. Those bonds and people are rear to find. Forever and always we will be friends. He is an incredible drawer but his family messed him up a lot. He stopped to draw years ago. However I pushed him to get back to draw as he has a huge talent. Now he sends me his drawings from time to time. He got back to draw after our skatepark project. He was the one who made all the logos and helped to figure out how to make lines in prospective on a 800m2 skatepark pitch.
The bus to Kisumu arrived at Nairobi coach station, I left J. with a little tears on my cheek. However I looked forward for my next huge adventure!
When I was painting the skatepark I met R. and his daughter. He is a surgeon and professor at the university of California. When he approached me, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “Are you the artist?”, “yes” I replied. “You know this is incredible?” “This is a masterpiece!”. I was honored by his opinion. We started to chat and told him that I was heading to Kisumu and eventually looking for some art projects around the area. He recommended to me a rural school project in Mfangano Island on lake Victoria. The idea of staying in an island for a little while didn’t sound so bad. So I agreed to take on this new challenge. A few days after G., the director of the rural school, sent me an email inviting me to stay on the Island in exchange of helping him with the Art Program.
I was in Kisumu just for a day and went on a very long walk before taking the Matatu towards Homabay. I was in Mpala park and went on the Hippo point. (Please go on the “Travel Info” section to know more about prices, transports and additional traveling information.)
Next day I was on the Matatu towards Homabay. In the Matatus station there are any kind of vendors and as I was waiting for the Matatus to leave (about one hour, not too bad) every 5 seconds I was approached by one of the vendors. Pinenuts, bananas, sunglasses, sodas, cheap jewelry, pineapple, electronics etc.. Finally the Matatu was full and we were ready to leave. In the Matatus I met B, a beautiful young soul and a very talkative too. She is a student and was going to visit her grandmother during her school holiday. She was bringing with a her a bag of goods: “you know in Kenya we never go to visit family without bringing some foods of our own to share”. “Actually, we do the same in Italy” I said. We talked about life, dreams, goals and passions. She was a nice folk and I am still in touch with her. She dropped off literally in the middle of nowhere. “Hey B. are you sure you will be fine? It seems desolated!. “No worries Alex, my grandma leaves in a little house 2 km inside the woods, I know my way” she shouted to me and left. I was so surprised but I guess these are the rural places in Africa.
As soon as I got off in Homabay a driver of a ‘probox car’ took me on to Mbita where I was heading. I had to wait as usual to get the car full. The thing I didn’t know is that we had to fit in 9 inside. At first I thought they were making fun out of a Mzungo but as soon as I saw people getting inside the car and become more more squeezed I realized they were very serious. So I was squeezed between 4 people at the front including the driver for about 45 minutes .
Finally I was in Mbita where soon G. came to pick me up. We went to have lunch in his second wife apartment. He is a polygamist and have 2 wifes one in Mbita and one in Mfangano Island for a total of 3 children (for now).
We hate Ugali which is basically maize flower with either scuma (a local green) or spinach. Soon After we went to take the water bus heading to the this paradise called Mfangano Island.
After about 40 minutes of sailing we arrived in Senna a little village at the shore of the lake.
Lake Victoria is the biggest tropical lake in the world and was named after Queen Victoria by the explorer John Hanning Spake. Many mammals and reptiles leaves in this nature beauty like hippos, African clawless otter, spotted-necked otter, marsh mongoose, sitatunga, Nile crocodiles, African helmeted turtles etc.. Mfangano Island lies in the eastern part of lake Victoria at mouth of the Winam Gulf, part of Kenya, it lies west of Rusinga Island. The Island is home of the largest population of the Suba people. This population is becoming rare and this is also because the man intermarriage with Luo women from the mainland. Some of the inhabitants of Mfango Island are believed to be descendants of emigrants from the Buganda Kingdom in Uganda who came after the controversial killing of the kabaka juju. The language spoken in the Island are Swahili, Luo and English. Most of the inhabitants leaves out of fishing and farming
We got in G.’s house where I met his first wife D.. She has a very kind hurt and a very hard working woman too. There I met James a 10 years old boy. He is the son of G. A wonderful boy and a very kind soul. I met also Joseph the gardener of G. A nice young boy. As we got in the late afternoon in the Island we decided that we would visit the school the day after.
The Island is a golden hidden paradise. In the night the sky was so clear that I could see all the star constellation, admire and count them all. My eyes were so amused by it. It was absolutely amazing. I could not believe what I was seeing. The moon reflecting on the lake was a mirror of hidden nature frivolities, a prehistoric time, a delightful moment, unforgattble.
Next day we went to visit the school. Which is just 3 minutes walk from G house.
G. introduce me all the teachers. They were very welcoming and we start to chat about the school. The children were having exams before their half term holidays. Soon after I went to play football with them. They sang me many local songs and invite me to play weird game with them. They were absolutely lovely. I felt home. Children have this power to make you feel always very welcome. They don’t care where you coming from, what you do, who you are. They just want to love you and have fun with you. They are rare and genuine souls and I absolutely love them. In the afternoon D. brought me to the lake to have a swim. She told that there is just one hippo in the area but that usually comes at the shore of the lake at night. Generally the hypo is never around when humans are. When I went swimming S. was there. She is 6 and has a wonderful personality. We start playing and she really loved coming on my back and then throw her in the water. She was really having fun. However my back was hurting and had to stop.
G. has a lot of resentment with his first wife D. and vice versa. They both told me their stories. Relationship are always complicated but in the African culture rather then try to sort problems out or eventually getting a divorce, the man is allowed to marry another woman. It is legal to marry different women for a men. It is illegal for women to marry more men. Why? Because there are more women than man. So every women needs to find a man. This is what I was told on several occasions.
First day I was in the Island and I had a chat with the future music teacher of the school. It was a mind blowing conversation. This guy had 3 wives and god knows how many children. “why your wives cannot have 3 husband?” I asked. “I will kill them”. “So why you can have 3 wives and cannot have 3 husbands”. There was no real answer to it. He didn’t really know all the names of his children. He wouldn’t marry a white women but happy for his children to do so. A weird dude. I got in the end that he was joking about not knowing the name of his children but just because G. told me so. When africans make jokes you can never tell if they are serious or not.
Next days I helped G. to produce a logo and the social media pages for the school. It was a bloody exhausting job. By coincidence G. was already in touch with an American Art Organization who wanted to support the school but needed someone like me to make the project to happen. In order to sponsor a 6 months art&music project they needed me to produce the banner of the organization and show it while I was doing the art workshop. One of the teacher who was particularly interested in art helped me to run the workshop. After taking a lot of pictures and upload them on the website and social medias the organization has agree to hire a music teacher (the one with 3 wives) and increase the salary of the teacher I trained to teach art. Mission accomplished folks.
G. has two adorable puppies but unfortunately were full of lice. One night as I was cuddling them for the first time, lice got on my very long dreads and stick with it. It was a terrible night. How this could it happen? After 11 years of absolutely beautiful and perfect dreads I had to deal with this disgusting creatures inside my scalp. Anyway I tried really everything but they seemed to be stuck in there. I got very knowledgeable about this little repellent creatures. So I know that there are ways to get rid of it. However that would require time, resources and patient that I really didn’t have. I decide to cut my dreadlocks after 3 weeks. Yes friends I cut them all, and I feel good about it. However I will attach them back soon. This is the plan. Definitely my scalps is resting a little bit after 11 years of heavy weight. The lice are all gone.
On several occasions I was asked if I was a real Mzungo. Because of my friendly being and basically know many people in the island as I arrived. I shared stories with many of the people and was invited on several occasion to their home. Once a child ask me: “Alex are you a real Mzungo”?
G. is also the Island tour guide. He is well know from everybody and they call him “the director”. Anyway he had to bring some visitors at the top of the mountain and invite me to go hiking with him. We woke up at 4 am and went to pick up R.&D. a Swedish guy and a lady from Sry Lanka.
We arrive at the top of the hill at 6 am watching one of the best nature show (off). I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was mesmerized. It was one of the best moment of my life. Intense. Delightfully beautiful and I really couldn’t believe that such beauty could exist. It took us about 3 hours to reach the top and one hour to go down. It was amazing. (you can find more infos in the section ‘travel info’).