THE MALAVA TRAVELLERS 010

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

FOR a short while, let us fly to Kisumu.


Our friends had visited Impala Park. Here they took the trail that weaved through the park. On account of speaking on phone, Bruno followed the rest from a distance. Lady G. waited for him at a junction.

“Who was that?”


“My girlfriend,” Bruno said.


“Is that how you speak with her?”


“It is my grandma,” Bruno said when he caught up with Lady G.


“What does she say?”


“Doesn’t matter.”


The sun’s rays had just penetrated the branches and leaves; and settled on Lady G.’s face with a pattern of shadows and light; and rendered the face with beauty unrivalled. He knew he’d never make her his. Still, for sport, he held an idea in his mind. Around he looked, and being satisfied that no one watched, he seized her face with both hands and--kissed her.


Lady G. did not find it unwelcome.


But this was a public place; and other Kenyans toured the park. It might be possible that no other Kenyans spotted them; yet, when Syp and Lodoviko, who were metres ahead, heard them talk--they had turned to look.


Syp appreciated the connection that she felt existed between Lodoviko and Lady G. She had thought it to be young passion. Yet it appeared to her that the tentacles of jealousy did not prod Lodoviko’s heart, anytime Bruno flattered Lady G. The kiss, which was long and passionate, at least for Bruno, now persuaded Syp that whatever link connected Lodoviko and Lady G., was not amorous.


“Look at them,” she said, addressing Lodoviko; but on turning, she saw Lodoviko’s back ten metres away. Up she hurried, to reach him. And when she did, she said, “What does she remind you of?”


“Who?”


“Gertrude.”


“What do you mean, Little Flower?”


“Your wife?--or your daughter?--who does Lady G. remind you of?”


“Stop.”


“I just want to know.”


Syp took his hand; he pulled it away; she took it again: he let it stay.


“You are a stubborn flower.”


Awkward it was for Lodoviko to hold hands with Syp in such a place. Naturally you’d think the two a pair of relatives; but guilt has shame and an inclination of its own; which is to imagine nakedness, even without a cause.

For Syp herself, she felt at ease. Out here where no one knew her, the petals of her behavior opened. What she could not do in Malava, where common eyes probed all-round, she could do here. Now she held Lodoviko’s hand with both of hers. She had a mind to touch his shoulder--or give him a peck, if he wouldn’t shrink from it. Having ascertained that no affection--of the sexual kind--stood between Lady G. and Lodoviko, she decided to meander towards Lodoviko’s heart; for reasons which we do not know yet.


But how would a man as old as Lodoviko answer, when presented with affection from a young flower? Excepting the narration he gave Syp concerning his woman of the years gone, we do not know about his dalliances any more than we might about alien existence. Yet Lodoviko is still a man, with desires and blood coursing in his system. There must be tenderness in a spot of his heart; where, with sharp aim, Syp might strike. A man could love a thousand women in different ways, in different times; but the well whence affection flows, never runs dry. Time will inform us then, if for Syp, Lodoviko’s well flowed the stronger.

A boat on L. Victoria | Photo by Afrilenstories

It was now early afternoon. The sun was friendly, the air was calm and fresh in the park. At a look-out spot they saw the lake yonder. They sat on the platform and bought drinks from a vendor. And Lodoviko, sitting next to Syp, told them another story. He told them about his family back in Burundi.


The whole family had perished in the war. And only he--the descendant of lineage--remained. Syp was touched. Lodoviko took the image of a man whom the world had whipped and robbed of all relatives; left to trudge alone in the journey of life. But the man possessed that quality which makes a person the token of hope. Despite his misfortunes, he had, over the years, found a motivation to face the next day. Across western Kenya, he would become the greatest sheep trader; and make himself a living, and his customers a happy lot too.


Lady G. however did not seem moved by Lodoviko’s accounts. What distracted Lady G. was the closeness between Lodoviko and Syprosa. Perhaps she worried about Syprosa, a fellow woman; a young woman who was developing an amorous bond with a man as old as a grandfather; only a few days after meeting him.


*

THEY left the park later in the afternoon, and boarded tuktuks to the shore of the lake, at a spot called Lwang’ni Beach--the beach of flies.


It wasn’t a beach as you know it: with clean sand and long shoreline and clear water; no. It was more of a trading centre by the lake--with a car wash, and tens of kiosks--where traders fried and sold humongous tilapia, which the locals called ngege; and other commodities.


As they alighted from the tuktuks, five waiters dashed to them; each urging our friends to visit his or her kiosk, which ostensibly offered yum-yum fish and ugali.


Odiero!” said a male waiter. It meant, 'white person.'


“Come, baby.” He grabbed Lady G.’s hand and pulled her along. Lodoviko and the others had to follow.


“Have you ever eaten the eye of tilapia?”


“No,” said Lady G.; she was giggling.


“The tail?”


“No.”


“The gills?”


“No.”


“You have never eaten fish. I will teach you how.”


Into a kiosk they entered. It was roofed with old iron sheets. No walls did it have, on the customers’ side; but poles to hold the roof. They could see all round. There were tens of kiosks; one erected beside another, and the one behind the other. The place was full of people and din; a voice here placing an order, another there asking for change; the sizzling of fish on tens of frying pans; and a little into the lake--the splash and spray of car washing. Thirty vehicles stood in the water, and were cleaned. To the left of their view, into the water, there were fishing boats and ride boats.

Nam Lolwe, Kisumu | Photo by Afrilenstories
Nam Lolwe, Kisumu | Photo by Afrilenstories

Meanwhile the male waiter served them soft drinks.


“Shall we take a ride?” said Lady G.


“Afterwards,” said Bruno. He was hungry.


In fifteen meetings the waiter delivered the main orders, in two rounds. “Oh!” Lady G. said; her fish equaled the length of Syp’s arm. The waiter then planted himself next to Lady G.’s shoulder, and began to furnish her with the tutorial about the dismantling of tilapia. His voice was loud; Bruno would not tolerate this: he dispatched the waiter for salt; and when he returned with it, he said to him, “That is all.”


Lodoviko and Syp sat on the same side of the table. “This ugali is very tough,” Lodoviko said, and Syp: “This is how it should be.”


Syp’s fish was bigger than Lodoviko’s; but she, out of--we don’t know what--extended her hand to Lodoviko’s plate, snapped off the head of Lodoviko’s fish, and transferred it to her plate. By the side she eyed Lodoviko to mark if the act offended him. However, Lodoviko relished his dish to care for the head.


Never had Lady G. eaten such big fish. She praised its deliciousness; and asked what the locals called it. Bruno said that it was properly called Oreochromis niloticus, and thereafter gave a history about it.


*

WITH their stomachs full, a ride on the lake became a preference.


They ambled along the shore to a shallow point from which they’d embark. The boat could fit all of them. Still, Bruno proposed that they board two boats, a pair each. He did not share with the others why he suggested so; but this was a typical instance of ‘spreading the risk’: in case of capsizing. Yet in spite of his proposition, the others outvoted him, with Lady G.’s sway.


A rider waded into the water, untied his boat, and then pushed it ashore for our friends to board. It was a motor boat. In pairs our friends settled on the benches that crossed the boat; and the rider, sitting high behi