My Grandmother Christina, or Dani in DhoLuo, is one of my favorite people in the world. She is actually my late paternal grandmother’s younger sister (a mouthful, I know 🙂 Because I was named Asin after my late grandmother, my Dani Christina refers to me as her sister. And odd as it may seem, that is the nature of our relationship. She is more of a sister than a grandmother. We talk on the phone at least twice a month. I get my loud laugh from her. We laugh at the same things, our phone calls are very uplifting for me. We share a bond that has grown deeper over the years, and now, in her early 90s, with recurring geriatric ailments, I am aware that my time with her is limited, and treasure it even more.
She is very perceptive, and will state her opinion in that brutally honest way the elderly tend to have. She will not hesitate to give me a stern talking to when I am out of line. I know it comes from a place of love.
On one of my visits to Kisumu, my Dani and I were spending a leisurely afternoon just catching up, when she suddenly sat up.
“Nyaminwa,” my sister, she said in DhoLuo, “is it true that in the United States they find Luos and make them wash toilets and live in wooden sheds?” she asked in a mixture of DhoLuo and Oswahili, that bastardization of the Kiswahili language for which my people, the Luo, are infamous.
At first, I didn’t know what to make of the question, I was laughing so hard, my stomach hurt. And as it always is with us, when I laugh, she starts to laugh too, and soon we were both wiping tears from our eyes from laughing so hard. I eventually composed myself enough to ask her the source of this spurious information.
She informed me that her next door neighbor had two sons who had suddenly reappeared in dala proper after a decade away in America, having never come back to visit family, attend weddings and had even missed some funerals, to the consternation of their relatives. The two men, had upon their return from the United States become very taciturn whenever the subject of Obamaland came up. My Dani has an uncanny ability to extract information from even the most recalcitrant person. And so, one morning, she finally got one of the men to talk. He told her that he was better off living in the village than going back to the United States. They made him wash toilets and he had to live in a wooden house. My grandmother asked him why he was specifically chosen for this unpleasant task, his response? Because he is Luo!
I did my best to disabuse my Dani of her neighbor’s claims. Yes, there are janitors in the United States. No, they are not Luo. No, ‘they’ don’t make Luos do any particular job. I am, and know many Luos who hold professional jobs in the United States, (this is not a ‘we has money’ moment).
She was very amused, and could not believe she had given him the time of day. Upon her return to dala, she had another chat with the sketchy young man from America, and he finally confessed to being a deportee who had overstayed his visa.
That’s my Dani, the truth extractor.