January 17-22. Finishing the Rainbow.

Those are the days in which we finish the painting of the orphanage and travel back to Nairobi to talk to corporates interested in sponsoring our initiative.

We feel very welcome and are glad to see Philip again. The walls have been plastered but they need some time to dry, so the painting can’t start straight away. We decide to visit Obama’s grandmother first. A matatu ride takes us to the junction, from where three motorcycles bring us to Kogelo, to the estate of Obama’s grandmother. There is a gate and a guard who requests us to write down our names in the guestbook, but it’s not a high security area. We are told that granny complains because they don’t let her go to the market alone, afraid she might be kidnapped by dark forces. They also tell us she has malaria once again so she is not very strong. We have to wait a little because she is taking lunch. We are then seated in a circle, like thousands of visitors before us, and wait for her to arrive. She is so kind! We can feel how much she enjoys all this strange visitors and gives everyone the opportunity to introduce him- or herself. We are even allowed to take pictures, “but not for the magazines”. She is engaged in charity works herself and we instinctively exchange contact information with Obama’s aunt, who seems to be the driving force behind the visitor’s business. As we look around on the estate we see the grave of Obama’s father, a tiled rectangle I see described later in the Kenya chapter of Mr. presidents book “dreams of my father”. Wicked!

The next day Yeon starts painting and she does a great job designing the wall and coordinating all the brushwork, some of which is carried out by the kids. HD, another spontaneous volunteer, also helps us a lot. I give Yeon a hand here and there, but I also have to take care of the volunteers, the fundis, the finances, and my weak stomach. On yellow-duck.tumblr.com you’ll find more on the painting. Let me just mention a short anecdote on the color purple here:

Together with Cleverson, our big Brazilian hero, I go buy two steel windows for our orphanage, and purple paint to finish the rainbow. It is not easy to find affordable purple paint, and mixing is not possible with our pigmentless economy grade red and blue paint. We are waiting in a hardware store, humming a princely “purple paint, purple paint” but it takes too long and we just walk off to try our luck elsewhere. A small job sells us a half dried dusty can of purple paint but it does the job.

On two consecutive nights we show movies in the orphanage, using my good old pocket projector, and the children they love it. Positive associations. I want everybody to have positive associations with the Rainbow Center. What else can I say? The Rainbow Center is something you should see for yourself. Just pass by on your hike from the Maasai Mara and the Kilimanjaro to the pristine nature of upper Uganda.

On January 22th, we leave the village after a photoshooting and a warm goodbye. Yes we will stay in touch. A board will be formed to assist the managing director of the orphanage. The construction work that still has to be completed, I have a good feeling about it. We intentionally have left something to local sponsors as a means to root our project more firmly in the community. We will monitor the situation in Kisumu from abroad, and promised ourselves to go back to the village soon.

January 16. Obama’s grandmother.

Later than planned, well, the whole concept of planning erodes like the barren soil of deforestated plains, we leave for Kogelo, the village where Obama’s grandmother and aunt live. I must tell you straight away it’s a publicity thing. Visiting this village, saying hello to the grandmother of the officially most powerful man – i don’t know. Maybe I am wrong. We take a matatu under the hot sun, followed by a ride on three motorbikes that brings us to the gate of the Obama estate. An officer asks us to write our names in a book that we are not allowed to go through. After all, we could identify the names of the visitors and do God knows what. Maximum security. The grandmother is taking lunch and she is not very strong now because she has malaria. Nevertheless, she comes to shake our hands and kindly asks us if we have any questions. I don’t want to bother her introducing to the idea of Charity Travel, and neither do I want to ask to confirm the cliché that she is proud of her grandson. But Phillip tells Obama’s aunt about our movement and they’ll be in touch. After all, there were a couple of Swiss guys installing solar panels here, and our orphanage wants one of those.
Mrs. Obama is very kind and patient, and visibly enjoying her routine job of greeting visitors from around the world. There are a few other visitors around that are seated in a neat circle as Mrs. Obama asks everyone to introduce himself. This cannot capture the experience, which was not surreal but could be seen as surreal because of the bloodties to Mr. president. I fail here to put my emotion to paper and would like to ask you to look at my other venture, Charity Travel, that is equally dilettant, but keeps me going for a couple of years. At least. Just don’t read this blog, read another one.

The visit has a serene atmosphere. We see the graves of Obamas forefathers and take plenty of photos with his grandmother, just like every other visitor. The motorbike has a plug problem so we get a ride back. In the car I tell about Charity Travel again, and harvest the thick grain of praise again. Another matatu brings us to Kisumu where we arrange ourselves with the virtual world and Yeon and I skip a sweaty rave. No words – no air.

January 16. Obama’s grandmother.

Later than planned, well, the whole concept of planning erodes like the barren soil of deforestated plains, we leave for Kogelo, the village where Obama’s grandmother and aunt live. I must tell you straight away it’s a publicity thing. Visiting this village, saying hello to the grandmother of the officially most powerful man – i don’t know. Maybe I am wrong. We take a matatu under the hot sun, followed by a ride on three motorbikes that brings us to the gate of the Obama estate. An officer asks us to write our names in a book that we are not allowed to go through. After all, we could identify the names of the visitors and do God knows what. Maximum security. The grandmother is taking lunch and she is not very strong now because she has malaria. Nevertheless, she comes to shake our hands and kindly asks us if we have any questions. I don’t want to bother her introducing to the idea of Charity Travel, and neither do I want to ask to confirm the cliché that she is proud of her grandson. But Phillip tells Obama’s aunt about our movement and they’ll be in touch. After all, there were a couple of Swiss guys installing solar panels here, and our orphanage wants one of those.
Mrs. Obama is very kind and patient, and visibly enjoying her routine job of greeting visitors from around the world. There are a few other visitors around that are seated in a neat circle as Mrs. Obama asks everyone to introduce himself. This cannot capture the experience, which was not surreal but could be seen as surreal because of the bloodties to Mr. president. I fail here to put my emotion to paper and would like to ask you to look at my other venture, Charity Travel, that is equally dilettant, but keeps me going for a couple of years. At least. Just don’t read this blog, read another one.

The visit has a serene atmosphere. We see the graves of Obamas forefathers and take plenty of photos with his grandmother, just like every other visitor. The motorbike has a plug problem so we get a ride back. In the car I tell about Charity Travel again, and harvest the thick grain of praise again. Another matatu brings us to Kisumu where we arrange ourselves with the virtual world and Yeon and I skip a sweaty rave. No words – no air.

February 16. Jack enters.

I decided to split up. One part of me is sitting in the sun being wonderfully happy, living up to his dreams to his heart’s content, he produces reflections like sunrays on the surface of a still mountain like, and he produces the illusion that those reflections will last at least a few centuries. The other part is called Jack and Jack is moving around the city. You have to move around and do certain things in order to spark a reader’s interest. Obama understands that. Yesterday he moved around in Air Force One called it a ‘spiffy ride’ and was all excited about it. The aircraft can refuel in mid-air. The other part is going to roam the city in search of excitement, in search of people with a tough story, with lilac scars covering their pale skins, with a dark history of violence that just sells better than the author sitting in the sun being damn happy. The other part jumps off buildings and refuels in mid-air, spouting a radioactive tail of glistening vapor behind him, he catches big time crooks and turns their faces into rotten tomatoes, he wades through the Tejo with delight and dances up the hill to join the Christ-redeemer and look over the city together. Jack is awake, you can sleep safely tonight.

“Stream of consciousness”: there is a name for this writing technique. Just let everything flow through your brain, in and out, straight through. A mouthwash. A good round of gurgling
with fluor gel and antibiotics. A flush of our system. How we enjoy observing this stream passing in front of our inner eyes. We don’t need to bathe in the river, neither do we need to
proof that we can only bathe once in it, neither does anyone challenge us to proof anything about the stream. Yet it’s not the stream that interests me. It’s the phenomenon that you find
yourself urged to tell a certain story, to add a certain comment, to add some news you just heard, or the recipe of humus. You are making a decision to put in something that is at
first sight totally disconnected with the stream. But of course there is a connection, there is some hidden reason why your brain popped out that particular item at that particular place.
You can analyze that later, and you can call it your “subconscious” being that organized your writing. That subconscious can become a good friend of us. We cannot see him unfortunately since he is always ahead of us. He is something like the opposite of our shadow. Jack is chasing him, in my case.

That night we were invited to be the public in a Portuguese tv-show called “pros e contras”, they discussed the issue of gay marriage. It would take the whole evening and we’d have to take
a taxi back home. We decided to skip the studio thing and watch the show on tv instead. They had a bunch of people there talking gayrights, homophobia, venting their worries about the
children that would be adopted by the homosexual couples. I couldn’t understand them but Cristina interpreted it. She is a good interpreter and I really appreciate it.

February 16. Jack enters.

I decided to split up. One part of me is sitting in the sun being wonderfully happy, living up to his dreams to his heart’s content, he produces reflections like sunrays on the surface of a still mountain like, and he produces the illusion that those reflections will last at least a few centuries. The other part is called Jack and Jack is moving around the city. You have to move around and do certain things in order to spark a reader’s interest. Obama understands that. Yesterday he moved around in Air Force One called it a ‘spiffy ride’ and was all excited about it. The aircraft can refuel in mid-air. The other part is going to roam the city in search of excitement, in search of people with a tough story, with lilac scars covering their pale skins, with a dark history of violence that just sells better than the author sitting in the sun being damn happy. The other part jumps off buildings and refuels in mid-air, spouting a radioactive tail of glistening vapor behind him, he catches big time crooks and turns their faces into rotten tomatoes, he wades through the Tejo with delight and dances up the hill to join the Christ-redeemer and look over the city together. Jack is awake, you can sleep safely tonight.

“Stream of consciousness”: there is a name for this writing technique. Just let everything flow through your brain, in and out, straight through. A mouthwash. A good round of gurgling
with fluor gel and antibiotics. A flush of our system. How we enjoy observing this stream passing in front of our inner eyes. We don’t need to bathe in the river, neither do we need to
proof that we can only bathe once in it, neither does anyone challenge us to proof anything about the stream. Yet it’s not the stream that interests me. It’s the phenomenon that you find
yourself urged to tell a certain story, to add a certain comment, to add some news you just heard, or the recipe of humus. You are making a decision to put in something that is at
first sight totally disconnected with the stream. But of course there is a connection, there is some hidden reason why your brain popped out that particular item at that particular place.
You can analyze that later, and you can call it your “subconscious” being that organized your writing. That subconscious can become a good friend of us. We cannot see him unfortunately since he is always ahead of us. He is something like the opposite of our shadow. Jack is chasing him, in my case.

That night we were invited to be the public in a Portuguese tv-show called “pros e contras”, they discussed the issue of gay marriage. It would take the whole evening and we’d have to take
a taxi back home. We decided to skip the studio thing and watch the show on tv instead. They had a bunch of people there talking gayrights, homophobia, venting their worries about the
children that would be adopted by the homosexual couples. I couldn’t understand them but Cristina interpreted it. She is a good interpreter and I really appreciate it.

February 16. Jack enters.

I decided to split up. One part of me is sitting in the sun being wonderfully happy, living up to his dreams to his heart’s content, he produces reflections like sunrays on the surface of a still mountain like, and he produces the illusion that those reflections will last at least a few centuries. The other part is called Jack and Jack is moving around the city. You have to move around and do certain things in order to spark a reader’s interest. Obama understands that. Yesterday he moved around in Air Force One called it a ‘spiffy ride’ and was all excited about it. The aircraft can refuel in mid-air. The other part is going to roam the city in search of excitement, in search of people with a tough story, with lilac scars covering their pale skins, with a dark history of violence that just sells better than the author sitting in the sun being damn happy. The other part jumps off buildings and refuels in mid-air, spouting a radioactive tail of glistening vapor behind him, he catches big time crooks and turns their faces into rotten tomatoes, he wades through the Tejo with delight and dances up the hill to join the Christ-redeemer and look over the city together. Jack is awake, you can sleep safely tonight.

“Stream of consciousness”: there is a name for this writing technique. Just let everything flow through your brain, in and out, straight through. A mouthwash. A good round of gurgling
with fluor gel and antibiotics. A flush of our system. How we enjoy observing this stream passing in front of our inner eyes. We don’t need to bathe in the river, neither do we need to
proof that we can only bathe once in it, neither does anyone challenge us to proof anything about the stream. Yet it’s not the stream that interests me. It’s the phenomenon that you find
yourself urged to tell a certain story, to add a certain comment, to add some news you just heard, or the recipe of humus. You are making a decision to put in something that is at
first sight totally disconnected with the stream. But of course there is a connection, there is some hidden reason why your brain popped out that particular item at that particular place.
You can analyze that later, and you can call it your “subconscious” being that organized your writing. That subconscious can become a good friend of us. We cannot see him unfortunately since he is always ahead of us. He is something like the opposite of our shadow. Jack is chasing him, in my case.

That night we were invited to be the public in a Portuguese tv-show called “pros e contras”, they discussed the issue of gay marriage. It would take the whole evening and we’d have to take
a taxi back home. We decided to skip the studio thing and watch the show on tv instead. They had a bunch of people there talking gayrights, homophobia, venting their worries about the
children that would be adopted by the homosexual couples. I couldn’t understand them but Cristina interpreted it. She is a good interpreter and I really appreciate it.

Finally: Lapland

The next day I said goodbye to Tuomo and tried to hitchhike to Rovaniemi. This turned out to be very difficult. I remember walking along a highway, and decided I had had enough, so I got back to Oulu, where I waited in a “cafe de Provence” for my train to Rovaniemi, writing, of course.

The trainride was really comfortable, and I arrived in a small snow-covered town, where I phoned up my couchsurfing host who would meet me in hotel Santa Claus. Yes, Santa lives here in this town on the Arctic Circle, they say. I have other information though, that he lives further east, near the Russian border. And so I met Veronika and Juusi, we went to a bar, and could almost immediately connect to each other. She mentioned a trip to Tromsø, and I said yes to it without hesitating a second. I never seem to run out of luck (but that is also where the saying “lucky in games, unlucky in …” might eventually cause me some trouble.
The keys of Veronika’s bike broke and got stuck in the lock. After some trial and error, I managed to open it with cutting pliers, thus proving I was okay. We took the sauna with eucalyptus essence and a good conversation. We made snowflowers outside. Running naked through the snow at 2AM. Welcome to Finland.

But the coldness was compensated with the hottest event of the year. It was election night. I stayed up watching the first results come in, until the computer crashed and I went to sleep.

The next day, Veronika was out, and I wrote in the kitchen, listening to my only source of information: a Finnish radion station. When the words Obama and president became significantly more frequent and the intervals smaller, I realized that he had won the election. I turned up the volume and sang along with every song they played. I also cried, but so did Colin Powell so I am in good company. After Veronika came back, we had a meal together, and cycled downtown. And that is where I met Tasos the Greek.

He was a funny and interesting guy, I could see that immediately (I told you I would write that, Tasos…!) We went to the same bar that night for a few Obama-beers. The pictures are taken during my bicycle trip the next day, but today’s post is borrowing them for aesthetic reasons.