Kenya Airways Flight KQ102 had just left Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, bound for
London. The chief flight attendant, John Mburu, glanced at the manifest and was pleased to see that almost every passenger on the flight was named Obama. There was a George Obama, a Yusuf Obama, a Miriam Obama, even a Sanjay Obama.
They must all be going to the inauguration, Mburu thought. He had heard that Barack Obama had 1,432 relatives in Kenya, twice as many as he did before the election.
It made him feel proud, like he was part of history, serving the new president’s relatives on the first leg of their journey. Perhaps, when things were quieter in the cabin, he would ask one of the Obamas if they would bring back a souvenir for him, such as an official 2009 Presidential Inauguration bottle of wine.
He couldn’t believe how loud it was in the cabin. It was almost midnight, but there was so much chatter and merriment, he could barely hear the engine of the Boeing 777. He decided to walk slowly down the aisle, pretending to check the overhead compartments, hoping to catch snippets of conversation.
“I don’t understand him at all,” a middle-aged man was saying to another in the first row. “He hasn’t offered us any jobs. What kind of African politician is he?”
“That’s the problem,” the second man said. “He isn’t an African politician. He is an African-American politician.”
“But he is African first, then American. Otherwise he would be American-African.”
“You are right, brother. We need to remind him of that. What position would you like?”
“Oh, that’s easy. United States Ambassador to Kenya. What about you?”
“I want to be Special Envoy to the Oprah Winfrey Show.” They both laughed.
In the fourth row was a young bespectacled man, seated between an attractive woman and a bearded old man.
“He has made all of us proud,” the young man said. “Proud to be Kenyan and proud to be Obamas.”
The old man raised his eyebrows. “You are an Obama too? But you look Indian.”
“I married into the family.”
“He proposed after the election,” the woman said. “He said it was a good omen.”
“No, I said you were a good woman.”
The woman smiled, clutching her husband’s hand. “He is a good man, too. He has even changed his name to Obama. That’s how much he loves me.”
“It’s a good time to be an Obama,” the old man said. “The government treats us well these days.”
“Very true,” the young man said. “They are even providing extra security for my store: Obama Sari and Spice Shop.”
In the 10th row were two men in their fifties. They seemed to be the loudest on the plane.
“Of course, he’ll be a great president,” the man in the aisle seat said. “He’s going to unite the Republicans and Democrats. They are going to be known as Republicrats.”
“We shall see, my friend. We shall see.”
“I really hope he likes my gift.”
“What did you get him?”
“A carving of a Masai warrior. What about you?”
“Three chickens? Where are they?”
“In my suitcase.”
“In your suitcase?!!! Won’t they die?”
“No, I put some holes in it. And some grain for them to eat.”
“But why chickens?”
“Well, the goat would not fit.”
“They have plenty of chickens in America.”
“These are special Kenyan chickens. They run faster than American chickens.”
“What good is that? Do they have a chicken Olympics?”
“No, it is good for our cousin’s health. Before he has a big meal, he will get some exercise.”
The first man laughed. “You think the President of America is going to be chasing chickens at the White House?”
The other man laughed too. “And you think he’s going to unite Republicans and Democrats?”
John Mburu smiled. A bottle of wine would be a good souvenir, he thought, but not as good as a picture of Barack Obama chasing a chicken.
Photo by rh