19 April 2006

Kenya: Carnival Mood After Stunning Double Act

Nairobi — "These Kenyans are amazing. They are just wonderful. They don't even seem to be struggling at all. Look, they are just talking to each other!"

These were the stirring words of an American TV commentator impressed by the tactics employed by Kenyan runners during the 110th Boston Marathon on Monday.

The commentator's comments were aroused by a moving patriotic act by one of the runners, Benjamin Maiyo, who kept urging and signaling compatriot Robert Cheruiyot to take the lead as the race snaked towards the crossing line.

Maiyo, who ended up second, was the most dramatic on track and a source of inspiration with his great team spirit to not only his fellow countrymen, but to the larger American audience and billions who were watching globally.

But this was just a sideshow, the eventual double Kenyan victory in both the men's and women's categories led to a carnival mood amongst Kenyans across the United States.

When the 27-year-old Robert Kiprotich Cheruiyot, the youngest of Kenya's fast fleet in the Boston Marathon crossed the line and set a new course record, Kenyans who had lined up the streets or watching the race live on television were ecstatic with joy.

And when a few moments later Maiyo and Rita Cheptoo romped home to assure a grand Kenyan sweep, a crowd of Kenyans waving small national flags strapped on hand sticks near the cross line broke into a dance of the popular Luhya song "Mwana wa mbeli wayaye mwana wa mbili wayaye goo mwana wa mbili nichekoyero !" on and on and on, effectively kicking off Kenyan celebrations in the vast country to the wee hours of the morning.

From Boston to Washington, Texas to Florida, Kenyans toasted, sung, drunk and danced, creating a mood that was overwhelmingly nostalgic, melancholic and deeply uniting.

For a brief moment, a feeling of nationalism, a sense of belonging and love for the motherland was evident in the faces and actions of Kenyans. And for once, Kenyans did not care about their cell phone bills. They talked on and on calling friends, relatives and colleagues to pass on the good news.

When asked why she was not worried about going beyond the limits of her phone minutes, Bernice Soroney, a nurse in New York said: "Who cares about the minutes now? If I exceed, I'll just work a double and pay them off. Bring it on baby, we rule the world!" she said bursting into a joyful noise.

Johnson Maina of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, captured the carnival mood aptly: "Bwana, this is great! It feels so nice to be Kenyan in America today," he said. In Washington DC, Kenya's official government representative, Lily Sambu, Charge de Affairs at the Kenyan Embassy was equally overjoyed:

"Those young patriotic Kenyans just handed us the perfect Easter present. I am extremely proud of them," she said.

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