Reporter's Notebook: Ron Claiborne Travels to Kenya

Many Kenyans view Obama as America's first "African" president.

ByABC News via GMA logo
January 16, 2009, 5:16 PM

KISUMU, Kenya, Jan. 18, 2009 — -- The gruff-looking customs agent at the Nothing-To-Declare line at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi glared at me and signaled for me to stop my luggage cart by heading toward the exit.

"Where are you coming from?" he barked.

I handed him my U.S. passport.

"London," I said, "and before that New York."

"Is this your first visit to Kenya?" He was now eyeing my three bags with suspicion.

"Yes," I said. "I'm going to Kogelo ..."

I paused to watch his reaction. His face softened.

"I'm going to report on Obama's village."

Now he smiled and half-bowed. I passed on.

That was my first instance of Obama pride in Kenya, the place from which the president-elect's father, Barack Obama, came.

My second would come later in the morning. I, producer Bruno Roeber from London, Dana Hughes, Nairobi-based ABC News digital reporter, and a local Kenyan camera crew, set off immediately for southwestern Kenyan region where Kogelo is located, near Lake Victoria, the fabled source of the Nile River. Our destination on this first day would not be Kogelo but the much larger neighboring city of Kisumu, roughly 250 miles from Nairobi.

We stopped at an overlook on the Nairobi-Kisumu road to take in the spectacular view of the Rift Valley, a kind of geological trench that runs from the Dead Sea through the bed of the Red Sea and onto the African continent, cleaving a valley all the way to Lake Malawi and Mozambique -- more than 3,500 miles long in all.

The vista was spectacular, with verdant agricultural fields below the escarpment where we stopped and a brown, dessicated plain farther away running for miles before rising again to a range of mountains blurred by dust.

One of the dozen or so souvenir stand owners -- a squat, cheery fellow -- offered me his interpretation of the scenery, all the while pressing a cheap soapstone memento into my hand.

I asked him about Obama. He led me to his shop, its shelves crammed with wooden giraffes, and pulled out a photo of Barack Obama.

"What are you going to do with it?"