December 30, 2005
Goodness, can it be Friday already?Â We left Houston Tuesday afternoon and we’re still not at our final destination.Â It’s like Africa is on the other side of the world or something.Â 😛
We woke up in the Methodist Guest House in Nairobi, and in the light we could see how quaint this place is.Â We me in the breakfast room for fruit and toast and coffee.Â Something I had never seen before, the cream for the coffee is heated, very hot.Â Makes sense; why pour cold milk into hot coffee?Â Then we had a short prayer and discussed our plans for the day.
Piling back into the van was an interesting exercise. The van seats 10 and counting the driver, we had 9 people. In our case, though, the van also had to seat all that luggage. There were 13 very large bags plus 1 or 2 carry-on items per person. It looked like we were building little forts inside the van. I took the far side window behind the driver which gave me some leg room (I have really long legs), but getting in and out was like a combination of Yoga and the game Twister.
The roads out of Nairobi was gentle at first, but then turned into terrain almost indistinguishable from the terrain. A good driver is mandatory because staying on your own side of the road isn’t part of the culture. Kenyans drive where the potholes are not, so there is significant weaving from one side to the other. There were several times I thought a head-on collision was imminent, but at the last moment both cars would swerve to their side of the road.
Out the window of the van, far off in the distance, we saw wild zebra. And once we stopped to let a baboon family (unrelated to me) cross the road. And far off in the distance we saw pink flamingos covering a lake so that it looked pink. No pictures of any of these; most were too far away, except for the baboons which were too quick.
Our morning break after about 2 hours of driving was at a scenic overlook above the Rift Valley, looking toward the Chogoria mountains. The scenery was just spectacular.
We stopped for lunch in Nakuru. I eat adventurously when traveling so I had irio for lunch. It was mashed potatoes blended with spinach and then maize stirred in. The maize was sort of like corn, only bigger kernels and not nearly as sweet as our yellow corn. Anyway, it sort of looked like this big green mush with yellow lumps and tasted about the same, too. I have no idea why this is a Kenyan favorite, I won’t order it again on purpose.
Back on the road after lunch, we were stopped several times by armed policemen. They stop cars by laying down a strip of 6″ spikes across the road that you have to drive figure-S style through them. We asked the driver what the police were looking for; he said, “money.” The general consensus was that they do not have enough money to buy the bullets to go into their guns, but I don’t know of anybody that would ever test that hypothesis.
We finally arrived at Kitale, our destination, and checked out our surroundings. We were staying in a nice compound (we wouldn’t know until later how nice it really was), with a couple of buildings with a variety of bunk beds and multiple showers and bathrooms. We dropped off the gear and headed to town to buy breakfast for the morning. The grocery store for some reason was called “Trans-Mattresses,” complete with a picture of a mattress on the billboard. Most of the signs for businesses were in mostly-English, I’ll call it, with a mix of Swahili thrown in.
Buying groceries in a strange country is an interesting experience. You wander the aisles trying to figure out what the ingredients are and what you can combine to make something edible. They had eggs, fruit, and bread, so we mostly settled for items we recognized.
Outside Tran-Mattresses we came into one of Kitale’s developing problems. Boys outside the grocery store, living off of handouts, sniffing glue in broad daylight. Even though Kenya adults discourage this among the street children, the street children get enough handouts and a sympathetic adult somewhere to buy them glue. Shopkeepers told us that these children live to maybe 20 or 25 years old before dying of violence or their brain rotting. One of the hard lessons for missionaries to learn is that giving money directly to those in need can have devastating consequences; it’s far better to contribute to an organization that will provide food, shelter, or medical care. Even if you give these street children something that they need, like shoes, they are likely to sell them for glue money.
We took our breakfast groceries, our bottled water, and mosquito netting back to the compound where we probably spent 3 hours trying to hang them. We were handicapped by a lack of tools, but the bunk beds were handmade and oversized and the netting wouldn’t stretch properly. Some nets were cut with scissors (ok, it was tiny nail file scissors) and then duct taped back into a larger net. I hadn’t seen a mosquito all day, and it was the dry season and very likely to see one. I was also taking malarone to prevent malaria, so given all that I went without netting.
Tomorrow’s a busy day; the plan is bathe street children and orphans at a local church.