The flights go smoothly, though I don’t sleep a wink and have to stay sanctified and stifle an impulse to slap the guy in the row in front of me who is snoring very loudly. From Frankfurt to Nairobi, I have a profitable conversation with my seat mate, a Catholic, about theology. When we arrive in Nairobi, we finally get through customs after an hour-and-a-half, and I get to use my U.S. passport for the first time. Excited to be back in Kenya, land of my fathers!
After a good sleep and breakfast, my driver and friend, Isaac, picks me up in an old vehicle. He explains that he hired out his van to a friend who drove it up a hill to or from Nakuru without checking the water and after the gauge indicated the engine was frying. So this car is one he has hired from another friend. We head through Nairobi’s atrocious traffic and arrive at my 97-year-old Uncle’s place. He is my mother’s brother, and I have been reading 177 pages in Part I of his memoirs which go from my grandparents’ arrival in Kenya 100 years ago (real pioneer days) to the end of World War II in which he served in the Camel Corps in British Somaliland. It is such a treat to catch up again with him and his wonderful wife, Yvonne.
On the way back to the hotel, Isaac and I stop at a Forex at the Galleria Mall to change money. Back in the car, it won’t start. A quick prayer later, and it still won’t start. It’s an amusing picture in Kenya: the white mzungu pushing the car with all his might, African Isaac at the wheel. Our “crash start” is successful. Ten minutes later, the car dies on the freeway. Trucks and cars whizz by, inches away. As Isaac starts to dial his friendly mechanic, I exit the car in case it is hit. I convince Isaac, who thinks it’s safer in the car, to move it a little further off the road, though there is a sharp drop off. While we’re waiting for his mechanic, someone stops a hundred yards ahead and starts to back up towards us. He is terrible at reversing, and weaves in and out of the lane as trucks honk angrily. He offers me a ride, which Isaac recommends I take for 1200 Kenya Shillings ($12.00). I figure so long as he drives forwards and not backwards, my odds are pretty good. I’m glad I have taken the ride when I hear from Isaac four hours later that he is still waiting for a tow.
Sports and Sleep
He messages me on WhatsApp in the morning saying he has not been able to get another vehicle, so I cancel my plans to see another Kenyan friend and visit the national museum, catch up on some sleep and watch the 3rd rugby test match between the British Lions and the New Zealand All Blacks. They’ve won a game each, so this is the decider. It is a vigorous game, a cliff hanger. In the last 5 minutes the TV signal dies completely. Karibu Kenya, I think: Welcome to Kenya. I have to google the final result.
That night, I have dinner with Sammy, the director of Share International, the ministry I’ll be serving with in Turkana, and Lee Woody Wood, a presenter from another ministry, Big Life, who will be doing some teaching with the pastors at our training conference. The team comes in later that night.
We have introductions over breakfast. Most are from a church in Naples, Florida. At noon, we pile into vans and head to the airport, just 5 miles from the hotel. Five minutes later, repeated bumps indicate we have a flat, so we all pile out of the van as the driver changes the tire. Fortunately, it has air in it and we are on our way again in 15 minutes.
Soon we are on Flight 540 Air to Lodwar, the seat of Turkana County, an hour-and-a-half flight When we all arrive from our various points of origin, there will be about 25 of us altogether, including 5 from Nairobi. The real adventure and mission is about to begin.