Departure and Arrival
Israel arrived to Arlington after an overnight trip from Juarez. It was great to see him, and the sense of anticipation went up a few notches when I grabbed him from his drop off point, just off I-20 a few miles from the house. He was in pretty good shape even tho he had been on the road overnight, including the customary delays that come with catching a ride.
Vince came by to get us, arriving early, so we got to the airport in plenty of time to minimize drama. His help was much appreciated, and it was good for he and Isra to see each other again.
A fifteen hour flight is a long one, maybe my longest to date. The first stop at Qatar put us beyond the continent of Africa, but with a short second flight of only five and a half hours. We lounged overnight in the Doha airport, with feelings alternating between excitement, boredom and slumber, with some sort of repeating cycle. Free internet in the airport was helpful.
Our arrival was without incident, quickly thru customs thanks to the heads up we had received in advance about the new Visa policy for Kenya. Thanks Hydrating Humanity guys! Not all trying to enter were so fortunate….
We were off in little time to Mayfield Guest House, a ministry outpost of African Inland Missions. Nice place, friendly and helpful staff, and a bed after nearly two days of movement. It was a welcome development.
Leaving Nairobi Early
We met a gentleman at the guest house, who I greeted upon his late arrival in the check in. He said he was leaving early for Ghana. I suggested, since we were also leaving early for the bus station, we'd be happy if he could join us for breakfast. He did.
Stan had spent 25 years in Kenya, and 13 more in South Africa before retiring to where he now lives at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Northern Georgia. He had grown up here, since 1951, and actually graduated from a private high school in Nairobi. He spoke of what it was like to be in Kenya during her struggle for independence from Brittain, and mentioned a few details that were clearly alive in his memory fifty years later. As we ate our toast, coffee, and some wheat thing that needed tons of milk to overcome its dryness, we had the sweet fellowship of those who meet on the field, conjoined not by familiarity, but shared purpose.
Our driver had some confusion with us and we didn't actually head to the bus station until around 6:30. We were scheduled to leave at 6. The bus's pending departure at 7 created a dynamic in the ticket line worthy of a documentary on human behavior. I don't know if that happens every day, but to my western mind, it was mind blowing. In any event, tickets procured at the last minute and Israel and I were aboard.
What can be said of the bus ride?
Warm weather cultures are used to significantly less air circulation with the added body heat bonus. We are not.
We arrived to Isibania, a city near Lake Victoria that spills over the border into Tanzania, after nearly ten hours in the equivalent of a Central American chicken bus, which is about what it would take to cross the Pacific side of Nicaragua, from Costa Rica to Honduras. Africa is massive.We were greeted by Faith, Mishael's oldest son, and a church elder from one of the congregations, as well as a full stall of “iron horses” to carry us onward the remaining half hour. Mishael was close by, taking care of a business matter in town. Shortly he arrived and, after the procurement of a local SIM card, we were off at a gallop.
The beauty of the Western Kenyan countryside had somehow faded from memory. This ride would remedy that. Almost immediately there was a large rainbow in the sky, which I regarded as significant, to take the beauty even higher. In what seemed like no time, the most enjoyable part of more than three days of getting there had passed. We arrived safely at Mishael's home.
Church Meetings, Delays, and Rain Outs
Our arrival was delayed due to a policeman stopping the bus (likely for reasonable suspicion) for somewhere between thirty minutes and an hour. Because of this, we missed the meeting we were scheduled to go straight to from the rendezvous at the bus stop. This was only the first a few gotchas, as we, the next morning, were delayed by strong rain. It was the kind of rain that wouldn't let us leave on the motorcycle. Finally it let up in time for us to make the 2nd meeting we had scheduled for the day, and we forged on in what amounted to a light rain.
We arrived to find that the four congregations were amassed and in the full swing of a meeting, which we joined, already in progress.
The sing song rhythm of African worship is a thing to behold.
I had spoken with Mishael about a trip to Lake Victoria as an outing to see something new in the area. As we sat down to discuss it, it was determined that it wouldn't be too remarkable, and would be a three hour trip one way. At this point we made the game time call to visit the Masai Mara, which is the piece of the Serengeti Plains that juts up from Tanzania into Kenya at it's border. Little did I know that Israel had a lifelong dream of going on a safari… which was about to be realized.
With the help of Mishael's friends, we headed out fairly early, along a road thru Masai territory, that was much improved since my last adventure there. That time, we had actually stuck a Safari vehicle in the mud and had to recruit the help of locals to get us moving again. What made it additionally dramatic is the demand for money that followed the favor. Thankfully, our passage would be free of such drama this time.
As I understand it, Kenya has a new constitution and form of government that is decentralized, putting federal money in the hands of county government. This has resulted in many changes, and, tho there are mixed reports, I think it has a lot to do with why the roads were better. In that measure, I am thankful for the new constitution.
The first time you encounter a game park, or go on Safari, it can seem a little surreal. I know that was so in my case. All manner of exotic wildlife, things of legend that fill children's stories, larger than life almost within arms reach, it's a lot to take in! Had I not led us down the back road, we would have seen much more sooner… I'll chock that bad call up to a novice mistake. Haha
We did see all of the “Big 5” except the leopard, finally, after we got on a better road. This was my first time to see the rhino.. It was cool! He wanted to hide from us, but, we did see him. Zebra in abundance and wildebeest without number, elephants, and cape buffalo, and don't forget giraffe. Baboons and hippos also, at the place in the crook of the Mara River where the hippos gather… This experience comes highly recommended. This was my third occasion for a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. I was thankful, as was Israel, on his first.
For purposes of brevity, the remainder of the trip is summarized in another blog post. To go to the conclusion blog, click here…