Sunday, 31 August 2014

It's not all work, work, work...

When I came to Africa in August 2013 it was not to travel, or find myself, or run away (tried all those before... as a little lad I only managed to get halfway down the garden). 

It was because I felt convinced that God wanted me here for this year. 

But it's not all work, work, work. There are just too many wonderful places in East Africa for me to avoid them all.

Shameless tourist

On the way up Mt Kenya

Anyone for tea?

Wonder of the world...

That abandoned beach feeling

Bashful baby leopard

Almost at the summit of Mt Longonot

Psalm 148
Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
    stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
    small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
    you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
    old men and children.
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

Friday, 8 August 2014

All the boats are leaving the island

There's a funny feeling at the end of a school term. I'm talking about transport.

Some of the students and school staff in Korr are actually from a different part of Kenya, or have to go for further studies in the holidays. And everyone wants to head south during the same few days. The problem is that there are only a handful of vehicles available, so there tends to be a mad scramble to secure a place on the back of a jeep/lorry/bus... anything.

Some of the people I work with in Korr.

It feels like a whole bunch of people on a desert island, all waiting for boats - but if you miss the boats, then you remain on the island, scanning the horizon hopefully. In some ways, Korr still has that feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world.

In my case, I had been told that if I paid a set amount, I would be able to join about a dozen of the other teachers, to travel in comfort all the way to Nairobi. If I was up at 3am then I would be "picked" from my house ("pick up" rarely gets used around here. It's much easier to just say ' pick').

A little after 3 o'clock, I heard some full-throated beeping from the gates of the compound (the concept of 'noise pollution' is not as widespread as you might think). My ride! Within two minutes, I was riding in the back of a medium-sized jeep, under the cover of tarpaulin, stretched over the steel frame of the vehicle. I felt like Harry Houdini trying to find a place to park myself, as the jeep was already overloaded with luggage and adults. Ten sardines. Well, at least I didn't need a seatbelt - I was tightly fastened in between two colleagues, who didn't grumble, even though we were basically crushing each other. And then the bad news: we still have five more people to pick. In the words of John McEnroe, "You cannot be serious." Amazingly, under the cover of darkness, we folded another five people into the air pocket.

For four or five hours we lurched around, as the driver did the necessary off-roading to take us all the way to Isiolo. After we had counted our bruises and nursed our dormant legs back to life, a few of us decided to find a shuttle to Nairobi (a shuttle is a refurbished matutu with more leg room than your average matutu. The teachers marvel at the wonders of the 'shuttle'. I've got to admit - I like a good shuttle.).

As we continued on our way to Kenya's capital, I did a lot of looking out of the window and I couldn't help noticing a few quirky little differences. I kept thinking,

You don't see that very often in England... 

For example:

1. A truck with a deployment of soldiers parked at the side of the main road, and about thirty guys lined up to empty their bladders, in the broad daylight. In their defence, they were wearing plenty of camouflage. Furthermore, I haven't seen a service station for months, so, what were their options? Also, I appreciated that they were stood in a relatively straight line - regimental, orderly, efficient.

2. A shepherd herding his goats by launching stones at his precious flock. (I am told that goats can be particularly disobedient animals.)

3. Police stopping your vehicle and asking for ID from everyone. This happened at least five times.

4. Zebra crossings and mountainous speed bumps on a motorway. The Thika Highway looks just like any ordinary motorway until you hit one of the 'sleeping policemen,' followed by very long zebra crossings (across maybe eight lanes of traffic) and, even more amazingly, people actually using these black and white crossings. Who needs extreme sports when you can cross the road for FREE?

On a serious note, I'm thankful for a safe journey, I really am. Only this week, a young Headteacher from Korr lost his life on these roads. God gives us the days we have. Let's use them wisely. 

I love the advice at the start of Ephesians 5:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.