Kenya day #3

Richard Foster was my guide again today as I rode with A on our way to Meelimani In his Celebration of Discipline Richard writes about ‘flash prayer’, a concept developed by Frank Laubach. Richard writes: “I have tried it, inwardly asking the joy of the Lord and a deeper awareness of his presence to rise up in every person I meet.” My version was slightly different. Since everyone we passed was probably at least thinking “Muzungu!” (white person/foreigner!) or perhaps saying it I thought that I might try this exercise too. It wasn’t the same as meeting people, but it certainly kept me busy as we went along. Richard writes that some people show no difference but others do look up and smile as if they have been addressed. Since most people were smiling anyway I have no idea how much difference I made. At least I enjoyed myself.


And it was different to praying constantly for a safe journey, which is what I had done for quite a while during the night preceding the ride.


Today was my first every journey by motorcycle.


When I was discussing this part of my trip with my colleagues, we talked about all sorts of things. Who would pay for what, what process we would use to edit my writing, where copyright lay, how to make sure that everything was culturally sensitive. It never crossed my mind to discuss my travel limits.


It turns out that travelling by motorcycle isn’t that bad. In fact, compared to the ride in the back of a truck this evening, going by motorcycle is a luxury. At first, when we were about to set off, the bike wouldn’t work. Briefly I thought that maybe it wasn’t in God’s plans for me to go by motorbike. But after a few minutes we were off, only for me to have to get off about 50 yards up the hill because the track was so uneven.


Thankfully today’s travel didn’t involve any travel on the Mombassa-Kampala highway. We only went on back roads, tracking over the deep red mud that seems to be everywhere. At least it wasn’t raining, that would have been hellish. Riding on the back of a bike was easier than I thought that it might be – I just had to make sure that I didn’t slide forward and that I kept my legs spread wide enough that I wasn’t gripping my driver. This morning I had even done some stretches for those muscles if only because I haven’t done any intensive exercise for a few days and my body is beginning to complain. Perhaps I can go for a run in the morning.


The only drawback of motorbike riding is having to hold onto a thin metal bar behind one’s backside. Once holding on it was difficult to change position without letting go and initially I didn’t have the confidence to do so. My knuckles suffered as a consequence.


The benefit was being close to the birds. I didn’t bring a bird book and rather wish that I did. I’ve seen so many kinds of birds that I don’t recognise. Many of them I suspect to be quite ordinary here, but to me they all look new and beautiful.


There’s also a certain symmetry to being so close to the road you’re travelling on, just like being on a bicycle.


That was something that I remarked to the bodaboda rider who took me from the venue in Meelimani to the Lugari Yearly Meeting farm in the late afternoon. Most of the day had been spent listening and observing, among Kenyans. I’m continuously being inspired by the people I meet as I watch them working and hear what they have to say about their lives, experiences and hopes and visions for the future.


The bodaboda rider and I got chatting. He was pleased that I could understand his English and he said he understood my Kiswahili. Go us! This was my second ride of the day and I made sure that A explained this to the bodaboda rider before we set off, just to make sure. He remarked upon my weight (110kg) as the bike puffed along.


Of course, the circumstances were different this time. It had rained heavily for the past hour or so, there were puddles all over the place and as the mud road was wet we were prepared to slide here and there. And there was a lightning and thunderstorm going on too. It had been upon us earlier and now was rolling around the valley, sometimes closer, thankfully mostly further away.


Finally, we arrived at Lugari Yearly Meeting’s property. They’ve got a farm where they’re growing sugar cane. They’re also doing lots of building works and are turning some of the property into a peace centre. An African Great Lakes Initiative work camp is doing some of those works – they’re a mixture of British, American and Kenyan volunteers. There was also some mediation training going on there.


The best bit of arriving at Lugari YM was meeting Wilson. I last met Wilson when I visited Eldoret Friends Church in 2009. It was a joy to meet him as I had no idea that he was going to be there. He gave me a great big hug and we had a brief chat in Swahili before I had to revert to English, as usual.


It was really good to be there among Friends, just chatting with a Kenyan Young (Adult) Friend about faith, transformation and what it really means to be a Quaker. Several of the Young Friends that I’ve met are totally involved in peacework and were participating in the mediation training.


All in all, another satisfying day, though I am already knackered and could do with a long night’s sleep. On Thursday I’ll be taking another kind of transport – a matatu – as I head off to meet more peace activists.


Observation #1: My HTC phone hasn’t worked at all since I’ve been in Kenya. It didn’t occur to me at all to check whether it would work, before I got here. My previous phone, a Nokia E71 worked when I visited here in 2009 so I just presumed that the HTC would work too. And Safaricom are apparently meant to only charge me 3 Kenyan Shillings a minute to call the UK. Instead I’m being charged around 20. Safaricom fail.


Observation #2: There are lots of non-original brand clothes around and occasionally the colours are out of sync with what I’m used to seeing (such as football shirts in completely different colours to what I expect) and today’s spot, which I didn’t get to take a picture of, was of a guy wearing “adidass” trousers.


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