Kenya, day #4
It was terrifying. Perhaps. I was thinking about this at the time, wondering how I would describe this experience. We were on the Uganda Road and it was after 6, getting dark and pouring with rain. Seated in the front seats of the matatu people carrier, with 14 seats and possibly more people than that inside. We didn’t have discernible lights on and we were overtaking large Congolese oil tankers at speed. With the intensity of the rain and the driver’s single windscreen wiper unable to keep up, it was a wonder that he could see anything. There were no markings on the road, and tarmac merges with mud merges with bush on the sides. And there was plenty of traffic coming the other way.
It wasn’t terrifying. No, I was also thinking about the next stage of the journey after we got off the matatu, that would probably involve riding as a passenger on a motorbike in driving rain and without a helmet on on a muddy, potholed stoney road with streams of water and puddles strewn across it.
And it wasn’t terrifying because I was with my friend A and we were chatting about all sorts of things including faith, our lives, our families and we were reflecting on our company with each other over the past 60 hours or so.
Perhaps it wasn’t terrifying because I covered this same stretch of road one dark night in December 2009 with two friends while in a fault in our vehicle restricted us to approximately 5-10 miles an hour.
It was all of these reasons and none of them. It was thanks, despite the torrential rain and looming darkness, to being held tenderly in the Light by friends from afar, to being in God’s presence.
All of my writing so far seems to be about journeys. Going places. Just as peace is the journey, not the destination. My spiritual journey. But I am going places, I’m just not writing so much about them.
Today I went to Kakamega to meet more peace activists. And like yesterday I was meeting ordinary people who go about their ordinary lives but for one reason or another have found themselves undertaking nonviolent communications training. And from there they have taken steps to change the lives of themselves and as importantly, people in their immediate communities. Today the young men I met were also travellers and their story, not to be told here, goes to the heart of the challenges that Kenya faces while providing great hope for the future.
When we were ready to leave Kakamega we went to the matatu station in town. We were immediately surrounded by young men touting for our business. As a mzungu they espy an opportunity to make more money by charging me extra. But in A’s company I left all of the dealings to him. As it was, we got into a matatu and it took a full hour in order for us to leave. My right leg had gone dead from the knee down thanks to the cramped position we were sat in. At least we were out of the pouring rain.
I was reminded of how when we are waiting in God’s presence it is not listless or pointless time spent. We are waiting for something specific to happen though we often don’t know what. In the case of the matatu we did know what – we were waiting to leave Kakamega, to head home, to start a journey.
Waiting in God’s presence is a bit more like the role of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting. Ready always to do whatever is required but not taking the lead. Waiting for the command. I know of people who have waited for years for God’s call and later, looking back, can see how so many of activities that they’ve done in life were all part of a bigger plan. God’s plan. Four years ago at a Friends World Committee for Consultation – Europe and Middle East Section (FWCC-EMES) annual meeting a German Quaker talked about how she didn’t get her call until she was around 40 years old. If she had waited aimlessly for all that time she would not have been skilled enough to take advantage of the opportunities that later presented themselves – in her case the opportunity to take part in Alternatives to Violence (AVP) project work.
Once we were off we really were off and we bombed it down the road. We passed through Malava forest where on the journey out in the morning I had seen two monkeys perched in the foliage on the side of the road.
Observation #1: today I saw a man wearing an ‘Adibas’ shirt.
Observation #2: I saw a funeral procession in Kakamega today. It involved lots of hooting of horns, which brought me to the window. Then a black car went past, with the front passenger seat occupied by someone who was holding a framed picture of the deceased. They were followed by a hearse and then more connected cars.