Travel to Nairobi

Trip Start Jan 20, 2008
Trip End Feb 10, 2008

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

At my early breakfast this morning the two nearly-tame crowned cranes that live in the garden of the Novotel walked through the dining area looking for treats. I caught one with my camera. They are exquisitely beautiful birds.
Nathan and Mo´se arrived a little before 7:30 just as I was coming out from breakfast. We went up to the room. I showed them some video of trips I had made through parts of Africa and elsewhere so they could get a feel for what our congregations and our services are like. Then they asked about how we explain the chronology of the crucifixion and the resurrection: the three days and three nights in the heart of the earth of which Jesus spoke. This subject has come up as we went through our fundamental doctrines yesterday. When I went through it step by step with them they broke out into large smiles. "It is so clear!" they said with excitement. They had never had it explained from the Bible before and were very happy to have learned this simple but important truth.
Next we discussed their church service format and how ours differed. I went though a few points and we read the pertinent scriptures for each. Our ladies don't give the congregational prayers during services. We don't make a call to public repentance at the end of the sermon, nor do we invited the sick to come forward to receive a group blessing from the pastor. At this point I went through the passage in James about anointing. That was new to them too. We don't pass the offering basket (or in their case, the offering cooking pot) every Sabbath, as they have been doing, but only on the annual Holy Days. That led to a discussion of tithing, which I believe they understood already but weren't applying. The idea of tithing is sometimes difficult to accept at first, and it is a special challenge to people who don't have much to start with and who aren't used to keeping a budget or doing much in the way of financial planning. Often in Africa there is little if any planning. If you have more than you need now, enjoy it all. Don't bother saving any for unexpected expenses in the future.
I remember overhearing a conversation in northern Cameroon some years ago by men explaining to each other their thoughts on wealth.  One of the said "the whites will save and save all their lives, and then they leave it to their children! Not me, I want all of what is mine, and I want to use it all myself!" Not everyone in Africa thinks like that of course many do carefully plan for the future and budget, but many don't.
I gave some practical advice on explaining the financial principles in the Bible and we read a number of scriptures to help fill out the picture. As we talked about all this, I was impressed to learn that Nathan, though the serving elder for a number of different congregations, works his own fields to provide for his family. He receives no remuneration from the church at all. It reminded me of Paul making tents so as not to cause offense to new and sensitive brethren.
By the time we covered all this at was nearly 10:30 and time for me to leave for the airport. I checked out and the three of us took a taxi after Mo´se negotiated the driver back to reality. He had gotten a little carried away in his price quote but Mo´se kept him honest. We said goodbye at the airport and I went through the travel formalities. The wait in the departure lounge gave me time to listen to a sermon I had downloaded onto my mp3 player.
The Kenya airways flight was on time from Kigali. We didn't have assigned seats, the flight was not full so we were told to sit where we liked. A few Burundians took that instruction a little farther than intended and went forward to sit in first class. More specific instructions were given and they came back to economy looking sad - it was worth a try. We had a view of Lake Victoria again, flew over the Serengeti Plain and almost right over the Ngong hills where Karen Blixen's lover Dennis Finch-Hatton is buried, as she recounts in Out of Africa. I actually went some years ago and tracked down his burial site, but that's a story for another time.
I negotiated a taxi to take me to the hotel where I would stay. The ride in was quite informative. The driver, John was clearly upset; afraid and angry about the violence that is still bubbling in Kenya. He had very hard words for President Kibaki whose supporters are accused of fixing the recent election to keep him in power. His supporters are mostly Kikuyu, the largest of the tribes in Kenya (around 20% of the population), and the ones who seem to have profited most from independence (Jomo Kenyatta was Kikuyu). The Luo, another of the main tribes (about 12% of the population), mostly backed the Luo opposition leader, Raila Odinga in the late election. When Odinga's abiding lead as the ballot counting occurred, suddenly evaporated toward the end of the count leaving Kibaki the nominal winner, violence exploded between these ethnic groups. Some estimates say as many as 2000 people have been killed, especially in tribally mixed areas. The violence has been extremely cruel: people killed for being of the wrong tribe in the wrong place.  Mothers and their children have been burned alive in their houses, men killed with machetes or clubs. John is Luo (it's not surprising he feels as strongly as he does) and he said his home area around Kisumu as extremely dangerous now. I told him I used to travel to those areas several times a year. He responded that Kericho, a beautiful tea-growing center in the mountains is one of the most dangerous places. He said the violence is setting other tribes against each other: now the Kalenjin are fighting the Kisii.
As we drove into town, he pointed to several intersections. We could not have driven here even a few days ago, he said; the van would have been smashed with stones. The police were shooting people without being careful.
He was upset with the US and Britain too. He said civil rights groups are saying that the US and Britain should not accept the outcome of rigged elections and not recognize President Kibaki. He wished the US would intervene and overthrow him like was done to Saddam Hussein. I explained how his wish would appear to Americans: why should we spend billions of dollars and the lives of our young men to invade a country so far away and that does not affect us, and when it is hard to know who is right? America is a democracy, I told him, if leaders do things like that they get replaced. I pointed out how low President Bush's ratings are now, because of the war in Iraq. "Ah, so that is the problem" John said. I think he had never really thought about it before. People imagine sometimes that the US can do anything it chooses. So it gets blamed for what it does and what it doesn't do.
John said democracy does not work in Africa; people cheat. What is the use of voting if people cheat and rig the elections? He said Kenya might be better off with a chief for life.
His frustration and anger were hot. I asked if this has affected tourism. He said that it has been terribly affected. It is not possible to drive to the game parks now. "I am Luo" he told me, "if you would ask me to drive you there I was say 'no.' I would be killed. They can not kill you, they would only take your camera and cell phone and your things, but me they would kill and burn the van!" I notice that the van is rigged for safari drives, and I ask if that is the case.  He tells me that usually he is a safari driver, but there is no work now, so he tries to drive people from the airport to Nairobi. The only way for tourists to go to the game parks now is to fly.
How very sad, that this magnificent country that had been an island of stability (not perfect by any means but much better that surrounding nations) has come to this.
"If Kibaki stays" John continues, "the violence will continue. We may have a situation here like Rwanda and Burundi!" He thinks President Kibaki will be assassinated.  None of that sounds good at all.
We arrived at the hotel and I arranged for him to pick me tomorrow morning at 6:00. It could take as long as an hour to get to the airport with morning traffic. Tomorrow I have a 9:00 flight to my next destination: the Seychelles.
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