21 May 2018

The day an angel walked with me, and I was unaware

While recently visiting my friends in Narok, fellow missionaries Dave and Sue, I headed out for a walk. I wasn't interested in the busy and noisy town center or the highway through town, so I simply 'followed my nose'. Eventually I realized I had entered the town quarry. Left with only two choices - continue walking through the quarry or retrace my steps a short distance back to their house - I opted to continue in the same direction.

Because such places are often frequented by a 'rough' crowd, I whispered a prayer to God asking him to protect me. I wasn't at all fearful, but simply wanted to be vigilant.

Ever the adventurer, I very much enjoyed myself, following the various twists and turns on the footpaths. Every so often, I asked someone if I was headed in the right direction to get back to town. Everywhere there were guys - and ladies - cutting stone out of the ground. They used nothing but hand tools, grit, and the sweat of their brow. There were a few crudely-built shacks acting as 'hotelies', offering a cup of chai and something to bite.

A few people greeted me, but mostly they kept at their back-breaking work, trying to earn enough to feed their families. I continued my un-mapped and unplanned journey, continuing to confirm I was headed back in the eventual direction of town.

Eventually I came to the river and started hearing sounds of town. Soon I could see buildings and houses, a church or two, or a petrol station. I paused for a nice chat with a guy named Samson; after confirming I was going the right way, he said he hoped we might meet again some day.

Shortly after talking to him, another guy came along on the path. He greeted me and then asked, "Where is your friend? I responded, "I'm just out here alone, taking a walk."

"But I've seen two wazungu. Where's the other one?" He even turned around looking in the direction from where I had come, saying, "Where is he? There were two of you. I saw two white people walking together."

I informed him again, "But it's just me; I'm alone and now I'm talking to you." I subtly changed the subject, saying I wanted to continue my journey and we parted company.

As I continued on my way, going down a steep hill just near town and then forcing my way through a large herd of goats, it suddenly occurred to me that what the guy had seen was an angel walking with me. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I firmly believe that is what had transpired.

Some have entertained angels unaware. 
Hebrews 13:2

God does do that sort of thing, you know. There are so many instances in the Bible where God sends a message through an angel, sends an angel to fight our battles in the spiritual realm, or sends an whole army of angels to fight a physical battle and opens the eyes of a human so he could see them and believe.

When I got back to the house, I told Sue and her friend, Phoebe, my story. They both confirmed that the quarry can be a rough place, but also firmly believed that God indeed did send an angel.

I headed into the guestroom to work on my cross-stitch project and turned on my music playlist. A song from Psalm 91 came up, giving more confirmation. Please read it from the Message version and  listen to the song on the YouTube video below.

Later that evening, I treated Dave and Sue to dinner at the local coffee house for their anniversary. When I told Dave the story, he had the exact same reaction - "Yeah, that quarry is a dangerous place. And I believe God did send an angel to walk alongside you."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Psalm 91 (Message)
You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!”
That’s right - he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you - under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing - not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon.
Even though others succumb all around, drop like flies right and left, no harm will even graze you.
You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance, watch the wicked turn into corpses.
Yes, because God’s your refuge, the High God your very own home,
Evil can’t get close to you, harm can’t get through the door.

He orders his angels to guard you wherever you go.

If you stumble, they’ll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling.
You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes, and kick young lions and serpents from the path.
“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!”

After I got back to the house I looked on Google maps to see where I had been, as I had not carried my phone with me during the walk. Dave and Sue's house is at the small red square. From there, I followed the white road heading south. The arrow is where I realized I was walking into to a quarry and asked God to protect me. The squiggly line represents my meandering in the quarry, following various twisting footpaths. The star represents where I met the guy who had seen two of us walking.

[Note: Photos are from the internet.]

16 May 2018

Road trip: Eldoret to Moyale, Ethiopia - Fifth (and final) leg, back to Nairobi

Market day in Marsabit. The men barter for the cattle on one side of the highway...

... and the women sell the camels and goats on the other side. [Sorry I didn't get any pictures of that.]

We saw many swollen and gushing rivers! Sadly, many lost their lives because of them.

When we stopped along the way, we got some boiled maize - - a nice snack.

Robai saw a crocodile for her first time ever!

We stopped at Thika and hiked around the area of Chania Falls.

The day before we left Eldoret, Robai and I had also traveled 75 miles (one way) to Kocholia to visit Agnes and her boys (just 5 miles from Malaba on the Uganda border).

Once she and I returned to Nairobi, she had another trip back to Eldoret and I headed home to Ngong town. We had traveled over 1,500 miles in the span of two weeks - - all of it via public transportation.

We certainly saw a lot of Kenya. It was an amazing trip!

- - - - -

"Travel makes one modest; you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world."
   ~ Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), French novelist

14 May 2018

Road trip: Eldoret to Moyale, Ethiopia - Fourth leg, crossing the border

While waiting for our meal at Koket Borena (Moyale, Ethiopia), I hung out with these very cheerful groomsmen

At the border with Kenya and Ethiopia there are two towns called Moyale, one in each country. I was told I could walk across the border with no visa, so the girls and I made a plan to eat at Koket Borena restaurant - the best spot in town. Robai and Safia had never been in a foreign country and were very excited at the prospect. After arriving at Moyale on the Kenya side, we found a café to have some chai and mandazi. And then... we excitedly set off for the border crossing!

However, we discovered that it was not that easy to cross the border without a visa. Eventually though, after a lot of patient conversation, the official allowed me to cross - - but only if I left my passport with him and if we promised to not stay too long.

Along the way, at one of the many police roadblocks with barriers, this lorry had backed into a police truck.

Beautiful scenery and typical homes along the highway

After we walked across the border, we hopped on a tuk-tuk and headed to the restaurant.

The official language in Ethiopia is Amharic, a Semitic language spoken by 9 million people

Doro wat (Amharic: ዶሮ ወጥ)

This type of stewed meat, boiled eggs, vegetables, etc, is the traditional food in Ethiopia. It is typically eaten in a group sharing a communal platter of injera, a spongy flat bread made from fermented teff flour. When it was served, we ate it using our fingers.

Water fountain at the restaurant

Yummy Ethiopian Spris fruit drinks (pronounced spreece), made with avocado, mango, beets, papaya, and other fruit

A farewell sign at the border on the Ethiopia side

A friendly group of guys hanging out, and surprised to see a mzungu :)

The immigration official that reluctantly allowed me to enter Ethiopia without a visa. 

When we returned to Kenya, we found another vehicle and headed back to Marsabit for one last night.

Herds of camels nonchalantly cross the highway. It's actually quite a problem for the drivers. [See my two videos below.]

Marsabit to Moyale - 150 miles
(making a total of 700 miles one-way Eldoret to Moyale)

"Travel makes one modest; you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world."
   ~ Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), French novelist

11 May 2018

Road trip: Eldoret to Moyale, Ethiopia - Third leg, Marsabit and Bubisa

Amina (in yellow dress) took us to Bubisa (30 miles north of Marsabit) to visit her father and his second wife. 

The Gabbra, a nomadic tribe of approximately 30,000 people, live in northeast Kenya and across the border with Ethiopia. They are an eastern Cushitic (Oromo) speaking people who originated in southern Ethiopia and are closely associated with Borana. Pastoralists with a strong attachment to camels, the Gabbra developed a rich culture stemming from the harsh environment in which they live.

We walked across a dry seasonal river bed, in order to reach the grand-father's house.

Because the women cook - and make chai - inside the small houses, they are quite smokey.

The Gabbra's culture is similar to many other Cushitic-speaking camel herders. The latter include the Rendille and Somali, all of whom the Gabbra describe as warra dassee (people of the mat), in reference to the mat-covered, portable homes which accompany their nomadic lifestyle. The Borana, on the other hand, are described by the Gabbra as warra buyyoo (people of the grass), in reference to the grass huts that characterize their sedentary lifestyle.

Gabbra homes, called mandasse, are light, dome-shaped tents made of acacia roots and covered with sisal grass mats, textiles, and camel hides. Each one is divided into 2-4 rooms. A mandasse can be completely disassembled and converted into a camel-carried utfa (litter) in which children and the elderly travel.

Gabbra live in small villages, or ola made up of several mandasse. An ola can be moved short distances up to twelve times a year, in search of better grazing for the camels and other livestock. They migrate to the highlands during the rainy season to allow the dry season pasture to replenish its water resources.

This is a brand new home for a new bride. Notice the all the volcanic rock in the village.

The weather pattern, in conjunction with the pasture needs of the Gabbra's herds, largely determine migrations, birthing patterns, and the timing of initiation rites. For the Gabbra, to live in balance with a trying environment is to protect land, animal, and fellow Gabbra. They practice certain food and plant taboos, preserve full-grown trees called korma (bulls), and revere pregnant women and pregnant animals.

Perhaps most symbolic of the Gabbra's identity is the proverb: 
"A poor man shames us all." 

Since mutual support is imperative for their survival as nomads, no Gabbra may be allowed to go hungry, be without animals, or refused hospitality or assistance. A person who refuses to help others is labeled al baku, a stigma that stays with the family for generations.

Drawing water from a pan (a small reservoir excavated to hold rain and runoff water) 

Mohammed, who is quite fluent in English, and I became buddies

Beauty and a splash of color in the midst of a harsh environment

Amina's father with his second wife and his last-born child

Another round of chai, served after lunch in the 'store', which was not smokey and had more light

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with Amina's father and his family! They insisted I visit them again, and I certainly hope that will happen!

All along the way, both going and coming, we encountered many camels crossing the highway.

Isiolo to Marsabit (170 miles)

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
   ~ Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer

09 May 2018

Road trip: Eldoret to Moyale, Ethiopia - Second leg, onward to Isiolo

After taking a bus from my house at Ngong to Nairobi, we stopped for chai and mandazi at my favorite little spot. We then took a van as far as Nanyuki so we could find a GeoCache at Kongoni Camp, a really nice hotel and restaurant on the edge of town. We had a cold soda there and the girls found the hidden object we were looking for. After a nice lunch of nyama choma (roasted goat) back in Nanyuki, we got another vehicle and headed to Isiolo.

The rain, clouds, and fog obliterated any hope to see Mount Kenya as we headed on to Isiolo.

Typical roadside shop along the highway

After reaching Isiolo, we dropped off our bags at a cheap hotel and then got some cheap cups of chai!

We headed out to the same area where I took a stroll the last time I was in Isiolo.

Boys squeezing in a football match before the sun set

I was pleasantly surprised to not only see Mount Kenya off in the distance, but to see so much snow on it!

When we had seemingly randomly met Gideon on the evening of our walk, he invited us to come to his place for chai and chapati the next morning. I found him to be a great guy so we took him up on his offer. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Orena (white shirt), who is from South Africa. Eventually we met the whole family: Gideon's wife, young son (named after Orena), mom (Stella), and nephew (Ginger), plus Gideon's father (not in the photo). If I ever make it back to Isiolo, I'm sure I'll look for Gideon and his family again.

Nairobi to Isiolo (170 miles), with a stop in Nanyuki

"One's destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things."
   ~ Henry Miller (1891-1980), American writer

07 May 2018

Road trip: Eldoret to Moyale, Ethiopia - First leg, exploring Nairobi

The Africa Fund for Endangered Wildlife was founded in 1979 by the late Jock Leslie-Melville and his wife, Betty, after discovering the sad plight of the Rothschild Giraffe. The animals had lost their habitat in Western Kenya, due to a growing human population. Thanks to Jock and Betty's program of breeding giraffe in captivity, there are now over 300 Rothschild Giraffe (from the original 130 they rescued) living well in various Kenya national parks. It's always a treat to visit them and take my friends along.

After Madina closed school in early April, she and Robai traveled with me from Eldoret to our eventual destination of Moyale, Ethiopia. But first we stopped off in Nairobi for a few days of fun and exploring the big city.

One never knows what you might encounter on any given day in this country; here's an example of the randomness of Kenya. We happened upon this 'bicycle rickshaw' in the Hardy area as we headed to the Giraffe Center. It was the first day the new owner was trying it out, and he gladly allowed Robai to help provide the 'pedal power'.

We hiked at two different forests; these shots are from our time at Karura. 

Late one afternoon we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.

Robai made a new friend :)

Eldoret to Nairobi, 200 miles

"For the born traveler, travelling is a besetting vice.
Like other vices, it is imperious, demanding its victim's time, money, energy and the sacrifice of comfort."
   ~ Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), English writer