My Trip

My Trip:

When we left, the ten of us were divided into two travel teams of five.  Our team left later and got in later via Norfolk, Kennedy, Brussels and Nairobi.   The other team went through Newark and Heathrow through Nairobi.  There luggage, unfortunately never left Newark for several days, so while towards the middle of the trip several members did get their luggage, for the duration of the trip, we had one member only receive one bag (the more important bag remained absent) and another did not receive any of his luggage until we left the mission area and returned to Nairobi.

        We spent a day in Nairobi before boarding a plane to the coast.  We originally were going to do a two day trip by lorry, but a second lorry was out of commission and only the people from the local Nairobi church went by lorry.  They decided to make the two day trip into a single long day and spent 18 hours on the road.  The trucks were provided by a third organization, Diguna, who in addition to two driver/mechanics, supplied two cooks and two German youths who were ending a six month commitment in Africa.  Three teams, a total of 22 people ended up at the project site.

        We stayed at an abandon hospital site. Some of the staff buildings were abandoned to the elements; others were leased out to families by the government. Our missionary had leased 4 ‘apartments’ for his own residence, office and mission work. The other apartments (2 apartments per building) were leased by Somalias.    Another part of the hospital was being used as a health clinic. There was no running water or electricity, plenty of bats, monkeys, baboons and goats. We were visited at night by various animals, one night allegedly by a pair of lions, another by hyenas, but for the most part, the animals avoided us when we were around. No snakes were spotted but a scorpion or two were seen.

        The weather was rather mild. Nairobi was 6000 feet above sea level and to most seem cold. While south of the equator, we were also in Kenya’s winter. In the bush, it was the end of the rainy season. Plants and grass was green, winds were constant and we had several short, sweet rainfalls a day until a day or two before we left the area. Sometimes when it rained, it was like a giant air conditioner was turned on. After the rain there was a short period of mugginess and then just dry but not uncomfortable heat. I was told that our timing, if off by even three weeks would make a world of difference in temperature, foliage and comfort. At night, most of us had trouble sleeping and that is where I felt the most uncomfortable, pertaining to sweat and heat. Despite the winds, we had very little air circulation in our rooms. A rooster was our alarm clock.

        The project was located about 8 kilometers from the hospital. Local craftsmen and a foreman were hired and our group was basically manual labor. We were two teams, a team for retrieving materials and a team that did work on the site. The teams were changed every day so there were opportunities to do both. At first the locals had a problem telling the white folks what to do and would only do so through the foreman, but by the end of our stay, all were working as one, and when it came to the time of our  departure, they were genuinely sorry to see us leave. Building material consisted of walls made from coral block and concrete. The coral blocks were mined from the ground, where locals dug a few feet into the ground, struck rock and chipped out the blocks using blunt axes and picks. The blocks were roughly 8 X 8 X 16 and weighed (because of differencing density) anywhere from thirty to sixty pounds.   We rode out to the site, about 50 K away, loaded the lorry (a 10 ton truck called Moses) and rode back to the site to unload. We made two trips that day, to pick up approximately 950 stones to add to the 1000 already at the site. We made a second trip that day with all members of our group. The drive to and from gave us opportunities to view the countryside. Another type of brick used was limestone brick, which is smaller and purer.  The next day we headed out a shorter distant to an area where, after scraping plants off the surface, we had sand for the concrete. Sand was loaded using shovels and the truck took a while to fill. We went for sand the next day and two more days after that. The truck drove on trails that would not have accommodated a smaller jeep or SUV. Other runs included an area where we cut down 40 ft trees with machetes and ballast, which were small rocks used for filler in the concrete mix. I spent several afternoons laying brick with one of the German team members from Diguna. 

        The area is mostly Muslim with most of the non-Muslims being Animist. Where there were a few churches around, they basically kept a low profile. We visited the local village on our return each night, wiping out the local coke-a-cola supply. There were two small stores in the village. Both stores have a daily delivery of ice for refrigeration. Our host-missionary was quite popular and always drew a small crowd. I went on a couple of trips with him into the village and was able to interact with a couple of the locals, one on one.

        The weekend, we went to a local resort island to have a little rest, real beds and real running water (as in showers). We toured the island with a local guide, went for a late afternoon sail on a Dhow, (boat) with a swim in the Indian Ocean, a first (sailing/swimming) for some of the local Nairobi team members.  We had Arabian coffee and Turkish delight as we sailed back to the island at sunset. Sunday morning we went a ways down the beach and found a small structure which to hold church. There are local churches (Methodist, Charismatic) on the island, but we felt lead to have own service. Afterwards, a couple members visited a local church and joined in for services. That evening, when we returned to the hospital, we made our way to some of the settlements of the people group we were here in support of. The three compounds we visited were varied from very poor to poor but established. These people were hunter/gatherers but the government put a restriction on their hunting and now they must raise crops but are way behind in knowledge and experience. These peoples are the local backwards ones, who are constantly being taken advantage of and victimized by others in this area.  These people only eat once a day, in plenty and in famine. There is less pain to miss the single meal during famine. The kids are seldom in school because they are human scarecrows during the day, chasing away monkeys, baboons and other raiders of their corn and produce.

        We accomplished the goal of the building part of the project, where the forms for the ring beam was build and the concrete poured (by hand, using a human chain). The ring beam serves to pull the walls in as a unit and to serve as support for the roof. There was not enough wood for all the forms, but the Nairobi team returned to the worksite after seeing us off to finish. They still need to build the roof, and place the doors, so the house is still a ways from being done. The night before we left, they slaughtered a goat and we feasted. The Diguna cooks were very talented and we were never in need of food. Drinking water ran out towards the end and we ended buying a dozen 5 liter bottles to avoid boiling water for drinking.

        Wednesday we returned to Nairobi and spent a couple more days there before leaving Friday evening for home. The time was spent at a game park, at a market place and at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate Theology School (NEGST)  located in Karen. In between we went to several good restaurants. The Nairobi team returned with Diguna late Thursday night and we all got together one last time on Friday before we departed the country.

        In retrospect, I am still absorbing my experience and still do not know what to make of it all. I have already been asked to come back to Nairobi to teach an orientation class on Microsoft Office for NEGST a year from September. I have seen God deal with various members of the teams in different ways, teaching different lessons. We changed people’s minds about Americans and even whites with both our other team members and with those locals we were working with and those whom we interacted with at the villages and various compounds. I have already built a webpage with photos, but have not uploaded them yet. Look for a link to the pictures from or from the website.

~ by thoughtcrime2 on July 22, 2005.

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