Time in Kenya

Well I arrived in Kenya with three of my daughters to visit the RUSH charity we support last Saturday. It was one of those journeys you would rather forget!

We took the “cheap” flight via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines (great airline to fly with). The only problem was that we arrived in Nairobi at 2.30am (I had a lady with her small child next to me – one of those children who I am sure is lovely but wants attention until 1am from her mum – very loudly). We then propped up the cafe in Nairobi airport until the first flight to Kisumu at 6.15am.  To make it more interesting we arrived at Kisumu to find no Andrew waiting for us. Thankfully Lydia had brought her phone – Lucy and Andrew had thought we were arriving the next day! So, about 2 hours later we finally got in the car. Normally it is a one hour journey to Kakamega from Kisumu but the road is being re-built and it has had heavy rain recently and so it took a lot longer.

I must admit we weren’t fit for purpose that day and we had a long sleep.

Sunday was an interesting day. We went to church in the morning and it was good to see people I had met from previous trips. Of course, Lucy mentioned in passing that I was to preach (the expectation is for about 45 minutes- 1 hour).

In the afternoon Lucy asked if we would like to go to Kakamega forest. We all said we would. She mentioned that she had to pop in to a funeral that was taking place. She and Andrew have set up a community of pastors (about 200 of them) in the villages from all sorts of backgrounds and “denominations”. One of these grandmothers had died and she felt she should go to support him – but it wouldn’t be for long! Well first we had to find it! When you get into the villages you end up in a maze of small tracks and we were down one of the smallest – I certainly wouldn’t have driven down it!

We arrived to find the funeral in full flow. The church she belonged to was called the Red Cross Church and is an indigenous African church that started in the 1940s and has some odd views – such as no medicine being allowed to be used (though glasses seem to be ok). They don’t prepare the bodies and she had been dead for 4 days and the flies were swarming round the coffin and there was a strong smell emanating from it.

Another very odd thing was that there were photographers there who took photos of the mourners and then sold then to people there. We were, of course, the only mzungu (white people) there and indeed they seemed rather obsessed by our being there – we had photos taken of us and the pastor who we visited had a photo of us and him; he then got one of the photographers to make a calendar of it to put on his wall! Obviously, the trip didn’t end up being short! We had to have some drinks and they offered us food and took endless photos – including one bizarrely of us with the family next to the grave.

By the time we had finished we were all too tired to go to the forest and so we headed back home.

Time in Africa seems to require a lot of it!

On Tuesday we went to the widows meeting which was very moving (though due to the weather – gray and overcast) many arrived late thinking that it was still early! Again up to me to preach and then prayer ministry. It was very moving and humbling to see the girls praying for these people suffering with HIV/Aids and other illnesses and burdened with problems at home. As they said afterwards it felt both a privilege and also humbling to pray for them – a feeling that we had so little to offer them.

After the meeting Andrew and Lucy invited me to a meeting with some NGO’s along with people from various government ministries (health and social services). I got an insight into how they work (especially NGO’s) and to say it made me angry was an understatement. The project was to reduce mother and infant mortality around birth (Kakamega county has the 2nd highest in the country). The NGO had asked for a meeting with RUSH. The first hour to hour and a half was spent by the NGO demanding loads of information from RUSH – accounts, constitution, mission statements. They told them how they should structure themselves etc etc. Then they said that they had no money to give or help for them – they wanted RUSH to give them statistics and train some community health workers. Everything seemed to be for their benefit and not others! I asked for mortality rates for the hospital (they had agreed that they were high but said home was worse – Lucy had been in recently and seen 2 mothers and 5 children die due to lack of midwives and care). It seemed a total farce. If I had been in the UK I would have shown them the door. They arrived in good four wheel drives, well dressed and that there agenda is the only one to be considered.  Andrew and Lucy were far more gracious and resigned to that is how they operate and they have had experience of it before from others. Very sad and a waste of nearly three hours of their time.

During this time the girls were listening to a lesson on healthy eating in Swahili for two hours!

We have had two friends of Lydia’s join us for a few days. They came on Thursday from Kisumu. We left the project at the school early to meet them off the bus but their bus was “delayed”. In fact they had to give the bus company an ultimatum after waiting two hours for their bus – they then drove them in an empty bus 1/2 hour to meet a bus going to Kakamega from Nairobi which had been halted – the passengers were not happy!! Finally they arrived in Kakamega 3 hours late.

It is sometimes hard to come from the UK and realise how long everything takes and how you always have to allow more time than you think to get things done or to get somewhere! We have had lots of other occasions this week of when we  have had to wait – we just have to put it down to Kenyan time and not try and always run on UK time – difficult for us used to set times.

Click the pictures to see them in full size:

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4 comments on “Time in Kenya

  1. margaret boardman
    August 10, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    Wow will what an adventure. Maybe it was as well you had a day to spare just to rest after the journey. Does Kenya slow down because of the heat? I know we’ve had energy sapped out of us over the past few weeks. Have a safe journey back and see you in a couple of weeks.

  2. smellofburntwiggle
    August 10, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    Oh I can just imagine all those scenarios! Especially your reserve about the funeral focus on photos and exotic visitors… and the frustration with the NGO guys. I remember Lucy saying how unhelpfully the ?gas company reacted though when someone was (justifiably) confrontational with them on RUSH’s behalf.. so maybe A & L’s patience and resignation is just pragmatic. Hmm… I hope you make all it to the Rainforest at some point.

  3. Will Cookson
    August 12, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Thanks. It’s been a great time out so far. Will try and blog more soon.

    Rosie, A&L’s patience is worth it – they see that the NGO that they dealt with has lots of influence and could harm them a lot if they were impatient.

  4. Donna
    August 12, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Thanks so much for the updates Will and hello to the girls (looking beautiful as always, even despite tiredness!) I know it’s too easy for me to say this sitting in a cosy, eminently commodified office in Surrey, but there are such spiritual rewards aren’t there to being ‘lost’ (can just imagine those narrow tracks), especially when your whole perspective on time and order and community has to change…I cherish the reminder here not to make God in our own image, as any disorientation and exposure to new situations reminds.
    Have a wonderful time. And for all that, keep safe 🙂

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