Dispatch Africa 2012:
When we landed in Kenya yesterday, the weather was quite warm, something or other Celsius, and our transport vehicle had no air conditioning. Duh. 3rd world. Stuart and I fiddled with the nameless vehicle’s windows for several minutes to get two of them cracked, just in the nick of time to rescue ourselves from roasting in the 4-wheeled toaster oven. B movie comedy, really. In all the commotion, I think I dropped my passport in the back seat and left it there when we got to our accommodations in Nairobi. I did not discover the error until after midnight. Panic. Prayer. Emails. Peace. Sleep. In the morning, the bus company called to say that my passport was en route to me at that very moment. Relief and praise to Him who alone controls the destinies of men and who, in His mercy, looks after His absent-minded, globe-trotting servants.
Incidentally, I am writing this update from a shack of a church in a village called Isinya, 2 hours south of Nairobi. The floor of the church is a combination of dirt and parking lot gravel. The chairs are those cheap white plastic lawn chairs with the weak, spindly legs. The walls and ceiling are corrugated steel sheets that collect the sunlight and transform it into microwave heat inside. A single light bulb hangs thoughtfully above and somewhat to the side of the pulpit. The people sit expressionless as we work up a powerful sweat doing our shtick.
Stuart and I are tag-teaming a registration conference among the Maasai (moss-eye) tribal herdsmen of northern Kenya. You know these fellows. They are the nomads with the walking sticks and the cows. They wear brightly colored togas of red or purple, and their earlobes hang down to their shoulders. Yes, their ears hang low and they wobble to and fro… Most of them are over six feet tall and their legs are as long and skinny as vaulting poles. They are warriors, and the men all carry clubs, along with their walking sticks, everywhere they go. Their faces are as cold and set as iron. They don’t allow photographs because they fear their enemies will steal their spirits.
Anyway, I had just finished speaking and returning to my seat when Stuart was called again to the rostrum to deliver the next and most serious section of the conference. The room was deathly quiet except for the knitting sounds made by the 3 inch black spider that hung ominously in the rafters above my head, weaving her sinister web. Well, Stuart had been sitting too long in one of those fancy plastic lawn chairs. When his name was called, he tried to rise a bit too quickly, and made several calculation errors. The laws of physics were about to be proven once again. For too many painful and exhausting minutes, the poor chair had struggled and strained to support his ample weight. (He’s no scrawny Maasai, you know.) As he pressed down on the chair’s arms to stand and walk to the pulpit to preach, one of the chair’s legs dug into the soft dirt, and the other three legs twisted and tipped at an odd angle. Stuart, already half way up and out of the chair, pitched forward, lurched to his right, and was flung onto the ground in a ridiculous herky-jerky move like a large bag of cement wearing slippery wet flip-flops on the wrong feet and one size too big. The dust cloud would have made Pig Pen from those Charlie Brown cartoons more than proud. Stuart got to his feet while the entire room of stoic on-lookers erupted in raucous belly-laughter. Stuart is the master. He knows how to lighten up a crowd. He was a good sport and used the episode as an illustration in his sermon.
Afterward, on the way back from the big doings in Isinya, there was a minor fender-bender on the road to our accommodations. A French woman had run into the back of a small Toyota carrying two merry, but oversized passengers and one very irate tribesman, who was their designated driver. The ruckus stopped traffic for half a mile, and sidewalk gawkers and roadway rubberneckers (no, it is not a phenomenon exclusive to Houston) started to form a crowd. The man was throwing a fit, but the woman could see no damage. He demanded reparations; she remained aloof. He insisted; she resisted. He threatened to call the authorities; she crossed her arms and harrumphed. He jabbed a finger at her; she rolled her eyes. He knew his rights; she knew hers, too. Stale mate. After several minutes, the tribesman gave up the fight, and stormed back to his vehicle, muttering as he went. The two hapless motorists climbed back into their respective autos and slinked away. The irate tribesman? Our driver. The passengers overstuffing his Japanese compact? You guessed it.
Oh yes, and we were attacked by a puff adder (look it up).
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