Dispatch Africa 2012:
The Great Rift Valley stretches over 3,000 mi. spanning two continents from Mozambique in southern Africa across Egypt, under the Red Sea, through Israel to Syria in western Asia. It is a geological fracture in Africa’s crust so large that it can be seen from space. It is the result of two tectonic plates in the process of separating the African continent into two distinct land masses. A river runs through it. At its southern end lay a broad expanse that belongs to the ancient Maasai people (I mentioned them in a previous blog: legs, ears, cows, clubs, bad dudes.). The view from the car is spectacular. Both mountain ridges enclosing the valley rise up serenely to your left and right in the distance. You are sure the leopards are resting somewhere up on the mountains, in the cool shade of the day, colluding with one another, before sauntering down to the valley for a tasty group meal around supper time. They’re agreed. They’ve decided on the meat-lovers special. They plan to share. In the foreground, you enjoy the pristine vistas of short, stringy acacias, and free-roaming giraffe, impala, and gazelle, grazing lazily in the afternoon sun, oblivious to the evening’s dining arrangements and the role they will play in the set menu selection.
This is the life. What a vacation. Who could call this work? I had spent the morning in the valley teaching theological truths to 122 spiritually hungry pastors and leaders from the churches among the Maasai people. Teaching people who hang on every word is better than food. Well, not really, but you know what I mean. At noon, my driver arrived, so I left Stuart to continue the work there and began the 2 hour trek back to the airport to catch a flight to western Kenya, where I would spend two days on my own teaching 188 pastors and leaders among the Nandi (rhymes with blondie, try it) tribal people, along with some Tanzanians and Ugandans, in a remote area 40 km into the African bush. (I feel like Indiana Jones, or somebody.) The only thing missing was a little adventure.
As my driver, an African named Dennis, coaxed his tiny car up from the floor of the Rift Valley to the high escarpment upon which is situated Kenya’s capitol city, Nairobi, a long, but faint squeal gathered momentum and interrupted my meditations. Naturally, being a trained professional driver myself, my eyes instinctively darted to the instrument panel where, to my horror, the temperature gauge pointed straight up to the “H” (which stands for hotter than Hades). We were overheating. I started to pray. We were between mud hut villages, and sitting on a blind curve. Pre-WWII lorries lumbered up the hill and around the curve past us, creeping ever so carefully, as impatient travelers piled up behind them like marching columns of centipedes. A tow truck and a repair shop (I’m so sure there’s one on every corner.) might take all day. Still an hour away from the airport, and then facing two flights and a one hour drive on the other end to make it to the village of Lemoru for something to eat before the natives retired for the night, the situation did not look good. After praying, I checked the gauges again, and the engine light came on as the vehicle slowed and sputtered. Consternation washed across the driver’s brow, furrowing it into a Ruffle’s potato chip. He pulled the vehicle off the road just as the engine went kaput. When he tried to start the engine again, I cautioned against it. Pushing the engine harder at this point would only exacerbate the problem and create more delays and repairs, possibly even a blown head gasket.
While I waited in the car, ever the image of the pious and unflappable pastor, prayerfully trusting in providence, the driver exited the car, opened the hood and popped off the radiator cap. Steam spewed violently, splattering the windshield, and he was nearly burned. Hands on hips. Stomping around. Nail-biting. More stomping around. Waiting. Waiting. Then, without another thought, he trotted to the back of the vehicle, as happy-go-lucky as you please, and collected a full jug of water that he apparently carried around for just such instances. Boy Scout? Uh-uh. This was the routine. I was miffed. How could the transport company have sent me a broke down vehicle and a driver with too little sense to protest such working conditions? Duh. 3rd world (I’m learning.). I decided I wasn’t tipping him the full expected amount. We stopped 3 more times for water, and once for a new radiator cap (which did exactly nothing), before reaching the airport sweaty, hungry and disoriented, but just in time to catch my flight. Probably goes without saying that he dropped me at the wrong terminal, but who’s keeping track, anyway? Honestly, I’m reporting this so-called transport company to the AAA; they can do something about this sort of thing, you know. Disneyland? Uh, not.
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