Thunder, lightning and a special time

Last Sunday the Dean and Chapter of Chichester Cathedral gave us the chance to talk about our journey towards this point of imminent departure for Eldoret and our hopes and dreams for our time there. Afterwards as we stood in the South Transept drinking coffee the heavens opened and the thunder and lightning made their presence felt…..Then later at Evensong in stillness and peace, yet with a deep sense of being empowered we were commissioned for the challenges and joys that lie ahead. 

A very special time indeed.

We’d love to hear some stories about your special times.


More Tales from the Riverbank (but no sign of Hammy!)

Three days on a narrowboat is actually far more….the well worn cliché is indeed a reality and time slows, giving life (and the heart rate) a new rhythm.

If in doubt, attempt to look busy and competent…..

Occasional flurries of activity, involving the wonderfully named flights of locks and winding holes punctuate long periods of calm and contemplation.

You begin to notice and recognise the Life in trees, water, birds and beautifully crafted boats (including some still powered by steam). The journey quite literally becomes a prayer.

Food for thought as we prepare for a new lifestyle in Eldoret.

Messing about on the river……

…..or to be more precise, on the Grand Union and South Oxford canals.

It’s good to be together!

We have just spent three days with our good friends Paul and Lynn on their beautiful narrowboat. It was a first for us and full of fun and some interesting lessons. In addition to acquiring some new skills, we had a moment of having to deal with the scorn, swearing and shouting of one boat owner when our manoeuvres didn’t go quite to plan: which required lunch and laughter to recover and restore peace and perspective. We met so many other lovely people, however, that it brought to mind the words of Henri Nouwen about the connection with others as a friend, a supporter and a fellow traveller being most important of all. Thank God for all sorts of people.

Highway Hotel

The story continues with another diary entry….. En route to Highway Hotel

“Eventually off we set, back to Eldoret. We stopped for a break at Matharu, a typical highway town. There we entered a roadside duka, rejoicing in the name of Highway Hotel, for chai and chapatis, as it was now 14.30, and there at last my poor, distended and abused bladder was emptied. To be fair, it had been nearly three hours…. The lady, mine hostess, ushered me through to the back, and delicately asked if it was a short call or a long call? Upon my startled response that it was a short call, she directed me round the back to the usual drop pits. I wonder what her answer would have been if I needed a long call? Perhaps she has a private and mechanical loo somewhere near, which the general public don’t get to use……? I get the feeling that my travelling companions would be greatly shocked if I leapt out of the car and jumped behind a tree, yet this would be hugely preferable to some of the noisome drop holes I have used over the last few days. And no matter how I try, I don’t seem to be able to hold my breath throughout the requisite duration.

But there was good cheer in this little Kenyan Road Chef, with lots of banter, some at my expense, and much bonhomie. The lady of the shop sold maandazi, chapatis, and samosas, as well as what looked like buns. We were too late for ugali, which didn’t bother me one bit, though as I have already said, ugali here is much better than nshima in Ndola. Rirei says he has eaten nshima in Zimbabwe, and that it was inferior to the local product, as it was too light.

I felt very much at ease, sitting there, for in some ways it had the same feel to my old Portsmouth lunchtime sandwich bar run by Mark & Lynne Fanculi. Folk come to eat, relax, drink chai, and it’s a meeting place. And I guess when there is often not much to eat, when one does get to a meal, it brings instant happiness! I could have sat there for a long time, soaking up the acceptance and happy atmosphere.  Two Sikhs walked in and seemed delighted to see me, greeting me with breezy goodwill. There was a mother using a fork to feed her baby girl with ugali and beans, and the baby was fascinated by me, to Rirei’s amusement. He is very good at engaging people in conversation wherever he goes, and always elicits smiles and welcoming reactions.”

Goodwill is a currency worth spending and it was there in abundance that afternoon.

The Diary continues…..

The evening after the visit to Kiambaa David writes:

“But there was one more encounter in store for me. After supper- Rose made chapatis, which were delicious -although swallowing is very painful, especially at the start of any meal- we sat and talked about family stuff and the Nandi language.

Patrick works alongside this centre

Eventually I asked her some questions which she could not answer, and she then referred me to her friend Patrick, who seems to pop round from time to time.
And then I met him, and a more humble and gentle man it would be hard to find.

He is softly spoken and his work is to look after disabled children and rescue them from the caves and back rooms where their parents hide them, treating them as dogs or worse, because they are ashamed of them, or fearful of curses, or of others’ ridicule. Patrick was himself rejected after his father remarried, and vowed to God that he would never allow other children to feel what he then felt. He has been doing this for 20 years, has adopted many, and organises rescue with the help of social services and the church. He shone as he spoke to me.

He has even been arrested by the police because the parents have reported him as a child stealer, but he smiled beautifully as he recounted this, and added that he has many friends. Further, having shown the police where the parents kept the child, the askaris said to him, “We’re sorry, we arrested the wrong man!”

So, what a lovely contrast with this morning’s experience to end the day!”

Patrick inspires us.  Who inspires you? We’d love to know.

A visit to Kiambaa

One of the things that David did during his recent trip to Kenya was to visit the massacre site at Kiambaa. It was a profoundly disturbing and moving experience and he wrote this poem afterwards:

Mourning’s devotions, Morning’s death.

On the morning of 1st January 2008, near Eldoret, approximately 70 people were hacked or burned to death around and in a mud church where they sought refuge. No one is certain of the numbers, but the victims included a wheelchair user, and many women and children. A discarded woman’s shoe, a burnt handbag, some wooden markers and a femur remain.

Have you been to Kiambaa?

It’s not far,

Just round the corner

From your bed,

And you’ll be dead.

I have been to Kiambaa,

And it’s not far.

A journey round the bend,

A rough road’s lurch,

And there’s the church.

They came to Kiambaa.

It was not far.

With murders’ fire,

Mercy forgot,

They burned the lot.

Let’s walk to Kiambaa.

It’s not far.

Down savage tracks,

We fall so fast

To our dark past.

Let’s walk on Kiambaa.

It’s not far.

A bone protrudes,

Look what we’ve found,

Graves, names and mounds.

Let’s talk at Kiambaa.

It’s not far.

Stand on razed ground,

And learn perhaps,

Not to relapse.

Copyright ©, David Cooke, 17-07-2012

The project we will be joining in December is addressing the legacy of such events.        What a challenge, yet what a privilege!

NOT so Profound Thoughts from Abroad?

David has recently returned from a trip to Africa. Whilst he was there he sent daily email updates back to Liza in the UK. Here is one of them……

“I forgot to tell you about the fun and games I had en route from Ndola to Eldoret. I was assured by a helpful counter clerk at Ndola that she could arrange for my luggage to be put straight on board the Jetlink flight to Eldoret, so that I wouldn’t have to retrieve the same from the baggage reclaim belt. I was dubious and laid it on thick but she was adamant. Upon arrival at Nairobi something didn’t feel right so I went and enquired at the Transfers desk, where they told me no such thing was possible as my onward flight was domestic. I never did discover whether it was also a problem to do this when switching from one airline to another.
I duly hung around Baggage reclaim for over an hour, and nothing appeared so after nearly another hour of footling I finally got to the Baggage and Hotels Inquiry desk where my smiles were rewarded by some good help. By then, I had figured out that the helpful (but geographically-challenged) Ndola clerk probably thought that Eldoret was outside Kenya, and that I was therefore continuing on an international flight. The Kenyan desk clerk agreed, and set about successfully locating my luggage which was of course indeed marked for onward transfer to Eldoret. None of the Baggage handlers had known what to do with it, so it had just been put down somewhere.
Several things stand out in this story. One was that I had plenty of time between flights, so didn’t need to get anxious, and kept cool, thus getting the best out of all the Kenyan staff, who more often than not get harangued by overwrought and fatigued travellers. I certainly witnessed some of that. Secondly, that calm bred thoughts that provided an explanation and thus helped find a solution as getting ansty with clerks is counter-productive.

On the other end of the scale, some of my dollars were so old that they were not accepted, when tendered to the visa clerk, to my consternation. Thank God I had some KShillings, so as to get my second visa to get in. I was so startled that this time I didn’t handle it well with a rather unpleasant clerk, but I just got my anxiety under control in time. Not that he was very clear at first as to the nature of the problem. The best response seems to be, (smile) “So we have a problem, what can I/we do about it?”

One last point that will send shivers up your spine. Having nowhere else to go and nothing better to do, I went through to the Jetlink counter at domestic immediately after my luggage was recovered. Which was just as well for two reasons. First, there was a very slow queue, for no obvious reason. Secondly, when we left nearly an hour early, I thought how good it was I had been there so early as I had no idea that just because they were full, they could leave before time. Only then did I (duh!)  realise that there is one hours difference between Zambia and Kenya. And because I was uncharacteristically early in boarding I made the flight.”

The man clearly shouldn’t be allowed to travel alone……

The Happy Traveller