There are a lot of lists in our house at the moment as we prepare to leave for Eldoret…some of them are in our heads, recited regularly and eccentrically in the somewhat vain hope of embedding them into memory. Then there are those written on scrappy pieces of paper which seem to vanish just at the vital moment when they are really needed and eventually turn up under the microwave or in a rucksack long after their usefulness has expired.

Then there are the new lists.

These are being worked on this week. They contain lists within lists.They are typed and beautifully hand-written. They are colour coded with lots of opportunities for feeling progress is being made.

David says he feels he is listing like a sea-going vessel…..But sometimes, only a list will do the trick.


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!