Week 11: Mombasa Round II, Foxies Graduate, and Moving to an Island on Lake Victoria

We returned to Nairobi from Mombasa this past Monday and our time in Mombasa was excellent. Here are some highlights from the rest of our Mombasa trip.

One of the people who came to lead a session with the Foxfires was a local Mombasa pastor whose church has a retreat every year that the Foxfires attend. We went over to his house one night for dinner. It started out with all the Foxies and I sitting there in silence as one of our leaders and the pastor talked, but as the night went on the conversation livened up. We talked about the States a lot and some issues that I am passionate about so I was very talkative. The pastor’s wife is amazing and kept laughing with me and nicknamed me “to be continued” because of my height. Yep. On Sunday, we went to the pastor’s church for 3 good ole Pentecostal services. The last one lasted 3 hours or so. The pastor and a AEE leader who preached kept mentioning me in their sermon, “don’t worry Robert, I’m wrapping it up,” “Robert, you look tired,” and “it doesn’t matter where you’re from, Kenyan or OklaHOMEa.” There were around 250 people there. Afterwards I told them I wasn’t tired and I was sorry if I looked like I was. They said the reason they kept mentioning me was because when you look out into the audience from the stage you see a sea of black and then this white man sticking out with his head a foot above everybody else. So, I need to keep this in mind when in other churches as well.

Fort Jesus – We went to Fort Jesus which was a Portuguese fort and is in the shape of person lying down. I got a bit frustrated because it cost the Kenyans 100 Shillings to get in and it cost me 800 Shillings because I am a “foreigner.” I have my Visa for a year so it is supposed to cost less, but they weren’t fond of that idea. I was quite mad for a few minutes afterwards because I am overcharged quite often and it gets under my skin. One of the Foxies finally said, “come on, you didn’t pay for it, enjoy yourself” which was good advice and brought me back to reality. Fort Jesus was used to keep slaves during the slave trade and other not so good things throughout history so I was a bit concerned about the name Fort Jesus. The guide said it is named Fort Jesus because the Portuguese were Roman Catholic, I suggested they think of a new name…

Ferry – On our way to Fort Jesus we had to cross from the island to the mainland on the ferry. However, when we attempted to start the van to drive off the ferry…it didn’t start because the battery was dead. What happened next was not expected. Right after the van made the dead battery noise, we were surrounded by 20 or so Kenyans who ride the ferry back and forth all day waiting for cars to die so that they can help push them off the ferry and receive some amount of money. They approached and were all talking in Swahili and I could catch some of it (numbers, yes, no, please), but the girl Foxies all looked scared to death which I found entertaining. We told them we didn’t need any help and Cosmos and I got out and pushed the van off the ferry. People were staring at me (more than usual), Cosmos said that it was unusual for a white person to be seen pushing a car, sweating, and getting dirty. We got the car off the ferry, but then there was a hill…so we had to have the girls get out…which wasn’t enough so we had to hire some of our Kenyan friends. Once parked safely we sat under the jumbo-tron I spoke of in my last post and watched Punk’d for an hour or so…or I did at least…the girl Foxies still all looked scared. Then we found someone to jump the van and spent the rest of the day traveling around without turning the van off. I must thank my beautiful car, Cecile, who has taught me many different times that things will be okay when a vehicle decides to “fail to proceed” as Cecile enjoys to do often to keep me on my toes.

Livin on Kenyan Time – My job Monday morning was to get everybody up and attempt to leave at 6 AM. Kenyans are on Kenyan time which means late. Some of them realize that they’re late and care, some realize they’re late and don’t care, and others don’t even realize they’re late. Reasons for this: there is a lot more emphasis on relationships here. People will have an important question or issue to talk with you about, so they’ll come over at noon and not get to the point until night time because it is important to spend time together first. Another relationship emphasis, when I get to the office I must go around to each person and say hello or I am being rude (I was being rude for a month without knowing it). Any who, so some of the time issue is cultural. Another element is transportation. Most people don’t have a car so use public transportation and those who do have a car could be stuck in a jam for quite some time. So, some of the time issue is transportation. In conclusion, Kenyans are late. Back to getting everybody up. I told them all I was going to wake them up and we were going to leave at 6 and they laughed at me. My favorite reaction was one of the AEE staff who looked at me and said “what about morning tea?” It reminded me of a scene in Lord of the Rings when Pippin or Merry ask Strider when they were going to stop for “second breakfast” as they are being chased. How could I consider leaving without first having tea? Silly me. So, I woke them all up very early and we left at…6:30. It was very unusual because they were proud of being late, “we’re Kenyan” they said. Or I guess they were proud of their culture and being Kenyan which I can understand. There was no reason to leave late this morning, no matatu rides, jams, or meeting new people, but part of being a Kenyan is a different understanding of time and that is what I am trying to figure out. However, when we leave on trips, I still arrive at the time that we are told we are leaving (nobody else is usually there) so I put my stuff in the van and tell somebody to call me once it looks like we are heading in the “leaving direction.” This has given me 1-2.5 hours of time to get things done which is helpful, but I must continue to attempt to adapt.

The Foxfires graduated on Wednesday. It was a very nice ceremony. Most of them are moving out tomorrow. Cosmos and I are heading to his home for 2 weeks which will be fun (he is from an island in Lake Victoria). He has been teaching me how to whistle like people from his island do. So far, I have “I’m excited,” “I’m surprised,” and “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with you.” I can only whistle sucking in so he is working on teaching me how to whistle while blowing out. That’s my next 2 weeks assignment.

My family is coming to visit me in December which will be very nice and I am excited to see them. Then in January I am going to meet up with a class from seminary which is traveling around Egypt and Israel to explore “Places of the Bible.” I am very excited about this because it is the main class I wanted to take at Austin Seminary. I thought I would not be able to go on it, but everything lined up so I am signed up and ready to go …yea! Well, that’s it for now. Not sure how often I’ll be able to update in the next few weeks, but I’ll update when I can. Have a great day!

Sincerely,
RTQ

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