Back in Kenya

Posted by on Oct 12, 2018 in News, Stannard | No Comments

We have made it back to Kenya for another visit where our plans, as in previous years, are to spend some time with our friends at the Children’s Care Centre in Nairobi, the Centre and School at Magina (near Kisumu) and at the clinic at Endau. As we have already been reminded, though, plans need to be flexible!

At the outset, please may we ask you for prayers for safe travelling at all times: yesterday’s newspaper headlines were of a terrible bus crash where at least 55 people were killed. Please pray for the families of the victims and for those who were injured. By all accounts the bus was overloaded, speeding on a twisting and steep road, not licensed to travel at night (the crash happened at 4 am), and was driven by a 72-year-old who had been driving since the previous morning. A perfect storm, one might say, but one that is all-too-common in Kenya, which has one of the highest rates of road deaths in the world.

Our own journey here was safe, but eventful, eventually arriving 24 hours later than planned. We left Southampton on Tuesday morning, changed to our flight in Amsterdam with no problem, took off on time, and had just reached Sudan (about half way) when the captain announced that we had to return to Amsterdam because of a problem with the cockpit emergency oxygen supply. We landed in Amsterdam about the same time as we should have arrived in Nairobi! But no matter, we had already been booked on another flight, leaving at 11pm. However, when we checked the details, we discovered that this flight was to Luanda (yes, we had to ask where it was…it’s the capital of Angola), then 9 hours wait in Luanda before going on to Nairobi. Initially we refused it, but seeing the large number of people trying to sort out alternatives at KLM’s overwhelmed transfer desk, we accepted.

If Luanda airport is not already on your bucket list, we would strongly recommend that you don’t add it. Arriving at 6.30 am we had to go through security (even though we were in transit) and our water was confiscated! We were then pointed towards a basic lounge with hard seats, and toilets that had not at this point been cleaned or serviced. The limited food and drink on offer could only be purchased with cash – no cards accepted. Since we had no local currency, having not anticipated visiting Angola, Sue produced a few dollars and managed to negotiate a 500ml bottle of water for $3! There was no airport information desk: it was impossible to work out who was running this outfit: the only people in evidence were security guards or police, very few of whom spoke any English. Since neither we, not any of the other 14 passengers who were accompanying us on this delightful detour spoke any Portuguese, we were very grateful to a friendly Portuguese lady who was on a long stopover who helped us translate with her limited English. It’s unfair to judge a country by its airport, but I can only think of two Angolans who smiled at us, and only one of those tried to help us, without success.

So – what do you do if you are stuck in a foreign airport with little food and water, no telephone access and no entertainment for 9 hours? You keep smiling and make friends with your fellow victims! Some of the party drifted off, but a core group of three businessmen (one Kenyan, one originally Danish but now from Luxembourg, and a South African), a Kenyan/Danish lady travelling with two young children, the Portuguese lady and her husband, and ourselves spent a lovely day getting to know each other! Sue organised games for the children (we had balloons, instant confetti and Yahtzee in our hand luggage ready for the kids in Kenya), and at one point played hide and seek around the terminal building! Everyone in the party also learned about Pamoja (they went away with Pamoja business cards) and the fact that we did these trips because we are Christians. We hope and pray that by staying calm and cheerful we were able to show them, in a small way, a little bit of the Lord Jesus. One of the businessmen started the Angola experience by swearing, and had his passport taken away and was nearly arrested. At the end of the day, he thanked us for ‘lifting the atmosphere’. When we finally reached Nairobi, it was hugs and handshakes all round as we said goodbye to our new friends! We really feel God helped us to cope with a not-very-good experience in a positive way. We’ve still written to KLM to make a few points about their lack of customer care, though!

Our prayers were answered when we reached Nairobi, sailed through immigration and customs and found all our luggage intact and waiting for us. (Sue was hopeful that the luggage would arrive because she thought she had seen our very distinctive spotty suitcase being loaded at Luanda.) Our friends from our Nairobi base were there to meet us with big smiles, and we’ve spent the last 36 hours catching up on sleep, meeting Mildred from the Care Centre, picking up the car and getting our Kenyan phones sorted. One job for today is to make sure we have the right modem so we can get internet access when we’re in ‘the rural’. We plan to meet up with other friends in Nairobi today and tomorrow, and go to Church with the kids from the Kware Care Centre on Sunday, before going back to spend time with them, meeting those who have joined the happy family recently and renewing friendships with those we know from previous visits.

Having lost a day in the air (we were flying for about 20 hours in total!) we’ll probably delay our journey to Magina until Tuesday, but whenever we travel and whatever we do, we are conscious of the prayers and support of our friends back home. Thank you for your continued interest in what we are doing.