crumbling edges

be warned, dear reader, that the attitude and mindset of this blogger is not particularly in a happy place as she sits down to type.

sometimes it feels like the edges of reality are unstable–as if they are sheets of ice crumbling and falling into the fridge ocean. there are days that this insecurity is challenging and life giving; opening up opportunities to be innovate, creative, to speak of grace and peace when all seems to be in turmoil. there are days whenthe right tools are in the right hands, and rather than fall into the churning waters a well-timed ice pick sinks into the side of the bluff or a hand reaches over the edge creating a life-saving bind. today is not one of those days.

today is a day where the ice has fallen. its already crashed into the sea and is beyond saving. this outlook won’t last, but it is here and real for me, for now.

i am angry.
at some people’s attitudes or apathy.
with my own current bad attitude that is luring me to apathetic existence when my time where i am is running shorter and shorter. which stems more anger toward myself when others’ blind eyes and failure to really see drag me into their neagitive orbit.

money infuriates me. and the way that these stupid pieces of paper rule our lives and ruin so many. it infuriates me that rather than focus on our gifts and talents, or passions and true needs we are forced to focus on the monetary aspect of everything. assigning worth to one person’s life or abilities. i could just scream for want of a society where there was no money–where how much money i have did not determine  my societal worth, how much education i am worth, if i get to eat healthy food or not, if we can be friends or not.

choosing to live simply has its virtues, i really believe that. but on days like today, where the edges crumble and threaten to throw people who look to me for assistance, and whom i greatly care for, into the swirling eddy of debt or literally departing with everything they own that hasn’t already been stolen just to attempt to break even makes me question simple living…volunteering…

a student that i sometimes assist recently had nearly everything he owns stolen from him, including some money he was carrying to the village on behalf of a teacher. (this teacher sent cash with the student to deliver to the teacher’s family to finish building a house.) the money was stolen. the student had placed the envelope in his duffel bag with nearly all of his earthly belongings.  he and his brother were lucky to escape with their lives as those who rob along this road aren’t known to be kind thieves.

the teacher is demanding to be paid back.
the student and his family do not have that kind of money, and are considering selling part of their land to be able to resolve this “debt.”  land that is supposed to be a part of his future. to repay money that was stolen.

and he comes, humbly, requesting assistance from me. who doesn’t have that much money, either. he will work for it, and for money to be able to buy a new mattress. (the raiders burned his…) bed sheets…shoes…

this news, the unbending of this teacher, and just the state of all things money in the world are just too much.

for now i’m going to deal with this by curling up in a little ball in bed. and then, when i’ve had my quarterly pout, i’m going to get up and do something about it. i don’t know what yet. but something creative. and life-giving. and reassuring and, i hope, something that will at least partially embody the grace and mischief of the jesus i follow. come, holy spirit, bind up these crumbling edges and make things right.

 

no, i wasn’t “over speeding”, officer.

when driving back to kotido from kampala this week  i was pulled over by the ug traffic police just before the turn at kamdini…i was slowing down because 1) i was entering the trading center where people tend to be close to the road therefore being the 2) responsible thing to do and 3) i needed to make a turn soon.

the officer was flagging me down, so i pulled over as a responsible driver would do. everyone was wearing her seat belt, and i knew i wasn’t over the speed limit.

he swaggered up to the driver’s side window and just stared me down. i just stared back until he decided to speak. i was met with a gruff, “hello.”

“oh hi! how are you?!” i said as happily as possible.

“um. fine. thank you. now, do you know what your speed was when you were moving at?”

i ignored the dangling participle and answered readily, “yes, sir, 50 kph and reducing.”

he then turned around the speed gun in his hands and tried to convince me that i was going 71 kph. funnily enough, he tried the same trick the officer tried last time: the radar gun WASN’T ON and the resting setting was 71.just. like. last. time.

after regarding the radar gun i looked back at the officer and waited for what i knew was going to happen next:

“can i see your driving license, please.”

now i actually LOVE this part–because every time i am asked for my permit and i actually have a ug per permit they look all crestfallen. take THAT!

he took a long time to stare at my permit before calling another officer over. he handed my permit to the second officer who then took over in attempting to intimidate me.

the second officer then stood at my window for a few seconds before letting me know that the speed limit was just behind me (it wasn’t. the last speed posting was at least 20 km away) and that it was for 30kph. (it wasn’t it was for 50kph.)

“alright.” i said. “well, if i have broken the law, then please write my ticket so we can get on our way home to kotido, because its far from kamdini.

he opened the ticket book on the hood of the car and pretended to start writing the ticket. there was still no protest from me, no offer of “chai” or “soda”…so he gave up and handed my permit back to me and gave me a little speech about “slowing down in the trading center so i didn’t knock someone.” he insisted again that i was going 71kph. and i pushed it one more time and said “yea, i wasn’t going over 50 kph…” but he either didn’t hear me or understand me.

so, off we went. i had my permit back in my hot little hands and no ticket to pay.

the back seat (4 friends seated back there) erupted with delight and relief while housemate and i in the front seats laughed… oh, uganda…

lamu-island-fun-times (one): hi my name is thera and i’m addicted to lime juice

lets just go ahead and get this out of the way:

“hi, i’m thera, and i’m a lime juice addict.”

whilst in lamu, i totally acquired a lime-juice addiction and could probably give you the most intense critique regarding where the best sweet/tart/frothy juice could be found, for what price, and how many they are willing to sell you in one sitting. my addiction was so intense that on our last afternoon in lamu i ordered two at lunch so i could put one in my water bottle (shout out to ew for the awesome purple stainless bottle, she carried the juice very well 🙂 )for the plane ride back to nairobi.

from that statement you may think that i spent a lot of my time on lamu seeking out and drinking lime juice while lounging in various little open air sea-side restaurants. and you would, in fact, be pretty correct in that assumption. however, i DID do other things. which i will now tell you about:

i got a tan sunburn.
said sunburn was acquired during a day of boating and snorkeling. YES i wore sunscreen, but my poor legs and back hadn’t seen the sun in quite this way in literally years so i think they kind of freaked out a bit. the boating and snorkeling was all one trip–out little group of ladies booked a dhow (traditional swahili boat) for half a day. we left the house around 9:00 in the morning, sailed/motored out to the reef where we were equipped with goggles and snorkels and set loose with a vague warning to not touch the anemones. this warning was only given once, quietly by one of the “captains” of the boat (he goes by captain dolphin… the other “captain” was captain promise. captain promise’s brother, our cook, went by coconut. they were an interesting group of guys…).

all that to say, one of the members of our group, e, didn’t really hear this warning clearly. no, she didn’t touch an anemone. (ptl) but when a few of us were taking a break and resting on the coral, she asked what the “scary spiky black things that look like they are staring at you with shiny eyes” were. “don’t touch them!” was the first thing housemate said. then we told her that those were the anemones, and that they sting. conclusion: nature did a great job making the dangerous thing look dangerous. she is our mother, after all.

a dhow boat

when we paddled our way back to the boat, we discovered that lunch had been prepared (on the boat!). the food was amazing… coconut rice (i’ll never eat plain old boring rice happily again, i don’t think) fish, veg and fresh fruit…delight!

we all seriously about ate ourselves silly the whole week on lamu, and i mean, with amazing fish and prawns (and lobster), biriani and all things coconut how could one not eat eat eat eat?! one of my favorite purchases in the souvenir realm this trip was  my swahili cookbook. while i have yet to attempt to make anything from said cookbook, i’m really excited to try. nearly everything has coconut in it, or is laden with amazing spices and possibility. i’ll keep you posted on that.

okay, so we did try to make SOMETHING from the swahili cookbook (maybe all five of us bought one? yes, i think so…). we wanted to make coconut bread–so housemate bought coconuts at the market and brought them home. she met margaret, the woman who keeps the house we rented, who asked “do you know how to prepare those?” housemate hesitated so margaret said, “i will call the neighbors. they will come.”

so two of the neighbor ladies came with their coconut scraper thingy and helped us crack the coconuts, scrape out the meat, and then “juice” it for coconut milk. of course we all wanted to try to scrape the coconut for ourselves–much to the mixed amusement and chagrin of our new friends. i caught on quickly and think i will be going coconut-pro soon.

oh, other things we did… we saw donkeys! donkeys are THE mode of transportation, besides ones feet, around the island. donkeys wander on their own, they carry people and things and generally are just adorable. there is even a donkey sanctuary on the island. three of us went to visit one afternoon–it was bath time! i was too busy trying to make friends with the baby donkeys to actually take any photos of the sanctuary–but i did snap a few of some of the island donkeys.


our group had rented a house on the island, called lamu-island-villa, which was just a fantastic place to stay! we had our own kitchen and were the only guests (we filled the little place).

i felt zero guilt at sleeping in nearly every morning. the “bed room” i chose was on the very top of the house, technically, i suppose, the roof! it was an open area with a traditional(ish) swahili bed and mozzie net. there was a nice breeze (sometimes). it was the best possible way to sleep out side, in my opinion.

i would highly suggest lamu as a vacation destination, and the lamu island villa as a place to stay.

if i ever do decide to write a novel of some ilk, i think this is a place i could write. so, know that.

and besides, i’d have access to all the lime juice i could possible drink!

mcc/emm east africa talent show liveblog

live from brackenhurst retreat center, its the mcc/emm east-africa-retreat-talent-show: snarky version

8:02p.m. for the past half hour we have been engaged in a rousing group-quiz. division has been created between the countries of east africa by pitting them against one another to win points. how very mennonite!

8:08p.m. first up with real talent are the children from the tanzania team doing a puppet show…singing old mcdonald had a farm.

8:09p.m. is it me? or does that pig looked stoned?

8:10p.m. a no show. i guess we can forgive him, because its a child.

another child takes his place…approximately 4 year old girl banging a drum. that was intense.

8:12p.m. the pressure was totally on me just now. martha is roving with a bag of candies. i wanted to choose one, but she kept moving the bag so i had to just pick any old candy. the entire uganda team reacted in the same way disrupting another child performance…”o come emanuel” on piano. evil eyes all around.

and into the adult realm–2 ladies with stringéd instruments of the violin variety with a fiddly-soft-christmas-medly.

this blogger would be moved if she had a soul, rather i’m enjoying my coffee crisp candy treat that i luckily pulled from the roving candy bag.

8:16p.m. a multiple adult number preparing at the moment…i have an inside scoop that its called “arms trade” also very mennonite. as i actaully want to see this talent, the update regarding said talent will come in a moment. the mystery builds…

8:24p.m. okay, well i feel misled. the song was really about the “magic number 3” which i think is really cult-ish. but can’t decide because if its really about JESUS or if its cult-tastic. the vote is out. however, the song was a crowd-pleaser.

there were three sets of two ladies each–one set, in the back, had their head covered with a blanket and stuck their arms under the arms of the middle group. these are the hands the audience sees. the second group is literally the face of the project and had their arms covered and were holding shoes (as if we couldn’t see their hands…) there was “dancing” by these random “bodies.” whoa.

8:27p.m. the honerary grandmother all (as she was introduced) sang rendition of “my favorite things” rewritten for old people. very amusing.

8:28p.m. MORE children on stage (its like people think they have talent or something? must be a mennonite thing…) but seriously, 3 darling young ladies singing christmas carols. adorable!

8:32p.m. and now they are performing a song with their own actions–its a song from “high school the musical 3”

8:34 p.m.  ITS THE BOB AND JUDY SHOW! bob is doing magic, assisted by the lovely judy. this should be entertaining!

all of the children have been invited on stage… and i quote from bob, “this is audience participation because if it doesn’t work, it can be partially your fault.”

8:86 p.m. the look on judy’s face isn’t convincing me that bob will indeed be able to shove this salt shaker through the table… i myself am also skeptical…

8:37 p.m. well i’ll be a monkey’s auntie. he did it.

8:40 p.m. bob is making us sing. “da da da da da da da da ta da.” my poor female brain isn’t able to keep up… however, judy is REALLY into it!

i have no idea what bob is doing on stage… OH okay. so. well. i can’t describe that.

and for his third trick… he’s managed to pull a SCARF from an ACTUAL cap!

clap your hands tinkerbell… judy is going to hyperventilate forcing us to sing this song, and there is NO way i can describe what bob just did.

the last trick. this looks serious. the song is at a FEVER PITCH!! THAT WAS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!! ( i still have no idea what happened…and i’m concerned for judy’s vocal chords…)

8:42 p.m. and now for flute music. she’s decided to play a lullaby. if this blogger doesn’t return, you know what happened… lulled to sleep by the dulcet tones of kinda sharp flute music… (reality check- its quite pretty)

8:46- katie and amani (he’s… 7?) doing an adorable piece “sweet dream”. katie (the adult in the picture) singing and adorable adorable amani filling in the animal names as katie dances them. best!

8:48 p.m. wes adjusts his glasses for a…sermon. the subject for this evenings message, “little bo peep.”  she’s lost her sheep. and this is TRAGIC.

8:49 p.m. preacher is getting worked up about bo peep. “if the sheep were lost and you couldn’t find them, you’d have to leave them alone, WOULDN’T you!”

the audience…er congregation…is getting into it. “preach it preacher” and “amen!” have been heard.

“pray tell what else they wagin? behind them? of course they may have come home in reverse, but i really don’t know… none the less, its in the book.”

“please open your books to page 222, lets live it up and sing, ‘do you remember grandma’s lye soap…’ ”

the congregation doesn’t seem to know this one…awkward silence. “and now we’ll sing the second verse. live it up! its not raining in here tonight.”

in the name of three bears, there’s a third verse…

8:55 p.m. mcc-tz “on stage for a short song”

a bongo-driven number lots of “hallelujahs” going on on stage. i wasn’t actually listening to the intro because i was watching this video (without sound) in the back with housemate and friends.

[here’s a fun fact about mcc-tz that i’ve observed: almost the entire team is made up of  married couples (5) and ONE single person. sorry, dude.]

9:00 p.m. there is a family number up next; father and daughter duo. plus a drum. “you can dance to it if you wish” he says.

now he’s looking for dancers. pardon me as i hide under my chair…

9:07 p.m. chris is on stage. staring at his computer. “i have prepared a poem i will try to hold my poem as poetically as possible.” ‘the computer lab chicken’ based on a real chicken.

a dramatic movement of the laptop!

“do you want us to teach you how to use a computer”

and now from the atlas pose…

“computer lab chicken, what is your purpose? do you bring a message like poe’s raven? will you leave our doorstep ever more? are you a bouncer?”

“compute lab chicken i’m getting tired of you. tired of cleaning up after you. testing the limits by walking into our lab. though i think it is possible for us to live together in peace. i’m starting to wonder how you would taste…”

9:13 p.m. due to technical difficulties i wasn’t able to keep up with the two members of the kenya team who sang “what a friend we have in jesus” i believe in swahili. the best part of this was that the audience began humming along in fantastic harmony. delight. i have a video. you may see it in a year when i have internet fast enough to post it. so, remind me.

every time our mc arrives on stage she’s carrying a different child. each time this child is bigger… this time it was caleb. he’s 7? we in the back row are wondering if her husband will be next!

9:15 p.m. emm-ers with the masai playing a mazurka (chopin, maybe? thats my ear guessing). he’s on piano, she’s on violin. this is making me miss the central days and thursday morning recitals. (the good ones. okay, so…AMR, then.)

9:20 p.m. s, on the violin, tells us that while she was holding out the long note the twins (in womb) kicked her. the mc said its baby language for ‘encore’

9:21 p.m. there are 2 brothers on stage doing what i think will be brute strength to do… stuff. one’s in the rafters and one’s joining him. i should also mention, that they are grown men. i think all the mothers in the audience just had collective heart attacks…

9:26 p.m. the ethopian members of the ethopian team are sharing a dancy church song about dancing in the sanctuary in amharic . there is ululating going on in this room!

9:28 p.m. much to my distress i have to report that the m.c. hasn’t carried a child or a husband on the stage with her in the past two appearances…

she’s demanding that we all sing a song… the three sisters who sang from high school the musical to do an encore!

they are reluctant…but have decided to sing us another christmas song… hymnal pages flipping… whats the song???! the tension is killing me!

“silent night” it is! (and the audience has started humming again. we just can’t help ourselves…)

thus ends the 2010 mcc/emm talent show night! good night, good luck, and may you have menno-tastic dreams…

the ruins at gede

in about the 13th or 14th century the town of gede was a bustling community on the kenyan coast near modern-day watamu. mysteriously, there are no written records that mention gede, and no one knows why everyone left (in what scholars deem as a planned evacuation as there was practically nothing left behind).

gede through my point-and-shoot

yours truly hugging a 300 year old baobab tree

pathway between the men’s and women’s courts in “the palace”

a view of “the palace” from the top of the not-finished-not-open tree house.

a visual on how high and unfinished the tree house is

a young coconut husk drying in the window of a ruin

another beautiful tree at gede

enjoying the milk of a young coconut at the end of the gede trek

 

next up: lamu-island-fun-times! (part one)

ecocamp!

the crew at ecocamp(!)

about a week ago, whilst scrounging the internet for somewhere to stay near malindi i stumbled across this darling little place called ecocamp.  the more we perused the website and read about ecocamp, the more we were excited to stay there.

the website insisted that there were no openings, but i wasn’t willing to take that as an answer–so after searching a few more sites and doing some intense internet sleuthing a phone number was procured, and a phone call made to the wonderful people of ecocamp. and guess what!? there was space! after making the arrangements there was definitely a happy-dance moment in the living room of the-mcc uganda house.

fastforward past nairobi and mombasa to the sweaty bus ride with me continously pushing my sunglasses back up my nose…

as our bus is chugging down up the coast toward ecocamp (!) we attempt to tell the conductor of the bus where we want to be let off. he looks quizzically at housemate when she says “ecocamp”. rather than panic we utilized modern technology–the mobile phone–and sent a text to our contact at ecocamp, who shortly replied with another alternative. when housemate relayed the new drop-off point to the  conductor, a mosque whose name i can no longer remember, he said he knew it

we finally arrived at our stop (i never actually saw a mosque, come to think of it) and phoned ecocamp again so someone could come lead us through the wilderness to the camp. it was after we had stumbled off the bus, picked up our luggage from beneath the bus that it dawned on me that we had just been dropped off on the side of the road in kenya, at what was supposed to be a mosque, but there was no mosque in sight–and we were kind of in the middle of no where. great.

within seconds, however, my worries were dispelled when some ladies seated behind some banana plants shouted “ecocamp?” “YES!” was our unison reply. “you sit. wait.” she said.

so five tired, sweaty, dirty and hungry girls dragged our packs a few feet up a tiny hill and plopped down on a little bench, attempting to relax. after about a beat, someone said, “we really need of picture of us right now.!”

and so we took one:

as the self-timer was going off, our help arrived from across the road, and after a quick round of introductions and groaning as packs were put back on we began our 15 minute walk to the camp. we wound through peoples front and back yards, through a futbol pitch that doubles as a pasture for grazing cattle and through the coconut palms.

ecocamp turned out to be just as exciting as i had been hoping for–the showers were outdoor, the dining area was a large open hut on stilts, i slept in the loft of a hut and we were a stones throw from the beach. amazing fish was to be had for dinner every night for a pittance. delight!

coco the donkey was one of the major highlights of the ecocamp experience. sadly, i never had my picture taken with coco but he did come visit me one afternoon as i was sitting in the hut. he stood in the door for a few minutes and we had a nice little exchange about our days. he was upset that the guys at ecocamp picked on him sometimes, but is generally pleased with his home. we bonded.

the hut in question

coco comes by for a chat

next up: our day-trip to the ruins at gede. (a photo post…maybe about this time tomorrow. get excited!)

vacay: two (mombasa is still steamy)

as far as overnight busses go i would rate our experience between nairobi and mombasa as not the best experience ever, but not the worst one either. interestingly enough, we left about an hour late but still arrived in mombasa earlier than expected. there is truly nothing like sitting on a bus at 5a.m. in mombasa wondering what your next move should be. especially when you are five white girls in mombasa with huge backpacks.

after waiting around until about 5:30 we disembarked from the bus, waited to claim our packs from underneath the bus, and began to look for two tuktuks to take us to a little cafeteria and internet cafe that i remembered from mel’s and my adventures the year before. sadly, the blue room wasn’t open yet…it was still too early! one of the tuktuk drivers said he knew a place, and dropped us off at a local hoteli. we were all standing in the street, taking in the smell of all things fried for breakfast when i spotted another familiar place from my last tour of mombasa: the castle hotel. a swanky little number that we cannot afford for sleeping, but can for eating.

we schlepped our things the extra block and a half and plopped down around our table. we confirmed that we are not guests at the hotel, but were still invited to eat breakfast at a decent price. we complied. coffee and good breakfast foods were had. trips to the bathroom to freshen up as much as possible happened.

housemate did a bang-up job securing our bags being kept in the bag room. this consisted of her laying on the guilt to the “man with the key.” the first time she went to the desk, the person there said “no problem! sure thing!” but we waited too long. the night people went away and the day people came on. so when she went back to start putting our things in the luggage room, the person at the desk said that the “man with the key didn’t want to help” us. in a stroke of brilliance, she turned to him and said–i imagine with doe eyes–“you don’t want to help us?!” i’m told he floundered a bit. she persisted: “you don’t want to help us?!” doing her best to look lost and sad. and he said he’d help us! our bags were then safely stored in the luggage room, and we even were given a proper luggage ticket for when we came back to claim them. brilliant!

one of our group had taken some sleeping medication for the bus ride, and at one point had woken up, thought we were still far from our destination, and took another one, only to quickly (within that hour?) find out that we had reached mombasa… the effects of the pill were still taking their toll on her as we began our half-day trek around the city. as we walked past the catholic church we noted the mass times, and that another one was starting in about 15 minutes. after a short discussion we decided that we would go to mass. (it is advent, after all. and, it would give sleepy a chance to go ahead and sleep off some of the sleeping pill in a cool-ish place. it was a win win situation!)

much to my delight, the setting being used in mass that day was the uganda setting, so i knew all the songs and the liturgical tunes. there are more reflections to come on the psalm of the day and some of the songs that we sang. say tuned.

post mass we found ourselves needing a little pick me up. sadly, dormans-mombasa wasn’t open yet, but we managed to find diet coke and stoney at a food court near by. sated from the heat we journeyed on to fort jesus. we took the tour of fort jesus, learned about the architecture and history of the place, drank lime juice and ate baobob fruits (yum) and did not purchase gifts at the gift shop. many photographs were taken, and good times were had by all.

and in the heat of the day we took our small little walking tour of mombasa, kind of led by lonely planet. only no one had the book out as we walked, so we really just kind of wandered the twisty streets of the old town. it was seriously steamy and hot, however, and we lost our go-juice fairly quickly. we pushed our soaked selves back to the hotel, attempted to freshen up a bit in the bathrooms again, collected our bags and were off to find a bus to malindi.

our tuktuks were separated in traffic–the two who arrived at the  bus first were just beginning to wonder if we’d been taken elsewhere when we last three rolled up. tuktuks were paid, questions to the conductor of the bus (who was very ready to go) were asked, bags were stowed under the bus (again) and we were off on the 2 hour bus ride up the coast.

this is the hottest bus ride i have ever experienced in my entire life. i was sweating so much that my sunglasses kept slipping off my nose. normally this wouldn’t have been quite so annoying, but as you may recall–we had taken an overnight bus from nairobi to mombasa, and then spent the morning and early afternoon walking around in the like 3000% humidity. i was zonked. i would fall asleep well enough, but wake up when my sunglasses were at the tip of my nose, trying to fall off my face. the routine went something like this:

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

sllllllllllllllllllllllip

startle awake

dry face with hankie

dry sunglasses with hankie

put back on face

repeat.

for now i will leave you in this little pattern of slipping sunglasses. look out for the next post: ECOCAMP!

 

vacay: one

crossing borders in east africa is always an interesting experience. i have found that people really want to help me get through the border quickly, and sometimes will go out of their way to make this possible. yesterday, while crossing the kenya border with 3 friends from north america, i had such an experience.

we arrived at the border (the malaba crossing point, for those of you keeping track) by bus from kampala. exiting the uganda side of the border was quick and easy: fill the form. stand in the line, have passport stamped, done. no problem. it should have been this easy on the kenya side as well, but somehow it became confusing and more difficult.

the form for a visa were tucked away somewhere random, but those were found easily enough. we filled in our details and jumped back into line, standing in the hot midday sun. there were two customs agents working at two windows, therefore there were two lines. we were all standing in one, that was moving well enough, when a lot of space opened up at the second line. one of the border police had us move to the shorter line. then a few minutes later he came back and asked if i would just collect all the passports for my group and come into the building. "this will be faster." he promised.

four sets of shrugged shoulders later, i had three other passports and all of our visa money in my hot little mitts. the guard led me back into the room where the agents were sitting, receiving passports and money and issuing visas. i was given the seat (window!) between them and told to wait. this is when the confusion really began.

the agent that was to help me ignored me for a few minutes… he asked where the others were, and i said they were outside of the room. he looked at me indignantly and said "well they need to be HERE." pointing out the window. i couldn’t see them anymore, so i phoned one of the girls who popped her head into the room. i relayed that they need to be THERE, pointing out the window, and they went THERE.

i was then asked if they had their passports. i said, "no, i have them here."
"WHY?" he demanded still incredulous.
"uh. well. that is what the border guard told me to do. he asked that i collect all our passports and money and bring them to you."

"give them their passports."
"ooookay."

so i handed the passports through the little window and each one had their own. check.

"where is the money?" he asked.
i skipped a beat, waiting for the "shoe me the money!" line, but it never came.

"i have the money for the for of us."
"each of them needs to have their money for their visa."
"ooookay"

catching the eye of one of my travel companions, i nodded for her to come back into the room. i handed her the money and relayed that each person needs to have their own cash. she takes the cash and redistributes it among the friends. before this point i had begin to wonder if this was really worth it or not. it was looking like a solid "not" at this point. i even asked this fellow "should i not just go stand in line with my friends?"

"you sit."
"oooookay"

now, remember how we just redistributed the money that i had collected? someone else comes to the window, and pays for her $25 visa with a $100 bill. the agent turns to me and demands (nope, didn’t ask. demanded) that i break the $100. so, i get to collect all the money from the girls again…through the window, and break the large bill for him. (the interesting thing is, he had a box full of american money that he very easily could have made the change from. so i’m not really sure what the big deal was.)

finally my friends were up. each handed him their passport and visa application, had her picture taken and was moved aside. at this point i said, "sir, should i not be out there, too, so i can also turn in my paperwork and passport?" again, remember, i was told to "sit" when i asked if should be out there with them. he turns to me again, looking at me like i’m an idiot, and says "YES." i just smile and say, "ooookay. thank you, sir." i join the line, turn in my passport and paper, have my photo snapped and then we wait.

they agents seem to have collected everyone’s passport from our bus before doing any visas. i suspect that they were doing it this way as an attempt to be efficient. i’m not sold that this is the most efficient way. i digress. we waited for a bit, moved around the corner and waited for a bit longer.

my friend the border guard, who i now feel has seriously led me astray, comes up to me and says "now, you, the leader! why are you out here? you need to be inside to collect the passports. being a leader is a very important job, you must do it well!" so, yet again, he leads me into the customs room and i’m sorting through passports to find ours. i’m also handed two other passports of two other non east africans. apparently we were all in the same group…all being foreign and such, we MUST all know each other.

i hand back the passports of three of our four members, as well as two other expats whom i’ve never seen before. our canadian counterpart says, "hey, where’s mine?" so i’m back in the room. the guard makes a joke about her being the youngest so she had to have her passport stamped last. irregardless, we finally have all of our passports, are OFFICIALLY in kenya, and able to board the bus again.

a million hours later, we finally reach nairobi–far after we were supposed to. this means that we have missed our next bus connection to mombasa and need to find somewhere to stay. conveniently, the bus let us out in front of a cute little place that translates to "the butterfly" where 5 of us crammed ourselves into a triple room for the evening. as i type three of our five are still snoozing pleasantly away, still catching up on the lost sleep from yesterdays early morning. we’re spending the day in nairobi and taking a night bus to mombasa, which should yield some more interesting stories, i’m sure.