This is my frst oportunty to write a blog update since we departed from Waringstown on Friday morning. We arrived at Aldergrove in good time and got checked in. A combination of breakfast, smoke breaks, shopping, and baggage control delays meant that we ended up running to the gate with the words 'could passengers, watson, harrison, simmons and thompson please make their way to gate 27 - this is your final call'! By the time i got on the plane i think i was about ready for a smoke myself! The rest of the flights all went very smoothly and we touched down in Nairobi about 7.30pm local time (+2 GMT). When i say everything went smoothly for us - our bags did not make it through the short transfer in Amsterdam and we had no guarantees of getting them before we were due to depart for Tuum! This was a bit of a shock for all of us and probably not the best introduuction to Africa but we tried to keep the spirits up of the younger lads and prayed much! People would keep telling us 'This is Africa'! We met Stephen Cowan, our host at the airport and he transported us to our guesthouse for the night. There we arrived to a nice meal and comfortable rooms. End of Day 1!
The next morning i had to make my way back to the airport at 6.30am to see if our bags had arrived on the next flight. Hopes were raised as i hunted through a pile of bags just sitting in the middle of the arrivals terminal (this is Africa after all!) - i found one, then two and so on until all 1 bags were located - praise God! The team were delighted and after a bit of lunch and some shopping in Nairobi we departed on our first leg of the journey to Tuum which was due to take 4-5 hours. Due to wet weather and difficult roads it ended up taking 6 hours. We arrived at approx 8pm at another guesthouse for the evening. End of Day 2.
Day 3 started early at 5am to complete the last 14 hours of driving to Tuum in 2 Landrovers. It had been many miles since we last enjoyed the grace of tar-mac and had learned to cope with the dirt-track 'main' roads that head north from Nairobi. Unfortunately this connection will not allow me to post any pictures so you will have to wait until i get home for those! For this day of travelling we were accompanied by another 10 young African leadership students from Stephen's team. Indeed for the final 8 hours of the journey we had 14 people in one Landrover and 11 in the other. Both were loaded inside and on the roof with luggage and supplies and both were towing trailers filled with diesel and a water tank. These are items that are unavailable in Tuum or more economically purchased in Nairobi. It was a very tight squeeze and incredibly uncomfortable at times - a huge challenge for our team as you can imagine. There were moments were tensions were high and tempers frayed but as they say 'this is Africa!' On the journey we made a couple of stops to help other vehicles that were stuck in the muddy roads. At other times we all had to get out and push our own vehicles over slippy terrain - these were all challenges that helped us all to realise just how different this country is. The views at times were spectacular of valleys and plains and mountains that stretched for as far as you could see. We seen Zebra, Girraffe, Babboons, a hyena, gazelles and many others at the side of the road - every hill or corner presented another WOW factor of God's creative glory. All of the team were incredibly stretched and yet blown away on the journey. It was 11pm and 4 punctures later that we finally drew into Tuum under the greatest display of stars any of us has ever seen! We were greated incredibly warmly by Angelina who at the mention of food being ready, was instantly loved by us all! If any of the team had any worries regarding catering on the trip they were quickly put to bed with a beautiful home made curry - and plenty of it! We were shown to our rooms which were also more than adequate and could be likened to small thatched cottages. Everyone was exhausted with the days travel and relieved to find rest in a comfortable bed. It wasn't long before anyone dropped off to sleep to the noise of dogs howling in the distance. Day 3 completed.
Day 4 had a lazy start with everyone sleeping in to around 9am and a leisurely breakfast that was more than adequate - yet more points for Angelina. It was at this point that we finally got to meet Carragh (aged 10), Jason (8) and Annissa (4) - Stephen and Angelina's children who were delighted to have a few new people to meet and play with. They took us on a tour of the village accompanied by a local African called Joseph. We quickly were brought to a small nursery school with about 40 little black faces laughing and waving at us. They came out and played with us for a little while and were very excited and playful - just hanging off our arms and shoulders and constantly smiling! The village has a few little shops that are basically tin huts no bigger than 100sq ft. The people were very warm and welcoming and all shook our hands and greeted us. The village backdropped by a large mountain which dramatises the already beautiful scenery all around us. The temerature in the middle of the day would be around 25oC - pleasant enough to get a bit of a sun tan! We got to work in the afternoon with the task of raising the height of a water tower. The local African workers were amazed at the speed and efficiency with which we were able to move and throw bricks around. We were told later that what we completed in 30 minutes would have taken them a week! It was great for all the team to get stuck in and feel like they were doing something - working together is great for team-work. After another beautiful meal in the evening we spent some time on the veranda playing a few games of Mafia which was new to most of the guys but they loved it!
A large part of our hopes for this experience is the impact this could have on the 7 young men who are part of the team. Already i have seen a great openess in conversation with them and we have had some great discussions about God and faith. On the first night in Tuum one of the young guys asked me to pray for those in our room before we went to sleep - this was very encouraging for us and has now become a night-time tradition! Please keep praying for us all! I will try to update the blog again in a few days time - don't forget - 'this is Africa'!