Thursday, November 03, 2005

More from Ben about the trip in Western

Dear Friends--

A couple of additions to yesterday's entry.

Therese's full name is Therese Mutopa Tshisuaka. She is from Kinshasa MM in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has an accent egue on the first e, an accent grave on the second e, and no accent at all on the third e.

Also, the "Rondo rainforest" is actually called the Kakamega rainforest. Rondo is the name of the set of cottages we stayed in in the Kakamega rainforest.

I also skipped entirely one of the more interesting stories of our trip. Driving back from the Kakamega rainforest, we began to notice that there was a sense of unrest in the people around us. People were telling us that we should turn our car around--that it was not safe for us to drive into Kisumu. The car right in front of us was carjacked from its owners. We turned our car around and drove through crowds of people to get to a deserted part of the highway outside of Kisumu.

We waited there for quite some time. Children gathered around our truck, shouting pleasantries at us, climbing on the truck, and eventually poking their hands into the windows. Even the children seemed menacing after what we had seen in front of us on the road. In the covered bed of the truck, we waited for what seemed like an eternity, as the Graces consulted with a private security agency and between the two of them sorted a way to get home.

We drove all the way around Kisumu, about an hour out of our way, and finally made it home in time for a quick repack and then a dash to the airport. Raul observed wisely that it is the custom in Africa to dash to transportation--the mad taxi dash to the train, the mad truck dash to the bus (which I don't think has been mentioned), and now another mad truck dash to the airplane.

As with the bus, we made it to the airport in plenty of time. By that point, we had shaken off the fear of being trapped in the car.

In the back seat were Holly, Therese, Rachel, Raul, Jesse Grace (seven year old son of Eden and James) and I. Eventually we realized that this was more matter-of-course to Therese and Raul, as they had lived perhaps half their lives in the midst of civil war.

We found out later that four had died in the riots, all the result of police fire into the crowd. The reason for the riots was an intense political issue here in Kenya. They are debating whether to approve a new constitution. Apparently twenty years of work went into drafting a constitution that would be acceptable to all parties. But that constition is not the one that will be voted on--instead, they are voting on one drafted by one of the senior politicians here.

The groups in favor of approving the new constitution have the symbol of bananas--they sell bananas, they wear yellow, etc. Those opposed to the new constitution have the symbol of oranges--they sell oranges, they wear orange, etc. Central Kisumu is very much orange territory. The riot occurred because the bananas decided to hold a rally in Kisumu, which the oranges didn't like at all.

It has seemed very safe here with the exception of that drive around Kisumu, though. The election is occurring right before Thanksgiving--may God keep Kisumu safe until and after then.

In the light,

Ben

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