Friday, November 20, 2009

My Matatu Dream

I saw a picture the other day of the dirty, busy, crammed streets of Nairobi. I must confess, it warmed my heart. Since then, I have been thinking about matatus. I am sure I have mentioned them before in my emails or in my stories. Forgive me as sometimes I just assume that you know what they are. They are a huge industry in Kenya. You can't go anywhere without seeing them.

So what are they? Minibuses. They are the public transport in Kenya. And I LOVE taking them. Why you might ask?

Well, there are no specific bus stops. You pretty much just stand on the sides of the roads and stick out your hand or raise your eyebrows to signal to the conductor to pick you up. You can also be dropped off anywhere you would like.

They are super cheap. The one I used to take to work everyday in Mombasa would cost me about 20cents a ride.

They are more fun than buses here in Canda. They have SO much more character. Because most of them are privately owned, the owner choses the decor. The most pimped-out matatu generally gets the most business. And boy, are they ever pimped out. On the outside they have explicit pictures of various rappers, political icons, and graffiti. On the inside, florescent lights accompanied by more pictures of celebrities only add to the video screen which is playing the latest music videos.

Then there are two people who work in the matatu. One is the driver who drives the vehicule. The second is the conductor who is the one who spots the customers on the sides of the roads, collects the money, and manages the coming ins and outs. When the conductor sees a person who wants to get in, he knocks the roof and the driver stops. He knocks it again to signal to the driver that they are ready to start driving again. Same process happens when one wants to get off the matatu.

I enjoy the sketchiness of them. I know, crazy as it sounds but they are more like a rollarcoaster ride than a public transport method. They often drive much crazier than the other cars, most of them are broken down and rickety, and they tend to cram in as many people as possible even if it is against the law. The most people I have ever been in a matatu with is 24. Yes, 24 human beings crammed into a mini bus. Personal body bubble?  It's popped.

However, there is dark side to matatus. Most of them have very sexual content and promote a very gangster lifestyle. Most of the content on the inside has to do with nudity, sex, and course language. I hear that there are large gangs who control many of the matatus. I remember being quite disgusted as I sat in front of the tv screen while the most degrading music video was playing. I diverted my eyes elsewhere.

Of course there are the missionary matatus that preach Jesus. On the outside there are bible verses and biblical pictures, but on the inside, the degrading videos still play. There are some that are filled with cheesy pictures of Jesus and very light and fluffy sayings about Jesus. Quite honestly, those ones embarrass me too.

So, I have a special place in my heart for matatus.

A few months ago I started to dream about running my own matatu business (ministry) one day. I have asked about the best routes to run my matatu and the most attractive colours that I should paint it. I have been told that its about the music that is being played and how loud it is. I have already asked some of my friends to work as the driver or conductor. I myself have thought about driving it. It would be quite the site seeing a white girl driving a matatu. It's a pretty male dominated industry. And I am pretty sure that I would be too timid and slow behind the wheel. I have started to figure out the costs and the income. But more than anything,  I want it to be a good influence on the roads in Kenya. I want people to come in my matatu and feel completely comfortable, to be loved and accepted, and to feel safe. I want good conductors and drivers who can reach out to the other conductors and drivers. Many of them are young guys who can't find work or who have little education. Some of them are also much sought after by the university girls and are often found with fake diamonds in their ears and an arm around a pretty lady.

My heart has compassion for this industry as I see the huge impact it's culture has on the people in Kenya.

I want people to experience Christ's amazing grace and extravagant my matatu.

Here is a fun video I found that very accurately describes a matatu experience.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Food (not so) Safe

Today I succesfully completed the Food Safe course. It is a course that you are required by law to take if you plan to work around food. It goes through basic safety precautions (much of which is common sense) inorder to prevent the general public from food borne illnesses (aka food poisoning).

As we went through the information, I couldn't help but think about how wrong we treated our food in Kenya. It's amazing that I have never gotten sick from food. I couldn't help but giggle as I remembered the things I have eaten and the way they were prepared. They are definitely unacceptable according to the standards here in British Columbia. Here are a few examples:

Standards in B.C: Raw meat must be stored in a refridgerated environment at a temperature of 4 degrees Celcius or less.
Reality in Kenya: When you want raw meat, you must go to the local butchers, show him the piece that you want and he will cut off the appropriate limb from the carcass hanging in the window.

Standards in B.C: Fish must be refridgerated almost immediately after being killed.
Reality in Kenya: Raw fish bakes all day long in the hot sun of Mombasa. Fisherman lay it in the streets untill it is all sold.

Standards in B.C: Be careful not to ingest any harmful chemicals!
Reality in Kenya: Vegetables must be bleached inorder to avoid getting sick.

Standards in B.C: Eggs must be refridgerated. The carton must be kept on the bottom shelf incase one breaks and spills onto other items.
Reality in Kenya: Eggs are bought in plastic bags and kept on the counter.

Standards in B.C: Thorough handwashing in restaurants is absolutely necessary. This process goes as follows: turn on warm water, lather hands in liquid soap, rub each hand in a rotary motion for at least 30 seconds, rinse hands with warm water and let water drip down from the wrists to the finger tips, turn off taps and use paper towel  or air dryer  to dry your hands.
Reality in Kenya: Thorough handwashing in restaurants is somewhat necessary providing there is a sink available. This process goes as follows: turn on the one shaky tap (that is only cold water), take the dirty bar of soap  or the plastic pop bottle with watered down liquid soap in it, lather hands, wash as much as possible with the little dribbles of water coming out of the tap, turn off the tap and wipe your hands on your skirt to dry them.

Needless to say, our standards in B.C. are a little different than the ones in Kenya. As I learned about the various sicknesses that we can get from food, I thanked God for His protection. His mighty hand is ultimately in control of these crazy bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi!

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Journey So Far

This is a video that I created of some of the people I have met, places I have been, and moments I have experienced during my past 3 trips to Kenya. I hope it gives you a glimpse into my heart for this nation and it's people!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Broken Plans

I was hoping that by now I would have all the details of my upcoming return to Kenya all in order. Obviously that was MY plan, not HIS plan. In my head, I had imagined that right now I would be spending my time raising support, slowly starting to pack, getting vaccines, planning go-away parties, etc. I would be more relaxed and laid-back compared to the other 3 times where all the plans came together very last minute. I had hoped to have starting blogging and writing more. I had hoped to have all things booked and visa applications in process. I had hoped that when people asked me about my plans, there would be something to share.

Nope. It is less than two months away from my anticipated departure date and I have no plans. OK, that's not true. I have broken plans. Plans that seem to be in a million little pieces. The part that I hate the most is that I can't do anything about it! I have done what I can here on my end and am now waiting. Waiting for responses from people across the world, waiting to start raising support, waiting to see if I can afford a new computer, waiting to book plane tickets, waiting to get an international driver's license, waiting, waiting, waiting.

But my faith is remaining strong. My heart is working on being flexible to God's great plans. My anxious mind is trying to keep focused on the tasks of the day. And my patience is having it's perfect work in me.

He knows that plans He has for me. He already knows them. He knows all the logistics and details. He knows the timing and the cost. He knows the flight numbers. He knows it all. Sometimes I just wish He would reveal them to me now. But I trust Him. I know this time is for me. For me to learn something and to grow in Him. So for that I am thankful.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


You learn alot of swahili in the movie The Lion King. I didn't know it, but I already had a good start on the language before even stepping foot in Kenya.

My brother named his cat "Simba" after the movie came out.  I remember being in kindergarten and going to a Lion King themed birthday party where we danced around singing, "Hakuna Matata, what a wonderful phrase..."  And my best friend and I used to tell each other "Asante sana, squash banana."

Little did I know that these are legitimate swahili words in that movie.

Rafiki = Friend
Simba= Lion
Hakuna Matata = No worries
Asante Sana = Thank you very much (So when translated, the phrase means "thank you very much squahed banana")

But I learned a new one yesterday.

Pumba. He is the loving, unintelligent, clumsy warthog. And his name says it all. Pumba is short for the swahili word Pumbavu which means "idiot"

Hmm. I have been calling that warthog an "idiot" since I was little. Oh Walt Disney.