Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The burden of crossing the ferry...

Word of Life is located south of the city of Mombasa. It is known as South Coast where tourists enjoy our sandy beaches and lavish resorts. Mombasa city is actually an island therefore we must cross a tiny channel from South Coast to get to the city. There are about 3 or 4 ferries that shuttle foot passengers and vehicles back and forth. It is a short ride especially with the new ferries that just arrived a few months ago. HOWEVER, there are endless problems concerning these ferries:

- they break down often and are out of service more than when they are in service.
- one of them has a ramp that doesn't actually go up. It just hangs down in the water. Another one has a ramp that is lop sided.
- there is no order in keep passengers away from the vehicles. Their method of filling the ferry involves putting as many cars and people on board per trip. This means that often you have people's bodies squeezed up against your windows. 
- the off loading and on loading process takes 3 times longer than the actual trip
- because of the tide, many times the ramp is too steep for cars to get on or off and their bumpers get scraped badly or even stuck. 
- during rush hour, you can sit in a line up for 2+ hours before even reaching the toll booth. 
- cars start driving off the ferry even before it docks completely
- the ramp so the ferry is quite steep and not wide enough for two ferries so often half the ramp is in the water

So yesterday I was returning back to Word of Life and entered into the foot passenger area. I happened to get there just as the gates were closing so I had to wait for the next ferry. The next ferry arrived and unloaded but didn't load any cars or passengers. Then the second ferry arrived beside the other ferry and unloaded but didn't load up again. Over the speaker we were told they were shutting down all ferries temporarily. On the other side, I could see some boats and divers working on something right in front of the ramp. A big crowd was looking to see what had happened but we couldn't see what was going on on our side. The crowd started to grow bigger and bigger. It was getting hotter and more crowded. Every one started getting a bit antsy and tired of standing. An hour passed and one of the ferries left our side, went to the other side and began to load  passengers. Suddenly the crowd started to make noise angry that we weren't being let out. They started shouting, "Open the gates! Let us out!"People started pushing and jumping around. My heart started to race. I know Kenyans. THey have a lot of zeal and like to make a lot of noise. They also have a mob mentality of sorts that never really leads to good things. So I started getting quite nervous as people continued shouting and wrestling with the gates. Police just stood by and watched. I prayed. Boy did I ever pray. I happen to be right near the opening gate with probably about 1000 passengers behind me. If they started pushing, I would probably get trampled big time. Then the ferry people opened the gates and let us get onto the ferry. I kept on my toes as people were pushing and running towards the gates. It was a big game of violent bumper cars. I was pushed around and tripped several times but as I walked toward the ferry, the crowd calmed and we boarded. There must have been 1000+ people on that ferry.

As we got to the other side, we realized that a big truck carrying sand had lost control of his brakes and rolled right into the water. The Kenyan Navy was there trying to remove it. Luckily no one was hurt but the truck was blocking half of the ramp so only one ferry could dock at a time. The picture below shows the ferry going from south coast over to Mombasa. The truck plunged into the water right where this ferry is. 

The truck has yet to be removed up to now. It's been 3 days. I don't think Kenya has the resources to remove it. It's proved to be a tricky task. I think they tried to pull it out with a tow truck but it didn't work. Now they are trying to move it to the side or something. Whatever they are doing, it is creating so much havoc and jam with the ferries. Our director spent 5 hours trying to cross the ferry last night. It was so crazy.

So this is Kenya for you. You never know what crazy thing will happen. Just gotta trust God that His mighty hand is over you protecting you!

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