Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Chickens on the Road

The drive to Nairobi today took nine and a half hours, as opposed to the usual six hours or so. That's due to the deteriorating road conditions, plus due to the fact that there were two toddlers in the car, and two chickens. But more about that later. There were moments when I thought, "Only in Africa." But then again, maybe not. Perhaps the following scenes are common in your part of the world. Let me know if they are!

Scene 1: We're driving down the winding road into the Kerio Valley. Toddler #1 gets car sick, so we pull over. A lady walks by with her baby strapped to her back and enquires as to why we're stopped, if we're taking the child to a hospital. Mother-of-toddler explains kindly that it's nothing bad, that we're just stopping to give her some dawa (medicine), but thanks for asking. As we get ready to take off again, an able-bodied 20-some-year old comes to the window, signing he wants food, that he's hungry. Father-of-the-toddler explains in a kind tone that the young man is young and strong, he should work to get food.

Scene 2: A kilometer or three down the road, we pull over at a fruit stop. Six ladies storm to the window, wanting to sell us paw-paws (papayas). I explain that we don't need paw-paws, but that I'm looking for Esther (a relative to a colleague). We buy two bunches of sweet bananas for less than a dollar (the going price). But Esther insists on adding some things, simply because she knows me. "Take these mangoes! Or how about avocados." It would be rude to refuse. I explain that her family is doing well and that I bring greetings from them. We continue with the journey.

Scene 3: While driving up the escarpment out of the valley, we notice something in the middle of the steep road. Is it a dead goat? Nope! It's two chickens! Driver-dad-of-the-kids pulls over and promptly puts the chickens in the back, under the feet of his not-too-impressed wife. The chickens calm down promptly. Toddler #1 is upset for not being able to see the chickens. But the journey continues. "Let's pray who we can give these to. They must've fallen off the roof of a matatu," chicken-saver-driver-dad declares. We drive, looking out for who might look distraught for having lost their chickens. None of the 40 or so pedestrians we pass look like they're it.

Scene 4: About an hour later, the chickens are still with us. Keeper-of-the-chickens-wife-in-the-back-seat is starting to make plans to simply lay them back on the side of the road. But we decide that someone will see us and think it very strange that we wazungus left an offer. For whom? Would it be safe to take it? So we keep looking out for someone who looks like they're not on a journey someplace else (i.e. not heading home), and someone who looks like they can benefit from getting two free chickens. In the meantime, White Chicken is defecating on the floor. Red Chicken seems to have lost interest in life.

Scene 5: We pull over and call a teenage girl to the car. She seems weary of coming to talk with us. Driver-father-chicken-savior explains that we have two chickens. The wife proceeds to carry the gift (tied together by their feet) toward the girl. "Who is the pastor in the area? Do you know him?" She nods, looking uneasy with where this is going. "Could you take the chickens to his house?" She gives us a look as if to say, "You're the type of people my mother warned me against." Chickens find a new place of refuge: by my feet. The journey continues.

Scene 6: We pull over at a honey & chicken stand. "How much is one small bottle of honey," driver-dad enquires, knowing full well the price. (100/=) "And a big bottle? (200/=) Now, how much do you sell your chickens for? (300/=) Ah! Can we trade you two chickens for one small bottle and one big bottle? ... No, we don't want to buy chickens. We have some here." Despite the obvious bargain, the ladies refuse, perplexed by the offer. The journey continues once again.

Scene 7: We're starting to wonder if the chickens will travel to Rwanda with us. Driver-dad tries a new strategy at another honey stand. He buys a small bottle of honey, and asks the saleslady if she knows the pastor in the area. She does. She tells us who he is, and born-and-raised-Africa-Inland-Church-missionary-kid-driver-dude is happy to find out that the said pastor is from the same church. "Can you help us? Can you please give the pastor these two chickens as a gift? No, he doesn't know me. But you can tell him it's from his friends." Honey-lady seems happy to have sold her goods. All of us are happy to have found a good home for Red and White.

The rest of the journey continued without any incidents. Except for the fact that a two-hour stretch of the road was a detour (or, as the signs read, a diversion) over super-dusty and bumpy roads. And then we hit city traffic right at 4:45. It took us almost two hours to get through the city to the guest house where we're the only non-Norwegian wazungus. We might speak some Norwegian by the time we board the plane for Rwanda...

Oh, and I almost forgot.

Pre-scene 1:
When I started driving at 7:15 this morning to pick up my travel-companion-family-friends, I first was flagged over by a lady walking the 6km (almost 4 miles) to the main road, all dressed up for a meeting. Honestly, some days you simply don't want to stop and play taxi. Today was one of those days. But as we drove the rest of the way, God gently reminded me that it's an opportunity to bless someone else. By the time we got to the tarmac road heading into Eldoret, I saw a small and frail gogo bent over on the opposite side of the road. I gestured to her daughter--who held a big X-ray envelope in her hands--to bring her to my car. They were obviously heading to the hospital and would have to take public transport. Some bystanders lifted the frail grandma into my car while they told me to wait, her son is also going to town. So we waited. In the meantime, others came to ask for a ride to various towns on the way. I wish I could say I just said "Hop on in!" with a smile. I really didn't mind helping the gogo, but I was running late, and we were on the main road now where the able-bodied men who were asking could simply hop in one of many taxis that passed, at just 20/= for the ride. But we were still waiting, so I couldn't refuse without being rude. The son finally arrived, and after dropping off the other opportunists along the way, I could finally take the grandma and her children to the hospital. And then went and picked up my friends.

In case you're wondering, Toddler 1 was perplexed when we stopped for lunch and she discovered that the chickens had been given away while she was asleep.

Perplexed, but not distraught.

By now, she knows that life in Africa is simply different. You never know what a journey holds.


  1. Phew! Yeah, travel around CR is certainly calm. Glad to hear you weren't slipping and sliding, but sorry it took forever. Love, love, loved "talking" with you today.
    Hope you have a productive, chicken-free day without too many diversions. :o)

  2. Thank you for that verse, it blessed me today!
    I love reading of your adventures and the things you see!
    Big Hug!