Travel-Back Tuesdays: The Kenya Files (Part 1)

Have I mentioned yet that I now live in Chilliwack? It’s not very complicated: I needed a place to live and Nikki told me to live with her. End of story. It’s working out perfectly, and it’s exactly where I need to be right now. I am not only wanted here, but I am also needed, and that’s a great place to be.

I’ve made a lot of moves in the last 10 years…like, a LOT. And it always seems that when that last box is unpacked, I forget about the little things that need to be organized. This time, though, I had the time and opportunity to go through some badly neglected tupperware bins and baskets. And I came across one of thee most precious possessions I own, which I had completely thought I had lost many moons ago…3 CD’s from my sacred time spent in Kenya…

Digital cameras WERE around back then (in 2005), but they weren’t as common and I didn’t know many people who were good enough with the technology to transfer files to disc and stuff. Except for my Kenyan BFF. I wrote about him a LONG time ago in this post. He pretty much gets all the credit for these pictures and memories, because without him it would all have been lost a long time ago.

So without further ado…The Kenya Files

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Mombasa, Kenya, 2005

I was 19 years old the first time I felt compelled to leave the comforts of Canada and jet-set across the ocean to a 3rd world continent. It shocked me, to be honest, the first time I felt that “call” to go to Africa, because for many years prior I had been quite reluctant to consider missions a part of my future. I had been dating this guy who so badly wanted to see the world and be a missionary…and I? Well, I just didn’t. It’s ultimately what made us part ways in the end. Not long after that break-up (which was in 2004), I went to Missions Fest Vancouver with a few girlfriends, and we were determined to watch the African Children’s Choir perform on the Saturday afternoon. My friends wanted to go because they all had a heart for Africa. I wanted to go because I have a heart for children…and that’s pretty much all I was expecting to get out of the deal.

BUT

with that first resounding drumbeat, and that first haunting, bone-chilling tribal call, my heart was forever changed. I imagine it might be similar to a mother laying on a cold examination table hearing their unborn child’s heart beating for the first time. You’re changed forever. And I was changed forever.

Those little kids danced their hearts out, and I cried mine out. My friend RJ reached out across the girls separating us, put her hand on my arm, and whispered with such faith, such confidence, “Christina Marand, you are going there one day”.

Did I dare believe her? Could that really be the direction my life was heading? I continued to let those beautiful songs wash over me as I cried and contemplated what RJ had just spoken over my life…and as a flame of excitement licked the inside of my stomach, a smile spread rapidly across my face.

Africa…

Oh, my Africa.

She was right, you know. I was going there one day. One day soon. Exactly 17 months later, in fact.

Those 17 months didn’t come easily though. I went through so many ups and downs that I honestly lost count….doors opened for Africa, and doors closed. Opportunities came and went faster than I could keep up with, and quite honestly, I felt ready to quit more than a few times. I think it was a test of faith though, and a way to prove to myself and the people who doubted I could do this that it was what I truly wanted.

But I followed my heart.

And it led me straight to a man named Ezra who would ultimately end up being the person who made this all happen. Once that piece of the puzzle was in place, everything else seemed to follow suit.

In January of 2005, I went out for lunch to Red Robin with Ezra and his wife to talk business. I shared my heart for Africa, he shared both his upbringing in Kenya and his ability to get me there safely. The next 5 months went quickly as I applied for a passport, got a zillion immunizations, raised support, and allowed myself to dream big about what this was all about. It was the most thrilling time in my life.

My flight was set for the end of June. Word of Life International in Mombasa, Kenya was prepared at that point for my arrival and stay on their beautiful compound, and I had tied up pretty much every loose end there was to tie. I was ready and anxious to finally be there. I wanted Africa. Bad.

So it was of course incredibly disappointing to learn that the flight we had booked fell through. I’m still not sure of the exact details why, but I do remember sitting in Ezzy’s office crying like a baby, convinced it was all over.

Until later that day, when a friend jumped into my car, bound and determined to get me to Africa ASAP. We drove all day from travel agency to travel agency, hearing the same thing over and over…”sorry no flights available for these dates, and certainly no flights in your price range”. My heart was pretty much broken.

Until about 4pm that afternoon, which I believe was a Tuesday, when we arrived at the last possible travel agency in Langley. My friend walked in with her head held high. I, on the other hand, walked in defeated. Hopeless. Done. Which is why it was a great shock to hear that travel agent say, “when did you say you could leave again?”, at which point I replied without a smidgen of sarcasm, “tomorrow”. Seconds later I hear the words, “okay, we can get you out of here tomorrow morning.”

The room was spinning. I felt unable to make any decisions. But I did. I decided to go.

It was by far the biggest, highest, longest leap of faith I have ever, ever taken in my life. It was thrilling and terrifying all at the same time.

I was 20 years old and I was going to Africa all by myself.

The very next morning I said goodbye to my family and friends and I got on a plane and flew from Vancouver to Calgary, Calgary to Toronto, Toronto to Paris, Paris to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Addis Ababa, Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Nairobi to Mombasa. If you think that’s a joke, it’s absolutely not. There’s a darn good reason that flight was so affordable. I paid for it in time and weariness. 3 entire days later I got off that plane and I had arrived.

I, in so very many ways, was home for the first time ever.

A few pictures to satisfy you for now, but this is only part 1 of who-knows-how many Kenya Files to come. My homesick heart can only handle so much at one time, you know.

My very first Africa-sighting. One of the most profound moments of my life.

The very first home I stayed in at Word of Life Nairobi. The next day I flew to my home base in Mombasa.

On the way from the WOL Nairobi to the airport.

My first dance party at Mrima Primary, week 1

Best buds

Ambrose and Lois. Two WOL compound faves.

So this is it for Part 1. I have so so SO much more to share with you, but we’re taking it slow here.

Thanks for tuning in, my friends!

~C



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2 thoughts on “Travel-Back Tuesdays: The Kenya Files (Part 1)

    • Sorry, Annie. I know I am SO behind. I do have a post queued up ready to post. I just keep forgetting. Terrible excuse, I know. But it WILL post on Tuesday. In fact, I will schedule that right now. Thanks for sticking with me. Love you!

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