Today, as I was coming back from Tanzania, I was overwhelmed with the sense that I felt like I was coming home. The landscape in Kenya has become familiar, and even the faces in Kenya. As we crossed the border, as more of the bus filled with Kenyans and as more of the landscape filled with umbrella acacia trees, I began to relax. (It might have helped that I put Motown on my iPod.)
At the border, an older woman got in the bus. She looked like she was out of sorts. She sat next to a young man, but he actually asked her to move to the back of the bus, where there were many empty seats. She mumbled a little bit and stumbled to the back of the bus. I thought she may have even been a little bit senile. But she had a sweet face, and I felt a little sorry for her.
Then, as we were approaching Nairobi, I heard her call a taxi driver on her phone. She spoke in impeccable English, albeit with an East African accent, asking him to meet her at the bus terminal. I was amazed! It is the first time I had heard English like that in Kenya. She must have been educated in the States.
When the bus randomly stopped at a gas station and people began to file out, I began to wonder if I could go to the bathroom. So I turned around and asked her if this was a long stop, or just a short one. That started a conversation that, in short, ended with my getting a ride with her to my hotel, my staying with her on Thursday before I leave for Amsterdam, and her setting up a time for me to meet an African-American woman from Georgia who was a music major, now studying theology at Nairobi University. Wow!
To allay fears that I’m trusting some random crazywoman, I looked her up online. http://www.ku.ac.ke/schools/human_sciences/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=87%3Amrs-grace-namkari&catid=19%3Adepartments&Itemid=41. She even has her full CV online… including Stanford, Geneva, Manchester, Korea… She is currently a professor at Kenyatta University, one of Kenya’s leading universities, and she has studied and researched in the States. She has even spent time in Grand Rapids, visiting her sister!
Dr. Namkari said that in the 1960’s, she, as a young woman from the “cliffs of Kilimanjaro,” as she put it, also climbed to the second peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro (same as me).
I’m looking forward to Thursday night.