When Terrorists Strike

This weekend in many parts of the world there were terrorist attacks. To us it was brought close to home when a mall we visit was taken over by terrorists. As I write this blog it is going into it’s 4th day of the siege. Only a few minutes ago an Australian friend found out three of her close friends perished, one of them to give birth in two weeks time.

People escaping from Westgate Mall.

People escaping from Westgate Mall.

A lack of security is a reality here, but when a mall we frequent is taken over and people die it brings in a whole new level of things. Already we don’t travel at night, go for a walk at night and always lock the car when we get in it. We have a security gate on our apartment door and two night guards on the apartment block.

The thing is that you hardly ever ‘feel’ insecure. We walk through the slums (even though the Aussie High Commission says not to) to visit families and the biggest threat is shaking all of the hands of the kids who say ‘How are you?’ We are more worried about avoiding people as they step out in front of our car or suddenly seeing a donkey and cart pull out and there isn’t enough space to stop.

You get used to having your car checked at the mall, or being security scanned on the way into church. However, the thought of people attacking people as their children are in a cooking class is totally different.

The first thing that happened to us was the numerous questions on Facebook checking if we were okay. We were 4 hours away at the Amboseli National Park looking at wild elephants when I just happened to check FB to find out about the tragedy. Automatically I posted that we were fine. What I didn’t let people know is that we actually would’ve been there as already planned.

When we got back to Nairobi, like everyone else we were glued to the TV to see what the story was about. We had planned to go to the movies at the local mall, but when things like this happen you are best to stay at home. So it was toast for dinner and we put on a comedy to lighten the situation. I used this time to field through the endless questions online and SMS our pastors back home. Both responded even though it was really late, which was great. We have a number of expat friends so you instantly go through the list to make sure they weren’t near the incident. Thankfully they were all fine.

When terrorism happens people put their lives on hold. While you don’t want it to stop you from doing everyday things you can’t help yourself. You choose your seat at a café based on how you can escape. You look at people a bit more suspiciously. You decide if you really need to get a few groceries.

Waiting to get our car checked

Waiting to get our car checked

We ventured to the mall yesterday and things are very different. There is normally a check of your boot, but now they check the glove box, back seat and boot. Instead of two lines for the check, they’ve merged it into one, barriers up on both sides, and very long lines. That’s just to get into the carpark. Normally there would be plenty of cars but yesterday there were only 4 others. Javahouse is a café which is packed at lunchtime, there were two people.

At our mall you just walk in – normally. Now they are doing a full bag and body check. Pete went there on his motorbike and he had to thoroughly empty his bag out. Churches were only half full on Sunday. This is because they are normally the next target. I’m not sure if we would’ve gone had we been home.

Normally this carpark is full

Normally this carpark is full

Liz had a co-worker who was injured and like us, they started their day in prayer for our nation.

When terrorism strikes it does a couple of things. It makes people retrench and it also makes them come out and do extraordinary things. It will take a good month for businesses to recover from this incident and for those at the mall it could be a number of months. It will have a huge economic impact for those in that business district.

On the positive side people here rally in times of disaster. There was an outpouring of money, food items, counsellors and also blood donations. The Red Cross were at the forefront of this tragedy and did a great job in the face of so many challenges. It gave people a chance to go out of their comfort zones and care for others. I heard of one lady that was giving out cups of tea from the boot of her car to the police on the scene. It might not seem much but here no one does anything without payment.

Wherever we went people were glued to TV’s on updates. At our mall there were crowds of young, old, black, white trying to get a viewing point on a TV to keep updated. Some businesses closed down and had an all day of prayer. People took time out to talk to their colleagues to make sure they were okay. There were the conversations of ‘where you were when it happened’.

The Westgate Mall siege is over. The TV channels are showing less about it. People give a sigh of relief. Children return back to school and people resume their lives as normal as possible.

However, we have to create a ‘new normal’. Things won’t be the same for a very long time, especially for those involved. We will still look with suspicion and keep as secure as possible and unfortunately terrorism will happen on our back doorstep and we will go on the emotional rollercoaster all over again.

Life is not certain but our faith in God is. Stuff happens and some people equate life with God, which is not true. We live in a broken and fallen world and have to suffer the consequences of that.

What humbled us is the number of people from around the world that sent us messages of support and concern. Each and every one made a huge impact on us and wasn’t taken lightly. It reminded us that we are not here alone.

This incident also reminded me that we need to update our insurance!!

 

 

 

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A Week With Terri

Terri (AKA Tee) is one of our many ‘extra’ kids we have in our family. We’ve known her since she was 4 years old, she is now 25. It was only a few weeks ago that she said she was coming here for 3 weeks, so we adjusted our calendar, planned some outings and finally got our guest room ready.

Looking out at Nairobi from the Convention Centre

Looking out at Nairobi from the Convention Centre

Until then the guest room was empty and we had always planned to furnish it, but didn’t have the funds for it. Just after we got the message that Tee was coming some New Zealand and Aussie friends gave us enough for a mattress and bed. When she arrived, another friend gave us the funds for some bedside tables. So now all we need is a BBQ, vacuum cleaner, solar backup and we are pretty much set up!

Visiting the KAG Primary School

Visiting the KAG Primary School

The great things about having visitors is that I get a chance to get out of the office. Not that I mind working with our team (they are the best) but endlessly looking at a computer screen gets just a bit much. So I’ve abandoned our team for the 3 weeks that Tee is here, keeping in touch online and going in only on Monday mornings. It means working at nights or sneaking in time like now when she is getting her hair braided – Kenyan style. We absolutely love having visitors and showing them that Africa is more than war, famine and poverty.

closeup kissy

This is how you kiss a giraffe

I always get amazed by what peoples reactions are to Kenya and everything it holds. Most are intrigued that we pretty much have all the modern amenities, that we drive in crazy traffic and don’t have a heart attack and how good the food is. I feel sorry for Tee because I told her that the weather had been cool, but by the time she got here it was quite warm. She came from 15 degrees in New Zealand to 25 – 27 degree heat. The other day I suggested we walk the 15 minutes to the mall – bad mistake. She has constantly reminded me and anyone we meet about how she nearly melted. Won’t be doing that one again.

Preschoolers in the Kitui District

Preschoolers in the Kitui District

The thing I love about Tee is her laugh it’s infectious. This is especially so when we’ve driven for hours and start quoting movies, Swahili practise and songs to suit the situation. That’s when we know we’re all tired and Tee’s laughs keep us going. She was only here for 2 days and we went to Kalambya in the Kitui District, around 3.5 hours from Nairobi. We left early in the morning and didn’t get back until after 9pm. It was to look at one of our new water projects but it was preceded by a 2 hour tour through a primary and secondary school. It was hot, dusty and I am sure we met everyone in the community. But, we had lots of fun along the way.

A day in the city in 26 degrees. I think they needed a coffee.

A day in the city in 26 degrees. I think they needed a coffee.

While we like to show people the touristy places we also like to show them another side of life in Kenya – where people live in poverty. We took Tee into the Kibera Slum where we were meant to take a food parcel to a needy family but their child ended up vomiting for hours and was rushed to hospital. Instead we visited some young men who are sponsored to attend school. Here we discovered that at one of their boarding schools they have to get up at 3.45am, every day! The boys were inquisitive about Tees tattoos, something happening more and more here. We also visited a school in Kibera where the little kids are so cute you want to take one home.

While you can go to some great places here, it is the people you meet who leave a lasting impression. There’s Mariam who gave us a Kenyan cooking lesson (Tee still doesn’t like ugali), Ayub and his family who came for dinner and Lucy who we took to dinner on our way back into Nairobi. Sure you can kiss a giraffe like Tee did (and who doesn’t!), feed a baby elephant or tour through a bead making factory. But it’s the incredible stories of joy and endurance that stay with you forever.

Tomorrow we take Tee to Nakuru with us to visit a school where we put down a deep bore well.  It’s only a few hours drive from here but we are staying overnight at someones house so the next day we get up at 6am to go to the national park. That afternoon we’re also out on a boat to see the animals from a water perspective.

Hair braiding takes hours.

Hair braiding takes hours.

Both Tee and Pete are big coffee drinkers. They are about half the price of what Tee would pay in New Zealand so she’s happy to stop several times at the local coffee shop. This morning I had to steer her away from Dormans, which she has come to know really well.

However, I may have to take her there later for her caffeine fix!