Sometimes, the biblical life of surrender can seem so...serious. The principle is often paired with other biblical principles of selfish abandonment and relinquishing control of ourselves to the Lord - offering our lives in complete servitude to God and His mission - summed up in the cliche “let go and let God.” However, we all know that God has a sense of humor, and one of the things we’ve learned about living in Kenya, as Westerners, is the need to have the same. While at dinner with some friends the other night, we were talking about and comparing what it’s like to drive in the States versus driving in Kenya. Jonathan, a Portland native and our friend who runs family reintegration centers in Kenya, aptly summarized our driving experiences in Kenya as a lesson in surrender. Interesting.
Driving in Kenya, especially in more remote areas like Kitale, is other-wordly.
It’s a bumpy, dusty drive toward town. Fortunately, the last half mile is along a tarmac road that was most likely laid within the past 10 years or so. The trade off, however, are the innumerable potholes spewn across the road in what could only have been intentionally planned by the engineers to help regulate traffic and speeding.
Pedestrians and cyclists walk about as if the tarmac replaced the dirt roads that previous generations frequented to get from village to village; so these folks all seemingly have the right-of-way. Their returned glares speak to this mild sense of entitlement if you offer a courteous beep of the horn so as not to bump anyone.
The streets also provide an overwhelming mix of boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) and matatus (public shuttles) that swarm around like bees on honey. There’s some unspoken bond amongst all boda and matatu drivers. If you knock or accidentally hit one with your car, you better make sure there’s no damage or injury because they will come together and interrogate you in such a way that you begin to question your competence as a human being, let alone a driver, regardless of fault (which in most cases, is “certainly” theirs).
Truck drivers and public charter buses make up another category altogether. They both drive their large, multi-axle vehicles as if they’re sedans, and they always seem to be in a rush yet are obviously the slowest-going on the road. It’s equally exhilarating and frightening to see a charter bus in the rear view mirror speeding its way along the shoulder to overtake our little Subaru - on a two-way highway. It’s more so flabbergasting that the bus has a giant sticker on the back window that reads “God is with us.” There’s a hidden message in there somewhere, I’m sure of it!
One of the biggest observations about driving in Kenya for us Westerners, is the seemingly lack of attention or consideration for others. Or maybe it’s just indifference to not caring about getting hit. That is, there doesn’t appear to be any right-of-way system as we know it in the States; it’s every man, woman, child, boda, truck, and bus for themselves. When it comes to turning onto a cross street and you give them an inch, you’ve immediately surrendered your opportunity to proceed, even if the vehicles that cut you off were originally two cars behind! You’re better off staggering your vehicle alongside a large truck that can serve as a buffer between any same-way traffic of the lane onto which you’re turning so all you have to worry about is the swarm of oncoming vehicles and motorcycles. Mind you, the repairable fender-bender is a small fee for the truck’s services.
The really interesting part about the urgency in which Kenyans drive is their rush on the road, yet in most every other aspect of their day to day lives, there is absolutely no hurry. “Haraka haraka haina baraka” - there is no blessing in a hurry-hurry. It’s one of those why questions that should be left at immigration; there’s no answer for why they drive this way, it just is what it is.
The notion of surrender really comes down to asking ourselves by what are we going to get offended, with what are we going to be bothered, and to what all else can we really surrender as we faithfully carry out His mission here. We obviously can’t change nor control traffic violations and transport authorities. Nor can we implement our “better” Western driving methodologies that obviously make more sense even if for the sake of safety. The best, and really, the only, thing we can do is give up ourselves to and, thus, immerse ourselves within this aspect of the culture. We ease our grip on the steering wheel, unclench the butt cheeks, laugh it off. There’s no blessing in a hurry-hurry!