Journey to Africa – Part 1

The year after our cross-Canada bike ride I had another amazing adventure – I went to Africa. Yowza! The Canadian Bible Society had a program for the district directors called “Travel for Training”. After 5 years of service each of the directors was eligible to take a trip to areas that were receiving funds from the Society to enable us to speak with more authority about where the funds we were raising were going. 2007 marked my fifth anniversary and I approached our National Director for permission to take such a journey. I had spoken with my colleague from Newfoundland – Lorne Pritchett about coming with me. He was also marking 5 years with the society. Permission was granted and we were asked where we wanted to go. We made the decision to go to Kenya, Rwanda, and Egypt. I was told that I would have to plan the trip myself. The planning was as much a learning experience as the trip itself. After some discussion, we decided that I would handle the logistics and Lorne would handle the money.

We met at Pearson International and flew to the United Kingdom. We spent a couple days visiting with the British and Foreign Bible Society in Reading, then onto Africa by way of Amsterdam. We were going to spend the weekend in Amsterdam and then fly to Nairobi. Almost everything went just as we had planned. Almost but not quite. My luggage never made it. How could Lorne’s luggage get there and mine was stuck somewhere at Heathrow Airport? There we were in Amsterdam over the weekend, with me waiting for my luggage to catch up to me.

One of the most frustrating experiences of my life is calling a number only to be put on what seems like an endless merry-go-round of “Push to 1 if you want, and on and on”. What made my experience with Schiphol International Airport is that I didn’t understand a single word of the recorded message. Why? You ask. It was all in Dutch. I don’t speak the language. I finally reasoned that in Canada if you wanted to speak to a real human being, you could push zero. It worked. The phone was answered by someone who would much rather have been speaking Dutch, but who spoke to me in heavily accented English. I was assured the luggage would make it to Amsterdam before our scheduled flight to Nairobi on Monday. Surprise of surprises – the luggage never showed up. I was asked where they could forward the luggage. Good question. I explained my itinerary and since our stops would be very short in Nairobi, Kigali and Cairo, I asked them to send my luggage to Saskatoon. My airline told me they would reimburse for what I had to purchase for the rest of journey. I ended up trying to buy the stuff I needed at Schiphol Airport. Bad mistake! I think their motto was “We have doubled our prices for your convenience.” Here’s an example of the prices. I had to buy a toiletries case with the regular personal items and the price ended up at around $70. Really!

We spent Palm Sunday in Amsterdam. I was amazed by the rental bicycles that were available on every street. We had found an old church near our hotel and went there on Sunday. Like my experience with the airport phone number, I couldn’t understand a single word spoken or sung in church. We recognized the melodies and Lorne and I sang along with the congregation, but in English. The preacher was an older man. I couldn’t understand him, but I was carried away with his passion. Made me want to learn Dutch. I learned that I could worship God, even when I couldn’t understand the language spoke in the congregation.

Finally, we were off to Nairobi. On our way from the airport to our hotel, we saw a number of marabou storks in the trees. They are an ugly, morbid looking bird. This is what Google has to say about them. The marabou stork is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae native to sub-Saharan Africa. It breeds in both wet and arid habitats, often near human habitation, especially landfill sites. It is sometimes called the “undertaker bird” due to its shape from behind: cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, and sometimes a large white mass of “hair”. Ask Google to show you pictures of this bird and you’ll see what I mean.

We discovered that the people we encountered had difficulty pronouncing the letter “R”, and Lorne’s name became “Lon” and our names sounded a lot alike. They wondered how we could differentiate between the names “Lon” and “Len”. Next week I will share with you the amazing experiences we encountered in Rwanda. I was learning to keep the Son in my eyes in cultures with which I was totally unfamiliar.

4 thoughts on “Journey to Africa – Part 1

  1. Trevor D. Butt

    Hello Len, Trevor here. Last August Diann and I were in Amsterdam beginning a Viking river cruise.


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