Wednesday chapel is a weekly tradition in Kijabe. While our local surgery center has nursing education “in-service” staff meetings, our Kenya counterparts pause everything to sing praises to God. The sense of joy and gratitude is inspiring. My son Michael and family physician Bruce Higginbotham have arranged two contemporary American worship pieces, with Michael on keyboards and Bruce on guitar. The Kenyans immediately began to sing both songs from memory. Otolaryngologist John Phillips provided an inspired message and then we were asked to line up while every hospital employee shook hands to thank us for serving.
Our work completed three days early, we flew to Mombasa for touring and relaxation. Most of the 400 mile trip was over arid plains dotted with acacia bushes. It really does not become green until you fly over the tidal zone, about 15 miles wide along the coast. After a pleasant flight, we landed safely and applied insect repellant to avoid malaria, which is epidemic in this area.
Mombasa itself is actually a port city, an island in the mouth of a river that breaks through the coral reef protecting the shoreline. The beach resorts are in the suburban regions to the north and south. We pass through the city, catching a brief view of the harbor as we cross the bridge. When we pass the city land fill, I notice hundreds of children picking through the mountain of garbage for a bite to eat, while families rest in crude shelters along the edge of the trash. Heading north in two vans, we are pleased to see that the main roads are fully paved. As with other parts of Kenya, however, most of the sidewalks and residential side roads are just hard packed red clay. Tradesmen sit along the road building furniture and repairing flat tires, while women ply their wares in makeshift stalls.
About an hour north of the airport, we enter a more elegant residential neighborhood characterized by 2-5,000 square foot homes. Each house is surrounded by a 6-8 foot concrete wall topped with an additional 6 foot fence of electrified razor wire. Security among the wealthy in Kenya is not optional. The appearance of these homes is very similar to that of the now infamous “complex” in which Osama bin Laden was killed.
The Serena Beach Hotel is a beautiful seaside resort, fully isolated from the poverty and crowding of Mombasa. Guest rooms are scattered through the garden, with each room open outdoors. Our patio faces the pool and Indian Ocean. Between the pool and the beach is a broad lawn shaded by coconut trees. The hotel activities director organizes a game of beach volleyball. We have no idea that our modest teammate is the resort general manager.
Dinner is served in an open air dining room built in Arabic style with multiple arches supporting the roof and water features in every courtyard. Unlike the traditional Indian fare of most Kenya resorts, the Serena Beach Hotel serves a variety of dishes inspired by Arabic, Indian, French, British and Kenyan cuisine. We drink tea on the patio while listening to live music, until a rainstorm sends us inside.
Rain is welcome in East Africa.