In my family, we used to say that Dad had a five-year-itch when it came moving houses. I went to college and my parents stayed for sixteen+ years in their current home. We realized that we moved every five years after I was born. So, basically, it’s me.
Moving in Kenya is quite an adventure in trusting bungee chords (aka tire shreds and worn rope). But my latest move was cross-country and therefore involved “routine” traffic stops along the highway. Here is a snap shot of my move in only traffic stopping experiences.
- Stopped in Bomet County. Officer steps to driver-side window. I’m asked for driver’s license. Name on license checked against insurance sticker on windshield. Names do not match because I’m borrowing a friend’s giant car. White privilege takes over and I’m waved through. No bribe requested.
- Stopped in Migori County. I discover I can’t roll down the passenger window. Officer opens door…I thought it was locked. I watch him inventory my belongings. Officer comments about damage to the front passenger bumper. He asks me to step out and see it. I say, “I’m fine; it’s ok”. He comments that I must have just hit someone. I reply, “Not at all; I’m fine, it’s ok.” He asks where I’m going. When I say Migori town, I’m released.
- Stopped at same Migori County stop. Officers say I’m overloaded. I need a special pass. I’m supposed pay a fine. I park the car and call a Kenyan friend. He says this is not right. He is on his way. A young officer comes to ask me what amount of “fine” I want to pay. I say I’m not allowed to pay “fines”, but my friend is coming. After 20 minutes, the Boss returns with a posse and asks to see my license. He tries to take it from my hand. He says I can let it go. I say with a smile, “You can see it, yes?” He says something in a local language and the posse laughs. He tells me I’m free to go. I call my friend. He laughs, “They think your friend must be powerful! They don’t want to get in trouble asking bribes of people who have powerful friends.”
- Stopped in Kisii County. Officer shows me his name tag after reading my name from my license. He asks me how long I’ve lived in Kenya. He asks me if I moved to Kenya with my fiancé. I debate creating another fictitious husband. I’m tired of lying. I tell the truth. He asks me why I can’t marry a black man. I tell him I’d be happy to marry a black man if that’s who God brings me. He says, “here I am!”. I tell him I will pray for a godly wife for him. He lets me pass.
- Stopped in Narok County. Officer asks me where I’m going. I tell him: Kijabe. He recognizes the name as a base for missionaries famous for refusing bribes. He scoffs and waves me through.
- 20 kilometers outside Narok town. The car overheats. I’m stranded. It’s 5pm and will be dark in two hours. This is exactly the situation every well-meaning, overprotective, maybe chauvinistic, perhaps fear-driven person has held over my head to discourage my movement in Kenya as a single woman. The light fades. Help is coming, but’s two hours away. Mechanics are sent to meet me. They somehow drive pass the giant car stacked high with home goods, piloted by a person so white she glows. The car alarm goes off at random. I’m not blending in. A concerned shepherd slowly, cautiously approaches the car. “You are ok?” He asks. I assure him I am. The light is gone. The shepherd returns with a woman. They come to my window. She asks, “Are you ok? Can I bring you to my house so you can eat and feel safe?” I am overwhelmed. I want to cry in gratitude and shattered expectations. My friends are five minutes out. I’ll wait a bit longer, thank you. My friends arrive. We baby the car to a gas station. 15 Kenyan men work to put the car back together again. During a test drive, the head mechanic asks if I moved to Kenya with my fiancé…