Tuesday, March 8, 2011

So much for the routine:

TIA, and there are bandits here. Our good friends Rod and Melanie encountered bandits on the road down to their home just a couple of weeks ago. Rod told my mom about what happened, and how he handled it. Through this story, we learned that typically the guns that the bandits threaten with are either fake or not loaded.. so the best way to handle being "held up" is just to duck your heads and gun it. Stopping the car is a no-no and far more risky than hoping that they won't shoot as you floor it passed them. If you ever find yourself driving in Kenya, remember this!! In the off chance that you encounter bandits, just duck and GO! DRIVE! AS FAST AS YOU CAN! I am very thankful for this lesson, it came in handy this morning.
My mom and I had planned to drive down to meet our friend Melanie in Maai Maihu. Maai Maihu is a trucker town along the tarmac, teeming with drugs, prostitution.. HIV. There is an organization in Maai Maihu called Comfort the Children which we have been wanting to visit and think about getting more connected to. Anyhow, there are several roads to Maai Maihu some of which are more passable than others. Our van has a pathetic engine and no four wheel drive, so we have to take the better (but also more isolated) road. We've driven this road many times, as it is also part of the route that we use to get to our friends' house at Mayer's Ranch. When my parents came here in August, there were a few stories and warnings about there being bandits on this road but there have been no incidents that we've known of since moving here- so we've gone ahead and used it regularly anyways. Living in Africa has its risks, and deciding which warnings to heed or not to heed seems somewhat arbitrary most of the time.
This morning we left the house at around 9:20, and had been driving for about 25 minutes or so. It is a rocky, winding road, with plenty of ups and downs. We were making our way up one of the steeper hills, going quite slow, when a man jumped out of the bushes and into the middle of the road. He was pointing a gun at us, motioning for us to get out of the car. At the same time as we were taking this in, two other men jumped out of the same bushes holding a machete and a club. They were all coming from the right side of the road, which is the driver's side... so they were running up to my mom's window waving their weapons like they were going to start smashing the windows in. My mom, having heard Rod's story, proceeded to drive as fast as our van could take us, through the little mob of bandits. We ducked as we passed them, hoping they wouldn't shoot our tires (or our heads!!) as we drove away. Luckily no shots we fired!! But the man with the machete managed to get a good whack at the rear end of our van. We continued driving at full speed until we reached the main road.. which was luckily only about 1 km away from where the bandits tried to attack us.
It's interesting.. moments like those (not sure what "like those" means exactly.. near death? shock inducing? panic moments?) are out of body experiences. You become sort of unaware of yourself and what you're saying and doing. I can clearly remember my mom shouting, "NO, NO, NOOooo, NO, NO" and she heard me yelling, "OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH", but neither of us have any memory of what we ourselves were saying. After we reached the safety of the busy main road, I could feel my senses numbing.. I got light-headed, my ears plugged, I started shaking. Then I had a little bout of hysterical laughter with my mom- and off we went down the tarmac towards Maai Maihu.
Both of us continued our day as planned, in a state of shock... sort of unfazed. Melanie was bewildered as to how we were so calm about it. I don't really get it, shock is weird. I just feel exhausted now and for whatever reason I burst into laughter when I talk about it..? John walked in the door from school and I told him that I had a story to tell him. I start off with hysterical laughter, which set him up for a different sort of story. He was all smiles, expecting to hear about some new found treasure or something... then as I begin explaining everything his face quickly turns into a frown and he says, "That's not funny, Erika. That's really scary."
So that was today. Definitely out of the ordinary. I suppose I should be more careful what I ask for.. a nice, safe routine beats many other possible outcomes for a given day. Thank you GOD that we are safe, unharmed, and still in possession of our money, passports and van! (We had our passports with us in the car!! Yikes). I am thinking that we won't be driving on that road much anymore. Especially if my dad has anything to say about it ;)


  1. Thank the Lord on high y'all are okay...scary

  2. Hi Erika, What a story. I am glad you gunned it out of there and had the wits to remember the advice. God's protection.

    Love, Uncle Mark