20 Miles Never Felt So Far
Montana is a big state, and after five years of living there, a four hour car ride has become fairly easy for me. Also, spending my summers in Colter Bay, Wyoming, where you are an hour drive from a grocery store, I've perhaps come to take for granted how easy it is for me to travel large distances.
So when I was at home planning this trip to Bungoma, Kenya, 20 miles to the nearest church branch did not seem like it would be a challenge at all. When I lived in Wyoming I would drive the 45 miles to town to go to church so twenty miles seemed like nothing.
After a short time of being in Bungoma I realized how 'Western' my perspective had been. At home I have my own personal car where we have nice paved roads. Traveling truly is a great luxury that most people in this world do not have.
Our journey to Misiqu for church:
I was not sure how long it would take and I did not want to be late so we left the house at around 8:20 for church which was scheduled to start at 10.
"We will definitely make it on time!"
Walking around 4 blocks we get to one of the main roads of Bungoma and on the corner we wave our hand in the air to stop a small van they call a Matatu. This first Matatu takes us around 2 miles to another town called Kanduwi. That small leg of the journey cost 20 Kenyan shillings. (In March 86 Kenyan shillings could buy you 1 US Dollar.)
Form Kanduwi we have to find another Matatu headed to Eldoret, but we get off 15 miles down the road at a town call Webuya. Navigating the Mutatus is a little bit tricky. Every drive wants you to get in their van and there usually is around 6 vans lined up. You are also trying to get on the right Mutatu. The one that is going where you want go and one that is almost full so you don’t have to wait for it to fill. If the Matatu is not full it might take 20 minutes (or a lot longer) to fill up, but a Mutatu is never full! In Kanduwi everyone might have a seat, but on the way to Webuya we pick up more people and some how find somewhere to put them. It is a van that is made to carry around 14 people at the most, but they pack in around 20 people!
Furthermore, children don’t get a seat - if they are with you they must sit on your lap. Once there are a couple people in every seat they place small wooden boards across the isles so a couple people can sit between the seats. From Kanduwi to Webuya is 100 Kenya shillings per person.
We get dropped off at main road outside of Wabuya where we have to walk several blocks up to the next Mutatu that will take us up to Misiqu. Wabuya to Misiqu 50 Kenyan shillings.
Once in Misiqu it is the real challenge finding the right building. Just trusting that the map on lds.org is right we headed north to where we think the church might be. It is no good to ask anyone, because no one knows what you are talking about. Walking up the street we get close to where the church should be hoping that there is a sign or something to let us know we are in the right area.
Then I see it a few yards ahead a black singe that says The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints.
"No way? We found it!" Only ten minutes late! Depending on your luck and walking speed the journey takes around 2 hours each way. And it hits your wallet too!
20+100+50=170 Kenya shillings x 2 for both Daniel and I 340 KES. ($3.93 USD) And that's one way to get back is another 340 KES!
8 USD may not seem like a lot but for the people here that would be a large amount of there income to go to church every week. Remember that the GDP per capita of Kenya is $1800 compared to America's $51,000!!! And don't forget about all the time wasted sitting in a hot, cramped, minivan on a bumpy road!
Here's a fun fact; for every 1000 people in the USA there are 797 cars. That's the 3rd highest in the world after Monaco and San Marino. (And those two, in some ways, shouldn't even count as they're small, tax haven, city states in Europe.)
In Kenya there are 24 cars per 1000 people. Ethiopia, where we're going next week, has only 3 cars per 1000 people.
Roughly speaking, if you own a car, you're in an elite minority that makes up about 10% of the global population.
I can see how families have to save up for years and years to try and get enough money to make it to the nearest temple. It goes to show how unique the way we live in America really is. Its easy to think that the culture in the USA is the default way of living but I'm afraid nothing could be further from the truth. I just feel blessed that we found the branch here and that going to church at home is not such a challenge.
Stats can be found at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IS.VEH.NVEH.P3 or all over wikipedia.