A Little Cheese, A Little Whine


In my 3-hour layover at Amsterdam, I met a fascinating young man, Emmanuel. He is a Kenyan marathoner returning from Chicago, where he had competed. He was quite modest, so it was hard to pin him down on just how good he is, but he’s good enough to be sponsored by his nation and flown all over the world to run for Kenya. This was a bit of irony for me, because when I have told people I was headed for Kenya, the response was often to associate Kenya with long-distance runners. The stereotype didn’t sit well with me, but I let it pass. I suppose it’s good I did, or meeting Emmanuel might have been the source of a lot of ribbing when I return. Emmanuel told me he was Presbyterian, and asked me how that differed from Catholicism. Since I have been focused on Reformation doctrine as we near its 500th “birthday,” I was happy to have that conversation.

Note to Self: KLM gets 1 out of 5 stars. The flight attendants were helpful, professional, and kind, but that is the only category in which I’m handing out praise. I was not allowed to pick out a seat online, and was assigned seat 60J. I didn’t know planes had 60 rows. In fact, the 747 has 68. It’s long and slender, a flying foot-long hot dog. The movie and music selections were extremely limited for English speakers. And the meal? Note to KLM (I know you’re reading!) – chopped cabbage is not salad, close quarters is not the place to serve strong Dutch foot cheese, and you can’t make enough brown gravy to remedy chicken offal. Oh, and every 20 years or so, change the padding in your seat cushions. Other than that, I have no strong opinions.

My views may be skewed, however. I started feeling a bit queasy on the flight, and even a bit jittery. As Paul Simon would say, I was “twitching like a finger on the trigger of a gun.” I wondered momentarily if I were coming down with something, or maybe in for another airline-chicken-induced bout of what my friend Greg Chambers diagnosed as “diflucous of the blowhole.” Then I remembered. This is how I feel when I’m taking malaria meds. This antsy shakiness will be with me for the next couple of months. Mefloquine also gives me vivid dreams. Not necessarily bad dreams, but vivid, almost psychedelic, dreams. Like Saturday night, when I dreamed a met Robert Redford in a park as he twirled like Julie Andrews in the Alps and shot photos with a camera disguised as a suitcase. Apparently, Bob and I are old friends.

My seat mate was a university-aged young man from Rome, Francesco. Soft-spoken and genteel, he was also quite handsome in that chic Italian curly-haired and 5-day-beard way. I suspect there were a number of young ladies (and maybe a few old ones) who would have gladly traded seats with me. I should have thought of that sooner … I could have scored an upgrade!

My most interesting conversation, however, was with Mohammed, a young accountant. He is Somalian by birth, but now holds dual Canadian citizenship.  We encountered one another as I was stretching my legs while we flew over his native land. We both stared out the window at the vast expanse of the Sahara. He said nothing and no one could live there. “Not a single tree!” he assured me. He, like most Somalians, came from Mogadishu. He had fled with his family some 12 years ago during their civil war, but is proud to report that the situation there is improving now “in every respect.”

Mohammed is a Sufi Muslim. He is well-versed in his religion and quite sincere. He wanted to ask me about the sharp rise in the number of Americans who have no religious affiliation. I said I thought the number of sincere Christians was probably constant, but that social norms had changed, so that whereas it was unacceptable to claim atheism 50 years ago, it is now somewhat en vogue, especially among the young. He told me of his understanding of Islam, and it gave me an opportunity to tell him about Christ in a civil and respectful way. As the conversation ended, he wished me God’s blessings, and I wished him peace.

Soon after, sixteen hours of air travel came to a (rather hard) landing. It took longer than normal for me to get through immigration and customs (so much for my George Clooney delusions), but Skip Ferron was there with his wife, along with Pastor Ezra and Emily who head up the ministry in Nairobi. I wish I could tell you how beautiful Kenya is, but all I saw was the ten minutes of street-lit highway between the airport and Melili Hotel. It’s quite modern by East African standards (wait … is that a Mariachi Band in the restaurant!?!?), unlike it’s more rundown and utilitarian neighbor, the ironically named Hotel Beverly Hills!

I’m grateful to be here. I’m already comfortable. I already feel home.

gkr1996 posted at 2017-10-10 Category: Uncategorized