26 February, 2010


Today was the first time I saw rain here in Somaliland since early October. It was wonderful!! A whole 15 minutes of rain!! Sure, it didn’t last long, but it doesn’t take much to bring joy to everyone. And the way it looks, it might even just pick back up again and add a little more excitement to things around here. I was at the gate with our security guards when it started. It had been cloudy all day – this has only happened a few times in the past 5 months – and they’d become a darker shade all around. Consequently, all we were talking about was rain. (I had my English-Somali dictionary with me, otherwise we wouldn’t have even been talking but rather grunting, gesturing and trying to communicate using a conglomeration of my poor attempts at Juba Arabic, their poor attempts at English, and the 15 or 20 Somali words that I know).

Before the rain started, we could see several miles away that it was already raining. There was all kinds of dust in the horizon which they were saying (I only understood because of the sign language, though I’m sure they were saying it with their words also) is a sign of rain. Sure enough, about 20 minutes later, the wind picked up and sand was blowing everywhere. It wasn’t a sandstorm, and I don’t really know if they have those here or not, but the sand was blowing at least a hundred feet in the air in a not too thick cloud, and so came the rain. No one was concerned to retreat under cover at first. We were all relishing the liquid falling from the sky as it brought at least a temporary relief to the dry, parched earth. But, wetness does result in discomfort, and especially as the sun was low on the horizon, no one really wanted to get soaked. So, we did hide under a small shelter with big smiles and a light-hearted atmosphere that persisted.

Praise the Lord for the rain! I welcome it as a break from the monotony, a relief to the heat, and a hope that it will ease suffering of all around me who struggle to survive with its absence. It has been 5 months without rain in Somaliland, but I got completely drenched in a downpour in Nairobi only 3 weeks ago. For those I interact with daily, it has been a lifetime of going months without seeing a drop of rain. No escape to a foreign land where it is common. Nothing but brown, sandy earth with little thorny plants here and there that spring to life for a short time whenever the few drops of rain do come. I know that tomorrow I’ll begin to see a little bit of growth and maybe even a little bit of green will spring forth in the next day or two. The roots are shallow, and things will inevitably be scorched and die again. But, these are the things that are just beyond my and anyone else’s control. People grow up in different areas and have different experiences. It’s not for me to determine what takes root and what doesn’t. I can do no more than trust that the Author has a purpose for creating things the way they are. I rejoice in my experiences. I rejoice with my neighbours today for the little rain that fell. And I rejoice that life is not in the big things, but in the small things to be enjoyed moment by moment.

17 February, 2010

What's so Great about the Plains?

From Camp Bighorn, the next place I really had any intentions or desire to stop was Minneapolis. (While there were other places I had some desire to stop at, I didn’t think it was worth the several hundred extra miles and consequently hours on the bike that I would’ve had to drive to get to any of them). So, I left early in the morning on September 11 and headed East on US Highway 12 across Montana. And I continued driving across Montana. Eventually I stopped at Sulphur Springs Montana, right in the middle of the state for a bowl of clam chowder. And then I continued further along the highway. Western Montana: beautiful. Eastern Montana: not so much. At sometime past 6pm, after 600 miles travelled and almost 11 hours on the road, the sun was beginning to set and it started raining. I was still 40 miles from any type of civilization. I was cold and uncomfortable. I considered stopping and putting up the tent for the night, but as I was already miserable, I decided to push on ahead to the next town and stay in a motel for only the second and final night on the trip that I would pay for lodging. 650 miles and 11+ hours from when I’d started the day, I was still in Montana. How can the state really be that long?

Saw some of these, and not much else (not my photo though)

After a night’s sleep in a bed to rest my stiff, sore body, I woke up to find that the rain hadn’t stopped overnight, so I was thankful I’d stayed in the hotel. With nothing but the Great Plains of North and South Dakota between me and Minneapolis, I knew it was going to be another long day. I continued the journey with the trusty overalls and rain jacket that Alex had graciously let me borrow. The rain let up by midday so I was at least able to dry out for the afternoon while soaking up some sun. I covered a total of 600+ miles going across parts of the Dakotas and Western Minnesota, but finally reached Nick and Christy’s place with an extremely sore bum sometime after 8pm (lost an hour due to time zone change). The 1300 miles I’d covered the previous 2 days had worn me out and while I was glad to see Nick and Christy again, I was asleep by 10pm even though it was a Saturday night.

I took it easy for a couple days choosing to mostly walk rather than explore much of the Twin Cities on wheels. My hosts live in a diverse community where there are dozens of ethnicities heavily represented, including a large Somali population. It was wonderful to eat some great food, meet some new folks, visit my old roommate and his wife, some other friends I hadn’t seen in years, and some cousins that had grown up way too much since I’d last spent any time with them. But, the date of my interview, which was the only thing that put a limit to the time I had for this cross-country expedition, was approaching too quickly. So I couldn’t stay long enough to help Nick and Christy move into or fix up the house they’d just bought and settled on the day I left… and it did need quite a lot of work. (At least that’s the excuse I gave to get out of helping.) Even though it took a lot of effort and all their extra time for awhile, I’ve seen pictures that show just how much they were able to do to turn the place into a nice, comfortable home.

My tour of Minneapolis

As I left Minneapolis, I headed towards Chicago which I’ll pick up with in the next instalment. But a couple of hour visit in Rochester on the way allowed me to meet the newest addition to Sarah’s family as she, Kyle, and Josiah had recently welcomed beautiful baby Briella into the world. Josiah loved the motorcycle, so even though he’s only 3 years old, I let him take it for a spin while I played with his Fisher Price toys. Ok, so his mom decided that it wasn’t a good idea to let him drive as it didn’t have training wheels. But we did get to play ball in the yard and I pushed him around in his Fisher Price racer. And that is where this edition of the Blue Mamba Trail will end.