The whole world remembers 26th December 2004 as the day when the deadliest Indian Ocean tsunami in our lifetime hit several countries. I remember this day for a totally different reason. That year, my friend Pastor Andrew was the musical director of the annual Christmas cantata at my church. That year, I also decided to provide my fabulous acting skills as a present to my church and was part of the cast at the cantata. My other friend Mrs. Mathu also lent her services to the cantata and was acting as my daughter. The three of us were very good friends back then and we worked together for long hours – cementing our friendship further.
Every December, either on the 26th or the 27th, youth from my church travel to Mombasa for the annual camp that usually lasts a whole week. That year was not any different. Since that year was extremely stressful for Pastor Andrew, Mrs. Mathu and I, we decided to go to Mombasa a week earlier and enjoy the sun and sand before the rest did. We got onto a bus and off we went. We hadn’t really started working by then so cash was hard to come by. My cousin got us a friend to host us and we were set. Our days were full of bumming, going to the beach and just relaxing. We had no plan and we just relaxed.
On 26th December 2004, we suddenly realised that we had only this day to ourselves and the rest of the crowd would be upon us – our bliss was coming to an end. Usually, about 100 youth travel to Mombasa and we had decided to volunteer our services as the cooks during their week of fun. So when we realised that we had only one day of fun, we decided to make maximum use of it. We woke up unusually early, Pastor Andrew washed our clothes, Mrs. Mathu made breakfast, I can’t remember what I did….. 🙂 We went to the Likoni Ferry and rode one ferry back and forth for quite some time (hehehe) then we got off at the mainland and went to town. I can’t even remember what we did there but I know we ate at some tiny joint that we would not have been able to visit if we were a larger group.
We then decided to go to the beach. By then, we had created great rapport with some guy who had a shed that he used to store curio and artsy stuff that he sold on the beach. Mrs. Mathu and I went into the shack, changed into our swimming costumes and we jumped into the water. We swam. And played. And laughed. And swam somemore, played some more and laughed even harder. When it was nearly evening, a number of policemen came running towards the beach screaming, ‘Get out of the ocean! There’s poison! There’s poison!” Of course people came out of the ocean in droves. But the three of us took our time, really, poison in the ocean? How now? Eventually, the policemen were not as patient as before and from their body language, we decided that it would be best to get out of the ocean. In addittion, the ocean had become really dark, there were dark clouds and it was beginning to be very dark even though it was not yet 7pm.
When we went to change into our dry clothes, the curio shop owner was busy telling Pastor Andrew that the ocean wasn’t really poisoned. Duh! There was fear that the shifting of the earth’s plates in the Indian Ocean would cause the ocean to be very rough and there were fears of a tsunami reaching the coast of Mombasa. Now how do you explain this to people from the Coast who take life so easy and are never in a rush? Just scream that there is poison in the water. ‘SUMU! KUNA SUMU NDANI YA MAJI!”
Clearly we were the only ones who hadn’t heard that there had been a major disaster in the Indian Ocean. We had several missed calls from people who were very worried about us. Actually, too many missed calls. So after returning our calls, we realised that we had been waiting at the beach for too long. There were no matatus. People didn’t even want to come to the areas near the beach. So we had to walk.
I don’t know what happened. One minute we had decided to walk in the dark towards town, the next minute, we were singing songs that we had sung during the cantata. We sung, oh my, we sung. We didn’t care about harmony. No one even bothered with singing in a particular key. We just sung. I am sure that we passed people on the way. I didn’t see them. Anyone who knows how Pentecostals sing, knows that it doesn’t end with singing. We started praying out loud and worshiping ON THE ROAD. We must have prayed in tongues or something, I don’t know. We were just lost in being in God’s presence. We sung some more. And continued walking.
When I came to my senses, we had walked all the way to town and we were nearing the house where we were being hosted. And yet we continued singing. When we got to the gate, we remembered that we were being hosted by a bachelor so there would definitely be no food. No one told us to stop singing, but the singing just ended naturally. We went to some hotel, ordered for food, ate and walked ‘home’. We didn’t talk to each other that night. We went straight to bed. What had happened was just too amazing, why would we need to spoil it with words?