After the big goodbye party, and my “garage sale” and cleaning the house thoroughly, the day of our departure finally arrived.
The whole week before Ian was pestered by staff about the necessity of them giving us a “push” to the airport.
We TRIED to let them know that it really wasn’t NECCESSARY for everyone to take us to the airport.
We finally agreed to let the Centre van travel to the airport as we had arranged private transport to the airport with our safari guide/awesome driver friend George, which meant that 14 people could escort us to say goodbye.
That's George in the grey next to Tito
Saying bye to Major Martha, our neighbor and Karibu Centre administrator
This did not go over well. Staff was upset. Kenyan friends were upset. We really tried to understand the importance of this “send off” to Kenyans, but honestly, we weren’t upset by the idea of not having each and every friend at the airport to say goodbye.
In the end though, it was such a big deal to the staff and friends who were having to stay behind (Teacher Mercy was distraught and crying) that Ian & I went ahead and paid for another 14 people to ride in another matatu to the airport.
Teacher Mercy cried again, this time from joy. Who knew it was such a big deal? Uh, the Kenyans knew.
Staff, residents and friends loading into the hired matatu
Just before leaving, Catherine and Mary came by to get their pictures taken with baby Angel and one of the abandoned babies. Remember, Mary was our resident who had the still-born baby in June:
We finally had everyone loaded up into 3 vans, with the 2 vans of staff going out ahead of us. We enjoyed a nice ride into Nairobi and got to talk to George our driver about his little girl who has spina bifida. George also knows the shortcuts to the airport, which we have been thankful for many times.
Of course on this day, of all days, the security at an industrial site George routinely cuts through decided to not let the Wazungu through. We had to back track through this:
Our alternate route when denied our "short cut"
It was literally a bunch of dirt tracks crisscrossing every which way. It felt like driving to nowhere. We finally arrived at the airport, where all the staff, residents and friends had been patiently waiting for us. We unloaded and began the process of hugging each and every one, and crying, and walking away as they all stood there waving. It was a very difficult moment, especially since none of us are sure when we will see each other again. I was thankful to have the distraction of 8 bags, 4 carry-ons, 1 diaper bag, a stroller, 2 kids and a newborn. It kept me from becoming a blubbering mess of tears. Leaving Kenya was so much more difficult than when we left the US, in the US you are assured that there are many qualified and capable people to do your job. In Kenya, nothing is for sure, which makes life very stressful for those who live there, but on the other hand, they embrace things so much more because they know it might be temporary. I hope for many return visits to our dear friends who have been woven into our Kenyan story.
Ok, back to the departure.
We checked in at the Emirates counter in Nairobi with ease and soon boarded our plane for Dubai. We had a wonderful flight crew that engaged Eli and Lucy throughout the 5 hour flight, and hooked us up with this wall bassinet for Ameena:
Bless the person who thought of these!
Thoroughly entertained by the media
We arrived in Dubai 5 hours later at 11pm and deboarded the plan via the hatch stairs (is that what they are called?). I felt a little like the first family! Then I felt the HOT (like your flip flops melt on the jetway hot) air and suddenly felt how long of a day it had been. So did the kids:
It's close to midnight and we are patiently waiting for dad to find the hotel driver we reserved
The Dubai airport was a preview of the city. Huge, sparkling, golden, clean and fairly devoid of people (ok, keep in mind I’m comparing it to Thika, Kenya!)
I’ll share about our Dubai stopover (suggested and engineered by my dear friend Erika) more in my next post! Stay tuned!