So, as promised, we’ll update as soon as possible. Since we’re sitting here in PDX and there is definitely wi-fi, I decided to get started on turning my blag back to a good ‘ol fashioned blog again.
We made it to the airport, and through security without any hassle. Our gate is the first one out of security right next to Coffee People! Whoop! Small blessings and big blessings welcomed alike.
I’m not going to share the specifics, but let’s just say that our awesome friend Erika hooked us up last night with United and streamlined our check-in process considerably! I wish I could just pack her in my suitcase and take her with us to all of the airport check-ins. Well, I’d take her for other reasons too.
My good friend Eve came to the airport and helped buck bags onto the cart…I can’t imagine having to have done all of that this morning. Phew.
We boarded our plane for Washington DC, with an estimated flight time of 4.5 hours. Not bad. Funniest thing of the flight was a huge college aged guy from the U of O…very tough looking with a NFL sweatshirt, spilling out of his seat he is so tall and big…eating pixie sticks! It was fun to start our trip with such a visual funny. Needless to say, we proceeded to have a smooth fight all the way in to Dulles…about a 4.5 hour flight in total. I have to say that PDX puts that airport to shame aesthetic wise, at least the wings that we saw. I appreciate the art, interactive displays, culture, stone and color at the Portland airport all the more now!
What an amazing view as we were landing. Everything you expect of Switzerland…pastoral and breathtaking with green rolling fields (golf practice fields according to Eli) and the Alps. The Zurich airport was an entirely different experience from Washington DC, starting with the guards with swiss machine guns smiling at us as we game out of the ramp. We were traveling on a Work Holiday…or worker protest day (which I remember having in Portland too), so it was unusually devoid of people and quiet. That added to its sense of serenity and calm. I know, those are not words you usually use to describe an airport. The Zurich airport was awarded Airport of the Year after 20,000 travelers were polled.
When we left Zurich, I honestly felt like I was in a Little Einstein’s episode where Rocket flys over the Swiss Alps. It was surreal and not an image I will easily forget. The only small airplane snaffu we encountered was Swiss Air not allowing the kids to ride in their carseats during take-off and landing. The reasoning is that they are not “secure enough”. Ian and I are having a really hard time understanding that course of logic. 5 point harness versus loose gapping lapbelt that the kids won’t leave fastened. Hmmm. Anywho, we complied, and the rest of the 7.5 hour flight was uneventful. Free food and alcohol, though I did not partake of much of the food or alcohol….too tired to stuff the body any further. I did notice however that most of the other travelers happily downed a great quantity of alcohol, and were not at all hesistant to stretch out fully across a row of 5 seats to sleep. It was a VERY empty flight.
Flying into Nairobi was like flying into the Owyhee Desert area. At least in my opinion. The visual is one of a fairly flat landscape dotted with the occasional plant and Acacia tree. There are hills off in the distance. It is mostly a reddish brown dotted with some green vegetation. Truly, I felt like I was landing into Eastern Oregon/Idaho. Similiar also to some of the more desert areas of the Hawaiian islands and the plains of Venezuela for those of you who have been to those places.
We deboarded and walked through the terminal…some Kenyans happily directing us when they saw the confused looks on our faces (I’m guessing it was quite obvious we weren’t native). We filled out a Swine Flu precaution form (Just 5 questions), and a VISA application form in a deserted lobby. Truly, we were the ONLY people there! We filled out more VISA forms, and finally took them up to the deserted counter maned by 2 men and a woman. They were a little gruff to my surprise. I guess I had pictured the Kenyan people themselves, rather than a typical governmental type. I had to be processed separate from Ian and the kids. The man took my photo with a little SanDisk eyeball camera, with no explanation. No one else had their picture taken. I’ll attribute it to the celebrity in me. We answered multiple questions about our purpose in Kenya, we kept the answers short. The man said to Ian, “You preacha?” Ian replied, “Do I look like a preacher?” I was a little worried because our answers were generally followed by a great deal of discussion among the workers in Swahili, but then the man just asked for $50 cash for the VISAs. We expected to pay $50 each person. The same man who had asked Ian if he was a preacher said, “The kids for free, we’ll just stamp the books” and then he proceeded to pull a wad (it really was bills folded in a wad and secured with a rubber band) of American dollars from his pocket, handed $25 of our $50 to the lady next to him, and then put the wad back in his pants back pocket. We didn’t say a word. And left with a thank you.
We proceeded down to baggage where we found all of of luggage in a row besides the carousel. There were 3 airport people there by our bags. NO ONE else was around. Again, very surreal. The men got carts and loaded our bags. That was customs, we walked right by the counters. A very official man met us just as we were getting ready to go out of the airport, briefly looked at our declaration forms and said something in Swahili that meant ok. The airport men said it wasn’t safe for us to go outside with our bags, so they kindly took them to the 2 vehicles that had come to pick us up. The air smelled sweet, similiar to that in Hawaii from the plumeria. I saw some plants in the airport landscaping that looked similiar to plumeria and will have to investigate further!
With the kids safely loaded in Armida’s car, and the bags in a Salvation Army van…..I proceeded to let myself into the passenger side of Armida’s Ford Tauras named Betsy. Armida noted with some laughter in her voice, “Uh, other side Anne”. To which I realized that the cars are all turned around and I had been climbing into the drivers seat! Ooops! I scooted on over to the other side and promptly rolled down my window for air. Ooops again. Had to roll it back up. Not safe to drive in downtown Nairobi with the window down. We passed through various gates and were out onto Mombasa highway. Very second/third world type of road. Imagine Hwy99 with no lane markings, no shoulder, the same amount of cars, randomly swerving, going at various speeds. That’s what it was like, paired with it being nighttime and there being a lot of Kenyans on the sides of the road either walking, hanging out, or playing chicken as they attempted to cross the road between clumps of cars. Armida assured me that she has never been in an accident in her 2 plus years in Kenya. I was glad to hear that.
We arrived at our Salvation Army lodgings, were unloaded, talked for a little while with Armida about what our weekend would look like and opened some fun welcome presents from Armida (handmade doll/coloring book for Lucy, coloring book and dressed giraffe for Eli, wooden letter opener/book for Ian and wooden bracelet/book for me), learned the basics of the instant hot shower operation and stove operation and then piled into bed.
Whew. What a relief to finally be here. We are here in this British style apartment in Nairobi for a few days so that we can get neccesities in Nairobi, fill out immigration paperwork and settle in.
As I am typing this, I am sitting in a leather easy chair in a living room that has a beautiful herringbone wood floor and high ceilings. I am looking out a set of 3 windows to the back yard of this little apartment. Their are lots of birds chirping and signing, and the air is heavy and muggy, although not uncomfortable….more like Hawaii. There was a nice family of ants in our kitchen that we practiced smashing and sweeping…and removal of the bag of sugar should improve that situation. Here are a few photos of Eli checking out the backyard with Ian:
Today (May 2nd) is officially Eli’s birthday. What a birthday huh?
Thank you to all of you for your prayers over us for safe travel. They were answered. Also, a HUGE thankyou to all of you who volunteered your time to help us with the last preparations for our trip…we couldn’t have done it without you!
With love from Kenya,