Sunday, October 17, 2010
Feet down in Nairobi!
It wasn't too difficult getting through customs. It seems that there has been some technological advances in the past few years. They took my photo, my fingerprint and asked me where I was going. The gentleman also asked if I were driving and I told him no. He said good luck, and I went about my way. Good luck? What the hell do you mean by that, I thought to myself.
I exchanged most of my U.S dollars before leaving Jomo Kenyatta airport which was in the form of American Express travelers cheques, thanks to my lovely wife(be sure to stay tuned for the follow up on Amex Travelers Checks). Bro Bry, and David C, had gotten things sorted out and were out looking for our transportation. It is obvious that David has done this before and does a great job of taking a leadership role in all of this. Taxi drivers are all working outside of their cabs to get us in a car. "Rasta, Rasta, where are you from?" It didn't take long before I realized that it wasn't conversation that they wanted. I explain to them that we already had a driver and they move on, a few linger out of curiosity. We find our driver, which was a lovely Kenyan woman named Purity. We pack up the SUV, and head out from the bustle of the airport.
I have never seen so many people on foot. Where are they all going? People walking in groups, it looked like the Million Man March, a huge concert, something serious. Children walking alone. The driving is intense, its like the forced inhale/exhale of a strangulated breath, and the quality of air at this point is similar. I will take a hot summer drive in New York, without A.C any day.
The Matatus, minibus public transportation is serious business. They are everywhere. Loud hip-hop music blaring, packed with people going about their daily business. We finally make it to our hotel, The Kenyan Continental. This is a place where Michael has stayed for years, and I can see why. It has a certain African charm to it, and no tourist. Michael and Dave Brooks greet us in Swahili as we pull up. All you can see is teeth! Everyone is smiling! We are shown our rooms and meet in the beer garden for a proper debrief. I am still processing that I am in Africa!
Sunday, October 3, 2010
It has truly been an adventure before the adventure. I now realize just how much planning it takes to pull off a trip of this magnitude, its not just a trip. I am really thankful that so many people have come together to make it all happen. We have so many cheerleaders. I wish I had been able to spend more time with a few family members, and I hope that my father is feeling better soon. I spent most of the night pacing and putting the final touches on my packing job. Nitika and I overslept, but we make it to the airport in good time. After checking in, we have time to people watch, take photos of each other, and laugh at random passings. I had not anticipated the difficulty in telling her goodbye.
I make it through security, slowed only by a second look from agents into my bag at a box of cigars. Not just any box, but a gift for the proper walkers of Macanudo Golds donated by Rick Chandler, a supporter of the Makindu Children's Center. I find my way to my gate walking briskly, scanning, looking for the familiar face of David Corrigan. I stared through David looking for him, and he calls my name which almost had the same effect of someone yanking me by the collar. We hugged and laughed at the fact that he had started to wonder if I was going to be a no show. I meet his brother Brian who would have been easy to pick out of a crowd as a Corrigan. I sit across from him thinking briefly how this complete stranger would look totally different to me in the coming days. He would probably look much more like a family member, than some guy I didn't know. We have small talk, discuss our gear, and wait to board.
I enjoy observing the passengers. The colors that the women wear are beautiful, and most of them smell strong of fine parfumes. Ramadan has started a few days earlier, and I notice the Arab families traveling together. Some passengers look like adventurers, just like us. We board the plane, Ethiopian Airlines and I find that I am seated next to the window just as requested, and to my surprise no one showed up to take the seat next to me. Things are looking up.
I was served the vegetarian meal, which I had heard was really good on Ethiopian Airlines. It had lived up to its hype. Zucchini, and eggplant in a tomato sauce with basmati rice. Its a pleasure to fly E.A, I recall reading about Haile Selassie's efforts to modernize Ethiopia, and the development of an international airline was an integral part of his plan. The treatment was nothing shy of royal.
Sitting in Rome right now waiting to finish fueling. Its 7:38pm at home and 2:38 am in Addis. We are 2787 miles from Addis, and we are traveling at an average of 600 mph, 33,000 ft when we are in the air, this fact is impressive to me right now.
See you in Africa.
Flying over Egypt watching the sun come up, beautiful layers of pink bleeding into a blue sky, the base is midnight black. Stars are scattered. (A picture of the described is posted with the blog before this one)
The first sight from the plane after making it through dense, rain soaked clouds was a very vibrant green. The land looks so plush. The water ways, rivers, and streams are a deep red mud color, the contrast is impressive. The mud is this same color in my home in Keswick. We land, and we step off the plane. I have finally made it to Africa! The air was heavy and a bit humid. Even though the air is filled with jet fuel, mixed with an almost suffocating diesel, I can still smell an unfamiliar, but almost intoxicating smell of the land, the plush green, and bright earth, the mountains in the back drop, Africa.
Our arrival to Addis was a little late, so we de-planed and sat in a waiting area where we could see the bathrooms, but not access them. I talked and laughed with David and Brian, until we were directed to board the plane. I think I like these guys.
On the plane, 77 miles from Nairobi. I think we just crossed the equator. Its gotta be hot down there, however at 33,000 ft the thermometer reads -54 degrees. Not sure that i should have eaten that last meal of lentils, green beans, and cheese? I guess we'll see.