#2: Arrival—It’s Always a Pain in the Butt

After another 10-hour flight, we finally land in Nairobi, taxi for a very long time, then stop.  Everyone is up, standing in the aisle where we wait, and wait, and wait.  “So sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there seems to be a problem with the corridor (what’s it called?).  We must wait until a stairway can be moved into place.”  I think of those folks in economy, all of whom must wait until we VIPs “deplane”.  I remember feeling resentful that VIPs have already had plentiful space, been horizontal to sleep, and had (presumably) fancier food.  And here I was, among the lordly, but waiting as well. 

Every time I travel, I promise myself I’ll get a much lighter carry-on as soon as I get home.  But of course, I never do, and thus once again I am grunting and lurching down steps, hanging on to the rail for dear life, until I finally step on Kenyan soil (well, tarmac) again.  Across to the door, up a ramp, through a door, along a corridor, another door, finally the room with all the lines, “Citizens”, “East Africans”, “Those Carrying Other Passports”—that last being the longest and slowest.  On the plane a last minute announcement warned us, “It is now illegal to bring plastic bags into Kenya.  If you have any, we advise you to take them out now.”  What!!!  After we went to all that bother, putting our small personal items—each less that 3 oz—into ziplock bags, only never to be asked to see them anymore.  How about the shampoo, conditioner,

As usual I have drawn the slowest person to process the “other” arrivals. When it’s finally my turn, I notice all the folks from the cheap seats are now standing in a much longer line. Some may still be there (24 hours later).  For some reason, I am stamped and sent on my way very quickly.  Now off to the luggage carrousels, where the VIP luggage has come off first, and WOW!  An escalator!!! 

Several years ago there was a fire in the Nairobi airport.  Slowly by slowly they are rebuilding and now the arrivals area is pretty modern.  Down to the main floor, the wait isn’t long—another VIP perk.  And now the last hurtle—CUSTOMS.  On the form we dutifully filled out on the plane, I’ve honestly admitted I brought walnuts and dried fruit for my breakfast and it comes in PLASTIC.  I’m almost always asked what is in my suitcases.  Last year I listed the scarves and miscellaneous items, all either used or donated.  Oops, wrong word.  It cost me $50 in import taxes.  This time I am prepared with the right term, “gifts”.  One man stands between me and freedom.  I hand him my form, he waves me through without a word and I am out the door. It’s 11:30 pm!  I look around and don’t see Fr. Kiriti’s smiling face. Hmmm.  Oh, there he is!  And behind him is Hillary.

It turns out that Fr. Kiriti is not well, the cold and wet having kick up his asthma, so he has asked Hillary to drive.  Despite that he has roused himself to come all this way to greet me. I am truly touched.

A delay due to an accident keeps us on the road until about 3 am, but we arrive at Fr. Kiriti’s house, fortunately large enough to accommodate all 3 and bliss. I sleep.

I awaken at 11:30, but the house is quiet.  I have to check outside to determine I’ve not been abandoned, but no, car is still there.  I look around the kitchen.  No corn flakes, granola, cheerios, but there is a loaf of bread, some very dried up chicken, butter and some milk.  I locate the toaster but I can’t make it work (later Fr. Kiriti discovers the outlet is dead), but I eat 3 pieces of bread with butter, drink some water and read yesterday’s The Daily Nation.  Nothing has changed.  Article after article details the sins and corruption evidently still rampant here.  Promises of reform abound and nothing changes.  Welcome to Kenya.

Eventually my escorts show up, eat (they are enjoying the dried up chicken), Fr. Kiriti goes back to Wanyororo, his parish and we are off to the Naivas (local supermarket) to stock up my kitchen.  By the time we get to Mji Wa Neemaformer orphanage, it is dawning on me that I’m going to be alone there. I remember all those years when swarms of kids, plus Julia (matron) have enthusiastically greeted me, but now the courtyard is empty, dusty, and very lonely. 

We drag in my cases and groceries, Hillary stays to help me, but I’m exhausted and not a little depressed.  I take a nap. I waken, do a bit of unpacking, but am still totally jet-lagged.  Asleep by 9:30.

I’m awakened at 6 by some teens who arrived last night and are here for some youth event.  They were pretty quiet last night, but it didn’t matter, I would have slept through the annual great migration had it come through my bedroom.

I snooze another few hours after which I give myself a little attitude adjustment.  I can lie here feeling lonesome and sad or I can get up, shower, walk down for The Saturday Nationand get on with organizing my little house.  I choose the latter.

Everything will be fine.  I just have to trust.

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