Back in Africa, Part 2 –
“Getting there and Getting Settled”
As anticipated, it was a mad rush on my Tuesday departure day. The bus to was scheduled to leave at 3:35 pm and I had just finished editing the 249 page resource guide and 37 page homework booklets by about 1:35 pm after staying up until 2 am. I made the (big) mistake of entering two tennis tournaments the week and weekend before which led to me spending 8 hours on court on Saturday, waiting around all Sunday afternoon to play, and then playing a rescheduled match on Monday night. While the documentation still needs more work, I was able to edit it down from 249 pages to 181 pages. After completing the edits, a great friend of mine drove me to Kinko’s to get a few copies made and bound, then it was off for a quick lunch, and then to the bus stop where we waiting in the rain for ½ hour. Sleep deprived and stressed, I was not looking forward to the 4 hour bus ride. From Seattle, I took a 9 hour flight to London and then after a 4 hour layover, I boarded a 9 hour flight to Nairobi. I arrived at 6 am local time and was grateful that the visa procedures were quite painless. What was not painless, however, was the 1.5 hour taxi ride that roughly covered about 1.5 miles to the hotel. The taxi ride was at times jolting and then boring, as cars jostled within inches of each other, alternatively stopping for long stretches and then speeding up to 50 mph. With seemingly no method to the madness, we bumped into another car (or it bumped into us) which led to my driver getting out of the car to engage in a shouting match with the other driver on a busy road. Undeterred, I remained calm as I accepted that this conflict needed to be played out.
At the hotel, I checked in for a 26 day (!) stay in a “standard” room which can be described as “basic”. Having stayed in highly questionable places in Africa, complete with bucket baths with dirty well water and limited electricity, I was somewhat disappointed in myself that I was feeling anxious about the room. Then again, I reminded myself that I’m not 21 anymore and I want to stay in a nice room. The universe must have been listening because the next day the management called to upgrade me to a superior room so I’m happy. One interesting feature of the hotel is that there are security guards on each floor by the stairs so going from my new room on the 5th floor to the lobby I have to pass through a gauntlet of guards – one set for the day shift and one set for the night shift. It was unnerving at first, especially since they wear dark blue uniforms and tend to stand in the dimly lit stairwells, but they have been incredibly friendly. So, if I choose to take the stairs, I do four rounds of greetings each way. I happened to ask the security guard on my floor to teach me some more Swahili words but now he has started a routine of quizzing me each morning. Of course I’m only starting to get the hang of it so I always just tell him that I “left my Swahili sheet in my room” to avoid the embarrassment. 😉 .
One habit I must break is watching way too much of the limited number of television channels. Even though I do not have cable at home, I have been watching the E! Network and its endless string of reality and entertainment programs. I probably know more about the cast of Full House than anyone should. Aside from E!, there’s always the standard standbys of CNN and BBC but these channels get too depressing to watch. I finally unplugged the television to focus on reading, school work, and of course, prepping for the start of the SE 101 program. With this being the winter, there is not much to do outside as it so far has been a constant light rain; however, I have taken a few walks already around Nairobi. Aside from having to dodge cars as I try to cross the streets, and having to breathe in black soot from passing trucks, I have enjoyed the city’s eclectic mix of towering buildings, classic architecture, and basic buildings. I’m feeling like this is the calm before the storm as I know there’ll be lots to do in terms of logistics and coordination over the weekend. I’ll let you know how the final preparations go.
For now, I’ll leave you with a few Swahili phrases and words that I’m trying to learn:
Good morning – Habari ya asubuhi.
Thank you – Asanta sana
Good bye – Kwaheri
Good evening – Habari ya jioni
Hi – Jambo
Very good – Mzuri sana