Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 1 3/4

 Warning: This is a fairly lengthy update, Ill try to keep it entertaining, no promises. 

I fully expected this trip to have some cultural snafus and gaffs but I didn’t realize how early it would start.  My 40 hour journey to Kenya started out fairly normal, 12:05pm departure from Columbus to JFK, simple enough.  Although, I had to remind myself repeatedly that I was actually leaving the country for 10 weeks and not a simple domestic flight.  4 hour layover, then back on a plane for 7.5 hours to CDG-Paris.  Flight was quick and painless… sat between a student heading to France to study abroad and a dirty techno hippie with dreads from Amsterdam (Despite my assertion that he should, he didn’t know Bouk, Henry or David).   

So I land in Paris and walk through customs but made a quick U-turn just to double check that my bags were actually checked all of the way through to Nairobi. BIG mistake, I was promptly greeted by France’s finest military personnel armed with M-16s and a glare that would make the Dos Equis man cower.  After trying to explain in English what I was trying to do, I realized that it was probably best that I walk in the direction the 4 gentleman were pointing and murmuring in French.   So I exited customs without further incident only to walk out and see a group of guys dressed in red track suits laughing and pointing at me, I walked by smiling as one of them asked “American?” I shook my head and listened to the laughter bellowing from the group.  I proceeded to have a conversation with the guys in the limited 19 word vocabulary that we shared.  Turns out, they are the Madagascar National Kick Boxing Team in France for a big tournament.   Now this is an opportunity I can’t pass up, the one guy who spoke any English pointed to the bar and I obliged.  Mind you, this is 7am Paris time but just past 1am in the US so it makes it ok.  One guy told me he had been to Kenya, the rest were most likely making fun of me but I will pretend like they were laughing with me, not at me (I could have taken them).  Finished my beer, and wished them good luck.  Check in at the gate where I meet up my friend Ryan MacNeil from ND who is going to Kenya with me.  We walk to security where I promptly set off the metal detector, stupid watch.  Walk through again, BEEEEEEP, stupid belt.  Walk through again, silence, whew - free and clear….not so fast.  A gentle but firm French policeman asked if he could pat me down as if I had an option.  Made it through security and ordered a cup of black café (no milk obviously).   What I received was a semi-solid cup of coffee grounds and tar mixture.  Not the best cup I have ever had but I needed something to keep me awake.  Finally got to my gate and relaxed for the 4 hour layover waiting for my flight to Nairobi.  An hour on foreign soil and I already look like a buffoon. 

Hopped aboard Kenyan Air ‘The Pride of Africa’, it was actually pretty nice.  25% full at best, I had two seats to myself and nobody behind me or in front of me.  I was exhausted and tried to fall sleep, not sure if it was the Malaria medication or the drink cart down the aisle, but I had several violent wake ups that were compounded by confusion in what the flight attendant was asking me.  So I got a bag of peanuts and started to eat but apparently fell back asleep mid chew as the next thing I knew I woke up to the unpleasant taste of half chewed peanuts lining my gums.  Flying in to Nairobi, reminded me of flying in to Vegas.  Not the bright lights of the Strip but the absolute pitch black of the desert followed by the sprawling lights of the residential area that appears out of nowhere.  After a brief delay looking for Ryan’s luggage that was mistakenly checked through to Eldoret, we found our driver and went to the hotel.  We stayed at the Heron Court Hotel, it’s a nice Western resort with overly pleasant staff, total for the room, 999 Kenyan Shillings (about $12 USD). Had a quick bite to eat and tried to catch some sleep.  Although I’d slept a few hours on the plane (apparently while eating), I’ve been traveling now for about 30 hours since I left Columbus.  5 hours of decent sleep later and we’re on our way back to Nairobi Airport to catch the 45 minute flight to Eldoret.  I wore a pair of shorts thinking it would be comfortable for the flight only to realize that nobody in Kenya wears shorts.  Pretty much everyone had on dress pants so we changed at the airport.  (You know, tried to blend in with the locals. Although somehow I still stuck out and we still heard murmurs of Mzungu, white foreigner),   Although we were scheduled for the 10am flight our cab driver picked us up at 7am, got to the airport and through security by 730am.  They booked us on the 8am flight, without us knowing and we were about 2 minutes from missing our flight.  Thankfully we got on board and arrived 40 minutes later in Eldoret. 

If you look on a map, Eldoret is in the mountains around 7500’ elevation.  But when we stepped off the plane I realized that that John Denver is full of shit.  Flat as could be in all directions.  Thankfully our driver was at the airport early and took us about 10 miles into town and dropped us off at the IU (Indiana Univ) Housing for AMPATH workers.  After 41 hours of travel, I finally arrived to what will be home for the next 10 weeks.  We met with Dunia and Benjamin who welcomed us and showed us around.  We got cell phones and made a quick trip into the main part of town to get cash, cell phone minutes and find the Catholic Church (You’re welcome Mom! Mass is at 7, 8, 9, 1030 and 5 on Sunday so I really don’t have an excuse, I'll be sure to bring the bulletin home as proof).  I felt a bit weird withdrawing 20,000 Kenyan Shillings (KES) especially given the fact that that amount is nearly 50% of the average income in Kenya but we have a safe in the room, two guarded gates and I think its better to go to the ATM as few times as possible.  Aside from a few strange looks and stares, the busy city center was nice enough.  A total walk of about 20 minutes. Tons of shops and markets to buy whatever we need. 

View from our honeymoon suite
Ryan and I will be staying in a 12x9 bunk bed room and share an outdoor restroom with the people next to us.  The shower head is conveniently located directly above the toilet (time saver I am assuming).   

3 S's all at once!
Possibly smaller than my Miami dorm room 1st semester  Soph year (smallest room on Miami's campus)
Our room is called the Deja Blue Rose Bush Room.  For those keeping score at home, I met Ryan in Paris and am now staying with him in the Deja Blue Rose Bush room. 

If any of you have read the book I mentioned in one of my earlier posts “Walking Together, Walking Far” by Fran Quigley, I am staying next door to Dr. Joe Mamlin’s house.   For those who haven’t read it, shame on you.   We unpacked and got settled in.  We have all day tomorrow, Sunday, to relax and start orientation 8am Monday morning. 


  1. NICK! So glad you made it. You guys are going to have a blast and do great things....(or else you'll get into lots of trouble and have good stories to tell. :-) ) Be good!!

  2. Good news is you're travelling with a guy who's physical appearance makes him stand out in the states. Good luck to you both. Look forward to keeping tune with the blog.

  3. Dude, takes me back reading this blog! I'm jealous. Keep the updates coming... and I maybe forgot to mention to you, be sure to smile to the locals and get lollipops for the kids :)


  4. So glad you made it safe and sound. Have fun with your adventure. I'll be looking for those bulletins. Love ya,