A July 2005 trip
to Nairobi by greghuntoon
Quote: On both ends of my trip to Zanzibar, I spent a couple of days in Nairobi preparing and unwinding, respectively. I hung out with one of my Zanzibari brothers and his family, and generally just spent time in my hotel relaxing.
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So, we’ve been up in the air for about 2 hours, roughly 5 hours left, and I’m starting to wane on energy. It’s really only 9.44pm from the time I’m leaving, but 4.44am where I’m headed. I’d like to get adjusted as soon as possible, because jetlag when traveling halfway around the world is a real kicker. When I arrived in Zanzibar 8 years ago (sans luggage which is a story I hope does not repeat itself) it took me about 3 days to fully acclimate myself. I’m banking on something a little quicker, and plan on having a run early on Wednesday morning before my flight to get the blood flowing and the oxygen pumping. My long legs were noticed coming onto the plane apparently as a flight attendant came up to me, knelt down and said, "Perdon me, bit do yous speak English?," to which you know my response. "Well, if you’d like, you can move to seat with much more room for your legs, as I think you’re the tallest person on the flight. I’ve been checking." I smiled, checked the seat, and quickly moved before take-off. It was definitely nice at first, but the French couple next to me and I have grown quite tired of people using our row in the middle of the plane as their secret ninja route to the other bathrooms on the opposite side of the plane. The legroom sure is nice though – I’m fully stretched out – now if only the kid behind me would just take some sleeping pills and nod off, we’d be golden. World travel has certainly changed in the past years.
The planes are so much more comfortable (even in the aisle seat I originally occupied). They also give you your own virtual Blockbuster to choose movies from, and there are quite a few that I haven’t seen recently. I’m impressed, no doubt. I’m not normally too excited for long trips in a plane, but I find myself noticeably more relaxed than I was expecting. My journey is finally underway, and the excitement is growing in me as the minutes pass. Every hour or so lately, I’ve been stopping and doing my best to stay calm and connected, breathing to let the clutter in my hectic mind rest. It seems to be keeping me fairly centered – we’ll see how it works as this flight lengthens. The thought of Nairobi and making my way to the Panafric Hotel is starting to make its way into my head more often. I’ve never been to Nairobi, save for a touch-down to pick up passengers before returning to the air for Amsterdam (note: the only place I’ve ever been in Europe is the KLM terminal in the Amsterdam International Airport, and I’m in route for a third stop this evening/tomorrow morning/whatever). I can’t wait to strap on the running shoes, and head out for a morning run before meeting Naufal and his family for breakfast.
Naufal is one of the eldest brothers in my Zanzibari family, but we’ve not met yet. He was off at school, studying to become the doctor he now is, when I was in Zanzibar. He’s on call on the 5th, else he’d be picking me up at the airport, I’m sure. There is so much anticipation, sometimes it’s difficult to stay in the moment and be here for each moment of this amazing process. I keep thumbing through my Swahili books, getting myself ready for a month with a lot less English. Since I’m going to be hanging out with a new American friend living in Zanzibar, I’ll have English around a little more than I originally thought, but my family doesn’t really speak English to me even though each of them speaks (or at least understands) it fairly well. Even so, they don’t really have to force it upon me, as I love learning languages and communicating the best I can with what I’ve got. ‘Because I’m not going to be that tourist guy walking around town in his Speedo and a tank top screaming "jambo bwana, hakuna matata rafiki" which is the I-learned-my-Swahili-from-the-Lion-King that you hear out of a lot of people’s mouths around the islands. See, there I am again, off and wandering… I’m here, and the Aviator is on, starting to annoy me. So, I’m going to go back to getting annoyed, while I hope that you all are having a great Independence Day. From 37,000 feet over the Atlantic…
I have arrived, safe and well. The flight wasn't nearly as painful as I thought that it might be. It was pretty bumpy all the way from Amsterdam, but I passed out a little ways in, after watching some movie which I can't remember now. After a long line at the airport getting my transit visa taken care of (only $20 US instead of the normal $55 for full Kenyan visa), I headed out, braved an airport bathroom which was actually really clean, and then headed out to find a taxi to take me to the Panafric Hotel.
Some woman locked eyes with me as I was walking outside, and came up to me asking if I needed a taxicab to head into Nairobi. It was as if she were the driver's agent, and she motioned for some guy to go grab his car. I hopped in, and took a very relaxing 25-minute ride, about 15 kilometers, into the Panafric Hotel which is very close to the city center on Kenyatta Avenue. The moment I walked in the front door to the hotel the power went out, and it didn't return for about an hour. So, that put me in a quiet place, with the big sliding glass window/door open to the Nairobi night. It was a bit cool, which was nice, and just what I needed. As I was walking down for a late dinner, the power returned. I ate a quick meal, headed back upstairs to watch soccer highlights from the day, and retired. I couldn't sleep long, and awoke at about 4 in the morning to sit up and watch a little TV, write, read, and just be still watching the sun come up over the city. I've had a large breakfast, am about to shower, and then head back to the airport to catch my flight to Dar-es-Salaam (port of peace). My friend Wilbert had to take an emergency trip to the base of Kilimanjaro to help out with his father's business, so he won't be around. As a result, I've decided to head out to Zanzibar early, as in tonight. I'm going to surprise my family and Kathryn, unless of course they read this blog. Then I won't be surprising them much. I'm feeling quite comfortable and well though, so anyone who might've been worrying, rest your thoughts. I'm in my dreams as we speak - it's been about 8 years of scheming, planning, and talking about something, and now it's happening much better than I could've ever planned. By the way, I have to mention how great the smiles are on the faces of the Kenyan folk when they realize I speak Kiswahili, even if poorly. My taxicab driver started laughing and said "I am so happy you speak Swahili bwana! Now we can talk." And then he didn't say anything. Alrighty, in need of shower...
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