Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I am here in Kenya! I've been planning to say this all along, and it is true: As I was expecting, it's not what I expected!

After a very long couple days of travel (which have stories of their own), we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta Airport on Tuesday morning at 6am. They had served dinner at something like 11pm the night before, and woke us up at 4:30am for breakfast! We got off the plane and went in search of money changers - we'd heard we'd get a good rate at the airport, and not so much elsewhere. That accomplished, we went in search of the way out. We filled out our visa applications and waited in long lines to clear immigration. They scanned our fingerprints, which I don't believe I've ever had done at an airport before.

Then down the stairs to find our luggage. And find that there were dozens of other Quakers milling about waiting for luggage or friends. There were all sorts of problems: damaged suitcase, missing or late luggage, etc. But finally we all had our luggage and moved on into the welcome hall where there was a large group waiting to receive us.  It was wonderful to see friendly faces. We were led out to a tour bus van and climbed aboard as our luggage was thrown up on top and secured with tarps and ropes. About 30 or 45 minutes later we finally left.

We went only a little way, though I'm sure it took an hour, to get to the Friends Center in Nairobi. Here we waited for awhile later for the other two buses from the airport to catch up with us. I think we left there around 10am. Someone bought the last bottle of water ahead of me so I got a lukewarm bottle of sprite. Anything as long as it's wet! But no food, which was probably a mistake because it had already been about 6 hours since any of us had anything to eat and I was getting hungry. But I'd heard Kabarak University wasn't that far away, a few hours, and we'd already come a distance, so surely it wouldn't be that far...?

Perhaps not, but for one thing the traffic was awful! It was rush hour apparently and the roads were completely clogged. I noticed very quickly that the lines on the roads were merely suggestions, and not taken all that seriously. Sometimes, there were two lanes of traffic going one way and one going the opposite, then without warning that middle lane would switch to the other direction. I think people just took advantage of that lane: if no one was coming their way they would use it. People were merging and passing at very close quarters without any signalling; motorcycles were weaving in and out everywhere, and people were often crossing the road, weaving in and out of traffic, sometimes no more than an inch or two from a passing vehicle. One time, we were passed on the right and left side at the same time! (And I'm pretty sure that was on a two way road.)

We eventually got out of the busy congestion of the city and were in a more rural area. I saw chickens, sheep, goats, and donkeys grazing on the side of the road. Then we had to slow down for some baboons crossing the road. Then I KNEW I was in Africa! Later I saw zebra off to the side and a heard of gazelle or something like that. Since it is the rainy season everything is greening up. There are flowering trees and bushes everywhere, with such outrageous colors: purple, blue, yellow, pink, etc. There are also some impressive giant cactus trees.

Our bus was climbing up and up and we came around a corner and were suddenly looking out over the Great Rift Valley. We were all trying to take pictures from the dirty windows of the speeding, swerving van. The driver finally stopped off at a viewpoint - which, of course, also turned out to be a tourist trap with some very persistent salespeople. I don't know that I knew this before, but the Valley stretches from Israel right down Africa all the way to Mozambique (I think that's where it ends). It is huge! Hard to describe the immensity of it.

After tearing ourselves away from the hawkers and salespeople, we got back on the road. Around 12:30 or so our driver stopped again at a place where we could buy food. Thank goodness! I thought I was going to die I was so hungry. I guess it's called Kenyan Time, what our driver was on. He said we would stop for just 10 minutes - but I'm pretty sure it was more like 30-45 minutes; and this happened at all the stops.

This stop was the first time I looked for a bathroom. I found one off in the corner and went to investigate. Squatty potties. Just a nice hole in the floor inside a stall. And the whole bathroom was covered in water, so we were all trying to do our business without getting wet from the floor. After I left my stall I saw why it was so wet - a woman on duty took a whole bucket of water and threw it into the stall. I guess they do this to wash out the stalls after each use. Hey - I wasn't that messy. =/

Back to the buses and finally on the road again. I slept a lot of the latter half of the journey. I was so tired and and miserable from days in tiny cramped up, uncomfortable seats. All I could do was go to sleep. We got to the university finally at 4pm.

It's kind of a haze for awhile after that. All I wanted to do was find my room and lay down. The registration line was long, but I got through it. Then I found out a map and schedule wasn't included in my packet. So I wandered around aimlessly for awhile and finally decided to dump all my stuff in a pile on the ground and take a rest right on the sidewalk next to some building. After awhile I had the energy to get up and go find my room. There was, of course, another line there to get my room key, a roll of toilet paper (for the bathroom) and a bucket (for bathing).

We are at 7 or 8,000 feet so I think the altitude is messing with me a bit. I'm just slightly dizzy from time to time and tired. But I'm feeling more human and getting into the swing of things. I'm going to sign off now before the power goes out again! Thank goodness for auto save!  More as soon as I get here to the computer lab again.

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