Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Road to Kijabe

Nashville to Atlanta. Atlanta to Amsterdam. Amsterdam to Nairobi. Like one does.


I hadn’t travelled cross-hemisphere since I was 16, so it was quite the journey. Fortunately, the flight portions went smoothly (save some significant turbulence somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean when I was convinced I was going to die), and I disembarked in the Nairobi airport after nearly 24 hours of travel. Nairobi. Kenya. Africa. Still blows my mind. Joe had warned me to make a beeline for the visa desk in order to beat the crowds, and I had no problem obtaining my Kenyan visa. The next obstacle was trying to figure out how to maneuver two nearly-50 lb suitcases off the baggage claim and through customs. Fortunately, a nice gentleman grabbed them for me, and I snagged a luggage cart and passed through customs.

Expecting to victoriously exit and be greeted by Joe who was able to come to Nairobi to meet me, I scanned the crowd for a tall white guy who might be calling my name to no avail. Rationally, I knew he was probably stuck in traffic and that I had made my way through the visa/baggage/customs process rather quickly, but I still felt my anxiety and emotions rise as I stood there overwhelmed with no way to contact him. After about 10 minutes, I saw him move through the crowd and flagged him down. Then we met up with Phillip, our driver, and were en route through the streets of Nairobi to the Mayfield Guesthouse. Our room was simply appointed but comfortable. I was more than happy to have access to a warm shower and a clean bed, even if my body still thought it was mid-afternoon instead of close to midnight. We unfurled the mosquito net and went to sleep.

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Breakfast the next morning was family-style. Following a short devotion, we tucked into papaya, toast, sausage, and eggs. Our tablemates were an older Australian couple who were trying to get to the Congo as missionaries but were entangled in some visa issues. We were happy to find WiFi in the lobby, which we used to catch up on the world while we waited for Phillip’s arrival.

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On the way to Kijabe, we stopped at a nice mall/shopping center to have a coffee at Nairobi Java House and pick up some fruit and dairy products. Driving through Nairobi was a trip. First of all, it’s not like there are things like lane lines or street lights that are generally obeyed. Then you have to dodge the mutatus, passenger vans for public transportation. As if there were any doubts that the traffic could be dangerous, we actually drove past a man, freshly dead in the street following a hit and run. Eerie. We drove past townhome-like dwellings where the rich businessman and politicians live, and we drove past the corrugated metal-sided slums, past donkeys milling about and women cutting the grass with machetes, past markets and butcheries with sides of meat hanging in the window. Phillip took us to a stop overlooking the Rift Valley and Mount Longonot where we took some pictures and tried to fend off the people hawking their wares.

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Phillip needed to make a detour into the town of Kimende, which he described as a typical Kenyan town. Red, deeply cratered dirt roads, small shops, people walking around taking care of their business, and a burning trash heap in the center of town.

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Then we turned off onto Kijabe road and bounced and bumped our way down the winding road until we finally arrived at our destination, though not without Phillip having to stop and tighten a loose battery connector in order to get the car started again. And the adventure is just beginning!