Kenya, Believe it!
“When we land in Nairobi, we’ll have to catch a bus to baggage pickup. Make sure to use the restroom on the plane before we debark, because the airport restrooms are smelly squatting holes.” Shocked, I tried to imagine a world where an airplane bathroom was the preferred option. Barbara AKA FabBab, was there every step of the pre-Kenya preparations to remind and convince us that we were about to be incredibly uncomfortable, bordering on miserable for two weeks.
Unwilling to use an airplane toilet, I decided to hold my horses until we reached the Mayfield Guest House, a fully secured compound in the heart of downtown Nairobi. Upon landing, we were going to spend some time in the passport entry line, next it was off to baggage claim and then to private vans (previously booked by the meticulous Maestro) which would take us to Mayfield. There we’d get some sleep, rise for breakfast and spend the morning/afternoon shopping for supplies in Nairobi. Yes, I would hold it until I was safely propped upon an actual flushing toilet at the guest house.
When the plane landed, I felt an unexpected excitement, could it be that this feared continent had managed to make my stomach flutter with anticipation? Nah, it was most likely the cramps of my bladder that didn’t get the memo to cease fire until Mayfield.
“You’ve never walked straight off of a plane onto the tarmac, have you?” The glint in L4L’s eye told me that I was about to enjoy yet another world-weary traveling FIRST. “It’s definitely different,” he chuckled.
“I’m still coming to grips with the fact that we need to take a bus to the airport from the airplane,” I sneered at the inconvienience.
“We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore,” he cheerfully remarked. L4L seemed to be enjoying my incredulity. “Good, because Kansas sucks,” I flatly reminded him. It’s at this point that he began to tell me all about how when they landed in Nigeria, the flight attendants walked down the aisle shaking massive bug bombs. “You’re really not helping, “I hissed.
L4L erupted in a hearty chuckle, “Oh Muffin, you’re an adventurer now, relax and enjoy the experience!”
Little did I know, a mere 50 steps from this conversation, I would begin reaping the benefits of loving pragmatic realists. Apparently, between Barb and L4L, my dance card was full of hope for the best, expect the worst scenarios. Nervous and excited, I walked off the plane only instead of a vintage plane stair, I walked into your garden-variety state of the art ramp gate thingy, that dropped us off by a GASP (!) REAL LIVE ESCALATOR, which took us up into an airport that beats the pants out of anything I’ve flown through in the states. Jomo Kenyatta Airport is a glass and terrazzo vision newly built and thoroughly enjoyed by travelers. Briefly stopping before we entered the passport conglomorate of sweating humanity, I registered the shock on Barb’s face. “Literally none of this was here last year,” she breathlessly offered. “This is all new, I promise.”
“Oh sure, just like that Yellow Fever shot was going to make my arm go numb and fill me with absolute pain. Only come to find out, it was the EASIEST shot to get. Something tells me you told me the opposite of everything, just so I would be pleasantly surprised.” Before Barb could retort, the glittering mosaic tile of the ladies lavatory beckoned her. No doubt that she was just going in to adjust her makeup,there’s no way Barb would be using a KENYAN AIRPORT BATHROOM!
“Those bathrooms look really nice,” I impatently chirped at the Maestro, who (as always) seemed properly prepared. “Yeah, these are new; I didn’t fly here in February.”
“Do you think the bathrooms are clean enough to use?” Maestro’s face registered both amused and annoyed equal parts. “Uh, yeah,” he sarcastically delivered, “I’m pretty sure you will be fine.”
Pushing through the native wood patterned steel door, I braced myself for the hideous stench Barb lamented on 3 separate occasions. Instead, I was greeted with a pristine clean oasis for the buns. Remember that time I told y’all about how Schiphol’s bathrooms were a little slice of Hell on Earth? Well, Kenyatta’s bathrooms were roomy, pleasant, and even had working bidet spray nozzles. As I took an impromptu Hobo bath, it became crystal clear that Barbara had no idea what she was talking about.
Refreshed and ready to rock my time in Kenya, I practically skipped into the glut of tourists pushing and waiting in the passport line for what I clocked at 55 minutes. Rather than throw a hissy fit, I decided to people watch and point out anything interesting. About 30 minutes into our sloooowly moving line, I looked to my left and saw an American Pepaw, in a Hunter green windbreakers emblazoned with “Grand Circle Tours Inner Circle.”
This was a man in my very own wheelhouse, though we’d never met, I knew him completely. Pepaw’s retired so he and his long-suffering wife can travel the globe in pre-set and insular Grand Circle tours. GCTs is a company that specializes in not getting too dirty. No the green knoblin was irritable and weary of all the unfamiliar cultural customs and cues he was forced to endure in this state of the art gorgeous Airport.
“Damnit Nora, what in the Hell are you doing!?” Pepaw bellowed to the well-lit ceiling. “I’m getting a sticker for my luggage on the way home; it’s free and helps the staff,” she offered. The fact that Nora dared to leave the line was one slight, but to blithely reply to his rhetorical question was unforgivable. “Are you CRAZY!? They WANT you to mark your bag so they know WHO TO STEAL FROM! Think for just a moment, geeez.”
I drank his hissy fit in like nectar. “Hey guys, Angry Pepaw at 3 O’clock! We’ve got a live one here; I think he’s going to burn a hole in the floor like Rumpelstiltskin!” Perfectly timed, the man began to launch into a tirade while emoting with his hands. It was all centered around the question, “Why is it taking so long! I can’t believe how slow the girl running our line is; I paid to skip this crap!”
“I’m telling you hon, we’re supposed to find Harliss (the tour guide.) I think I saw him past the line when I got my sticker.” “Nora, I know what we’re supposed to do, and we have to get through this finehowdoyoudo of a line first.” Several minutes and headshakes from the locals later, Pepaw emerged from his cloud of deet that he insisted on dousing Nora and himself with to see Harliss, the only dude who had a clue, was there to collect them. “Mr. and Mrs. So and So, we’re all through baggage claim, it’s time to take our bus to the hotel.” Harliss ushered them out as Greenie let out an obnoxious stage sigh of relief. For all of his grumbling and misery, dumb dummy wasn’t even supposed to be there! But bless him, for Pepaw provided our group with some prime gawking and giggles.
After we made our way through customs, we were straight to the baggage claim, another master lesson in fine Kenyan construction. Our bags were waiting for us; the crew from Pennsylvania did us a solid and stacked our stuff. Out of the 20 giant duffel bags we packed, with an accompanying additional 32 pieces of luggage, all of our bags made it, except one of Barb’s, an important one filled with stuff for the 2 days we were teaching at the local school. I’d say considering I was expecting thunder dome (complete with roving chickens,) the fact that only one bag was lost in the air-conditioned wonder of an airport is pretty excellent.
With bags retrieved and introductions made, it was time for everyone to soak up a little FREE Wi-Fi and let our families know we arrived a-ok. I took to my FB messenger, why? Because it makes an annoying ding every time someone types a line of text, more chances to be heard. There was only one person I needed to contact for my entire network of Family to get word, Baby Bro.
Baby Bro, for those of y’all not in the know, is a first class gold-plated bean spiller. There’s no news of yours that he’s too good to swoop and scoop, matter of fact, I lovingly refer to him as Scoop.
“HAY! We’re HERE and I am so happy to be off an airplane! By the way, this Airport is infinitely nicer than Intercontinental (IAH) and Shoddy Hobby Airport!”
DING! His response was immediate; I had chosen wisely.
“I’ll bet! Glad to hear y’all made it. That’s awesome about the nice ‘port.”
DING! He had more to say…
“There’s no easy way to say this but, Kitty is in ICU, they took her yesterday, and she has Acidosis of the blood and Sepsis.”
“Gavin said he was going to email you, check it out. Love you, glad you’re safe!”
In a split-second I went from cheerful missionary (LOL) to devastated daughter. I checked up my email and read a heartbreaking account from Gavin. Kitty was medically sedated and on a ventilator, they were going to do some exploratory surgery, but Mace, her eldest, was her power of attorney and halfway across the world in Kenya.
“Baby Bro, call Dad and fill him in, tell him to get started on transferring the Power of Attorney to G$ and Thane-O.”
“I’m on it.”
It was time to make our way to the vans, I looked up at L4L, and he was blissfully unaware. We locked eyes, “What’s wrong?” He mouthed from across the line. Steeling myself to share the update, he made his way to me instantly. “Your mom is in ICU, she has some sort of acid problem in her blood, and she’s septic.”
“Sepsis is what killed my Dad,” all of the color left his face. I gestured to FabBab and let her know what happened, “OH NO, POOR KITTY! Calm down loves, I’m going to bring Ms. Janice over to pray for y’all and Kitty.”
We welcomed all of the God’s A-Squad prayers we could get.
Janice, ½ of the couple that founded Through the Storm Ministries, and built Haven on the Hill (the boys home we were stationed at for the next 10 days, is a beautiful beacon of God’s glory. Janice radiates golden beams of goodness. She’s one of those people so kind and wonderful, that you feel the world temporarily bend just to keep her sainted smile intact. Each meeting with Janice, I left peaceful and grateful that there were such incredible people sharing the planet with me.
Little did I know, when the spit hits the fan, she’s one fierce Texas Grandma. Being an old pro at mission work in Kenya, Janice immediately identified this horrible development as “the work of the Devil.”
Raised Catholic, I wasn’t regularly in a Baptist Church. Particularly, I wasn’t familiar with the “Fire and Brimstone,” variety of follower. Before our eyes, tiny Janice morphed into an angry warrior, furiously casting the doubt, fear and worry from our minds which she followed with a lengthy and vicious diatribe against “SATAN, IN THE NAME OF JESUS!” When the soft-spoken and gold-hearted Janice finished her prayer, L4L and I were remarkably relaxed and ready to go on.
“Dude, Ms. Janice has NO TIME for the Devil,” L4L marveled. His wide eyes and playful whisper let me know that not only was he going to be OK, Ma was going to be OK too, eventually.
We made our way to the private vans, it was 11:30pm Kenya Time. L4L and I had been up for over 24 hours, as had our entire group, the last thing we wanted to do was hoist all the luggage to the top of the vans. Bags with the maximum legal weight to the pound, were hurled and secured to the luggage rack. By the time we completed luggage rack Tetris, and filed into 2 vans, it was 12:15. As we pulled out of the airport parking lot, we were greeted by two Zebras walking through the nearby pasture like entitled horses on a Ranch.
5 seconds into Africa’s highway, and I already knew we were in for a beautiful time. Our vans arrived at Mayfield Guest House’s secure walls just before 1am. After we slogged all of the baggage up the front stairs and through the side door, it was time for our group to pass out in our respective rooms.
“Everyone, Breakfast is at 8am, if you’re late, they won’t serve you.”
FabBab and I unfurled the mosquito nets over our beds and passed out in the cool Kenyan breeze about 1:30am. The atmosphere of the Mayfield is like a grown-up dorm. Once nestled in my comfortable bed, I reflected on how it felt like overnight summer camp, but with far less coach whistles and goofy cheers.
The next morning, I enjoyed my first Breakfast in Kenya, complete with hand cut bacon, freshly squeezed Mango juice, hot coffee, and French toast. “You know, this doesn’t look anything like gruel or oatmeal, Barb.”
“Oh yes, you always get a good meal at Mayfield, they prepare a delicious breakfast lunch AND dinner.”
“Too bad you couldn’t have given me a heads up that breakfast would be not only edible, but delicious.”
FabBab’s impeccable red lipstick parted into a satisfied smile, “What a happy surprise, right!?”
“Oh Barb, I have a feeling that this trip is going to be chock full of surprises.”
END OF PART TWO