Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kenya Time!

What I woke up to the day of the flight

What I woke up to this morning

Well I made it!  Hurray!  It was a loooong trip.  Not bad though.  Very smooth.  KLM impressed me with the taste of the food and the service was impeccable!  I kept thinking how lovely it would be if American Airlines or United had such efficient but exceptionally friendly and helpful staff.  The KLM representative at the gate helped a few of us to get rows all to ourselves, all with a smile and happy banter.  Like he was actually GLAD to be helping!  Imagine that.  Then on the flight they were always talking to guests and lifting the mood of the flight.  Absolutely wonderful!

Amsterdam Schipol Airport
When I arrived in Amsterdam I was again, impressed with the quality of everything really.  The staff were all consistently substantially friendlier than staff at ANY US airport I've ever been to.  Again, as if they were genuinely glad to be helping me in my confused state.  The food in the airport was delicious and fresh, I had a fresh carrot orange juice with my breakfast, just eggs and toast.  They also have a meditation room, which I visited enthusiastically.  There were all different sorts of people meditating and praying.  I read a bit of Buddhist literature, which I found on their bookshelf of spiritual books, and then  I spent some time stretching and meditating to calm my nerves a bit.  I may seem chill and excited (at the same time) about travel, but I always get a wave of nervousness just before I arrive.  A good thing I think.

Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta Airport
Another smooth and lovely flight later I landed in Nairobi.  We were instructed before landing that due to a fire in the recent past, much of the airport was still unusable, so people transferring to another flight would be taken by bus to a tent where thy would be sorted out, and the rest of us would get to go to a building.  That announcement was quickly followed by new information that a building had recently been built for the transit passengers, so no tent for them!  The line for visas quickly revealed who was coming from a colder climate as we tended to be much paler and stripped off our layers immediately and fanned ourselves furiously.  A hop skip and a jump and I was out without telling customs that I had an orange from the US!  Naughty Lia!

The Drive
Waiting with a big smile and helpful luggage carrying hands was my good friend Tahir who I knew back in Switzerland when I was in school.  We were such close friends in university, so it was great to reconnect!  He is a professional photographer now after having gone through the hospitality gig for a few years.  You can check out his awesome work here!  For any of you who have done the Skype long term thing with anyone followed by a visit you know just how strange it is to see the person in 3-D  after such a long 2-D relationship!  So it was.  I got into his car on the left and felt terrified the entire drive on the left side of the road until we reached the home of some friends of his.  I don't remember being that terrified when I visited my cousin Tarek in London, but I do feel that the Nairobi drivers are a lot more ambitious and lax with the rules of the road than those queue following Londoners.

Jam and Kaisar
Jam the dark haired Philipino with skin the color of dried palm fronds and Kaisar the blond Fin with the iconic pallor of the serious northerner, an unlikely couple, contrasting accents, and yet perfectly matched, were the first people who welcomed me to Kenya.  Fresh wild strawberries, a glass of red wine, and many heartfelt belly laughs.  I couldn't have asked for a more perfect way to wind down from almost 24 hours of traveling.  I was told by my yoga teacher Kali Om to stay up until midnight and in the morning have a protein filled breakfast.  I don't exactly remember much of the last hour of conversation, but I did make it until midnight!  I'm still proud.

How I Met Your Mom
A shower never feels as good as after a hot sticky day of outside exercise in the summer or after an excessively long day of traveling.  MMMMMM so good!  Sleep was spotty, mostly due to a very vocal local dog, who liked to chew on a very squeaky toy?  I'm still not sure if that noise came from a squeak toy or an animal.  I woke up at 4:45am to the sound of someone moving in the room I was staying in.  I could hear someone breathing.  I looked around but couldn't see anyone.  I could see that my door was open when I was sure I had closed it after an earlier nighttime adventure figuring out where I was and how to get to the bathroom, and turn the lights on, and find my way back to bed without slipping on the very slippery rugs.  I was sure.  And I was SURE I was hearing a human, a person really really close to me.  I tried to convince myself it was all in my mind but I knew it wasn't, it was way too clear, and way too close.  I am staying in Tahir's brother's old room, he passed away a few years ago, and I began to seriously consider the possibility that the spirit of his brother was praying in the room.  The movement sounded like a muslim praying.  Up and down.  I couldn't take it any longer, and was thoroughly freak rout, so I turned on the light to see NOTHING IN THE ROOM!!  I tip toed to the door, looked around in the hallway, nothing, so I closed the door.  Just as the door shut I hear a voice behind me and I FREAK OUT!  There is a little woman standing in front of another door that apparently also exists in this room and she is laughing and apologizing profusely!  That is how I met Tahir's mother.  She was praying in a little attached room that was only separated from my room by a glass door.  What a night.

What a Day
I did manage to sleep until 8:30AM and feel quite refreshed.  Tahir prepared a spring onion and tomato omelet with toast and a glass of freshly juiced mango pineapple juice!  Great start to the day!  We spent the rest of the day running errands, picking up prints for a photo exhibition he's doing, buying rice milk for me, and exploring his art studio village Kuona Trust.  There are a bunch of artists here using studio space to create magnificent pieces of art.  Everything from paintings to photos, to sculpture, and even jewelry.
The Panorama

Along the stretch of studios

Tahir at work
Tonight we're going with Jam and Kaisar and some other friends to enjoy Nairobi restaurant week at Tribe Hotel's Jiko restaurant. Pictures to come! I've already got a small tan from the afternoon pool time!

Join me?

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