Layover in Nairobi
Trip Start Mar 26, 2012
32Trip End Apr 29, 2012
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Where I stayed
After dinner and our goodbyes, Jim Franks and I chatted and worked on our electronic mediums until 11:00 when I needed to head the airport. I was very thankful for his visit and the chance to travel with a friend and colleague for 10 days which is unusual on these long African trips.
Things went normally at the airport, which means nothing especially wrong happens, but there are occasionally unexpected and unnecessary delays. We boarded the Kenya Airways flight at about 01:00 in the morning and took off half an hour or so later. It's not really possible to sleep on the way to Kigali; it’s only a 25 minute flight. After half an hour on the ground, and swapping 40 passengers or so, we took off again, this time for Nairobi, about 90 minutes away.
People in this part of the world always expect a meal on a flight, no matter what the time of day. So, at around 03:00 a breakfast was served(!) which prevented that much more sleep. After the 90 minute flight and an hour’s time change, during which I slept perhaps 45 minutes) we landed in the pre-dawn darkness of Nairobi. I know the airport well and the shortcuts one can take to speed up visa obtention and formalities, so I was quickly through them though baggage was delivered very slowly in the chaotic Nairobi JKA arrival area which looks a bit like a lost-luggage warehouse. I caught a taxi in to the Crowne Plaza hotel where I had gotten a promotional rate, and where I was thankful a room was already ready at 05:30. I went to bed by 6:30 or so, to try to get at least a few hours’ sleep.
I was awakened around 9:00 by a call from old friends who had asked to get together during my transit day. I had covered Kenya for about three years in the early 2000s so we have many friends here. I won’t mention names at this point due to certain sensitivities. We had coffee and tea in the lobby and talked for four hours about the past the present and the future. After that meeting was finished and I saw everyone off, there were a few more phone calls here and there, just keeping up old friendships. I spent what was left of the afternoon working on various tasks.
I’ve had an early dinner, a pleasant vegetarian curry, and will go to bed early.
The next few days will be down time. After 4 full weeks of travel and work without much of a break to speak of (though there certainly were very enjoyable moments), I’m feeling the fatigue and need a rest. Originally Jim Franks and I were going to use these next days here in Kenya, but his schedule changed and won’t allow him to stay as planned. So, I’m going to have the better part of three days off to recuperate before flying to London for the final leg of my trip. Nairobi and London both being very expensive cities in which to stay (around $200 per night for a safe hotel is common), after checking places like Mombasa, Lamu, Malindi, and other such less-expensive places, I decided to spend the time in Addis Ababa, a short hop from Nairobi, where I can stay much less expensively (about 70% less for a hotel room), get some work done, and do some research for some editorial projects I have in mind. Round-trip airfares to Addis are a few hundred dollars, so it will be less expensive overall to go there than to stay in Nairobi or change my flights and to go early to London.
There won’t be any member news to report from Addis, so I probably won’t write much from there, but I plan to "resurface" in London to give news of the Church members there before concluding this trip.
One or two of you asked for recommendations on books to read about Africa. I’ve been happy to see the desire to learn more about this part of the world. Here are some titles I’ve found worth the read:
-The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence by Martin Meredith. An excellent overview of the generally disastrous developments of post-colonial Africa.
-We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch. Good (gut-wrenching) overview on the Rwandan Genocide.
- Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire. Written by the commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda during the genocide.
-King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild. The horrible story of the start of the Belgian Congo colony (todays DRC).
-In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo by Michela Wrong. The story of Mobutu’s disastrous rule in Zaire (the DRC).
For the more romantic side of the history of East Africa, I recommend Out of Africa, The Flame Trees of Thika, and West with the Night. All well-written and worthwhile reads.
Thanks for reading and following along!