We were a group of thirteen. Seven of us had been to Kenya before, and six had not. There were various reasons for the journey;
... break ground on construction of the living quarters for the dr/nurses that will staff the clinic
... begin a program to teach young girls feminine hygiene so that they are able to stay in school rather than being forced to stay home
... visit friends we haven't seen in over a year
... see why a friend/an uncle/a brother dedicated so much of his life to the people in this spot on the other side of the world.
Our group included the following:
- Ann and I and our daughters Katie and Karen
- Our good friend from Boston, Richie
- A returning RN from the 2006 trip with the St. John Fisher nursing students, and her son - Sue & Ryan
- the vicar from our local church, Fr John
- a former student of Jim's, who then became a co-worker of his at Fairport High School, Amie
- Jim's sister Nancy and her husband Dave, and their children Holly and David James (DJ)
Our trip began from several different locations. While the majority left from Rochester at 6am, Katie and Richie left from Boston at about the same time. Holly got to sleep in a little bit more, as she lives outside of NYC. Katie and Richie met us at the JetBlue baggage area, and Holly joined us at the Emirates counter in the international terminal.
Off we go.
We entered through the 3rd security checkpoint for the day and began our 2 hour wait for the first leg of our trip - a 12 hour flight to Dubai. I sat and answered some last minute questions from Holly, DJ and Nancy before heading over to the business lounge for a quick bite to eat. The time passed quickly and before we knew it, we were on our way.
Emirates is a wonderful airline that I began using 5 years ago. I've never even considered using anyone else... it's no wonder that they're constantly ranked in the top two airlines in the world. The movie/tv selection is always great, and it wasn't long before I began looking to see what I was going to watch first. Amie and Andrea were not so lucky. Amie had a picture but no sound - she would eventually figure out how to initiate the close captioning, and she seemed ok with that. Andrea was not so lucky - no picture/no sound! Just a black screen... for 12 hours. Ugh! We contacted the steward who assured us that he'd get it fixed. He tried for the next hour to do so. First, they started by trying to reset her tv. Nothing. He then tried to reset the row (which included mine). Mine came back same as before. Sadly, so did hers. He then tried reseting ALL the screens in 1st class and business class. We sunk a bit lower in our seats as people looked around to see what the problem was. Still nothing... hope was dwindling. Lastly, he reset the ENTIRE PLANE! Again, Ann was left staring at a black screen. Meanwhile, we tried to watch movies together - she with the right ear plug, and me with the left. We watched The Way, which was a phenominal movie. I balled my eyes out at the end. The ending snuck up on me, and I wasn't prepared for it, but still a great movie.
After sometime passed, the steward returned, and the apologies began immediately, and continued through the remainder of the flight. Damien (I believe that was his name) offered us his laptop to watch some movies. Ann declined, so he began to apologize as he served each meal, snack, and drink. He explained that the airline was notified and that we should be hearing from a customer service representative. The next flight was also alerted and we would certainly be getting operational screens for that flight. By this time, we were actually beginning to feel bad for him! About an hour before we landed, he came back to our seats with a peace offering. He brought a bag of various items from 1st class (playing cards, pens, shaving kits, travel mirrors, candy, Emirates pajamas), and another bag that contained a bottle of a French red wine and a bottle of Dom Perignon. As he walked back to his sitting area, Ann and I looked at each other because we both knew that their was no way these bottles would make the trip to Kisumu... and their was something inherently wrong with drinking champagne considering the work we were doing. I returned the bottles to him and explained that we weren't able to accept them, although we appreciated the sentiment greatly. He was interested in hearing more about the schools and the children we serve, and later came back with another idea. "How about some coloring books for the children? We have them for the children that fly, so maybe I can get some for the children you help?" If we had room in our bags, we probably would have taken all that he had. Unfortunately, we didn't. He smiled and apologized one last time before we left the plane to take a shuttle bus to the Dubai terminal.
Most wandered the terminal for the two hours. It's the only place that I know of where you can buy everything from an MacBook to a huka pipe... all under one roof. It didn't take long for our next departure time to arrive, and we were off to Nairobi.
This was a slightly smaller plane for the 6 hour flight to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and yes, Andrea's screen worked this time. It didn't matter, though, because I think we slept most of the way there.
Nairobi, as usual, was sweltering hot. We made it through immigration quickly, then onto baggage collection. This time we were sure to grab all the bags. We triple-checked just to be safe, then headed past customs and across the street to the domestic part fo the airport. There, we sat on molded plastic seats drinking a cold drink (mostly Tusker's). We talked about the flight here, as well as what to expect when we arrived in Kisumu. Questions came at a pretty good clip, and that made the time pass quickly.
The plane to Kisumu on 540 (that's the name of the airline) was hell. The air vents didn't work, and it felt the fuselage captured the heat and humidity of Nairobi and sealed inside with us. Karen suffered for it. She ended up getting sick rather than simply passing out. The steward on this flight spent more time trying to avoid eye contact with us that helping. He was quite good at the former... not so much on the latter. The guy couldn't even come up with an airsick bag. Schmuck.
We got off the plane, grabbed our bags and found Job and George (our driver) waiting for us. This was the first moment of foreshadowing for this trip. George came in a matatu rather than a van, and there was no room for luggage. This is Kenya. There are no guarantees here, so you just have to roll with the punches. I thought that I made that clear to everyone traveling... time moves at a different pace here, distances are not measured accurately, but at the same time, the Kenyans don't want to disappoint you. It's not because they're not trying, it's just the way it is. Plain and simple. Literally.
We sent the luggage in another car wth DJ while we followed behind. Betti and Roda (at the Guest House) had prepared dinner for us so we could eat as soon as we arrived. That worked out well. We first checked into our rooms then met down the hall in the dining area which consisted of two small rooms large enough for a rectangular table in each. One table sat 6, the other, 8. We ate until we were full, then collapsed into our respective rooms.
Andrea, Katie and I shared the room next to the kitchen, and Katie had a single next to us. Richie was on the same side as us - the others occupied most of the rooms on the other side of the building. That was the side that had hot water and operational showers. The rooms on our side had no hot water. Our room also had no operational shower. Karibu Kenya (Welcome to Kenya). Although we were orginally given room on the other side, Andrea wisely suggested we take the two closest to the kitchen. They're often up quite early cooking, and she didn't think it was fair to subject the newcomers to the early morning clanging of dishes. Ritchie took in stride as if it were part of the entire experience. Indeed it was. We were relieved to know that Nancy and her family had running hot water, as did John, Amie and Sue & Ryan.
We planned on getting up at 6:30am the next morning so that we could begin our 5 mile walk to the school by 7:30. Everyone said goodnight; not everyone slept. Karen and Andrea seemed to talk all night. I tried to connect to the internet for the next couple hours, unsuccessfully. They were still talking when I gave up. They were too excited to see Samuel, but more importantly, Susan, Emmah and Danton (the children who instantly became attached to them during our last trip). I kept falling asleep while trying to get my phone to work. I would wake up with it in my lap, my neck straining from the weight of my head as it fell forward. They were still talking. Everyone in the room finally quieted down by 2am. 6am came quickly.