It's 3:00am. I was unable to get the modem to operate last night when we arrived, so sorry for the delay. It was most likely due to the rain. Surprisingly, we never lost power! That's a good sign. Traditionally, heavy rains would mean that we lose power and water (somewhat ironic, but true), and last night, we lost neither.
We arrived in Nairobi on time, and Kevin had an easier flight this time. Flying isn't his favorite, but he loves coming here, so he tolerates the nausea as best he can. We found him some dramamine in Dubai and that must have helped because he was much better when we landed in Kenya. Before we went to customs I stopped and purchased 2 sim cards - one for my phone and one for the modem. That was a much more lengthy process than I had expected, but it was necessary. If the cards are inactive for 12 months, they are permanently disabled. The two I got at the airport were registered, though, so I shouldn't have that problem again. That process seemed to take forever, but I know it takes quite a long time for the bags to arrive, so I wasn't worried... yet.
We got to the immigration line and I kept a close eye on the two agents that were working the line marked "Other Passport Holders." You are fast tracked if you are a Kenyan or East African passport holder; everyone else is herded like cattle. The two agents, one man and one woman, were straight faced the entire time. We were behind about 10 people and I had hoped that their disposition would improve by the time we got there. They processed a wide range of passport holders before I got to the front of the line. Old, young, male, female, asian, caucasian... it made no difference. These two agents were stone faced. The only change was that they seemed to be getting more impatient as we got closer. When you are processed, they will sometimes take your picture, then have your fingerprints on both hands scanned. This seemed much more difficult than it should have been for those ahead of us. I waited my turn, wondering if they'd let me step up with the entire family. Karen and the others waited behind me while I approached the woman behind the counter. She looked at me with emotionless eyes and said, "Passport." I asked if I could bring them all up. She said, "No, one at a time." Ugh. I usually like to start off these trips with animated exchanges, but this wasn't shaping up that way. Ugh, again. Then a glimmer of hope. As she looked at my passport she said, "How are you?" I responded, "Mzuri sana, na wewe (pronounced "wayway", not "weewee")?" Translation: "I am very well, and how are you?" Success! The corner of her lips curled as she took her eyes off the passport and stared at me. "I am fine," she said. The other stoic officer next to her gave me a glance and called Karen forward. Her back was to her though, as she was talking to the other 6 behind her. He called again as I finished being processed, "Welcome back," said the agent as she handed me my passport. The man called Karen again, "Next!" She heard him this time, and as you would expect, she turned around and bounded forward, grinning ear to ear, acting like she knew this guy her entire life. "Hi!" she shouted. "What were you doing there?" he said smiling. She said, "Sorry, I was talking to my friends." She continued smiling and for the first time since I saw him, he began to carry on a conversation with her. Where are you going? How long are you staying? Have you been to Kenya before? Karen has that way about her.... she's got a bright aura that can't be ignored. She scanned the fingerprints on one hand and proceeded through the line. "Where are you going?" said the agent with a smile. "Right hand." he said as he waived her back. She jumped back laughing and said, "Sorry," again. He handed her a passport with a smile and called, "Enjoy your stay here." The Kenyan accent made it sound like, "Enjoy yoo-ah steh hee-yah." The remaining six got processed very quickly.
When we saw our bags on the belt as we descended the stairs into the baggage claim area. We grabbed 3 carts to accommodate the 13 bags (yes, I said 13), loaded them up, double checked the count, and proceeded across the street to the domestic departure terminal. We checked in quickly, but we were well over our baggage limit. When that happens, you need to leave the terminal, see a ticketing agent outside for the fee, then get in another line to pay it. Not the most efficient process, but it works. I then got back in line to get back in the terminal, for what seemed to be my 20th security check. I'm glad we're done that process - I am happy that I won't have to remove my laptop and the contents of my pockets for awhile. I then got in yet another line and waited to show the paid receipt to the agent that first processed me, before we go through our final security check and wait for our departure to Kisumu.
The weather in Nairobi was pleasant. Normally hot and humid, it was cool with a nice breeze. Neither of those attributes were present in the domestic terminal. Karen began to struggle a bit so the were sitting off to the side waiting for me to process all the paperwork. I could hear them laughing over my shoulder as the agent finally took the document and released our bags. I walked over to them and said, "OK, folks, let's go." We made our way over to the entrance, and as we were placing the items on the x-ray belt, an they announced, "Last call for flight KQ719 to Kisumu." That's us! I hadn't realized how much time had passed! No matter. Unlike most airports in the US, when we picked up our backpacks off the conveyer, we took two steps and were in line to get on the plane. Nobody ever runs through this terminal because there's no room. We walked out onto the tarmac toward our plane. I am constantly turning aroud to ensure that everyone is together, but this time, Amie and Sam got to me first. "They didn't let Karen, Andrea and Richie through." Nope, they didn't. They waited in a large pack with about 15 other people as they let some airport vehicles pass between us and them. It took much longer than I was comfortable with, but they finally let them pass and we boarded the plane. It was a quick flight, similar to a Rochester-JFK hop. We exited the plane through the rear door and walked to the terminal. We saw Isaac and Job through the glass doors as we waited for our bags. When they saw us, Job began jumping with a wide, brilliant white smile across his face. Isaac, also smiling was flailing his arms above his head, ensuring that we would see him. They were just as happy to see us as we were to see them. They remembered all the "returners" and introduced themselves to Sam. These two unlikely friends just make everyone smile. Isaac just makes you feel comfortable. He is always dressed in what you would expect for a masai mara guide - tan fatigue pants and a matching button down shirt. Job, however, is something of a "fashion plate." He's a shorter, very thin young man... I don't think he weighs 150 pounds. He has very, very dark skin, but was wearing extremely bright colors. I think his sneakers were black. I cant remember because I couldn't get passed his pants. They were plaid board shorts that were predominantly white, but had the bright blue and green stripes on the. He stood out like a soar thumb, and we couldn't miss them. Everyone exchanged hugs and greetings before we moved beyond the entrance to the airport.
They came with two vans, one for the luggage and one for us. Although it wasn't raining in Kisumu, you could see it off in the direction we were traveling. 15 minutes into the 45 minute trip to Maseno, the other van overheated. We continued on to the Maseno University Guest House - Isaac would return to help after he dropped us off. True enough, the rain slowly increased until we arrived at the guest house, greeted by the same familiar faces - Rhoda, Josephat and Francesca. We got our room assignments (we occupy every room except 2), and relaxed for a short time before Isaac returned with Job and the bags. The women had prepared dinner for us - kuku, rice, and tomato & onion salad. The food was good, and the amount was perfect. The "kids table" was in the next room - Katie, Kevin Karen, Richie. Amie, Sam, Andrea and I sat with Job and Isaac. You could hear them laughing and telling stories to each other. The conversations died down as fatigue set in, so everyone returned to their rooms for a much needed rest. Andrea and I sat with Job and Isaac to talk about our plans for the week, as well as handing them the gifts we brought them. Job got some Building Futures golf shirts which he happily accepted. Isaac has started his own safari company, so a coworker and I helped him design a logo. Andrea had that logo sewn onto some golf shirts and hats to bring to Isaac. He was so happy I thought he was going to cry. He immediately got up and gave Andrea a big hug. He immediately put the baseball cap on, and that's where it stayed for the remainder of the evening. He would take it off periodically, look at the logo, smile, then place it back upon his head. It was really nice to watch.
The last of us retired to our rooms. andrea fell asleep quickly, so I took the time to unpack and get organized. Well, at least I unpacked. As I said earlier, I struggled with the modem until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. And that brings us to now. It's 4:11am. I'll try to get a little more sleep before we get up with Kevin for a morning run at 6am. Then we walk to the clinic where some 200 trees need to be planted. I think that should keep us busy. Tutaoanana (tooth-oh-ah-nah-nah) - see you later.