OK, sorry if I made anyone worry when I went to "radio silence." The last day in Kenya was a bit of a whirlwind that had quite a few mini adventures within the 48 hours before my arrival back in the states.
I woke up early on Friday to ensure that I would get hot water.
Note #1 The power was still out, and the generator does the trick, unless more than one shower is being operated at the same time... hence the 4am shower.
Note #2 I didn't need an alarm to wake up.
The plan was working perfectly! I was "hot water clean!" Or at lease as you can get with dirty, hot water. When you're spending all day sweating in a 90 degree sun, the temperature of the water can make all the difference.
I got the previous day's blog posted while I sat in the cool air outside drinking tea. Job arrived at around 9am and we waited for Tom from Ampath (and the Chuolembo Hospital). You may recall that he was instrumental in getting all the necessary approvals for the Hugh Shields/Mbaka Oromo community Health Clinic (wow, that's a mouthful). He specializes in treating HIV/AIDS patients and is just a wonderful man. He's small in stature and very soft spoken with a slow, deliberate cadence to his speech. We always enjoy each other's company, and this was no exception. We talked for quite a bit and Job asked if we could give him a ride into "town" (Kisumu). Of course, I agreed. I would
later learn that "a ride into town" meant "bring him with us for lunch," but that was ok, too.
We headed for Kisumu and I spent the entire 45 minutes trying not to sweat. It's quite difficult, and although I've never managed to master that trick, I tried anyway. We first headed back to the Masai Market to pick up a couple of Nativity scenes that I liked but didn't get on the first trip. I promised Job and George (our driver) that I would be quick. I was. They remembered me as I walked into the gauntlet of shops and I ignored any recognition of the shop owners until I arrived at the ones I was looking for. They grabbed the pieces as I approached, we exchanged money, and I left.
If you really think it was that easy, your wrong. I love to shop... Andrea will tell you no different. The only thing I love more than shopping, is haggling while I shop. I knew that one of the pieces was 600ksh, but I only had a 1,000ksh note. They don't like to give change (as all hagglers do) and never have the change they need (like all hagglers do) so I had to make sure that I got an 800ksh piece for 400ksh... no change necessary. It only took a couple minutes in each shop and then we were off. "Tutaoanana," I said as I walked by the shop owners. "Talk to you later!" I'm sure we'll see them when we return in June.
We headed for a hotel for lunch. It was the same one we met Suchi in, but this time we'll eat... or so I thought. Tom, the driver and I sat down and waited for Job who was outside on the phone. On the way over, he informed me that his girlfriend was coming to Kisumu to meet me. I was looking forward to the meeting as well until I learned that she went past Kisumu and continued on to Maseno. I said, "Well Job, it looks like it will have to wait until next time. I only have you for a week, she has you for the other 51 weeks." Job nervously answered texts and phone calls for the next 5 minutes until finally saying, "I must go get hah." He then said, "I'll meet you at the airport at two." No, he won't.
Tom, George and I ordered lunch. It was fast this time... only 40 minutes before the food arrived. It looked delicious, and I insisted that the other two eat while I waited for mine - I didn't want it to get cold. Good thing, too, because mine never came. I was already 1:40, and I had to be at the airport by 2. I remembered that I had a granola bar in my bag so after waiting another 10 minutes for them to bring the bill we sped off down Busia Road.
We did indeed make it there by two, although Andrea would not have liked the ride. It was akin to the French connection with less safety. Yes, I was sitting on my seatbelt, but only because I couldn't separate the two pieces to put it around me. No worries; I lived to tell the tale.
Tom helped me with my bags and saw me to the entrance. Job was nowhere in sight. The checkin process was quick. I was assigned an exit row and proceeded into the gate area. This is a much nicer airport than the domestic terminal at Jomo Kenyatta in Nairobi. It was built a few years ago and now has a gift shop in case you want to buy a last minute water... or carved hippo. We still had to walk out onto the tarmac and climb the stairs to the plane, but these planes are very nice. When in Kenya, I highly recommend Kenya Airways (shameless plug #2, if I'm counting correctly). I would later hear that Job was at the fence outside the terminal... watching me walk onto the plane. I was still quite perturbed at him, so he could have had a brass band and I wouldn't have noticed him. There were many things that we needed to discuss and I had intended to do that over lunch. Granted, it would have been a bit more difficult with Tom there (again, I thought we were just dropping him off in Kisumu), but I would have been able to check off on a couple of items. Alas, it was not meant to be. The plane left the ground after lumbering down the runway and I was on my way back to Nairobi.
The flight was over quickly and I grabbed my bags and proceeded to the International Terminal. It was a little more distance than before, but I didn't mind the chance to walk slowly. I couldn't have run if I wanted, though, because the taxi drivers were stopping you every couple of paces to see if you needed a ride. I stopped before entering the terminal to talk to Andrea and let her know that things were moving in the right direction. I then entered the international departures terminal - only 8 hours before my flight departs.
There's nothing inside this place. Nothing. Two sets of 5 molded resin chairs typical to any airport. I sat in one of them. I'd be able to check in at 6:50pm, 4 hours before the flight departs. I played many
games of solitaire while I sat there. This was the first time on this trip that I was getting buzzed (no pun intended) by mosquitoes. You know they're big when your camera can focus on them. They were everywhere and they were swarming me. They were simply a nuisance, however, because none of them ever landed on me. Right on time, the Emirates staff began to get into position. They waved motioning that we could proceed to the line, but there was a catch. They took my temperature! Before we could pass the first security officer they ran a wand across your forehead. Once the temperature came up normal, you were allowed to proceed. I preferred the thermal imaging scanners because they were more exciting, but I nonetheless proceeded to the ticket counter. I'm praying for the ability to upgrade with points - flying business class has a lot of perks, the most important of which is spacious seating. No luck. They're also NEVER able to help with the connecting flight from Dubai. Oh well, at least my bags are checked all the way through to Rochester via a JetBlue connection in JFK.
While I waited at the gate, I noticed that the flight to Dubai and onto JFK was much longer than usual. It was then that I learned that if the flight number doesn't change on a connection, they don't really count it as a stop... in fact, they don't really tell you about it either. My fault. I only just now realized that after I land in Dubai I would be traveling to Milan before JFK. Now, I'd love to go to Milan, but not alone, and not now. I spoke with the gate agent who said I'd have to make changes in Dubai.
I did. It was not an easy process, but it was successful. It did very little to prevent me from breaking a sweat. I had to run from terminal A to terminal C, then B, then back to C, then back to B. Ultimately I was able to switch flights, but I couldn't get an exit row seat so a business seat was impossible. As I left the ticket counter, they were making the last call for my flight to JFK. No time to wait, another mad dash to the gate.
Needless to say I made it back. JFK has done a great job at streamlining the arrival of passengers and getting them through customs quickly. I was still not in a rush, because it was only 2:45pm and my flight to Rochester didn't leave until 10:50pm. More poor planning on my part. Note to self - pay more attention when booking flights and connections. I got through immigration and customs and called Andrea. "I'm gonna grab a cab to Laguardia to catch a 3:30 flight to Rochester! I'll be home by 4:30!" I was standing in the line waiting for a cab when she said, "Adam, what time is it?" I looked at my watch and said, "11:30, why." Wrong time zone. Yes, I got out of line and wandered toward the Airtrain that would take me to Terminal 4.
I grabbed a sandwich and a water and waited. And waited. And waited. I really started to get punch around 8. I fell asleep on the plane before we pulled away from the gate, and I woke up in Rochester.
All in all, it was another successful trip. I've decided that it's easier on me and for the people back home if I'm not alone. Kevin had been my normal travel companion, but he could not come this time. His absence was noticeable. I know that Andrea would rest easier if I was traveling with someone else. I've also noticed that there's always one picture that stands out. It's usually something that catches my eye and encompasses the emotions of the week. It's an image that stays with me from the moment I open the shutter. This is that picture.
Thank you again for traveling along with me. It's been 5 days and I'm still falling asleep at 5pm and waking up a 2am. It's gotten better, but there's still a long way to go, but there's still no place like home.
Until next time...