"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Building Futures, Inc.

Building Futures, Inc.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Thursday/Friday October 10-11, 2019

Hi anyone; long time, no talk!
This is an impromptu trip to Kenya.  I spoke with Isaac on Monday, purchased a ticket on Tuesday, and left Rochester on Thursday.  Pretty crazy. Isaac knows people from all around the world, and I imagine that their interactions with him are the same as ours.  Isaac is always happy, always grateful, always hopeful.  I never thought I’d hear his voice crack.  I never thought I’d hear him speechless.  I never thought I’d hear him in sadness; but I did. “We lost my dad,” he said softly.  His sadness was palpable and brought us to tears as I relayed the news to my family. I’m probably the only person on this plane with tears rolling down my face.  I, along with Andrea, Katie, Kevin and Karen share in his sadness.
Isaac’s father, Reuben Siameto Kasura, passed away en route to a hospital.  He had excused himself from church and was feeling light-headed when David (another son) drove him to the hospital.  He died before they got there.  That was all we knew. Now I’m rushing to get to a funeral for the family patriarch that welcomed my family into his home and into his heart.  Isaac’s parent’s have been treating us as if we were his own for the better part of 10 years.  Isaac, in turn, is a brother to us, and that was before we met parents, but that meeting certainly solidified it for us.
I will land Friday night at 10pm and spend the night in Nairobi before waking up early to get to Narok in time for the service on Saturday.  When I landed in Amsterdam, I learned that Isaac is not able to pick me up at the airport.  Instead, he’s sending Samuel… at least that’s what the “What’s Ap” message said.  “I have written your name.  He will be there at 9pm.  Please text when you land.  I call you anytime, brother.”  Samuel’s going to be waiting awhile, although there is some good news.  I applied for a Kenyan Visa on Tuesday.  It was still “pending” when I left the states on Thursday, but shortly before I left Schiphol, it had been approved.  That will speed things up a bit, but one thing’s for sure; if Samuel shows up at 9, he’s still going to have to wait a couple hours.
When I land, I’ll hopefully get all the answers when I call Isaac.
When does the service begin?
Do I put my suit on for the 4 hour drive to Narok, or will I have time to change when I arrive?
Am I going directly to the hotel or your house or your parent’s home?
Why didn’t you just tell Samuel, “Look for the mzungo that’s over 2 meters tall.”  - I actually have visions of Samuel holding a napkin with “Adam” written on it.  I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s going to see me before I see him.
Now, on the lighter side…
We made the decision several years ago to start flying Delta through Amsterdam rather than Emirates through Dubai.  It has nothing to do with service, because they’re both great.  It was more about schedules.  Emirates has a flight that gets into Nairobi at 3 in the afternoon which afforded us the opportunity to catch a puddle jumper to Kissumu.  Because we’re not going to Nyanza, we don’t need the puddle jumper, so we don’t go through Dubai, so we don’t have a 12 hour flight from JFK and a 5 hour flight to Nairobi.  Instead, we have a 7hr flight from Detroit followed by an 8 hour flight to Nairobi.  I’ll take 4 hour less traveling any day of the week.  Now, back to Amsterdam and more particularly, Schiphol, and even more specifically, their urinals.
Bet that got your attention, and it’s not what you think.  As a member of the male gender, I am appalled at our behavior.  At the very least, the way in which we are perceived… regardless of it’s validity.  I know you’re a bit lost now, but I’ll tie it up in a pretty bow in a sec.  Because the ladies in the audience may not be aware (I’m hopeful) I’m going to tell you about some things that you never imagined (I’m sorry).  So, when I was younger I remember going into a men’s room and seeing all the older “gentlemen” spit into the urinal before they did their duty (not doodie).  I always thought this was odd, and later learned why… although it’s more of a theory.  target practice - plain and simple.  It’s pretty much like saying, “If I don’t have something to aim at, I’m going to pee on my shoes.  Good thing I can spit!”  Wait, it gets worse.  Several years ago, someone else noticed the same thing that I did, but he (presumably) took it one step further.  This one’s for those people who don’t like to spit or are not able to spit.  I now see urinals in the states that have a fly on them.  No, not like it landed there, rather it’s actually painted into the porcelain.  How pathetic is that.  “Good thing there’s a fly that I can shoot at.”  Well, the fine people in Amsterdam must have realized that we’re even dumber than that!  Not only do we need a target, but we need to be confident that it’s a stationary one.  “What if that fly, that is sitting in the bottom of the urinal flies away?”  Well, it looks like we’re back to peeing on our own shoes.  That’s not going to happen in the men’s rooms at Schiphol!  They don’t have a fly glazed into their urinals… they have a… wait for it… just a little more… a golf flag and green, a la “Hole in one.”  This is the equivalent of putting foot prints in front of the toilet so we know the direction we should be facing when we sit!  We are a pathetic breed.  Seriously ladies, beware the Y chromosome.  The Y isn’t as special as you think… it’s just an X that’s missing something.  Clearly.
Okay, enough of that.  Now, onto the excitement.
We’re boarding for the flight to Nairobi, and I’m in the seat behind the exit row.  The same exit row that they’re using for boarding the back of the plane.  Well, I hear a lot of commotion going on behind me, but my neck is to sore to turn around to see it.  Because of my size (and the size of the guy next to me on the last flight) my shoulders were shrugged most of the flight because of the narrow seats.  Sidebar:  When your wife suggests that you bring Biofreeze with you, even if you can’t imagine ever using it, bring it anyway.  Seriously, we stopped in a store on the way to the airport and we walked right by it when she asked.  Y chromosome.  But I digress… with sore shoulders sprinkled with regret.
Eventually, the aforementioned woman comes to the front of the plane.  I then realize why I couldn’t make out what she was saying.  She was speaking French. Y chromosome.  One of the men in the exit row in front of me translates as 2 flight attendants, a gate agent and a manager (of some sort) listen intently.  She left her handbag between a couple of gates in the terminal.  While I could sympathize with her, I would not have been obstinate about not leaving without it.  Finally, a win for the men!  She was holding her passport, so that wasn’t going to be an issue, and they said (through the translator) that the bag, if found, would be placed on the next flight to Nairobi.  She wasn’t happy.  I don’t speak French, but I do speak face.  If I was this woman’s husband, I know that I’d be in for a long 8 hours.  Sidebar.  I’m really glad I’m not this woman’s husband.  I happen to love the one I have and wouldn’t trade her for anything… even if she left her handbag in the airport terminal of a foreign land.
I thought that was the only story I had to tell, but the “duty free” cart just rolled by.  The woman in the front was hawking her wares saying, “tax free,” but the guy pushing the cart started saying, “Ice cream, lollypops,” just like the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In fact, he sounded EXACTLY like him… even had the same facial features.  Remember, I speak face.
I got 4 hours of sleep on the plane from Detroit, and we’re 4 hours away from Nairobi, so I’m going to try and watch a movie or two before we land.  I’ve already forgotten the movie I watched on the first leg.  I started to watch Godzilla on this plane, but the brightness was shot and I found myself straining to make out any figures on the screen.  I did, however, switch to streaming the KLM entertainment on my phone, where the picture was 100% better, but it still didn’t keep my attention.  Andrea got me a book that I’ll probably read instead.  The man in front of me has his seat so far back that I’m resting my chin on his headrest.  I’ll get this one posted once we land, so you should have it available when you wake up on Saturday morning.
Next stop Nairobi.  See you soon.
I’m obviously seeing you sooner than either of us thought.  It’s 12:52am and I have a schedule.  But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The plane landed without incident, but this is Kenya, and the plane is big, so we couldn’t pull up to a jetway.  Instead, they wheeled up those steps that you normally see in older movies.  Older like 70’s, not older like 1990.  You know the ones, it’s always a Pan Am plane.  Anywho, the stairs are ready for departing passengers, but October is the rainy season and it’s pouring outside.  Yep, failed to consider that one, but the fine people at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport didn’t!  They stood at the top of the stairs in full rain gear handing out throw-away ponchos to everyone.  All I could think is, “They’ve made plastic trash bags illegal, and now these ponchos are going to be blowing across the parks.”  Oh boy.  One of the unforeseen consequences of this scenario is that everyone not afraid of the rain and trying to get off the plane has to wait for each person to put their poncho on before going down the steps.  It was quite a fiasco.  When I saw an opening, I braved the elements and just walked out.
I was elated when I got inside and turned the corner toward the immigration desks.  The only packed line was for those who needed visas to enter the country.  My visa that I applied for 2 days ago was actually approved this afternoon - thank you, God.  I was through immigration in 5 minutes.  Seriously.  This is unheard of!  I actually had to wait for my luggage to come out… and I waited for like 20 minutes!  I got my bags and went through customs.  It amounts to you placing your carry on/luggage onto a conveyor belt so that a have asleep security officer can watch the monitor as it passes through.  I can say that this method has been in practice for as long as I’ve been coming here, and I have NEVER seen them question the contents of a bag.  Regardless, once you receive your bag from the other end of the tube, you cross the aisle to the more discerning security officers.  These folks are looking for bags that have chalk marks on them.  I happened to have one on my smaller bag.  I don’t know who, where, or when the marks were added, but there they were.  I unzipped the bag and her only question was, “Do you have a drone?”  Didn’t see that one coming, so I had to ask.  “Do you find many?”  “Oh yes,” she exclaimed.  “We take them from you and give them back when you leave.”  Good plan.
I called Isaac when I exited the airport into a sea of cab drivers.  Many with signs, but most just saying, “Taxi?” as you walk by.  There had to be close to 75 of them.  While signs with large print stand out, those written in pencil on a sheet of copy paper do not.  I was unable to spot Samuel.  Fortunately, the government of Kenya helped me. 
You see, I went to Safaricom to get minutes for my phone and a new sim card for my modem (it expires after 3 months).  First he said, “The system is down.”  That means no sim card, which means no modem.  “Okay, how about the minutes,” as I plopped 4000ksh on the counter.  Normally, they hand over scratch cards that you can “top up” your phone with.  We’ll, they don’t do that anymore.  Now, they send it directly to your phone, which brings us back to, “The system is down.”  Then he looks at my money and says, “That is no good.”  Huh?  The government changed the 1,000ksh note and made the older ones obsolete.  Good thing I have 40 of them!  I headed across the alley to Barclays in the hopes of exchanging them for good ones.  No luck there, either.  I have to go to the Central Bank of Kenya.  Super.  There’s one in Narok so I’m not too concerned.  All-the-while, Isaac is calling saying that Samuel can’t find me.  Really?  “Tell him I’m at Safaricom.” “Now tell him I’m at Barclay’s.”  “Just tell him to look for the really tall white guy standing in a sea of small Kenyans!”  That one got him laughing.  Two minutes later, up popped Samuel unfolding his paper sign with my full name on it.
We hustled to the car in the garage, loaded up and headed out.  As it turns out, Samuel is a childhood friend of Isaac.  I’m hoping to get some good stories tomorrow on our way to Narok.  We didn’t speak much as we drove through Karen heading for the Hotel Royale.  I was texting with Andrea as I we listened to Rick Astley sing, “Never Gonna Give You Up,” on the radio.  Sometimes the things you hear on the radio here just make you smile.  It’s even more funny when the Kenyans start singing with the music.  Priceless.
Although I was texting with Ann, I was speaking on and off with Isaac.  It looks like this is going to be a trip that evolves one day at a time.  Here’s the plan for the next 24 hours.  Get up at 4 to depart at 5am for Narok.  Check into the Park Villa (8am), shower, put on a suit and wait for Isaac to pick me up at 9am.  Proceed to the ceremony.  That’s all I know.  I’m actually okay with it.  In all actuality, I’m just relieved that I don’t have to wear a suit for a dusty 3 hour drive and go immediately to a funeral.  My charcoal gray suit would have looked taupe by the time we arrived.  That’s the plan and I’m stickin’ to it.  I pray that it all works out.  It’s 1:23am here, so I’m going to turn it.  I’ll take the 2 1/2 hours rest and probably sleep in the car along the way.  That’s a good plan, too.  Tootles.

No comments: