Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Nairobi: AKA, the Longest Layover Ever

I woke up on my 3-chair streched airline bed as we landed in Nairobi. I peered out the window as we taxied and...wait a minute...Africa doesn't have horses, does it? Stripes...is...is that a zebra?!

Yes, zebras apparently speckle the landscape of Nairobi Airport.

I took my time getting through the airport. This leg of the trip has a layover of about 15 hours. !!!. Fortunately, I had contacted the brother of one of my best friends from high school for this long layover. His wife (Aki) and him (Jon) are staying here for a year. And they have been wonderful in agreeing to take me in for the laover and save me the pain of an arduous day sitting in a little airpot.

To be fair, it's not a tiny airport. I've been to much smaller. They're lots of shopes, but Felicity spoke true that there's only one coffee shop in the whole place.

I hobbled through customs a bit perky, post-plane nap. The customs man slabbed a transit visa in my passport and asked me where I was going for my long layover (don't worry - I was the only person at customs at the time). I mumbled something about visiting a friend and before I knew it he had shoved his cellphone in my hands (his name was Tessy) and I'm talking to Jon about cabs. I have a feeling the kindness of strangers will never stop surprising me.

One of the first things I enjoy about going to different places is smelling them. I think it helps create the atmosphere (no pun intended). Nairobi, to me, smells like burning wood and dust. To give a comparison, France smells like buttery eggs and clean; India smells also like burning wood and dust, but also fruit and human defication.

I landed the right cab company with some helpful Kenyans and stared out of the front window at the new surroundings. Some sights I saw were men in nice business suits with briefcases, trudging through the murky curbs next to the streets. I also saw huge birds chilling out in trees - they had a grey/white hue to them and super long beaks. One tree had a bird at the top middle stretching its massive wings out, reminding me of some kind of hawk. The just just seemed ridiculous, like a scene from a commercial or film that otherwise seemed totally fabricated and provoked me to say, "Yeah, right." I guess so.

Jon and Aki graciously greeted me at their apartment, which is lovely by the way, and we relaxed and chatted for a while. What fantastic people! I gratefully showered off the airplane scum and we strolled to an outdoor market as they explained to me Nairobi.

We didn' get to the animal parks as I'd thought. It's a holiday here, and I just didn't have the time. But Jon's co-workers joined us for the walk, and we had an excellent time roaming.

We walked through some green scapes, and lots of dusty roads. One particular road we crossed a brook over a pretty precarious bridge made of cheap wooden slats. THAT was fun.

We ended up at a mall for lunch, and I felt like we had just teleported back to the states. Big named shops; a pretty interious, and lots of white people. LOTS. Isn't this a developing country?!

I had a haloumi salad that was divine and home fries with a chill butter sauce that made me moan with delight. I considered asking for a doggy bag, knowing they probably wouldn't understand me. The cafe itself was clearly a white-person favorite, and it looked like The Smith in NYC. Go figure!

We also went to their version of Walmart - Nakumatt. Again, isn't this a developing nation?!

We got back to their apartment and I slept for 4 hours before heading back to the airport. I slept like a dead person. I woke up all bright red. Apparently, not even sunscreen can save me from my pastey complexion. And now, I will remember that in Africa, that the Sun is a badass, strict mother who will make sure you are careful and protect your skin, or you'll bear the consequences immediately.

I'm in the airport now. My flight leaves in about 2 hours. To Kigali I come! I called The Man - of course, I wept on his voicemail.


Pam said...

Did you weep on Jerry's phone due to jetlag, or because you miss your mom (ahem)?!

A Traveler said...

Awww, Mom...can't it be both? :-D