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Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Road to Kenya

I'm leaving, on a jet plane...
                  Leaving on a Jet Plane, Peter, Paul and Mary

Before we get too deep into looking at the road as metaphor, remember that most of our journeys include some literal legs. In other words, we actually have to get out of our recliners and go. Now, that shouldn't be too hard to convince us to do if we accept what Cunard Lines was so fond of telling us...

That's been your experience, right? No? Oh well...

Getting to a small town in central Kenya from a small city in the U.S. upper midwest is a bit of a challenge. But let's face it, the fact that this even can be accomplished at all borders on magic.

Step-by-step, the process was as follows:

(1) Get up at 7:00 a.m. Have breakfast with Shirley. Drive to the airport in La Crosse. Fly to Chicago. Wait. Eat a light mid-afternoon meal. Wait. Take bus across the taxiways to the international departures gates. Wait. Have some coffee.

Small plane, short flight to start; Sushi in the Admirals Club at O'Hare; The wasabi earned separate billing for being HOT!!!! I might never need an antihistamine again.

(2) Fly to London; eat two meals in flight; take a bus to terminal 5. Wait. Have coffee and a croissant. Take the underground train link to the satellite departure gates. Get a bottle of water for the long flight. Wait.

(3) Fly to Nairobi; eat two meals in flight; take a bus to international arrivals.

The engines on the BA 777 were big. But not big enough to get us the last 100 feet; Waiting at the gate at LHR to take us to NBO; African chicken stew to get us acclimated to life in another continent; Night arrival at NBO - the KLM flight seems to have made it to a jet bridge.

(4) In a sleep deprivation stupor, muddle through immigration, baggage claim and customs. Exchange a little money for first day cash reserves. Meet Jeff and Wubshet in the arrivals hall. Drive to the guest house. Crash at 1:00 a.m.

Four easy steps - that's all there is to it. For the most part, things went smoothly. Layovers in Chicago and London were 5 hours and 4 hours, respectively. There really were not so many options and I do tend to favor longer layovers as a cushion for delays. There might be two or three opportunities per hour to get from Chicago to New York. But realistically, you have only one chance per day to get from La Crosse to Nairobi.

The one exception to the problem-free trip was in the last 100 feet of the journey. I am not making this up – our plane stopped at the terminal in Nairobi and the pilot shut down the engines. People got up and started the process of gathering all the belongings they had accumulated over the entire course of their lives (OK, maybe I exaggerate. But only a little) to prepare for deplaning. But, the pilot announced that we had not reached our actual parking spot. Further, instead of using the engines, which were each the size of a small house, to get us there, we would wait for a tug. I have no clue...

About 20 minutes later we were in the proper location. Then, we waited for another 15 minutes for buses that would take us to the arrival hall. Perhaps our arrival caught them by surprise, what it having been only 8 hours since our on-time departure from Heathrow.

But they did show up - a diverse collection of bus styles, sizes and appellations. I got in a relatively tricked-out vehicle with a sign on the side saying "Kenyan Youth Organization." Apparently the airport brought in busses from all available sources as they are still dealing with the disruption caused by the substantial fire in the international arrivals area last August.

Jeff and Wubshet from GHNI (Colorado and Isiolo, respectively) waited through it all. It was good to see them there on the other side. On the ride to the guest house, we talked briefly about the next day's activities, which would mostly involve a visit to Kijito.

So, I got into my small but comfortable dormitory style room, took a shower in the bath down the hall (only one chameleon in the shower stall) and settled in for a good night's sleep – a mere 30 hours and 7 meals after I had gotten up in La Crosse.

Netted in for the night; Visitor in the shower

Up next: The Road to Kijito where we get on with the work of Transformational Community Development

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