Wednesday, October 3, 2012

31 Days of Reflection-Day 2

OK, so I'm already a day behind and it's only Day 2. I couldn't help it--I worked overtime yesterday and ran out of hours! But I did think about my post. Today, I'll do double duty to catch up--'cause I'm legalistic that way :-)

But before I continue, please know that this is just a true accounting of how I felt at the time, and even now. Please don't judge--you just don't know how you will feel or react when you're in a strange land halfway around the world until you've done it. I would still go back in a heartbeat.

So, back to Nairobi...

I was very cautious in Nairobi. I stood out  quite easily, (so pale I'm practically albino), and was totally paranoid about losing my passport. Traveling abroad for the first time is a big deal--even at my age. I did a head count of our group like every few minutes.

Hope, one of our team members, had to visit the toilet and rushed back out of the bathroom saying, "I can't go in there!" Turns out the toilet in her stall was a hole in the floor. She wasn't ready for that--not while we were still in civilization, at the airport. I chuckled to myself thinking, "This is going to be a long trip for her if she's freaked out by that already!"  (Bad, judgmental me.)

It took some time to get rolling, as we had to clear customs, exchange our dollars for shillings, gather our 16 enormous bags, stuff them into 2 smallish vehicles, and stop for bottled water before we could even start towards our hotel.

Nairobi smelled very industrial--like diesel. I know that because I stood in the airport parking lot, at midnight, being stared at by the Kenyans that drove past while we waited for our gear to be packed up. That made me very nervous. I just wanted to get in the van!

It also smelled like diesel as we walked past security guards to go to Nakumatt for water. Security guards stationed in the parking lot of the Kenya Wal-Mart? Really?

That also made me nervous.

My naivete was hopefully not obvious to anyone but me. It surprised me to see people who looked just like me, dressed in nice, clean clothes, shopping for chips and soda. I guess somewhere deep down I thought everyone in Africa would look like they lived in a hut.


Once we finally got on the road, we still had an hour-plus drive to get to the hotel. By the time we arrived, we had been traveling for 29 hours. Everything is backwards in Kenya--the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, and they drive on the other side of the road. It felt like we were going the wrong way whenever Joseph, our driver, would turn. I was always waiting for us to get into an accident! We passed big trucks, lumbering along those dirt roads so late at night. It was very dark, with only an occasional light shining now and then.

When I did spot a light, it was usually a lone light bulb, and the area it illuminated almost always looked like a  run-down shack or storage unit. It seemed very odd to pass people walking, or huddled in groups. It was like 1 am--what were they doing out on the side of the road so late?

As remote as it felt, it was a soothing ride once I stopped watching the traffic. It felt like the area was very quiet and, believe me, I am a big fan of quiet.

Finally, we were near the hotel. Joseph told us we were close, so I paid more attention to my surroundings. We passed a small building that said "hotel" out front, and I thought, "You've got to be kidding!" My heart dropped at the sight of it. I knew this would be a difficult trip, but was that really where we were staying? It looked like it should be condemned, and I was certain we were in the middle of nowhere.

All I could think as we drove by was, "What have I gotten myself into?"

(Please check out The Nester and the others 31 Dayers here.)

Reflection for the day: First impressions can be deceiving.

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