Thursday, March 16, 2006

Coming into Nairobi (Wed., February 22)

Our itinerary called for us to fly into Nairobi, spend the night in the Methodist Guest House, then catch the small charter plane into Lui the next day.

We arrived at the Nairobi airport, and I quickly became aware this was a very different world. Bishop Bullen, Ambrose (the administrative officer in Lui’s office in Nairobi), and some of the diocesan staff met us at the airport, and gave us a very warm welcome. We had so much baggage that we had to go to the Methodist Guest in separate cars – Sandy & I with the Bishop in one car, Rick and Bob in another, and Robert with Ambrose in a third.

Our driver loaded our gear and drove us out of the airport, heading to the Methodist Guest House where we were to spend the night. Alex (our driver) and Bishop Bullen warned us – and Sandy’s experience of making this trip two years before had alerted her – that we might be stopped at Kenyan military checkpoints en route to the Guest House.

Sure enough, before we got far away from the airport, we were directed off the city road and stopped for a checkpoint. Guys in military fatigues with automatic weapons circled the car. One of them engaged our driver in routine conversation. Part of me recognized this was routine for them. Another part of me was feeling pretty anxious, because this was so alien to my U.S. experience. The military Guys with Guns shone their flashlights into the car this way and that. Then they ordered Alex out. For a terrifying moment, I feared for his life. But all they wanted was for him to open up the trunk so they could inspect our baggage. It was ok, though, and pretty soon they let us pass.

But Rick and Bob+ had a slightly more dramatic variation on that drill. Apparently, the military guy asked if they had taken a cab from the airport, and Rick (not knowing the drill) said yes. At that, the military guy with the automatic weapon shined his light on the car’s “stickers” and saw it obviously was not a cab, and got somewhat more testy with them than they had been with us. Apparently, they were subjected to lots more gun-displays than Sandy and I were. But, as with us, it all turned out ok and uneventful.

What a welcome to Kenya!

There were a couple of delightful surprises, though. On the drive from the airport to the Guest House, some folks spotted giraffe and zebras gazing alongside the road! I wish I had seen them.

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