Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas in Kenya: Days 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

Adventures in Airports and Acclimation

Day 1 of my journey didn't start until about 8pm on Friday when the first flight left, so there wasn't much going on before that. I mean, we chilled at Dagger's cousin's house, but that was it. Chisel and I were pretty much the only ones home most of the day because Dagger and the rest of the family was at his cousin's graduation. When everybody else got back, it was almost time to leave (so as to avoid the traffic). We got to the airport without any major events happening, and made it through security, found our gate, and boarded the plane on time. We even took off on time. It's weird. International travel doesn't usually work out that well.

We were on a Boing 767 from DFW to London Heathrow, and let me tell you, it was cramped. The seat infront of me had this little cube attached to the floor right where I would have liked to put my legs, so it was difficult to stretch out, but that's ok. We had chosen our seats the day before, but it was impossible to get a row of three seats together. We did the best we could, and took two seats in the middle row and one seat on the isle two rows back. When we boarded, we asked the man in the seat on our row if he wouldn't mind swapping with us so we could all be together, and he was nice enough to say yes. So, it ended up that all three of us got to sit in row 41. Fancy that. On the less positive side, the plane didn't have individual TV screens, so we were forced to watch whatever was showing for everyone. Who doesn't have individual screens for international flights these days? I had to watch Ice Age 4! (which is a bad movie, but still decently funny). Oh, and the screens turned off after about 5 hours, which is only half of the flight.

Enough about that. We got into Heathrow at about 11:30am local time, and our 7 hour layover began. American Airlines dropped us off in terminal 3, and we had to make our way to terminal 4 to get to Kenyan Airlines (who's initials are KQ for some reason). There's a bus service that runs, so that's nice. But, once you switch terminals, to talk to the people at the airline desks, you have to go through security. So, every time you switch terminals, you go through security. If you ever have to switch terminals more than once for some reason (why would that ever happen?), you have to go through security each and every time, and wait in line each and every time. So, we went through security into terminal 4, up to the desk to check in and get our boarding passes... and were told to come back at 3. Apparently they don't give passes until 4 hours before flight time, so we had some time to kill. Terminal 4 is not very large, by the way. It only takes about 15 minutes to walk across the whole thing. Twice.

At 3, we went back to the desk and checked in. When they printed off our boarding passes, they asked for our baggage claim tickets so they could transfer our luggage to the new airline, and I  learned  that I was an idiot. Because, you see, I had thrown out the piece of paper that had my baggage claim stickers on them in DFW. The man behind the counter suggested that I go to the American Airlines desk (back in terminal 3) and see if they could get me some new tickets. If you remember, that means that I had to go through security two more times, and there was a line. Thankfully, we still had 4 hours to kill, so it ended up being a good thing actually. The person behind the American desk was very nice, and I got the numbers of my bags. I didn't get actual tickets because he couldn't do that, so if my luggage was lost, I wouldn't be able to recover it. Thank goodness they didn't lose my luggage, right? Right?

We got on the flight to Nirobi, this time a Boing 777 with individual TVs and more leg room. However, the TV system was broken, and so there were only so many movies  available, not on-demand, and they were looping forever. Also all bad movies, so I had an 8 hour flight with nothing to watch. Yay. Oh, and the food was distinctly worse than the food on the American flight. They ran out of the chicken, so the only food available was cod, and I hate fish. It's not really their fault, but I still wasn't very happy.

We got into Nirobi at 6am local time, and now it was Sunday. We left the airport at 8:40. Why so long? Partly it was getting visas (no troubles, just slow), but almost entirely it was waiting for luggage. Luggage that ended up being lost. Who'd have thought. But! It wasn't my luggage. It looked like it was the bag that I was traveling with for Dagger's family, but thankfully it wasn't, so we could recover it. As of now, it still hasn't turned up, but there's still hope.

Sunday was spent trying to keep us awake to the end of the day. We hung out with Chisel's family for the morning, and then left him with them. He'll join us for the trip back in January. After that, we went to an Ethiopian restaurant, and I grew as a person. By which I mean I experienced a very differant culture. They eat meats and sauces on top of this strange bread thing. It's white, and basically it's a sour crepe. You use it instead of utensils, and it's also the plate. It was actually really good food, but I could only eat so much of something that my stomach is not used to. Their flavours of pop are different too. I had some black current Fanta, but there's also stuff like pineapple.

After that lunch, we drove up to Rift Valley Academey in Kijabe, where Dagger's family lives. On the way, we stopped at an amazing view of the valley and I got to see the people who set up shops there. Dagger's dad bartered with the people for some stuff. I'm not sure that I've ever seen bartering before in person. It's really cool, but I think I don't have enough of a spine to get their prices down. But man, the Great Rift Valley is so beautiful!

Looking out down the side of the valley wall at the floor, with an incredible line of sight.
The view from Dagger's front door
We got to RVA (on some very interesting roads) and went to Dagger's house. They took me on a bit of a tour around the outside perimeter of the complex, and I got to see another amazing view. The problem with living on the side of a mountain though is that if you go down, you have go climb back up. I was exhausted by the end of it, but it was fun. Not too long after that, we called it a day. I went to sleep at 7:30. I'm pretty sure I've never gone to sleep that early, ever, but the room was starting to spin, so I figured that it was for the best. I woke up substantially more than 12 hours later, so that's cool. I haven't slept that long... perhaps ever.

After waking up, I went to take a shower. I had brought a bottle of shampoo with me, and when I took it out of my bag, I noticed that it was a slightly different shape from usual. It had ballooned up, so much so that it wouldn't sit flat on the counter because the bottom was rounded. I it up and all the exess air escaped. I was wondering why it would do that because it wasn't temperature, but then I realized that it was the altitude. Kijabe is at a much higher elevation than Longview, so the air pressure here is lessened. The air on the inside of the bottle was at a higher pressure than the air outside, so it turned into a balloon. All I can say is, I'm glad that the seal was strong, or else my luggage would have been covered in my shampoo, and that would have been no fun. I am looking forward to seeing it get super compressed when I get back to Longview though.

The welcome sign at the lower entrance to RVA with lots of pretty flowers.
Welcome to RVA
I woke up so late that there wasn't much time before lunch. Dagger took me out for a walk and I got to see the parts of the campus that I hadn't seen on the walk the day before. We explored the center of the upper compound like the classrooms and residential halls, and also took a walk around the highlights of the lower compound. The upper compound is the one surrounded by the fence, while the lower compound has no fence and has places that aren't affiliated with RVA like the hospital. I had noticed the day before, but I really learned today that the sun is much stronger here. The combination of the higher altitude and being on the equator makes the sun very powerful, and over the course of our 1 hour, mostly shaded walk, both Dagger and I burned. Not badly, but noticeably.

After lunch, we did a few things, like play with the dog, decorate the Christmas tree, destroy some hard drives, and teach me how to ride a "piky" (which is a motercycle). I had never even touched a motorcycle before, so it was a major learning experience. Oh, and they are manual transmissions, which I still haven't learned to drive yet. Thankfully, they started me off on a little 70cc bike, so I can get the hang of it. I drove around the yard a couple times, and then up and down a little stretch of road, and then finally to the store and back. It was a lot of fun, although driving on the side of a mountain making turns on bad roads made of loose gravel can be a bit disconcerting at times. I still really enjoyed it.

A picture of me riding around on a little dirt bike.
Piki Riding
After dinner, Winston (Dagger's cat) actually acknowledged my existance. Infact, without me even asking, he jumped up onto my lap and lay there as I petted him. It was a very nice surprise, but I eventually kicked him off to go look at the thunderstorm that we could see going across the valley. It was quite far away, but we had a great view of it, so we got to see it flashing lightning around. That pretty much signaled the end of the day for us. I managed to make it to 9:30pm.

The next day started off with rain. It was very wet all morning, so not much happened. We had thought about going on a hike, but that plan was put off for a drier day. Not much happened all day really. After lunch I went with Dagger's parents to the nearby market where there were many different ladies trying to sell their vegetables and produce. Like Dagger's dad said, shopping there is all about relationships. He knew everyone of their names, and greeted them all personally, introducing me to each of them. One of them was very kind, and gave me a free banana on the way out.

Later in the afternoon, the whole family went down to the gym into a racketball court and played a game that I had never heard of before (although you may have): Wallyball. Or at least their version of it. Just to give a brief description of a game that I barely understand, the game that it is most similar to is not volleyball, but foursquare. There are two teams, each with their own half of the court. One team serves the ball by bouncing it off the floor and then hitting it underhand. It can bounce off of the walls or ceiling with no problem, but if it hits the opponents' side of the floor twice without them touching the ball, your team scores. You can only hit the ball with your upper body. Each time a team mate hits the ball, it is allowed to bounce off of the floor on your side once before another teammate hits it again, to a maximum of three times. However, the last hit must be directly to the opponent's side; it cannot bounce off of your floor onto your opponent's side.

Those rules are probably really confusing, but that's ok. I was confused too, but it was still a blast. That pretty much took up the rest of the day. Tomorrow, it's off to the Aberdares. I'm excited, are you?

Full Series

Part 1: Adventures in Airports and Acclimation
Part 3: Lazy Holidays
Part 4Masai Market

1 comment: