Day 10 and it was already time to begin my journey home.
As we entered Nairobi, traffic lanes disappeared and congestion worsened. The mass chaos was reminiscent of driving in Shangai with the random horn beeping. Although we had passed security checkpoints throughout the week, they were much more frequent on Sundays. We were stopped earlier in the week, but not on this return trip. When I questioned one of the drivers, he replied: “The armed guards could see we were tourists. They are looking for terrorists.” Although I was extremely grateful we were not continually being searched, I did have to ask: “OK, so terrorists couldn’t hire a transportation company and pose as tourists? “ He just looked at me stumped. No answer. Things that make you go hmm…
As we neared the airport in a middle lane, one of our driver escorts started repeating “get out, get out, get out”. Wait a minute…Get out of the vehicle with our luggage in the middle of a road with the airport nowhere in sight? He replied hurriedly that we were to get out quietly and to leave our luggage in the vehicle. We were to walk away from the vehicle through a passport security check and the other driver would meet us on the other side. The vehicle was driven through a security lane with a huge x-ray type machine that inspected everything in the vehicle. Apparently, the dosage of radiation was unhealthy, which is why extraneous passengers do not accompany the vehicle. I had to ask the driver who remained in our vehicle how he drew the short stick on this trip!?
A passport check was required in order to enter the airport, immediately followed by a security check. Half of the electronic check-in machines were unable to read passports, which was required for check-in. Airport employees wandered aimlessly and seemed to express little interest in helping. Checking luggage became a hiccup in the process, since they wouldn’t allow a purse and a carry-on bag. I went a few rounds with one airport employee and was prepared to leave my bag of breakable souvenirs.
After a delay of nearly an hour in the check-in process, the universe gifted me with the approval I needed from a lovely customer service liaison. The universe then guided me to ticket agent who coyly smiled and asked me what the deal with my passport photo was. (Okay, I was exhausted and still had more than 30 hours of travel to go.) Huh? She asked me about (what she described as) my “smoky, sultry photo”. Umm, it was just my passport photo. She was convinced I was a movie star.
I next waited in another line to review passports again, which led to a customs line less than twenty feet away that required another passport review and fingerprints. Just when logic would tell you that you’re on your way to your gate once you complete the fingerprints…there was another airport security check.
I do believe everything happens for a reason. Due to the check-in delay I experienced, I met a Sudanese woman traveling with her four children. This family had the most beautiful eyes. I wanted to hear more about her journey overcoming the struggles that currently exist in Sudan. I also met an American who used to live about a half hour from Hershey, PA. Small, small world…
I finally arrived at my gate to learn that KLM was pre-boarding nearly 90 minutes early for priority members. I stared at my yogurt and asked the woman at the gate (who was again checking passports and flight tickets:-) if I could please finish my yogurt as I boarded since they were so stringent with rules. I was ravenous after my marathon. She was happy to oblige and then several businessmen around me started inquiring about the marathon.
One gentleman stared at me from different angles as he asked if I was the woman who joined Steve Jobs on a recent trip to Kenya. He went on about how she looked exactly like me and she also spoke of running international marathons. Although I assumed he meant Tim vs. Steve, he refused to accept that I wasn’t the woman he met weeks earlier. Then the gentleman behind me began asking pointed questions about my use of Apple products in an attempt to trip me up and lure a different response. I look forward to meeting my marathon “twin” soon! (ha ha)
My entire Kenya experience was priceless! I loved spending time with every person in our small, intimate running group, which included a couple of doctors, a nurse, business execs, entrepreneurs, a marketing exec and a seventy-year-old running maniac. (Yes, one is never too old to run!) I always feel blessed to meet new people from around the world who follow their personal passions….who invest in travel and self-discovery. I am excited for my next marathon adventure abroad!