I arrived to Nairobi at approximately 9 pm Sunday night. The solar panels did not arrive with the plane. I spent two hours trying to find them, both physically walking the floor of the baggage claim area where a dozen piles containing countless lost items were scattered about. I have a sense that all airports harbor this level of misplaced baggage, just not usually on display for all to see.
I registered as much info as the baggage claim manager would take, then took a taxi to the city center at 11 pm and stayed the night in a hotel more expensive than that which I intended, my first choice booked. My attempts at negotiation were thwarted by an intellect less tired and more accustomed to midnight math.
I slept well, awoke at 6, and headed out on my own to purchase a SIM card for my recently unlocked cell phone, my desire to obtain a local Kenyan number. I learned that my phone was useless, my lack of signal in London repeated in Nairobi. An hour later, I found a ‘cell phone hacker’ a kilometer from my hotel. I traded a set of Linux CDs and 3 hamburgers for the successful upgrade to the European 900MHz range (AT&T was incorrect in their assessment of my phone’s functions, having failed to note mention the differences
between the A and B models).
I met Leonard, the Principal of the Pistis Orphanage and Academy. He and I hit it off perfectly. A wonderfully humorous and strong hearted man who assists his sister Gladys, the founder and Director of Pistis, with organization and management of the facilities, classes, and staff. On foot we crossed central Nairobi a few times in search of a geographic map of Kenya for a classroom, calling the airport baggage services every second hour to gain an update for the missing panels. No one answered. And while we found some good books for the school library, no maps made themselves available.
At 6 pm we gave up and boarded a Nissan transport designed to seat eleven, but as Leonard explained, until recent government intervention, often carried as many as twenty (apparently, a few on the outside). Having taken public transport and taxis in several countries, I was prepared for the excitement, else it would have likely been one of the more frightening rides of my life (through which Leonard slept). We zipped along the broken, heavily potted highway at daredevil velocities. How the axles remained on the vehicle is a testament to Japanese engineering and Kenyan maintenance.
We arrived in Nakuru, a city of approximately 300,000 at roughly 8:30 pm and switched taxis at a small plaza where a late-night butcher shop and restaurant with live music doubled as a taxi depot. A few minutes later we bumped up a rutted, muddy alley to the exterior wall of a dwelling compound in which Gladys and her family live. We ducked through the bright turquoise steel door-within-a-door and were immediately, warmly greeted by a portion of her immediate family.
Late night conversation was supported by chai (hot milk, water, black Kenyan tea and sugar), “Jambo” brand cookies, and steamed greens over rice. More than simply welcomed, I have been given a comfortable place in the Wakesa family home. Never in my life have I been made to feel so quickly and fully accepted. I hope only that I will repay in full the generosity, time, and care through my work at the orphanage.