We had gotten ourselves a business trip to India, Julie and I, for an e-Commerce and Customer Loyalty conference…
To travel, you need passports. Which we don’t have and the notice period was three weeks. The queues at Nyayo house are long and torturing. And when I get to the front of the queue they reject my birth certificate because it looks “like it was tampered with.” Made me feel older. Makes me wonder if I was born earlier and they have been lying to me all along (there are parents who do that). Or, was I really born?
Anyway, I have two options, actually three. One, get one of those guys who hang around Nyayo House to forge one for me; two, travel all the way to Meru to get the replacement which I didn’t have an idea how long it would take… and three, give up on the trip and carry my head home. The way the odds are looking after I throw out to the forging option, I may as well give up. But I am a fighter, and I have friends like Liz who work with the government.
Long story traveled to Meru, Liz gets me my replacement birth certificate and I am at Nyayo the following Monday morning. Now, it is a race against time. And the staff at Nyayo know this, and so, they work slowly telling us to toa kitu kidogo so that they “speed up the process.” We refuse, because their website said it would take two weeks, and we are upstanding members of the society who don’t deal in corruption. Big mistake.
Three days before our travel day, we still have no passports – we still need to apply for the visa. The office is telling us they may have to cancel our trip. Julie is on the verge of tears. We go to a few offices, see a couple of bosses…not giving up. We stay in one lady’s office for over an hour, not wanting to leave, till she confirms that our passports are actually ready. Someone is holding them and there is no way we are leaving this place. Even the Police can’t get us to leave, late in the evening; way after closing. We just have to get the passports if they are to have peace. It is our right.
Our resilience pays off. Some commissioner confirms that out passports are ready, even shows us so that we leave, but there is a process to pick them; so we have to come back tomorrow morning. And we do… and get our prized passports! Now it is time to camp at the India High Commission till we get the visa. We had one day.
That is easier. We just pay extra and get our passports stamped. They don’t even ask questions apart from how our company was helping the Indian economy. You gotta love the simplicity of the Indians, not like the British, who denied me a visa to the UK.
And finally, one day to the flight, kedo 5:00 pm, we are now sure we are traveling!
BCD Travel has these services called airport transfers, and this cab picks me from my doorstep all the way in Limuru to take me to JKIA. (I wasn’t using alot of cabs much back then, so, of course, I felt like a VIP. This was the life, man). I’m still in a daze when we get to the airport and we have to look for our gate, pulling our bags like seasoned travelers. We know we were going to the Fly Emirates section, but we don’t know how that will be like. At some point, we stand at a closed door marked Emirates wondering why they are closed so close to the time of the flight… only to ask a guard who takes us to the right entrance just a few feet away. Chickenheads. 🙂
Yes, we didn’t want to look out of place. You know how you chew gum and bounce in confidence? That was Julie and I. Even the Customs guys must have thought our passports were just replacements of filled up passports.
Everything done, we are in the waiting area two hours before time. Enough time to take selfies and call our fans. We are flying, it is a big deal. You know how you just sit around wishing someone will call you so that you tell them:
“I’m at the airport… yes… I have a flight to India… hahaha…. yes, see you when I’m back.”
Anyway, I call my mom first. She’s always first. Our conversation is long and I’m telling her I will fly to Dubai, spend a few hours there, and then fly out to India.
Where is this India, Mwenda?
It’s in Asia, if you get Evan’s Atlas and check, you will see where India is.
Ah. Don’t worry. So, how many countries will you pass on your way to and from India?
I don’t know, maybe 10, 20. And the Indian Ocean or Red Sea. Not so sure.
And so on. Reminds me of when I was a Geography teacher at Gitura Secondary School. And then that pause. The pause we had in our conversation when I was doing my KCPE, when we were discussing my upcoming initiation, when she was leaving me in High School for the first time, when I left home for college, when I had my first graduation. I know she has tears in her eyes. She always does when I manage another achievement. Tears of joy at what her offspring is doing.
To break the silence I say,
“Maami, remember when you came to my graduation and you said Nairobi was too near and now I need to take over the world.”
“Yes, and now look at you. You are going overseas just as we said.”
“How did you know?”
“Listen, Mwenda… I know for a fact that anything you say in faith, God must make it happen.”
I love this woman!
She wishes me a good trip. I don’t have to call her when I am there. That’s my mother. She knows I can take care of myself. And I have, since I was a kid.
I don’t know what mountain this is, but it’s not too far from Nairobi
The next call is to my father, who is also elated that I am making this all important step in life. And he says we should talk every day I am there, because there is a son of sijui who, who calls the dad every day. These fathers… I guess any time I call he will be running to a group of his friends and talking loudly about India, Dubai, etc and telling them he’s been talking to his son overseas. Such is his pride. (He still gets his friends to listen in any time I am in a radio).
We then wait around for our flight to be called, browsing the duty free shops. Julia wants to buy a cake and milk to take on the flight but I tell her there will be a several course meal in-flight. I thought duty free is supposed to be very cheap, well, it’s not.
Kidogo kidogo, we hear our flight being called and we proceed to our gate. We know our gate. We know these things.
But first, there are rules, setbacks. You can’t board with toothpaste, you can’t board with a soda, not even water in a container. And they have a huge waste bin for those. As if that’s not embarrassing enough, I have to get rid of my belt – I have a big-ass trouser on that I have to hold on to – as I remove my shoes. Luckily, my socks are new. I would have sent these people home. 🙂 I then walk through and wear my shoes and belt. It’s like dressing in public.
We are then directed through a hollow, metal hallway that somehow swings and echoes from the footsteps. At the end, there are these beautiful yellow yellows in Fly Emirates uniform, smiling so good you would think they have no problems in the world. Oh, and they call me “sir” as they welcome me to this room with seats that look like a bus’.
Julia and I making the entrance
Wait… this bus is an Airbus! I am inside a plane! The son of Maua is in an aeroplane! In my mind, I thought you board a plane like you see Obama boarding Air Force One, you know, going up a staircase leading to the door. Looking back though a window, I realise the metal hallway was actually a connection to the plane.
I want to do a small dance and hug Julie, who is as elated as I am. But I don’t want to look like a kamshamba who’s never been in a plane. We walk to our seats, observe how people are locking their stuff above and do exactly that.
And then we settle, playing around with the seat screens like we see people doing. I can’t get my headphones to work. And I’m too shy, or whatever that is, to ask the beautiful hostesses. So, I just connect my iPod earphones, and get to setting my music. Big mistake.
People are still trickling in. Right on time, the screens freeze, and a voice comes through…
“Welcome on board ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys…” It’s like in the movies!
A hostess comes around checking our seat belts and showing us the nearest exits, in case of anything. As if you can exit an airplane in the air. The screens are also showing us what to do in case of a crash, or if the plane lands in the sea. Damn! Makes me wonder if I hustled so much for a passport just to land in some sea.
The plane starts reversing pole pole. I’m in a window seat just for this. To see the damn thing move. Speed increases. Julie has one of those cheeky smiles of hers. Suddenly, we feel like we are in a lift. The plane has lifted off. The airport and other aeroplanes start shrinking below us. This is big time. Even if the plane lands now, I have flown. That lift off counts, right?
Nairobi is now becoming a blur below us, the buildings looking like one stretch of nothingness. Cars can’t be seen either. Unless they are those blurry dots down below. Soon, we are seeing something like the geographical atlas. Only the boundaries are missing. The greens and the browns are there.
Wait, clouds are floating below us. It’s a clear March afternoon, and the clouds are like white sheets of awesomeness around and below us. I have now taken ten thousand pics on my iPod. The feeling cannot be explained.
But then, it gets darker and all there is is a black blanket. I get back to toying around with my screen. I listen to hip-hop and other music that I can’t tell. And watch a few movies like Alex does, fast forwarding the shit out of them.
Best moment- when food trolleys start coming along. There is a menu with two options for food, which we have no idea what they are. So we decide to take both, Julie with one and I, the other. If shit happens we will just share the edible one.
And drinks. I take a few mini bottles of Red Label, beer and some other vodka with a Russian name, some wine and a small tonic. Everything is small around these parts. Not like I expected mizinga, anyway.
The food is delicious. It’s in like two courses but I gobble everything down onetime and settle to imbibe on the kanywaji. Getting high high up in the sky is delirious.
This story just got too long. Let’s leave it high in the air for now. We will get back to it next time. Hint: Aeroplanes have toilets. And using your own earphones on a flight can land you into big problems, as I found out. Oh, and Dubai is confusingly beautiful!
Here is Part 2!