Day 2 Nairobi—Long and slightly off-topic

I’d like to say I had a great night’s sleep after catnapping on the flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi. Even if I’d been sleepy at the half point of the eight-hour flight, I would’ve been kept awake by two phenomena. First, numerous humorous Dutch men gathered near the exit row across from the aft restrooms just behind me. They were told they must sit if they were drinking alcohol. So then they gulped them down and kept talking. Loud.

Though I was able to ignore this, engrossed as I was in my Kindle version of The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime was the (we later learned) drug-addled, young man who growled in a voice so low and loud I would have guessed he was old, old, old, and very very crazy. His voice was one of loud desperation, calling “Heeeelllp me, heeeelllp me, spurring various doctors at various times to offer their services. He got help in the form of handcuffs and ankle bracelets, which caused a little wrestling (heard not seen by me) and resulted in a move behind closed galley curtains. There, a few rows in front of my row, his pleas grew in intensity, his help me’s punctuated by Mama—which stirred my own instincts as though I could offer assistance, which I didn’t. He also used called other less-universal names, but they didn’t help either, and then he started up with some pretty outrageous obscenities. This continued about every ten minutes for approximately three hours. In truth, it was not nearly as tough as sitting through an airplane crying baby episode primarily due to the novelty. I imagine that would wear off if I experienced such things frequently on flights—Oh no, not another wolf-crying druggie sitting behind me, kicking the seat. One bonus about this ride—there wasn’t a single moment of air turbulence when we were asked to return to our seats and put our seat belts on. I believe officers were waiting for the turbulent passenger on landing.

This blog seems overly-long and not humanitarian-aid oriented. I’ll try to shorten it up from here. And I did feel sorry for him.

I was worried about customs—how to physically get my eight bags from baggage claim through customs without a problem. I envisioned my two arms, one with a rotator-cuff impinged shoulder, and fine-tooth combs examining a thousand pair of undies. But a young porter named Kevin helped me get all the bags onto carts and the two of us wheeled our way through the masses to customs, where I handed my sheet which declared 35 lbs of seeds destined for Sudan among other things. The official didn’t look at the sheet, said, “Anything to declare?” while shaking his head. I shook mine, and he waved me through.

Pacing back and forth in front of the lineup of drivers with little signs—one read “James Bond,” but none said “Deb Dawson, ” I started to worry a little because I didn’t have a phone. I was thinking of asking Kevin if he had one, when I spotted a guy with a Fairview Hotel sign. I signaled. Turns out he wasn’t there for me, but had been waiting for a guy for two hours who hadn’t seen him and took a cab to the hotel. Francis was hanging around in case, by chance, someone wanted to go to Fairview. Lucky me that I stayed at the Country Lodge and ate at the Fairview a few steps away and owned by the same folks: the Fairview is the elegant elder aunt to the upstart boutique nephew, the misleadingly-named Country Lodge. No lion heads, no brass and wood—it’s all chrome and white and down. It’s the setting that gives them their names—an oasis in the midst of the city.

This morning, Carol Wamuyu appeared after six-hour night bus ride from Kisumu to spend the day helping me get ASAH business done in Kenya. She was a nurse at the JDF clinic in Duk Payuel when we were there in 2007 and is now working in the slums of Kisumu. The whole clinic crew lives in the slums as well, thus experiencing the full reality of their patient’s lives. She is continuing the humanitarian work she was doing in Duk Payuel in her country of Kenya. When I posted on Facebook that I was preparing to go to Sudan—Carol thought—I bet she’ll be in Nairobi—and arranged to come see me and help me out.

Our driver, Patrick, filled his vehicle with bags to be taken to AIM Air to be weighed and taken through customs early so as to speed our departure tomorrow.

We spent the entire day in the car, dodging pedestrians, boldly forging our way between vehicles or yielding to those more forceful than we. I asked Patrick if a lot of pedestrians got hit. He said, “No, we know they are there.”

First, we made a stop at a hard-to-locate business Ron found on the Internet—but couldn’t find on his last visit. The address describes itself as “Besides the fly over bridge.” A more accurate descriptor would be “below.” A fly over bridge is a pedestrian bridge over the highway. We were looking for treadle (manual) sewing machines. Apparently this company doesn’t keep its website up-to-date—though they do have grinding mills—all sizes and shapes. Fortunately Patrick had purchased a machine at SINGER and knew where that shop was. Still, it took several hours to complete the transaction. Deciding on the machine—should we go with the one with the sturdy table or the rickety one—we chose sturdy. And decided to get three. Which meant all of them had to be opened and assembled to make sure they work, then disassembled and repacked.

While this was happening, we went to a money exchange—got 80 Kenyan shillings to a dollar—a good rate—but the 20 $100 bills I exchanged for 1000 shilling notes resulted in a three-inch-stack. Don’t worry—I didn’t spend it all on machines—the three machines with tables, spare parts, accessories, extra oil, and so on cost about $800 total. They gave me a teeny tiny discount for buying three—I didn’t have time to negotiate as AIM wanted them by one. We loaded them up and got them there by two but had to return to Singer for the bobbins and bobbin cases that they had assured us they had in stock, but when we arrived to pick up, admitted they didn’t. If they didn’t have it, and they couldn’t get it, probably nobody could so came back. On each visit, we were the only customers in the tiny shop, though there were more than a half a dozen people working on our order—the sales girl, her manager, two finance ladies, and three or four guys who schlepped the equipment in and out of boxes. At each juncture and decision point and delay, they urged Miriam and me to sit on the two available chairs they moved in place depending on where we were in the process. There was also the unseen manager who approved the tiny discount. I wish I was a better haggler. I bet if board member Ron Saeger had been with me we would have gotten a hell of a deal.

Carol brought me to another spot for more thread. Turns out she’s working with a group of girls in the slums, and hygiene is one of the primary areas they are teaching. I dug a sack full of pads and some of the precut, unsewn pads and liners and gave them to her along with some thread and needles to get her going. Talk about paying it forward Bismarck and Fargo ladies!!

She helped me put some credit on the phone Jeremy Groce, our Kenya/Sudan work-experienced board member gave me to use on the trip. He recommended Safaricom, but she got it through Zane because you can call nation from Kenya for three KES per minute—about four cents and she says they’re cheaper for other calls, too. Jeremy Groce texted me and I texted back—no problem. And then I called my husband and he said—how does that work? All I have to dial is a + sign and 1 and Area Code and number.

Enough said. 8:30 am flight to Loki with Jon Hildebrandt, the AIM pilot we met at Mayfield Guest House, a mission hotel. He didn’t fly us, but he did tell us about Country Lodge since Mayfield was closed near Christmas and unavailable. And introduced me to Jean Wood in Colorado, working with two Boulder Lost Boys from Duk Payuel who will be adding on to the school there in February.

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