I Dream of Africa

The Guesthouse

I always dreamed of going to Africa.  I don’t know when that particular dream started, but it was one of the reasons I learned French.  I have been to Egypt, but although it is on the continent it is not really consider Africa. 

It took me a long time to realize this dream at least 21 years and I was very excited the night I flew out of Amman; however stepping foot on African soil was surprisingly anti-climatic.  Maybe it was because I was still reeling from being robbed by the Emirates, or maybe it’s because my flight was delayed and I didn’t arrive until 25 minutes after midnight didn’t step outside into Ethiopia until 1:30 a.m. in the morning and couldn’t see much. 

Our driver took us on a bit of a wild ride through the streets of Addis Ababa; the paved streets were bumpy and then we off-roaded to get to a hotel a little ways out of the city.

I had been one of three and a half white people on the plane and this morning was one of 2 ½ on the bus until we got back to the airport.  It is a very interesting contrast for me. 

Rudely awoken at 6:00 a.m. after 4 ½ hours of sleep, I stumbled down to breakfast in the same clothes I’d been wearing going on 36 hours and then headed back to the airport.

When I stepped off the plane in Nairobi, the weather wasn’t too hot it was actually just perfect.  I walked from the plane to a shallow staircase that took me into the airport filled out all the paperwork and realized that that I didn’t have a yellow fever vaccine, when the lady asked me for it I just pretended I knew what I was doing and headed for the visa counter.  After clearing that hurdle I made my way downstairs to collect my very expensive luggage, then exited into the main terminal which outdoors and not very big looking hopefully for someone to collect me.

I scanned the small corridor in vain for a smiling face with a Mercy Corps sign then heaving a big sigh I found the nearest outlet to plug in my computer to look up some phone numbers.  I should have printed them out before I left, but I had run out of time.

A man behind a car rental counter was nice enough to let me borrow his phone and after I finally got a hold of someone at the office and then moments later a man approached me with a Mercy Corps sign.  He had been there the entire time, but even though I had an MC shirt on; wasn’t comfortable approaching me.

Nairobi is beautiful, green with trees and flowers and people were fairly friendly.  A 30 minute drive brought me to the Mercy Corps Office. A beautiful house in Lavington, with a big backyard, in a gated community.  I stayed only long enough to collect the keys to the guesthouse. 

The guesthouse was an apartment minutes away from the office by car, beautiful on the outside with a swimming pool, it was also very nice on the inside, but for the mounds of trash my fellow expatriates had felt free to leave lying around in every nook and cranny.  Although it would take me a couple of days to discover the extent of their slovenliness; underwear in living room, socks in the kitchen, no closet with out someone’s stuff in it; old medications, half used bottles of shampoo, magazines from 2003, old files, boxes filled with papers and who knows what else and I won’t even go into the refrigerator, obviously they feel quite at home here.  It’s a shame they don’t bring their mother’s with them.

I plugged in, my computer figured out how to get on the fussy internet, answered a few e-mails and then went to bed at 4:00 p.m. not to wake up until 7:00 p.m.  There was no edible food in the house so I munched on a Clif bar, because I was too tired to try and forage outside the apartment, sent a few more e-mails and then went back to bed and slept until 7:00 a.m. the next morning. 

The office told me I could call for a pick up in the morning, but I decided it would be good exercise to walk, also it seemed to me that only white people and rich people drive in Nairobi and although I’m white I’m certainly not rich.  So I walked along paths next to the road, not sidewalks per se, but red dirt paths that operated like sidewalks. 

I made it to the office, a little bit sweaty with some red dirt clinging to me, but in one piece. 

I spent the day trying to get things figured out; getting four vaccines and the office was kind enough to loan me a driver to do some grocery shopping.  It was Friday and here in Nairobi and Sudan we work Monday – Friday and get weekends off even in stations that have R & R.  So I made plans to go the Nairobi Game Park on Saturday with the new finance manager who is ten days into the country.

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