When we finally arrived in Nairobi, my excitement and eagerness overrode the utter exhaustion and sweaty ickiness that had drained me mere moments before. IT WAS HAPPENING! WE WERE IN KENYA!
We waited in line for over an hour to get our passports checked and stamped. Because I'm married to a Kenyan citizen (he has dual US/Kenya citizenship), I didn't have to go through the separate "Other" line but got to join Harry and the boys in the "Kenya Citizens" line. (The boys are automatically Kenyan citizens because Harry is one.) I was required to get a visa, but because of being married to a citizen, I didn't have to wait in the separate "Visa" line. Instead, an official beckoned me forward, walked me around to the back of the agent's check-in desk, and handed her my documents directly. She briefly reviewed them, collected my money, and handed me my visa, and the official waved me away. I felt a little guilty circumventing the line while all the other mzungus had to wait for a long time, but I also felt grateful that we were able to move through the system so quickly. (FYI, mzungu is what Kenyans call non-Kenyans. Usually it's basically the same as saying white person but since the official definition is "person of foreign descent", let's just go with that.)
It took almost no time to collect our luggage because we'd been in the passport line so long. We just had to get a couple of trolleys (for no charge! That would NEVER happen in America.), scout out our luggage from among the sea of bags waiting next to the carousel, and load them onto the trolleys. We walked out past the customs agents, which was pretty much like we were leaving a CostCo. Actually it was less hoopla even than that, because the agents glanced at our bags and at us, but didn't ask to see any paperwork. Crazy!
Then it was just thirty yards or so to the exit, where we finally got to see FAMILY! (No one is allowed to enter the airport to greet arrivals, even just at baggage claim.) Harry is the middle child, sandwiched between his four brothers: Mark (eldest), Maurice (second eldest), Edgar (second youngest), Patrice (youngest). Mark and his middle daughter Noni (14) met us at the airport along with Edgar and his son, Toria (3). I hadn't seen Noni since we were last in Kenya in 2010 (when she was the age that Nehemiah is now), and of course she has grown so much, and is so poised and mature. She was holding Toria, who greeted me as though he knew me. He gave a big smile and said a clear "Hi!". The very sweetest welcome!
I don't have any photos of the reunion with the family because I really wanted to savor the moment and not be whipping out my phone. We walked to the carpark for a few minutes and loaded all of our luggage (6 checked bags, 3 carry-ons, 1 backpack, and 2 purses) into Edgar's car. Then we waited for a long time while Mark walked to retrieve his car from a far-away parking spot. As I looked up at the palm trees gently swaying against the dark blue sky and listened to Harry talk passionately to his brother in Kikuyu and Swahili, I felt so deeply grateful that we get to be here.
When Mark appeared, the boys and I climbed into his car with him and Noni, and Harry went with Edgar and Toria in Edgar's car. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport lies about 9 miles (15k) southeast of Nairobi. Typically it can take hours to get to the city because the main roadway (the A104, also called Mombasa Road) is normally crammed with cars. But since we had the advantage of traveling late at night (about 11:45 p.m.), we zipped along in about 25-30 minutes. We stopped along the way for some chicken & chips (i.e., fries) and some pizza, then made our way to the serviced apartment where we'll spend the month. It is as appealing as it had appeared in the photos I'd seen online, and it has an awesome vibe. I can't believe we get to live here!
Clockwise from top left: Sign outside the front of our place; View of our wing from the parking lot; View from my writing space; Living/dining/kitchen area; View into the backyard (through the laundry room); View into the interior courtyard below between our wing and the B wing