A Month In Kenya: Getting There (By Way Of Amsterdam)


This post is probably TMI for most people as it focuses on our flights with KLM and my love of all things Dutch. If you're itching to get straight to Kenya, skip ahead to the next posts!  

I generally look forward to flying because usually I get to read something, enjoy a Starbucks, and do some fantastic people-watching. Then again, I often fly sans kids and on flights lasting only two or three hours. This trip to Kenya would include a seven-year-old, a nine-year-old, and a husband, and would last more than 24 hours. So let's just say that I wasn't anticipating the actual "travel" portion of our trip as much as I typically would. 

But I am glad to report that the trip (mostly) felt like it flew by. The boys had fun cuddling into their large-to-them airplane seats, building cozy nests of the little white cloth-covered pillows, choosing movies to watch and games to play, and tearing through their pouches of snacks at various rates of speed. I'd packed each of them two pouches like the ones found in the cosmetics section: one with salty snacks (cashews, whole-grain Goldfish), the other with sweet snacks (raisins, fruit strips, Annie's chocolate chip granola bars). I'm amazed how much they had left at the end of the trip. I think it's because they actually liked most of the food that KLM served us.

KLM truly deserves a paragraph all its own. Their service is stellar. Every single staff person was smiling and friendly, and it all seemed so sincere, like they genuinely were enjoying helping make people's trips pleasant. As for the food, it was remarkably good for coach-section airline food. During the 8-hour flight from Chicago to Amsterdam, we were served one meal (curried chicken with rice and vegetables, an iceberg salad, a roll, Club crackers, Tillamook Cheddar cheese, and carrot cake) and one snack (strawberry Chobani yogurt, an apple oat bar, and orange juice). Each was followed by a serving of tea or coffee. On the 8-hour flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi, we were served a first meal (sesame chicken, cole slaw, a roll, crackers, Gouda cheese, and puff pastries with chocolate sauce), a snack (vanilla ice cream), and a second meal (pizza and some other stuff I've forgotten, which is funny because I DIDN'T eat the pizza but I DID eat some of the other stuff). And everything was presented beautifully, with exquisite attention to detail, as seen on the gorgeous placemat (see above photo) that featured Dutch icons like Delftware, a windmill, and a tulip. The clear silverware wrapper was printed with a Dutch lace design, the silverware and plastic cups were embossed with Dutch icons (a wooden shoe, a tulip, a bicycle), and the miniature cups for hot drinks had a Delft pattern. Even the video at the beginning of each flight was a work of art (literally): an artist painstakingly painted hundreds of tiles in the Delft style to create a stop-action safety video. I've included it below because it is so impressive to me. I love that a contemporary company appreciates artistry to this degree. HUZZAH TO KLM!!

And in case you're wondering why I'm slightly obsessed with all this Dutchness, let me tell you. I was born in the small Iowa town of Pella, which was founded by Dutch settlers in the mid-1800s. (Pella is generally understood to mean "City of Refuge"...how awesome is that?!) My parents had gone to school at the private, liberal arts college in town and after my dad earned his MBA in Indiana, they returned to Pella and welcomed me into a world of brick-paved roads, wooden shoes, and Tulip Time (the town's annual festival).

Even though we moved away from Pella when I was just a toddler, it remained a meaningful part of my parents' lives and I grew to love it as much as they did, eventually choosing to return there for college myself. Pella was shimmering magic to me. I loved the cobbled streets and historical buildings, the windmill, the pastries (Dutch letters! Windmill cookies!), the ratio of churches to bars (approximately 24 to 1 at the time I was there), and the tulips. I loved the sense of deep-rooted tradition, and since my own family had a mottled and mostly-unknown ancestry, I enthusiastically embraced Dutch culture as my own. It was a place where I grew to know and love God more and developed friendships with AMAZING people whom I love dearly to this day.  

So the basic gist is this: KLM's touches of Dutch culture felt a little like home to me, and made our flights more a pleasure than a drudgery.  

One additional benefit of flying via KLM was connecting through Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, which I am convinced must be the most uplifting, inspiring, rejuvenating, and just plain attractive airport there is. It certainly supersedes any American one I've visited.

It has been designed thoughtfully, with lots of nooks and lounges and passages, each full of quirky personality and inviting aesthetic appeal. I am not exaggerating when I say that it's the kind of place I wouldn't actually mind being stranded for a little while.