One Day, two different worlds

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
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Trip End Dec 22, 2013


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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Thursday, August 30, 2012

Compared to the Heathrow Airport, Gatwick doesn't even compare, especially when hanging there for over 7 hrs. I was so happy to get on the plane to finally get on my way and for a change of scenery.  I think Emirates might be my new favourite airline.  Fantastic service, great meals (lamb biryani on my first flight and lamb meatball curry on my second) and they do so much to make infants and children comfortable for the flight; toys, special blankets, cribs that hook into the wall, baby food and diaper changing kits!  Yes I was sitting near a family of 2 young ones to learn all of this.

I was really hoping to get a good view of the city of Dubai as we landed but such was not the case.  First of all it was too hazy to really see the cityscape clearly, due to the temperature of 35C at 7:00 am (It was 45C by the time I left at 10:45am).  As well I was on the wrong side of the aircraft and got to see the ports as opposed to the Palm development so famously photographed.  My connecting flight of course was no better as it was still hazy and we headed further inland away from the coast.  However it was amazing to see and realize that the city of Dubai is literally in the middle of the desert.  Very few houses and apartment buildings had manicured lawns.  They were just surrounded by sand.  Same with highways; they must disappear when there is a sand storm. And then the desert seemed too gone for ever and ever.  Watching the world go from an airplane really reminds you how true big and diverse our world is.

The Dubai International Airport is quite amazing.  You could almost think that you were in a very high class shopping mall as the gates are all tucked away to the sides of the main corridor.  I wandered around the shops along with the thousands of other people waiting for their connecting flights, passing away about 45 mins of my 4.5hr layover.  I thought I could pass the rest of the time by jumping on the free wifi but alias with so many people in the airport, I could never get a connection.  

Having landed in Nairobi, breezing through customs and finding my name written on a piece of paper held up by a young teen (who quickly decided he wants to be my Facebook friend), I was loaded into the car of the in-country co-ordinator for Village Volunteers, and we were on our way to her mission house in Athi River, which she explained is a suburb created from all the industrial businesses around and is more quiet and less hectic then Nairobi which is about 25 mins away.   The mission house is gated and there is about 2-3 staff on hand; one cook, one handy/gate man and one assistant.

The roads and driving reminds me very much of Morocco.   There are lots of trucks, cars, piggy-piggys (think of a hybrid of a moped and a motorcycle scooters), cars and of course pedestrians.  Thankfully no animals to add to the mix….but I’m sure that was a rarity.  As well as with Morocco everyone was driving so fast with what seems like total dis-regard for anyone else on the road.  However something new to me was the huge speed bumps, and large rumble strips that were quite frequent along the way. And this was a main road. The turn off onto her road looked like a bomb had been set off; craters like I’ve never seen. What were we driving you ask? A Toyota Corolla. Yep felt like I was on the Mine Buster at Canada’s Wonderland though not quite at that speed.

Once we arrived, I was welcomed ("Karibu" in Swahili) and was shown to my room for the night which is basic but clean.  They then asked me to sit at a table set for two and eat. It was clear no one was joining me…so I ate by myself…..thinking this is odd.  The food was a very flavourful curry with some kind of meat and equal parts gristle, and some boiled carrots.  Afterwards, I went to join Lindy (the o-ordinator) in the TV room and we had a bit of a chat.  Turns out she does much more then support Village Volunteers. She has been working with women for 12 years and has started Project Africa (www.projectforafrica.org) which has a mission to empower women and girls through the use of information, education, and enterprise development as tools of empowerment.  She is also representing the Labour Party of Kenya in trying to form a woman’s academy; Women of Africa and because she is not busy enough she wants to run for Member of Parliament in the upcoming elections.   She impressed the heck out of me especially since she is 35 years old and actually lives in Sweden half the time.

My first mistake of the trip  - not getting local currency (Kenya shillings) before leaving the airport.  However, if I had gotten the money, this next little adventure would not have happened.  Since Lindy confirmed it would be good for me to have some shillings she offered to take me to the ATM. Our journey was detoured when we went to get back on the main road and it was completely jammed. So through the back way we went, which was basically navigating through crater-size potholes. We got to bank number one near the cement factory where my card denied. So then we went to the nearby Supermarket where the ATM was broken.

Next stop was the actual open market area (read as meeting place) in Athi River, where I would have a choice of 3 different banks with ATMs.   While trying to get into the parking lot, a scooter hit the back bumper of the car and basically drove off with barely an acknowledgement.  Another guy started talking to Lindy in Swahili and I assumed that he was telling her he saw the hit or was asking if he wanted her to go after him.  No.  It turns out he was trying to sell her some honey!  Fortunately there was no major damage to her car and she shrugged it off as “Kenya driving” though I felt a bit bad as she was doing a favour for me.  Back to the banking; the last machine finally gave me some money but not without having to cross the busy main road on foot.  What a crazy exhilarating experience!
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