Friday, October 23, 2009

Observations at JKI Airport (Nairobi)

I'm looking forward to getting in a couple of runs in Richmond with my old running group, the Posse. Having been at high altitude (1 mile+) for the last 6 weeks, sea level should be fun.

I started my trip last night and thought somebody might be interested in my observations.

Though I'm certainly not new to Kenya or Nairobi, since we have come back after a 4.5 year stint in the US I've made a conscious effort to pay attention to things. Having worked with new employees, trying to help them get ready to move overseas, we are much more aware of the things that new folks see and experience. So, here are some of them from last night.

Last night, it took only 45 minutes to get from Hampton House to the Jomo Kenyatta Int'l Airport -- traffic through Nairobi wasn't too bad at 7 pm. That trip can take 20 minutes at 4AM and 2-4 hours at 4:30PM. Consequently, I was there almost 30 minutes earlier than necessary. The good thing about that was the ability to check-in and get through immigrations in a relaxed, rather than frantic and push-shove manner.

First thing was to go through the first of 5 security checks -- yes, 5. So, as I handed my boarding pass to the guard at the door into the terminal, he noticed that I was traveling to the US. He asked me to greet Obama. :) Well, OK ... President Obama, if you become my friend on FB or you happen to see my blog (in which I'm sure you can find some sage advice on international relations or life or ... whatever) and see this note, Pokea salamu za huyo askari!

I don't meaning to be giving you TMI or WTMI, but when you're checked in for a flight 3 hours before takeoff, there are certain necessities that must be taken care of, so off I went. First thing ... who in the world designed these stalls?! It is impossible to get inside and close the door -- or open the door from the inside to come out -- without straddling the porcelain fixture. IMPOSSIBLE!

Graffiti artists, budding poets, and generally strange individuals seem to get some kind of kick out of writing on stall doors. A small selection of the available reading material:

God is a life
IMB Going (As best I could tell, it really said that. Why? How do I answer that?)
Chris was hia (This one you have to read outloud with an African accent, which mean the "i" in "hia" is a long-e and the "a" is pronounced "ah".)

Earlier, I mentioned 5 security checks. I am flying BA, so it's true:

• X-ray bags and go through metal detector to enter the departure terminal
• Immediately have at least one bag searched by security personnel
• X-ray carry-ons and go through metal detector at the gate
• Immediately go through another identical security X-ray of carry-ons (they wanted me to take off my belt for this one) and go through another metal detector between the entry to the gate area and the actual waiting area
• Immediately have carry-ons hand searched by security personnel

Now that I've arrived at Heathrow (London), I had to go through yet another security check between the arrival and departure areas and I expect I'll have to go through yet another at the gate itself. Then, after immigrations and customs in Chicago, there'll be another. After all that, I'm probably not a security threat to myself -- I will have been checked 7-8 times!

Oh, the joys of international travel!

Run -- and travel -- well, y'all,
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