Habari (Hello)! A lot has happened since our last blog. We apologize for leaving you hanging with our arrival in Nairobi. We have moved to Kijabe and have been adjusting to a lot of new things. Today, I will catch you up on details from the time we landed in Nairobi…
Our flight departed from London at 8:50pm and we checked out of our hotel at 4:30pm. We loaded our luggage, walked to the airport, checked in for our flight and they had to recheck all 17 bags plus strollers and cars seats again! Thank God we did not have to physically claim our bags and bring them to the counter! After this we bought dinner at an M&S store at the airport and then sat down to eat our sandwiches and chips. We bought some extra tea biscuits, chocolate chip cookies, and lengua de gato cookies. In hindsight, I should have bought more! :-) Anyway, we walked to our gate which took us almost 30 minutes, including riding a train, and boarded our flight soon after. Interestingly, there was an escalator, stairs, and an elevator at each gate to take you down a level to walk to the jet bridge.
Our flight went smoothly, although none of us slept much. It was an eight hour flight but they didn’t finish serving meals until midnight, so there was not much time to sleep anyway. We arrived in Nairobi at 7:25am. Our plane parked at the cargo terminal – an isolated spot. Moments later, buses, trucks, and luggage carts started arriving. Armed soldiers also stood around the plane. We were close to the back so we decided to change Kate’s diaper before deplaning (glad I did!) and we ended up being the last ones to get off. It was a neat experience as we deplaned a Boeing 777 by stairs down to the ground. We then were shuttled by a bus to an area with tents. Remember that the international arrivals area was burned down just 6 days prior.
The customs forms were on tables under tents. It was a little windy, so there were rocks and boards for paper weights. We asked and discovered that we had to fill out one customs declaration and tourist visa application for each one of us. It took a while as we carefully filled these out. While we were doing this, Luke needed to use the bathroom. Lo and behold, nearby there were porta potties. I was really glad I changed Kate before we left the plane! When we walked to the next tent, the immigration officer asked, “What took you so long?” We told him we were filling out the forms. He then took our papers and put it in a pile but never even looked at them. We paid our US$50 each for our visas. They only take cash and only paper money, no credit cards or coins! We’re glad we were told to bring cash in advance as there was one guy who had small change and they wouldn’t let him through. We then walked to the next tent where we ended up outside in the open air staring at bags scattered everywhere. There were no signs or markers saying what flight these bags belong to. So we started spotting our bags which was not difficult since we have mostly bins. It was very difficult as Tim had to find each one and carry them over to where I stood with the kids. They were still in “sleepy, tired, shock” mode at this time. We finally found all our bags minus one. Our only large bin was missing. Thankfully, God sent this lady who was in charge in the area to get some guys to help Tim push the six carts of luggages toward a scanner built into a truck. They had to unload each bag and put it through the scanner, then pick it back up on the other side and load the bags onto the same cart. We showed our passports in a small room as we walked through a small building and then we were “free”. We had just passed through customs without realizing it!
Thankfully the guys helped park our carts by the exit as Tim went to find the people from SIM Kenya who were picking us up! We also had to look at each bag to figure out which baggage tag was missing. The lady even went out of her way to call the number we had of the person picking us up since there were no clear signs indicating arrivals and where people waiting for arrivals should wait. We finally found them and she helped Tim push our carts to the parking lot down the street. The kids and I went last and we finally met Bev Howell, the acting director of SIM Kenya. She came with another Kenyan SIM missionary who was very resourceful, smart, and daring! He carefully lifted our luggages and bins to fill up a large roof rack on top of a Land Cruiser and tied them down with rope. The rest he fitted into the back of his Land Cruiser. Now don’t think this was a cushy vehicle – it was a well used, beat up vehicle that had seen many rough roads. We were able to fit all our belongings, 17 luggages and bins plus two strollers and two car seats, on the top and in the back of this vehicle. We then carefully piled into the second row. We were ready to go, but guess what? The vehicle wouldn’t start! Oh no! We all started laughing! A taxi driver offered to jump start it, but it did not work, so a few guys started to push the vehicle backwards with all of us inside plus all the bags! They got it to start within a couple of seconds as we backed out of our spot! We’d never seen a car jump start while being pushed backwards :-).
God was truly with us and protecting us each step of the way. Through all these obstacles, God was miraculously caring for us. We then drove about 45 minutes to our flat for the time we were in Nairobi. We stayed in the SIM Sudan compound since the SIM Kenya compound was full. It was only a short 10 minute walk away. When we entered the compound our vehicle was too high with the luggages and it wouldn’t clear an 8ft. structure, so they had to carry our bags the rest of the way to our place. We had a two bedroom apartment with a kitchen, 2 baths, living and dining room. Of course there was no air conditioning or heating. The weather was actually very nice, the highest temp was in the mid 70s and the lows were in the low 50s. Nairobi is a large city, very polluted, and they drive on the left, enough said. They have large buses, and matatus (15 passenger minivan) for public transportation and they rule the roads. They have roundabouts instead of stop lights. It was very confusing as everything’s on the wrong side! :-)
It was already 11am, when we arrived at our place. We were tired more than anything else. They had kindly stocked our kitchen with the basics of coffee, tea (very important in Kenya), peanut butter, jam, sugar, margarine, a loaf of bread, and ramen noodles. We decided to stay home for lunch and go for groceries afterwards.
Daniel Ondere, one of the kindest men we’ve ever met was our guide. He is SIM Kenya’s Field officer and a very humble man. He was very understanding, protective of our kids and thoughtful to our needs as a family. He took us to buy groceries and actually walked the aisles with us showing us where things were. He took Tim to figure out our internet options and to set things up. He took us to a Kenyan restaurant along with Clarice, another SIM staff for our first Kenyan meal. He also arranged for us to visit an elephant orphanage for our kids to enjoy. He was available to us when we needed anything. The first thing he taught us when we walked to the store was how to cross the street. We stopped at the road and he said “look right, don’t look left”. Those were very profound words, because our instinct is always to look to the left first. So that was our first lesson in crossing the street in Nairobi. The first 2 days we used taxis as we were tired and weary of walking on pot-holed dirt roads with no sidewalks. On the third day, we started walking everywhere and realized that things were a lot closer than we thought.
We arrived on a Monday, and that afternoon we just went to Uchumi, the nearest grocery store, to buy some milk and other groceries. That evening, Bev took us out for dinner. We went to Java House, a local Starbucks equivalent, but they serve breakfast , lunch, and dinner, in addition to coffee. It is a place to hangout, and they have free wifi, if you can get on it. We had a good meal and the kids amazingly did very well. Their food is also safe to eat, if you know what I mean.
Tuesday morning we attended a language seminar that is scheduled once a month. Thankfully we were able to make it even though we got there late. It was very informative and amazingly Luke sat through the entire morning with his dad. Kate, however, had to leave at mid session. But I got to meet some new people as we sat and played in a fellowship area. They have chai time daily around 10am and they make chai and coffee, and since today was seminar day, we had some special snacks. We went home to eat lunch and head out to Nakumatt, their local Walmart equivalent, to shop for more stuff and to orient ourselves to what is available in Nairobi. After this, we dropped off our groceries and headed off to Rosé compound, where a lot of the SIM Kenya missionaries live. They had a large grassy area for children to play and a makeshift treehouse. Luke was so excited as there were a bunch of kids playing when we arrived. We got to see some of the missionaries we met earlier in the day and meet some new ones. Luke initially watched, but before too long was running around playing hide and seek and having a great time. Kate also wandered off and before we knew it, Bev was carrying her, and introducing her to the kids. We were able to chat with a few missionaries who had arrived just a month, and a week before us. We were scheduled to have dinner with the Maloneys who lived on the compound, so we headed off to their home around 5:30. They have a 2 year old so we connected really well. We enjoyed the meal and were able to ask a lot of questions. They were very helpful and very eager to help us in any way we needed. The kids played as we talked and had a great time. They drove us home as it is not safe walking after 6:30pm. There are no street lights and accidents are common. It was also drizzling. After we got home and bathed the kids, off we went to bed tired after a looooong day.
Wednesday was our day off. It rained most of the day and it was a perfect day to stay home. We cooked our first meal in Nairobi, did our first load of laundry in a washing machine (thank God!) and hung our clothes on the line to dry. It took more than a day to dry the clothes. We cooked chicken in a broiler that we brought along with rice and broccoli. We all enjoyed it, especially Luke! Our breakfasts had been eggs, corn flakes with milk, oatmeal, or peanut butter sandwich with red plum jam.
Thursday and Friday we had orientation in the morning and were free during the afternoon. We spent some of it familiarizing ourselves with the stores and what was available in them.
Saturday we went to the elephant orphanage where we saw baby and very young elephants feed and play. These gentle creatures were found in the wild and rescued from harm. Their mothers have mostly been killed by poachers. It was a fun time for all especially Luke!
Sunday we went to church then home for lunch. Then we spent the afternoon shopping for Kijabe. We had a wonderful dinner and fellowship with George and Sara Salloum. The kids especially enjoyed playing in their home.
Monday we had more orientation then our fellow missionary Stephanie showed us around Yaya center, another place to hangout and shop, then we walked to meet Fey, another missionary who took Maureen to Toi market. We had a long but good day!
Tuesday morning was prayer time for all missionaries in SIM Kenya. We got to meet the SIM family there and they welcomed all the new comers. SIM Kenya literally doubled its size in the past year, so there are a lot of new faces! After his we went home, kids had naps and then we went to buy stuff to bring to Kijabe.
Wednesday morning we got up and got ready for our trip to Kijabe. It was a nice day and a 25 seater bus arrived at the compound. Tim attached the car seats and after loading all our bags and supplies, there was a lot of room to spare. We left around 12 noon and stopped by Junction to buy more Internet bundles and used the opportunity to treat ourselves with our first KFC meal for lunch! This is the only familiar fast food chain here :-). We arrived in Kijabe at 3:30pm. It was a smooth drive except for one police checkpoint. The scenery was beautiful as we got closer to Kijabe, but the roads gotten bumpier and narrower!
Maureen for Tim, Luke & Kate