After what seems like forever the plane finally touches down in Kenya. “I can’t believe I am actually in another country, on another continent!” The thought scares and excites me, I’ve never been this far away from home and I immediately get worried. The ‘what if’s’ that I didn’t think about before now surface as I step off the plane into the muggy airport. It’s smaller than I expected, there is no security as I step off the plan and through the gates, I look around and see empty walls, noting that this part of the airport hasn’t seen it’s days of glory in a very long time.
I immediately run to the restroom where I notice there is a working toilet and with a surreal sense of understanding, I have to remind myself that this might be the last time I use plumbing for the next three months.
As I exit the stall the worrying thoughts fill my mind once more. I begin to be afraid that no one will be there to pick me up and I am about to go against everything my mother once told me, “don’t get in the car with strangers.” I laugh a little to myself as I think that is exactly what I am about to do. I wonder if my mom is nervous for me, I know I am.
There is a small queue to pass through “security” which consists of haphazard guards checking to make sure you have a visa. I get nervous, as anyone would, when coming up to the guards. What if they don’t let me through. My worries are needless though as they barely glance at my passport and wave me through.
Once past security I am outside, the arriving area is set up similar to a metro station with no doors on once side, it is completely open. I stop and look around, I feel very out of place with my London Fog suitcase and wish I had packed lighter. My eyes scan the crowd looking for Barnabas but my eyes land instead on a dark skinned man. He is hard to see except for the whites of his eyes and his white teeth that reveal a big smile. He is holding up a sign for Nikki Main and I walk over thinking he looks nothing like Barnabas.
I am instantly shy, which anyone who knows me would find it hard to believe, as he holds out his hand and introduces himself as Jackson, he works for Barnabas. He tells me in a thick Kenyan accent to follow him and we walk down the parking lot to see Barnabas leaning against the wall waiting for us.
He welcomes me to Kenya and says he hopes I enjoy myself and guides me through the parking lot to their car. It is surprising to note that all of the cars in the parking lot are brand new, similar to the cars back in the States, even the car Jackson is driving sparkles. I am shocked, as we leave the parking lot and drive onto the highway I begin to notice all of the signs are in English, there are palm trees lining the road and there seems to be no speeding laws at all. We speed down the highway, all the while Jackson and Barnabas talk freely in Swahili in the front seat and soft Kenyan music plays in the background.
I am beginning to get optimistic about the living conditions, “this may not be so bad,” I think to myself…until we turn onto the road to the slums.