After so many months of anticipation, I’ve finally arrived in Nairobi. And it’s great to finally be here!
As you may already know, I’ve never had a special affinity with airports so it didnt surprise me even in Sydney, I was ‘randomly’ subjected to a explosives test and pat down before boarding. I haven’t figured out quite what is so suspicious looking about me but it seems to happen without fail everytime I’m at an airport, even now without the dreads. At least this time, I was complemented for my fashion choices by the security girl swabbing my clothes down. It’s probably some ego reinforcement trick she has mastered to soften the humiliation. But it doesn’t bother me too much, I’ve learned accept and just go along with my fate.
Hence, on arrival to Nairobi it was no exception. Our flight had been already been delayed for a few hours from Dubai and everyone was pretty sleep deprived and tired and were dying to hit a bed. As we touched down, the plane shuddered as it descended into a lush green city blanketed by dark clouds seething with rain. Taking in the majesty of the vast plains gave me a sense of excitement for the adventure ahead. Stepping out, the airport itself was humble, peppered with dark ruby tiles, a coat of deep green and yellow paint on its walls and dark grey carpets. It looked like a dilapilated mall thats had its day, awaiting its next facelift that just never came. I hadn’t seen a single Ak-47 yet so I was quietly optimistic.
After surving the questions from the stern-faced officer in the immigration line and then triumphantly picking up my luggage which was still in one piece, I carted my belongings towards the customs officers for my final test. But then suddenly, I was interrupted. Two men dressed in blue came over to chat and asked to see my passport. They were very friendly and polite, told me not to worry as they were policemen indicated by their badge. They welcomed me to kenya and said they just wanted to examine my baggage. So I nervously followed them down a narrow corridor into a small room round the back.
As I opened my suitcase onto the bare examination table, while they politely questioned me on my plans. The tone and attitude was more conversational rather than interrogative and we even joked about some items in the suitcase while they played with some of my koala souvieners. In fact they didn’t seem all that interested in what I had brought along and tried to make me as comfortable as possible.
Finally as I was closing up my suitcase, one of them asked with a smile “Do you have something for me?” while rubbing his thumb and fingers together in a circular manner. Somehow, I already had a feeling this was coming, so I feigned ignorance and just smiled nervously. A lady came into the room and seeing my dumbfoundedness, clarified the situation in more detailed terms, ‘Its raining outside, can you give them something to get coffee?’. Again I just laughed and continued to load my suitcases back onto the trolley. Clearly, my mention of being here to volunteer for an international anti-corruption body didnt seem to register with them.
They gave me back my passport and got me to sign their book and telling me to add a remark in one of the columns. I just wrote “No comment”, seemingly to their dismay (no idea what they had expected me to write!). They pressed a few more times in a non-hostile manner about whether I had something to give them (maybe they were just particularly fond of the koala plushies I brought along) while I continued to smile awkwardly. Eventually they saw that they weren’t getting far with my stupidity and let me go, even helping to load my luggage back as I struggled to get it through the door in my rush to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I pushed my trolley out.There was still the last customs check to get through, where an unhappy looking man rifled through my luggage, his tone of questioning contrasted greatly with the friendly service I had just received. In fact I’ve probably never had better service at an airport before! When I eventually came out to rejoin the rest of the volunteers, I surprised them with the news of my first cultural awakening in Nairobi.
Off to more adventures!
I am glad that you arrived safely and wowww… congrat for the first-hand experience which should be helpful to your volunteer work. You were so bold to be able to withstand the pressure. If it was me I wouldn’t have a clue what to react (especially when they treated you rather nice).
Off to bed!
Haha I didnt really have any money to give them anyway even if i wanted to, as I had just landed!
Hi Justin – glad to hear you’re there safely, and look forward to see your updates.
Literally lolled!! I can’t believe you were asked for a bribe that quickly upon arriving! I suppose that tells you your volunteering efforts won’t be in vain!! Ahh well enjoy living somewhere where money can buy you everything! It’s awful, but such an efficient way of getting things done!
Haha… didn’t anyone tell you koala bears are hard currency in Kenya? Things can only improve from here…
Explosives test?! They suspected too much gas in you Buddy.
Next time for the Kenya officer, you should have given him a kiss and copped a feel. May have made him happy.
Love reading you blogs