28 August 2005

no hope

There is no hope, people. I am stuck in Nairobi until my scheduled flight, which makes me wish that I had not wasted two days and over $75 in phone cards working on getting on an earlier flight.

So, I'm off to play in Nairobi. By which I mean, I'm getting money and a book and heading directly to Java House to have a bagel and their amazing coffee.

27 August 2005


I started to feel like Tom Hanks' character in that one movie in which he lives in an airport. You can live in an airport, actually, and it doesn't even have to be the size of O'Hare or Schipol. You can live in even the Nairobi airport. I ate at Java House and the One Dollar Cafe. I slept at the Sleep & Shower (tiny bed in a room just large enough to walk on one side of the bed - $60). I wandered around, doing nothing and periodically checking on my waitlisted status for the flight to Amsterdam.

It's a comedy of imcompetence, actually. Northwest and Kenya Airways are currently on my irritated list and rising quickly to the top as the most irritating institutions of all time. When I originally bought my tickets from Northwest, using miles, I had to call them 8 times to get the tickets. They didn't know where Kigali was. They couldn't find the flight numbers from Amsterdam to Nairobi. They couldn't contact Kenya Airways. They couldn't access the Kenya Airways system. Finally we found flights. Not the days I wanted, but flights. I was ticketed for Kigali-Nairobi on the 25th and Nairobi-Amsterdam on the 29th. The Northwest people told me to check with Kenya Airways in Africa to see if it was possible to continue on the 25th to Amsterdam.

So, in Kigali, I went to Kenya Airways. The Kenya Airways people in Kigali sent messages to Northwest asking how much the fee was to change. Never got a response. After THREE MONTHS. They finally told me I'd just have to try to change at the airport and fly standby to Amsterdam. Okay, fine.

I arrived in Nairobi at 230 pm on the 25th of August. I went straight to the transfer desk and explained my situation. They told me that they would waitlist me for the 1010 pm flight to Amsterdam and I should come back at 900 pm. I came back at 800 pm, only to be told that the change of date required approval from the Flying Dutchman (KLM) helpdesk and they had closed for the day. I called Northwest in the US instead (used $20 worth of phone cards) and tried to explain to them, although they did not understand. They told me they couldn't change my flight because they didn't show any empty seats on the 1010 pm flight (thus the meaning of the phrase, "flying standby"). Then they told me to have the Kenya Airways desk send an OSI on the PNR asking for the change to be permitted, saying that they would answer "immediately." The Kenya Airways guy I was dealing with claimed NOT TO KNOW WHAT AN OSI MESSAGE WAS and to be unable to send one. Note that neither Kenya Airways nor Northwest are allowed to call overseas, which means their only means of communication is these messages which Northwest apparently does not answer and now the Kenya Airways employee claims not to know how to send. So I missed the pm flight.

Then I cried to a supervisor for a while, and he promised me a spot on the morning flight because it was a Kenya Airways flight like my original flight (not KLM like the evening flight) and so the change should be no problem. He told me to come back at 900 am. I went and slept and came back at 820 am and talked for a while to another employee who said that an OSI was something that everyone knew how to send and he sent one. He called the KLM desk but they said that the approval had to come from Northwest Airlines. I tried to call Northwest at about 840 only to find that they had closed their office at 830 Kenya time (1230 am Central US time) and would be closed for five hours. Apparently the supervisor was wrong when he said that it was simple to switch from one Kenya Airways flight to another. So, I missed that flight.

At about 1145, sitting dejectedly in an internet cafe trying to blog without hope, I ran into an old friend from Rwanda, traveling to Uganda, who, after coffee and a sandwich and sympathy, said to me, "You need to get out of this airport right now or you are going to go crazy. Go get some sleep in a real bed."

So I did. And now I'm at a hotel in Nairobi. Still no flight. I spent another $26 on calling the US, to no avail. Right now my mom is working on it.

I hate the Nairobi airport. I hate Kenya Airways. I hate Northwest Airlines.


24 August 2005


I'm back blogging! How amazing is that? (Very amazing, if you knew how many times I've tried to blog, only to be foiled by bad internet connections.) Still not back in the US, for those of you who are wondering.

Much has happened.

There was Zanzibar - buzzing around in a car the size of a pocketbook, accidently driving south instead of east and then having to drive all the way back up along an often-questionable dirt road which once disappeared and left me nowhere to drive but the beach, fishermen staring at me all the way, turning a one and a half hour drive into a four and a half hour drive. This island lives up to all expectations, by the way. I had heard so much hype that I expected to be disappointed and initially was, with Stonetown, which is, you know, a town, although it does have a fish-fry every evening in the dark along the waterfront that has atmosphere even if the snapper, tuna, etc all appear to be the same fish that they lie to you about when they tell you that they are different fish. But then there was the pocketbook-sized car, which freed us from Stonetown and then the island was fantastic. It's like Africa, with amazing beaches. Seriously, what could I possible love more?

There was Nairobi - I did something that probably stands near the top of the list of things not to do in a random African capital, which I'm not saying yet on this website although I promise you it was hygienic. I checked. The first night, there was this hotel that lasted about four minutes because there were two huge cockroaches that scuttled through the room as we entered. IE killed one and then there was another and then we left. We told the receptionist, nicely, that we had spoken to some friends and we had another place to stay, then burst through the door as B arrived with his coworkers (he was on leave from Somalia) and said, "We couldn't stay there, there were huge cockroaches! We didn't even dare set down our bags!" and then realized that the receptionist could hear and our polite lies were for naught. But we stayed at my favorite Methodist Guest House for a night even though it is expensive and then B's friend E offered us his extra rooms, for which we thank him profusely (also I thank him doubly because he works in southern Sudan and is going to tell me what I might be able to do there next summer :-). So IE and I were free to do what we do best: shop. Trust me, we (well, mostly IE, but I helped) have completely revitalized three economies in East Africa (Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya) through the sheer power of purchasing everything in sight. Except for the part where I'm a pretty strict bargainer (this is why IE brings me along) and so maybe we didn't pay enough to revitalize everything.

Now there is Rwanda - what can I even say? I love this country. The best part is being here and the worst part is that I don't know when I'll be back. I went to Kibuye. I rode motorbike taxis without helmets (hey, I tried the helmets once and they stink. A lot.). I bought some masks and stuff. I sat and did nothing and looked at the lake and the hills. I took the Okapi (as G calls it, the Okrapi) for the first time and didn't die. Possibly partly because I made friends with the driver and told him that I was afraid of the big buses that hurtle down that road and asked if he could please drive slowly so I would feel safer. I think he did.

I still want to buy land in Kibuye, except I don't have any money.

09 August 2005

air tanzania

On a whim, some of us went to Zanzibar for the weekend. We flew, because Zanzibar is more than a day of travel by bus and boat but 50 minutes by plane. Zanzibar is incredible and amazing and worthy of an entire week's worth of posts on it's own when I get the time, but the topic of the day is Air Tanzania.

The Jessica (the plane that flies from Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar) is about 15 rows long and five seats across. Not bad. Not like the Beechcraft or the former Rwandair Express plane. Perfectly reasonable. But for some reason they fly it like crazy people. No turn is smooth. The wings are never level during the landing. The plane, in fact, is never quite side-to-side level. Considering that it's an old plane from somewhere in Scandanavia (one knows this by the signs on the exits, which have the little dots and the null-sign looking letter - is that Denmark?), I try to pretend to myself that it's just because it was from before the days of power steering - you know, the pilots have to constantly adjust like drivers in pre-power steering cars, but I find myself just constantly praying, "Please keep this plane safely in the air. Please."

I never felt that way on the 12-seater Beechcraft. Somehow, when I'm traveling for a purpose I never believe I'm about to die. The UN plane wouldn't crash, right? When I travel for fun, I always think the plane is about to go down. God doesn't want me to have fun in Zanzibar. Now that he's seen how completely I was willing to disregard my health by getting completely fried in the sun by forgetting sunscreen, that's probably correct, actually.

04 August 2005


I'm in Africa, three degrees south of the Equator. Essentially on the Equator. So how is it that I wear a thick hoodie every day and every day I am still cold? So cold. Baridi sana. Some mornings I can see my breath. Some evenings I wear the hoodie and a fleece and a scarf and I'm still cold. They told me Arusha was cold, but I assumed cold for Africa, not late October in Michigan cold in which you are never actually warm. Brrrrr.

03 August 2005

"tell me something nice."

and let me forget about everything else.

if i ignore it, will it go away?

or will it just stay, even when i'm not looking?

this morning two crows ate the chicks of a pigeon out of a nest on the building across from my window. the pigeon flapped her wings at them frantically, but they persisted, tearing the babies apart and eating them. i couldn't watch.

now all that remain are a few strands of straw where the nest once was.

sometimes i feel that way about the world. sometimes working at here doesn't help.

if a commander knows or purposely doesn't find out what his soldiers are doing, can you still convict him for mass rape?

if we know or purposely don't find out that families are starving because of the way we shop and eat, can we still be convicted for murder?

01 August 2005

posts are getting shorter

::my heart is aging i can tell::