It’s now the evening at Daraja. Around 9pm.
In the next banda over, what seems to be music in Arabic or a call to player plays while, at a distance, the campus dogs bark, insects chirp, and the stars burn on in their silence.
A little about the journey: I traveled to Daraja on January 4, leaving Milan where Matteo and I were visiting his family, at around 10pm. Matteo had already left early that morning for an adventure with cramped spaces on one flight, a blown engine on his second flight right after takeoff (which led to an emergency landing, fire trucks, and an overnight stay in New York), and a very, very long trip home. He only just arrived in the Bay area early in the morning of January 6. As for me, my flight from Dubai had a slight delay and was long, but it was also luxurious with plenty of space. I flew Emirates for the first time and was delighted in their meal selection and service. The selection of movies in over 5 languages was remarkable, including some recent blockbusters. I rarely sleep on flights and that didn’t change on my flight to Dubai (6 hours), my layover of 4 hours, and my flight from Dubai to Nairobi (5 hours).
I must say that I feel like I must find a reason to go to Dubai after going to the miracle that is their airport. My first thought: UAE as a country must love children and mothers. There were stands for strollers near escalators with slots for around 20 strollers that families could just take and use in the airport. As I traveled to my gate, I also noticed that there were small nurseries with their sliding doors open. Inside each individual nursery, there was a padded crib and two cushioned benches/couches. Usually, spaces to nurse children are hidden near the bathrooms; sometimes you have to find someone who has a key. I also saw a number of sitting areas that were set into the floor with cushions and saw more than one family using them to sleep. And, on the way, I also saw these incredible banks of lounge chairs in which travelers were comfortably resting. There were other areas nearby with the smaller banks of upright chairs, but all in all, the airport was definitely built for comfort. I also liked, too, that the snack places and restaurants were not the priority. Yes, they were there and at some, those at which I could use the meal voucher that Emirates gave me and all the customers (what other airlines do that?!), where packed. Still, I didn’t mind a short wait of the proximity of many. There were more than enough places to take food and dine. I LOVED that the kiosks were replaced by shops with some of the wares of the area. I would rather see a beautiful coffee or tea urn available at the airport shop (for very little) than the ubiquitous coffee mug with a place name painted on it. One shop had the urns, beautiful hanging lamps, and even very inexpensive fine chocolates. Nearby to that, there were the usual designer shops, but even they were different in that their doors were open and their displays seemed far more bright and inviting than any that I have ever seen. The Dubai Airport has become, in short, a favorite.
After Dubai, I traveled again on a super new airplane on Emirates, which I liked so much. All the videos, languages, great food, even a good gluten free option. Yes, I wrote that there was a gluten free option (I reserved it a day in advance) AND it was good. The second flight even had flourless chocolate cake AND a DELICIOUS gluten free bread roll (totally soft and amazing). I don’t even eat bread generally – GF bread is usually hard as a rock or it falls apart – but I ate that whole roll … with butter.
Unfortunately, upon arrival, I had about an hour and a half to wait to retrieve my bags. Poor Moses, who handles all the transportation at Daraja, was waiting for me from 2. I didn’t leave the Nairobi airport until 4 … just in time for Nairobi traffic. What should take about 3 or 3.5 hours took nearly 6. Through Nairobi, I chatted with Moses about music, holidays, politics, the school. There was an incident with a police officer after Moses took a dirt road to avoid some of the traffic. I think there was a “fee” to be paid. A lot of conversation and negotiation. I expected on the way to Nanyuki that there would be many police barrier stops as there had been in the past so I kept my bag with me to show my documents and immunization card, but no such stops, or if there were I slept through them. Around 7, I took off my sunglasses, because I was afraid I would lose them through the window with my bobbing sleepy head. I apologized a few times to Moses that I was not a great road buddy since I couldn’t keep my eyes open. He, thankfully, is very gracious.
Upon arrival, there was dinner waiting, a quick drop off at the banda of things, and checking in with the parents.
About 30 minutes later is when I finish this post. The dogs are still barking; the insects chirping; I am sure the stars burn. Only the music/calls of the human voice have stopped.