9.5 Unmedicated Hours
I am 16 hours into my journey. Perched on a high stool picking at what might be the last edible meal I am served for a year. A plate of fish & chips at the Windsor Castle, an airport lounge in Terminal 4 at Heathrow airport. I wash it down with a pint of lager. Burp. I'm weary and have to focus on keeping my balance on the stool. The flight from San Francisco took 9.5 unmedicated hours, since the cheap airline discontinued trans-continental complimentary cocktails. I am 6 hours into my layover, awaiting my connecting flight to Nairobi. I do some booty-free shopping in the terminal and emerge with a bottle of Chivas Regal. I eventually board Kenya Airways and then sit and wait on the tarmac. 80 minutes pass. The flight pursor asks us to disembark. The cargo door won't shut. 50 minutes in the terminal. We board again and we're off.
Once we land in Kenya, I tear through the terminal looking for my connecting gate to catch the next segment. The gate is closed. Missed the flight. Go to the passenger services desk and engage a sullen incompetent clerk. She hands me a new boarding pass for the next flight to Bangui, which departs the following morning. She reluctantly gives me a voucher for a hotel, meals, and a one day transit visa that I'll need to stay in Kenya. Get in line and wait 40 minutes. Immigration clerk waves me to his desk. Looks at my papers and points to his colleague. I was in the wrong line. New line. 55 new minutes. As I near the front of this new line, a young girl begins to tip backwards. She faints and, like a felled tree, crashes in a heap on the ground. The back of her head breaks the fall. Her eyes twitch, struggling to retain consciousness. No one moves for a long moment. An older white man with a thick Afrikaans accent cradles her head and he instructs me to lift her legs. Airport personnel just stand and stare. I yell for them to fetch medical help. They shake me off. There is no first-aid facility in the airport. After 20 minutes, the girl is coherent and can speak. She is transferred to a wheelchair and leaves.
I collect my luggage and get shuttled to a 4-star hotel. I go to my room on the 9th floor and look out the window. The vast landscape of the Rift Valley sprawls endlessly. I see locals bent over working the sweltering fields with hand tools below me. I am immediately uncomfortable in my air-conditioned room with a television, Egyptian combed cotton bedding, newly tiled bathroom, and the bible tucked away in my nightstand. It's all wrong. Not what I had in mind for re-entry onto this ancient continent. With token guilt, I embrace what I need: a hot shower, a cold beer, and a comfie nap. I am 15 miles outside the city center, in a desolate stretch of no-mans land. I am an inmate of this hotel prison. The strategic business model of this operation works efficiently: provide isolated guests all the services and amenities they need at inflated prices. It's either Vegas or Alcatraz. Dont give them a reason to leave. It's all there: the business center, the restaurant, the gym, the swimming pool, the bar.
After dinner, I go back to my room and set my alarm for 4:30am. I am being picked up at 5 to return to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.