Wednesday, June 2, 2010

She's baaaack!

I have so much to write about...! It's been a fun-filled few weeks since I arrived in East Africa, and I finally have a chance to start writing some blogs posts again now. I'll start with my first few days in Kenya, and then over the next several days I'll write some posts about the Tanzania fieldwork....

So I'll tell you now that I'm blog-cheating - I'm posting this on June 25th, even though it's about what I did on June 2nd. I just figured out how to change the date of my posts. Heh heh heh (she says, wringing her hands together in a sinister way.)

So... it's June 2nd. (Er, well, it was when I jotted down the raw material for this post.) My wonderfully organized husband arrived early at the museum to pick me up for my flight, as he was very anxious to make sure I got there on time - and it's a good thing, too, since the tram I was on in Dulles broke down! We all had to get off and walk to the next terminal, but only after a few agonizing minutes of not knowing what the heck was going on. Anyway, this transatlantic trip was a bit different than my usual, since I was routed through London instead of Amsterdam (I'm not sure why, but it might have to do with my 2 1/2 week detour to France on my way home this time). The guy I sat next to on the flight from DC to London kept his light on the whole time (grrrr!) so I didn't sleep much... I watched Invictus (love Morgan Freeman) and a bunch of TV shows. I walked around Heathrow in a limnal, jet-lag-tinged state for a few hours, and grabbed some food and a few books - 1 science writing, 1 bestselling fiction, 1 cheesy fiction, 1 “serious”, and 1 Africa-based; It reminded me of when I was traveling through Europe after studying in London during my junior year of college and there was some issue with the train from Germany to... somewhere... and we ended up on an overnight bus through Luxembourg with a bunch of other tired souls, including this terribly loud and obnoxious family from Texas who made me reluctant to admit I was American. But that was a decade and a half ago, and I digress.

I enjoyed hearing the familiar cadence of African-style English mixed with Swahili as I waited at the gate in London. The flight from London to Nairobi was much more pleasant; a nice Tanzanian girl and I shared three seats, and somehow forged an unspoken agreement to trade off sleeping with our legs up on the middle seat (first her, then me, then her...). I looked at the map of East Africa as we got closer to our destination; the names of places in which some of my most indelible memories have been inked: Tsavo, Arusha, Mombasa, Nairobi, Lamu. Where I was almost trampled by an elephant; where I ended the longest relationship I ever had; where I vacationed with my mom; where I've spent years of my life; where I got engaged.

We landed, and I made a beeline for passport control. A lawyer named Travis was kind enough to let me go in front of him when he realized he hadn't filled out his immigration card; in turn, I waited with one of his bags while he went to fill out the lost baggage form for another one. He's here to work on human rights issues related to the post-election violence a few years ago. I wished him good luck in Samburu when he finally found the person who'd been sent to the airport to pick him up, found a taxi, and I was off.

As I always do, I chatted with the taxi driver about the weather and politics. (The weather was a natural subject that evening since it was POURING rain, which is a little unusual for early June. Nothing like having to walk across the tarmac under buckets of rain after a long flight to make you think... AWA. Africa Wins Again.) It turns out there's a referendum on the constitution on August 4th; good to know.

Another unusual thing about this trip is that since I was only in Nairobi for 2 nights before going to Tanzania, I was staying in a hotel instead of in the furnished apartment we usually rent for the summer. As I unpacked and started to get a little organized, and found that one of my ziploc bags full of toiletries was now a big mess - my shampoo, travel bath soap, and 3 months worth of vitamins had all exploded and combined into a greenish-tinged paste. Ick! I started to rinse off the other toiletries in that bag, and dripped some of the gooey concoction onto my only long-sleeved shirt. Crap. At that point I was really tired, so instead of taking a shower, I decided to just wash my feet in the bidet (go ahead and laugh, but they were pretty dirty since I'd been wearing sandals on the whole journey) and shower in the morning. I turned on my blackberry to see if it was working over here (nope, even though it's supposed to be... argh), and I still needed to reactivate my Kenyan cell phone, so I couldn't let my parents, Peter, or Cindy know I made it here safely. So I took a melatonin to help me sleep through the night, read a little bit of the bestselling fiction (Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri - I've already finished it, and it was fantastic!), put in my earplugs since my hotel room was on the side near the main highway, and slept for 8 1/2 hours!

Tomorrow, I'll write about June 3rd (running around Nairobi getting ready for my Tanzania trip), and then I get to tell you about my Tanzanian adventures... those posts will be accompanied by lots of pictures, since it was such a beautiful place!