When I arrive after 20 hours of travel into the international airport in Nairobi, named for the first president of the country, Jomo Kenyatta, it warms me like a subtle hug; the air is thicker than the plane air and somehow spiced. The corners of my mouth turn up as I realize that I have reached the exotic and familiar destination of the land I love. The faces I see as I enter the terminal are all stoic with business on their minds. But I smile feebly and manage a “Habari?” in greeting. I’m tired. The workers smile in return and answer they are fine.
I stumble along hoping I am going the right way. Have I ever arrived at JKIA when I was in my right mind? Yet, it’s my airport; I don’t want to look like a tourist! I queue in the line for those without visas. Every line seems to go faster than mine and I am in the last handful through and down the stairs to the luggage area. It’s okay. I’m sure my luggage isn’t off yet anyway.
Once I’m loaded onto a cart (there is no charge for luggage carts here in my favorite airport) I struggle to get it to customs. There I greet a tired agent in English with a question about how he is and how is his work today. He asks me what I have in those big cases. I tell them it’s my clothes and person things, some things for cooking and shampoo, things like that. Okay he says and waves me by.
When I find my friend and push the cart outside after telling more than one person I do not need help or a taxi I find the night air warm and windy. A second kind of a hug from my place in the world. I’m glad to finally be in summer after such a long winter. I will be greeted the next day by my house worker telling me that I am “very white.”
Arriving in Nairobi after such a long trip challenges both my intuition and my senses. I want to use both, I need both but everything is difficult in such a sleep deprived state. I enjoy my initial impressions immensely, if only I could experience them well rested.