We have had an eventful week in Nairobi. We rolled into Jungle Junction last Wednesday. We planned on picking up a few packages that were ‘waiting’ here for us before heading north. Despite having two of the four packages sent and ‘signed for’ several months ago, they still haven’t arrived. Now this isn’t a big deal, this is Africa where - to quote Glenn - “EVERYTHING IS A *bleep* HASSLE! After eight days of phone calls, internet tracking searches, more calls and questions, we have located our loot.
Apparently the replacement power cord for my Kindle is in transit to JJ as I type. Our WaterStick® water filters have completed their second transatlantic flight to Africa, this time sitting in the Kenyan Post Office for a couple months growing mushrooms in the back room. Why they weren't delivered to the addressee is another question and one I haven’t the answer to. After several calls to the Postmaster I believe they are en route to the post office nearest to us, but I’m not sure. When I asked him to confirm the address on the box before he sent it over, he told me that it was too late, “the package had already been sent.” So let’s hope that whatever is in the ‘big box’ is at least as good as pure drinking water for the next few months.
And then there is what we've begun calling the million dollar Christmas presents, a parcel of thoughtfully gathered goodies express mailed 2 day air to us by Louise so that we wouldn’t have to wait around in Nairobi. These little treats - that we are sooo looking forward to - are being held hostage for $200USD ransom at the customs office at Nairobi International Airport. Not kidding you. The customs officers actually believe that some pancake syrup, a couple tubes of toothpaste, some lip balm, lotion and a couple t shirts should be taxed 14,000 Kenyan Shillings! I have Earnest at DHL working on it for me, but it looks like I will have to take a $25.00 cab ride to the Airport (we leave city driving to the pros) with a box cutter and some finely honed negotiation skills to see what we can work out.
Now we have certainly been in Africa long enough to learn how to graciously accept these little setbacks; TIA (this is Africa) is a saying that we hear often. So whatever happens, happens. Besides, St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, has been watching over us the entire trip, so who are we to second guess him now? To us, this is the Universe sending a message, and when the Universe speaks, we listen. There is some sketchy stuff going on in Sudan right now, so maybe being delayed in Kenya another week is all part of the plan.
Speaking of Sudan, yesterday we were denied our first visa (gulp). We were told by other travelers that you can obtain Sudanese visas in Nairobi. Well, apparently you can, as long as you’re NOT American (Glenn says they are jealous of our freedoms). We stood there with our applications in duplicate (yes, you actually have to fill out two with such tidbits like your religion, mothers name and blood type) looking a bit dumbfounded as the lady told us that Americans cannot enter Sudan. Nope, not possible, bye…then she refused to look at us, let alone talk to us and the plate glass barrier between us was a little hard to overcome. No explanation, nothing. We were dismissed. I think I whimpered, but… she was too distracted texting her friends to interpret my plea. We were caught off guard because there is no such restriction on either the American or the Sudanese websites and frankly, up until now we really haven’t come across a rude African.
Humm. There must be a way. We had just met an American girl who drove through Sudan a month or so ago; it is possible, it's just a matter of figuring out the logistics.
We are determined to get through Sudan. Going around Africa’s second largest country would mean crossing back through Kenya and Tanzania, Going through the Democratic Republic of Congo (ya, no), Chad and Libya… opps, as Americans we can’t get into Libya either (can’t say I blame them given our history of ‘foreign policy’), so we’d have to skirt Libya going through Niger, Algeria and finally into Tunisia before getting on a ferry back to Egypt. Or we could go through Kenya, in to Djibouti, load the cruiser onto a cargo ship sail up the Red Sea around Sudan then on to Egypt…a better of the two options for sure, but we’ve heard wonderful things about The Sudan and we really, really want to see it.
So we head over to the American Embassy for travelers assistance. Well, if you’re an overtaxed American citizen apparently you can’t visit your own embassy without an appointment. So we spent an hour trying to make an appointment via cell phone while loitering just outside the enormous gate - which surrounds an even bigger embassy complex - and were told that we cannot make an appointment because there is no one at the embassy who can assist us. Bu bye. We are AMERICAN CITIZENS WHO NEED HELP! Isn’t that what embassies are for? Can you guys at least let us past your AK 47 toting pit bulls so we can ask someone to call the Sudanese embassy and see what's up?!? You're kidding right? Nope. You can't come in. We can't help. Go away citizen.
Meanwhile, as I was wrapping up the 10th of my 12 phone calls to the embassy, Glenn was circling the complex in search of anyone who might be able to get us past the guards. As it just so happens, in a city of 3 million people, Glenn winds up talking to the brother of the woman who denied our applications at the Sudanese embassy just moments before (see what I mean about St. Christopher)! So of course, this is Africa and anything is possible, Glenn tells the brother that we will do, “whatever it takes” to get our visas. Mohammad rings his sister and they chat. He is speaking Swahili tinged with English all we can make out is: Americans, do whatever it takes, visas, Sudan. He is quite for a bit, apparently she talks after all, then hangs up the phone. He confirms that there is nothing she can do.
We return to the Jungle Junction and Glenn takes up the task of getting visas for Sudan. He makes a few calls, talks to a few fellow travelers and consults Chris, the owner of JJ and get’s us sorted the following day. Whew. Apparently, Midhat, our newly hired Sudanese fixer, can ‘arrange’ for our visas to be sent to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia upon our arrival. Yeah Glenn. Yeah Midhat! Now we’ll see what really happens in Addis.
So today we’re hanging out in Nairobbery, contemplating a second visit to the giraffe orphanage while tracking down packages and surfing the web. Thank goodness for Internet. Hopefully our packages will arrive today or tomorrow and we’ll be spared any further Afrihassles...at least for the week. I am ready to hit the open road. We are itching to see Ethiopia.
Big love to you guys. Thank you so much for following along, you make sharing the adventure a delight. Please keep the messages coming, we love reading your letters/comments.
A week in Nairobi is enough time to discover the campground chameleon, visit the elephant orphanage, the giraffe orphanage and an animal prison (by accident. It was called an orphanage, but was nothing more than a zoo). Here are the photos of our week.