I arrived at 1am to Nairobi International Airport. What surprised me the most was that as soon as we got off the plane we were greeted in English.
Not "Mambo", which is Swahili. But instead it was just... "Hello! Welcome!" and a big ol smile.
I definitely felt welcomed.
Moving through Customs, on top of that, took 5 minutes! Four of those minutes were me filling out the VISA form. I approached the desk and the woman helping was very soft spoken, firm, and if you can believe it all at the same time... kind.
You dont get that from Customs in other places!
I handed her $100 thinking that was the entry fee for the VISA. Nope not at all. She was like, "What is this? You are giving me too much. Only $50, I dont need a tip." We had a good laugh with that one. She then proceeded to tell me about the differences in VISAs for the surrounding countries. She wanted to be sure I was taken care of and I appreciated that.
I walked out of the airport, slightly nervous, as my phone had not connected to the network and I wanted to contact Irene so she knew I was coming.
Who is Irene you might ask? She is my host for my time in Nairobi that I found through www.couchsurfer.com.
Yup, that's one of the many ways I made this trip affordable. Let's not forget that I am an actor.
For those who are unfamiliar, couchsurfing is when someone asks another individual to stay in their home for free. The official website has created an online community where people from all over the world can find eachother and lend their space or be a guest. Every situation is different. Sometimes you literally stay on a couch. Other times, it's a private room or maybe an air mattress. It just depends. I decided I only wanted to stay with female hosts and I wanted my own room. Fortunately, I found several gracious guests that offered that and Irene was the first to say yes after reading my profile.
Anyway back to the story...
My phone was having a hard time switching over to the new network, so I nervously decided to walk out into this new land.
I had nothing to fear.
Irene's driver, Maina, was there holding up my name on a card just as Irene had set up.
Again, I felt that great sense of ease. Within that moment. Walking out into this land was quite similar to the feeling I have when walking out of the airport in Trinidad. Trinidad is where my family is from. I was home. Not like that teary eyed "Back To Africa" kind of thing we all wait to happen, but just comfortable. The quiet clean air, the palm trees, the black faces all around - I was simply in my comfort zone.
I made it to Irene's home at 2AM and she was awake and ready to receive me. We shared a quick hug and I could tell she was ready to tip over so I followed her along on a quick tour. Now what did surprise me was that Irene had a British accent! I was not expecting that. I decided to explore her English speaking origins in the morning.
I also was not expecting her immaculate home. The place was gorgeous. Three bedrooms. One where she stayed, another where LJ stayed (another couchsurfer), and lastly my room.
Talk about a room!
I had my own bedroom and bath inside. It was so comfortable, classy, and modern. It was crazy how much it did not feel like I hadn't left the west. The transition was seamless into this new African territory. Ok, 26hour flight down. Time for sleep. Tomorrow is exploration Kenya!