(written Monday April 23 21:48 Kenyan time)
I have arrived! The trip out was boring and uneventful, as all good flights should be. When I landed in Nairobi, I went through passport control and got my visa ($50 cover charge for entry to Kenya). When I went to baggage claim, both bags were blissfully waiting for me, nothing missing. So definitely off to a good start. (picture: sunset on arrival in Kenya, from the air) Customs was a bit more interesting though. The first agent was shaking his head quite vigorously at all my camera equipment, and went to get his supervisor. Once he arrived, he started to explain that to bring this much equipment into Kenya, that I must have arranged for it ahead of time and should have an "agent" in Kenya waiting for me with the proper paperwork. This is, of course, the first time I've ever heard of this. I told them that I discussed my trip at length with the Kenyan embassy in Los Angeles and that they said nothing of this. He went on to tell me that I would have to pay 1% tax on the value of the equipment, which I told him made sense if I was leaving it here but that I was bringing it back with me. I explained that I am a photographer, that this is my livelihood, and of course who I was here to see, etc. etc. He finally relented and said "Ok, this time I will let you go… but next time you must arrange an agent in Nairobi first". Oh good then. On leaving customs I expected to see Carol waiting for me, as she had described herself in an email as "the only white 60 year old woman with a big smile on her face". However she was not there, but three Pokot that work with the IHF were there in her stead, with a big sign reading "Joseph IHF". Figured that was for me. The three guys are Joshua, Andrew, and Fred. We headed out to an IHF van and loaded up my gear, then drove for probably 20 minutes into Nairobi to spend the night at the YMCA. The weather is quite nice; like a cool summer evening. However it will be much hotter once we get out to the valley. It turns out that Carol is quite ill; she arrived yesterday (from Bangkok, I think), and has a terrible stomach ache. Hopefully nothing too serious. I still haven't met her; when Joshua knocked on her door and she answered, she sounded terrible, so we went on to eat without her.
We had dinner at the YMCA's kitchen. Fish, slightly breaded with a kind of jerk sauce on it, accompanied by cole slaw and soggy fries. The fries I could do without but the fish was quite good. We washed it all down with Fanta's. They have lemon Fanta here! They call it citron; now I know what to order next time. I grew up on that in Spain and you can't get it in the US. Dinner for four cost 820 Kenyan shillings. I think it's 70 shillings to the dollar. I should probably look that up. (pictures: Andrew [left] and Joshua [right] enjoying dinner) Tomorrow morning we will drive to Nakuru, about two hours drive, where we get ready for the trip to the Pokot tribe, another 4 to 5 hours drive from there, depending on the road conditions. There have been rains lately (in fact it's raining right now), and apparently these are mostly unpaved roads so they get washed out pretty easily. Also while in Nakuru, Joshua said they have to meet with a lawyer to discuss some legal matters, so I really don't know how long we'll be there or when we'll actually get to the Pokot. I'm sharing a room with Joshua, and we got to chatting about his name. His english, or western name, is Joshua, but his birth name is Nalaket. He explained that most children get an english name when they are baptized, but he did not. Instead he got one when he went to school, which was much later than most. He started the first grade around the age of 10, and at that time still had no western name. In school his "prefect" (student leader) was a fellow named Moses. When Moses moved on, Nalaket took his place. In searching for an English name to give himself, he read the story of Moses to see who succeeded Moses. That was Joshua. So, he took the name Joshua. Quite a cool story; how many of us get to choose our own names? Andrew's native name is Panga, and Joshua wasn't sure of Fred's native name. Oh right - no cell coverage, even in Nairobi. Someone call Cingular and yell at them for me please? They said I'd be roaming fine here, however even though I can see three networks, they are all x'ed out in the list and when I select them they're listed as "for emergency calls only". Time for bed. I took a few pictures of them at dinner as well.