“Stop the car,” says Jane. “Take me back to the airport.”
It’s 11 pm. After an uneventful flight – save for the mother who let her (very obviously distressed) 4 year old son bawl for 20 minutes, we land in Nairobi.
We’re last on the plane. (Are there many international airports where the flight attendant approaches you in duty-free to remind you the plane is about to leave?)
We banter with the guys at immigration at Jomo Kenyatta Airport. Despite being EAC residents – and regular visitors to Kenya – they still want to charge Jane the standard $50 tourist visa fee. (Where’s EAC integration when you need it?) The Guy with the Attitude tells her to show him where her visa is (isn’t it HIS job to decipher all those pages of stamps and dodgy handwriting?) “Na na na na” she says as she flashes the page in his face. Too late. He has started writing her name on the visa stamp.
Next in line, mine therefore reads her name crossed out then mine.
A note to Immigration: I’m trying to adhere to the rules but … despite my best and honest efforts, last time I entered Kenya as Nagawa (my Ugandan name) and I left as a US citizen.
It’s only when we get in the taxi that Jane – two hours sans fags – notices the large sign in front of her saying:
“Stop the car,” says Jane. “Take me back to the airport. I want another car.”
“What?” asks the driver, confused.
“It is against company policy to smoke in our taxis.” He carries on driving.
“It is against the law to smoke in a taxi in Kenya.” He’s biding his time…
A fast one-way road stretches out in front of us (how will he turn round?) Uganda’s potholed roads force us to drive slowly; smooth, fast roads always scare me when I first leave Uganda
Jane picks up the phone and calls his boss. I squirm in the back of the car.
Jane’s voice rises. “You lied to me!” she tells him,” it is NOT company policy that passengers can’t smoke in cars and it is NOT illegal to smoke in a taxi in Kenya.” Even I’m feeling like a fag by now!
Her accusations are met with silence from the driver.
Karibu – welcome to Kenya … ! This conversation just would not happen in Uganda. Few people smoke / few people care if you smoke and disagreements are met with grace and humour (and a good measure of bullshit) but there’s rarely anger.
Tight rows of reflector posts guide us towards the well-lit UN HQ, soldiers patrolling its perimeter. And then, amidst all this security, a young man launches himself into the middle of the road ahead of us, grinning and waving his arms at us to slow down.
Our driver slows down. “Just keep on driving,” shouts Jane.
Why, after speeding all the way from the airport, does he choose to slow down at the chance of trouble? (Nairobi’s reputation for car jackings precedes it).
“Drive the fucker over!”
I didn’t come to Nairobi to kill someone; but suddenly, all the rules have changed. It feels so different to Uganda.
The driver puts his foot down and we continue into the night.
I first visited Nairobi en route to South Africa – A quick glimpse of Nairobi nightlife
To save money, I slept in the airport. Check out this funky web site – Sleeping in Airports! and my review of Nairobi airport.
An alternative way to travel from Uganda, is by bus – Kampala to Nairobi – 14 hours of speed bumps