So I wanted to share a brief story with you about our boxes that did not make it to Kenya with us just to show you a little bit about how different things are here and how much longer some things can take.
We arrived in Kenya on Monday night and at the “baggage claim area”, we began collecting our bags and counting them. I used quotations for the baggage claim area because it was really just an area on the tarmac they designated as “baggage claim” because everything else was all messed up from the fire. So bags were just placed in straight lines on the ground for us to claim and then they let the rope down and everyone went looking for their bags, collected them and went on their way. Well, we had 21 bags or boxes to find. It took quite a while to round them all up, but as we were counting them, we knew we had a few missing. As it turned out, the boxes I took a picture of in Charlotte are the same boxes we were missing! I knew it!
So, then began the saga of trying to track down these boxes and get our hands on them. We first had to file a claim with this guy inside the area they had set up for customs. We stood there for about 30 minutes or so while 3 or 4 different people told us, “the guy is coming”. He says he will call us when the bins come in. We never did hear from him.
So, we knew the next British Airways flight into Kenya would be about the same time the next day. This would have given plenty of time for American Airlines to get the bins on a plane to Chicago and on to London so that they could make the British Airways flight to Kenya that day. We figured surely they would be there Tuesday night. So Jeff and I went to the airport on Wednesday morning to see if the bins had arrived. We arrived at the airport to find that they had a security guy outside the terminal making sure that everyone going in had a legitimate purpose. We knew that all of the missing boxes were in Jeff’s name so he brought all of his bag claim tags. I went ahead a brought mine just in case 1 or 2 happened to be in my name. Well it was a god thing I did because they would not have let me in through security without my own set of baggage claim tags. Good thinking, right? I thought so.
So we get into the place we were told to go to locate our boxes in “Unit 2”. Well, after getting through full security there, we found that “Unit 2” was only a ticket counter for international departures. It didn’t do us any good at all except that we found a lady who works with Swissport there. Swissport is the company that does all of the baggage handling in Nairobi. So, the Swissport lady got on the phone with one of her collegues and told her that we needed to go down to the cargo terminal to collect our boxes. Ok, no problem. Let’s go there.
Side note – while Jeff was talking to the swissport lady, I got on the phone with someone else with swissport and the guy said the boxes had not arrived yet, but they would be coming into Nairobi airport that night. But he said when they get there he we need to cut the zipties off and open see what was inside for customs. And I thought to myself, “wait a minute. how does he know they have zip ties on them in the first place?! We better check this out further before he goes rummaging through our bins.
So, Jeff and I agreed that even though they guy said the boxes wouldn’t be in until that night, we felt like we should make sure they weren’t already sitting there waiting for someone to go through them and find what they wanted out of them.
We got to the cargo terminal for swissport, and even as we were pulling in, a Kenyan guy with a reflective vest comes up to the car and says, “park here, I will help you find your luggage.” We knew right away this guy wanted a job. But we went along with it. He got us in through security (my tags helped again), and we went to the first window. We talked to the guy there and he said, “oh, you need to go down there.” So, we went down about 100 yards down the terminal to this other spot. (this place is like a huge loading dock area for imports and exports) We talked to a lady there and she said, “oh no, you’re not in the right place. You need to go down there.” So she sent us to a third window about 25 yards back the way we came. Finally we seemed to be in the right place. We went through another security checkpoint complete with a locking revolving gate that required a rfid card and a pat down. We get through there and we see shelves of “lost” luggage. “This is it” we thought, “we found the place”. So, we get in there and the guy who could let us in to look for our bins was not there. So, Jeff and I stood there for a while talking to a lady about her family and our families while we waited on the boss to let us in. In Kenya, you build relationships by talking to people about their families and your own family.
The guy showed up, we went and looked around. No boxes. Bummer! So, he sent us down to another little office deeper into the cargo terminal where they had pallets of avocados and roses being exported. We got to the office and guy there tells us “We have information that your boxes will be arriving in Kenya tonight.” Did you catch that? He did not say definitively “your boxes are arriving in Kenya tonight.” He said, “we have information…” Big difference. So, we went away disappointed and decided we would try again in the morning. But WOW! That whole ordeal took us at least 2 or 3 hours at the airport.
And then traffic, OH TRAFFIC! the traffic here is horrendous! It took us about 2 or 3 hours to get back to the same spot that it only took us 30 minutes to get there. No one has any kind of courtesy in driving. If you aren’t right on the bumper of the person in front of you, the person next to you will quickly jack that spot. There are tons of round-abouts to make your way through or to turn onto another street. When you get to a round about, you just have to jump in there and jump out in front of someone when you are ready to exit. “It’s like weaving a basket.”
So, the next morning, Jeff and I fought the traffic AGAIN. We went straight to the cargo terminal, walked right in without our “tour-guide”, got through security, the boxes were not on the shelves, so we went back to the office again. The guy there told us more information about why the boxes had not gotten in again. They did not make it out of Charlotte until a day later. They sat in Chicago another full day, and then they sat in London a full day! WOW! So, we had to go on to Embu that day.
We finally got a call while we were in Embu that they had come in and we insisted that they get delivered to the place we would be staying in Nairobi the following night. So, finally Friday night, they arrived!
As you can see, things move so slowly here. You just have to be persistent and be patient.
That’s just how it is in Kenya.