April 20, 2011

Karibu Kenya

...and have been since Saturday night. I have a rant about Dubai ( where I spent 4 hours), but that is for another post.

So I land at JKIA, go through customs very quickly because I am not  'carrying any gifts, or did not buy anything new in the USA' ( yeah right!)...and I am hoping to see my friend and her husband waiting. They are not... I see a tall white guy who looks like my friends' hubby's brother, I walk towards him and he looks at me funny. Thankfully, I had not been wearing that, 'so glad to see you smile..'

I crisscross the meeting area, accosted by taxi drivers who surreptitiously try to get me to use their cabs. Finally, I am convinced they forgot to pick me, or they looked at my itinerary wrong. They moved house immediately I left the country, and have no idea what part of the new estate they live in.

I figure that I have a phone  that I can out a SIM card in and call them. So I walk to the nearest Safaricom shop and ask for a SIM card. It's KES 200. Now, I know that inflation is high in Kenya, but not high to an extent that a SIM card that used to go for KES 20-50 is now KES 200. Apparently that is how much they cost if you buy at the airport. Poor foreigners!

I have no option but to buy this SIM Card. So i get my phone out and alas, it died somewhere between the last time I used it in Canada and 7 months later here in Kenya. So I have to buy a phone. I ask for cheapest phone they have. They show me.  It's a cheap Nokia that I know I have bought for  clients who are in Kenya for a short while. They go for about KES 1,500. The suckers at the airport  wanted KES. 3,500. I only had KES2,000 in shillings and was not about to exchange money at the airport. The upside to getting back to Kenya right now is I get more shillings for my dollars...and I planned to get the best rate possible.

I walk to the nearest ATM - Barclays. I put in my Barclays ATM card, it tells me I have negative. Since i rarely put money in that account, they have been using the little balance I had to pay for ledger fees. Then when the bank went to zero, they started charging me for having a -ve balance. I try out my KCB card. On the screen it says ' Select One Option Below.' There is only one option available - Return Card. Not good.

As I prepare to walk back to the Safaricom shop and tell them I cannot afford the phone and can she lend me hers to make the call ( Then I can refund her airtime, no?), my pal's hubby shows up.

Long story why he is late... but we get home. I cannot sleep.. my body thinks its midday but its midnight here. The following morning, I off to Kibera to check up on our film school kids (okay, most of them are 5 years or less younger than me, but they do feel like our kids). I am there till midnight!

I decide to buy them dinner. Ati fries are KES 100.  Nothing says welcome home than having to decide whether to feed your 'kids' or to fuel your car.