Browsing Category: Travels

Nairobi


It seems that the only flights that go to Nairobi arrive in the middle of the night and that was the case for us. After a pretty uneventful flight we arrived at 3:30 in the morning. Rebecca had arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport and Munini was there with his Nadiya and Sumeera sign right as we exited the baggage claim. At one point, when he took a shortcut on some random side road we were very relieved that the driver was someone Rebeccah knew because if it had been anyone else, we would have been peeing our pants from being convinced that we were being kidnapped.

We arrived to the Slum Gardens (the UN intern housing used to be slums but now it is quite nice!) to poor Rebecca who had to be up in the middle of the night for our arrival. In case I don’t mention it a hundred times in my discussion of this trip, Rebecca is the best friend ever. She told us everything we needed to know about being in Nairobi and brought us breakfast food for the morning and finally headed to bed after six even though she had work the next morning! What an all-star.
The next morning, the first thing we did was get a SIM for the phone so we would have a way to stay in touch with Rebecca. We had planned to meet her for lunch and headed over to the UN offices. We were in awe of how beautiful Naiorbi was. There were flowers I hadn’t seen in any of the botanical gardens I had been to in the world. And after being in Cairo and Istanbul, Nadiya and I were blown away by all the green. We were in heaven!

The UN cafeteria is ridiculous. Ridiculously good. The offices are done so well and integrate all the greenery outside into the buildings. Nadiya and I spent a minute or two fantasizing about working at the UN in Nairobi. After lunch we went around and met some of Rebecca’s co-workers and finally headed out.

Our next stop was to a Masaai Market which was amaazzing. We spent a good three hours or shopping and were able to get some amazing things. When we first walked in, we had to do our best not to drool so we wouldn’t get totally ripped off on everything we planned to buy. Becs had told us that everything should cost around 2-300 shillings and that was a good guide. I think we got some good deals because we were so ruthless about sticking within that range for the smaller things.

Exhausted, we headed back to Rebeccas where she was having a barbeque with 20 or so friend which led to a nice evening tour outside chatting with lots of interesting people and eating barbecued pineapple. It was there that we heard many, many amazing things about Lamu. One guy said that once we got there, we would never, ever leave. Others said it was like paradise on Earth. The next morning at 8 am we would fly out to Lamu to see what all the hype was about. Would we love it? Would we hate it? Would we meet a man who had a lamb that followed him everywhere?? Stay tuned.

oh yeah, this is a travel blog.

This Monday I returned from a ten day trip to Egypt and Kenya. I spent eight day in Kenya and two days in Egypt. Although I had been to Egypt for a few weeks before I considered my visit to Kenya as my first real time experiencing African culture and life.

The idea to go to Kenya came up a month or so ago in a discussion with my good friend Nadiya. We had both been independently toying with the idea of going but hadn’t given it serious consideration. Once we found our that we both wanted to go, the plan was on. We started figuring out dates and places we wanted to visit. Our initial idea had been to spend about 17 days going through Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar. But both of us realized that wouldn’t be do-able with our work schedules and for a moment we thought we would have to call the whole trip off.

After I came back from London, I was talking to my friend Rebecca from law school and found out that she was actually working at the UN in Nairobi. And just like that, our plan was back on! Nadiya and I booked our tickets to go to Kenya the following week!

I love to be spontaneous and do things last minute but if you are planning a trip to Africa, you may want to plan just a little more in advance! For one, we realized that we would need to get a yellow fever vaccine, which took 8 days to be effective. Oops. We also needed to get some other shots and get a hold of malaria pills, bug sprays, etc.

Luckily for us, Rebecca was a great help and saved us a lot of time researching what to do in Kenya and what things to be prepared for. Safety is a huge issue in Kenya and if it hadn’t been for Rebecca’s many reminders about hijackings and kidnappings in the country, we may not have been as cautious as we were.

So on Wednesday May 6th I boarded the plane for Cairo. Nadiya and I thought it would be fun to travel together so I met her in Cairo so we could take the flight to Nairobi together.

I arrived in Cairo in the middle of the night and Nadiya was there waiting at the airport. I wanted to jump up and down, I was so excited to see her after so long! We took the taxi to her place and stayed up talking until six or seven am. Poor Nadiya had to go into work and I proceeded to sleep until noon. When I woke up I was very hungry and realized that I knew nothing about the neighborhood I was in! Nadiya lives in what is like the suburbs of Cairo and I had no idea where to go for food! I looked around for a phone to call Nadiya at work but there was none. Oh well, I thought. How hard can it be to walk outside and get some food?

After four hours in the sweltering Cairo sun, and two hours of wandering around lost (I am pretty sure I could get lost in an empty box.) I finally found my way back to Nadiya’s apartment. I had a pida and 1 litre of Diet Coke to show for my efforts. I promptly fell asleep after my adventure and woke up periodically to take a swig of coke and eat some bread.

Nadiya came home soon after and we laughed about the day. She had been trying to call all day but someone had unplugged her land line! We ordered in some food and started her packing for our big adventure. Tomorrow I’ll continue with stories about our first day in Kenya!

(Disclaimer: I saw no pyramids on this trip. That is just a google image result for Cairo. :) )

Waiting in London

I came into the UK on the 9th worried that they wouldn’t let me in with proper grounds for concern. After being denied entry when I was coming in from Paris at the end of 2009, this was my first attempt to come back to the UK. We had contacted the consulate and the UK Border Agency and even spoken to immigration lawyers to make sure that if I was trying to enter the UK I wouldn’t be turned around and sent back on the next flight.

I arrived to London with a fair amount of apprehension. I was called up to the counter by a South Asian pregnant woman and was hopeful that she would go easy on me but no dice. She grilled me and then pulled me aside while they did extra checks on me. I had come with a return ticket, a letter from IFC stating that I was on temporary leave and identifying how long I had worked with them and a letter from my law firm stating that I would be starting in the fall. All of this did not ease their worries. They grilled me with questions and kept letting me know that they weren’t believing a word I was saying. Finally, after making a few calls, the lady came back and told me that she was going to give me the benefit of the doubt and let me land but that I MUST leave on Tuesday or I would be deported. I laughed and held up my hands like a scout and promised that I would leave on Tuesday. She said, Well you better or you will be deported. Again, I laughed and said, I love my job! I would never overstay! She said, That’s fine because if you do, you will be DEPORTED!

On Wednesday afternoon Feraz and I got on a flight to Scotland, just before the mass airline crisis took place. Luckily for us, we had already booked a train ticket to Birmingham and weren’t stranded in Scotland. We were thankful for that and thankful we had a ticket! The trains were jam packed even on Friday and that was before people had really fully begin to realize the implications of the eruptions. It seems that its becoming rather impossible to even get a train ticket at the moment because of everyone’s desperation to get home.

My return flight to Istanbul was to be on Tuesday but as of now all flights for Monday have been cancelled which makes me think it might be quite unlikely that the flight will go off without a hitch or at all. For the most part, I’m happy that these precautions are being taken. All it would take is for one plane to go down to really set off mass hysteria and to hurt the aviation industry even more than this US $200 million a day crisis already is.

As for my status here, I am going to email and call the Border Agency but there really is little I can do beyond that. On the one hand the lady’s threat of deporting me would give me one of the first tickets out of the country. On the other hand, I’ll have to extend my holiday a little and take in some more of London’s museums and shows. I’m obviously one of the more lucky ones.

There are others stuck without a hotel or any promise of getting home anytime soon. They are stuck in airports, waiting without any compensation or hope of getting off the ground anytime soon. One of the benefits of an international family and network is that home is always just around the corner.

One Year Anniversary


Today is the one year anniversary of my arrival to Istanbul. In my first days, I struggled to learn to say basic words like hello and thank you. All around me there was the buzz of a language of which I knew nothing and every street and corner was unfamiliar.

When I first came here I thought it would be for a simple four month stay. I had come fresh off the heels of law school where I spent almost every day in the company of my friends and going to endless social activities. I came from living an hour away from my parents, 20 minutes from my in-laws and a hop and a skip away from almost everyone that played any significant role in my day to day life.

And all of the sudden it was all gone.

Through this last year I have loved and hated Istanbul. There were times when I wanted to book the next flight available back home and others where I never, ever wanted to leave. George Bernard Shaw said, “I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.” I had often read this quote and never understood it. Even now, I’m not sure I fully understand it but I think the growth and learning that happens while being abroad happens in the uncomfortable places, the ones that live far from familiarity and ease.

I know people who are not keen to travel. They are happy to stay within one city or neighborhood their entire lives and I think the person that has not traveled, that has had the opportunity to see the world and has wilfully not done so is a person that is missing a great deal from life. St. Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” How can we know anything about ourselves without knowing anything about other people? How can we read that one page and think we know anything at all?

I can understand that people might not travel because they don’t have the money or the freedom but I think that if there is any way to find that money and time, then there is no better way to spend either than on the road, in new lands and places where we are challenged to realize that there are many different types of people in the world and we must continually find ways for our individual existence to empower the collective existence.

In this last year I did not often think of myself as an ex-pat but as a traveler. As someone who was desperate to understand something about the country that I was living in and by extension to understand some things about myself. Today is the one year anniversary of my arrival to Istanbul, and I celebrate it as someone changed; hopefully better and definitely stronger. Here is to hoping for more adventures, challenges and inspiration in my last six months here.

Every Grain of Sand

I am obsessed with this song lately. I highly recommend you download it if you don’t have it. Every Grain of Sand by Bob Dylan:

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere,
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair.

Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake,
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break.
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear,
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer.
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay.

I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name.
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light,
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space,
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me.
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

Also, here are pictures from Spain. The captions capture the whole trip.