The anticipation of my daughter Jayna and I traveling to rural Kenya to live for a few months at an all-girls boarding school has been building for some time.
With this type of lengthy anticipation it often comes as quite a shock when the day actually arrives and you find yourself scrambling to ensure you’re prepared for such a commitment. I suppose I should just fess up that I’m a procrastinator who in some way enjoys living on the edge relying on experience for it all to fall into place.
Experience does have its benefits when it comes to international travel. I have learned to let go of all expectations in regards to my vision of how I see the trip unfolding and allow each hiccup to be just another part of the adventure. Of course, traveling with a child always ensures there will be unexpected detours and plenty of uh-ohs, but Jayna, too, has learned to roll with the punches and has become quite the desirable travel companion. Regardless of experience, I still make errors and this trip was no exception. So bear with me as I air my very dirty “I thought you knew what you were doing” travel laundry. Here goes ...
Many countries require you to have a visa upon entry into the country. Since I have traveled to Kenya before, I was aware that one was required but that it also could be purchased at the airport.
When arranging with the school I received notification that a six-month visa would be available for purchase at the airport and so booked my flight to return in four months. Seems this information provided by the school is a bit outdated and the visa is currently issued is only valid for 90 days. Delta flagged this and would not allow us to board the flight to Amsterdam until my flight date was changed to fall within this time frame.
I have never rebooked a flight so quickly and squeezed through the boarding gate just as the flight attendants were preparing to close the airplane.
In addition, I knew that once we arrived in Nairobi the process of maneuvering through customs would be challenging. I had been warned by friends in Kenya to expect delays during customs procedures and so the wait began and the queues to pass through checkpoints and baggage claim winded endlessly through and out of these white tents.
Despite the chaotic circumstances that welcomed us back to Kenya, I can’t help but smile and be thankful to be back in “God’s Place.” When I look around and see the people, the sights, the smells and feel the energy I remember why I have a love affair with Africa.
Life is real here and despite extreme poverty, lack of infrastructure and high crime rates this bustling and overcrowded city is like many the world over and it tells a very compelling story. I’m fascinated by all that surrounds me and simmer in the satisfaction of sharing this world with my daughter who, just as I do, embraces all of Kenya ... her beauty and her scars.
Today we head North to Nanyuki and to Daraja Academy where Jayna and I will be living for the next few months. Daraja Academy is a boarding secondary school for Kenyan girls with top academic scores and exceptional leadership skills, but no means to continue their education.
I’m eager to leave the city behind and find a rhythm with the slower pace of life that exists in this small school community. Although I’ve been invited to Daraja to share my expertise and to empower these young women, I have a feeling that both Jayna and I will return home with greater lessons learned and hearts full of knowledge and appreciation.
Jane Davis, a Wenatchee native, and her daughter Jayna will be in Kenya this fall where Jane will be teaching at a girl’s school. She can be reached at email@example.com.