It’s hard to believe that I have to fly all the way to Amsterdam in order to listen to Dutch music. I’m on an airplane flying at 600mph over the United States. The in-seat personal entertainment TV has a music selection with includes “KLM fm”, “CD jukebox”, “Audio books”, and “Dutch music”. My friend Matt would be crushed that it’s so easy to listen to that music if all you have to do is buy a plane ticket. It is also quite amazing to see that it is -57 degrees at the altitude we are flying at. That is cold, even for us used to the wild weather in the desert (wonder what the chill factor is like at 600mph?). We are “only” 5 miles high. I know in reality that is probably a lot, but when you think of the fact that we can drive 5 miles in about as many minutes, kind of makes you realize how low the planes really cruise at.
Getting on the plane went well and was extremely quick. Jeremy and I spent about a half hour at his house redistributing the weight of our luggage so we could stay under the 50lb per bag, 2 bag each limit. We got everything weight in at the airline scales at 200.5lbs; and then the lady was kind enough to ask if we wanted to check our carry-on as well since we get 3 checked bags each. Free. (due apparently to Jeremy’s skymiles card). *sigh* oh well. We got everything we needed on the plane. The best part is all 4 bags actually arrived in Kenya!
Minor miracle as we were about to climb into Jeremy’s car to drive over to LAX. We ordered 10 ATA units for the project, one of which is to be a spare. When we unboxed and tested them last Sunday 2 had damaged connectors and one was completely DOA. The replacements were scheduled to arrive “sometime today (Friday)”. As we were getting in the car Jeremy got a text from somebody in the office letting him know the replacement ATAs had just arrived. While we drove over to pick them up and swap out luggage they tested them for us to make sure they turned on and were not damaged.
So Jeremy and I spent about 18 long hours in the air. We had a 10 hour flight from LAX to Amsterdam and then a 1 hour 20 minute layover before we boarded the next plane. All said and done we had about 15 minutes to stretch our legs. From there it was another 8 hour flight down to Kenya. In reality everything went great. We didn’t have any trouble and honestly there really wasn’t anything different about the flight other than having to show my passport every few minutes instead of just my drivers license. That is until we got to Nairobi airport.
So, Jeff, the guy that picked us up and is the point-man for our visit here at RVA, said that in the 6 years he has been here customs has never charged anybody when bringing equipment into the country. They just say it is for RVA and “oh okay, go on ahead then.” So of course, Jeremy and I have to break that record. The guy has never heard of RVA. We of course have no paperwork on any of the equipment to show how much it actually costs. So what is the obvious thing for the customs agent to do? (actually maybe they are called duty agents, I’m not sure which is for incoming and which is for outgoing) Why of course, he makes up some numbers in his head as to how much he thinks those items cost and then calculates the amount of tax we have to pay to bring that equipment into the country… On the order of $370-something. Ouch. Thankfully Fady was standing outside and happened to have a wad of cash in his pocket.
So then the drive out to RVA. It’s about an hour drive. And some of the most terrifying things I have ever seen. Never mind the fact that everybody drives on the “wrong” side of the road. Never mind that at the check-gate leaving the airport there were armed guards with AK-47s (or whatever) walking around peering in the windows. Never mind that everybody drives like they are from Vegas. Let me be sure to mention one thing. There are no lines on the roads and for more than half the drive no dividers either. Oh and the road does the small curves constantly so you think you are about to have a head-on with somebody until at the last second the road veers away from them. By the way, did I mention that it was night-time when we arrived and very dark? We also passed more than one semi truck stopped (that is parked for the night) right smack dab in the middle of the road with all the lights turned off. I think I forgot to mention that there are traffic signals, so that was helpful with all the circular loops at every single intersection… Except for the fact that nobody pays attention to them and everybody runs the red lights without even slowing down. I’ll never complain about Los Angeles again.
On the bright side, we finally got to RVA (alive I might add). They were hoping to have a single residence for us to all share. Oops no such luck. They do, however, have 4 different families that each have a spare bedroom (or maybe it was they had a kid they could move in with another kid for a few days). So we are each staying at a different house with bleary-eyed people we each met for about 30 seconds before going back to bed. We still haven’t addressed the water issue (as in the “it’s safe to drink from the tap” statement), but malaria mosquitos don’t seem to be much of a problem because of the elevation (2,500km, or about 7,500 feet). And God is good to me on my first trip, I get a real bed to sleep in!
So with that ends day number 1. Starting at 5am Friday PST, ending at 1:30pm Saturday PST (or 12:30am Sunday morning for me). Tomorrow we will eat breakfast, go to church and then roll up our sleeves. Now the fun really begins!