I’m sat on the floor of Gate 11, Nairobi Airport. I did try to find a seat, but they are all occupied by weary travellers, bags and people who for some reason keep replying ‘Si’ to me when I ask if the seat is taken. The sun is setting behind the clouds over the airstrip painting the sky with oranges, golds, yellows and pale blue, a stark contrast to the greying clouds which looked so white as we flew through them. I have about 4 and a half hours until my flight to London, which will bring me back at 5.55am. As we were descending into Nairobi the Captain announced that the ground temperature was 27 degrees, but I felt a crisp chill in the air as I climbed the steps to the departure lounge. I’ve managed to leave my hoodie in the downstairs flat so I have no idea how I will brace against the crisp Autumnal weather that October in London will bring.
The last few days have been strange, trying not to think about what I am returning to, but focusing on what needed to be done before I left. Friday was quite entertaining with my classes – I’m hired as a year 3 teacher but have also been teaching singing to years 7 and 8 in a crafty swap with the PE teacher who has to cover music. On Friday after covering Emili Sande’s ‘Next to Me’ and Maroon 5’s ‘Payphone’, I told the year 8s that they would have their regular teacher for the next few weeks because I have to visit my sick father, almost all of them told me to say ‘get well soon’ from them. My year 3s seem quite excited to have the Head of Primary taking them and a few of them made me ‘We will miss you cards’ during their Golden Time.
On Friday evening some of the female staff took me to Diners – a restaurant towards the centre of the town next to our now regular Thursday take away place Sizzlers. (This week for our chicken and chips with a film we watched ‘Never Been Kissed’. I’m a little concerned how similar to the Drew Barrymore character I feel, especially now I’m writing about things, but no sign of Michael Vartan yet, which is a shame.) We had a lovely meal mixing Chinese and Indian foods, before some of us headed off to Hotel Talapia next to Lake Victoria for a drink. I think the bar staff were quite relieved that I ordered whiskey this time instead of a mojito as it takes them ages to make them, but they are a work of art.
Saturday was spent chasing up my plane ticket and organising my classroom – a job long over due. I’ve sorted out the groupings for English and Maths, written out Monday’s timetable, arranged the planning, written some incentives to help my small people behave whilst I’m away and filled a draw with things that need to be organized when I get back. There’s always a drawer like that somewhere and sometimes it takes me years to sort it. Or failing that, I tip it all in the bin.
I tried watching a film with people downstairs – ‘Anchorman’ – but the DVD player was playing up, so I returned to my room to finish of ‘The Hatfields and The McCoys’, if you’ve not seen it, it’s worth a look, I think Kevin Costner won an Emmy for it recently. People climbed the stairs to check how I was sporadically, but for the most part I kept to myself.
This morning I finally packed the suitcase with a few clothes, I’ve not got a black dress because Dad would like the funeral to be colourful on the whole. I watched more TV. It’s a great distractor. Three friends drove me to the airport; we sat having a drink waiting for the departure queue to reduce a bit and talked a fair bit of nonsense. I do know what is going to happen in the next week or so, I just don’t think it will fully hit me until I see my dad in a hospital bed. Until then nonsense and distractions are a good thing.
When I got to Nairobi I realised that Mwanza Airport hadn’t checked my bag all the way through to Heathrow – apparently this is because BA isn’t one of their partner airlines or something. I went to the transfer desk, they said fetch the bag and come back in 2 hours. I went to fetch the bag and you have to go through immigration, which means a Visa and money I can’t really afford. One of the airport workers fetched it for me, which cost me $5, then he said head to the transfer desk to hand the bag back in, but no luck again. So I’m waiting. The floor is cold and I’m starting to get a numb bum, but no one is moving from their seats. So I’m waiting. Peering into the Duty Free and souvenir shops shows prices for tat I can’t afford. So I’m waiting. Waiting for a seat, waiting for a plane, waiting for a lift from my uncle in the morning, waiting to spend the last few days of my dad’s life with him.
‘A storm is coming but I don’t mind, people are dying, I close my blinds.
All that I know is I’m breathing, now.
I want to change the world instead, I sleep I want to believe in more than you and me
But all that I know is I’m breathing, all I can do is keep breathing, all we can do is keep breathing now
All that I know is I’m breathing, all I can do is keep breathing, all we can do is keep breathing, all we can do is keep breathing.’
After standing at the check in desk for an hour and a quarter waiting for someone to come and check us in, I have a boarding pass and a luggage label. I was getting quite frustrated and concerned that I would miss my flight, until, after 45 minutes, someone asked which airline I, and those around me, was waiting for. A handsome man answered that he needed Swiss Air and ‘this charming young lady needs BA’. I’m not sure I’ve ever been described as charming before, but I’m going with it.
Obviously after that I had to talk to him a bit, if only to pass the time until the BA rep turned up (there’s only so many times you can hear “They are just coming in a few minutes” before you start to go slightly mental.) I discovered that he is flying to Zurich (I’ll see you in Zurich Green Wing fans) and then onto Bangkok where he has lived for 6 years. Originally from Shrewsbury he now has more of an international accent and works for a large hotel company. His job involves scouting around different parts of the world for new opportunities – either mergers and take overs or new builds – promoting the experiences in that area. He’s just had a not so great time in Zanzibar and I know have a rough idea of where to avoid when I go for my 29th birthday in February. He has itchy feet and is thinking about moving but has a good life, with lots of freebies, which he is reluctant to give up at this stage. A pleasant way to spend 40 or so minutes, I have no idea what his name was and since Swiss Air had not arrived to check him in and I had my ticket sorted, I had no reason to hang around the desk talking further. Perhaps serendipity will mean that he chances upon this blog, so if he does… Hello! I was at the airport with you, send me a message.
Unlikely, but it is a small world, as was shown by the next person I sat next to, an Englishman presumably in his 60s. Over the course of a 10 minute conversation with him I discovered that his father was in the same hospice as mine is, he went to school down the road from where my father grew up, his son studied at Newcastle University too and I might well know his son as he works where I used to and is in a band with people I know.