On Tuesday morning we had an early flight to Mwanza. We raced through the packing and careful styling of our hair, having stayed up the last half of the night watching TV and swatting little blood-suckers. Joseph, our faithful and fearless cabbie, was waiting in the hotel lobby. He had worked some of the night and slept in his car the last half. In total I think he got more sleep than us, but definitely missed out on some incredible Kenyan TV at 4AM.
Mwanza sits to the southwest of Nairobi as the crow flies. Apparently that's not the most profitable route, so our flight went south, to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Arusha, before heading west to Mwanza. Straight lines trumping diagonals let us fly by Kilimanjaro.
We took a twin prop plane that was filled to capacity. I was in window seat near a propeller, and watching the prop spin to life and taxi us into the great unknown was pretty cool.
The stopover in Arusha is odd if you're transiting to Mwanza. You have to actually disembark, walk through Arrivals and take a roundabout path that leads you through the airport to a point about 20 feet away from where you originally entered, except now you're in Departures. Ta-da! After about 40 minutes you re-board and continue.
After another hour or so, we touched down in Mwanza and queued up with our entry visa application, passport, customs declaration, and our yellow vaccination card (insert my bug-eyed spit-take). Vaccination cards?
I have the card, and vaccinations, but the card didn't make it into my bag. How were they to know whether I was immunized from Cholera, Bieber-fever, etc? The immunization cops were two very nice young ladies who repeatedly pointed to the orange-highlighted section of the rule book that required me to either 1) have the card or 2) get vaccinated by them. I read it, then they read it to me, then each of them in turn handed it to me and read it along with me, with a finger pointing out each word. Their hope was eventually I'd understand what a moron I was. Re-vaccination wasn't a good option because 1) double vaccination can be a bad thing, and 2) my bucket list was woefully lacking Shoot up in the Mwanza airport. Time passed, Matt joined the argument, and it was agreed that if I was dumb enough to visit Africa sans medicine I probably deserved to contract something. For a small $50USD fee they would waive the requirement, but Matt convinced them the orphans could use that money more than the government. Crisis averted.
Once we made it through immigration, customs rifled through our goodies. "What is this?" they asked about the ariel drone Matt brought (how do you say "nerd alert" in Swahili?). Ultimately we were cleared and met by Micah (mee-Kah) and took off for the Mwanza city center. We met up with Buto (Boo-toe), Moses and Sheila, who is part of a missionary family Matt's church has been supporting in the area for many years. Buto and Moses both work for NTC, a theological college with students from around central Africa looking to go into church ministry, missions, or education. Sheila's house is the hub of much activity and many visitors, and where we'd be staying the rest of the trip. Tuesday was shopping day, so we gathered supplies in town before our nearly two hour drive to her home in the village of Bulima. We filled the SUV to capacity, requiring some creative space management to get everything packed in.
We had one stop on the drive home, to pick up bags of chicken feed at a roadside shop. Two young guys were loading these incredibly heavy sacks onto the top of our vehicle. One on top, one lifting from below. It was stifling heat and enormous exertion, and these dudes were laughing and making it look like the best job in the world.
The drive itself would be the centerpiece of any amusement park. Paved & dirt roads, huge, random speed bumps and potholes, cars, trucks, buses (so many buses!) and hundreds of pedestrians and bicycles traveling along the road edge. No shoulder oftentimes, so you're really sharing the road. And whenever the path is even slightly decent, it's go-time for every motorized vehicle. Sheila, who's pushing 70, was pushing 70. We were flying past dusk into a night beyond the reaches of streetlights or even store fronts. Just headlights and occasionally cook fires off in the distance. What was nuts was the number of people walking and cycling didn't drop noticeably as the light disappeared. They still had to get home, and the road was still the fastest way to do it. It's marked as a two lane road, but that's purely a suggestion. The fluidity of road usage there is madness to the milquetoast world of midwestern american driving. I was so fascinated I dozed off for a bit.
We arrived safely, and crashed in Sheila's attic with a few fans and mosquito netting for some of the best sleep I've had in a while. When I woke up, it was to roosters, songbirds and who knows what else outside the window.