after a nice few days together in Tofo, it was time to move on to new adventures and safaris in Tanzania (*Tan Zain ya). We left Inhambane (In Hahm Bahn ay) for Johannesburg, then the next morning we boarded a Kenya Airways flight for Kiliminjaro with a connection in Nairobi. Kenya Airways was quite nice, it is on the approved European list of African airlines. We landed in Nairobi and headed for the connecting gate to Kiliminjaro, where I quickly learned my passport was missing. I am always very paranoid about making sure I have my passport, so Randy and I were both in shock. And so the saga began….
First, I retraced all of my steps from gate 9 to gate 5. I checked the bathroom, waiting areas, walkways. No passport. We suggested they check the plane we came in on. That plane, we were informed, had left and was on its way to Cairo. Later it was on the way to Khartoum. The gate agent said she couldn’t reach Khartoum or Cairo, as though there is no one working in those airports. We went to the help desk where two women stared at us wide eyed as we told the story, then they promptly passed the issue to the foreign protocol officer on duty. While they were doing that, I called the US Embassy in Nairobi. It was a Sunday, but the on- duty officer was very sympathetic and took my number so she could check on what to do. Then the foreign protocol guy comes and listens in much puzzlement to our story. He has no idea what to do, but he informs us that I cannot leave the secured area of the airport since I have no passport and no visa for Kenya. Duh, we are trapped in transit.
The embassy tells me to make a police report, but again, the protocol man says the police office is outside the airport so I cannot go there. We asked him if he could please have a police officer come to us. That took quite a bit of time on the phone, and we never actually had an answer for that question. Our luggage was in transfer, whatever and wherever that is, and we couldn’t leave the airport. The Embassy opens the next morning, so we have to sleep in the airport. Long story short, after searching the lounges, we found that Ethiopian Air had a 24 hour lounge and they were very nice about letting us stay there. We put two club chairs together with a table in the middle, and that made up our very hard bed. Better than sleeping out in the airport!
The next morning the embassy calls me, a lovely woman named Elsie. They have made arrangements with Kenyan immigration to give me a transit visa so I can leave the airport and go to the embassy to get my new passport. While they are arranging that, we are trying to locate the plane I was on so it can be checked for the passport. One of the service reps informs me that they have no way of knowing where the exact plane is. Right. Like Kenya Airways doesn’t keep track of its planes? We went through supervisors, and one guy even told me the plane had been checked (it had miraculously been found) and no passport. I did not believe for a second that he was telling the truth. It would have been better to find the passport instead of having to go to the embassy, but clearly, it was the embassy for us. So we are told to find the head immigration guy, and we have to go through the story for the 100th time. He acts like I am a very naughty girl to have lost my passport (hey, it could have been stolen, you know!). After being passed over to others, I finally had my transit visa. Immigration finds us a cab driver to stay with us all day and off we go into the capital of Kenya.
First stop? The Police department to report the passport lost or stolen. The office of the police was interesting indeed. NO computers, all files were kept In old school type lockers….and carbon paper was used for reports. Also, there was “the book”. In all developing nations I have visited, or Ran has visited, there is “the book”, a huge ledger where everything that happens is recorded. Unless you have the date of an occurrence, good luck finding it in “the book”. These cops were quite critical: why didn’t you report it right away? “Well.” Said I, “we asked the protocol officer to contact the police, but he told us we couldn’t make a police report since we couldn’t leave the airport.” There was a guy in a yellow plaid jacket with a yellow plaid tie who said we should have stopped a police officer in the airport. Of course, there were no police officers at the airport. They enjoyed haranguing us. After the slowest police report ever, we were on our way to the US Embassy.
Nairobi is a big city, and there were no emissions standards there at the time because every car was spewing black smoke. The smog hung thick in the city, and breathing was almost unbearable. Yuck. It took over an hour to get from the airport to the UN complex. I had never been to an embassy before, so I pulled out my cell phone and took a quick shot of the US Embassy sign. We parked and proceeded to walk toward the embassy, when I was stopped by a very large Kenyan security officer with a scary metal gun. Why was I taking pictures of the embassy? No pictures allowed. I would have to stay there and be questioned, and give my “information”. The next thing I know a jeep filled with armed men pulls up and surrounds me. “Give us your passport”. Oh, boy, that took some explanation. I show them the transit visa. The questioning begins. Where is my passport? Lost or stolen, huh? Sure, they say.
They want to see the photo (blurry). Why did I take it? More guys with guns appear. Randy is chatting with one of them and he wants to know if we saw the signs that prohibit photos. Ran said he didn’t see any signs, and he didn’t take any pictures. We started laughing, I mean, honestly, how ridiculous can it get? We were rolling, we were laughing so hard. I realize it was a sort of inappropriate time to laugh, but we have a rather strange sense of humor. Then Ran asked if he could take a photo of all the guys with me! We thought that was hysterical, but the guys were like, “what! no photos allowed! you can’t take photos!” Finally, some other guy comes to look at the photo, and he says “you can delete it”, so I put my finger on delete. Then he says, no don’t delete it, but it is too late, it is gone.
They have filled out all of their paperwork, asked me why I was really taking photos, and they finally let us go into the embassy. We went through security twice, then arrived at the passport office where they had apparently heard or watched the entire exchange. They were laughing their asses off. I told them my name, and one girl said, “We know who you are.” Remember the Perils of Pauline? We should do a show called the Trials and Tribulations of Tam.
Getting the temporary passport took forever, and Ran and I were cracking jokes and rolling around laughing like idiots. At last, a passport and back to the airport where we wanted to grab our luggage. After an hour arguing with Kenya Airways they tell us our luggage is in Kilimanjaro. Lovely. So we went to the Intercontinental Nairobi where there were security guards who did a car check, then a security guard who has you go through a metal detector. I guess the Intercontinental would be a place that dignitaries and government officials would go to for nice events, so they are careful. After Randy shared some M&Ms with the woman at Kenya Airways, we finally had a reservation to Arusha, Tanzania. We missed Kilimanjaro. Damn! But I plan to go back.
Have you seen Kilimanjaro?
Check out these great African Gifts for home and decor!