Monthly Archives: June 2015

Packing time

It’s that time of the year..1st time I packing for an international flight. I put away all the suitcases and passports until now. It’s an exciting time. I’m looking forward. I’m doing a trip to Canada and guess what, American flights charge for nearly everything. Drinks, Checked-in luggage, blanket, exit row seats, front seats, early boarding..you name it they got a price for it.

Which brings another challenge. What do I pack in the carry-on luggage that I’ll be able to go through security with. Toiletries and what is in there that TSA aka airport security might toss away. The dilemma I’m in. No toothpaste, perfume, mouthwash, roll-on. Air travel can be such a pain in this country. We’ll see how that goes.

The other thing is connections, you can’t avoid them if you are looking for a cheap flight. I have quite a number of them. I don’t mind them but the hassle of going through airport security is something else.

Amazon has been my friend the last couple of weeks as I prepare for my trip. I’ve been shipping a ton of stuff for myself and returning some. That’s the good thing about America. If I don’t like a particular item I just ship it back and they give me back my money. I’ve been to the mall I couple of times to shop but it’s such a hassle with all that’s on offer and the number of stores you have to go through to get what you want. All in all not too bad of an experience.

Weight is also an issue. I have to fit everything in 2 50lbs checked-in suitcases. Not an easy task but it’s got to be done. Luckily with a portable weighing machine all that has been made easier. No guesswork as you head to the airport.

On the immigration side of things, it’s the first time I’m using my Kenyan passport since I moved here together with the green card. Will be interesting to see how that goes. I hope it won’t be too complicated especially departing and re-entering the US.

It’s an exciting time and I look forward to everything in store the next couple of weeks.

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Random musings

It’s already 11 months since I made the big move into H town. It’ll be a year next month since I moved here. I only have good things to say about the move and how far the Big guy upstairs has brought me. Giving thanks for everything as always and looking at the positives.

My current job is about to come to an end but I believe greater things are to come in future. I’m traveling to Canada next week to see my good friend and former colleague. I’ve always wanted to visit Canada but the hassle of acquiring two visas out of Nairobi was just too much for me to handle. Luckily this time round I won’t need a visa courtesy of my Green Card. I just need my passport and I’m good to go. I’m thankful for such small things. Being able to travel easily.

Houston is a huge city and it’s so easy to get lost in it. I cherish the few relationships I have with great people here, both Kenyan and American. I’m thankful for my host for showing me the way when I got here and I’m where I am because of him. I still keep in touch with friends back in Kenya but not as often as I would love to.

What scares me about Houston is the gun violence around. Road rage is real people in Houston and the greater Texas. There is at least one road rage incident involving guns. I’m very aware of the fact that it’s legal to carry guns in Texas and quite a number of people have concealed gun licenses. I take a few seconds to react to some of the crazy driving around this town. No crazy rush decisions. It’s plain dangerous.

My accent is an issue in everyday dealings with people but I just keep it real. I guess it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I mean a new accent. I’m aware of it and I try to be understood when I speak. So far so good.

When I arrived here I lost my popular name and acquired an unfamiliar name. The US government doesn’t care about your second or middle name. It just takes your first and last. So now I have a new identity and there is nothing I can do about it. My middle name is dying a slow death. Not cool.

Pets are a big deal in Houston, Texas and in the US. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen pet spas, psychologists, vet, emergency room, mobile grooming vans and conversations with colleagues discussing their dogs or cats and how they baby sit for family and friends and they love it. No offense but in Kenya it’s also picking up quite a bit..having a pet dog. When I was growing up we had dogs but they were for security and slept outside. Had kennels and ate raw meat, bones, leftovers and such. Here they have dog bacon. You travel, your expand your horizon. I don’t think I can keep a pet due to the care involved and I’m always on the move.

Drive texting is so rampant in Houston that you have to be on the look-out for people crossing into your lane. With the crazy speeds people do here I’m amazed there are not more accidents, what with people doing 70mph and texting on the freeway..Crazy.

I’m traveling to Kenya next month. I’m excited. I’ll be there for a short time but I look forward to sharing special moments with my woman and my parents..The main reason I’m going. It’s cheap to travel to Kenya out of Houston. In low season you can easily get a ticket for a low as $740 return. All the big Middle-Eastern airlines come here..Qatar,Emirates,Turkish..and they service Nairobi too..not forgetting Air France, KLM. I’ll be riding an air-taxi service when I go home with 3 stops but who cares. I paid less than $1000 for the ticket in high season. Cool times ahead.

Obama is coming to Kenya around the same time I’ll be there. I know it’ll be crazy with all the security, mobile phone interruptions and inconveniences but home is home in good and bad times. I’m excited to see all the military hardware on display during his visit..I’m a military boy at heart.

All in all it’s been a great ride, looking forward to next chapters in my life.

God bless the hands of my labor.

Warm season is here

It’s that time of the year again, nearly a year since I landed in Houston. It’s coming up to Summer. The official Summer date is June 21 2015. It has been very warm since April.  Of late it’s been high 80s and low 90s…that’s 25C to 32C for my British background mind. The humidity is the worst part about this season. They don’t call it the ‘Air Conditioning Capital of America’ for nothing.

It’s been raining quite a bit too during Spring and Houston even flooded a couple of weeks ago. Houston is technically flat so some areas are flood prone. Generally the drainage system works fine but the Bayous (Slow moving streams) that break their banks and flood freeways and highways.

You need A/C everywhere. Woe unto you if you don’t have it in your car. Sweaty under-arms are the order of the day. Luckily I had mine fixed before I took the long road trip West. Sitting in traffic is the worst especially in the evenings after work. Luckily the sun goes down much later around 9pm by which time it’s much cooler for outdoor activities.

The storm season is here and that brings lots of rain. There is one approaching today from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s being called Tropical Storm Bill. We’ll see what it brings but we’ve been advised to stay home if the roadways are flooded. Guys have been shopping like crazy the last couple of days especially for emergency supplies like Water, Torches, Transistor Radios, Dry Food, etc.

Bracing for a wet, hot and humid couple of weeks ahead. We’ll see what Bill brings us.

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The view of the City of Houston this morning from the office.. Those clouds are about to dump a lot of rain on Houston. #TropicalStormBill

Grand Canyon – Homebound

The area around Salt Lake City heading towards Las Vegas is quite scenic with snow capped mountains during this time of the year. It soon turns to dry and rocky terrain. We took I-15 South and then hit back roads around Provo, Utah. We soon hit I-70 West for a bit before branching off South towards the Grand Canyon National Park. Lets just say it’s faaaar to get to the Northern rim. The views were great and we hadn’t even hit the Grand Canyon. We got to the road accessing the rim and guess what? It was closed until Summer..what a bummer.

Luckily we got a map from a nearby Inn which showed the directions to the Southern rim. By this time it was afternoon already. 2-3ish. We had 4 hours to get to the Southern rim. The area near the Northern rim is a forest. Once we were done negotiating the tricky bends and turns out of the forest. The canyons just opened up and it was hours on end of just beautiful shades of brown all the way to the Southern rim. We basically went round canyons to get to THE Canyon. We barely made it. We even thought we were out of luck when we hit the gates into the park. Luckily we were not alone and there were others rushing to beat the light. It was getting dark and fast.

The views are breathtaking to say the least. There are different view points to see the Canyon. We quickly did 3 or 4 before it became dark. I learnt a new thing about the Canyon. There was a mid-air  in 1956 between 2 aircraft in the Canyon that killed over 100 people.

The pictures don’t do justice to the place. You need to be there to experience it.

We now had to hit Flagstaff, Arizona which was our stop for the day. Luckily it was only an hour away from the Southern rim. It was a day well spent.

The next morning we hit the road with Amarillo as the stop for the night. There is not much to see in the Arizona plains or the New Mexico desert. We passed through Winslow, Gallup, Albuquerque, Tucumcari before hitting Amarillo late evening.

It was also the day we got stopped by a Navajo County Sheriff. We were driving down the I-10 and right there in the median was a Sheriff parked. Just as we passed him we made eye contact and a few seconds later he was behind us with the flashing lights on. I’d only seen it in the movies and in Houston. Luckily I didn’t have anything to hide and pulled over immediately. He walked over and asked for my license and registration. In my head I knew it was in the glove compartment but I guess I didn’t bring it with me or so I thought..In Texas, the registration is displayed on the windshield..I think he realized after a while. He went back to his cruiser and soon asked me follow him. He told me I was following too closely behind a semi-trailer and he was going to issue me a citation. Damn. I remembered my Air Force law violation talk with the recruiter and asked him as much. Luckily it was just a written warning. He also asked if I was carrying drugs. He asked if he could check. I opened the boot aka trunk in Americanese :). The only thing he really checked was the cooler box we had. All he saw were Monster energy drinks and water. I think we were profiled that day. I guess there are many drug traffickers on that route and the ‘following closely’ citation was just an excuse. We shook hands..I know..and we were on our way. My girlfriend was scared and thought I was getting a ticket when the Sheriff asked me ‘out’. We were extra careful just as we’d been the whole trip. No over speeding especially. Luckily it was 75-80 mph speed limits through out the rest of the trip.

It was uneventful day and we made it into Amarillo safely. Just as we drove into Amarillo we saw a graffiti park which we later learnt is called Cadillac Ranch. They have cars half-buried into the ground and people spray graffiti on the cars. They have cans of spray lying around. You just add whatever you feel like.

We spent the night in Amarillo and headed out the next morning on the final leg of the trip. Texas is huuuuge and it took us 9 hours from Amarillo into Houston passing through Wichita Falls and Dallas/Fort Worth area onto I-45 South homebound.

It was a great trip full of memories which I’ll cherish with my better half. The car performed exceptionally well for a ’98 Audi. It was a beast in all the conditions. We only had to add air and top up the coolant and power steering fluid. I thank God for that. There will be more trips in the future. There is so much to see in this country and I’m glad I made the move here.

NB.

One of my readers recently asked me when I get to work. I seem to be always on the road. That is not the case. I love road trips but I have to pay bills too. It was a 2 week trip in between jobs. I travel whenever I can and believe you me If you love something you’ll find time for it..I always do.

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Bend-Boise,Idaho-Salt Lake City

Bend, Oregon felt very rural, the road out of the city and for hours on end was a two way road. There was nothing much to see for miles on end. The scenery though was breathtaking. I wish I could have made it to Portland the capital to have a better idea of the state. We drove for hours with no towns on sight, just the occasional gas stations and funny town names like Burns, Brothers, Vale. I love to drive so I didn’t mind it at all. I was glad I came up this far north, but it was time to head home to Houston as my girlfriend had a flight to catch in less than a week. I now understand why retired couples sell off their homes and get Recreational Vehicles (RVs) to tour and see this big country…But why wait for retirement when I can do it while I’m still young and energetic?

We finally made it to civilization near the Oregon/Idaho border where we joined I-84 headed South East into Boise the capital. Boise is the capital in the middle of nowhere and another addition to my goal of visiting all the 50 states. We went into downtown Boise and the only notable thing I can remember is a big stadium for the Boise State University. We soon hit Nampa and I would not have remembered the town were it not for my American former colleague whose brother lived there. Unfortunately it was too late to meet him. The cool thing about Idaho is that the speed limit on the freeways was 80mph, so were able to cruise fast through the state.

Hitting the Idaho/Utah state line we started seeing snow capped mountains and somewhere behind the mountains on the GPS was the Great Salt Lake that the city is named after. As you drive into SLC, the city is nestled below a looong ridge of mountains. There is a small city called Ogden which reminded me of the Somali Region in Eastern Ethiopia called Ogaden. It was quite scenic in the evening light. We were truly on our way home. Mission accomplished, relaxed and just cruising..

Downtown SLC felt kinda small and very easy to navigate. This was my second time in this city. The first time I passed through I was in an 18 wheeler so movement around the city was limited. This time round it wasn’t snowing.

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