We spent Christmas 2018 in Kenya with family and friends. It was the first time traveling together with my people on a transcontinental trip. It took a lot of planning to make it work. Alaska is far far away from Kenya.
We planned to a T on how we would travel and be back before our son turned 2. It’s not cheap to travel from Alaska to Kenya. So with a lap baby and the two of us, it was manageable financially. We spent a month in Kenya and it just flew by. We had initially booked a ticket arriving in Nairobi on 2nd Jan 2019 but after much thought we threw caution to the wind and re-booked arriving in Nairobi on Dec 20, just in time for Christmas.
The planning phase for this trip was a pain in the behind. The amount of paper work required to travel to a country the military ranking considers too close to terrorism related activities is unbelievable. Kenya is ranked together with Somalia and other troubled countries like Libya. You need approval from a Brigadier General(O-7) to travel. This approval is on a case by case basis. I was born there so there is an exemption. The closest high ranking officer up here in Alaska is a Lieutenant General. A 3 star General approving my travel to go on leave. That was just one part of the puzzle. The actual approval comes from Stuttgart, Germany which is the Africa Command Headquarters. They consult with the American Embassy in Nairobi and approve or deny your request to go home. I know, it’s not easy.
We traveled from Anchorage to Seattle, Washington. Sat at the airport for 5 hours then took a night flight with Virgin Atlantic to London Heathrow. We spent another 7 hours there before boarding a Kenya Airways overnight flight to Nairobi. All this with a baby, infant who cried for a couple of hours on the Seattle London flight. It was not easy but we made it.
It was so good to be back home for the first time in 2 years for both of us and for the first time for our son. He got to meet his cousins and had a blast. He was walking everywhere. There is not much walking in Anchorage or America unless you make an effort to do it. There is dust everywhere and the dude just loved it.
We landed on a Thursday and drove to Eldoret (a city 5 hours NW of Nairobi) the next day. My wife’s cousin had a traditional wedding ceremony and we could not afford to miss. We were jet-lagged but we made it. Had a great time with family down there.
We traveled to Gilgil to see dad and my sister. They met the little guy for the first time and Grandpa was so happy to hang out with him. It hasn’t been easy for him since mum left us. He misses her lots. You could tell seeing him for the first time since mum’s funeral in 2016.
We spent Christmas and New Year with family. It was the first time I was spending both holidays in Kenya since I relocated to the US. It felt great to see the celebratory mood all around as compared to the US where you don’t really feel it as much, especially if you are not shopping.
This first part has been sitting in draft since April 2019. I just realized it’s been a year since we were in Kenya. Life happened. We were in Kenya for nearly 6 weeks. Time flew by so fast. We also did so much while we were there. The weather was great too, a perfect break from the winter conditions in Alaska.
The highlight of the trip was a balloon safari ride in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. It was great seeing wildlife from above. It was also my first time visiting the Maasai Mara. It’s true of what I’d heard. You most likely will get to see the Big 5. It’s a common Safari term. Big 5 were the most difficult animals to hunt on foot back in the day. They are Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and African Buffalo. We were able to see all except the Rhino which we’d seen at different national parks.
The Coast was also great, it took some getting used to with high temperature and humidity. It was a great to enjoy the break in January after all the Christmas/New Year mad rush and crowds that is the Kenyan Coast. My wife even got to sky dive by the beach in Diani, South Coast.
The young guy got to meet his people and had so much fun. He got to go on his first flights. Too long for him but hopefully as he grows older he’ll appreciate it more and have fun.
The hustle of getting approval from work made me decide not to travel to Kenya for a while. It’s so stressful and the possibility of leave being cancelled is high. This means losing tickets and money. I didn’t want to take a risk. For my wife and son, they don’t need any permission to fly to Kenya. They just get on a plane and fly. As they just did..They are currently in Kenya to see family.
2019 was a hectic year to say the least, the pilot license I’ve been working to get finally came to fruition. I passed my checkride last week and I’m now a private pilot. My dream became reality. I cannot express how happy I am. I’m still processing it all. There are still other licenses to get to fly commercially but for now it’s a celebration of a big achievement. The American journey continues..
Below are some pictures of our trip to Kenya last year.
The first part is from Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha both in the Rift Valley.
The next part is Nairobi National Park in the Capital
Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi
The Maasai Mara Game Reserve
The Coast (Mombasa and Diani)
Off course being an aviation enthusiast, I had to do some planespotting while in Nairobi