I don’t have any good news about today. The date is August 7, 2013, the day we are scheduled to leave Kenya for the States. When I wake up, I turn on the news and what do I see? The airport in Nairobi has been destroyed by a massive fire of unknown cause. All departures and arrivals are canceled. And there is no word on when they will resume.
It doesn’t look like we are coming home soon, friends.
I immediately call my emergency contacts – Robert Karanja, National Director of Habitat Kenya; Noreen; the emergency contact line in Atlanta; my mother. I get word from British Airways that our flights to Dulles are canceled, and efforts to reschedule flights could take days.
We travel to the Habitat Kenya office to meet with Robert and Noreen. They promise to start looking into alternative means of getting home – airports in Mombasa near the coast, in Tanzania, in Uganda. But there is little anyone can do. The Kenyan government has shut down the airport indefinitely, even to domestic flights. Air traffic is being diverted or grounded. And thousands of passengers are suddenly stranded here in Kenya, and in cities like London, Berlin and Amsterdam.
To take our minds off of the worsening situation, Eldad drives us to a local animal orphanage, where we see lions, baboons, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs, and a whole array of monkeys.
We are comforted for a moment, but there is still smoke looming in the air when we return to the van. There is still no news when we stop for lunch.
British Airways puts us up in the Kenya Red Cross-owned and operated Boma Hotel for the night, so we grab our bags from CHAK and head into downtown Nairobi. The drive takes over 2 hours because rush hour has brought nearly everyone to a stop on the highway. When we finally get to the Boma, we realize that it’s not just a hotel – it’s a luxury hotel, with a glass ceiling, curving marble staircases, crystal chandeliers, gourmet food and turn down service.
There is also strong Internet, and access to the news at home. Apparently, my team has become famous overnight. We are on WJZ13, ABC2 News, and we’ve been featured on the front page of the local newspaper.
We spend the night not on a plane but in Nairobi, waiting and wondering when – if ever – we will be back in our own beds.