Not knowing for whom I am waiting, I alternate sitting in the lobby and standing outside. The sky is shrouded with low, gray clouds, and everything looks dim. After about half an hour of waiting, a man with a silver tooth walks up to me.
“Williams?” is all he asks.
“Ah, yes, that’s me.”
“I’m ______. Aren’t there two of you?” Shwoo. That was the sound of me forgetting his name*. My mind races, as the driver last night also did not expect me to be traveling alone.
Some of you may have been aware that I for a while I was sporting a hockey haircut. I’d recently had it shorn in anticipation of blistering African heat. It’s springtime in the southern hemisphere, and Nairobi at about 5500 feet above sea level is cool and cloudy in the morning, and no warmer than PA in June. The last thing the cute little tattooed girl named who cut my hair, said was, “What’s gonna happen if you get to Kenya and everyone has awesome mullets?”
As Mr. ______ and I walked towards the van, there was the answer to both my question and my stylist’s: a stocky, greenish-eyed man with a mudflap that would make any pickup truck driver in Saskatchewan viridescently envious.
Mudflap, as he shall now be known, didn’t work for my firm, but he was actually a client. He was South African and worked for a land mine company. My first inclination, thinking of Princess Diana, was, ‘you bastard,’ followed by, ‘my new firm associates itself with landmines and blowing up children. I am a monster by mere association.’ As mudflap smoked and chatted about the local football scores, I found out that he actually worked in Sudan recovering landmines, not laying fresh ones.
At this point I came to the conclusion that I am a moron and have a lot to learn.
Mudflap was in town to pick up some new dogs, German shepherds shipped in from the Congo.
“Surely they must be Congo shepherds,” I quipped
“No. And don’t call me Shirley,” he retorted. Of course, due to his accent—not as short as Australian, not as sing-song as irish, yet not as crass as American—it sounded more like, ‘Niew, ind, dint call meh shully.” This portion of the discourse never actually happened. Has anyone actually read this far?
In all seriousness Mudflap did get new dogs from the Congo, and they are apparently so menacing, the veterinarian center holding them until they clear Kenyan customs and stuff is to scared of them so he has to go and feed them himself. If he’s reading this^, the name Mudflap is out of total respect for the mullet. Solidarity, brother.
We drop off Mudflap and I’d forgotten to re-buckle my seatbelt. It only took until the first roundabout for me to realize.
We drove around downtown Nairobi, which to me, seemed more like wilderness pocked with buildings. We passed one of Kenya’s first shopping centers and onward to the office we went.
Mr. ______ informed me that the firm is moving into new offices. Offices in the middle of the forest up ahead.
Then we got a flat tire.
Almost before I could roll up my sleeves, another logo van pulled up and guys got out, introduced themselves, and began jacking the car up. Despite my best attempts to assist, everyone insisted I just stand back. I did managed to make myself useful by getting the spare tire out of the back.
It was probably all for the better since we were back on the road in 10 minutes. If I was the type of guy to hyperventilate, I probably would have done so at this juncture:
First the getting the airport wrong.
Then the wrong terminal.
As if God doesn’t want me to do this.
I should turn around and fly back home now.
Good thing I don’t believe in shit like that+
Pulling up to the gate, a string of steeds trotted along as I was informed that the only racetrack in Kenya is right next door. Awesome.
As we pulled through, he entire area was bustling with people. Apparently the new offices have not yet been built. So I got dropped off at a series of serious tents. Like M*A*S*H tents. As I walked up a few smiling faces greeted me and asked me to sit down.
The sun had burned through the mornign pall, as it apparently usually does around 11AM, and I smiled, thinking back to the cubicles back in Vegas.
*Admitting one has a problem is the first step to recovery.
^Who am I kidding? My mom isn’t even reading this.
+August 18, 2007; Associated Press: A 25-year old American Expat was killed in East Africa just one day before he was scheduled to fly home…