Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Wikipedia Map
Yes, that Republic in East Africa.

Once upon a time during the Gung-ho days of rat race and climbing the corporate ladder,  the powers that be in England decided the location of our annual convention to be Mombasa - an hour flight from Kenya's capital Nairobi.

The big boss had either ran out of venues or had not been to the African Safari, I thought.  We did have an office in Capetown*, but not in East Africa, so what other reason could there be for transporting his team three- quarter way around the world.

*(Sadly our colleague from South Africa was not allowed to attend the meeting - it was at the height of apartheid then).

As the only attendee from the Far East to these meetings I was excited at the prospect of seeing a giraffe in person.  The problem however was how to get from this end of the world to the other.

My good secretary came out with the splendid (to her anyway) idea of making me fly to London, then to Nairobi.  Knowing that any other alternative would be just as long a haul, I approved.

Seventy two hours after I left KL I was finally on my way to Mombasa.  Thankfully I was joined by my European colleagues for the London-Nairobi leg, so the flight was not so boring.  It was not so quiet either.  That, of course is an understatement.

When we finally landed and disembarked in Mombasa, we were met at the foot of the airplane steps by a couple of ground crews who came, not to greet us, but to hand out the landing cards!

There we were in the sweltering ninety degree heat of Mombasa and a few more added degrees from the tarmac, squatting, placing the forms on our knees and filling them up, with the ground crews standing guard as if we were refugees.  It was a windy day as well, and some papers flew off the hands of those who didn't hold their cards tight enough.  Seeing them chase after the papers which took off like kites was a funny sight - of course it didn't seem funny then.

A long walk to the immigration and customs after that was uneventful except for our amusement at the sight of our big bosses' fins right at the top of their luggages as they were opened for inspection.  Obviously they came prepared for a dip.

I shall leave the details of our adventure in beautiful Kenya, its Safari, the people I met and the Swahili I learned (and did I tell you we were having a meeting too?) for another day.

The return flight provided more thrills:

Kenyan Airways then flew airplanes leased from British Midland, and later KLM and Lufthansa.  Apart from the pilot and co-pilot all other crew members were Africans.

After all the passengers were seated the plane was ready to take off.  We were all excited and anxious to go home, after almost a fortnight away from the family.

"This is the Captain speaking.  We are about to take off.  Cabin crew please arm all doors".  The stern voice came over the loudspeaker.


"Please arm all doors".  (We had a feeling at this point that the indicator light in the cockpit hadn't gone off).

Silence.  Only the drumming of the engine could be heard.  The plane hadn't moved.

A minute later:  "I SAID LOCK ALL DOORS!"

The next moment the Captain was seen leaving the cockpit to double-check for himself that all doors were indeed secured.

We were glad to be on our way.  That was the only time I decided not to make a London stopover as I normally did whenever I had a chance.  I just wanted to be home, pronto.

Note: Kenya Airways underwent a number of restructuring since that episode and had made great progress.  In March 2006, Kenya Airways won the "African Airline of the Year" award for 2005, for the fifth time in seven years.[25]:22 Passenger numbers in the year 2006 (April 2006 – March 2007) was a record high of 2.6 million.[26] On September 4, 2007, SkyTeam, the second-largest airline alliance in the world, welcomed Kenya Airways as one of the first official SkyTeam Associate Airlines.[27]  Wikipedia

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Planning a party?
Make it a DURIAN party!
Delivered fresh around Klang Valley
Book @ 019-3382320


Misha said...

Lol I laughed myself silly about the doors.


Just came by to say thanks for the follow.

Aishah said...

So funny. Could it really be the bosses didn't know where they were going!

Tony Payne said...

Nothing unnerves passengers more than something unexpected just before take-off.

I spent 3 weeks in Nairobi installing a computer system in 1990, and managed to get 2 long weekends, going to Masai Mara and Amboseli.

I didn't have the money to go to the lodges, so I went on a back-packing type tour, where we actually camped in the reserves. It was an amazing experience.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

My father was a commercial airline pilot for almost 30 years. I imagine he would have done the same thing.

Have a glorious day!
-your pal,

Happy Frog and I said...

This was a great post Grandpa. I loved reading about your trip but am also intrigued by the many things you will tell us (hopefully) at a later date. I do love your posts, they keep me wanting to come back for more which is always a good thing!

Madeleine said...

Great post
I once dreamt about an African mask and the next day my Dad found one in the house we were viewing. It rather sppoked me. :O)

Rachael Harrie said...

Goodness, that sounds awful! And too funny for words. Bet you were glad to get home after that trip!



L'Aussie said...

Another travel post I could have stolen Grandpa. Some parts of Africa are plain scary to travel to and from. I'm heading to Morocco in July but I think it's a bit tamer than the more southern/eastern countries. Hope so anyhow.


My K is in Oz.

Anonymous said...

ooh it would have been scary. No wonder you were glad to get home :)

Joylene Butler said...

It's funny now, but I would have been shaking in my boots. I'm not a happy flier at the best of times. Great story, Grandpa.

I love your stories.

Brooke Rousseau said...

Oh my, that's quite an adventure! I have also flown Kenyan Airways and had a ... difficult experience (though not scary, like yours). I ended up in tears, crying, "I just want to go home." My flight had been canceled and they were giving me a hard time about getting me out of Nairobi and I was tired and emotional and hadn't seen my family in a year.

I didn't make it to Mombasa, but I spent a long weekend on Lamu, a tiny island off the coast of northern Kenya. I look forward to hearing about your adventures there. Did you get to see a giraffe in person? What did you learn to say in Swahili? Inquiring minds want to know!

Grandpa said...

Misha - I too felt rather amused when my feet touched firm grounds, but at that time nobody laughed.
Thanks for stopping by.

Aishah - oh they knew! They will try anywhere new. We happened to be the "work hard, play hard" bunch.

Tony - my trip was a few years before that. Sometimes the best way to discover places is your way, not go where commercial tourists go.
Thanks for stopping by.

Grandpa said...

Ohiofarmgirl - we did feel more at ease when the pilot decided to make the round.
You too have a glorious day. Take care pal.

Happy Frog and I - Thank you so much! Thankfully my memory still serves me well so I can relate all this. I may go down memory lane once again for "L".. ;)

Grandpa said...

Madeleine - thank you!
Be careful with African masks, some are haunted! I still have the one I brought back from Kenya (not haunted) hanging at the Farm house.

Rach - yes it was a great relief, and I guess we were nervous about flying for a while after that.. :)

Grandpa said...

L'Aussie - Hi Denise, I never dreamed about going to Africa on my own, so it was a great opportunity I wouldn't miss. Morocco should be nice - will you blog about it?

Nikki - it was scary, but not totally unexpected, given what happened on our arrival! We were mighty glad to be home.

Grandpa said...

Joylene - there was complete silence in the cabin - I think people were quietly saying their prayers...
I dislike long flights too.
Thanks Joylene.

Brooke - Hi, that must have been a harrowing experience. I like to travel but the hassle of it all sometimes deters me.

I'm sure there were other incidences as I walked down the streets or crawled the pubs, but they are distant and faded now...

As for the language, I knew a smattering, but as you know if you don't use any language on a regular basis you would lose it.
But I'm sure you know that Africans and Asians share a common ancestry. I discovered also Swahili has a number of words similar or close to Malay (Bahasa Malaysia) and Bahasa Indonesia, e.g Dictionary is kamus in Malay and kamusi in Swahili;
Gratitude or shukurani is shukur in Malay, and the verb thanks is shukuru;
Howdy = hodi!
Q: How are you? Hujambo?
A: Sijambo!
Morning is subuhi. We call our dawn subuh.

Akelamalu said...

Oh Boy, that was some trip! ;)

Lady Jennie said...

I have lots of funny stories about flights in Africa. But our leaving out of Kenya the one time involved an 8-seater and a return back to base because the cabin pressure didn't work.

Grandpa said...

Akelamalu - you can say that again!

Lady Jennie - how about telling us some of those? I don't particularly like flying in small planes.

Anonymous said...

Due to daughter's surgery, I'm of course behind in my visiting others blogs. I've definitely missed yours! It's always so delightful and informative, and often humorous, this time in a kind of dark way. Scary if you ask me. I thought, What's wrong with the doors? If I'd been on the plane, I would have been chewing my nails!

Thanks for your kind comments while I was helping my daughter post-op. She's recovering very well, and I'm home now full time with my disabled daughter. And looking forward to seeing your smiling face at my place too!
Ann Carbine Best’s Long Journey Home

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Grandpa, ha ha...I would have got nervous too hearing that 'arm all doors'.
I was, still am afraid of flying, believe it or not.

I used to fly almost every few days, local or across the seas, and it was like going to the dentist for me....
even in our own company plane.

Thats one country I have never been too....maybe never will.
You stay easy grandpa, have a nice day.

Grandpa said...

Ann - great to see you back! You do need the break and it sounds like things are improving. My continued prayers for you and family to be well. I will of course drop by later. Take care Ann.

Lee - I'm not crazy over flying either especially small planes - a little ironic because I do like traveling.
Take care Lee, you have a nice day too.

Wan Sharif said...

Went to Sudan on 70 days Sudan & 20 days Malaysia working assignment package.. wanted to go Masai Mara for Kenya Safari.. somehow.. I was missing home too much to make that safari visit ;)).
mm.. I am still wondering what kind of company was your employer before you decided to call it a day :).

Grandpa said...

Wan, to make it interesting I'll let that remain a mystery for a while. On the other hand you can always do your homework, which I'm sure you're good at, or some investigation...

secret agent woman said...

I look forward to hearing about the Kenya trip - I did a safari in Tanzania and learned a little Swahili, too.