July 14, 2013

Day 1 (to leave Kenya)

It was difficult to leave Kenya.  

Not exactly in the emotional, heart-wrenching way of packing all your stuff into a backpack and realizing just how transient your life really is, but because the Nairobi airport almost didn't let me.  

Everything I packed for 6 weeks

Sure, I knew I'd face challenges when I decided to embark on a 6-week overland camping trip from Cape Town to Nairobi, but I never expected them to start as soon as the check-in counter when the agent asked for my Yellow Fever vaccination booklet.  Somewhere along the lines of packing my Seattle life into a Honda Civic and driving it down to California before re-packing to move to Kenya, my vaccination booklet became misplaced.  Luckily, I have impeccably preserved color-copies of the booklet (just as is recommended in case you lose the original) which I presented to the agent.

He was nonplussed.  And then said I couldn't board the flight because I didn't have my Yellow Fever vaccination.  "But," I said, "I do have the vaccination... See, it's right here."  After a few rounds of that conversation, interspersed with some faffing about of paperwork, he agreed to take me to the Port Health authorities (to relieve himself of the problem).     

Flying over Lake Victoria (Spoiler alert- I was able to leave the country)   

The Port Health authority looked at my paperwork and said, "What's the problem?  This is valid."  I liked him immediately.  But our bureaucratic Catch-22 consisted of three pillars:
1.  South Africa would not accept a photocopy and would not allow me in the country without the original.
2.  I couldn't get another original booklet without receiving a new Yellow Fever vaccination.
3.  I couldn't get a new vaccination because my current one was still valid for another 8 years.  

A few more conversational laps around that track, greasing some wheels, and finally I was granted passage onto the plane, with just a small window before departure.  

Flying over Rwanda

As I was leaving, the authority asked what I do for work, and I told him that I'm in Public Health, which broke the ice about an hour after it would have been helpful.  He just laughed and laughed and laughed and said, "Just like us!"

And then I was on my way.

Departing Johannesburg for Cape Town

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