East Africa, Part 1: The Gripening.

This entire post is going to be complaining, so if you’d like to skip this post and go right to the awesome pictures I totally understand, but I gotta air my grievances. I got grievances, y’all! Wait til you hear these grievances. Let’s start from the beginning.

The Moomins bought a fancy tour through a fancy tour company so we wouldn’t have to deal with hotels and flights and guides. She’s 85 and I am not the most organized person in the world, we wanted to make it as simple as possible. We asked them at least twice what vaccines and papers were needed. We got yellow fever shots with accompanying yellow fever cards (it felt very “arriving at Ellis Island.”). We packed the recommended amount of money for border crossings. We did all the things. Or so we thought. On the day of the flight we happily headed off to the airport to take our 13.5-hour flight on Air Emirates (again, fancy).

We arrived at the counter, passports and paperwork in hand. “Do you have your visas?” said the counter person.

The what now? No one told us we needed visas at the airport. We knew we would need to get visas to cross into Tanzania but no one mentioned needing a visa at the airport to go to Kenya, especially no one at the travel agency. So now I’m panicking. Let me tell you, there is nothing sexier than a crying adult woman surrounded by copious luggage and her elderly mother at a ticket counter. It’s just embarrassing for everyone within a two-mile radius. Random people outside the airport were like “Why do I inexplicably feel horribly awkward all of a sudden?” We called the travel agency and luckily got a very nice woman who said she had no idea that we needed visas at the airport. It’s always been “visas on arrival,” meaning you get one when you arrive in Kenya. Apparently this rule changed overnight and the Kenyan website didn’t even have it listed. Commence more frustrated weeping (from me, not the nice lady on the phone, all the weeping in this story will be mine). It ended up we had to push our trip a full week forward which thank God we could do because we have loosey-goosy schedules (Moomins: Retired, Me: Freelance).

We went home so I could spend the week getting an expedited visa and clenching my intestines. I filled out all the forms, took photos of us (we looked TERRIBLE) and waited, obsessively checking my email. The night before I finally had all four visas, we had gotten new Covid tests and we tentatively headed off to the airport, now flying Air Kenya (less fancy but whatever). We made it, though. We made it to Nairobi. I was still vibrating with anxiety but the trip was pretty drama-free. In fact, by the end of the trip when we had to go home I was the diametric opposite of when I left. “If the paperwork isn’t correct I actively don’t care, I’ll live in the airport and be passive-aggressive until they beg me to leave.” We had also acquired some ungainly art, like a stick man who was around 4′ long and fit nowhere in any luggage. This normally would have made me twitchy, but again, the stress hormone had been purged from my system during VisaGate. The point is in the end it was fine and we’re going to make the fancy travel agency pay for our visas and extra cab rides. It’s the least they could do.

For your amusement, my picture on the visa. I look like I had been punched in the face and my hair is extra Bobo the Clown. It’s kind of perfect honestly. An accurate physical representation of how I felt on the inside. Enjoy.

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