At the moment, my pressing question about departure is whether I will be able to extricate myself from this country tonight. The airport is stuck in darkness after an all-day power outage. Under normal circumstances, the Nairobi airport is one long terminal of stuffiness and heat, so the current sweltering is reaching epic proportions. My flight to Amsterdam is already delayed until well after midnight, which means all my subsequent flights are being rerouted. To make matters more interesting, the personnel here can tell me that I am going through Boston, but cannot see my “actual flight times” or give me boarding passes.
“Am I still ending up in Indianapolis?” I asked.
“I think so,” said the check-in lady, unreassuringly.
Even in the semi-darkness, you can still spot the most common species roaming the wild terminals of the Nairobi airport: Safari khakisapiens. (Note the classic features of this species: matched pair, lightweight khaki clothing from head to foot, camera still over the shoulder, post-holiday glazed appearance, bewilderment at the constant dysfunction of the Kenyan infrastructure.)
To add to the fun and games in the airport, I just spilled cappuccino all over myself and my belongings. I yelled out “sweet succotash!!!” as the coffee semi-scalded me, which at least made the people around me in the lounge laugh. Thank goodness for a change of clothes in my carry-on (even a spare pair of pants, thanks to the precautions instated after the torn-pants-fiasco of 2011 that left me traveling for 30 hours with the leg of my pants about to fall off.)
NOBODY BETTER DIE ON THESE FLIGHTS! (I just like to throw that out to the universe as our odds at successful resuscitation are not looking good today. And I speak from experience.)
It also may bear mentioning that I am covered with itchy flea bites thanks to the infestation at our animal-free (but pest-laden) home. Let’s hope that milky coffee splatters are the magic cure for flea bites. Oh, and I’m missing part of one of my back tooth thanks to a small bone-biting incident two weeks ago. I’ve avoided the dreaded Kenyan dental visit, but I am looking forward to having this deficit addressed.
Cataloging my current appearance – flea bites, coffee splatters, feet stained brown by Kenyan red mud, chipped teeth, likely more wrinkles from sun and stress – my vanity can at least take comfort in the fact that the Equatorial sun leaves me with very nice blond highlights. I’ll settle for that.
Departure selfie. Pre-coffee soaking, post-flea bites.
And I am actually very pleased with this month at the Equator. My two big studies related to children’s medication adherence and disclosure of HIV status are well underway, recruiting and following hundreds of families across 8 clinics. I welcomed my new medical student who will spend a year working on my pediatric research projects in Kenya. And, we were able to train counselors to move into a number of our biggest pediatric clinics and completely change the support we can offer to families with HIV-infected children.
Our counselors will be able to work with parents and grandparents and children through the process of telling their children that they have HIV and all the counseling that will be needed before and after that. The counselors were especially excited about the great videos we created that feature parents and children and grandmothers telling their stories about living with HIV and wrestling with HIV disclosure. I am excited to be leaving behind trained, dedicated counselors who are equipped with this great new resource for launching their sessions with families. (I can’t wait to share the videos here, but current internet capabilities make that impossible.)