It hadn’t crossed my mind that since my charity weren’t expecting me for another 24 hours, neither would my hotel.
The agent who had helped me with my travel arrangements had done a mostly wonderful job of setting me up with beautiful charities, hotels, tour companies and generally life changing experiences, with only the small minor mistake of booking my very first flight 24 hours too early for everything. Nobody in this country was expecting me.
With a few clicks of the mouse and an additional fee (which I had no concept of in terms of the exchange rate), the receptionist was able to offer me a bed and I was whisked away to my new twin room with en-suite on the second floor, for the next two nights.
With the exception of the airport confusion, which, all things considered, was shockingly well organised, my first 48 hours in Kenya was positively luxurious. I had satellite TV, WiFi, room service and a view down over the most beautiful green garden alongside the hotel. I spent my first morning in my room, eating a 3 course breakfast (which I’m not sure I asked for), taking in my first glimpse of Kenyan flora and fauna from my window on this perfectly sunny day.
I don’t know what I had expected, but there were different birds, beautiful, colourful trees and flowers and somehow the sky was literally bluer and the grass greener.
I wonder why the UK sky is so pale.
After breakfast, I bit the bullet and connected to the WiFi for the first time, to be hit with an unexpected barrage of panic from home.
News of the terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall was out.
What I had initially assumed, in my ignorance, was a horrible but contained local event that may or may not be a regular thing here, was in fact world news.
I turned on the TV. Every news channel was covering the events of the night which I had slept peacefully through. This was a horrible, brutal and relentless attack on innocent strangers by deluded extremists and it was happening right outside my hotel.
Why had I not realised this the night before!? That woman at the airport, the taxi driver who lost family members, the receptionist just downstairs… How were they all able to keep so calm in the face of this happening JUST ACROSS THE STREET!
The truth is… they weren’t.
I replayed my whole confusing journey, from landing in the recently fire savaged Nairobi airport, the disorganised arrivals area, the hundreds of drivers in unmarked cars. All of these people at the airport were just pitching in. They were civilians trying to keep everything together while friends and family were either under attack or were making their escape and while police and security had been pulled away from their normal duties to deal with this horrific situation.
The panic on the receptionists face when he realised he might have to put me back out on the street and the exchange of concerned glances between him and the taxi driver. How quickly he was able to arrange an alternative room for me and the advice not to leave the hotel without a chaperone.
None of these people were calm. I was just too wrapped up in my own problem to see how much pressure they were under to keep the good reputation of their country and to be sure that this silly little white girl didn’t just wander out into the road to be shot with the rest of the people who were being executed across the street.
These people were saving my arse from extinction and I had absolutely no concept of the magnitude of what was happening on their own doorstep.
“On Saturday 21 September 2013, unidentified gunmen attacked Westgate shopping mall, an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The attack resulted in at least 67 deaths, and more than 175 people were reportedly wounded in the mass shooting.
The extremist Islamic group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the incident, which it characterised as retribution for the Kenyan military’s deployment in the group’s home country of Somalia.” – Wikipedia
If you are able to take the time, I will urge you to click on the following link – A difficult read, but a very clear account from several perspectives of the actual events which took place over the 80 hour long attack can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/04/westgate-mall-attacks-kenya
This all took place while I sat in my hotel room across the street, complaining to facebook about mild dehydration.
Confused? Try Part 1 First!
Or continue the journey with me in Part 7