Say what you will about the British, they know how to run an airline. After suffering through crabby flight attendants, lost meal requests, mysteriously wet seats, and a rather bumpy flight from Dallas to London on the aptly named American* Airlines, we navigated Heathrow Airport (still the same disaster as last year) and boarded our British Airways flight to Nairobi.
Here, from my journal, are some ways British Airways is better than American Airlines:
- British accents. Nothing more charming. I realize he isn't part of the airline, but even the security employee who searched me in Heathrow was polite, charming, and funny.
- Clean airplanes. Novel concept.
- Comfortable seats. Another novel concept.
- Decent food. When they lost our vegetarian meal request on the American flight, we were counseled in how to complain. When they lost it at British, they actually solved the problem and - gasp - apologized.
- They're British. Let's face it, Americans have taken a bunch of cool things from the British and totally screwed them up. When everything else goes sideways, at least the British can fall back on basic human civility. We'll have Sarah Palin and Glen Beck.
And the thing is, what truly sets them apart doesn't cost any money. The US airlines can complain about costs and charge for bags and blankets all they like and no one would care if the service were decent. Case in point: the in-flight entertainment on our British flight was broken, and because they were polite about it and kept us informed, no one really seemed to care.
In other news, our flight from London to Nairobi was deemed some sort of special flight, and we were supposed to be honored that some celebrities were onboard for a ComicRelief trip to Kenya. Call me a cynic, but these huge, expensive, high-profile "aid" events sure seem disingenuous. They raise a lot of money, no doubt, but they spend a lot to do so. I couldn't help but look around at all of the "Flying Start" and "Comic Relief" branding on the airplane and wonder about the cost of doing this humanitarian business. I'll have to ponder this. I'm sure some economist can point out to me the costs involved with my own personal philanthropic work...Also, I have no idea who the "celebrities" on our flight were, but the people in front of us sure wanted their autographs. Can someone explain to me the appeal of having someone you don't know sign something for you if it isn't a check? I digress.
But enough about that. We're here and we don't have to worry about American Airlines for 3 weeks.
Meanwhile, in Kenya
This year Hayden and I are here with a small group of folks, and since last year was a fact-finding trip to help us plan this one, we are visiting many of the same places again. On our first day - after our now traditional Tusker and crisps arrival dinner and a good night's sleep - we took the gang to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the Giraffe Center, and the Karen Blixen Museum. Evan and Linette made out with some twigas at the Giraffe Center, and we learned which items in Karen Blixen's house were original and which ones we "not original but were used in the film Out of Africa."
We capped the day of tourism and settling in with a light meal and a cocktail or two at the Fairview hotel next door to our more spartan accommodations. Rolling blackouts be damned, we're having a gin and tonic.
After a day of provisioning at the local mall on our second day (Tuesday) we will be making daily trips out to Cura to work with the teachers and staff and most importantly see the kids!
Some Things We Have Learned
- "There's virtually no line at the other security checkpoint" is the airline equivalent of "the check is in the mail." It's a lie. (Seattle, WA)
- Elephant farts are loud. (Nairobi, Kenya)
- The sushi is in the basement and the wine cellar is upstairs. (Fairview Hotel, Kenya)
- The road is open. Don't let the metal barrier or the armed guard fool you.
- Talisman Restaurant isn't open on Mondays.
- All journalists just lie to make you believe things. (This from our fearless driver, Malik)
- "We have run out of prawns" is apparently an important Swahilli phrase to know.
- "Tamambo," while it looks and sounds vaguely African, is not a word. In Swahilli or any other language we can find. It is, however, the name of a restaurant in Karen that caters to white people. Shocking. Good food though.