I kept on turning and tossing in bed the night prior to my flight to London, United Kingdom, as I would finally fly on an aircraft.
I had previously boarded a plane at one of the military bases in the country as a child as my guka (grandpa) was once a military officer. Unlike when I was a toddler, this time I was to fly for real, not just to recover forgotten tools from a parked aircraft. You see, guka was a Kenya Air Force engineer and had been on one of his daily check-up routine.
My Kenya Airways (KQ) flight number 100 was scheduled to depart Nairobi for London’s Heathrow Airport at 9.30am. I packed overnight. By 4am, I had taken a shower and was ready for my friend Erick to drive me to the airport by 5am.
You are probably laughing at my naivety, but I had heard of a regrettable case from my pal that involved his relative. His uncle’s ticket was cancelled for arriving late at the airport. He had to pay a penalty to secure another ticket on a later flight.
I arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at around 5:28 am and took my luggage to the departures entry gate. The security personnel, who took nothing to chance, ordered me to remove my heavy jacket (I was prepared for European winter, though it was October), phones, laptop, camera and shoes.
They took a couple of seconds to frisk me, but my heart was racing. What if they stopped me from boarding? After frisking my luggage, they advised me to go to the KQ counter for checking-in.
“What time is your flight, sir?” one of the security officers inquired as I started packing my belongings after a thorough frisk. “9:30am,” I answered as I dashed for the KQ counter. I was two hours too early. “Huyu na yeye amekuja mapema anafikiria ndege itamuacha,” I overheard a security officer say to his colleague. They burst into thunderous laughter.
Sensing my tension, the KQ ground crew smiled as I approached her desk. “Good morning sir, can I have your passport? Kindly place your bags on the weighing machine,” said the beautiful lady with a gorgeous smile. Looking at her white, well-arranged set of teeth, I began to relax.
After a few minutes, Maggie (her name was on the tag on her jacket lapel) presented me with a boarding pass and wished me a safe flight.
Since I was way too early for my flight I went outside again to the nearest coffee café to kill time and await colleagues from other media houses. Coffee and cupcake cost a cool Sh600 – for jamaa wa mtaa.
Two hours later, I went back inside the departure lounge where I met my media colleagues, several Gor Mahia Football Club players and assistant coach Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno. We exchanged some high fives (kungoteana), cleared passport control and took the escalators to the boarding gates. During boarding, I could not resist taking selfies.
I had a middle seat, my left neighbour being a lady named Sally who was travelling abroad for studies. On my right Gor Mahia defender Ernest Wendo sat comfortably like a seasoned traveller.
Cabin crew orderd all passengers to fasten seat belts. “Buda hii belt inatingwa aje (How do I fasten my seatbelt)? I asked Wendo. He helped me strap in. All this time, I was praying to God to help me not discredit myself once the plane started taking off; my stomach was full of butterflies.
Noticing that I was uneasy, Wendo advised me to take it easy as it was all going to be alright once I relaxed. True to his words, after calming down as the plane gathered speed on the runway, all was well. Soon, we were airborne.
An amused Wendo advised me to think of other things and not just the flying experience. I skipped breakfast for obvious reasons (my stomach was rumbling like a regiment of Kenya Army drums on Mashujaa Day). Now and then, the plane shook as we encountered bad weather.
“So, what can I do for the rest of the flight? I asked Wendo, now my trip advisor. “Unaweza itisha hao madem wamevaa red tei yoyote ile unadai (ask the air hostess for any alcoholic drink you want),” he answered jokingly.
Being from the Eastlands side of Nairobi, I was not going to order Konyagis of this world that my body is used to. Why not order some expensive liquor that I only see in Nigeria’s famous rapper Davido videos? I ordered four shots of Jack Daniels and a cup of hot water mixed with sliced lemons. Kweli tumefika.
Since I was going to the United Kingdom I decided to familiarise myself with some of their jazz music, but immediately switched to my usual reggae music.
Later, lunch was finally served and I couldn’t resist here, salad chicken piece, soda, rice, peas and a cupcake. It was all-yummy, but too little even for my small, uneasy stomach. After that tantalising lunch I requested for a few Kenyan beers that I kept me busy while watching animated series until touchdown at Heathrow. “London, here I come!”