This is my personal story of the trip to Kenya for the Africa Academy Movie Awards Nomination Night in Nairobi. There were others and they have their own stories to tell too.
It is 24th February, 2011, I’m at the airport, waiting at the Kenya Airways Counter for other delegates to arrive, waiting for the airlines to start checking in passengers, to Nairobi.
I’m here very early. Around 6.01pm. I had been informed earlier that I should get there by 7pm. Not the kind who would take chances, I get there early enough. Suddenly, others start arriving. I meet Mr. Bond Emeruwa, President, Directors’ Guild of Nigeria. We exchange pleasantries and we start chatting. Then, as I try to walk around for a bit; this is after I have my boarding pass, I meet Molara Wood, an Editor at NEXT. I’m excited seeing her at the airport. She asks me where I’m heading for, with that beautiful smile on her face and I tell her Nairobi and she says, Same here. Now I’m more excited. We walk towards the Kenya Airways Counter.
The journey begins as others arrive for their boarding passes: Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, Jim Iyke, P-Square, Chinedu Ihedieze.
There is a long queue at the Immigration Counters, for departure stamping. We are stuck in the queue for long and we start talking about Binyavanga Wainaina, that famous Kenyan writer; myself and Mr. Bond Emeruwa, who happens to be a close friend of the writer. Unfortunately, the ‘best host in the world’, Binyavanga is in far away New York City and we are going to his home country. He could have hosted us, knowing that he’s the best person to be with each time he arrives Lagos.
Our passports are stamped and we head towards Gate E-54 to board. And we are with Chinedu ‘Aki’ Ihedieze. He has a huge fan base, so all his fans besiege him for photographs. He is already tired and exhausted, but he knows how to control the fame. It hasn’t gotten into his head yet. We move and more fans follow. A man who claims he lives in Durban comes and is very eager to get a shot with him and tells him how proud Nigerians in South Africa are of him. He chats with him for a while and we board.
While on board, I sit in the economy class and all of a sudden, I see Kate Henshaw-Nuttal and Ms Peace Osigwe walking in. Really? They are coming to the same class as me? And the other ‘stars’ are boarding business class? Who’s taking who to Kenya? I ask myself. So, I say to my friend sitting beside me, This kind of humility is annoying. And oh yes, Ms Peace Osigwe seems like she doesn’t care at all.
After 25 minutes, our airline lands in Cotonou.
Then, we spend another 25 minutes there before departing finally to Nairobi.
The thing is that I sleep each time I’m on board an aircraft, so I do the same, but each time I open my eyes, I see the bodyguard of P-Square, this huge man, with heavy hands and he keeps walking up and down the aisle of the aircraft. For me, it is very comic and funny. He is still wearing his sun-shades and I laugh each time I see him moving around. Firstly, he appears scary, but then, I see him as very cartoonish.
After some hours, we finally land at Jomo Kenyatta International airport.
I start having bad feelings when I step in, towards the Immigration Counter. It could be a poor version of the Murtala Muhammad airport in Lagos. The airport looks lousy in a way. And then, we start filling up the forms for our visa. Again, I’m very excited, having read Ngugi wa Thiong’o very much and this likeness I have for the Gikuyu language. There is always a ‘K’ in anything a Kenyan says in his language, I say to myself.
We get our visas stamped onto our passport pages.
Then, where the heck is the carousel?
We go there and many of the delegates realize their luggage didn’t arrive with them.
Mine could be seen, but the zips destroyed and the bag left ajar. Open. Luckily, only books and clothes are in the bag, so I don’t bother to check if anything is lost. I bend down and repair the zips, close the bag and carry it with me, mildly.
Those whose luggage haven’t arrived fill up forms to retrieve them. Then we spend many minutes standing around and then we head out to the two buses that have come to pick us up.
Jim Iyke is sitting just infront of me. He is a different Jim from the movies. He has a wonderful sense of humour. He makes everyone laugh each time he talks. They are not laughing, because it is amusing listening to this big shot talk, but because he is really saying funny stuff. Another comedian on the bus is Mr. Emmanuel Isikaku, the President of Movie Marketers’ Association of Nigeria, whose sense of humour is 100%. It is amazing when you listen to him talk. Wise, but very humourous.
Our buses move.
We ride through the streets of Nairobi.
We see a group of commercial motorcyclists and I’m surprised. The traffic is maddening too, like that of Lagos.
Infact, Nairobi is just as congested as Lagos, so I don’t feel alienated here. The streets look similar; the billboards remind me so much of the city I just left.
After a long trip, we made it to Safari Park Hotel & Resort, where we were being lodged. It is exquisitely made and traditionally African. It has the trappings of an ancient palace. We had to again write down our names to get our rooms and when I got mine, one of the bellboys (a man actually), led me to my room, which was Room 100. Awesome number! The key to my room was activated and I moved in.
The room is large, with two white-blanketed beds, a large Plasma TV, a fridge stuffed with assorted types of drinks. There is a wardrobe that has thick-woolly night-gowns and the bathroom is heavenly. I quickly rush in and take my bath, spending close to one hour soothing myself and never bothering about sleep. I never get jet-lagged. So, what I do is bath, dress up and then gulp two bottles of Tusker Malt Lager, with Potato Chips, while I write this. And I sit at the terrace of my room, writing, looking out at the green grass sprawling infront of me, a beautiful garden that is surrounded by trees, looking serene and quiet.