Nairobi is cold compared to the Outpost; very cold.


I’m glad our suitcases arrived. Eventually.


We flew here from Mwanza via Kilimanjaro.


Our luggage came via Dar es Salaam.


I think it’s all part of Precision Air’s plan to make your journey even more unforgettable than it might have been anyway.


Having secured our visas on arrival (I, with a too full passport, was admonished by the authorities thus: there is no space in this, flicking through a document so battered that the gold lettering on the front has been rubbed off, your babies can get into our country but you will have to stay out until I persuaded them that it’d be fine to paste the necessary on the endorsements page of the passport) we tripped downstairs to gather baggage from the carousel.


Except that there wasn’t any. Or at least none that belonged to us. Only lots of other passengers lost luggage sitting forlornly in untidy piles being regarded in dismay by a dozen irritated travelers all demanding to know what had happened to their suitcases and did the Precision Air staff care that this was the 45th  time they’d misplaced it?


Evidently not.


What about compensation, I demanded, for some spare undies and a toothbrush?


Airport staff looked at me blankly.


Precision’s policy does not involve compensation. At least not until the baggage has been missing for 13 ½ years. Or something like that.


Leave your telephone number, I was instructed, we will call you when/if it arrives, so that you can come and collect it.


Don’t you deliver?


Precision Air’s policy does not involve delivery of lost luggage.


Nor, apparently, it transpired, is it Precision Air’s policy to turn their telephones on. Or answer those that they have forgotten to switch off during office hours.


24 hours after arrival and following numerous calls to PA offices in Dar, Nairobi and Kilimanjaro I secured the number of the Station Manager at the airport.


Since you have still not received confirmation of your baggage’s whereabouts, I can release the number for the airport duty staff, I was told by a woman who had clearly answered a PA telephone by accident (perhaps she was expecting a call from a friend, how disappointing to have to speak to an irate, disheveled, unbrushed, unwashed and in yesterday’s clothes passenger instead). She delivered this information in tones that suggested travelers were required to reach critical levels of impatient frustration before being granted privilege of access to a useful telephone number.


Mr Faustin, owner of that number, who answered with helpful alacrity, called me back, as promised, to inform me cheerfully that my suitcases, yes all four of them, were safely in the baggage hall.  They came via Dar, he said, they arrived last night, he added, as if they were relatives I’d long been expecting a visit from who’d turned up early bearing gifts.  As if, frankly, he was both surprised and delighted at their appearance.


Ben and I traipsed back to the airport with little sister en route to South Africa.


Have you got your ticket?


Yes, she confirmed.






Yellow Fever card?




Yellow Fever card? You need a valid one to travel to South Africa from here.


She looked stricken. Her long awaited, carefully executed, child-free (given imported minders) ten day break with her husband now in jeopardy because nobody had mentioned this. Until now; until 2 ½ hours before she was due to fly.


Omigawd; I’ve lost it, she wailed, on the verge of tears.


Don’t worry, I urged, seeing the expression on her face; we’ll make a plan.


This is Africa. T I A. There is always a plan. 


We tumbled from the cab as we pulled into the airport and tore up to the Health Office.


It was staffed by a very fat lady who led us, with a slow limp on account of legs exhausted by the effort of transporting the bulk above them, to the clinic.


We were ushered inside by a man with a hopeful glint in his eyes.


How many travelers? He enquired.


Just me, said my sister.


The glint dulled a little.


Come with me, he instructed.


I took a seat whilst my sister followed him into another office, the door shut firmly behind them.


You busy here? I asked the lady who’d delivered us to this point.


Oh yes, very, she said, very, very busy. Twenty four hours non stop. Always busy.


It didn’t look busy to me; the corridors echoed with the sound of a lone set of distant footsteps.


Lots of Yellow Fever business? I pressed.


Oh lots and lots, she said merrily.


I wondered later if that had anything to do with the generous expanse of her girth.


We continued our inconsequential chatter for a few moments before my sister emerged from behind the closed door.


She gathered me hastily up and we ran towards the Departure terminal.


Bloody hell that was expensive! my sister puffed


How much, I asked?


1,000 bob for the certificate, and another 1,000 for agreeing to give it to me without an injection.


In Johannesburg her story has been met with expressions of outrage and shock.


We can’t believe how corrupt your country is!


Hmm.  And I suppose there’s none of that south of our borders?




11 Responses to “T I A”

  1. R. Sherman Says:

    I have to leave on a business trip tomorrow, flying from St. Louis to Denver. I’ve been dreading it, but somehow I think it will be better than your excursion.



  2. Rob Says:

    Glad bags arrived ok. Happens in Europe too if that is any consolation. Lost my case for few days last time I flew back to Ireland from Africa. Apparently it had been sitting out on the (wet) tarmac at Heathrow for a day. The clothes were all damp but luckily the coffee beans and the Embassy survived unscathed. Glad your sister got her yellow fever cert sorted. I’d say it is just a money making racket. Do you remember the days when you could buy the full allowance of £15 foreign currency and you had to pay £10 in airport tax (in forex) leaving Kenya…

  3. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    oh but Mr Sherman, what would I have to talk about without such experiences! have a good trip.

    Rob: I do Rob, I do indeed. x

  4. Tash Says:

    What candour!!! Mambo kawaida tuu!

  5. Retired Memsahib Says:

    Oh what memories you bring back! We used to make our own Yellow fever and Cholera certificates using a local coin to produce an official looking stamp! I imagine computerisation has put an end to such “innocent” sport. Enjoy Nairobi, if you can!

  6. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Tash, Retired Mem; thank you. I am a little anxious about gng home to tz, my faintly distantly jangling memory tells me i might need same to return home and simply cannot afford to cough up similarly. may have to improvise some kind of a stamp of my own …

  7. Mozi Esme's Mommy Says:

    TIA is my mantra, too! I love it when the Mozambican airline agents act all shocked that we would expect to pick up our luggage when we arrive – this IS a 3rd world country, after all. And deliver it when it finally arrives? What are we thinking? People are starving here, how can the airline afford delivery service? Never mind that the airline ticket was purchased for megabucks and somebody is making a fortune off of us.

  8. Mom de Plume Says:

    TIA indeed, everyone I know who has travelled by plane recently has mislaid luggage, my Sister-in-Law’s went to the US while she came home…both leaving from Heathrow!!! As for corruption, perhaps it is so much the norm here that no one refers to it as corruption any more?

  9. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    absolutely Mozi; TIA is the mantra to live by …

    Mom de Plume – i think you’re right. And it is oddly, perversely, heartening to know you are not the only one whose baggage has ended up where you are not … thank you

  10. Mozi Esme's Mommy Says:

    Just read Retired Memsahib’s comment about computerization! I wish! There is NO END to rubberstamping at least where I’m at! You gotta have the stamp no matter what technology is available. And all the power is in that stamp. Who needs a computer when you are the holder of the stamp? Forget etickets – You CAN’T fly without the paper ticket and the stamp.

  11. ImPrecision Air 2/Me Nil « Reluctant Memsahib Says:

    […] Imprecision Air has a better, certainly more truthful, ring to it. […]

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