Nairobi to Manor Park: Part I

As I laid down for the first time in my new home, I thought through what it took for me to get from my home country to here. After about an hour and a half of recounting just the significant parts to myself, I laughed and congratulated myself for making a simple 20-hour transit sound like the tales our parents tell us of what it used to take them to get to school every day.

I won’t bore you with the endless nuggets of sour luck that litter my journey from Nairobi to Manor Park. Instead, I’ll only burden you with the main calamities of the journey. 

Most of this story takes place on the 20th of September, but the journey effectively started the weekend before.

I received my visa on Friday afternoon, and immediately we scrambled to find the earliest flights – due to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, the soonest London-bound flights would be departing late Monday night. That gave me a little over two days to shop, pack, make final preparations and hold a “good-bye” ceremony.

Granted, I could have begun shopping as soon as I got my firm offer from Surrey, but something about beginning that process before I received my visa felt like luring bad luck to my application.

We somehow managed to get most of everything done, and I’d planned on doing the absolute last-minute departure prep within the few hours of daylight before my flight, leaving a few precious moments for a hurried leaving party before heading to the airport. However, delays at the bank meant we spent the entire day sat in a waiting area watching broadcasts of Her Majesty’s funeral, and that we were now horribly pressed for time.

So, my leaving party had to be held in about 30 minutes as I scrambled to get all packed up. With barely any time to spare, we rushed through prayers, and I hugged a few people goodbye before sprinting out the door with my overweight luggage — which I came to regret less than an hour later when my bag was ruled too heavy to be checked in, forcing me to unpack my suitcase in full view of Kenya’s busiest passenger terminal, and move a handful of items from one overfilled bag to another.

Crucial for this story is my luggage situation. I settled on two check-in bags: one gargantuan suitcase, and a medium-sized one that could entirely fit in the first. I initially settled on just a backpack for my carry-on, but I had to utilise my duffel bag too in order to lighten my main check-in. This duffel has two sets of easy access pockets, which perfectly secured my passport and other critical documents for the rest of the trip.

Once I got to the gate, I realised all our rushing was in vain as our flight had been delayed by an hour – at least I got a few moments to catch my breath.

During the layover in Frankfurt, I exhaustedly moved through security with robotic automation: following friendly orders, walking through scanners, and carelessly emptying my pockets into those grey trays. Moving from one gate to another was pleasantly monotonous though, and I got a chance to clean up and change into the fresh(er) clothes I stuffed into my carry-on duffel. I boarded my next flight on time, and we got airborne with no fuss.

As I was trekking through Heathrow, I sifted through my pockets for my headphones when my heart dropped. Don’t worry, my headphones were there, but what was missing was a set of tiny keys. Tiny keys to tiny padlocks. Tiny padlocks I used to “secure” both my suitcases.

So: I was halfway through Heathrow when I came to the desolating realisation that back in Frankfurt, I cleared my pockets of the keys to my luggage and never bothered to pick them back up. As far as I knew at that moment, I was locked out of my bags. I spent the rest of my customs process asking, “How on earth am I going to get those bags open?”.