This post is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, "150 Times Around the World," by Dr Jac Fitzenz. Its a culmination of his life's travels around the world and a compelling window into his vast journeys. Take a seat and come along for the experience of a lifetime as you join Dr Jac on his travels. Click here if you'd like to be notified when "150 Times Around the World" is available for purchase.


Out of Africa House


It was nearly midnight when we landed in Kenya. The flight was two hours late and the Nairobi airport was all but closed down. As soon as we disembarked and entered the terminal, the runway lights were turned off. Basically, other than the baggage claim area, there was no life in the smallish, hot, humid terminal building. The place would not compete with the clean and well-kept stations we passed through in most countries. Once everyone had their luggage, everything appeared closed or in the process of closing.

Perspiring in the humid night, I lugged our roll-a-boards outside. When wife Number Two and I reached the street, there were no taxis. The few fellow passengers apparently were picked up by friends or relatives. Now what?

As I’ve mentioned before, this was not unusual. Yet, in this case, I didn’t have a host who was supposed to make arrangements for transportation. I was stopping in Kenya at the request of a seemingly interested man who had attended my program in South Africa.

Any way you cut it, we were in trouble.

All we could see in the vicinity was a small group of young men talking, laughing and smoking who-knows-what across the street. What they’re doing this time of night probably shouldn’t be questioned. When they noticed us, they slowly sauntered over. They all seemed very happy, maybe too happy. One of them asked if we needed a ride. Not having many choices at this point, I told him we needed to go into Nairobi to the Hilton Hotel.

He smiled broadly and said he would take us, gladly. The fare was not an issue. I would have paid him anything to get us into town. His friends helped load our bags into the trunk of his rather basic vehicle—smiling all the while. I watched to make sure everything went in and then gave them a tip and a thank you. Once inside the vehicle it was clear what the inhabitants had been smoking and it wasn’t Marlboros.

We set off through the darkness with our hearts in our throats. The fellow was very congenial, to the point of being silly. Obviously, he had imbibed in something stronger than tea this evening. He asked if this was our first time in Kenya. I lied and said I had been here a couple times before on business. Then, he asked if I had friends here. Again, I said yes. He replied, “I take you to you friend’s house, yes?”

I corrected him, “No, the Hilton Hotel.”

He asked, “Why you no go friend’s house?” Is better than hotel no?”

I repeated, “No. We are meeting them at the hotel. They will be waiting for us.”

He seemed disappointed. Perhaps he had another plan that didn’t include the Hilton.

I looked back to see if there was a car following us. Maybe his friends were planning on joining us for a late night party in the jungle. I saw car lights some distance back slowly gaining on us. You might think I was unreasonably cautious and nervous, but you weren’t in the middle of the night, in the middle of the jungle, with an unknown driver, who had your life in his hands, and was obviously under the influence of something stronger than Ovaltine.

The good news is within thirty minutes or so we survived the road, our vehicle, our thoroughly happy driver, and arrived at the hotel. By now it was sometime close to 1:00 a.m. The driver deposited us at the front door of the Hilton. He looked around and said, “You friends no here. You want me take you to friend’s house?”

“No, we’ll stay here tonight and call them in the morning. Thank you.”

He nodded with a smile and good wishes from Allah before turning and leaving.

The Hilton is a very tall, about 20 stories, cylindrical building in the center of a traffic circle in Central Nairobi. There was almost no traffic at this hour. The only action was a small group of men, obviously beyond repair, staggering up the street in our direction.

No one came out of the hotel to help us with the luggage. Mr. Hilton and friends seemed to have gone to bed. Eventually, after we lugged out baggage inside we were able to rouse someone in a room behind the reception desk. A small ink black lady welcomed us wearily and checked us in. It took her almost fifteen minutes to find a porter who led us to our room. After unpacking only the basics, we fell into bed with thanks to Allah also.

It was about ten in the morning when I managed to get out of bed. I went to the window and pulled back the drapes. It was the usual sunny day with no signs of the typical afternoon showers yet. I stood at the window looking at the street activity. People were milling about, to and fro, on their way to wherever. Then, I noticed something peculiar. I turned to Number Two and said, “It looks like we’re the only white people in town.”

This had happened to me once before. That time, on my first trip to Kuwait, I had landed at the airport and when I reached the center of the terminal, everyone except me was dark skinned and dressed in Arabic garb. The feeling of being alone is probably what an alien would experience when landing on the new planet. It’s not necessarily frightening, but for a moment, a bit unnerving.