It was wonderful to finally arrive in Nairobi last night and be met by Ahmed Omar Ahmed, or “Kura” (Swahili for vote), BOMA’s Operations Director, as well as Captain James Neepe. Captain is a retired military helicopter pilot, now a commercial pilot ferrying politicians, rich visiting Americans and company executives around the country. Captain is also BOMA’s Chairman of the Board of BOMA’s sister organization in Kenya, The BOMA Group, a community-based organization. Just as much fun for me was seeing the Gumpsmobile, our beloved used Toyota Landcruiser that we bought last year from the British High Commission. Gumps is looking good and the new shock absorbers, needed for the dry river bed crossings, makes it literally a leap to get into the vehicle. The big surprise was the new signage that trumpeted “Gumpsmobile” across the back of the vehicle. Gumps was named after a close friend of Kenya, Al Viebranz, a former chair of the St. Lawrence University Board of Trustees. A loving father and grandfather, Gumps was his grandfather name but lots of us adopted the name because it seemed to fit his sweet, curmudgeon personality. Gumps was an important mentor to me, as well as to many of the Kenyans who came into his life. This is our way of having a little bit of Al always with us in Kenya. I think he would have liked it.
The Fairview Hotel is BOMA’s main meeting place while I am in Nairobi, a small, family-run hotel, a former home, much expanded, also popular with NGO workers and Kenyan politicians. Given the proximity to the Israeli Embassy across the street, the security is also impeccable. The Fairview staff is always bemused by BOMA’s coming and goings, with our assortment of sturdy, borrowed, rented and now, finally, BOMA owned-vehicle comings-and-goings. They store our expedition supplies and tolerate an endless run of people waiting outside the security area to meet with Mama Rungu. Today I have a breakfast meeting with a woman who will arrange our visit to an inspiring widow’s project in Maasai Mara during the Dining for Women safari.
Then it is off to the wonderful world of Kenyan banking. My new strategy is to bury them in paperwork, since their job is to send me away with requests for more paperwork. I am armed with 15 different versions of letters requesting debit cards, statements, adding new signatories to ensure greater transparency as well as requests for a password so we can use online banking. BOMA has two bank accounts, a dollar account at a multi-national African Bank and a shilling account at a Kenyan bank. I am ready to do battle with the Kenyan banking world, resolved to spend only one half of a day on this un-consumer-friendly endeavor.
In the afternoon we will meet with Jeff Dekock, of Open Hand Studios, who is editing the film on BOMA’s work. And then we will work until the evening, provisioning Gumps for our long journey north in the morning.