My sister had the most terrifying experience in Nairobi a few weeks ago.
“As you know,” she said to her jet-setting family members, “flying out of Nairobi there’s a security checkpoint where all passengers have to get out of the cars in the middle of a five-lane road and walk through a security inspection. Meanwhile, the drivers of the cars go through their own check. It’s a confusing mess and takes time to identify your car and driver after you have been cleared.”
That alone freaks me out. I usually refuse to be separated from my luggage, though sometimes during international travel there is simply no choice.
“After we passed through security and were waiting for our car, I started to video the chaos. I should have known better…
“With some difficulty, we finally identified our Uber and got in the car, relieved to be reunited with our stuff. Suddenly, a military police officer with some big-ass machine gun stopped the car and demanded to know why I was videoing the security checkpoint.
“I explained that I had never seen a process like this before and I found it interesting. He replied that it’s a crime to film there and that he is going to charge me with a crime and I will have to go to court on Monday!
“I apologized and said I would delete all photos. He said no—I committed a crime by using a camera at a security checkpoint. He said he is charging me with the crime and I will have to go to court and I will miss my flight.
“In the meantime, our driver is whispering to Drew [our nephew] in the front seat that the officer wants 500 shillings ($5) but he was now demanding US $50 to me through the back window. At this point we’d have given him anything. We were even ready to give him our phone! We were also so worried we’d miss our 11 p.m. flight!
“We were literally shaking. I saw my future working in a labor camp in Kenya for the next 12 years!
“We continued to apologize, saying it was a mistake. The officer continued to insist that he had to charge me regardless; he would not let us delete any pictures and we would miss our flight and will have to go to court Monday.
“Of course it was all about the bribe, but when you’re in the moment, in the middle of the situation with a jerk, in a foreign country, you never know how far he’ll take it.
“I asked if I could pay the ‘fine’ now and skip the ‘court’ date so that I could make my plane. He made me delete the video then, and $60.00 later (I wasn’t about to ask him for change!) it was done. But at that moment, I would have paid much more!!!!
“The Uber driver then got out of the car and shook hands with the officer. I’m sure money was exchanged.
“The Nairobi airport security officer put his face in our window again, smiled, and told me to let my friends know what a wonderful time I had in Nairobi!
“And I still had the video, which would stay in my deleted file for a month!”
A wonderful time in Nairobi, duly and publicly reported here!