Almost one year ago, December 2014, I made my trip to Houston Texas… I shared my experiences here. As fate would have it, this year, the Fragomen Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) conference was planned to be held in Edinburgh Scotland. My boss informed me that I would be a panelist in the conference to present about Immigration practice in Kenya. I was obviously excited for several reasons: one I had never been to Europe before and two I was going to present on a topic I know and love very much.
As usual, I was nervous about the UK visa process. Many questions kept ringing in my mind; what if my visa is rejected? What if I get the visa but denied entry?…what if…so many times. Thankfully, with good guidance of my colleagues in our London office, I made the application and submitted to the Tele performance Visa center, luckily my neighbors on the same floor in 9 west in Westlands Nairobi. After two weeks I got a mail that my visa was ready for collection and I got it.
As is normal when traveling to a place I haven’t been before, I first Googled Edinburgh Scotland to find out a few things that would help me in packing for the trip. The weather, I was told was going to be very cold so I was to dress warmly. This time round I flew aboard British Airways…well before I get into the flight; let me tell you my airport experience. I met this Kenya Airport official who I showed my boarding pass…ushered in but not before putting all my stuff through the scanner….of course my shoes and belt and so forth…luckily, I met a guy I knew from my four years of working at the same airport in my earlier life…that made my life through screening a bit bearable…anyway in a good way.
The Swissport inspectors were the next guys…here I had a nice chat with the chaps as they inspected my bag…a joke here and there on how I was carrying maize floor for my ugali in Europe and that I had a few miraa twigs for my baite friends in the UK! Never mind because none of that was true anyway. These guys were amiable and I was done and went to wrap my bag then dropped my check in bag and proceeded to immigration control. Unlike the last time I travelled, this time round there were no departure cards to be filled. I checked for the counter to go and before I could decide, I saw a colleague I had worked with at Immigration and was indeed excited to meet them and exchange a few niceties…was done I a few minutes. To be very honest I was happy with the service.
I had checked in early to avoid last minutes situations…I am very bad with adrenaline…not my fault…blame where I was born. Eventually our boarding time came and we again went through about three screening points before we could board…no complains. I would rather board almost naked but get to my destination safely…in this time of terrorism we are so willing to be searched and re-searched to make sure that we are clean to board the vessel.
At around 11 PM Kenyan time we board the plane in readiness for London and off we go…well not before someone with a very heavy British accent gave us the normal safety guidelines should something go wrong while high up there… I think it is either the guy had heavy accent or my ears are only accustomed to the Kenyan English because on a scale of 10 I heard about 7! One thing I observed with the BA cabin crew, people serving are normal…I mean they do not starve so that they can work as cabin crew…they are like me and you: short, tall, thin, medium sized and even plus size depending on your eyesight. Anyway, the trip was smooth and I slept after having some snacks they call food on the plane…next time I am awoken by the crew to put my sit upright as we prepared to land at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3…again very heavy British accent but anyway I struggle to hear.
Unlike Jomo Kenyatta Airport where you can walk from one terminal to the other, at Heathrow from terminal 3 to 5 is about ten minutes in a bus…but I can’t forget my experience with the UK Border officers. When I worked at JKIA, most of the people I served kept complaining of how slow and crowded the place was….now what I saw at Heathrow was really another thing all together… the UK border officers were profiling each and every person with no Hurry in London kind of attitude…anyway we queued patiently and ultimately got before this guy who asked me the usual why and what? The good thing is when I told him that I had been an Immigration officer and did what he was doing for almost 10 years he was excited and relaxed…and off I went. I had to run to catch my flight because the gates were now almost closing….well not before I boarded….off to Edinburgh.
The weather in Edinburgh was really cold…about 7 degrees Celsius…was dressed like a moving wardrobe anyway so no worries. I followed the signs and surprisingly found my luggage ready then picked a cab and went to the hotel…I must say the sight of this ancient yet very modern city really mesmerized me… I saw trams side by side with buses and cars and all was running smoothly. I was very amused considering the chaos in Nairobi where cars, motor bikes carts, donkeys compete for space…I got to the hotel and was impressed by the nice architecture of this city…any way I get a room at the beautiful Waldorf Hotel Caledonian right at the heart of the city overlooking the beautiful city and castles at the hill… I am so jetlagged and I had to sleep….
Well….see you when I wake up.
Watch out for the next episode.

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