MY TRIP TO WARSAW: 3 CONTINENTS, DIFFERENT WORLDS

I really don’t love travelling….yes, not the globe totting type but once in awhile a little travel is fun. So when my boss, as usual, said that there will be a trip to Warsaw in Poland for a business event, I was ambivalent. One side of me was really excited and keen to go see the land of the late Pope John Paul II but the other side, the coward, was not keen on this trip a lot more because I had been scared by Google on the weather. I come from one of warmest places in Kenya and the idea of 4 degrees Celsius really scared me. Anyway that is now water under the bridge because I went to Poland and came back…but let me give you a story of how all this came to be.

As is the usual case for those of us on this side of the world, the mere thought of going through the visa process for the Western world is nightmarish to fathom but luckily for me and my colleagues, we had a fantastic support from our very experienced immigration consultants. All the requisite documentation list was presented to us and we fixed an appointment for the visa at the Polish Embassy in Nairobi. Unlike the US or UK visa process where multitudes of people queue daily, I was really shocked to find that only a handful of us were sitting outside the embassy waiting for our turn at the window. We got there a bit earlier than expected and the security men were gracious and even allowed us in before our time…there were no other people before us anyway.

At the window, was a nice lady Immigration officer behind a one way glass and I struggled to see her. She was speaking to us through a speaker…akin to how they do it in the bank or prison during the visits. We presented all documents but she requested of a document showing invitation from a Polish national…because all that we had given was not enough…they had seen enough creative folks create a phantom hotel booking and even fake events. Anyway, I was not surprised because as one of my colleague likes to  says, Africans always have a plan! So we had to organize and get the document and rebook the following week. The second time was fine and eventually we got the visa to Poland.

Having done with the Polish visa, the next was Dubai Transit visa because we had a 16 hours lay over on our return leg from Poland. The Dubai Visa was hassle free and we got it in very good time. With all these visas ready we now knew that it was a go. On the material day, I woke up early, checked in online and even printed the boarding passes then continued with my normal day’s work. If you have ever heard of mind games, then that day my mind decided to play a game. It recorded that my flight was the following day rather than the day I was due for travel. I had dinner and watched news at 9 then arose to go to bed! Just before I got to bed, I saw a call from my colleague that I was traveling with. It didn’t really bother me up to the point when I called him back…..then hell broke loose. He asked me….are you at the airport? And I was like…what? Why? Are we travelling today? At that point he nearly dropped his phone because the gates were closing in less than 10 minutes and here I was asking why and what?

At that point adrenaline set in and I told my wife, who was relaxing in a half slumber mode at the couch,…the flight is today and in a few minutes and also called someone to drive me because I wouldn’t drive in that mode. In less than 10 minutes I had dressed up, picked my travel documents and we were on our way to the airport. I guess my driver and my wife too were now on adrenaline as well because we drove like crazy…up to 160KM! but still that was not fast enough. All factors worked in our favour and was at the check in desk in 15 minutes…only to be told sorry…we are closed…try tomorrow! I almost gave up but thought of speaking to my former collogues at Immigration that were manning the control to see if they could help…. One of my former colleague also seemed a bit shocked but spoke to the airline staff nonetheless. At that point the airline guys said I could only travel if I agreed to go without my luggage. I didn’t take a second to take that decision. I left the bag with the officer to hand over to my wife who was outside the  check in area and ran upstairs to the boarding gate… and got into the plane…..and off we went…..

Watch this space for the second part of the story

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