When arriving in Nairobi after the second red-eye in a row, the last thing you want to hear from a taut ticket agent is that the next flight you have a ticket for doesn't exist. Not delayed, not overbooked, but "doesn't exist." In fact, Flight 3118 on Kenya Airways has never existed in the history of the airline, despite the fact that I am holding a ticket printed with my name and Kenya Air #3118, Nairobi to Kigali, 9:15am. I've just missed the 8am flight to Kigali, #474, and the next flight to Rwanda is at 6pm, on a different airline entirely. If this sounds like the beginning to a long day in a second-rate airport, well, I wish I had a wittier answer but a long day is exactly what it was.
I'll save you from reading the minute-by-minute account of how I spent the next 10 hours at Jomo Kenyatta airport, except to say that the time between 3pm and 4:30pm was allotted to wine shopping at the duty free stores. Three bottles of red Burgundy, one semillion, a South African merlot, and a large bottle of Pimm's later, my new friend and mediocre wine salesman extraordinaire, Chebii, sent me to my gate with a shopping cart.
Sometime after attempting to get into the British Airways executive platinum lounge and then retreating to the Java coffee shop for a shredded cheddar cheese sandwich, Obama arrived. The morning flights having already departed, and the next flights still half a day away, it seemed I was the only guest in the coffee shop, maybe even the whole airport. CNN kept me awake if only because Al Gore was giving his self-congratulatory endorsement of Barack, and was attracting quite the crowd. A group of five young Kenyans fixing the air conditioning put their tools aside to watch. Three other men from behind the counter emerged with an intent for television reserved only for soccer, catastrophe, and now everyone's favorite presidential candidate as well. All stood transfixed; whispers of "Ba-rack O-ba-ma," a few bobbing heads. At one point I turned and asked mundanely "How do you feel about Obama?" to anyone in general. From atop of his ladder, one slouching guy in a florescent yellow vest looked down at me and grinned broadly. "We are very proud of him," he said. "He is one of us!"