Tuesday night found me boarding a taxi at the tail end of a blizzard, shedding my winter coat, and double checking to see that I’d packed enough SPF 45. My destination, you wonder? No, not a beach somewhere exotic – not even a poolside in Florida.
Two Turkish Airline flights later I found myself in a rather familiar situation: waiting in the visa line at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. I have this incredible knack for picking the slowest moving line and this morning was no exception. I smiled to myself, for it was the exact same passport control officer I’d been stuck with on my last trip: slow and full of meaningless conversation. He took his time as he looked over each passport, carefully scrutinizing one terrible government portrait after another, never failing to find something interesting to say.
“Winta,” he lazily gazed at me over the counter, “I like your name.”
“Do you? Thank you.”
“It’s funny because it’s a season!” he was chuckling now, as he wrote out my name on my visa sticker. “Winta. W-I-N-T-E-R. Ha, I need to make certain to spell it correct. Wiiintaa. I see many, many crazy names. Especially Japanese names. Very hard names to spell. But this one, me, I like it. Wiiintaaa.”
“That’s me!” I resisted the urge to throw out a “that’s my name, don’t wear it out” ala 1989, but quickly concluded that it would be unwise to encourage this gentleman who was currently in possession of my passport.
“Wiiintaaa. Jennifa Lee Wiiintaaa. How long you stay with me in Kenya?” His lazy eyes looked up at me again, coupled with a coy grin.
“I’m staying with my friend, Irene, for just over two weeks. 16 days.”
“Jennifa Winta,” he pouted, “why you not stay with me?” Things that irritate me include but are not limited to: grown men attempting a sad puppy faces.
I glanced at the long line of international businessmen tapping their feet and checking their BlackBerry’s in frustration behind me. “Whenever I come to Kenya I stay with Irene,” I smiled, “her address is on my visa form,” I tried to bring him back to the task at hand.
“Ah, this is not your first time in Kenya!” Oh, no. “How many other times in Kenya. How do you find it?”
“This is my third time in Kenya. I find it very nice.” Please, oh please, just pound down with that official rubber stamp so I can get out of here!
“You come for safari? You see big 5? Haha, tourists all want to see big 5!” He emphasized this by holding up five fingers – three on his left hand and two on his right.
“Yes, I’ve seen the big 5. But no time for safari on this trip.
“Umhmm. 16 days. Wiiintaaa, that is too bad. Even me, I wish you would stay longer.” He sighed.
Stamp! Sign! Slap!
I quickly grabbed my passport from the counter and began to walk toward the exit before he could think of anything else to say. “Thank you. Asante sana!” I waved and called behind me.
“Karibu Kenya, Jennifaaa Wintaaa!” He turned his attention to the next gentleman in line. “That one, her name Winta. It’s a very nice name!”
Please see also: Jenn(y)
Originally published 2011 on this blog.