Sunday, July 22, 2012

Naiberi

The day after our Fourth of July celebration, we made another trip to visit our interns in Mbakalo. Cale and I rode up on the motorcycle, while the Drs. W and Andrew made the trip in the car.

Side note: Dr. W's wife, also Dr. W had arrived in Kenya just before the mid-internship retreat. Andrew, who had been interning in Mtongwe (just south of Mombasa), had moved back to Mumias due to the travel warning in Mombasa. 

We were doing an intern swap. Jasmine had a very important wedding she was missing in the States that weekend. She wanted to come to Mumias in the hopes of an internet connection strong enough to let her watch the wedding on Skype. I was worried it wouldn't work, but it turned out to be a great success. Andrew was going to spend the weekend in Mbakalo so he could experience rural Kenya and hang out with Dani.

Cale and I decided since we would already be in Mbakalo, we might as well continue on to Eldoret and spend the weekend there. Cale had decided we needed to treat ourselves and had made a reservation at the Naiberi River Camp, which was about 16 km outside of Eldoret. Based on the pictures on the internet, it was going to be quite fancy.

The ride to Mbakalo was more than two hours. Then, from Mbakalo to Naiberi, we rode another three or more hours. Along the way a soft drizzle began to fall. In addition, we continued to climb in altitude to more than a mile above sea level. The combined altitude and rain made the temperature plummet. When we finally arrived at the camp after 5pm, my toes were frozen (I had only sandals and socks on), my teeth were chattering, and I was miserably damp. We made our way to reception, where a plaque on the door proudly proclaimed Bill Gates had slept here in 2009 (a copy of the plaque also hung behind the reception desk).

We were shown to our "log cabin" room, which turned out to be a cement cell with a lumpy bed that sloped off to one side. Damp and cold, I whined to Cale, "What happened to the rooms in the pictures on the web site?" So we investigated. As it turns out, the web site pictures were "executive rooms." So we had them show us the executive room, which was significantly better. It had a large bed that was very comfortable. We were particularly excited about the spacious porch that overlooked the valley and treated us to the sound of the river flowing below. It seemed idyllic.

Unfortunately, it was also freezing! Immediately after we got the room, I crawled into the bed fully clothed, piling extra blankets on top. Cale found hot water bottles in the closet. After they were filled, I hugged them to my body under the covers. Cale went to the restaurant to arrange for drinks and chips (fries).

While he was away, the dance party started. The nature sounds and the rushing river were replaced by booming bass punctuated by the occasional shout and scream.

We were able to drowned it out in the room by playing our own music while we ate fries and hugged hot water bottle. While we were eating, someone came to start a fire in a standalone fireplace on the porch. Once the fire was nice and hot, we went to sit on the porch by the fire. It would have been a perfect setting it it wasn't for the dance party still rocking up the valley.

We retired to bed and waited for the dance party to end. If anything, it got louder. I tossed and turned, getting angrier and angrier. I tried calling the office several times, but there was no answer. Finally, as it worked its way past midnight, I could not handle it anymore. We were paying 7,000 Ksh a night for this room. Almost $90 USD a night is a lot to pay for any place to stay. You would expect to at least get some sleep. In addition, we were pretty sure that the people having the dance party were the teenage children of the (we assumed) owner that we had seen earlier in the evening.

We climbed out of the warm bed and tromped through the cold damp to the restaurant. I demanded to see a manager. The employee at the entrance to the restaurant didn't want to find a manager, but she kept insisting that she would end the noise. However, she also said the party was other guests. I kept asking, how, if this party is for other guests, can you just end it because two people complained. Yet immediately after we returned to our room the music ended. Even so, it still took me several hours to get to sleep around 3 am.

The next morning, we made our way to reception to dispute the bill. There was no way we were going to pay 7,000 Ksh for a night of no sleep. If we had wanted that, we could have stayed in Eldoret town for less than 2,000 Ksh. The argument over the bill was quite interesting. We were first informed that it was our fault for not complaining earlier. Cale continued to point out that their shirts all said "Back to Nature," yet a dance party is not nature. Then they decided that it was our fault for not telling them when we made the reservation. Really? We should have know to tell you when we called to reserve a room at a nature lodge that we didn't want to stay by a dance party? Cale reasonably offered to pay half (3,500 Ksh) since we were able to sleep half the night.

During this entire interaction, we continued to ask to see the boss or manager. Finally, we were introduce to a Raj. We were told he was the boss. Raj insisted he was not the boss. He claimed he was the designer of the lodge, but that someone else was the boss. Either way Raj decided to use his business skills on us. He declared we could stay another night in the executive room and pay the price of the "log cabin" rooms for both nights (5,000 Ksh per night), and he would pay the difference from the price of the executive room. His treat. In exchange for this deal we would have to have dinner with him that night. None of this sounded like a good deal to us. It was just a way to get 10,000 Ksh out of us rather than the current argued price of 7,000. Plus, we could still stay in town for less than 2,000 and get just as much sleep. We were having none of it. Raj then declared it wasn't his problem and walked off.

During this entire transaction the lady at the desk was growing increasingly sullen and accusatory of us, which did not incline us to see it from her perspective. An additional employee arrived, and she was quite nice. She agreed that the noise wasn't good. She said that the person with the room next to ours is usually up at 6am, but was not up that day. She assumed because he was kept awake all night too. Just having someone validate our problems made me feel better. If we had been working with her all along, things might have gone better. However, she also confirmed for us that the party consisted of Raj's kids and the tour drivers. It was not guests, but employees and employees' kids.

Finally, the sullen woman spoke with someone on the phone (or so she claimed, I still wonder if this Raj guy was not the boss all along, despite his claims to the contrary) and agreed to our offer. So we paid 3,500 Ksh, hopped on the moto, and headed back to Eldoret.

Though it was still raining and bitterly cold, we decided not to head directly to Watercrest. We knew that once we got to our room, we would not go out again. Instead, we dragged our wet, cold, mud-covered selves into Nova Cafe, and the day became 100 times better. Cale had real coffee. I had a real chai latte. We also had eggs benedict (which were nothing like eggs benedict, but were still amazing).

Cale called Watercrest. They totally remembered us and totally had a room for us. We climbed into bed there and pretended that Naiberi never happened. That night, we had dinner at Mama Mia. We had eaten there before and were not impressed with the pizza. Despite the Italian name and fare, the restaurant is owned by Indians. We deemed it a smarter practice to order Indian dishes from an Indian-owned restaurant and we were not disappointed.

While we were waiting for our food, Dr. Mamlin and his wife Sarah Ellen came in with a large party. Sarah Ellen peered at us suspiciously and came over to our table. She explained she was the warden for the region (which the internet tells me is an embassy liaison) and she usually knows all the Americans in the area. We explained we were just visiting and were actually staying in Mumias. I also told her that I had seen her presentation at the Women's Philanthropy Conference in Indianapolis.

That night we slept soundly at Watercrest and were up the next day breakfast at Nova Cafe before heading back to Mumias.

— Sara

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