It’s a sign

There is a time and a place for process.  To my surprise I discovered yesterday that even when something looks chaotic, a process can and may well exist. It doesn’t necessarily have to make sense, but it may exist nonetheless.

I had an unexpected twist to my morning routine this Wednesday when I was asked to pick up my fellow PULSE volunteer Dara from Jomo Kenyatta airport.  What would have been a brief transit stop for Dara ended up much longer thanks to an untimely power surge at London Heathrow. Rather than bunking down in a hotel for two days, Dara came to stay with Karoline and me.

I realised as I was trundling down the highway to the airport that I had no idea who it was I was meant to be waving at when I got to the arrivals gate. I needed a sign.

In the hazy light of daybreak I managed to scramble a blank piece of paper from my work folder and set about scribing the name of my mystery guest, repeatedly tracing each letter to make it bold enough to see from a distance for even the most sleep-deprived and weary traveler.

Not worthy! My passenger collection sign.
Not worthy! My passenger collection sign.

Joseph, my taxi driver, kindly offered to wait with me at the arrivals area and advised that all collection signs need to go through an ‘airport authority’ approval process. Only when the process is complete and the sign stamped should we join the crowd and begin our wait. Who knew! With a nod of the head Joseph went off to get my sign approved leaving me signless, bouncing on tippy toes at the back of the crowd.

To my surprise it wasn’t my sign he returned with. Apparently on presenting my carefully crafted name board for approval he was advised it wasn’t ‘professional’ enough. The approving staff member couldn’t be sure this was from someone legitimately picking up a passenger. That concept alone hurt my head!

So with my handy work rejected poor Joseph had to walk back to the car to make another sign. One that was professional enough for the airport authorities to approve and stamp. I expected some sort of formal board, branded paper… something that met the evidently high standards of Jomo Kenyatta.

Ah, not so much! Comparing the two I am not sure why we need a completely new sign. What Joseph created had nothing more than the boldness of a black texta and some formal details listed on the bottom. I couldn’t really see how his was any more ‘legitimate’ or professional than mine but it made the grade and received a stamp of approval.

Approved! The airport authority approved sign.
Approved! The airport authority approved sign.

It turns out we didn’t really need the sign after all. It was plainly obviously who Dara was. By the time she had battled her way past the baggage desk and made her way outside, three hours had gone by. The hustle bustle of arrivals had died down and we were among only a handful of collectors waiting for their weary traveler.


  1. Ah yes the challenges of traveling in a foreign airport. I can relate. Good luck on your continuing adventure:)

  2. U did a great job thier Alicia. The guys in the airport should know that u r the expert 😉.
    It is true, wither we like it or not , people do have a process that varies in its complexity according to thier culture and education, but it is nice feeling when u understand or realize unexpected one 🙂

    1. Agree with you Qutaiba. It was a funny ‘aha’ moment that made Joseph and me laugh. I told him about the ‘process’ – or lack there of – in Australia and he told me what happened here. Now I know!

  3. Good one Alicia – I recall on my first arrival at 11pm, I came out of Jomo Kenyatta and there were about a hundred people with signs, It was busy. I had to get the lady at the JimCab desk to come find my driver !

    1. That sounds like what it was like on Wednesday! Which airport do you fly into next week? Let me know if its Wilson as that’s where I work. There are only a handful of domestic flights coming in at Wilson but you never know! Look forward to catching up.

  4. Love this – who would have known that there was a process for this, in a country where there is no apparent process for many other things! Or perhaps there is a process, but we just don’t know what it is, so don’t recognise it as a process … ummm!

  5. Great story Alicia. I love it that you are playing tour guide already! I hope you are able to locate a texta & whiteboard for your next visitor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s