I leave shortly for my next teaching and consulting assignment: Nairobi, Kenya, where I’ll spend the next two weeks teaching infographics at the Nation media group.
This is my sixth trip to the continent of Africa. I spent two weeks at the Leadership newspaper group in Abuja, Nigeria, in March. And, as you know, I’ve done quite a bit of work for Media24, a large newspaper chain in South Africa.
When you see that map, you probably think: Wow, it’s going to be hot in Nairobi. But you’d be wrong. Because Nairobi is just 90 miles or so South of the Equator, their hottest days are in March and October. In fact, on average, July is the coolest month of the year.
Also, Nairobi is very high up in the mountains: 5,889 feet above sea level. That puts it 138 feet higher than Johannesburg — which I found to be quite nice when I was there for summer in 2010-11 — and 209 feet higher than the highest point in Denver.
So heat won’t be a factor. But I’ll have to remember to avoid strenuous activity. Like, y’know, walking up a flight of stairs.
The forecast for this week is just wonderful. Especially compared to the oppressive heat we’ve seen here in Hampton Roads lately. Here’s the forecast for this week in Nairobi:
I’m even taking a sport coat to wear in the evenings. When, as you see, it can get just a bit chilly.
I’ll be staying at the Stanley Hotel in downtown Nairobi. Here’s a picture from the hotel’s web site:
It’s a famous old hotel. Ernest Hemmingway spent a lot of time here in the 1930s. I’m told I’ll enjoy the historic Thorn Tree Cafe and the Exchange bar, a bar built in the room where Kenya’s first stock exchange operated.
What’s even better: I’m told I’ll be an easy walk from the newspaper office. Just a block or two.
So, once I’m there, I’ll be fine.
Whenever I venture out this far from home, however, the plane rides are just brutal — especially for someone my size. The widths of airline seats are bad enough, but these days, I don’t get enough leg room in front of me, either. The seats are just too close together. So little things like keeping circulation in my feet or even lowering my tray so I can eat can be a hassle.
I enjoy the work. But I don’t enjoy the travel itself.
I’ll leave Norfolk in early afternoon and have brief layovers in New York and Paris. I’ll arrive in Nairobi late Saturday their time.
Nairobi time is seven hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time, so I’ve been up to my usual “time-shifting” trick to try to avoid the worst effects of jet lag. Right after the July 4th holiday, I began getting up a half-hour earlier than usual each day and going to bed a half-earlier earlier than usual each night.
Thursday, July 5: Up at 8:30 a.m. – Bed by Midnight
Friday, July 6: Up at 8 a.m. – Bed by 11:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 7: Up at 7:30 a.m. – Bed by 11 p.m.
Sunday, July 8: Up at 7 a.m. – Bed by 10:30 p.m.
Monday, July 9: Up at 6:30 a.m. – Bed by 10 p.m.
Tuesday, July 10: Up at 6 a.m. – Bed by 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 11: Up at 5:30 a.m. – Bed by 9 p.m.
Thursday, July 12: Up at 5 a.m. – Bed by 8:30 p.m.
Friday, July 13: Up at 4:30 a.m. – Bed by 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 14: Up at 4 a.m. – Bed by 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 15: Up at 3:30 a.m. – Bed by 7 p.m.
Monday, July 16: Up at 3 a.m. – Bed by 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 17: Up at 2:30 a.m. – Bed by 6 p.m.
Wednesday, July 18: Up at 2 a.m. – Bed by 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 19: Up at 1:30 a.m. – Bed by 5 p.m.
Friday, July 20: Up at 1 a.m.
I’ve been burned badly in the past by jet lag, so I’ve refined this system over the past few years. And it works pretty well. What I did differently this time: Half-hour increments instead of full hour changes. Which meant the process took longer but was less painful.
Time-shifting wasn’t really a problem until this week. I’ve not had problems getting up in the mornings. But getting to sleep on time was difficult.
There are other little tricks: Avoid caffeine, for example. And don’t go out in the sun in the afternoons. Likewise, I’ll want to get up Sunday morning in Nairobi and get out into the sun as quickly as possible. Sunlight triggers a chemical in your skin called melatonin that helps reset your body clock.
Right now, I’m a little tired. But I’ll have plenty of time to sleep on the plane.
Working at the breakfast table at 4:30 a.m. today.
I’ve kept busy during the wee hours of the mornings by refining my slide shows for next week, by knocking out a bunch of other commitments — some freelance work and judging a college design contest, for example.
And getting ahead on birthday posts for my blog. I don’t want to have to take a time out to write up birthday posts while I’m on the road. As of this week, they’re all written through Aug. 18, as a matter of fact.
Normally, I rely on my wife, Sharon, to help me pack and to take care of a bunch of little details. This time, however, she was out of town — in Richmond for a teaching conference. So I’ve had to be extra-careful when making my schedule and packing checklist for yesterday and today.
I didn’t pack — Sharon’s much better than I am at reducing wrinkles and such — so I laid out stuff for her to pack this morning. Which she did. I’m all set to go now.
One fairly large — but hopefully weighing under 50 lbs. — checked bag, one carry-on and my computer bag. That’s about as light as I can travel on an extended trip like this.
I’ve learned long ago that no one cares what you look like on an airplane — especially when you’ll be flying for nearly 24 hours. So these days I wear the most comfortable clothes I can find. Today, that’s a T-shirt — with a breast pocket for my iPod — warmup pants and my usual sneakers.
In my carry-on bag, I have an extra T-shirt, socks and underwear so I can change on the plane or in Paris.
I’ll soon be on my way. Naturally, I’ll keep you posted.