Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Coastal Love

I finished my finals about a week ago, and my entire program went on a weeklong “end-of-program retreat” to Mombasa, Watamu, and Malindi. Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya (not much competition when there are three cities total in the entire country). It’s on the coast of the Indian Ocean, and is a completely different city from Nairobi. While Nairobi is fast-paced, developed, and dry, Mombasa is languid, less developed, and more humid than Missouri in August. This is where the original Swahili culture still exists, which is a mixture of Central African and Arab. This is a very Muslim city and there are mosques everywhere. We spent our time in the city center, where we stayed in a nice hotel with air conditioning. Air conditioning. I didn’t realize this until that moment when I felt the first blast of cold air, but I had not felt any air conditioning this entire semester, despite living in perpetual equatorial summer. It was a very foreign feeling. Most of us, including me, got congested sinuses and sore throats from the AC.
Overall Mombasa is a very cool city, one that is most easier to “handle” than Nairobi. You can smell the ocean everywhere you go (which offsets the smell of sweat and garbage normally found in African cities), the people are friendly and less opportunistic, and the city even had an Old Town, which was filled with adorable old crumbly houses that is more reminiscent of Europe. One night we went on a dhou (traditional Swahili boat) ride on the ocean and ate dinner under the stars, which you could actually see. Beautiful.
Despite Mombasa being a pleasant place, we were all ready to hit the beach and relax after a very intense semester! This was to take place in Watamu, a small city directly on the ocean, where we stayed in an all-inclusive (read: all meals, drinks, and water equipment) resort. It was absolutely gorgeous; the Indian Ocean was warm and very pleasant, we spend afternoons playing beach volleyball and evenings walking down the beach. There were, however, a lot of white people there, mostly British and Italian. It was uncomfortable for all of us; it’s a very weird sensation, not being the only white person among a city of Africans. It’ll be interesting to be back in the Midwest, that’s for sure. Also, over half the girls on our program had, to put it nicely, stomach problems because we were eating Western style food again. I haven’t had any processed foods in four months, so it takes a while for the stomach to get used to it.
This trip was fantastic and a wonderful way to end the program. I’m now in Nairobi until Thursday, after which it takes me five days and six flights to get home. Yay


Emily McKnight said...

I'm so jealous of your experiences in Kenya. I really wanted to do something like that, but needing French to graduate got in the way. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I can't wait to see you again!

Justin said...

You are intense... I miss you... See you in a few days.

Jenelle said...

but somewhere in those five days and six flights you get to see meeee.
so it's all ok ;)

Gary said...

Boo processed foods! Yay Erin!