Doug: Life in Mombasa, Part 2

November 23, 2011
My new room in Bamburi–a mosquito net is an essential.

So there are some distinct differences between living in Nairobi and living here in the coastal Mombasa region.

First off, have I mentioned that Mombasa is hot? Cause it is. It’s stinking hot. The only time I’m not sweating is the 5 minute period after my 2x daily showers. To make matters work, everything I eat is hot: from hot morning tea at home with my host family, to hot mid-morning porridge with the kids at the school, to hot lunch, to a hot dinner—always made more difficult by the fact that we use our hands. Undoubtedly, due to the intense coastal sun, I’m turning more African daily. The culture of the coast is crazy different as well. Walking through Old Town Mombasa, one gets very confused about what country you’re in. It’s like India, the Middle East, and Africa all collided and produced Mombasa.

The streets of Old Town Mombasa

From Hindi, to Arabic, to Swahili, to English—I think downtown Mombasa is having an  identity crisis. Add in the fact that the Portuguese were here for a while, and your head really goes for a spin. While we were touring an old historic site in Mombasa—Fort Jesus (creative name, I know)—my dreams were made complete: I heard a Kenyan giving a tour of the fort to some Spaniards—IN SPANISH. Now I just need to find someone in Ecuador (where I’m going for spring semester) who knows how to speak Swahili, and my life shall be complete.

View of Mombasa harbor from Fort Jesus

Old town Mombasa

Where was I? Oh yeah, Mombasa. The city itself is really cool, especially Old Town. Winding stone alleyways, beautiful mosque architecture, awesome views of the harbor. It’s only about a 25 minute matatu ride from Bamburi—where I live with my host family. Bamburi is a bustling town, inland from the Indian Ocean about 15 minutes. Stoney mud roads lead through a crowded town center, with numerous mosques, and people walking everywhere through the streets. I’ve found my favorite hole-in-the-wall café, where I’ve befriended some of the staff, and where I eat beans, chapati (sorta like pita bread…), and the most delicious passion fruit juice I’ve ever had—all for under $1.

A couple times a week I head to Pirates Beach (which is a public beach about 15 minutes from my house) with a couple friends who are also working in the Bamburi area. It’s a good place to relax—and by relax I mean get harassed every 5 minutes because you’re white—and that means you want to buy every small random trinket that someone is selling (literally a man walked by, asking if I wanted to buy one of the massive stuffed animals that he was carrying), or just make random small talk with random Kenyans. It’s always a different experience….

Kenyans hanging at Pirates Beach

Two weekends ago, a group of us from my program went to stay in Tiwi—a beach south of Mombasa. Tiwi was undoubtedly the most tropical and beautiful place I’ve been. We only stayed for 24 hours (only $10 for the night!), but it was a pretty sweet stay. We were able to snorkel through the crystal clear and blue waters, see some awesome brightly colored fish and, and go in some even more awesome sea caves. It’s times like this where I wonder what am I doing? I’m 10,000 miles from home, snorkeling in the Indian Ocean—in Kenya. Very blessed indeed…

The view upon arriving at our hostel at Tiwi Beach

Sunrise over Tiwi Beach

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