I’m Nairobi after ten days on the Kenyan coast. I have now seen, and tasted, the Indian Ocean!

I went down on the Thursday morning bus with Dalia and her travel buddy, Krisy. Our destination was the town of Voi, Kenya’s Reno. And it is indeed the biggest little city in Kenya, whatever that means. It’s about an hour or so inland from Mombasa. There we met our mutual friend, Mahlon, who is a volunteer with the Peace Corps. He has been teaching maths and physics in a rural school out in the coastal Kwale district for a year now. It was great to see him again, the same mellow soul as ever, but now in Kenya, talking Swahili, perfectly at ease, and sporting a little Muslim-style goatee.

The group of volunteers on the coast were having a Halloween party. Afterwards, those volunteers in Mahlon’s group were going to Mombasa for their mid-service medical exam. We were taking advantage of that to see the city with them while they were being put up in a hotel.

Back to Voi. We stayed in the Distar hotel which turned out to be right next to the local Jamii Bora branch. The Distar had nice little rooms with balconies. Mine had a showed with the electric water heater showerhead which I’d seen before in South America, but never expected to find in Kenya. I guess I was surprised by the fact that there was a shower at all.

We were to meet this whole gaggle of Peace Corps volunteers who had come out for the party. It was strange to be around so many Americans after 3 months out of the country. It was an odd group, too, of volunteers who had just arrived and those who, like Mahlon, had already been there a year.

The party was cool. It was a mixture of Americans and Kenyans, some of whom really got into the costume part of the evening. The house that this volunteer is staying in in Voi is ridiculously out-sized but the party filled it up nicely. The fact that they had arranged to have a whole keg (another oddity in Kenya) certainly helped. The hostess made brownies. I only got a little bite of them, but they were really good. Dalia found the secret stash of them later and let’s just say that there weren’t any leftovers.

It was in Voi that I first had blended passionfruit and avocado juice. The first PCV in Voi showed me a little kiosk near the bus station where a friend of his served juices. It was a juice bar, but without all the frippery of protein boosts and wheat grass. This was just a bar where they serve juice. (Pronounced in Kenyan English as jew-ees) Let me tell you that avocado jew-ees may sound funny but it is great, especially mixed with the right froo-eets.

After a few days in Voi it was time to go down to Mombasa. We caught a matatu down there. It was a little early for Mahlon to be staying in the PC-provided hotel, so we stayed at the Baracha guest house together for a night.

Mombasa is a funny place to go with Peace Corps volunteers on the coast since they see it as the lap of luxury and are only thinking of taking advantage of the creature comforts it provides. Still, it is a nicer city than Nairobi; the atmosphere, both literally and figuratively, is more amenable and the city’s history gives it a character that Nairobi just doesn’t have.

We spent some days in Mombasa before heading up the coast. We saw a little of the old town, Fort Jesus (from the outside), and watched boys and men bathing at the little beach. We had Swahili food, known for its inclusion of coconut and spices. We also went out to bars, had good ol’ fashioned cups of joe at the Dorman’s and played cards in air-conditioned hotel rooms.

When all the medical business was over, we took off up the coast with Mahlon to Kilifi, where his friend and fellow volunteer, Carlos, is staying. Oddly enough, Carlos was Mahlon’s next-door neighbor in DC. In Kilifi we spent a whole afternoon at the Member’s Club which overlooks the river as it runs out to the ocean. We went down to the water there and waded, beachcombed and generally pottered about for a while. I think that would count as my first time touching the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, but as I said, we were on the mouth of a river.

Carlos lives in a teacher’s house on the grounds of his assigned school. It’s a pretty comfortable setup with two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. Naturally, it has become the spot for the coastal volunteers to gather in their free time.

In the morning we took off for Gade which is near Malindi. Malindi itself is harrogatha. Full of Italian tourists staying in beachfront resorts and ignoring the locals, except for the poor men and women they engage as prostitutes for the duration of their stay. I later visited the Jamii Bora office there which was a world apart, and has its own story.

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