#4 summer vibes
The last week in Kenya was filled with new impressions and encounters, as I travelled to the country’s coast. Together with my French flatmate Louis and his Kenyan friend Cherry, I took the SGR Madaraka Express to Mombasa, and lucky me got to see some Elephants in Tsavo National park. During our journey we had some interesting and maybe even long lasting conversations with three women, ranging from beauty standards over Somali identity to Kamba witchcraft. Looking back, we probably entertained the whole coach. When we arrived in Mombasa, we had the luck to get a some “outdoor-ish” houses at a beach bar in Mtwapa where Martin (a friend of a friend of a friend of Louis) welcomed us with some fresh grilled fish. The weather was hot, and just then, it felt like things couldn’t get any better than this. Well, I realised that I needed a short break from the frosty environment (highly exaggerated, mind you) and cloudy weather back in Nairobi city. Back in the beach bar, we would sleep with an open roof, just so we could get a feel of the evening breeze together with the ever endearing sound of the ocean waves. The weekend was turning out to be quite the experience.
Our second day started off with a great swim close to the Mangroves, nature’s very own exquisite plantation with utter complexity.The rest of the day would see us dig further into the ever unique Mombasa and i was really impressed, with its Swahili, Arabic and Portuguese undertones. I do not know why, but for some reason I felt a bit at home with the surrounding Arabic culture. Probably because Berlin and Germany as such is home to quite a lot of Arabic and Turkish people. Later on we visited the market, where we bought some Lesso and Dera fabric and got a taste of some spices, such as pilau, cumin, cloves and chai masala. We also enjoyed some of the street food like cassava with lemon and chili or mango masala.
Although I really enjoyed the day in Mombasa, I also experienced some tiny down sides. People in Mombasa were super welcoming and seemed to be a bit more relaxed in their daily hustles. Most of them. I felt the holiday vibe immediately. Yet, compared to Nairobi, I got a lot more attention being white. Could’ve been because of its reputation as a sunny holiday destination that tourist attraction is more of a thing. With loads of Italians and their precious houses and green gardens along the coast. Or maybe it was my new hair style – “Rasta girl” they called me. Matatu, tuktuk and bodaboda touts as well as salespersons saw some economic opportunity in me, which I understand after the cultural conversations I have had with a lot of Kenyan friends. Sometimes though, I must admit, they turned out to be more than friendly but with an extreme downside. They got really loud and occasionally failed to understand a simple “No”. What was even more disturbing was the constantly offensive hostility our Kenyan friend got for trying to help us with the local prices; simply trying to avoid exploitations. They made her choose to take sides between the local and the tourist. More than once. Often passengers were even convinced that she would be working for us, which was not an enjoyable feeling. Contrary, in situations where she would be the one paying for instance, people were judging her for “feeding” rich mzungus (whites). The hidden perception that white equals money followed me throughout my time at the coast. Which in turn attracted a lot of beach boys a couple of times. By trying to speak a bit of Kiswahili, I could get rid of them quite easily.
Escaping the chaotic noise and perhaps overwhelming attention in Mombasa, we continued our trip in Malindi “little Italy”, where we spend most of the time walking along the beach, swimming in the Marine National Park, talking to fishermen, drinking coconut milk and relaxing. Just relaxing.
One of my favourite spots in Malindi was a tiny, cozy but hidden Arabic café that offered spiced coffee (a coffee addict is speaking) and a range of local of pastry, such as Mahamri. Together with our neighbours, some law students from Nairobi and one bodaboda driver from Malindi, I went to my first Kenyan or let’s say African “dance night” in the evening. Dancing for hours was a lot of fun. What was a bit annoying, were all the old retired white men that were hanging around at the same time. And and image of sex tourism that was somewhere behind.
We also went to the Marine National Park in Watamu, where we went for a snorkeling tour. No words could sufficiently describe my joy. The underwater world fascinated me. I cannot forget the picture of that bubblegum-looking parrot fish. We had such a good time, altogether with the two boys working on the boat as well as some guides working at the Marine National Park.
After all, they even allowed us to stay on the boat, outside of the time we had paid for, together with some rich Kenyan party boys that live in the UK and actually booked the little boat. They even brought us to a beach bay with turquoise water and had ugali and maharagwe for lunch with us at a local place close by. I was happy to escape the tourist trap for a while. Afterwards, we visited the small old Arabic Gede at the coast, accompanied by a number of monkeys next to some Baobab trees. Overall, the day excelled all my expectations.
We spent Sunday, which was our last day, mostly travelling. Though, early in the morning we went to the beach in Malindi to see the sun rise.
Initially we also planned to have some more time in Mombasa before leaving from the train station. As well as to have Maharagwe in coconut milk somewhere at the coast. Unfortunately some Matatu conductors guided us into a slum, apparently close to the train station which was in fact not that true. We could not find any food, especially Maharagwe in coconut milk in the first place, as it was Sunday. People in the slum seemed to be surprised and did not really understand what some “backpackers” where doing over there. “Look, those mzungus are poor, they don’t have money” I could hear some people talking. Thanks to a bus driver who gave us a free ride, we ended up at the train station on time. While enjoying my short summer break, I started to realise that my time in Kenya was about to end. Just a few weeks are left and I am about to move to Sweden. I feel like I am already starting to miss the kids at the center and my colleagues Venna, Evette and Happiness.
On one hand, I wanted to stay at the coast for forever, and busk in the warm weather, enjoy the sight of the beautiful ocean and the taste of fresh fruits. On the other hand, I was already excited to get back to Nairobi and enjoy every moment that will be left for me at WaleWale.