You know how you try to look out the window of an airplane and really strain to see everything beneath you? That’s how I felt as I flew to Lamu this past weekend. It’s much like looking out an airplane window. There’s so much in my brain and so much that I want to share, but I can’t quite fit it all into something coherent. I am approaching 7 weeks in Nairobi. It’s a bit of a relief at how fast time passes here, but it’s also a little difficult to grasp that this might all be over before I know it. There is still so much to be done! I have been learning to take it one day at a time and enjoy the little things that each day brings. Last week, I bought a bike. Biking to work and back each day is a small win. A big win would be for drivers to recognize the 4 foot rule for bikers – I don’t even get 4 inches. On the bright side, I am learning to appreciate the small things that I took for granted in the States. I am also appreciating the quirks and beautiful aspects of Kenya (which I am beginning to realize are endless).
Last weekend, I went to the coast with two friends. We took a short flight (less than 2 hours), stopping in Malindi, and then landing at Manda Airport. As we flew over the fields of Kenya, I thought about everyone who discouraged us from driving to the coast. Then I thought about all of the people we were flying over, who didn’t have the luxury of flying. The same people who likely can’t just pick up and leave Kenya whenever they want. During the moments when I am feeling sorry for myself and missing home, I try to remind myself of how good I have it. I have several places back in the States that I could potentially call home if I needed to. I try to remember to be grateful for the loved ones at home, the home-cooked meals that await, the freedom, and the ability to go, almost, anywhere in the world. I haven’t had this much alone time in years, and it really turns you into a bit of a [wanna-be] philosopher.
Lamu is a beautiful place. Several people warned us about it being too dangerous for tourists, however, being there was the most relaxed I’ve felt in a long time. The danger is mostly along the Somali border, and Lamu Island itself has been peaceful for some time. The oldest Swahili settlement, Lamu is full of old Arab-style buildings, mosques, verandas, and even a central courtyard where the town people gather in the evenings to watch the news on a projector (this is how we learned of the six simbas (lions) that wandered out into the city from Nairobi National Park) and play a game of bao. The mosques have loudspeakers from which they announce a call to prayer as early as 4:45am. Everyone we passed on the street said, “Jambo (hello) or Karibu (welcome)!” Along the waterfront, sailors tried to take us for a ride on their dhow (wooden boat). We went snorkeling on a 100+ year-old dhow, ate fresh fish grilled on the boat, ate dinner at a local family’s house (and enjoyed a post-dinner serenade), and drank lots of baobab juice and fresh coconut water. Most of all, we felt so welcome there. One day as I walked down the street, a little boy, maybe 5 years-old, kissed his hands and took mine in his. It was really special, and made me wonder how a small town in the US would react to African foreigners visiting…(I think we already know the answer, thanks to Trump, please don’t vote for him).
My days are still a fluctuation of highs and lows. After returning from the coast, I fell sick and that led to a string of days of feeling pretty miserable and wishing my mom were closer (my roommate, Nuri, came to my rescue with homemade soup). Not to worry, I am feeling better, and it was another good lesson in what I take for granted in the States; where such small wins wouldn’t make me so irrationally happy, and where I sometimes lose sight of the beauty of humanity.