We are back from the coast! But first drum roll
Current Stats (changes in red)
Police Searches: 2
Near Death Experiences: 1
Total Bribes Paid:0 KSH ($0.00)
Stomach Issues: 5
Illnesses: stomach parasite, bee sting
Bandwidth: 2.5 KB/sec
Kilometers Ran Without Injury: 7km
Living on the Coast
Monday, June 11th, our last day on the coast. This has been my first vacation in over a year. It was much needed and very relaxing. Just sitting right now on our balcony at the hotel, just catching up on some journaling before dinner. It’s Italian Night at the Hotel Restaurant. I’ve had great Italian food in other countries other than Italy. Truth be told, I’ve never been to Italy. But I hear the food is awesome.
Let’s just say, the trip didn’t start out so relaxing.
As my long time readers may remember my experience 2 years ago on the Coast Bus (Refer to this link for details). For those who have just read, they may ask me, why on earth would I want to repeat that experience?? After both Mena, Grace, and Nadia swore up and down that they’ve taen the bus many times and it had improved considerably and was basically awesome, how could I say no??
I should have said no.
Already there is the challenge of relaxing on a bus going 60 mph over pot-holes the size of elephants, but that I can deal with, to a point. The bus was very crowded, and personal space between you and the passenger sitting next to you is something you must not take for granted, because it really does not exist, but as time went on, I will have learned how thankful I was for my too close for comfy neighbor.
The bus air conditioning had broken down early on on the voyage, but still the conductor insisted that all windows stay shut. Many passengers have decided to remove their shoes, and without the comfort of fresh air circulating thru the enclosed space, the result proved to be rather suffocating. Every time someone would open a window, someone would come over and shut it.
While the guy sitting next to me didn’t seem to mind using my arm as an arm-rest, I soon realized that he smelled rather good. I kept my face pointed in his direction as his cologne masked the scent of the crowded, stale-aired, foot-odor filled air space of the Coast Bus.
I fell asleep.
A Suitcase Fell On My Face
I was instantly woken up from my slumber when the jostling caused by the elephant-sized potholes caused a great shift in the bus’s balance, and a rather large suitcase fell from the overhead compartment and landed square on my face, which had been reclining, face up, mouth open, and unconscious in a realm of dreams and hopes (which all came crashing down as fast as the luggage hit my face)
It did seem odd however, when this bus line made random stops to pick up hitch-hikers.
After many stops, many breaks, many potholes, and finally being allowed to open the windows. My neighbor left the bus, so I decided to move next to the window. My eyes, half open, looking at the city of Mombasa as we were arriving soon, I noticed the glistening of something shiny on the window, being impressed with the shadows and reflections hitting my eyes, caused a form of art, psychedelic experience in my half-conscious state. Until I noticed the movement of these shadows didn’t quite match the movement of the bus or the light. In a flash of an instant I moved my face back a bit, and realized what I was looking at, was a cockroach, crawling right next to my face. I look up, and I see another. Then back a bit, another, then another, then another. And then I noticed every window and every seat was crawling with cockroaches.
As soon as I could utter profanities unheard of on this side of the world, I shot out of my seat, startling a few passengers. That’s where I drew the line. We were taking an airplane home.
Morning Moon Rise Over Mombasa
As soon as we arrived at the bus terminal in the Old City section of Mombasa, I felt really like I was in a city in the Middle East. The spires of the mosques filled the horizon, and the call to prayer echoed through the streets. The city has much Arab influence over centuries, and these port cities were the main places where Swahili originated, the mix of Arabic and Bantu languages created its own language, spoken all across East Africa.
We met a man who gave us a car rental, which we drove into a more rural part of town where we found a Nakumat Shopping Center and just chilled. Upon arriving at our hotel, which is by far one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed at in my life (for a very low price), I realized all wasn’t well in my GI system.
I was soon to realize that eating solid foods was not an option for me, as I had a few unwanted tenants occupying my system. Whether they were bacteria, or parasites, I cannot say. All I could say was, they were going to be evicted shortly, except. The hotel doctor charged almost 100 dollars for an initial consultation. That wasn’t gonna happen… I was gonna weather this out and see if my immune system could go up to bat for me, just this time, so I could get my money’s worth of the exquisite food that I would have to refuse for the subsequent meals.
By day 2 and about 15 pounds of lost water weight, I realized that my WBC’s needed a bit of help. We went into the village of Mtwapa, just down the road, and went to a Chemist. This was by far the most painless Pharmacy experience of my life!! I walked in, said I needed 10 tablets, 500 mgs of Ciproflaxin (my sister and Mena, who are constantly getting stomach issues, have the script down to a T). No prescription needed and no questions asked. She got met he meds, asked me for 200 KSH (about $2.50)
$2.50?? Yes, two dollars and 50 cents for powerful antibiotics that could have prevented some serious illness. Then I ask myself, if it is so inexpensive to save a life, why are so many people here dying of similar illnesses? Sigh. It just should not be.
I was able to eat solid foods again, but I did not make up for lost time. I was happy eating some small portions here and there of whole food. I just didn’t feel like going all out by that point.
The days here were spent by the pool, sunbathing, talking to a few others, sharing stories, and experiences. I met a few Americans who were at the hotel, which was a rare treat, as most of the vacationers are from Europe or Kenya. Few pics:
The Beach Boys
In coastal villages, a good number of young people will go to the public primary schools but often cannot afford secondary school. Many young men will take advantage of the MONEY that arrives on the shores of the Indian Ocean, embodied in tourists, and bank on this for their income. They sell ebony carvings, keychains, seashells, village tours, you name it, and they’ll sell it. Many of have a charm that can have an older European woman emptying their pockets (maybe even more) for them. I heard some STORIES! Many however, are hard-working, straight forward, and have no agendas. But it’s a lifestyle that affords sometimes little, sometimes much, but they do not go hungry. They work hard, and they have my respect.
And from these guys I made a few friends.
Nadia, Grace, and I saw a Swahili style boat floating in the ocean, and we arranged a few of the guys to take us out on the boat. This particular boat was made by 3 of these guys, named Kakaa (the captain), Amony, and one other whose name I forget. The body of the boat, made of Mango, the sides and spires made of Mangrove, and the sail, made of White Denim.
We spent an hour out on the ocean, sometimes relaxing, sometimes bucketing out water, but it was such a wonderful time, and the guys were just really welcoming to us, we were chatting it up. They offered to take us later on a “Sea Safari” which is basically when the tide goes WAY out, you can walk almost a mile into the sea, and wade and see life that you wouldn’t normally see on the shore. They also said that they wouldn’t name a price, that they’d just allow us to give what we felt was best. First time I’ve ever heard that from a merchant.
The girls were getting spa treatment, but I took up their offer to see the life under the sea. During that time, I found a really cool kinship with Amony, as we spent much time talking and hanging out afterwards. We just talked much about our respective lives, and our dreams and challenges. Amony and I are not so very different after all.
When we arrived about a mile into the ocean, right where the waves were breaking on the reefs, I saw an array of colorful shells, and I was just really impressed at the natural coincidence that caused those shells to just lie there. There was a man standing by the shells, and when he recommended that one of the shells could be used as a great pen holder for my office, I realized that 1 mile into the ocean, there was actually a GIFT SHOP!
As clever as I felt it was, it wasn’t clever enough to get me to empty my pockets, so I declined and continued on my walk.
We walked back during sunset and saw some magnificent colors and shadows, as the the village of Kikambala grew steadily dark.
Unfortunately, the “beach boys” can’t do their business in peace. None of these guys are licensed, and cannot afford licensing, but unfortunately, the Tourism Police, need a bit of coaxing in the form of cash in order to let these guys continue about their business. Otherwise they’re threatened and chased off the hotel properties.
It was a mistake when I had my camera pointed in the direction of a police forcing a bribe from one of the beach boys. I immediately realized where my camera was pointing, and so did he. The policeman, rushed at me with his machine gun, very nervous and VERY aggressive, he yelled and actually scolded me for “taking his picture”, which I did not. He demanded to see the camera, but I refused. I stood up and he walked closer, sporting a machine gun wrapped around his waist, and a crowd drew near.
After being forced into bribes by so many of these Kenyan police, I had enough. A crowd drew around us, and he and I continued arguing. I just waited till I had a sizable crowd of beach boys, hotel security, and tourists, and I showed the cop my photos. None of them were of him. I took him back a few hours, of pics of me and my friends at the bar… some photos of the beach and the horizon, and back to the beginning of the roll, which was in London.
A very embarrassed officer became very docile and apologetic. And I was furious. I went on the beach just to relax but a bunch of the beach boys wanted to know what happened, I think I gained their respect or something. As I was walking with a few of them, one of the Tourist police wanted to speak to me. The Tourist police are at odds with the Kenyan police, as far as making sure tourists feel like they can do whatever they want… it’s kinda screwed up. They tried pressuring me into reporting the Kenyan cop, basically doing the dirty work for them, and I refused.
The beach boys, however, thought the Tourist Police wanted to make a Narc out of me, against them…. which I thought was pretty funny.
At this point, I realized, I’m on vacation, and I’m gonna deal with any of this political crap… so I kept away from the law enforcement and enjoyed my vacation.
Mena, Grace, Nadia and I had such a GREAT time, relaxing, enjoying the sun, eating some good food, and just hanging out with each other, unwinding from the stresses of the working world. It was well deserved. Here are a few more pics.. and for a change, some of me :)
But now, back to life, back to reality.. back to the here.. and now? Much work is left to be done.. and I’m ON IT!