Tag Archives: mombasa

The Power of The Mind, Relatively Speaking That Is

The power of the mind never ceases to amaze me, particularly in regards to the relative outlook on everything us Homo sapiens have. What brings such a notion to mind is of course the weather and my recent, bizarre, behavior modifications regarding it. Just this morning I wore a hoodie to work. It was about 75 degrees out and overcast. I wore a hoodie. Somebody call Medical.

It would seem that my mind has adapted to my climate, though that doesn’t change the fact that I was sweating a bit on the 4 minute walk from my house to the lab. It’s not that I don’t sweat, or shiver, those being the fixed bodily responses to hyperthermia or hypothermia. Instead, it’s that my mind no longer registers them as discomforts. My first, “autumn,” (that’s what I nostalgically call March through May) in Mombasa, I chuckled every time I saw one of my students wearing their NYS-issued sweaters, shoulder patches and all. It was 75 degrees out and they were cold. Now I understand it.

Yes, there is such a thing as a specific, measurable temperature. But simply because it is measurable does not mean all of us will react the same and in fact, as we adjust our lives in such a way that reaction is no longer necessary based on our old behavior model, we simply adjust our behavior. It seems that the absoluteness in existence resides not in the reaction itself, but more the need to react.

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Early In The Mornin’ Risin’ To My Feet

People are always aghast when I inform them that on any given day, weekends included, I find myself awake and very much alive at around 6 or 6:30am. Even Kenyans that I meet are confused by this, as I have been told by many they are unable to function without their first cup of chai. Well this morning, as I write this entry sitting out on my front porch, I am reminded of such worms us early birds are lucky to catch.

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Market Days

This weekend I took a retreat down to Msembweni to visit my fellow volunteer Jeff’s site. Jeff and I are soon to be collaborating on yet another project, so it seemed a good idea to catch up with him. It’s also not a hard draw, considering he has a beach, a nice campsite, and a picturesque village. So off I went.

Of course, when you get to this village and sit on the beach and do the camping thing, you also wonder what else you can do. That Sunday, we decided to spend some time going to the market, because I was looking to expand my collection of work-wearable Hawaiian shirts, as well as pick up a couple kikois for the coming summer months and the subsequent summer heat. Normally one might think I would head up to Mombasa to pick things up, but I very quickly become annoyed at the Mombasa markets, and their crowds, and heat and pickpockets and yelling and people thinking I am a tourist.

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Never A Holiday Really, Except This Time

Most all education institutes in Kenya follow a three on, one off, schedule for their school year. This simply means we have three months of teaching, followed by one month of holiday. Of course, NYSTC is slightly different from every other institution in that though we follow the 3/1 pattern, our year starts in May, not January, but that’s just trivia, and not really a major impact on my life. For this past year in Kenya, there has always been some work to get done during my month, “off,” from teaching, which has prevented me from actually going on a single holiday. Believe it or not, despite all my adventures around Kenya, which I am lucky to have, none of them have been true vacations, they have always been, “work related.” That’s about to change 🙂 Continue reading

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Thanksgiving in Mombasa: The Pictures

The application I was using to get pictures up on Flickr had a silly default setting of, “private,” for every image, meaning only I could see it. I believe the settings have all been changed now, manually, through the website, so I am hoping the images are all public. They weren’t showing up in my box to the right, so feel free to click this link for pictures instead. If that does not work, please tell me, and I will try to resolve any issues. Cheers!

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Maisha ya Mkenya: Mombasa Seasons

I thought that I would kickoff the introduction of more series-based posting with a talk on the seasons here in Mombasa. Now that I have been here for almost the year, and experienced the full gamut, I feel like I can give a better impression.

First off, what are the seasons. Many people will tell you that here in Kenya we have two types of seasons: rainy seasons and dry seasons. To be specific, there are the long rains and short rains, and then the dry times in between. I have encountered many different answers when asking about the meaning of, “long,” and, “short,” rains, the two most common answers being that long and short refer to the length of time it will rain in a particular instance if it does rain, or, the length of the actual season, one being more months than the other. I have also asked what months these are and this also elicits different responses from person to person, and it seems that it varies depending on what part of the country you are from. Continue reading

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Halloween In Mombasa

Do Kenyans celebrate Halloween?  For the most part, no.  I did see some halloween party tips in a recent issue of The Daily Nation, but I think there are probably few enough Kenyans who know and actively, “celebrate,” the holiday to be considered a statistical anomally against the entire population.  However, this does not stop a bunch of crafty peace corps volunteers from trying as hard as possible to host a party.  Besides, we all know that technically halloween parties only need three things to survive and be considered halloween parties: costumes, pumpkins and candy (I bet you thought I was going to say some other things…). Continue reading

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A More Normal Weekend

I shall continue to expound upon my “daily life,” here as that seems to be of interest to individuals reading this blog.  This weekend is a perfect example of a “normal,” weekend in life, if normal can ever be used to describe anything a Peace Corps volunteer does.

Saturday morning I woke up with the distinct plan of going into Mombasa for some time to get some errands done and see if anyone else was around.  However, my only time constraint was to pick up a parcel at customs, which would have me getting into town no later than noon, or saa sita in Kiswahili, the sixth hour after the sun has risen.  Being in no rush, I made myself a cup of coffee, and settled down to some online research about UDF (Universal Disc Formats), and why my computer was not allowing me to play a DVD emily had made for me.

Around 9:45am (kasorobo saa inne) I prepped and headed into town, back-pack ladened with my computer to do some work in town.  The plan had been settled on, I would get into town and hang out while waiting for Jeff to finish his business class in Msambweni and then make the hour and a half trip up to town himself.  We would do lunch, run to nakumatt and head home.  I also fired off a text to my friend and fellow volunteer Paul, who actually lives on Mombasa island where he works a school for the deaf, to meet and just chill.  A solid saturday.

Got into town uneventfully and picked up my parcel.  The ladies who work at customs know me, and understand my situation, so my collecting a parcel is rarely the hassle some of my friends have to endure sometimes.  Of course, I have to endure the ferry to get that parcel but it’s worth it.  I always walk into customs with an empty pack and out again with the pack full.  To most people walking around the city a pack is a pack, full or not.  But a white guy with a box, now that’s something special: “He’s white! And he’s got a BOX! Holy crap!”  Needless to say, I will always try to cram as much as I can into my pack.  What I really need are some giant black plastic lawn bags, the ultimate form of my previously mentioned culturally-camoflauged carry-all.

Afterwards I headed into Old Town, the muslim district of Mombasa, which was yet again alive with vendors and the general public milling about.  The past month or so, during the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, Mombasa was just not itself.  It was quiet, shops were closed, my favorite restaurants standing empty and even a little forlorn.  Praise Allah that Ramadan has ended and Mombasa and Old Town are alive again.  I headed through the less-traveled-by-white-people alleys, circumventing the curio shop owners and hawkers, to my favorite coffee house Jahazi.  I don’t know it’s fully story, simply that it’s a traditional style arab coffee house and I believe is also run as a cultural center.  It is technically on one of the primary tourist streets, but is fequented by Old Towners, Mombasa residents and tourists alike and is a popular hang-out for Foundation For Sustainable Development (FSD) volunteers and SIT Study Abroad Students, whose main program office is three doors down.

Sitting down, I order my kahawa maziwa baridi (iced coffee with milk), and some viazi fry (fried potatos) and a samosa (fried pastry stuff with minced meat and onion and general deliciousness).  This wasn’t lunch, this was my snack from not having eaten breakfast.  I plugged in my laptop (there are only two places I will take out my laptop in mombasa: Jahazi and Dormans) and began to read about LISP, trying to teach myself a new programming language while I waited for Jeff to arrive.

It only took him about 2 hours.  I was ok with that.  It’s why I had brought my laptop in the first place.  We met at Posta, which is conventiently located on Digo Road (main artery through the spine of Mombasa) and then headed for a later lunch.  We tried a new place to us, Pistacchio Cafe, and ordered pizza.  Now let me tell you, those North Coast volunteers living around Malindi will tell you their pizza is the best, considering they live in the Little Italy of Kenya.  But our pizza was really good, just as good as any in Malindi I have had, and was less expensive.  So I am sorry North Coast volunteers, but that is yet another win for mombasa.  Not to mention South Coast beaches are way better!  Paul finally got back to my text while we were eating, but it was already late, Jeff and I would be finishing lunch and then heading to Nakumatt and then back across the ferry.  Next time.

Nakumatt is a once weekly ritual for me, and I know I am spoiled for having it.  I have described it previously and won’t go into detail here.  Just know that 4pm (saa kumi) on a Saturday is not the time to be shopping there.  I waited in a queue at the cashiers for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile Jeff was sitting on the bench waiting and apparently being mistaken for a Latter-Day Saint.  It was the white shirt.  Stocked up on my ramen and a new hand-juicer (for making juice of course) and nothing else of particular interest, we headed home. I fell asleep around 10.  I slept well.  My stomach was content with the pizza lunch and subsequent pizza leftovers dinner.

Today, rising a little later than usual, 7am (saa moja), I began to immediately finish my laundry.  Mind you, this was a task started on Thursday night, continued on Friday, and resumed today.  Today’s loads were towels and sheets.  Camp Jon-A-Wana generates a lot of sheet laundry considering I have basically been a revolving door of guests for the past month or so.  It only took about 4 hours (which includes the obligatory soaking hour), but it’s done.  Who needs a drying machine when the Mombasa sun dries a full-size bed sheet in 10 minutes.  I kid you not.

What will I do for the rest of the day?  Probably make an easy lunch, maybe add some home-made juice to the meal.  Chat with people online.  Read.  Build web pages and work on some programming.  Not change out of my gym shorts.  And I think my running schedule has me going for a 5km at around 6pm (saa kumi na mbili jioni).  It’s a lazy Sunday in Mtongwe, and that’s how I like it.

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Arrrgh, ther be Pirates!

Everyone knows about all the pirate attacks that are happening near the Gulf of Aden, and generally along the coast of the Horn of Africa, suspiciously near the coast of Somalia. If you haven’t heard about them, then I am afraid to speculate you’ve been living in a cave, on mars, with fingers stuck in your ears, holding your eyes tightly shut. As a result of the proximity, I have been getting all sorts of questions about pirates: Are there pirates where you live? Is mombasa filled with pirates? Do pirates attack nightly? How many times has your house been pillaged? Are you a pirate? I hear you are a pirate, really?

Up until a couple days ago however, I would have been absolutely confident in claiming that pirates have zero impact on my daily life. The local papers rarely mention them, nobody talks about them, and the only proof I have of their existence is reliant upon my trust that the BBC is not lying, and I do in fact live in the age of modern pirates; pirates equipped with rocket launchers, something which only in my wildest childhood fantasies of trying to discover how a pirate could beat a ninja could I have dreamt.

Of course, this all changed a couple days ago. I was walking down the path, coming back to the NYS compound, getting the usual barrage of “How are you?” from the kids, when out of nowhere a kid walks up, looks at me and says, “Ahoy!” I stop dead in my tracks, literally turn around and in Kiswahili say, “What, no ‘how are you?’ Do you think I am a pirate?” His repsonse: “yes.” So there you have it. The pirates have in fact landed in Mombasa, and I’m one of them. Terrorist sleep-cells got nothing on me, I’m a pirate sleeper-cell and I didn’t even know it!

In other news, I finally fixed my bike. It got two flat tires in the week I have owned it. I don’t know how. Well, the first one had a huge gash in the tube, but the second one didn’t seem to have any problems. I think they were just low quality tubes. But this time, instead of paying the fundi (tradesman) a ridiculous price to fix my bike with an inferior tube, i paid even more money and bought my own tools and a new, high quality tube and fixed it myself. Wooo for self-reliance! It’s worth it in the long run.

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Some quick thoughts before heading off to bed

1) There was a leopard in my front yard today. Apparently this is unusual. I did not see it because, well, leopards are good at hiding, but I was assured it was there. Mama’s don’t lie (often) in Kenya, and the Mama’s next door seemed awfully concerned about the leopard.

2) Have I mentioned that I have monkeys running around the NYS compound? There are as prolific as grey squirrels are back home. They are also grey. One of them left me a present my first morning in Mutungwe: a rotting banana on my front step.

3) Mr. Dai Kato, my Japanese neighbor is a really cool guy. He led me around Mombasa today, and then made me dinner and we talked about life in Kenya. It’s reassuring to know that volunteer perceptions of kenya can stay the same no matter what nationality you are, what program you are with or what language you speak.

4) After today Mombasa has gotten my thumbs up approval as my home town for the next two years. It has character, amenities, culture and language enough to keep me busy.

5) Getting lost in Mombasa’s Old Town is an interesting experience. As much as it’s a “Tourist Desitnation,” there are no tourists, and being the muzungu with the backpack and sunglasses certainly makes you stick out amongst a bunch of traditionally-garbed Muslim men and women

6) Going to the barbershop and getting your haircut by a local is the first sign that you have moved into a new town and mean to stay (at least that was it for me).

7) Kiswahili words that have integrated themselves into my everyday speech, replacing their english equivalents: sawa (ok), pole (sorry), assante sana (thank you very much), habari yako (how are you; lit: your news), kwa nini (why), lakini (but) na na (and).

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