Daily Archive for: ‘February 4th, 2013’

JAMBO!!!

JAMBO!!!

When my dear friend Mathapelo told me she was headed to Kenya for a few days this past December, I had to hold back on my envy, take a deep breath, and be happy for her. I’ve heard so much about the beauty of Kenya, its people, and its culture, and I’m dying to see it for myself.  I made it a point to catch up with her upon her return to hear all about the trip.

This is Mathapelo’s account of what she says was a life-changing trip.

On arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi at 5:00am Kenyan time, the plane’s exterior windows were immediately beaded with humidity. Inside the airport, there was no air conditioning, which further heightening the oppressive humidity. After going through passport control we proceeded to claim our luggage and then we were off to boarding gate 1 where we boarded a flight to Mombasa.

When we arrived in Mombasa, we were met at the airport by Roger our tour guide, Roger generously handed out bottled water and mint scented face cloths for us to wipe our faces and took us on a two-hour bus ride from Moi International Airport in Mombasa over a long and narrow road. It was during this trip that I noticed how hard life was for most people, from my comfortable seat in an air conditioned bus, digital camera, iPod in hand and oversized shades, we drove past mud huts and houses on the busy road, hawkers begging to have their goods sold and children running after the bus waving at us.

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Drive from Moi International Airport to Malindi

After 120 kilometres northeast of Mombasa we had reached our destination, I remember thinking to myself “this must be Kenya’s or should I say Italy’s best kept secret – Malindi”. It is the ‘little Italy’ of Africa. Billboards advertise in Italian, Kenyans speak Italian including Kenyan kids, grocery stores stock shelves of olive oil, salami and prosciutto, and tanned Italian men wander the beaches in skimpy bikini trunks with tall, skinny dark model like Kenyan girls young enough to be their granddaughters. Did I mention pizza, pasta joints and fine wine?

In typical Maasai Manyatta village-style, with chalet-like rooms made out of indigenous wood and the roofs covered with palm branches (Makuti roof) was our home away from home – Sandies Tropical Village. Crystal clear, tranquil waters, white beach sand, the coconut palm trees, free flowing booze 24/7 all add to this paradise. Here we were warmly greeted with the phrase “Jambo” Swahili for “hello”, this became our way of greeting for the duration of our stay in Kenya. We were welcomed with drinks, drums, dancing, singing and I immediately felt my heart smiling as this reassured me that I was home. The staff were friendly and offered to take our bags up to our rooms while we were whisked away to have lunch.

 

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Sandies Tropical Village, Malindi Kenya

 The days that followed my arrival in Malindi were filled with nothing but adventure from weaving through traffic jams while holding onto a metal rod for dear life and zipping by Malindi’s distinct architecture on a tuk-tuk on the narrow back streets with beautifully carved doors, shops stacked with metres and metres of colourful kikoy cloth, coconuts being sold by market women,  a trip to Mombasa to have lunch with friends with the ocean and charming boats as a backdrop, sundowners as we watched the sunset, feeding bananas to over enthusiastic monkeys in a forest  by the Gedi Ruins, dancing the adumu “jumping dance” with the maasai around the fire, long walks on the  white sandy beach of Malindi, lunch at old man and the sea, celebrating a friend’s birthday party at Pata Pata, one of the finest upmarket  clubs in Malindi , discovering Soweto Bar in the middle of a remote village in Muyeye on Christmas and visiting a marketplace full of local handicraft, paintings and beautiful maasai cloth.

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Christmas in Muyeye spent with villagers/Soweto Bar – Malindi Kenya

However, one of the most rewarding experiences of my trip was experiencing a completely different culture than my own, becoming the minority, being reminded of how privileged I am, making friends and getting to know my fellow travelers out of their comfort zone.

Ofcourse I will always remember the more tourist excursions that I took while in Kenya like the famous Vasco da Gama Pillar which is believed to be one of the oldest European monuments in Africa and having been built in 1498, Francis Xavier Church which is the first Portuguese church in East and Central Africa and the  Gedi ruins, what was once a rich trading hub from the 13th to 17th century and was mysteriously abandoned and taken over by the forest until the 1900´s when it was excavated amongst other things. The ornaments that were found inside the ruins are on display in the museum next door which we visited.

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Feeding monkeys at the Gedi Ruins

However, I think what stays with me more and what impacted me more was the spirit and kindness of the Kenyan people, the smiling faces of the children and enthusiastic waves as we drove/walked past and more importantly Hashim, an unassuming kind man whom we met outside our hotel as we were looking for a tuk-tuk to take us to the Vasco da Gama Pillar, Hashim became more than just our driver, we became friends, he made our stay in Kenya a rich, vibrant experience. This man shaped our memories of Kenya more than the place its self.  Hashim shone light on our ignorance and taught us about Malindi and ourselves in ways that he himself will never know and for this I will be forever grateful.

 

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Hashim – This man really took care of us

 It was also at the Vasco da Gama Pillar were we met Festo aka Captain Vasco who was to show us around. Festo is a care free soul who seems to enjoy the simple things in life. We exchanged numbers with Festo and asked him to take us to a spot where locals chilled for a good time. After a long day of touring Malindi, we finally went back to the hotel to have dinner and freshen up. We then hit the town with Festo and Hashim. They took us to Club Kienyeji which is situated along Tsavo road in Malindi, here, we entered a small, well-outfitted room and we were greeted warmly, we discovered a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of people dancing to the greatest Kenyan new generation music, bands we’ve never heard of before. Some playing pool while the boys were sipping on cold Tuskers. It was at this club where we left with that authentic Kenyan clubbing experience and it felt amazing. This is a real downtown gem!

 

Untitled7-1Me and the boys at the Vasco da Gama Pillar, Malindi – Kenya

My experience in Kenya did not leave me empty, I take home with me the spirit of the Kenyan children, the humility, courage and kindness of the Kenyan people and  the strength of the Kenyan women who carry wood on their arched backs and walk long distances  to make fire and feed their families .

 

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 My love for Africa and my desire to contribute to the development of this beautiful continent strengthens more with every trip I make within the continent. This experience opened me up to the idea that, even in a blink of an eye, you can make lifelong friends. I can only try to paint a picture with words or capture these moments through my lens but some experiences can only be understood and felt through the naked eye. Africa is definitely the place to be, best believe it! “

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