Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mombasa Express

I have safely arrived nyumbani (home) in Nairobi from a wonderful weekend long journey to Mombasa with my Kenya Family. We spent the weekend travelling along the Eastern coast of Kenya to some of the country’s most beautiful locations. But first, I must start with the beginning of the trip. . .

We arrived at the T.S.S. bus station as a group of eager, excited YAVs ready to travel to Mombasa for retreat. On the bus I sat behind the driver, next to Ellen, on top of the engine and next to two young Kenyan boys who were lying on the gymnastics mat that would, of course, be lying next the gear change. We spent the next 8 hours “on” the road. I learned a few things about Kenyan driving on my T.S.S. bus experience: the lines on the road are merely a suggestion or an idea, gear changing does NOT have to be a smooth movement from 3rd to 4th, if you can see the car in front of you, you must pass it, bus drivers are great DJs and turning your brights off as you pass another car is neither a courtesy nor an expectation. Upon arrival at the T.S.S. in Mombasa we went in to purchase our return tickets at which point I saw three chickens in the hands of their owners walk into the bus station as well. Once we had our tickets we were off.

We stayed at a hostel on the beach in Mombasa and were welcomed by friendly Kenyans, excited to have us as their guests. Our first day in Mombasa we found our way to 2 amazing ruins in Kenya, Gedi and Mnarani. Mnarani is a smaller site mostly consisting of the mosque at Mnarani. We had free rein over the site and explored it to the fullest, we went with a Professor of Archeology at the University Of Nairobi, David Kyule, who toured us around the site, explaining the significance of each aspect of the mosque, we even found some undocumented pots in the ground, we learned that even something as small as a broken pot can tell us about the trading practices of the people, so pretty exciting- look for us in the archeology books! After checking out the ruins, Steven and I walked to the beach and along the way stumbled upon a reptile rescue, as you can only do in Kenya. On our way to Malindi we stopped to talk to a church that has split from the Anglican Church to form an independent church. We were so warmly welcomed and really enjoyed our experience. The church has an interesting model for outreach, they microfinance the majority of the offerings, loaning the money to church members so that they may be able to attend school, have operations, etc., once the receivers of the loan have stabilized themselves or used the money to go to school and have now found a job, the money is returned by ‘paying it forward’ to another person who may be in a similar situation. The church was incredibly dynamic, involved and accepting- making me very excited to begin my work with the OAIC (Organization of African Instituted/Independent Churches).

We spent our second day in Mombasa on the water, one of my favorite ways to spend a day. We drove about 2 hours away towards Tanzania where we took a ferry to an island off the coast and negotiated a good price to take a small sailboat/motorboat combination to a much smaller island further off the coast to go snorkeling at a Kenyan national park, its considered a national park as it has over 400 species of fish swimming near the coast of the island. Our captain told us we were free to snorkel until we were pleased, leaving us plenty of time to run around on the beautiful white sand beach and swim around checking out all the fish near the island.

Our final day in Mombasa I was able to see one thing I had been hoping to see while in Kenya: giraffes, and I was fortunate enough to be able to feed them as well! We also went to Bombolulu, a project designed to make disabled Kenyans independent. At Bombolulu people are able to learn skills in making leather-ware, jewelry, cloth, woodcarving and aid devices (wheelchairs etc.) Bombolulu is a fair trade project that also integrates people who do not have disabilities into the work team. The project teaches skills so that the people involved may be able to sustain themselves rather than being dependent. Our last tourist stop before heading home to Nairobi was at Fort Jesus. We had great tour guides who took us all around the fort explaining the history of the Portuguese and Arab holds on the fort. Mombasa has an interesting history of Portuguese and Arab involvement and tension between Christians and Muslims- lots of tension in conversion between both religions.

We met back at T.S.S. for an even more exciting return journey home. The bus left at 9p. and was to arrive in Nairobi at 5a. so we had planned to sleep on the bus to be ready for a busy day of orientation the next day- oh how mistaken we were! There is nothing soothing about a T.S.S. bus ride home a few highlights: the people at the petrol station parting and running from our bus that was headed full speed into the station, the bus driver found the road too crowded so he drove several kilometers on the gravel between the two highways and being 3 wide on the gravel detour (old Kenyan road). Sitting in the front row of the bus (2 seats that are to the left of and in front of the driver) was much like a trip to six flags, without the lines. We did however make it home in good time, arriving in Nairobi about twenty minutes early, and (thankfully) safe! We shared an incredible trip to Mombasa, I am so happy to have been able to see all the amazing things we saw and thoroughly enjoyed our break from orientation!

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