Just finished week 1 in Kenya. When I booked my flight to Nairobi it was only supposed to be a transition city on my way to Tanzania, but has turned out to be so much more. Landed in Nairobi at about 130 am after a stop in Ethiopia and a bittersweet goodbye to great friends in Ghana. At the airport in Ghana it took everything I had and a few tears not to board the Delta flight to New York. Christmas with my loved ones was only a flight away, but thanks to positive thoughts from Sioned I boarded the scheduled flight to Kenya... it was already paid for after all. On the flight to Ethiopia I met a lovely gentlemen who lives in Spain and does work for Global Fund in Ghana and Zambia with malaria, HIV, and TB. He has contacts in Tanzania so I'm planning to email him this week and hopefully work out a time to volunteer with them whenever I make it to Tanzania.
Getting the Kenya visa was surprisingly easy... most of the countries I plan to visit want some sort of verification of departure and since I have no departure details that was a bit of a concern. Fortunately I was welcomed with open arms and big smiles, paid my $25 USD and arrived at the hostel around 230am... after passing zebras in the taxi! The first day I was too exhausted to face the bustling city of Nairobi, which is dubbed Nai-robbery in the travel guides. Hung about the hostel, walked to the bank and the market, had an overall relaxing day. Met 3 guys from the US who have started an NGO called Books Build Hope (booksbuildhope.org). I had planned to spend the holidays in Mombasa on the beach, and after a few phone calls found out everything was booked so the boys were nice enough to offer me a place to stay in Lamu, provided I was up for the 16+ hour journey. Lamu was a place I had planned to make it to anyway so I headed to the bus station the next day. My making it there must have been in the cards because after trying about 10 different bus stations looking for a ticket to the first stop, Mombasa, I got lucky and found a ticket departing about 2 hours later... the only ticket available until after Christmas. Rushed to the hostel, packed up, and headed back to the bus station for a 10 hour journey which fortunately I slept through. The bus arrived in Mombasa at about 530am and me being the planner I am, didn't even consider the fact that I would have the same issues finding a bus from Mombasa to Lamu. But again, luck was on my side. One of the security guards at the bus station took me under his wing (with the ulterior motive of marriage and me bringing him back to the states of course) and ran me all around town trying to find a bus to Lamu. Once again, everything was booked until after Christmas.... things were not looking good. Then, in broken english Omar kept saying “staff seat”... with no other options I agreed to find out about the staff seat. He sat me in a chair and ran off, only to bring back the conductor of the 9am bus to Lamu. After some shady talks I was snuck onto this bus and was on my way to Lamu... the first of many Christmas Miracles!
Another 8 hour brutal bus ride and 30 minute boat ride to the island of Lamu... made it around 5pm. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Lamu is absolutely gorgeous. Soft white sand, water so blue it's nearly black, and accommodations so amazing they should cost at least double the $20USD/night I paid. The next 5 days were the stuff dreams are made of. There were 6 of us plus 3 French people staying at Abdul's EcoNest and we all exchanged names for Secret Santa, so on Christmas Eve when the boys had work to do at one of the school's, Jolene (one of the guy's girlfriends) and I did some shopping. First stop was to buy me a scarf to cover my shoulders... the town is mostly Muslim and my exposed chest and shoulders felt extremely uncomfortable for everyone. For dinner Abdul and his crew cooked us a delicious Lobster dinner, we exchanged presents, decorated the tree, and enjoyed each others company until the wee hours of the morning. Woke Christmas morning to mango and banana pancakes and made our way to the beach. Stopped for what we all thought was just a drink on the way home at Lamu House and after glancing over the menu decided to splurge on one of the best meals of my life (plus 3 glasses of wine)... mind you the splurge was a whole $25USD. Dare I say it... best.christmas.ever.... don't tell mom!
The day after Christmas we were all feeling lazy and only really had enough energy for a good ol' fashion Sunday Funday! Sat at Petley's bar overlooking the town and drank one too many Tusker's chatting with other travelers. From what I remember it was a great day. Came home to one last phenomenal seafood dinner... the best calamari I've ever eaten and huge delicious crab.... again with a hefty $6 dollar price tag.
The fun came to an end on Monday when we began the journey back to Nairobi. Arrived last night around 830p. Spent the day enjoying the cooler Nairobi air... read, napped, drank, and ate. This is the kind of life I imagined during all those 12+ hour work days...
Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth - Martin H. Fischer