third full day here in mombasa, and it continues to blow my mind. we have had the privilege of traveling around the city quite a bit. as i see the entirety of the city, i understand more about the dynamic of the people who live here and about the conditions that they live in. it is so intriguing! even though the city is a bit dirty and busy in the main areas around where we live, there are such a variety of places within 10 minutes of walking. mombasa is an island, but it is connected to the mainland on 2 sides…obviously, then, there is water close to us. quite near our house is an area called ‘old town mombasa’ and it is an area that is very quiet, upkept, and seemingly a little more upper class or touristy. it is gorgeous and some of the houses in that area are stunning. the indian ocean borders old town mombasa and fort jesus is right next to it. we were able to walk around the area for a little on our way to meet students from yale and some other various universities who have been here all summer. we found a quaint little shop (understand, however, that there are shops absolutely EVERYWHERE here) that we really liked and we spent some time buying some souvenirs, as it were. reflecting upon the activity that i see here, it seems as if employment lies in the street shops, transportation to those street shops, husslers at the street shops, and then police and the like, but those jobs seem quite a minority. everything seems to center around the activity in the shops that cover the city of mombasa. after we met the other students we started on a journey that took us north of mombasa out for a while into the more rural areas. as we traveled, we went through the slums on the north side of mombasa and continued into the country. both of these places bring to life the concept of poverty that i have not fully grasped until now. seeing houses made of mud, sticks, trash bags and sometimes tin gives me a feeling of selfishness beyond all else. i know that sounds incredibly cliche and that a statement like that might be expected out of anyone experiencing something like this, but trust that i am not trying to fit a mold that i think is expected of me. it is still a bit tough to sympathize as much as i thought i would because we have not made many personal connections to those areas. i do not personally know anyone that is living in poverty like that. i’ve felt like such a tourist sometimes, and my white skin doesn’t do anything to help that. the fact that i am filming even makes it worse. but knowing the educational value of experiencing these things for future action gives me hope that i will be in a place of restoration sometime in the years to come.
we reached our destination as we turned into a forested area. our trail eventually led back to the depths of the african forest where we were shown where the rabai people had settled by the coast. the rabai people are still an ethnic group today, but they have strayed somewhat from their traditional practices. each of their settlements are called a ‘kaya’ and the kayas along the coast are situated in decently close proximity to each other. there are several areas in a kaya, but every kaya is situated on top of a hill so that it is possible to see any intruders as they approach. we were told many things about their culture and heritage, and it was interesting to hear about these people. we took a hike through the forest, and once we entered into the kaya, we were told to take our shoes off and we continued for a while in bare feet. it was wonderful, and it felt so natural to be trekking the soft clay ground in the midst of such natural beauty. we came to a spot where we could see the whole of mombasa and the coastline, and it was breathtaking. there is so much more i could say about our trip, but i don’t think that i would be able to say it well or even grasp the reality of all that we experienced.
the road leading back to the kaya was not fit for motor vehicles, that’s for sure, but we took the bus back there nonetheless. we got stuck in the mud many times, but it gave us an opportunity to interact with the children and the families who lived in the forest there. there was a particular child that kept trying to get back on the bus with us, and he was incredibly adorable. it was wild, though, to see the variety of houses in that area. a mud house with a thatched roof would be right next to a house build with cement, painted, with windows and a nice roof. the children seemed so happy and it was truly neat to see the crops that they were growing by their houses, the livestock that they had roaming around, and the vast number of palm trees that decorated the forest. i couldn’t help but think how awesome it would be to live in that kind of environment for a while.
we made it back just fine and we set things up for our travels tomorrow, which i will share in the near future. we have some really great activities that we are going to be doing. we have been able to make some connections to people who are involved in the care effort for the HIV/AIDS epidemic here, and i am excited to see more of the care that is provided and how we can get involved with that.
and if you’re still concerned about the shallow stuff, the weather here is perfect. a little sweaty here and there, but amazingly comfortable. we had a guy in old town mombasa tell us ‘welcome to paradise!’ and even though it was just a joke at the time, the beaches, the water, and the beauty of it all comes pretty close. and as we are traveling, we are going to even more beautiful places. we head to malindi on friday, lamu on sunday, and then on to tanzania later that week. we have contacts in every place to continue our work and it will be great to see what we compile after a couple of weeks.