Sunday, September 30, 2012

Kenya: Mombasa

For my first trip out of Ethiopia, I booked a trip to Kenya on a whim.  Destination: Mombasa.

A few days before my trip, I was talking about it with my guard Yonas.  Kenya has a reputation for having a serious crime problem, and Yonas touched on this.  Nairobi is often jokingly referred to as Nai-robbery because of the crime situation there, and Mombasa is considered nearly as bad by some people (like junior Nairobi).

Yonas first told me the story of his friend - a fellow Ethiopian - who had traveled to Mombasa.  This chap managed to get robbed, midday, in what should have been a safe area.  Bruised and shaken, he found a policeman not far from the scene of the attack, and as he was telling his sad story, the cop interrupted him.

"That's a nice jacket," he told the robbery victim.

"What?" the man asked.

"I said, 'That's a nice jacket'," the cop repeated.  "Now take it off!"

And so to add insult to injury, Yonas's friend was separated from his leather jacket by a policeman right after he had been separated from his wallet by a street thug.

To further drive the point home, Yonas told me another story.  Once upon a time, some of Ethiopia's elite runners had gone to Nairobi for training.  On their last day, one of them went to the hotel swimming pool (or maybe it was the sauna), and while he was away from his room, he got robbed.  The theif took all his luggage, including his shoes and clothes, leaving him high and dry.  The runner showed up to the airport wearing hotel slippers and some clothes he had borrowed from his training partners.  This guy was a celebrity back in Ethiopia, so there was outrage when the story broke.  According to Yonas, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs even filed an official complaint with the Kenyan Government.

Yonas's message was pretty clear: Watch your back!

When the day for my trip finally arrived, I reported to the airport a bit after 8 AM for a 10:20 departure.

We took off on time, and they fed us a modest lunch.  Malcolm in the Middle was playing on the big screen.  Then, after a lay-over in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, we landed in Mombasa around 3 PM.

I hadn't gotten a visa beforehand, so I paid 50 bucks and got one on the spot.  Then I collected my bag and left the terminal.

There were a few signs in the terminal advertising a new airport shuttle service.  It cost only a few bucks to get to the city center, so I decided to try it out.

Once I got outside, however, I found the shuttle, but I couldn't find the driver.  After waiting for a few minutes, I decided to go for a private taxi instead.  At 1,000 shillings (about $12), it was also a good deal.

My driver was a man named Fidelis, and we had a nice conversation on the way into town.  I mentioned Yonas's stories to see what his reaction would be, and naturally Fidelis was keen to downplay them.

"Sure we have a few incidents like this," he told me, "but this is a peaceful place."

We talked about many things, and as we drove along, I was struck by two things.  First, the driving is really slow in Addis Ababa, so it felt like Fidelis was flying.  In reality he wasn't going that fast, though.

The second thing that I couldn't help but notice was how much more developed Kenya appeared to be than Ethiopia.  It seemed like there were many more shops and businesses in Mombasa, and somehow the quality seemed better.

We drove past the dump, past the railway station, past a craft village, past "Ethiopia street" where there were some Ethiopian shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants, and then we arrived at my home-away-from-home: the New Palm Tree Hotel.

I had booked the "small single", and it lived up to its name.  It was big enough, however, to hold a bed, a TV, a small table, a wardrobe, and a simple bathroom with a cold-water shower.  And all this for only 1500 shillings (about $17.60) per night, including breakfast.  I couldn't complain.

I checked in and dropped my bags in my room.

On the table, there was a magazine from the tourism commission, and the headline on the cover caught my eye.

"Kenya - above all, a safe destination for tourists," it read.

the welcome magazine in my hotel room

I found this slightly amusing.  After all, if you have to convince people that you don't have a security problem, then maybe you actually do have one.

I couldn't be bothered fretting about security, however; I was ready to explore the city.

I left the hotel and headed east toward Old Town.

In a few minutes, I reached Treasury Square, and I took a few photos of some buildings and statues there.  As I was photographing the sites, a man came up to yell at me.

"You can't take pictures here!" he bellowed.

He appeared to be a taxi driver, so I had my doubts about his authority in this matter.  Still, I put my camera away to be on the safe side.

Nearby, there was a wooden sign with a map of Old Town on it.  The man called me over.

"We are here," he pointed out.  "Would you like a city tour?  I can offer a half-day or a full-day program, or we can go by the hour."

I knew this guy was fishy.  He was just harassing me about taking photos because he wanted to intimidate me into hiring him as a guide.

I told him I wasn't interested, and another guy magically appeared to lend support.

"You should take his tour," the second man assured me.  "He's a true expert on this place."

Expert or not, I wasn't interested in a tour.  I just wanted to walk around.

I told the guys once more that I didn't want a tour, and I walked away.  They made a point of loudly complaining about me as long as I was in earshot.

After a few more minutes, I reached Mombasa's biggest attraction: Fort Jesus.  Fort Jesus was built by the Portuguese in 1593, predominantly out of coral, and it's an UNESCO World Heritage site.

As I approached the fort, a young man walked up.

He introduced himself as a university student and offered his services as a guide.

Things started out friendly enough, but when I told him 'no thanks' my would-be guide started melting down.

"Think of the local economy!" he hissed at me, as I bought a ticket and slipped through the turnstile.  "I need to earn a living too!"

This argument never moves me unfortunately.  He has ended up as a tour guide through whatever twist of fate, and somehow it's my responsibility to support him in this endeavor?  If someone is providing a service that I don't want, I'm not going to hire that person.  It's as simple as that.

Since I had elected not to hire him, the angry guide was not permitted to enter the site with me.  Just like the taxi driver / tour guide at Treasury Square, he stayed outside the gate muttering loudly.

I ignored him and admired the fort.  Much of the structure was accessible, so I walked along the walls, climbed into the guard booths, checked out the cannons, and explored most of the stairwells and passages I found.  There was also a modest museum in one of the buildings and a few souvenir stores.

My favorite part, however, was the room full of original drawings from the Portuguese sailors who were posted at the fort.  This graffiti spanned the full range of artistic ability.  Some of the drawings were expertly rendered, and some looked like the artwork of a five-year-old.

After I had seen all that there was to see, I headed for the exit.  I was half-dreading that the guide would be waiting for me, but thankfully he was nowhere to be found.

From the fort, I continued into Old Town.  I didn't get far before an old man latched onto me.

He was determined to be my guide, whether I liked it or not.

I was walking down the street, and he was shadowing me very closely.  As we walked along, he pointed out things, and I mostly ignored him.

There was one funny moment, though, in his unwanted narrative.

"I'm sure you've heard of this place," he announced as he gestured toward a white building.

"You know Corduna University, right?" he asked me.  "This is their office."

Maybe I misunderstood what he was saying, but it definitely did not ring a bell.

"I've never heard of it," I told him.

"Really?" he replied.  "It's an American university.  There are many American students studying here."

I don't doubt that, but with literally thousands of colleges and universities in the U.S., I can't be expected to be familiar with all of them.

That was the only moment of amusement I got from my time with my elderly guide.

I ducked into a few shops to have a look, and every time I emerged, he was waiting right outside for me.

Even when I told him directly that I wasn't going to hire him, he still didn't get it.

"Only 500 shillings," he replied. "It's very small money."

We continued on a bit further, and he continued his forced guiding.

"Follow me," he instructed.  "I'll show you a great view of the port."

"Actually, I'm going home," I told him.

"Why?" he asked me.  "Are you afraid?"

"No," I responded, "just annoyed."  "Bye."

He went away, but again not quietly, and I did in fact go back to the hotel.  Along the way, I passed several aggressive beggars.

When I had arrived in Mombasa, everything was great.  The city seemed exciting; the weather was perfect, and I was content.  As the day progressed, however, I was enjoying myself less and less.  The people were very needy, and sometimes you just aren't in the mood for it.

Back at the hotel, I switched on the TV.  There were a few stations to choose from, but I settled on NatGeo, or maybe it was Discovery Channel.  In any case, it was Big Cats Week, so I spent the rest of the afternoon learning about lions, tigers, cheetahs, and leopards.

Around 6:30, I left for dinner, and after struggling to pick a restaurant, I opted instead to have a street shwarma.  It was good.

On the way back to the hotel, an ice cream parlor caught my eye.  I went inside and ordered a cone with two scoops.  The ice cream was weak, honestly, but the shop had a certain curiosity factor that really took me by surprise:  All of the employees were wearing checkered orange and white University of Tennessee shirts.

At first I thought I had not seen correctly, and I did a double-take.  They were definitely wearing UT apparel.

UT uniforms at an ice cream parlor.

I was the only customer in the house, so I walked over to share my amazing discovery with a woman sitting behind the counter.  She had a look of relevance about her like she was the owner of the place.

"These uniforms," I told her, "they are from my university!"

The woman's response was strange.  She seemed flattered at my observation, while at the same time denying it.

"Oh, no," she blushed, "I designed these shirts myself."

This made absolutely no sense.  Why would a place called Ahmed's Ice Cream have a uniform shirt with T's all over it?  And what a coincidence that it was also in UT colors!

I think that she got a box of surplus UT polos from a factory outlet or something and then had a little ice cream cone embroidered on the chest.  To call this designing the shirt was a bit of a stretch in my opinion.

Anyhow, after my ice cream I walked back to the hotel.

The streets were pitch black by now, and I had crime in the back of my mind.  I also had Big Cats Week in my mind, which led me to imagine the catlike hunting strategies a person might use to mug me.

I reached the hotel without incident, but I was thirsty.  The neighborhood where I had dinner was predominantly Muslim and was therefore dry.  My hotel also didn't serve alcohol, possibly for the same reason.

There were several bars listed in my guidebook, but I wasn't interested in going across town for a drink.

I sought assistance from the guard at the entrance to the hotel.

"Are there any bars close by?" I asked.

"Sure," he responded, "just follow me."

So off we went.  I was a bit surprised that the guard so readily abandoned his post, but I guess it is expected that he will leave periodically to use the toilet and whatnot.

We walked about 10 minutes through several dark alleys, each one more sketchy than the one before.  Given the situation, I thought it was handy to have someone else with me, and a guard no less.

Soon enough, we emerged near an empty field and there were a few bars on the far side.

Before I went inside, the guard hit me up for compensation.

"Can you buy me some chapatti?" he asked.

His request seemed reasonable to me, so we walked about a hundred meters past the bars to a strip of chapatti stalls.  Swahili culture is a blend of the Indian Ocean cultures, so there are African, Arab, and Indian influences.  This explains how chapatti became such a popular Mombasa snack.

I paid the few shillings for the guard's dinner, and then I entered the bar.

This place was divey.  The air was smoky; the music, distorted, and all the women had a certain lustful look about them.  The main room was about half full of patrons, roughly equal measures of locals and expats.

I ordered a Tusker beer ("Tusker - Together Forever"), and it was refreshing.  After three of these and a trip to the bathroom in the alley, I was ready for bed.

As I was leaving the bar, I thought about that walk down the corridor of darkness that was separating me from my hotel.

Before I started walking, however, I noticed a less ominous route.  While still very dark, at least this alternate way was not as deserted as the alleys had been.  I took this new way - walking in the presence of other humans - and I reached the hotel in about the same amount of time as it had taken me to reach the bar going the other way.  Since there wasn't any time savings to speak of by going the first way, it made me wonder if the guard had purposely taken me the more intimidating way to make himself seem more indispensible.

By the time I reached the hotel, the guard had finished his chapatti and was back on duty.

It had been a full day.  I had a nice cold shower and hit the hay.

The next day, I had my free breakfast at the hotel - omelet, toast, and fruit - and set out to see more of the sights.

I walked around some of the market streets, and it didn't take long before I met my first friendly chap.

"Hello.  How are you?" he asked.

"I'm fine, thanks," I responded.  "How are you?"

"I'm fine," he continued.  "How do you like Kenya?"

"Fine," I told him.  Everything is always fine.

"Cool," he told me.  "I just want to talk with you.  I hope you don't mind."

"Where are you from?" he went on.

"The U.S.," I answered.

"America!  Barack Obama!" he replied.  "In Kenya, we love America!  We love Obama!"

Then he started pestering me to come to his brother's sandal shop - just to look, mind you.  He supposedly didn't care whether I bought anything or not.

Allowing myself to be gullible, I did indeed go to his brother's shop.  Between his brother and his two assistants, they pulled out dozens of sandals in my size.  The floor of the small shop was littered with shoes.  I picked a pair that interested me and held them up.

"How much for these?" I asked.

"How many pairs do you want?" was the response.

Hmm... let's see.  I was holding up this lone pair because really I wanted to buy half a dozen.

"Just this one," I answered.

"None for your family?  Your wife?  Your friends?" he asked.

"No," I told him, "I don't know any of their sizes."

He asked me to show him with my hands how big my friends' and family members' feet were, and he would then accurately estimate their sizes.  This guy was funny.

After wasting considerable time trying to get me to select multiple pairs, the brother finally told me the price for the pair I wanted.  Of course it was high, so we started bargaining.

Ten minutes later, I walked out with my new sandals.

I walked around the vegetable market, the traditional clothing market, the tires and car parts market, and the craft market, and I met many more friendly young hustlers.

Every last one of them parroted the same dialog as the first guy had - "How are you?" "How do you like Kenya?", "We love Obama!" - with the only difference being the type of shop to which they wanted to lure me.  I was harassed to see sunglass shops, perfume stores, souvenir stands, CD shops, luggage shops, watch shops, and many more small businesses that were of no interest to me.

After about the fifteenth guy came up to me with the same shtick, I decided to save us both the trouble of the fake conversation.

"Hello. How are you?" random guy number 16 asked me.

Without pause, I rattled off my response: "I'm fine. My name is Chris. I like Kenya. I'm from America, home of Barack Obama!  And I don't want to buy anything from whatever shop you have."

"How are you?" I added on the end.

Perhaps this guy was the one guy who truly did just want to talk, but with my rude response, he got the message and left me alone.  So did those who followed.

While I skipped the shops of these how-are-you guys, I did stop (without being pressured) at a clothing store where I snagged a Tusker beer t-shirt.

By now, I had spent hours walking, and one thing that I was enjoying was the street food.  I had some nice samosas, rolls and cakes, roasted peanuts, donuts, fruit cocktail, sugarcane juice, and meat skewers.

And as I was grazing my way through the city, I found myself at the spice market.

I walked through to see what was on offer.  One thing I always appreciate is a good chili, so I stopped at one spice stall and asked the vendor if he had anything spicy.

He insisted that he had the hottest ground chilies around, and as we were talking he sent his errand boy running. The boy returned in a few moments with some small red peppers in hand.

"Here is the fresh one," the clerk taunted.  "Can you take the heat?"

"No problem," I answered.

Then, not knowing what was in store, I ate all three peppers at once.

A small crowd of wide-eyed Kenyans had gathered by now, and they collectively winced as I ate the chilies.

I had nothing to worry about, though.  These chilies were medium hot at best.  Child's play!

As I thought about it later, I had to laugh about this chili incident.  The bigger danger was probably not the heat, but rather eating unwashed produce in an African market.  I didn't notice any digestional discomfort, though, so I guess the peppers weren't contaminated.

I bought a small bag of the chili powder and left the spice market.

Despite all the street food, I decided to stop for lunch.  I went to a small restaurant and pondered the menu.

"Try this one," the waitress recommended.  "It's traditional."

I took her suggestion and ordered the beef stew and a Coke.

The restaurant was packed, and I was the only foreigner in the house.  I watched the other diners and the people walking by on the street, and then after about 15 minutes, my meal arrived.  It wasn't exactly what I expected.

The beef stew was very thin, and there wasn't much meat in it.  It was mostly bones.

As I looked around the dining room at what everyone else was eating, I realized that I had chosen poorly.

There was no use crying over spilt milk, though, so I gnawed on the bones, sopped up the broth with some bread, and moved on to other things.

After lunch, I walked to the double pairs of tusks stretching across a road - a Mombasa landmark.

Then I dropped in at a tourist agency to look at options for my final day in town.

The agency was advertising several daytrips, but in reality most were not available on the day I needed.  The problem was predominantly that the minimum number of participants hadn't been reached.  On the other hand, some that were available seemed a bit too rushed.

Forgoing the day safaris and the elephant sanctuary and the village cultural tours, I decided to go for a coastal experience of the nautical variety.  There were a handful of operators offering "marine safaris", and they all looked about the same in the brochures in terms of price and program.

The tour agency recommended a company called Charlie Claw's.  Their package consisted of a 7 AM pick-up, a 2-hour drive south to Shimoni, cruising around the Indian Ocean on a traditional dhow, snorkeling in Kisite Marine National Park, lunch on Wasini Island, a visit to a coral garden, a 4 PM return to Shimoni, and a 6 PM arrival in Mombasa again.  Plus, according to the tour agent, Charlie's provided unlimited beer, wine, and soft drinks for the entire day.  It was good enough for me; I signed on the dotted line.

With my tour booked, I headed for my hotel.

Along the way, I passed several beggars, and uncharacteristically, I actually gave one man some money.  No good deed goes unpunished, however, and this guy hopped up from his cardboard box and followed me down the street.

"Please, I have six children," he pleaded.  "Give me more!"

I continued walking, and he kept following me.  And while annoying, I was OK with this arrangement.

When he started pulling on my arm, that was enough.  I told him to go away, and he could tell that I wasn't playing around.  He vanished.

When I reached the hotel, I got another annoying surprise: After cleaning up, the housekeeping ladies had left the shutters to my room wide open.  These shutters opened into a central courtyard.  Were they trying to get me robbed?

Nothing seemed to be missing, and I had been carrying most of my valuables, but still, this was sloppy work.

With so many annoyances, I was ready for more Big Cats Week.  I switched on the TV and killed the rest of the afternoon.

Around 7 o'clock, I was ready to eat again.  As I left the hotel, the same guard was on duty as the night before.

"Is there anywhere you need to go?" he asked me.  "I sure could use some chapatti."

I didn't require his services on this night, but at least he was honest about his intentions.

I found a restaurant on my own and had some kebabs, red beans, and Tusker.  Then I called it a night.

The next morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn and waited on the curb for Charlie Claw's mini-bus.

It arrived on time, and I piled in.  I was nearly the last person to be picked up, so there were only a few seats left.  As I climbed in, I assessed the crowd.  "Germans and French," I thought to myself.

We made some brief introductions as we drove out of the city, and I had guessed the nationalities of my fellow passengers correctly.  It was only fitting, I suppose, since I am most often mistaken for being French or German when someone fails to recognize that I'm American.  After French and German, the other, less common guesses I've heard for my origin have been all over the map: Spanish, Lebanese, Canadian, Russian, Italian, Swedish, Chinese (???), British, Greek, and so forth.  Perhaps the take-away message is that we are all a lot more similar than we are different.

Just outside Mombasa, we had to make a water crossing (over a finger of the harbor or something).  Looking very solemn indeed, our driver warned us that photography was strictly forbidden on the ferry.  There was a tuk-tuk parked next to us, however, and the two people in back were taking all sorts of pictures.  I was half-expecting to see a man with sunglasses and an earpiece take their cameras and smash them, but this didn't happen.  Alas...

Once safely on the opposite shore, we drove a few hours more.  We passed through several villages, but we also spent a fair bit of time on the open highway.  Then we reached Shimoni.

As soon as we unloaded from the van, there was a cadre of hawkers surrounding us like vultures around a carcass.  One group was selling straw hats, shells, sunglasses, cold drinks, and other things tourists might appreciate.  The other group was selling bags of candy, packs of ink pens, and other things we would "need" for our village visit to appease the children.  None of us bought anything.

At the end of the pier, we met the dhow staff and they divided us into two groups: the French were in one group, and the Germans and I in the other.  In the smaller group, they went over the day's itinerary and confirmed our lunch selections.  The choices were seafood, chicken, or vegetarian, and I chose seafood almost as a reflex.  I love a good crab, and since the company was called Charlie Claw's, I assumed it would be on the menu.

After the mini-briefings, we all joined up again and loaded on the boat.  Another mini-bus also funneled some passengers onboard.  These passengers were Kenyan.

Then they gave us a snack and tea and we were off.

As I looked in my bag, I realized that I had left my sunscreen at the hotel.  Doh!  It was still early, though, so I thought I would be fine if I kept to the shade.

We cruised through the Indian Ocean for a few hours, and aside from our boat's noisy engine, it was a serene journey.  There were a few other tourist dhows on the water and a few local fishing boats.  There were many small coral islands, low and flat as pancakes, dotting the coastline.  The waves were negligible.

I was sitting next to the German couple, and we talked for much of the journey.  We had all signed a guest book at the start of the boat ride, and I signed before the Germans did.  As such, they saw my name in the book, and addressed me as such.  I didn't see them sign the book, so I didn't have their names handed to me on a silver platter.  I never bothered to ask either, so I spent the whole day not knowing.  You can have a fine conversation without knowing names, though.

While we motored out to the reef, the crew offered us Coke and Sprite.  So far, there was no sign of the unlimited beer and wine that had been advertised by the tour agency.

When finally we reached our snorkeling destination, everyone changed into their swim suits and donned their masks and fins, and the crew gave us a short briefing.  One thing that really surprised me was the number of people on this cruise who didn't know how to swim.  The ranks of non-swimmers included a few of the French and pretty much all the Kenyans.  I admired their enthusiasm, however, as many of them jumped into the sea alongside the rest of us, armed only with life jackets and foam water noodles.

The reef itself was nice, and I became the hero of the moment when I spotted a sea turtle and shared my discovery with the group.  Beyond the turtle, there were abundant corals and fish to contemplate.

After we had snorkeled for a while, the crew corralled us back on the boat and we moved to a new location.  It was beach time.  Some people spent their time lying on the sand, but the Germans and I ended up walking the circumference of the small island.  I got to be the hero a second time when I discovered a group of eels feeding on a dead fish.

As we walked along the beach, we noticed some interesting shells and corals.  We debated whether or not it was illegal to collect red corals, and reaching no conclusion, I decided to ditch the piece I had found.

When our beach time had concluded, we all swam back to the dhow and headed for lunch.

As the captain directed the dhow toward Charlie Claw's base on Wasini Island, we were soon flanked by a spirited group of dolphins.  At its peak, I counted 12 members in the pod.  They followed us for a good while, putting on quite a show.  They were leaping from the water, standing up vertically, and ducking and diving under our boat.  The dolphin is one animal that really looks like it's having a good time.

awesome dolphins

Lunch was pretty good, and indeed they did serve us crab - well, those of us who ordered the seafood meal.

After lunch, we were given a choice:  We could either hang out at the natural swimming pool (a small lagoon on Wasini) or we could tour the coral garden.

I opted for the coral garden, and only one other guy joined me.  We hiked for about 15 minutes before we reached a village.  On the edge of the village there was a school.  It was a Muslim school where the youngsters spent the entire day learning to recite the Quran.  The kids at the school regarded us, but did not approach us.  When we reached the heart of the village, however, the kids there rushed us.

"Jambo, jambo!" the shouted at us.  Jambo is hello is Swahili.

The jambos soon gave way to begging, however, and there were outstretched hands radiating from all directions.  I don't support giving candies, coins, trinkets, and pens to village children, so I had purposely arrived empty-handed.  The other guy, however, was scrambling to curry favor with the kids.  Nearly empty-handed as well, he started giving the kids one Tic-Tac each, until he ran out.  Fresh breath - just what these begging kids wanted, I'm sure!

Once the Tic-Tacs were gone and the kids were getting restless, our guide stepped in and shooed them away.

On the opposite side of the village, we reached our objective, the coral garden.  The coral garden was a shallow lagoon that contained many large lumps of brown coral.  I assume that these coral "sculptures" were completely natural because recognizing their shapes took a good imagination.

"We call this one 'The Lion'," our guide explained.  "Can you see his head and paws?"

Hmm, maybe if I squint real hard...

"As you could probably tell this one is 'The Shark'," he continued.  "See the tail wrapping around?"

If you say so...

Our guide explained at least a dozen sculptures to us, and the other guy and I nodded along.  It was like identifying shapes in clouds.  I was curious if the other guy was really seeing anything or if he was just being polite.

The nice thing about the coral garden was that the sculptures were accessible by an elevated wooden walkway which we were told had been built by impoverished women as a means to earn money.  Some of the planks had rotted away, but I thought this was a nice initiative all the same.

the coral garden

We didn't get to finish looking at the entire coral garden, however, because we ran out of time.  We stopped midway and hiked to another area where a dinghy met us and took us back to the dhow.

Then it was back to the pier at Shimoni.

The vendors were waiting for us, but this time a few people in our group were interested in shopping.  They provided a perfect shield for those of us who didn't want to shop.

On the way back to Mombasa, I was chosen to ride in the front passenger seat since I was traveling alone.  Score!

We returned the same way we had come in the morning, and by 6 PM, I was back at the New Palm Tree.

For my final dinner, I had some kebabs and biryani.  I didn't linger very long at the restaurant, however, because not too surprisingly, I had developed an uncomfortable sunburn over the course of the day.  My back and legs were throbbing.

My nightly cold shower provided some measure of relief, however, and I spent my last evening watching grainy football on the television.

The next morning, I had breakfast and checked out.  There was a church service in the hotel's multipurpose room, and the congregation was singing the Lord's praises with gusto.

The hotel's driver took me to the airport, and the first half of the ride was slow indeed.  We were stuck behind a truck carrying an oversized load, and there was no opportunity to pass.  Even so, I reached the airport in plenty of time, checked in, and moved to the departure hall.  There were several shops in the hall, but most were closed.  I took a seat and started working on Sudoku.

Half a dozen puzzles later, we were airborne.

On this flight, a movie about a show horse was playing on the big screen.  I was sitting next to an aging hippie couple, and they were intently watching the show.  Most of the people around them, myself included, were not watching.

This man and woman were not using their headphones, however, and they seemed to be struggling to understand what was going on.  I wasn't sure if they were trying to guess the plot intentionally, or if they just didn't realize that headphones were available in the seat pocket.  In any case, it was a bit comical watching them.

Once I got home, I had my memories, my sunburn, my photos, my sandals, and my Tusker t-shirt by which to remember Mombasa.  And a few days later, I realized I had one more memento: a bevy of bed bugs.  The biting and blood-sucking weren't so bad, but when that first bed bug whispered in my ear, "We love Obama!" I started to get concerned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Chris,
Nice to read that you got back safe and sound to Ethiopia from the junior Nai-robbery :)
It is always entertaining to read about your adventures. The way people beg to tourists in Mombasa kind of reminded how people do the same in some tourists places in my dear country and indeed it is very annoying. But in Oslo, we got gipsies doing the same now on the buses and trains.
Good to hear from you, Mombasa, the wild cat week, your new pair of sandals and that everybody loves Obama! :)