It has been far too long since I've updated you on my whereabouts, probably because I've been busy hopping from one place to the next over the past few weeks. I split up the following adventures based on the locations where I was (even though the shenanigans experienced in each place probably deserve their own standalone blog posts). I hopped from the acacia-filled savannah in Samburu, to the white sandy beaches in Diani, to the Mosque-filled streets of Mombasa, to tiny Kianyaga town, back to Nanyuki, then to Nairobi, and tomorrow I leave for a 4 day trek up Mt. Kenya.
I spent one week in Samburu doing field research with IMPACT (Indigenous Mobilization for Peace Advancement and Conflict Transformation), researching conservation and gender. I saw many beautiful things and met friendly people who welcomed me into their homes. I also had very difficult, draining conversations about some of the structural barriers facing women in Samburu, including forced marriages and FGM. People were very surprised when I said my family does not own any cattle, and even more surprised when I said my dad does the cooking in my family because he enjoys cooking. I was told that since I am educated, my dowry would include up to 20 cattle, which is above the normal 13 cattle dowry in the village. I joked I was worth at least one camel. Some of the more interesting conversations included 1. speaking with Samburu elders, both men and women, about the impacts of climate change on their livelihood strategies, 2. a conversation with a young Moran warrior whose dad has five wives, 3. learning the resilience of women's organizations in the region which are challenging gender norms. We had no electricity (other than solar power) which meant no refrigerators for a week. That means all of our meals were cooked fresh! Lots of cabbage, and admittedly more goat than I could handle. The week included seeing more wild zebras than I can count, sipping tea in mud manyattas, and making jewelry with decorated elders. The landscapes were incredible. On the last day we saw wild elephants frolicking in the acacia-tree bushes near the Ebawesi River.
I spent the next week in Diani Beach, on the Kenyan Coast, enjoying the finest white sand I've ever felt in my life. It actually felt like silk. Highlights included speaking Spanish with Mexicans at our hostel (my heart is in Latin America), feeding bush babies, having my almonds stolen by a monkey in our outdoor baobab tree dorm, eating delicious seafood, visiting a cave restaurant, and reuniting with the wackiest crew. This wacky crew is comprised of the other interns from McGill who are scattered around the country doing their various projects. It was phenomenally funny to hear about their adventures. We stayed at Diani Backpackers Hostel, which I would recommend to anyone. There was a nice pool, and we were a 5 minute walk from the beach. Every time we traveled in town to explore, we tuk yellow tuk-tuks. Some of them were decorated with flashing lights and boom boxes! Our anthem was "Swing," which Anoushka was sure to sing whenever she had the chance. Although the together time was good, so was the alone time. I read a few books, wrote in my journal, and got up early on numerous occasions to watch the sunrise on the ocean.
A few days in the city of Mombasa gave me a taste of what the Middle East looks like, considering the ongoing Arab influence in the city due to historical trade routes. The streets reminded me of an Arabian Nights film set, complete with a spice market, vendors clothed from foot to toe, intense heat, and beautiful fabrics. I had Swahili coffee, and it was perfectly sweet, as we chatted with a local about the underground gay scene among Muslim men and we laughed a ton. The Airbnb hostel that Sasha booked rocked my socks off. It was $30 with the promotion, but we had an entire house and garden area to ourselves. It was unreal. The woman who owned it was a mysterious type, always friendly, writing a play upstairs. I half expected her to have a fortune teller ball with her turban and flowy dress outfit, floating from one place to another. Complete with colorful cushions to sit outside, and a view of the ocean, it was by far the nicest Airbnb I've stayed in. We were only in the city itself for one day since the following day we both were exhausted and quite quite sick... Jury is still out, but I think it was the shish kabobs, and Sasha thinks it was the water.
We took an 8 hour train ride back to Nairobi from Mombasa, and I was passed out the entire time. I essentially slept 30 hours straight, sick as a bug, but eventually felt better. A 4 hour bus ride brought us to a tiny town called Kianyaga, leading to a ridiculous weekend seeing what some of our McGill friends have been up to. Kianyaga was great because it revealed the extent to which the experiences of the McGill interns have been so different. Maddie and Anoushka are in Kianyaga, have been without a refrigerator for 3 months, and love the small town vibes. We thought Nanyuki was small, but Kianyaga is a village. Their “supermarket” doesn’t have chickpeas so they go buy vegetables every day. They live a stone’s throw from their office. We met Joackim, their welcoming (and wacky in the best way) supervisor who is always so cheery.
Nanyuki is such a funny place to return to after being away for 3 weeks. Sasha and I now have a pet frog who lives in our shower. Florence, our host sister / friend is still my favorite person in all of Nanyuki, with her sarcastic jokes and delicious tea. We worked all week on our field report, which is now close to 50 pages. It’s bomb, if I do say so myself, and I’m excited by how much we learned during our time at IMPACT. Sasha and I have essentially become one, considering we share everything from meals to shampoo to house keys to blankets to deodorant to motorcycle taxis to headphones to socks. The other day we found ourselves saying the same exact thing at the same exact time in the office and we’re sure to have separation anxiety when we part ways in a week. We found a new gym and it’s been fun to switch up the routine. ALSO we never refer to Nanyuki as Nanyuki, but affectionately call it “Nanyukes.” It’s so weird that next week is my last week here in Nanyukes after meeting so many people who have become familiar faces in my daily routine. Blog post to come on that.
The weekend was spent in Nairobi, and the best word to describe it? Wacky. Just wacky. Why was it wacky? So many reasons. To celebrate Sasha’s birthday, we went to eat Ethiopian food (YUM!) at Habesha with the same crew as from the beach. I washed my clothes in a WASHING MACHINE. The luxury! The next morning, Sunday, the wackiest of days, I find out two phones and a bunch of cards were stolen the night before. Yikes! We all went to eat at Artcaffe (YUM!) and then bounced to the next Airbnb where I exercised on the rooftop terrace with a lovely view of clotheslines. The highlight was going to see a soccer game - Kenya versus Everton. On the way, my phone was snatched from a car window, out of my lap, on the HIGHWAY. The guy legitimately jumped over the hood of a car to escape. At the stadium, we accidentally ate a feast in the staff area thinking it was meant for us and our $10 VIP tickets. Oops. When Kenya won the game in penalty kicks, the crowd went BALLISTIC. Men shouted absurdly inappropriate things at me on the way out of the stadium, but Ryan and Day and I escaped to a luxury safari lodge (who can afford these prices?!), waterfalls included, to call an Uber to get out of the madness. One minute in a raging crowd, next minute in a resort to escape it. Two different worlds, separated by a gate. That's Nairobi. We all hit up the Alchemist bar, and then K1 club, and our night out was the most phenomenal, hilarious, wacky one yet.
If you’ve made it to the end, congrats for getting through all these shenanigans. Every single day of this three-month stint in Kenya, I’ve written a personal reflection about the day, thanks to my trusty 2012 MacBook. When I get back home, I might even try to publish it as a wackiest personal journal. I’m grateful for this experience in ways I didn’t imagine. I leave for a four-day Mt. Kenya trek today (woohoooo!!!) and then one more week in Nanyuki before I travel for 2 weeks and head home.
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