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Kijiji Living and Mombasa Sunshine

October 2, 2011

I apologize in advance for how long this post is going to be! I have to say that these last two weeks in Kenya have been the most eventful and exciting and I haven’t had much access to computers or reliable Internet since I left Nairobi a few weeks back. I’ll try and put in lots of pictures to keep the reading light 🙂

 Shirazi

As part of my academic program, we are all required to leave our home base in Nairobi for a much more rural adventure on the coast of Kenya. This semester our program took us to a village called Shirazi about 2 hours from the Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya. When I told everyone a few months ago that I was going to spend my semester in Kenya, everyone assumed I would be in a mud hut with no electricity rather than the fairly urban homestay I have been living in thus far. My Shirazi experience was EXACTLY like that stereotype and it still kind of feels like a dream a week after I’ve left…

After the 8ish hour bus ride from Nairobi to Mombasa, all of us geared up for 9 days in Shirazi village. My homestay parents, Tunu and Yosufu, and their eleven-year-old daughter Saumu took me in during my time in Shirazi. Our house was made of dried mud and had a straw roof. Our house had one big bedroom (which my parents donated to me during my stay in Shirazi), a central living space with a straw mat where we ate meals, and an outdoor space for cooking with an outdoor shower and pit latrine. Here are some pictures to give you a better idea.  You can see from the third picture that there is no actual door to close and the entire village definitely trusted one another. The only downside to that was the occasional money or bat that would wander in at night and climb around in the open rafters above our rooms…

I would have to say the best part of Shirazi was probably the absolutely hilarious outfits we had to wear every day. The community was fairly conservative so covering our heads, shoulders, and knees was an absolute must and definitely a challenge in the very hot coastal weather. Colorful printed material called a Kanga is the cultural norm and they are basically just two big pieces of fabric you wrap yourself in. That definitely took some getting used to and I lost my kanga a few times. Luckily I always wore shorts underneath. The best days were when our moms decided to lend us crazy sequin or satin dresses to wear to Swahili class. I don’t have any pictures on my personal camera to post here but I am sure the tagging on Facebook will start soon enough for your viewing pleasure and my personal embarrassment 🙂

Illness was definitely a concern for all of us on the program during the week in the village and unfortunately 3 of my classmates ended up staying in the hospital for an extended period of time with some kind of intestinal infection. All of the water in Shirazi comes from Bohr Holes drilled for the village that wasn’t safe for us to drink (the program provided us with water during our stay) but this water was still used to wash dishes and hands and we all ate off of a communal plate at dinner with or hands, Kenyan style. If I had to guess, I’d say this was the biggest culprit when it came to village illness. All of the food sharing and tight quarters definitely took some getting used to and it is one of the things I don’t think I completely adjusted to. I was able to survive the village with only a minor problem: jiggers. I will spare you a picture but basically, the majority of us were affected by tiny fleas that borrow into your feet and lay an egg sac that grows under the surface of the skin with the intention of hatching. I am pretty sure that’s considered parasitic. Anyway, I found two BIG jiggers on my left foot once we got to Mombasa that had to removed. Luckily no lasting harm was done. I’ll spare you a picture of the actual “surgery” performed by our awesome office assistant Jorge but here is what they look like in my foot

Not having electricity was kind of a nice feeling. I got to disconnect from my e-mail for a while and not have to worry about getting any schoolwork done. I was in the village to have an experience and practice my Swahili, which is exactly what I did. Zero light pollution was also incredible at night for looking at stars.

Mombasa

After leaving the village we got to stay in Mombasa for the past 5 days before returning to our Nairobi homestay. I have to say that Mombasa was the most fun I have had so far in Kenya. We got to live in a hostel adjacent to the SIT Mombasa office (my program has another site in Mombasa that we used while those students were away as well) and exploring a new city and very new cultural dynamic in Kenya was awesome. My favorite part was probably the shopping and I loaded up on more Kanga fabric and other awesome crafts than I know what to do with (don’t want to give away any of the great gifts I was able to find for family and friends while I was there :)).

Transportation in Mombasa was also much easier than in Nairobi which was definitely helped by how much safer and smaller the city is. Everything is closer together and it is safe to venture out at night on foot, unlike in Nairobi. The main form of transportation, in addition to the infamous Kenyan matatu, is a tuk tuk. They are really hard to describe if you have never seen one but it is just like a mini car on three wheels with a reckless driver willing to take you wherever you want for 100 Shillings ($1). I wish they had these in Nairobi but no such luck.

So now I am safe and sound back in Nairobi and the real work is about to begin! I have a bunch of papers to work on and it seems like the vacation I have been having is coming to an end… I’ll be posting more often now that my internet is back. Wish my luck with these assignments…I may have forgotten how to write a paper :-p

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