Mzungus and Matatus

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Africa » Kenya » Coast Province » Wasini Island
October 23rd 2007
Published: October 23rd 2007
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I forgot to mention dirty feet. If you live on Wasini, your feet are never cleani. There is so much dust around that just gets kicked up, and if you are wearing sandals, sweating, have gone in the ocean, or put bug spray on your legs, the dust will attach to you. And if you try to clean your feet with water they will just be wet and the whole process will repeat itself. I have given up. There is also quite a bit of sand at the foot of my bed. In addition to the dirt, you are always salty. I have not yet had a bucket shower, I don't really see the point. Swimming/bathing in the ocean is just fine by me. It's quite comical when the tide is out and you are bathing in about 4 inches of warm water. One of the girls was shaving and about 4 naked local boys surrounded her curiously, asking for shampoo. It was pretty funny. While bathing in the ocean we usually have to take down jerries and fill them up with salt water so we can have water back on base.

I have two more hours in Diani until our matatu comes to take us back to Shimoni (the cottage) where will then be transfered to Wasini. When we are on forest we stay at the cottage on the mainland close to the village of Shimoni. Shimoni is similar to the village of Mkwiro (where we are living) except they have
electricity so there are things like TVs and it is a little more touristy with more shops and a couple restaurants. There are some perks to this; we get fresh water showers, a pool, flushing toilets, food at the reef hotel (and the option of paying 1000 bob for a personal cottage), and dinner at a *gasp* restaurant in the village. The only drawback is sleeping in tents on weird mattresses with funky sheets. Plus you have to bring all your clothes for a couple days and it's tricky because they all get really dirty. From the cottage it is about a 5-20 minute transfer across the channel to the island. The best thing is when we get to go up the stairs by Paradise (a bar/hotel that runs tours off the island), but when they have guests we have to use the beach access and go through the village (this means having appropriate covering, e.g., headscarf and sarong). For being on an island, we're perched high up and sometimes it's easy to forget that you actually are on an island. On base we have the kitchen banda that is nice and open which makes it a cool place to hang out. We also have the "chill-out" banda which has some funky benches to lay down on. Then there is the main house with all of our bunks. It's kind of nuts my room has so many people (maybe 8 girls) in it and half the time you are getting ready and you don't realize how many people are around you until you bend over for something and bump into someone. Also, the bunk beds shake like crazy when someone gets in them. The girl who sleeps above me is quite tiny but you would think she was an elephant. It's pretty annoying because laying on the bottom all you are thinking is WHAT IS SHE DOING?!

Base is interesting after sundown (around 6:30)...we have kerosene lanterns placed all around and everyone also has head torches. It seems natural, I never think to go for a light switch. Although when making a lesson plan as it was getting dark, I realized that it would be better to finish sooner rather than wait and do it in my bed with a flashlight.

There are some exciting matatu stories (basically a local bus). When we were being transfered from Mombasa to Shimoni we were in a bus with about 24 people and we had all of our bags piled on top. It was quite the site. Unsecure you might think. In fact, at one point we did have a bag fly off the roof into the street. Luckily we saw it happen and were able to retrieve it. On that same trip we also had to take a ferry at one point. When we got to the other side, there was a really steep bank that we needed to get up. The driver put the car in gear and attempted to move forward but instead the whole vehicle just started rolling backward-towards other vehicles just a couple of feet behind us. After a few attempts, we all had to pile out of the bus and walk up the hill while local people helped push our bus up the hill. Apparently something happened with the gears, I'm not exactly sure, most of these vehicles seem to be breaking in one way or another. On our way to Diani we booked a matatu and had 12 people on it. We got stopped by the police, demanding a document for carrying all these mzungus (white people). He basically wanted a bribe--the police see local transport with white people and think that they are tourists and should be using official tourism transport, such as a bus. We would not be hassled if we were taking it with locals, but because we have hired it they see it as a problem, whereas there is no reason for us to be hiring a bus because we are not tourists. So, we had a Kenyan from our group with us and he spoke to the police officer and explained that we are doing research and are affiliated with KWS (Kenyan Wildlife Services which is also paramilitary) and that got us off the hook...........only for us to have a flat tire a couple of feet later. All of a sudden the two men operating the matatu disappeared-one had gone off to get air in the spare tire and another was collecting rocks. They set up the rocks under the tire to use as a jack and the other man came back rolling a tire full of air. I have a great picture of it. Thankfully we had no more problems after that.

Last night was filled with socializing and dancing the night away. It was a nice break from all of our training- I didn't get back to the hotel until 1 AM! That's pretty crazy when you consider that I'm normally in bed by 10 and up by 6.........oh well back to the island this afternoon.

I probably won't get to use the internet again for another 3 weeks, but it is kind of up in the air. Potentially we are getting internet access at the local school on the island, so that would be cool. On week 4/5 I'm going to satellite camp near Tsavo (in an area that is no longer Kenya but not yet Tanzania--it's nowhere!!) to work with a community on capacity building. That will be really interesting. The 10 weekers get a week break after 5 weeks so I should have some people to figure out some Safari/travel plans for my last few days in Kenya.

There are more random things that have happened here that I might one day divulge...


25th October 2007

Kelly, this all sounds so amazing! I can't believe you know so much about dolphins and butterflies. I especially liked that a butterfly licked you - that's awesome. I miss you, but I love your stories!

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