Jambo everyone!

After numerous crazy airport delays, one of which included me running down the tarmac at Nairobi airport and almost getting on to the wrong plane, I finally arrived in Mombasa on Tuesday.  The first thing I noticed was the wave of heat that enveloped me.  It’s so hot and humid that my hair has permanently transformed itself into ringlets.

Our first few days here were spent doing group training at Diani Beach, a tropical ressort that looks right out onto the Indian ocean.  We learned more about how to facilitate workshops on HIV/AIDS and gender issues and had more swahili lessons.  Two Kenyan cooks prepared our meals for us, most of which included Ugali, the main staple here made with flour and water.

We would usually have free time in the afternoons, most of which was spent at the turqoise and white beach!  I have never been in warmer (or saltier) sea water in my life. 

On Friday we walked down the beach to Colombus Monkey Trust, where monkeys injured by vehicles (the roads here are insane) are rehabilitated.  Monkeys here are so damn cheeky.  We sometimes left the doors of our cabins open during training, and two times monkies ran in to steal a jar of jam, then peanut butter.  No kidding.

Yesterday we went crossed the ferry into old Mombasa and visited Fort Jesus, an old prison occupied by the Portugese, Arabs and British (I forget the order!) in past centuries.  Then we split up into our two community groups (north and south coasts) and settled into our homestays. 

Kora, who’s from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and I, are staying with the Kithi family.  They are extremely kind and welcoming.   They have a thirteen-year-old son, Ben (Benedict!), who we spoiled with lots of Canadian trinkets, and several grown children.  (Ben reminds me of my little brother, Tim, who is probably too lazy to read this.)  Anyway, the whole family speaks English and they have what they call a “small” poultry farm in the backyard, which consists of 500 chickens!  None lay eggs; they will all be slaughtered, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get to experience a killing day next weekend.  Yikes.

The family was a bit disappointed when they asked me to say grace before dinner and I told them I didn’t pray!  To make up for it, I offered to go to mass in Swahili this morning, which lasted two hours and involved clapping, waving, singing and the occassional yelp.  Kora and I tried to blend in, but the church staff brought us right up to the front as soon as they noticed us, so that plan didn’t work!

The community is loud, welcoming and curious, with tons of little kids running around.  Most people yell out “mzungu” – white girl (like I hadn’t noticed) – but in a mostly friendly way.  There are devastatingly poor and less poor areas.  Goats and cows are everywhere.  We are really lucky because our family has electricity and running water (most of the time), as well as a toilet.

We had a crazy matatu adventure on Sunday.  Matatus are the local method of transportation here and they are basically small buses that conductors pack with people, as they scream out the direction in which they are going.  The limit is 14 people, but the conductors pack in as many as possible to make more money, and the extra passengers go to jail if caught by the police.  Sometimes passengers dangle out doors and windows of matatus as they whip through the streets.  Craziness.

I started working at Kwacha Afrika with the rest of the northcoast volunteers this week, so more on that soon!