Well here I am, 4 months have passed and the end of my African journey has finally arrived. With this comes an overwhelming amount of sadness. I cannot begin to wrap my head around the thought that my time here is up! It seems like just yesterday I was getting off of the plane, wide eyed, scared and eager to explore new places. Now, it’s become home. I’ve really established myself here; I have a life, a family, a lot of knowledge about how to live day-to-day and intense love for the things around me. In no time these things will just be memories. But, I have a lot of updating to do! So, I will back track….
I finished up my time in Mombasa. I was staying in a hostel on the ocean with 5 other girls from the program. We had a wonderful time together. We supported each other through the writing process of our ISP papers, cooked together, exercised together and enjoyed day-to-day life. I think we really grew in friendship. The food in Mombasa was incredible. We particularly loved the street food—chicken schwarma, chicken tikka and these incredible avocado smoothies for 30 shillings. We ate, explored and wrote our way to the finish of ISP period! I completed my 30-page paper about my time with Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya. I ended up discussing major themes I found in my interviews and then paired them with narratives from the women themselves. I think it ended up being quite powerful (I hope so anyways!). Let me know if you’d like a copy and I’d gladly send it your way. Then we headed off to a resort in Malindi with the rest of the students in the program. It was lovely to be reunited for the presentation week. To our surprise the resort was incredibly beautiful! The rooms had AIR CONDITIONING, hot water, pools and a buffet. I felt like I was a kid back in a candy store. It was nice to be relaxing in paradise. I was the third to present my project. It went really, really well and I was so happy when it was finished. I then spent the rest of the time watching all of the other presentations and enjoying the last few days with my pals!
Six of us left the program two days early to travel to Tanzania. We had to take a bus from Malindi to Mombasa and stay over night the first night. We then traveled from Mombasa to Dar Es Salaam on a 10-hour bus and stayed there over night. Then onto Zanzibar by ferry the next morning! It was quite the journey but well worth every minute. I loved the wild bus rides, the unique hostels and the people we met along the way. It felt nice traveling away from the program. We made it all the way to Zanzibar despite my debit card getting eaten by the ATM, our insane bus driver almost leaving us at the ‘rest stop’, Sam needing to bribe the border to let him through without his WHO card (then almost re-vaccinated him!) and a few stomach issues. So, we arrived in Stone Town Zanzibar where we stayed for three days. It was a wonderfully quaint city with beautiful architecture, nice people and more good food. We did a tour of the Zanzibar spice plantations and explored. We ended up at the hilarious reggae concert where we danced, laughed and had a great time. We ate delicious market food, had yummy smoothies, did some shopping and wandered around soaking it all in. From here we crossed the island to a town called Paje. We stayed on the beach for another three nights. It was stunningly beautiful there. The water had shades of turquoise I had never seen and the sand was pure white. I can tell you that the place we stayed wasn’t luxury at all, and we mostly ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but I was happy just the same. It’s all about the experience, right? Our toilet was outside so when it rained you had to pee in the rain–really not that bad actually until I got attacked by bats while using the bathroom, but no harm was done. I also got dive bombed by a giant crow while I was going for a run on the beach. It swooped down and slammed my stomach, knocking the wind right out of me! I have two bloody claw spots to prove it! I couldn’t believe it, I never thought something like that would happen! But again, I am fine. We also decided to hire a local guy to take us snorkeling for really cheap. He showed up right on time in a worn out wooden sailboat! I will admit I was terrified but I got in anyways. He and his “crew” sailed us out to the reefs. We had to bucket out the water that was slowly filling the bottom of the boat but hey, we made it and I quite enjoyed myself! The whole experience was really hysterical and very entertaining. Never a dull moment. I saw a lot of really cool fish and starfish and I definitely swallowed too much salt water. Geez, I could write on and on…
We flew back to Nairobi and here I am. I am sitting in my bed listening to the train pass, the rainfall and the children yell on their way to school. Each moment seems desperate; almost like I have to hold onto it or it will all slip away. There are these tiny, tiny pieces that build on each other to make this experience what it is. Pieces that are entirely unique to each moment, each place and cannot be described. I was thinking this yesterday after I bought a bag of sugarcane and was crunching on it as I walked by the mamas selling chapati and dengu. I want to remember all moments, each face and every thought that has crossed my mind. I wish I could share it all so every one would understand. However, these things are impossible. The reality is that no one will completely understand the last four months except for me. I can try to give images and glimpses by telling stories and showing pictures, and this will be wonderful. The truth is, the rest will be kept inside of me. To inspire and shape the person who I am, to remind me that these four months will live inside of me forever.
So, I thank East Africa. Thank you for the constant lessons that bring me back to earth. Thank you for the children, the laughter and the songs. Thank you for the people, the faces, the images and color. Thank you for music and dance. Thank you for your intense beauty and thank you for your ugliness. Thank you for keeping me on my toes. Thank you for being so unique. Thank you for your challenges. Thank you for the fabrics, the food, the language and the dirt. Thank you for my family, in Shirazi and in Nairobi. Thank you for the sun. Thank you for the rain. Thank you for the insanity, and thank you for the calm. Thank you for holding me, shaping me and spitting me back out the other side, deeply touched but completely unharmed.
I will spend today cooking with mama, doing my last load of laundry in the bucket, packing and spending the evening with my two sisters. Tomorrow, the whole family will bring me to the airport. Saying goodbye might kill me but on the other side awaits another very loving face! I will fly to Spain to be with my cousin Jessy! If we aren’t out causing trouble I might find time to write another post….see you on the other side.