Meaning hello master/respected person! If you’ve lived in Kenya you’ll know that is just about the most touristy thing you could say… especially if you pronounce it jam-bow versus jahm-bo. We’re taught from the beginning not to use this as a greeting cause it basically raises a big flag that says “I’M A VISITOR.” This last week we got to rock our tourist duds when a group of us went to Mombasa. The group included Sam and Lydia, married from North Carolina that are here with AIM Air (AIM’s own airline which supports missionaries all over the continent), Jeremiah, the aforementioned med student working at the hospital in Kijabe and Jaimie, an OBGYN nurse who Jeremiah knows from home.
Mombasa is the 2nd largest city in Kenya and a beautiful port town. It has it’s own unique feel thanks to a blend of African, Arab and coast culture. It was formerly a Portuguese colony and also a hub of trade back in the day and in present times. The mix of influences is visible in the architecture and apparent in the atmosphere of the city. Really there isn’t more to say than what a fantastic place. It’s kind of like the Montreal to Nairobi’s Toronto where one has a lot of history, culture and architecture and the other is just a big city. Before we came, our friends in Nairobi told us that coast culture is pole pole, slow slow. Given that the temperature averaged 40 Celsius with humidity it’s totally understandable that life slows to a crawling pace. There was some safety concern when the day before we left the police found a bunch of bombs in a car on it’s way to some target but with no change in the travel advisory we forged ahead.
Jaimie, Jeremiah, Hannah and I arrived Wednesday afternoon and after a quick stop at the local supermarket we headed to our beautiful cottage and just spent the rest of the day basking in the sound of the ocean and waiting for dinner at a neighboring property (which took 1.5 hours to get to the table after ordering). We were staying about 20 km south of the city on a private isolated beach. It was SPECTACULAR. I woke up every morning at 6 am because basically I didn’t want to waste a minute that I could be looking out onto the Indian Ocean. Sam and Lydia arrived Thursday around lunch and we spent the first day swimming then travelling further south to Diani Beach which is a more developed and touristy area. The beach at Diani is nicer as it’s that white powdery sand that is so soft but it’s a public beach which means beach boys trying to sell you their wares and Maasai tribesmen (or “maasai” who knows if they’re authentic) charging you money for photos with them.
Friday we spent in the actual city of Mombasa. There isn’t a tonne to do there in terms of attractions but we decided to split up with Jaimie, Hannah, Lydia and Sam walking ahead to the spice market and Jeremiah and I going to Fort Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which for those of you who know me can guess I loved it. To just contemplate that in 1600 there was a Portuguese guard there looking out for aggressive sails in the very spot I was standing just blows my mind. The whole structure was carved out of coral (so our unofficial guide told us before we blew him off). The fort was occupied by so many different powers over the years and apparently the alterations and adjustments made the fort are visible but I’m no expert so basically just looked like a cool old fortress.
We also got to walk through Old Town to the spice market which offered a unique view of the city. The architecture is beautiful here and the city is so vibrant. It is 70% Muslim and so in my tourist dress and flip flops I felt fairly under dressed but was reassured that there are so many tourists here that it’s not unusual at all. There have been some tensions and conflict over religious differences; since I’ve been here almost all events have occurred in Mombasa. A security warning before we left may have come in handy due to a shooting in a church which occurred a few kms from where we were staying on the day of our departure.
It’s now back to reality which is proving surprisingly difficult. I guess now is the beginning of my negotiation phase, where my honeymoon with Kenya is over and I’m now fully acclimatizing to life here. Our 20 minute walk to the grocery store doesn’t seem so novel anymore and is becoming an inconvenience among other things. The trip was almost like a dream where we were in paradise and it was just easy to be around everyone without needing to be concerned about being so culturally appropriate or intentionally ministering to people. Our return to work after such relaxation is almost harder now and so we’re praying that we may “care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly – not for what you will get out of it but because you are eager to serve God.” (1 Peter 5:2)