Friday, February 17, 2012

Monday 6 Feb

We had been anticipating and prepping for Monday all weekend. We had planned to go into Mombasa town with Jen, then explore the city island.
I woke up to the call of prayer again thinking I should record it. Then thinking of I how would do so...
By the second call of prayer at 6:30 I was up, made some coffee and sat on the balcony watching the neighborhood and looking for monkeys. I had been on a monkey hunt since my arrival to no avail. Jen finally got up and joined me on the balcony pointing out the monkeys playing in the tree across the way...I am a terrible monkey hunter.
Bucket shower then out the door.
Jen normally takes a matatu to work so we tagged along. Commute traffic is so bad on weekdays that the matatus and cars short cut though Jens street. We hoped to catch one with 3 seats open. Though tommy and I had been watching and learning the matatu way, we weren't ready yet to be on our own. Eventually, we caught one, even had 3 seats open!
In order to get into Mombasa town from the northern suburbs, you have to cross a a bridge. There is a cosway on the west side of the island at the port and a ferry to cross at the south of the island. A lot of people and goods cross the bridge, proceed through town then cross the ferry to get their goods to the southern suburbs of Mombasa. It's wild! A million cars, matatus, tuktuks, carts, motorcycles and people on foot are squeezed onto a 4 lane bridge and spill out into Mombasa city where they disperse to the ferry or port or into town. We took the matatu to the end of the route, Jen pointed out landmarks so we could find our way later. We started our walk to her work stopping by the chemist. I got some Malorin, the most recent malaria drug that costs a ton at home but was very affordable here by our standards. I didn't care anyways, I couldn't take the doxy any longer and I was willing to risk malaria over the nausea. Needless to say, I was optimistic and willing to spend some money on an alternative!
We went to Jens clinic. It's fantastic! She is currently working on a study to reduce vaginal infections, which increase susceptibility to HIV, in the community. There is a large sex industry in Mombasa where women make a lot of money. These are Jens people. The clinic is open to everyone and services multiple health care needs within the community. The University of Washington in Seattle has a contributed a lot of support and the majority of the doctors there including Jen are affiliated. Her study runs for 2 years so she spent the first year there setting it all up and at the end of February she will move home to Seattle and graduate(Dr. Mitts!!!) and continue to work on the study from afar. It was amazing to see all that she has done in Mombasa and spend some time seeing her world.
After our clinic tour Jen sent us off on our own in a tuktuk to Ft Jesus.
We were met at the entrance by some guy who offered to show us around. We paid our entry and obliged. He was very knowledgable and though he isn't employed by the fort he clearly makes a living on tours and by approaching people at the entrance. Ft Jesus is a compound built in the shape of Jesus' body by the Portuguese in the 1500's. It overlooks the northern inlet of Mombasa island and was used as a port and overtaken by multiple others mostly in religious battles between the Catholic Portuguese, the arab Muslims and later the British. It is beautiful and the history is fascinating.
I had checked my camera battery before we left in the morning but as I went to take the most beautiful picture of Ft Jesus ever taken, the battery died. I started to panic. Could I buy a battery in town, could I just buy another camera, could we go back to Jens to fetch it?? Oh god. I never go anywhere without my camera and it dies now. I had to let it go. We would be ok without taking pictures on the first day we have to explore downtown. It's going to be ok. It's going to be ok.
Outside Ft Jesus is Old Town. The first area of Mombasa island. What do I see as soon as we start walking? A space invader!! Oh god, I wish my fucking camera didn't die. Just a reason to come back...just a reason to come's's ok...Our "tour guide" took us through Old Town offering a fantastic narration. We wandered through old back alleys filled with stray cats and small shanty shops. It was beautiful. Unlike me, Kenyans aren't afraid of a little color. Shops are set up against walls with bright clothes and fruits and goods laid out on bright linens. Everywhere you look is a colorful shanty market or a garbage bin of charcoal and smoldering foods.
After our tour we were on our own. I was determined to find a certain shop with linens located in a maze of markets. We got a little weary walking around and stopped in a random restaurant for coffee(which was a cup full of hot water and a tin full of instant Dormans coffee) and had some samosas. I took my new pill and crossed my fingers.
We realized the time and went to meet Jen at the clinic to go to lunch. It was a miracle we found the clinic after all our wandering! We grabbed a tuktuk to a restaurant called Tartouche where we sat outside and enjoyed some swerma and the company of Jens coworkers. From there we took off in search of the shop. We wandered through street market after street market looking at a little map Jen drew us of where the shop was located. Finally, we thought we were in the area. As we argued(I mean, debated) our direction, a man offered to help. He led us to some shop nearby with the same linens I was looking for but not the exact shop I wanted. I gave up and browsed the shop finding a million things I liked. How many table clothes and other linens does a lady really need? We bought enough to cause problems with our suitcases at a steal of a price and I left happy. As we exited the shop a few steps down we saw the shop we wanted...oh well.
We made it back to the clinic taking back streets to see what we could see. We stumbled into a kitchen store where I found a rolling pin and butter curler I needed(can't wait to explain that to customs). Then off to meet Jen for our matatu adventure home. It was a long day of walking!
On the way home we stopped by a roadside stand selling freshly fried cassava chips with masala spices(so good!), and stocked up at the Nakumat(supermarket).
We got home, drank a Tusker and set out for a local Swahili restaurant called Nyali Bites. We had to get going so we didn't have to walk in the dark(said to be a bad idea). We had their only offered dish, beef pilau with a fantastic house made hot sauce and a bitter lemon krest. Coca Cola has a bit of a monopoly here. They make a bunch of different sodas then we are used to in the US and have a sub brand called Krest. Bitter lemon krest tastes like unsweetened lemonade soda. It's tasty. As we ate our dinner various stray cats would circle around our feet meowing for scraps. It was very charming but they were probably disease ridden and became quite annoying.
We tuktuked home and passed out.

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