We’ve reached Watamu! I’m not sure if it actually means “sweet people” or not, but in Swahili tamu means sweet, and the plural form of people is “wa” — like mkenya and wakenya for Kenyan/Kenyans.
I’ve been here before with Sara and some other volunteers. It’s a great little touristy beach getaway with lots of Italians. You can tell there’s an Italian influence because the tuk-tuks say “Piaggio”, the kids shout, “Ciao!”, and there is a gelato shop on every corner. I’ve been longing for gelato ever since we left Nairobi so we plan on eating it at least twice a day. We’ve also been eating a lot of mangos (there is a great apple–mango hybrid that is really delicious and cheap). Randi swore left and right that she didn’t like fresh mango but I guess they don’t make ’em like this in the US. Karibu Kenya (welcome to Kenya)!
I haven’t been on hiatus, I’ve been on holiday! Actually I’ve been working a lot, but I did make it across the border this past weekend for a little rest and relaxation. One thing I realized during my 24-hour stay in Tanzania was that my Swahili is permanently Kenyan-ized. I’ve already accepted that I’m nowhere near fluent by Kenyan standards, but I’m a disaster by Tanzanian standards. You see, after their independence, Tanzania embraced Swahili as the national language in order to unite their country as a common people, no longer colonized and no longer a collection of tribes — they were Tanzanians now! Kenya chose both Swahili and English, and while people here do speak Swahili, it’s kinda a watered-down, English-ized version (“sheng”). Kenyans even make fun of Tanzanian Swahili because it’s a chore to speak correctly, it’s boring, and it even sounds funny because it’s so polite. And I know it’s terrible, but I do too.
Few of you have any clue how I live. Other than the “for just a fifty cents a day, you can sponsor…” commercials which used to air on TV, most people in the United States don’t know anything about what goes on in Africa. There aren’t any of those kids with flies in their eyes, swollen tummies, etc in Tala… I think you have to go to the slums of Nairobi to find those (Kibera, Mathare, Kariobangi). In order to both quench your appetite for information and to educate those of you who are clueless (or have terrible imaginations), here’s a little bit about where I’ve been staying for the past two years…
I live in a town called Tala. It’s not so much a town as a big market where people from surrounding villages come to conduct business. There aren’t many people who actually live in Tala (maybe 5,000?), but there are always people in transit through it, especially on market days. Most of the people in Tala come from one of the surrounding towns or villages (Nguluni, Kangundo, Kathiani, Sengani, Matungulu, Katine, Kinyui, Mitaboni, Kikambuani, etc!). We have two “market” days (Tuesday and Friday) and the place is packed on those days. You can find anything in Tala on a market day: cows, cabbage, honey, brooms, bows/arrows, rope, spare tires, speakers, drugs, prostitutes… anything. Continue Reading