Kenya, Nature, Pictures, Travel

3964I went to Fourteen Falls with Pat this past weekend. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Tala via the Thika road route. The road isn’t too bad as long as you sit in the front of the truck (they only use modified pick-up trucks on this route for some reason). The fare was 100 shillings, which isn’t too bad. The other option is to go to Nairobi (150 shillings) and then to Thika (150 shillings), which takes you on a nicer road but eats an extra 400 or so shillings and a few hours of your time. There hasn’t been too much rain lately, so the water was a little low (and green…), but we still had a nice time relaxing with some snacks in the shade.

You can find the rest of the pictures here: http://thefro.org/gallery2/v/2009/fourteenfalls

Food, Kenya

I just realized the other day that I only have eight months left here in Kenya. Not that I’m counting down, but because I arrived in October, 2007 I should be leaving in October, 2009 I guess. I haven’t decided if I will leave early or extend a bit. Since I came back from the evacuation after last year’s post-election violence I have steadily become a full-time lecturer at the college. That’s important to note because we will have a semester beginning in August/September or so, and if I leave in October I will leaving more-or-less in the middle of the semester. Not cool! So we’ll just have to play it by ear… whatever that means, haha.

Alan at Musau's chemist
Alan at Musau’s chemist
I’m very used to life in Tala these days. I walk around like a local and it shows. When I walk into any of the cafes I can just make some small talk and then say, “Kama kawaida” (“like usual” in Swahili) to get my tea and chapati. Even my afternoon students know that after class I’ll either be going to eat chai/chapati or Kisumu ndogo. Kisumu ndogo, which means “small Kisumu” in Swahili, is a place in Tala where you can eat delicious fried fish. It comes in small pieces, served with ugali (corn meal staple food) and some kachumbari (kinda like salsa fresca). Tala’s a funny place, a few months ago I noticed a new place called Kisumu kubwa (big Kisumu), which serves whole fish. Kisumu, by the way, is a town in Western Kenya on Lake Victoria, and the people there are known to eat a lot of fish.

I took some friends to eat samaki (“fish”) yesterday and it felt like I was a tour guide or a local resident, walking around greeting people in Kiswahili and Kikamba, taking my friends through the back streets to my favorite spots. They’re four young German volunteers who stay somewhere around Tala. I had been seeing them for some time, always waving from a distance but never really running into them. Last week I crossed paths with one and we exchanged numbers, so this week we made plans to get together in the market and hang out. They’re all in their early twenties and pretty funny, so we have a lot in common and had a lot to talk about. We ate a few rounds of fish and then had chai/chapati before they had to get going. I don’t know if I’ll see them much, but it was at least nice to laugh and talk with some other young people doing something similar to what I’m doing.

On another related note, I am going on a small trip to Fourteen Falls with Pat, the Peace Corps volunteer from the next town over, tomorrow. I saw that Mark, the previous VSO volunteer here, had gone there with one of his buddies in 2005, so I’ve been meaning to go but plans kept falling through.

So stay tuned for some more pictures. I’m off to drink some tea and finish my notes for Monday’s Unix class. Maybe I’ll also watch some “TV” on my laptop.

Kenya, Travel

We are now back in Addis Ababa. Our spontaneous trip to Harar was tiring but well worth it. The toursty thing to do there is to watch the hyenas being fed; we declined a guide and instead saw them rummaging through trash behind our hotel room. We even ran into some in the morning when our bus was leaving. They are nasty looking, especially in the dark when the headlights hit their eyes. Other than that, we spent a lot of time wandering around the old walled city and looking at some of the mosques.

We leave for Nairobi late tomorrow night (or, early Sunday morning), so today we spent a lot of time shopping and trying to visit monuments and museums. We have to get rid of our Ethiopian money because it’s not possible to change them in Kenya. Today we saw the Derg Monument (the Derg was the Communist regime which toppled Haile Selassie in the 1970s) and tomorrow we’ll try to see some cultural museums. Did you know that Lucy was found in Ethiopia?

Some other things to add to my list of things I’ve noticed in Ethiopia:

  • Some travel websites say that only Visa ATM cards work in Ethiopia but I’ve seen Mastercard symbols at Dashen bank locations in Addis and Harar at least, and I’ve successfully withdrawn money from an ATM in Harar.
  • Ethiopians clap twice to get someone’s attention. I felt rude the two times I’ve tried it. I’ve never gotten used to Kenya’s snapping or calling, “sck sck” either.
  • They drive on the right side of the road.
  • Instead of yelling “mzungu” the kids yell “faranj” or “you you,” to which I always respond, “me me” or “you you” back.
  • I’ve read several times that Ethiopians don’t like windows open in buses, but from what I can tell they like fresh air as much as anyone else stuck on a bus.
  • People say “ciao,” and not because they think I’m Italian (like in certain parts of the Kenyan coast).

Ellinor and I were noticing that Ethiopia reminds us of a cross between Italy, Africa, and the Middle East. Addis Ababa is very big and busy. We ate at a Chinese restaurant last night, and pizza for a late lunch today. There are clothing stores everywhere and the people seem to have a great sense of fashion; this is odd because poverty seems to be pretty bad here, more than Nairobi and Tala at least. Today I saw a woman running around in the street without a shirt on, disturbing traffic until they gave her money. Yesterday I saw a man sitting on the side of the road with his pants pulled down, exposing his softball-size testicles and a sign begging for money.

Anyways, off to drink a machiatto and go to bed. Pictures come when I get back to Nairobi…

Kenya, Travel

I’m home safely from Mombasa (read on). I spent the week wandering around Mtwapa, Nyali, and Mombasa itself while my friend Anique was at work. I’ve been to the coast before but I have never had as much fun as I did this visit! I don’t have any pictures because my camera is dead… pole sana (so sorry)!

Highlights

  • Salsa dancing lessons
  • Swimming in the ocean for the first time since April
  • Bus home to Nairobi being attacked by people with crude weapons
  • Kid on beach bouncing a dead, but fully puffed, puffer fish
  • Being in a matatu (public service bus / minivan / taxi thing) which got in two crashes, the second one after the conductor and the door operator were yelling at each other about the first one
  • Browsing a spice market and being asked if I wanted to buy something that would let me “touch the sky”

The Bus Attack

The bus attack was pretty hardcore actually. I was on the 10pm Mash Poa bus from Mombasa to Nairobi. Mash is one of the coach carriers in Kenya (think Greyhound). I think it was around 2 am and I was asleep, but I awoke to some commotion and banging sounds around the bus. People around me were wincing and ducking, and the women were yelling “Twende!!” (Swahili for “let’s go!”). At first I thought the bus was broken but then the guy next to me said something like, “Alan, they have crude weapons!” Sure enough the front windshield had two large cracks in it from rocks. It was over as quick as it had started.

I guess what happened is that there was another Mash bus with a flat tire and we had pulled over to see if everything was ok. That’s when the commotion started. There were a bunch of cars and police after about 10 minutes and we all got out. The other bus wasn’t as lucky, several windows were completely shattered and some passengers had been robbed/beaten, including the driver.

Karibu Kenya (welcome to Kenya)!