Mombasa Raha

Mombasa.

I have arrived after a 9-hour ride on a bus with roaches and last night the mosquitoes turned the entire left side of my body into a Vera Bradley design…and I will confess….I couldn’t be happier. My first 24 hours here has comprised the most welcoming experience I have EVER had in my life.

Connect the dots, anyone?

Background info first: (Mom, you can skip this paragraph…I might have failed to mention this to you….) There have not been many volunteers from the Fadhili organization headed to Mombasa as of late because of the al-Shabaab threats. As for me, I have some rowing contacts I wanted to meet up with in Mombasa and had also heard of an orphanage that was hurting for volunteers since the security warnings. So I decided to find out if this threat was akin to American airports kicking up to “orange” level (i.e. superfluous). After doing my research and making sure to have many contacts, shell out the cash for safer travel, and washing behind my ears—done panicking, mama?—I found a placement in a home in Bamburi where I was advised I will be equally as safe as I was in Nairobi (or even moreso considering the nickname Nairobbery). Three brothers run the house, and this week their two older brothers are visiting. One brother is still in university, the two living here are involved with various jobs related to volunteerism and community work, and the two visiting have jobs in Nairobi. Noah, Christopher, Robert, Boniface, and Danger (real name Crispus).

When I finally woke up from my travel coma they made me a breakfast of chai tea, bananas, and Kenyan French toast. Here I have my own room and bathroom (until more volunteers are advised to head east) and the brothers visiting even slept on the floor of the living room in slumber party style to give me a quiet, private room to rest in after my traveling. Thank goodness for some quiet time, I was about to roofie my 12 fellow volunteers at the group house in Nairobi just to get a moment of peace. The brothers here told me not to worry because I now have five big brothers to help me out, I will become their sister. Later on Sunday they took me to see the beach and on the way they told me we can walk Obama style. “Huh?” They explained a few brothers will walk ahead, me in the middle, and a few walk behind us all as my unit of body guards. I can get used to this spoiling.

Camel rides available on the beach!

Today I was able to visit the boathouse and go for a short row as well as meet everyone at the orphanage/school I will be working at. I am continuing communication and guidance with the Enrich Kibera Project remotely, and will add some teaching, marketing advising, photography, and general management advising to my daily work here at the orphanage.

Getting around in Kenya is near impossible if you do not know anyone who can show you. Many places don’t have names, some have multiple names, and the only form of transportation is a matatu (2 guys in a van, one drives and one hangs out the open door to yell to customers and get them into the van). Two of the brothers offered to accompany me to the boathouse in the morning. The one who went with rode all the way there on the matatu with me to make sure I was safe! (about an hour of travel). On the way home, my new rowing teammate Kevin rode with me halfway since I have to make a matatu exchange and he told the second driver where to drop me. Later he texted to make sure I was home safe! And you better believe it…the pastor who runs the orphanage walked me home after my day there—40 minutes. My apologies to my own brother back home, Jared. I think I would have handed him a map, pushed him on a bus, and told him to call me if he was lost. And then I might “accidentally” leave my phone on silent…joking, joking.

I move fast, eh?

haha, sometimes the boys steal the neighbor kids from outside and feed them breakfast and play with them. Meet Kevin, he likes orange candy and shaking my bottle of malaria pills.

Here in Mombasa my new brothers already feel like family. I have compiled some of my favorite quotations from them so far to illustrate their depth of character, welcoming attitudes, and big brotherly advice for you:

  • When I confessed that I saw some roaches in the bedroom behind the shelf…Robert says, “They are also wanting to welcome you to Mombasa!” and Noah says, “Don’t worry, they are allergic to white people.”
  • After a quality conversation with Christopher…“You think with your brain and not your kidney! I like you already.”
  • “Mombasa is Kenya, in Nairobi you were not in Kenya. Welcome to Mombasa Raha (Happy Mombasa), welcome to Kenya.”
  • While at the beach… “Look, Morgan, there is your grandpa!” I look to where they are pointing….so many black bodies bobbing up and down in the waves and then I see one WHITE old man among them.
  • “You are smiling now you are our sister here with us, we hope you are so happy that you cry when you leave. Don’t worry, we talked to the embassy, we have extended your stay in Kenya.”
  • The children who live around here are usually outside playing. When I walk past they say “Jambo!” or the one word “howareyou?” thinking I don’t know any Kiswahili. The brothers told me to speak Kiswahili to them and so I respond “mzuri sana, wewe?” (very good, you?) and it sends them into a fit of laughter, trailing me all the way back to the house giggling.
  • In response to my comments on the 94 degree weather… “It is not healthy to live somewhere you do not sweat.” So I told them about the temperature in Seattle right now and the snow and they look at me horrified. One looks at me so so serious and asks, “How do people survive?”
  • “Remember to close your shades at night, Morgan, some people like to look at white skin.”
  • Danger’s quote after hearing the meaning of the term brunette… “Brunette. I think I will give my daughter that name someday. It’s a very nice name. (changes to sing-song voice and rolling the R) BRRRRRRRRRRRunette! Come here my dear!!!”
  • Helping to cook dinner, I was having a tough time cutting a tomato with a dull knife and thought I was being nice by suggesting “Maybe I should buy you a new sharp knife for the kitchen.” Noah shakes his head, knowingly saying, “It is dangerous to use sharp knives. That is why people die.”

Time to go learn how to make chai tea! It is still 90 degrees but apparently we will still take hot tea. Bring it on. After all, it is healthy to sweat.