09 Sep How to “Disorient”: East Africa Style
Step 1: A Day of Relaxation on the Kenyan Coast
The first part of disorienting and preparing for home is relaxing. In the morning we were greeted by Captain Abdul, only the finest seaman on the Kenyan coast, who would be our companion throughout the day. The Captain led us on a winding path through the backstreets of Watamu village, past the mosques and calls of “Ciao!” from the kids. All of a sudden we came upon it: the immaculate white sand beaches and blue waters, like you’ve never seen before. After we took in the beauty we boarded our dhow to take us to Love Island. A dhow is a beautiful, wooden, traditional one mast sailing vessel used up and down the Swahili coast for both fishing and transportation. Our dhow ride was a tad bit choppy because it was early and the clouds were rolling in for their morning shower. But the tide was high and Captain Abdul maneuvered the dhow with ease.
They dropped us on the gorgeous beach; we were the first to arrive that day, aside from the hundreds of birds who took off as soon as we got there. We enjoyed our first swim as it gently rained around us and then the sun came out! If you’ve never experienced the equatorial sun, you should know that it’s like no other. Bright, hot and comforting. But don’t forget the sunscreen! A few of us did and we are still regretting it three days later…
After a good 4 hours of sunning, reading good books, listening to a lot of Katy Perry and exploring the coral reefs as the tide went out, we headed back for a seafood lunch! You can’t beat a delicious meal of fish and coconut rice with turmeric and coconut sauce right on the beach.
What do you do to cap off a beautifully, relaxed day? Gelato time! Why is there a gelateria in Watamu you ask? Well, Watamu is a coastal town loved by Italians and they have made their mark with a gelateria. Will, the resident Italian of our team gave it his approval!
Step 2: Recap Our Adventures
The next step in disorienting oneself is taking a bit of reflection time. On any OG trip our days are filled to the brim with adventure and new things and there’s rarely much time to step back and think about all you’ve done. East Africa is no different. We took a few hours to sit together and go through each day we’ve been here and realized that together, we’ve done all of the following:
- Explored 3 (and for some 4) countries
- Tackled 3 new languages
- Ate foods we’ve never heard of and ate more beans than we thought possible
- Became pros at squeezing ourselves four deep in a matatu, tackling bumps in a tuk-tuk, and letting the wind whip though our hair on a piki-piki
- Climbed one of the highest peaks of Rwanda’s ‘Thousand Hills’
- Lived with families in Kimironko, not sharing a common language but discovering the commonalities that we share beside language.
- Conquered the rapids on the Nile River.
- Discussed with human rights defenders in Kampala and county representatives in Kisumu
- Built an eco-bench made entirely of plastic bottles and trash collected at Dunda Beach, Kisumu
- Learned about and were witness to the power of youth action with YCCM
- Participated in a grand opening of a community library
- Danced in the glory of the rain after two weeks of intense heat in Kisumu
- Shared one room for many days, decorated by many mosquito nets
- Were inspired by artists of Kibera and Mathare
- Lived out of backpacks for six weeks sharing clothes, books and ourselves
- Met people and formed friendships we never thought possible
- Gained independence and confidence
- Pushed ourselves farther than we thought possible
Step 3: Get Back to Our OG Roots
After a day and a half of luxurious beaches and delicious fish, it was time to make our journey back to Nairobi and head back to North America. We wanted to do it in true OG-style: overnight bus rides, beans, hard bargaining and unexpected happenings.
Before we boarded the bus to Kenya’s capital, it seemed only fitting to enjoy our favorite Kenyan dish of beans and chapatti. After weeks of trying new things we went with a crowd pleasing favorite for dinner. Nothing beats the consistency and deliciousness of a plate of beans with a side of chapatti. Yuuum! This would be our last East African bus ride as a team…10 hours long and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It was an easy, chilly ride, with a tricked out bus horn that played an entire melody rather than a honk.
We arrived at 5 a.m. in our home in Nairobi, Manyatta Backpackers Hostel. We slept for a few hours and woke up to sunny skies (a rarity for Nairobi in July and August!) We headed to the market to get souvenirs for our wonderful loved ones back home and to give the bargaining skills we’ve practiced along the trip one last go. Once back at our hostel, we were greeted by a power outage, not an uncommon occurrence. So with headlamps on, the team began to pack in the dark. 15 hours later the power was still out. But after using our headlamp batteries up and stuffing our packs to the brim, it didn’t seem so bad to have the power out while we sat around the fire drinking Tuskers.
Step 4: Say Goodbye
How do you say goodbye to people you have experienced so much with over the last six weeks? In East Africa, we share a good meal, reflect and hug it all out.
We shared, in every sense of the word, a lovely Ethiopian dinner (for some another first experience). Ethiopian food is often served on a huge platter and everyone partakes in one dish together. A deliciously, intimate meal accompanied by familiar Tusker beers. Over the course of the meal, we play the Bearor Family Dinner Game (fashioned after a family tradition of our trip leader, Meg). It’s a mealtime activity where everyone gets a chance to share what he or she learned and something nice that happened to them from the day, although we altered it to include the entire trip.
Things people learned included: independence, patience, a new perspective, and making the most of every moment.
On the next day, we all headed off to the airport. Lots of hugs. A bit of tears. And massive, massive love.