Sunday, June 1, 2008

Leaving Again - part two

The internet is working today, so time for another entry.

I believe I left off with going to Katherine's village on my last week in Mombasa. I really want to tell you a bit about that. Pictures would be best of course but my luck with pictures in Mombasa was beyond abysmal. But first things first.

Katherine's parents live in a village about two hours' bus (matatu) ride from Mombasa. They have a clean house with a palm-frond roof, two bedrooms, a store room and a dining room. They cook on a gas stove outside and the shower room and toilet were in separate small buildings. Because they had a gas stove, we were able to heat up some water for showering, which was incredibly relaxing. I hadn't had a hot shower Anyway, we did a little tour of the village, and I got to meet everybody. A lot of them were related to Katherine, whose grandfather (now passed away) had had three wives. We got to visit a mother with a newly born baby and took turns holding it and exclaiming over its cuteness.

There were a lot of kids in the village who wore disheveled school uniforms or ripped, dirty pants and dresses. Some of the families had difficulty feeding their children and Katherine's mom would feed them tea and bread in the wornings. One family in particular consisted of a bunch of children whose parents had died of AIDS and their grandmother who looked after them. The oldest boy made money for the family taking other people's animals out to graze everyday. He was about 13.

The Fondos owned a Shamba outside the village, which is an area of land in the surrounding forest of coconut trees, that a family can cultivate. We spent most of the morning after our arrival in the Shamba eating sugar cane, drinking the liquid from unripe coconuts and walking around to visit the people who lived close by. They also grew mangoes, oranges, bananas and pinaples, which were not ready, and maize, rice and casava in small plots. we took some sugar cane and casava back with us. What I liked the most was the fresh palm wine (mnazi) that the village boys would climb up the trees to collect. It is sweet and fizzy, unlike the more bitter palm wine we drank in the city. The longer it sits, the more bitter it becomes. We brouht some back to Mombasa at the request of Bobo and Jay, my housemates.

We were delayed in coming home because the Matatu never came, and we ended up calling Katherine's brother for a ride. We got home very late, and went to Katherine's where we met Bobo and Jay. Katherine's housegirl had cooked us dinner which we ate and then sat outside near the chicken coops drinking the wine we had gotten. I got eaten alive by the mosquitos.

The two days in the village were work-free because my colleague at WOFAK had told me he didn't need me. It turned out that Kodonde, the regional director had been expecting me in tthe office the second day. That was the beginning of a stressful few days.
I phoned and apologized profusely to Kodonde, feeling unprofessional, and told him I would be in with my final report on Sunday. That gace me two days to write it, but I didn't want to tell him I'd send it later cause I was already feeling guilty for missing my meeting with him (and supposedly some other people who had come to say goodbye to me). I spent Friday and Saturday evenings compiling a 12-page report of my entire stay with WOFAK and missed the Saturday night festivities cooped inside typing on a borrowed laptop until after 1am.

Meanwhile, I e-mailed Edirisa in Uganda to find out where I had to be in Kampala on Monday. A woman named Angelica promtly replied telling me that I had gotten the date wrong and was supposed to be there a week ago. I had missed the training and was not at all sure I would still have a position there. So I got a little more stressed.

The only upside of the whole thing was I gave myself an extra day in Mombasa to get my report in and say goodbye. I booked a ticket to Kampala for Monday night. I finished my report early Sunday afternoon, and went with everyone to a local soccer match. They were drinking and I joined in. After all, this was the last afternoon I would probably spend with everyone. In fact, by this point, leaving was starting to sink in and I felt pretty sad. I had gotten to know all these people really well. They had accepted me into their lives for the last month, which was an experience I could never have imagined before it happened. Just thinking about leaving the place I had gotten to love in Chuda, Katherine and my conversations about everything, Mweni and Bonge's pub in Mtwapa, Jay's crazy, bubbly personality, Bobo's shy enthusiasm under his tough exterior, and all the Ruff Howz gang who I had had some great conversations with and who had gotten me out of more than one tight spot... I knew I would miss them all. Even though it was strange to be a Mzungu in that setting, I felt like I really belonged there.

After the game Bobo and I, his friend Pain and a couple of girls Pain was entertaining went to a bar. I had a beer there, which was officially a bad idea. At some point in the evening, I dropped my camera amd had to put the batteries back in. The next morning, my memory card was missing. It did nothing to make my leaving easier. All the photos from weeks of working and living there, being in Katherine's village, all the faces I wanted to remember... Now I had to leave and I didn't even have the pictures to remember them by. That sounds melodramatic, but I was really upset. Still am, actually.
I wanted to go back and retrace our steps the next day, but Bobo told me, quite reasonably, "This is Africa, Bana." It wasn't the first time he'd said that.

I think, all in all, that the powers that be did not want me to leave Mombasa and made it as difficult as possible. But even if I had wanted to stay, I didn't have the money and Edirisa was offering free accommodation and food for up to three months (assuming I could still work there). I told them I would try to come back and visit before heading home in August.

And so ends part two. A mong part, I think, but as Ian wisely advised me, writing about what happened in Mombasa will help make up for the lack of photo documentation. I did take a few photos on the last day, and I will do my best to get them up online soon.

Thanks for reading!

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