Reiservaring Kenia (Dagboek) - Aankomst

“BEEP!” “BEEP!” The alarm pierces through my shallow sleep. Its face flashes a young hour and, having put my head to rest only 3 hours earlier, a little too soon for my liking. But admittedly I cannot pretend to care the slightest. Right now, rolling over and dosing off is not an option. My flight to Kenya is later this afternoon and I have a to-do list that would intimidate even the richest in time. Although I packed most of my luggage the night before, I still have considerable ways to go in stuffing my carryall. In the end everything comes together and Hein, Sibel & I make our way to Schiphol just in time for our Kenya-bound flight. My flicht schedule shows Amsterdam-Amman-Nairoibi, during which we are also joined by Maaike, a fellow volunteer who seems great fun. The first leg of the journey, a 5hr flight to Jordan’s capital, is comfortable, but largely spent deciphering the Arabic symbols on the seat in front of me. Amman’s airport, a dull whitewashed building, with tear-shaped window frames and scarfed airport saleswomen, turns out a short but boring wait. Part II of the flight, I’m told, will last approximately 5.5 hours. With the collection of African literature carried along and the private multi-media screen lodged in front of me, I don’t mind too much. I am placed next to a paunchy jolly Indian guy who has actually grown up in Kenya, but is now following his studies in the UK. We exchange some friendly jokes and I prod for some valuable pointers into the African ways. The conversation quickly turns to one of the things Kenya is best known for: safari. He quickly remarks: “You should check out the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania! It’s this huge crater with a watering hole smack in the middle, so all the animals inside are basically fucking trapped! So you’ll probably see, like, every animal in the world there!” I had been to the crater two years earlier, and his assertions were pretty accurate… Besides the crater I had seen most of East Africa’s well know safari parks. The only one still on my list was Tsavo West, not too far from Malindi, the coastal town that will be hosting us the coming weeks. Tsavo West is known for its “Man Eater’s Junction”. This too-appropriate of a name refers to a section of the Kenya-Uganda Railway, which was coined during its construction in 1898. According to the tale, up to 140 of the Indian workers were snatched and devoured by a legendary lion duo (given the names ghost and darkness), having found a strong liking for human flesh. As the legend has it, catching the two was not the easiest task and included several failed attempts at human bait, before the project manager himself, Lt. Col. J.H. Patterson, took down both beasts with a cage and four shots each. Tsavo is said to still contain these ‘man-eaters’, all with a testosterone overdose, little mane hair and an aggressive disposition. We will have to see if the trip allows for a visit! We arrive in East Africa’s flight hub, Jomo Kenyatta Airport, at the dodgy time of 3:00 AM. After the usual problematic visa arrangements and already having to buy off two airport employers we move on to the final flight, a small air-hop to Mombasa. After a short hour flight, with a small jerk of the tiny propellered bush plane and a huge jolt in my excitement, we start our descent towards the tiny airstrip below. My customized Africa iPod playlist on full blast, I stare out through the small oval window pane. Slowly the plump-bellied clouds disperse and reveal the African landscape, quickly materializing before my eyes. Below me, the seemingly enormous Kenyan coastal metropolis of Mombasa stretches out. As we decrease in altitude, the rough aerial view starts transforming into a detailed landscape, revealing the brick-red dirt roads, the open-roofed shantytowns and the countless tiny African figures bristling about below. My expected image of an Africa city has again been confirmed. Having retrieved my gorilla-sized duffel bag, stripped off most of my layered winter clothing and taken a small DEET shower, we delve head-first into the African scenery. As we walk out of the airport and are greeted by the bright sub-Saharan sun, we are approached by Everlyne, a young and friendly Kenyan woman. She turns out to be the one temporarily in charge of Kenya Xperience!, the guiding organization for the different volunteers. We follow her and the driver across the parking lot, until they come to a halt, point their fingers and say “jump in”. Before us stands a large bus. The vehicle looks magnificent, as if it drove here straight from a modern-day Livingstone expedition. A pseudo-colonial, fern-green and beige, open-flanked safari bus. Our mode of transport up to Kilifi, a coastal town, half-way up to our destination (Malindi), where we will undergo a one day training in Swahili and African customs. As we set off through the downtown area of Mombasa I am enraptured by what’s around, and eagerly take in these encounters with East Africa. The roads are bumpy and heavily pitted with potholes, the houses made of timber and clay or rough slabs of concrete. A sense of liveliness can be felt all around. Construction work seems ubiquitous and continuously ongoing on these roads. Sweaty bare-backed toilers are swinging picks at the road surface or sawing up big tablets of wood on the street-side. The roads themselves are crowded by matatus (the small local taxi-busses), jeeps, trolleys and rickety bikes, their hind rack stacked high with 2m piles of hay bales or bundles of firewood. Along the walkway, countless pedestrians can be seen, sauntering ahead in a comfortable tempo. Many of the women, wrapped in their kangas, balance immense barrels on their head, using their free hands to wave at familiar faces. On both sides of the long dirt road I am faced by endless rows of tiny shops, their colorful painted walls flaunting names of phone-companies and the products sold within. It surprises me that having driven for 40 minutes, I have not been able to spot a single white person among the crowds. This close to the airport, in the second biggest city of one of Africa’s biggest tourist destinations, not a single Westerner in sight. I figure that a white person is a lot more uncommon in these corners than I initially had thought. This theory is only confirmed by the scores of staring faces on the sidewalk, each face marked with either a puzzled blank expression or a big ear-to-ear smile and an arm stretched out before them. “Mzungu! Mzungu!” – “White man”, or, more literally, “one who wanders around aimlessly”. ————————————————————————————————- Kilifi is a nice town. The sun is fierce, but the people not so. The town’s pitted roads are bristling with Kenyans, all eyeing us curiously, but with a friendly demeanor. Having no tall buildings, Kilifi has no skyline, making it difficult to navigate without a map. Everlyne checks us into the local Peacock Hotel, leaving us for a short powernap before the scheduled ‘introductory/cultural training’. The eventual short crash course in Kiswahili and Kenyan manners is slightly wasted on my previous visits, but a half descent way to get back into the Kenyan way of things. We finish the short day with a walk around the town’s centre, a short visit to the local beach and a fantastic African dinner on top of one of the beautiful coastal cliffs, Tuskers, ugali and two hours of waiting included. Afterwards we head back to our hotel for some early rest before our journey up to our place of destination, our children’s orphanage in Malindi…

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