Last week David made a two day visit to Mombasa, a place we love and where local friends have been astonishingly kind and helpful. It also happens to be Kenya’s second largest city with the usual urban challenges and joys. Here’s an excerpt from David’s journal:
“As in every country, there are important facts known to locals which help smooth life’s path. Two of them here in Kenya are as follows:
First, avoid Mombasa in January; it’s far, far too hot. July is much cooler and kinder for wazungu (white foreigners).
Secondly, don’t stay in Mtwapa; it’s very active and far too noisy.
So, of course, I was in Mombasa on January 2nd, staying at a hotel in Mtwapa.
Night One: Into bed under mosquito net at 10 pm. Hot and bothered. Dilemma, remove net, thus risking eager mosquitoes but at least cooler? Or stay under cover, melting into the bed, like the Wicked Witch of the West?
Decision. Discretion is the better part of valour. Die from heat, not from malaria. Result? Human meltdown.
11 pm. Traffic starts hotting up outside my room, at the front of the hotel. Night life starts in earnest. Much joking and greeting. Clearly the space below my window is a designated social hot spot, especially suited for prolonged chats about life in general, and Mtwapa matters in particular. Preferred volume is never less than a genial bellow. All jokes and jovial sallies are greeted by gales of laughter, fortissimo.
12 pm. A visiting tenor, proud of his knowledge of the Lion King song, ‘Hakuna matata’, but sadly only knowing that phrase, launches into his version thereof, to a random variation of the tune of ‘O sole mio’ . Hakuna matata, you will recall, means ‘there is no problem.’ I was unable to agree with that sentiment, some 50 minutes later.
His enthusiasm was unmatched by his tunefulness. His timing also needed work. But one had to admire his stamina!
12.30 am. Local gangstas open their car windows, blare out their favourite rap music, and treat the road as their racetrack. A good time was had by all. Especially me.
1.30 am. Obviously by popular demand, Mr Hakuna Matata returns for a reprise and encore. I was spellbound.
2.30 am. He leaves.
2.35 am. A friendly debate degenerates into an argument. It starts further up the street, but, no doubt knowing of my desire to improve my Kiswahili, the disputants kindly bring it into easy earshot, immediately under my window. I am deeply impressed by their thoughtfulness.
2.55 am. The argument ends. Won more by volume and persistence than by any meaningful content.
3.15 am. I swoon into unconsciousness.
4.15 am. The runner–up in the Cockerels’ World Championship, opens up, 20 yards away. He is only warming up, I’m grateful to notice. But his song, if song one calls it, is too much for the World Champion, who answers in kind, and proves that his power and dedication have rightly earned him his award, as he lets rip, right under my window.
The two complement one another wonderfully, randomly, but above all loudly, in and out of tandem, until dawn breaks. I am enthralled.
5 am. Dawn breaks and all the smaller avians get to try out their greeting songs, Crows in particular, clear their throats before the start of their day’s work, by perching on the roof immediately above my window, so as to better project their caws across the neighbourhood. I am deeply grateful.
5.30 am. The local water sellers start their day. They have thoughtfully attached metal remnants to their carts’ axles so everyone knows when they are coming. It is a delightful form of marketing. They slowly push their way up the road, melodically jingling and clashing as they go.
6 am. I give up, get up, and take a shower, and within 10 minutes need another. I have to wear a suit and tie for an official meeting, needing to dress to impress. My enthusiasm is unconfined.
The day passes in a blur; except for heartfelt prayers that Mr Hakuna Matata is suddenly overwhelmed by a strong urge to travel to Nairobi. ”
To be continued……possibly!