MOMBASA DIARY: Chronicles of a Woman in Search of Herself

DAY 2: Wednesday, 17th April.
6.00 am
In Mombasa, Flies are always the unwelcome guest at every meal. Thankfully, they aren’t silent listeners to every conversation or else……………
I was woken up by the call for prayer at the mosque near my room and peeped through my balcony window at the ancient architecture and busy street life below. The sun is already up. Tall coconut trees are swaying in the morning breeze as though dancing to an imperceptible Giriama tune.
I switch on the fan in my room, stare at the ceiling sleepily and finally take a long shower . I settle to eat the junk in my bag before leaving for the Aga khan. A play is already in procession so I have to wait till the end to get in. Bored, I walk to the back, sit at a tent and order a warm cup of special tea to drink as I read my newspaper and my kwani? Majuu.
10.00 am
A good conversation is like well peppered butternut soup , it leaves you yearning for more.
I am enthusiastically digging into my mahamri . On the table next to my cup of tea is the voluminous 7th edition of kwani? The majuu edition.
I just love @roomthinker’s piece, ‘having your cake’. He tells the Kenyans in diaspora that sending money does not build Kenya. That the only way to build Kenya is to come back and work here. I don’t know if I agree with him , but it sounds quite patriotic
Kalundi Serumangas story; ‘Of Fridges and exile Movement ‘ gets me laughing. It’s so silly. Imagine getting a scholarship and relocating to a foreign country then having the scholarship revoked just because some people in the government have decided that it’s their turn to eat? Could even pigeon shit blessings’ be enough to send away this sort of misfortune?
I have met Kalundi once, over lunch , mid-last year through a mutual friend. He passed off as quite a Ugandan gentleman . Tall and huge and rather polite; standing up while greeting a lady and all until the mutual friend told me that Kalundi had heckled Uganda’s president Museveni live on air and subsequently been banned from Ugandan media. Aren’t writers just interesting people?
Back to the story, he mentions Mwakenya, a secret movement of the early 80’s whose members found themselves in trouble with Moi’s KANU regime.
Doreen Baingana’s ‘two airports’ dismays me .I thought green cards meant permanent peaceful residence in the US: Apparently , it too has strings attached!! FYI: they say Baingana has a love- hate relationship with Kenya. And that she wishes she was Nigerian. I’d love to Know why,
I am slightly distracted by the teachers on the next table speaking in loud voices. So I just close my book and listen. They are taking about free laptops and how children suffering from kwashiorkor would afford laptops. Most people find it funny and there is laughter across the tent. I find that sort of reality rather disturbing.
An official of the event takes a seat next to me and I notice the name of the badge is familiar.’ ‘Kennedy, I don’t agree with your take on the set books issue in your article in last Saturdays’ Nation’ I think the selection is biased and unfair…………….’ I introduce myself and soon after we are engaged in a debate hotter than the steaming mugs of ‘special tea’ before us.


6.00 am
Mombasa: it’s the only place where you order a mug of steaming tea alongside a bottle of frozen cold water for breakfast.
I am up bright and early. I plan to catch the Sacho high school French play and the Nairobi school play. At six twenty, I receive a call. The court just ruled in favour of Butere Girls’ banned play. Now I’ll get to watch it. Y’aay.
I leave my hotel room and head for a little eatery ‘Malindi dishes’. I stumbled upon it by mistake yesterday night as I searched for a cyber café and went on to enjoy an amazing nightcap before retiring. There’s something about their ‘special tea’. The spices make it quite special and I think I am hooked. The tables are full. I manage a corner seat next to the counter.
Dada utala nini? (sister, what will you have for breakfast?)
Nipe mahamri na special tea.(give me Mahamri and special tea)
Aha, waijua hii special yetu, nzuri ajabu(yeah, our special tea is amazing.)
Na nakuletea mbaazi pia, utengeneze sandwitch na mahamri( I am bringing some coconut beans too, so you sandwich the beans between the mahamri.)
There’s something absolutely, unexplainably divine about breakfast that makes it my favorite meal. I’d love to tell you why but I too don’t know yet. Could be the sunrise, promise of new beginnings, or the renewed energy; or maybe the anticipation of a date with my favourite mug. Whatever it is, I immensely enjoy mine.
I end up eating a mnazi- mbaazi sandwhich in Mahamri. It is well cooked with lots of coconut and so filling. The coconut filled mbaazi is supplied to the hotel by a tiny woman in a stylish buibui. Makes the mbaazi taste even more exotic, right?
Afterwards, I pass by ‘The Blue Room’, (a rather high-end hotel with a cyber that is 2 shillings a minute), the cyber is still closed. So I board a Ferry matatu and head to the drama festival venue. I arrive at ten to eight.
The first presentation is a humorous narrative about a girl called Merimela. I laugh through the whole presentation. Its followed by the Sacho play which is rather simplistic and a bit below my expectation. Moi girls Nairobi presents a solo verse called ‘My Director’ about a school girl who is abusing drugs. the presenter exudes an amazing mastery of her chosen topic and confidence. I enjoy it. immensely.
I watch the sun set over the hot sandy city full of men in kanzu’s and women in long buibuis. I marvel at the old buildings and mosques painted in white and built in old arab fashions. The city is full of smelly heaps of garbage. I wonder if brand Kenya knows this.
Weather beaten election posters are still pestered on walls everywhere. Some torn others ripped off in anger and others marked with felt pens and graffiti to bear a different message.
Nevertheless, political discussions are not too common. Looks like people just want to move on with life. A good thing since politics never puts bread on anyones’ table.


2 thoughts on “MOMBASA DIARY: Chronicles of a Woman in Search of Herself

  1. Faith Oneya says:

    Well-chronicled. language very consumer-speak. Journal-like. Was this deliberate?

  2. thanks, yeah it was…I’m experimenting on different writing styles. vision winning the caine prize 2014:-)

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