Kenya: My first experience in Africa

My friend Washington Juma and I were originally pen friends from our teens. I finally had an opportunity to take a trip to Kenya, and that was my first introduction to Sub-Saharan Africa, as I had already visited Egypt  during my long holidays when studying in the UK.
Flying Gulf Air to Nairobi, Kenya added interesting experiences to my journey as I made transfers in places like Abu Dhabi, Doha, Bahrain and Muscat on return flights. I recall the flight attendants serving Arabic coffee from a "Dhalla", traditional Arab coffee pot, and poured the coffee into a ceramic finjan, Arab coffee cup (which I kept as a souvenir!). The male passenger behind me had a long pole which had his prized falcons perched silently on it. On the movie screen was a compass to point the direction where Mecca was whilst on the plane. I had no idea yet in my mind that I would be returning to this society to live for a few years! (this is another topic later)

When I arrived in Nairobi I stayed in a funny hotel which looked like it was still under construction. I was so glad to meet my friend at the hotel and go to his humble, very modest home made of concrete and corrugated metal roof, identical to the other homes in this very humble part of town on the outskirts of the city where his aunt and cousins were also living.

 It was unclear how many people were actually living there as the comings and goings of different  people who would sleep over at that house, and then days later would not be seen again. His parents were living up country in the villages far from Nairobi. 
 Washington told me that it was his tradition when special guests arrive that the host was to bath the guest. I didn't consider myself to be a special guest, but I didn't object. He led me to the small closet, which was the bathroom. He fully undressed me as well as himself, and with a big grin on his face, began to lather my body. He began caressing me slowly as he washed me. Our bath finished with a  rinse and with a slap on my buttocks which resonated in a large echo around the whole room! We both laughed and hoped that no one was listening to us. I liked that moment we had-very intimate,very male bonding to say the least! 

He told me about the different tribes in Kenya and the government's slogans trying to make them work and live together as Kenyan.We even briefly saw the Kenyan president Arap Moi go past us in his car.

We wandered around the different villages  around the area where he lived, sharing a few bottles of "Tusker" beer, which is a typical Kenyan beer, in simple beer houses. 

We went past small shacks which were modest shops as the government was encouraging small entrepreneur businesses. A few of these were Washington's friends shops. He had many friends but at times was a bit shy to introduce them to me, as his friends would make a small dance or jig further out in the tall grasses and Washington would in turn make a small dance or jig back as if sending a secret message to each other.

We took a train to a small village near Mombasa, a coastal city. There lived another aunt which had a few houses made of cow dung and thatch. We stayed for a week together in one of those houses. It had no lights or running water, and the toilet was a covered area outside the cottages.  The temperature during the day was over 50 C, (about 120 F) which was sweltering for me and we hid under a large umbrella whenever we moved around during the day. Since we were the only ones in the small cottage we were naked due to the heat but evening we wore clothing.

I learned how to eat Ugali (the staple made of ground white corn in place of rice) and how to roast a large fish over a simple fire for dinner. Some local men made a strong local alcohol with I was curious to try, but Washington forbid me to do so saying that harmful chemicals were sometimes added.

I saw some Somali men peddling a herbal mix called "Mira'a" and decided to try some by chewing it. I felt like my body was on a rocking boat!
On our return to Nairobi we were late for our train boarding from the train station, so we quickly ran between back ways to where the train would pass by, slow enough for us to hop onto it and get to our   cabin. This train felt like going back to the days of the British Empire! Our cozy cabin had a wooden sink, and our beds had nice thick blankets and a huge fluffy pillow. I noticed a small brass label which read "East African Railway" on it. 
We went to the dining cart of the train where the waiters wore a white cloth hanging over their arm. At our place we were served a nice curry and other foods on silver and using silverware. Our beer and all the food came to a very reasonable price!

I have been to a few countries in Africa  on several different visits already and I feel that my friend in Kenya paved a good path for me to appreciate and experience for myself different places in Africa. I will definitely make more trips around different parts of Africa, soon!


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