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I'm back! After a long layoff for various reasons, I'm going to attempt to bring ya'll up to date. Things are going reasonably well here in Kisumu. Our road is being paved just in time for the arrival of our new car. As I write the house is shaking from a steamroller. Actually, the new car might not be here until April, but the road might be done by then, so it should work out nicely. The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of home improvement which figures to continue for another month at least. We've had bars added to the windows (more on this later), fans installed, security system repairs, septic tank repairs, plumbing repairs, and this upcoming week I'm going to try to install a new ceiling in Kim's new office (formerly Godfrey's room). I bet I forgot to mention that Godfrey is no longer with us! We decided to make him an offer he couldn't refuse: we'd pay for him to go back to school. He's now a student at a local mechanics school. He still stops by to annoy Kim every once in a while.

Everything else is going pretty well. Our social life has geometrically increased. Former stalwart companions like Meghna and Annameiche have been joined by a veritable host of others, some with the CDC, some not. It will be especially nice when we get a car so we don't feel so trapped at home at night. Last night we even played our second game of Ultimate Frisbee! We hope that we can get a regular game going (every Sunday night at the field behind the huge deserted provincial headquarters, if you're ever in the area)

Anyway, it's always a challenge for me to catch up after a long layoff. As you may have noticed, it is my tendency to be...well...thorough when describing things. That's fine when talking about a couple of days or a weekend, but a little more problematic when talking about three months worth of stuff. There are about four things that I want to at least mention: our trip to Mombasa for the holidays, a trip to Hell's Gate, a trip to the Maasai Mara, and the sheer hell of having our house turned into a jail. I'll make thing easy on you and do it in three parts.


For our holidays we went out to the coast for nine hot days. The first three days, including Christmas, we stayed at this very expensive tourist class resort. With the exception of the AC in the room, it was mostly a disappointment. It was crowded, the food wasn't that good, the snorkeling was miserable and on and on. The outdoor pools (4) that they had were cool, but would have been much better if I was about 10 years old. I just remembered how bad the entertainment was! One night they had an international act perform. They were a Partridge family clone headed by bubbly mom, dressed in matching outfits and lip-synching and dancing to wholesome international pop "hits" played on a squawking feedback-prone sound system. Unbearable. I couldn't help but think the eight year boy was a drug problem waiting to happen.

Christmas day itself was interesting. We went for a walk down the beach away from the tourist hotels and ended up in the middle of a huge crowd of Kenyans in their Sunday best. They were all taking walks, having picnics and swimming. It was Coney Island on the Fourth of July crowded and for the first time in days we were the only wazungu in sight. Every hotel and bar we passed had a live band and people were dancing everywhere. I'm not sure why exactly, but it was a relief to be amongst Kenyans again, instead of tourists. It did feel slightly uncomfortable for them to think we were tourist...

We went from there to Wasini Island, a small island at the southernmost point of Kenya. We stayed at this grotty little backpackers hostel, the antithesis of the tourist resort. No AC, no showers (bucket baths), no cold sodas, no electricity most of the day, and no bloody tourists! It was very nice. We had a little room looking out over a small cliff right on the water. We could sit on our little balcony in the shade and enjoy the view and breeze.

There are times when you have a Real African Experience. Not sure exactly what that means, but I'm sure such a thing exists. I had one one night on Wisini. Just like last year around Christmas, it was Ramadan and the island, like much of the coast, was very Muslim. At night from about 10pm until 2am you could hear children in the village playing drums and singing songs from house to house sort of like Christmas Caroling. One moonless night I went out and sat under a huge baobab tree with two fishermen and listened to the drums and the children getting closer and closer in the pitch black darkness while the men chewed miraa (mild stimulant and appetite suppressant) and asked me questions. When I looked up I could see the stars through the branches of the trees.

The next day we went walking around the island just around sunset and came across a inland coral garden right around sunset. It was a strange, alien looking place. It's this large inland area just on the edge of the village composed entirely of old coral. Turns out that it only floods during very specific tidal conditions, which we fortunately happened to witness. They said it sometimes went years without flooding. Reminded of the artwork from the liner notes of a Pink Floyd album.

Mostly we had a very relaxing, lazy time in a nice quiet place.

We did do something every day, but the most strenuous thing was going diving. Made one dive with the instructor and some British navy guy and his wife down to 33 meters (about 100ft.).That's really freaking deep! It was the first time diving that I couldn't look up and see the surface. When I look up and can see the surface, it always seems to me like I could make it up there if something went wrong. I tried to concentrate on breathing really slowly, but my tanks seemed to empty very quickly. It took me awhile to remember that you use more air the deeper you are because of the increased water pressure. It was a little bit scary, but beautiful. The coral was a hundred different shades of purple and blue. A large school of barracudas circled around us and, as we swam through them, smaller schools of groupers scattered. When the divemaster pointed back up to the surface, I wasn't sure whether to be disappointed or relieved.

We followed a rope back up to the surface and the current was so strong that we were flapping like flags on a windy day. At a certain depth you have to stop for a couple of minutes to decompress and that was the worst part of the dive. It was a struggle to hold on and it felt like if you let go you would be swept into the dark waters lurking nearby. It didn't help that just before we went down they had just told a story some fisherman whose prize Marlin was torn in half by a huge sharks as they were pulling it onto their boat.

Both Kim and I went on the next dive, but after that I was too seasick to function. Figures that on that dive they saw the coolest thing of the day: a Ray with a two meter wingspan. Oh well...

After the third night we left Wasini, mostly because there wasn't really a beach anywhere nearby. We went to a smaller beach up the coast a little bit called Tiwi. We stayed in a little cottage-type thing at a mostly empty place called Tiwi Villas (click here for high resolution picture). It was on top of a coral cliff facing out to the wide open Indian Ocean. To one side was a mile of white sand beach and to the other a series of cliffs and lagoons. The wind constantly brought the sound of the ocean crashing on the reef two hundred meters away.

I don't know if I mentioned this before when we went to Zanzibar, but the wind on the Coast is actually a historic feature. Half the year it blows away from Africa and the other half of the year it blows towards Africa. For most of the last five hundred years people from the Middle East, India and Europe have been using these winds to explore, trade with, conquer, exploit and colonize East Africa, South Africa and, by extension, Central Africa. Ships would roll in from wherever filled with weapons, machines, and produced goods, and leave filled with slaves, spices, ivory and raw goods. Mombasa and Zanzibar, as major ports, have figured largely in the history of East and Central Africa.

Very nice spot anyway. One day at low tide we went looking for the lagoons we had heard people talking about. We could of gotten help pretty easily by asking one of the "beach boys" which way to go. Beach boys are these young guys who hang around beaches and offer various services to tourists. Anything from guiding, boat rentals, snorkeling, souvenir, safaris to drugs or prostitutes. These guys know how to get everything. They're also annoying and often dangerous. They approach you constantly while you're on the beach, trying to stir up some business anyway they can. We chose not to avail ourselves or any of their services and stumbled through sea urchin minefields to finally find the lagoon we were looking for.

Turns out the lagoons were these spots where the coral suddenly hollowed out forming pools at low tide. We would be walking along in about 4 inches of water and suddenly there would be a seven foot deep pool of water. You can kind of tell from this picture what I mean. After trudging through sharp coral and trying not to step on any sea urchins we were a little bit disappointed. I forgot to mention that Kim had huge blisters from her new sandals and she was forced to frog walk the whole way wearing flippers. After that amount of effort we expected a little bit more than murky water and a few lonely fish. We saw a couple of wazungu walking a little bit farther up the coast and decided that we would follow them. I walked up ahead to see if it would be worth Kim's frog like efforts. I made it around a little bend and saw a series of caves with a huge lagoon at their entrance. We went in and swam in to one of the larger caves. After our eyes adjusted we saw that the cave was thirty feet high at it's tallest point and the entire ceiling was covered with bats. Thousands of bats. High on one side there was a hole in the ceiling through which a single shaft of light poured. When we figured out what was probably floating in the water with us from the bats, we swam out as quietly as possible. It was cool enough to almost make the walk back worth it.

The night of New Year's Eve was interesting. We went down to the next hotel down the beach Twiga (Giraffe) Lodge. The grounds were covered with the colorful tents of backpackers, Peace Crops volunteers and Swedish overlanders. We expected a pretty lively New Year's Party, much like the one we were at last year in Zanzibar. We arrived fairly late and just caught the tail end of dinner and waited for the party to start. And waited and waited and waited. The DJ kept playing really terrible music made more terrible by the crappy soundsystem that he had which crapped out every couple of minutes. The only thing worse that listening to that "Barbie" song is listening to it in little bits at pieces over the course of ten minutes. At one point they did have a group of people come it to do some traditional dancing in costume with a group of drummers playing back-up. The tourists politely applauded while the groups of beach boys silently watched. After the dancers were done they turned around and tried to sell the tourists the same crappy trinkets that we'd all been turning down all day along. We took a walk down the beach through the tents, campfires and clouds of bhang smoke. When we came back an hour later, things hadn't changed one bit so we went back up to our hotel. When midnight came we were pleasantly surprised to be surprised by a half hour long real fireworks display courtesy of one of the luxury tourist class hotels 2 miles down the coast.

And that was pretty much that. The next day we caught a matatu to the ferry and went back up to Mombasa.

I'll write the next bit over the next couple of days and get it up before the end of the week. Hopefully you've noticed some improvements around this place. I've spent a bit of time on the pictures, trying to improve the quality of the layout and the quality of the pictures themselves. I still haven't quite figured out how to make the pictures look good and load quickly...any suggestions? Any other suggestions about the site in general? Please don't hesitate to contact me.

Bye for now.