28 July 09
The woman two seats across from me on our flight from SA to Kenya had these parting words, “Welcome to Kenya. Our roads are very bad.”
She wasn’t kidding.
The roads from Masai Mara Tuesday to Mbita put even the most country of country roads of my youth to shame – both in duration and excitement.
Six hours into the trip, the breakfast we’d had back on the Mara was a distant memory and our stomachs began to digest themselves. We asked Steve, our driver, if there was somewhere we could stop and find something to eat in one of the towns we were traveling through. At this point, we had hit a stretch of tarmac and had grown mistakenly hopeful that it would hold out for the remainder of our journey.
After two towns of Steve’s request that we wait for the next town where he was sure he knew of a restaurant, the team said no and we circled the town of Kissii until we stopped at a hotel Steve was determined to find.
We unloaded our jumbled bones from the van and found the lobby to ask if the restaurant was serving food.
The concierge who also turned out to be the server and waitress assured us that yes, they were serving food and we were in luck, it was American food.
I remember thinking two things: 1) Yea and 2)I wonder what the local definition of “American food” is. As it turned out, at least according to the hotel staff in Kissii, Americans eat a lot of cabbage.
We ate happily, though explaining why I had to rebuff the concierge/server/waitress’s frequent attempts at serving me chicken, beef and or sausage was a little tricky.
Then, we were on the road again.
I’d moved up to the front passenger seat to take in the full view.
This had unexpected results. The tarmac road ended soon after we left Kissii and we were back to off-roading on the road. Riding in the back of the van had been bumpy, yes. Riding in the front of the van was bumpy with the added bonus of my body bracing for each bump and at my foot pumping the brake I wished were on my side.
After 2.5 more hours of almost getting lost, but not quite, we met up with Jane who was to be our host mother for the duration of our stay in Mbita. We followed Jane’s car 45k more to her house with only the delay of the first tire puncture of our journey when we were mere kilometers from the house.
The luggage was unloaded, the spare was fitted and we were back in the car.
When we finally piled out of the van at Mama Jane’s home exhausted and dust-covered, we were ready for sleep.
Our NGO partners here in Mbita had decided it would be more enjoyable, not to mention authentic, to have a home stay experience rather than hiring a house or hotel. I have to admit, after a long day on the road, it was nice to be welcomed as family. Jane immediately took to calling us her new children and called her daughter Bettie and son Charles in Nairobi so that they could speak with their unexpected new brothers and sisters.
If nothing else, I know I’m enjoying being referred to as “the last born” and “the baby.”
Somehow, it makes this place thousands of miles from my family feel a little more like home.