How do I begin without sounding like I’m repeating myself? But there’s really no other way to say “today was awesome”. Once again inspirational. Once again emotional. Once again thought-provoking. And once again, fun.
In the morning I met up with three of the beach boys who live in a Digu tribe village upriver from Diani. They took me to the Mwachema river where a dhow was on the bank ready to transport me to the village. The boys launched the boat and we set off upstream. It was wonderfully peaceful. Just the sound of a splashing paddle and the wildlife. Beautiful scenery once again, travelling slowly through the mangroves. Kingfishers were diving for fish and herons stood proudly on the banks. The boys started singing ‘Jambo bwana’ which I could join in with as I know it well. They then sang ‘Nakupenda pia’ which I am familiar with but not confident enough with the Swahili words to sing along.
A very hot walk up from the river, we arrived at the village. It was surprisingly large. As is becoming the norm, I was greeted very warmly by everyone (with the exception of two very small children who burst into tears because they were afraid of the mzungu). I walked slowly through the village (pole pole, hakuna matata) handing sweets to the children who came running from every direction. There was one girl, in the picture below, who was incredibly shy and hid herself from the camera. However, she was not afraid to cuddle in by my side.
The village boasts a borehole from which water can be pumped. It isn’t drinking water but provides what is needed for washing, cooking, and construction. I pumped a full bucket to the amusement of the women who were very keen for me to continue. However, ‘moja’ – one – was enough for me in the heat of the sun.
The majority of the village population are Muslim and they were in the process of building a new mosque. I couldn’t imagine doing heavy construction in such temperatures but the men were hard at work. They also have an Islamic school that the children attend on Saturdays to learn the Quran and the Arabic language.
At the village shop I bought 90 exercise books and pencils for the children. I delivered them to the chief of the village, a very old and very respected man. Thankfully I had, just this morning, learnt the appropriate greeting: ‘Salaamaleikum’. I was invited into the house of the chief which is also home to the village’s orphans. I donated rice and flour and sugar for them. The chief then took me outside where the children formed lines: one for boys, one for girls. I handed out the books and pencils although I paused, unsure what to do, when a small boy appeared in front of me eating a mango and with his hands absolutely covered in juice. In the end he got his book but I’m not sure what state it will be in by the time he arrives at school!
Seeing the poverty in the village, and the extremely basic living conditions, gave me a better understanding of Diani’s beach boys. Many tourists simply see them as a nuisance as they walk the beach trying to sell coconuts and handmade trinkets. But these boys are just trying to earn enough to survive. It is a tough job, walking the beach 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, with never a holiday. Personally I have found them very friendly. Last night, as it grew dark, they walked me back to Shambani from the beach to be sure I was safe. Today they gave me a bottle of ‘sunburn medicine’ – a mixture of coconut oil and fresh aloe vera – as they had noticed my increasingly dramatic red skin.
As the light began to fade, I took a quick swim. There was a fair wind so the waves were quite large for swimming. It was great fun swimming far out from the beach through the breaking waves. And of course the water was beautifully warm. I bought another coconut before heading back to Shambani for yet another stunning meal – this time crab and prawns. I have ordered lobster for Monday when Simon comes to eat with us. I hope he will enjoy it. It has been so amusing to see Kevin’s reaction to all the unfamiliar food. The horror when he saw a whole fresh prawn and I had to teach him how to peel it. And his amazement that crab is food. Tonight he tells me he likes seafood and does not miss ugali. From someone who eats ugali every day and raves about it constantly, that’s saying something!
Kevin and I have talked again about the future of Chaffinch and the Development Centre. He passed me details of wazungu who have visited Future Stars and made suggestions. One such suggestion was that Chaffinch register with Idealist. I researched the website and decided to submit an application for membership. I hope the trustees will forgive me for taking action without consultation. I will find out next week if we have been accepted.
Tomorrow is Sunday, a day of rest. I do not know a church in this mainly Muslim area but perhaps a friendly tuk tuk driver will be able to suggest somewhere. Otherwise, I think the day will be spent ‘relaxing’. By that I mean laying by the pool updating the Chaffinch website, researching all my new ideas and maintaining communication with my new contacts. I think I will need another visit to Nakumat although I am not sure if they open on Sundays. I need water, and more sweets. There is another village on the agenda for Monday which means more children. The Digu village today boasted 150 children. I got through a lot of sweets!
It is late now. The mosquitoes are out in force so I think it’s time to retreat beneath a net. I hope you think I am doing something more useful than lazing on the beach, and that I am working hard to justify the faith that you put in me and in Chaffinch.
So, until tomorrow, asante sana kwa kusoma na Mungu akubariki marafiki wangu.