I’m terrible at picking favorites. I can never settle on just one thing. I’m much better at making top pick lists. In that vein, I’m going to declare that I have recently added one more to my list of favorite days in Kenya. A couple weeks ago was Eid-al-Fitr, a Musim holiday which marks the end of the fasting month, Ramadan. I happen to live in a rather Muslim city. I also happen to love experiencing local celebrations the world over. You can probably see where this is going.
I headed downtown on Sunday afternoon with the other volunteer staff, enticing them with promises of street food. Sadly, it was a bit rainy and we were a bit early for the food portion of the evening. We entertained ourselves by taking pictures of one of Mombasa’s beautiful sights – a garbage dump right next to a lovely park. Then, after a pit stop for amazing chicken and samosas, we finally started to happen upon the promised food stalls serving meat on a stick (Paula’s favorite) and Zanzibar pizza (Paula’s other favorite). We also found plenty of shawarma, though we were a bit too full for it at the time (I’ll be back for you!).
|Guys, go take a picture with the rubbish!|
Then, just as we thought we’d exhausted our options and it was time to head for the market, we discovered…the carnival. This turned out to be one of my favorite places (there I go again) in Africa and I kind of never wanted it to end. There is no reason that I liked it so much except that it just seemed so perfect for the time and place. It was just like any carnival at home, with amusement park rides and food stalls and souvenirs and photo booths and camel rides (what, you don’t have those?). Except that it was just so African. Everything about it. All of the rides were based on very basic physics and appeared as though some guy had welded them together in his garage. The food and souvenir stalls were the same cobbled together shacks you see on every road, in every market. Nothing felt mass produced or modern. Everything felt a bit rickety and unstable.
The girls decided to be bold and try out a flying Dutchmen ride while I took pictures (spinning rides make me feel ill) and then we all decided to ride the giant swings. Think of two benches facing each other, connected by the floor and pushed almost to the horizontal by a couple buff men. You used to occasionally find these on backyard playsets, albeit scaled down a bit (and without the men, of course). Full disclosure - I expected it to be kind of lame. Actual experience - it was really awesome. I really think the fun factor was significantly increased by the complete lack of oversight in the safety department. Falling out seemed like a legitimate concern, unlike most amusement park rides at home. If ride people would just stop making everything so safe, they wouldn’t need to make things nearly as high or fast to achieve the same level of terror. Just a thought.
On our way out, we stopped to get our picture taken in one of the myriad photo booths set up for the occasion. Whereas, at home, you might find a couple of plywood figures with their faces cut out, waiting for you stick yours in and snap a silly picture; here you find little stalls swathed in rainbows of gaudy fabric and Eid banners where, for a small fee, you can pose for a picture. Don’t worry, we made sure to pick the tackiest one we could.
After the fair, we took a quick jaunt back down the street so Leigh could pick up some more amazing samosas and I could check out the ice cream parlour I’d had my eye on. It was totally worth it. Actual chocolate. Soft serve. Coated in chocolate sprinkles. Served in the stalest cone ever. The perfect end to an absolutely wonderful day.