February 9th, 2006 03:40 EST
My Hometown in Kenya
Welcome to Mtwapa, Mombasa, Kenya, my beautiful little hometown.
Try to imagine this beautiful tourist town, with picturesque sandy beaches overlooking the clear blue-jade waters on the east and coconut tree farms on the west. Beautiful homes and luxurious hotels line up along the beach like curious onlookers eager to unravel the mystery of the ocean. Further inland, simpler but still beautiful homes built with coral rock and thatched with palm tree fronds dot the scenery, becoming more concentrated along the Mombasa-Malindi Highway that cuts across the little town I grew up in.
Perhaps more beautiful to me than the scenery are the people and their amazing culture. You see, because it is a tourist town, the inhabitants of my little home town include the native mijikenda clans and swahili arab tribes as well as numerous other Kenyan tribes people who have migrated from other parts of the country in search of work. Very important inhabitants of the town are the short term and long term foreign residents from numerous countries on the globe. Together they create an amazing blend of warm, kind, and hospitable and friendly cultures with deep and strong values that I grew up learning.
Mornings in Mtwapa are very interesting. Starting with the early morning muezzin from the local mosque that calls the Muslim inhabitants for morning prayers, the town comes alive in energetic vibrancy. In a few minutes you can hear the rushing feet of the Muslim worshippers rushing for devotion, and the happy calls of the cart pushers preparing for a busy day ferrying goods and water for their clients. If you go out onto the narrow dust lanes you can see the local women preparing to sell the local breakfast delicacies which include a sweet deep fried bread called mahamri and delicious peas cooked in coconut milk known as mbaazi. There is a special brew of coffee that is usually served to the town's older men. It is known as kahawa chungu. You can see the men settling at barazas (public courtyards) after the morning prayers and sipping at the bitter coffee while discussing business and local events.
By mid-morning it is already very hot, but most of everyone has managed to accomplish a large part of their planned daily activities. The women in the homes are already done with their household chores and the men outside are slowing down with their manual tasks. Business however must go on without ceasing. The children at the local schools recite information and work on arithmetic with determination. Then everyone takes a break for a cold refreshing drink before carrying on with their work.
I remember when I was about ten or eleven; I had some friends who lived in a house built in the old Arab style. We used to go up to the parapet in the afternoon after school. Up there we would play games and look down on the little town slowly winding up the day's activities. As we grew older and our parents slowly released the leashes of protection, we found our way to the beach where we could play beach soccer, volleyball, and even challenge the ocean by swimming, jet skiing or windsurfing.
Later on, when the sun was setting, it was time to be home, to help with chores. After the evening meal, most families sit outside on the verandahs looking out into the beautiful starry skies, listening to the distant rumble of the ocean and the closer whistle and whisper of palm and pine trees. It is at these times that the older ones impart the wisdom and understanding of time and life to the younger ones.
Life continues in my little hometown through the night, lulling at some point in the late of the night but picking up with a burst of resilience at dawn. This is the life of my little hometown.