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Travels: the Kenyan Coast Essay


“There are slippery moral dimensions as well. Some of the stories in this collection illustrate brilliantly the queasy détente one must sometimes reach within oneself when trying to see and understand the world.”- Bourdain.

Introduction

In July 2011, my cousin and I decided that it was time to take a leisurely trip to Africa. My cousin, who was a political science scholar at the time wanted to get a first-hand experience of the political environment in Africa. On the other hand, I wanted to experience the beautiful weather that is synonymous with East Africa. My cousin suggested that we use the public means of transportation to enrich our travel experience and save money. Before embarking on our trip, we could not agree about which country to visit between Kenya and Uganda. While I wanted us to go to Kenya, my cousin was more attracted to Uganda. Eventually, we decided to visit both countries.

The trip

Our trip started in Mombasa, a City on the Kenyan coast. The residents of this town were incredibly friendly and their friendliness seemed genuine. The airport was abuzz with activity, as two other European-tourist’s planes had just landed. At this point, we found ourselves victims of what could be termed as ‘backpack profiling’. The backpacks we were carrying made taxi drivers and porters at the airport assume we were what the local people term as ‘poor tourists’. Nevertheless, my travel companion found a way to maneuver through the town, and by the end of the day, we had a comprehensive plan for our four-day trip.

The next morning we ditched our backpacks and decided to sample a public beach called Jamhuri. The beach was quite dirty and there was all manner of businesses strewn across the coastline. I am used to visiting regulated-beaches with coastguard stations. The nagging urchins did not make the situation better. Earlier on, we had been advised to take care of our valuables, and any approaching human being posed a danger to my cheap jewelry. My cousin was enjoying chatting with the locals but by the end of this first day, I was ready to go home.

The next day we found ourselves in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and the situation contrasted the one in Mombasa. Everybody seemed focused on his/her own business. Everything about Nairobi seemed to revitalize my attitude about the trip. The weather was a cool breeze with just the right amount of sunlight. The city was also more organized and there were trees everywhere. The service in hotels was not in any way reflective of a third-world country and neither was the town’s architecture. Although the city was overcrowded and disorderly, I was very impressed by what I saw. The situation was not the same for my travel companion who found out that most Nairobi residents were not interested in his questions.

Conclusion

The dressing mode of Nairobi residents was mostly Western with suits and jeans being the most common form of attire. However, in my commute to the Ugandan capital of Uganda, I was shocked by what I saw. When I was in a fourteen-sitter minivan, two women had babies who were not dressed in anything other than diapers and shorts. Everybody seemed unperturbed by this situation and so I decided to play along. The city of Kampala was quite scarce with mediocre architecture and infrastructure. Also, I found the heavy presence of army officers in the streets quite unnerving. On my flight home, I could not help but reflect on Bourdain’s sentiments about understanding the world. What I had witnessed in my trip to these developing countries called for a deeper understanding of the people and places I had encountered.

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IvyPanda. "Travels: the Kenyan Coast." January 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/travels-the-kenyan-coast/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Travels: the Kenyan Coast." January 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/travels-the-kenyan-coast/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Travels: the Kenyan Coast'. 4 January.

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