Parker in Africa - July 9, 2006
Dearest Friends and Family,
I am back at Agape now after a long and very nice vacation. It is nice to be back though-to see my students and be in a place that feels like home. And, I am so tired of buses that break down constantly and make me fear for my life. Since my last email, I took a 12 hour bus ride from Mwanza to Nairobi-the capital of Kenya. Kenya is much different than Tanzania, and Nairobi is like the Paris of East Africa. I spent a whole day just walking around the city center acting like a serious tourist and doing some shopping. The city is extremely modern, and you can find many more businesses and simple luxuries I miss from home.- like a cinema (with real popcorn), bookstores, and good coffee and ice cream. It was quite nice and I spoiled myself all day. After a day of wandering in circles around the city I caught the night train to Mombasa. The train was such a better mode of transportation! We boarded at seven pm-four people in a compartment, each with their own bed, and traveled through the night. In the morning I took my breakfast in the dining car while riding through Tsavo National park. I felt extremely colonial, and felt even more so when I got off in Mombasa a few hours later.
Just by it's name you can tell that Mombasa is exotic. I like saying the name over and over. . ."where am I now?. . MOMBASA" It sounds pretty good- and the city is similar to Zanzibar in many ways.. It has a big port that the Portuguese first took over, and the have this incredible fort-Fort Jesus- which was carved out of coral and still standing in good form which look out on the harbor.. The old town has an Arab flavor-like Zanzibar's Stone Town, and the rest of the city has a European colonial feel. Down the beach there are huge tourist resorts lining the shore. I headed down toward the beaches for a few days when I first arrived and stayed in the only budget place available. I walked down the beach a few times, pretending to be rich and stopping in the immaculate resorts for a drink. I very much enjoyed the people watching-fat, white Europeans wearing bathing suits that didn't fit them-concerned only with their tans, the drink in their hand, or having some real ‘family fun', and totally oblivious to where they really were or the villages full of shacks only 100 yards away from them.
During my time in Mombasa I also came across a very different type of person-the Kenyan ex-pat. While on the beach one day I met a really nice French girl who lived and worked in Mombasa for a tourist agency. I asked her lots of questions about living in Kenya-and found that there is a big sub culture of ex-pats and second generation colonial families, mainly based in Nairobi. It was fun to peak into a lifestyle that seemed so exotic and distant a couple years ago. My new friend brought me around town a little and I met many of these white residents during my short time in Mombasa-and have been invited to go back. It certainly made me think of the possibility of living in Africa, but I also learned what an unhealthy lifestyle they lead. I also realized no matter how exotic your life might sound to others or how much you might travel the world- you are still caught in a bubble and still concerned with unglamorous things. They live the same sort of life that all of us ‘normal people' live-they just live it in a very cool place and have some pretty awesome stories. Anyways, it gave me a very new view of Africa.
After 4 days in Mombasa I boarded a metal box with wheels and a hundred boxes strapped to the top which they call a bus and headed back to Moshi. I spent a couple nice days resting at school before packing back up for safari with my students. We left school packed up in yet another big and slightly unreliable bus at 4am and headed for the Serengeti. The first day we made it to Serengeti National Park, seeing a couple animals along the way and spent the rest of the night in the kitchen pretending I knew how to cook rice for 70 people on a charcoal stove. The 4 day trip was great as I look back on it-I got to go to Serengeti, Ngorongoro crater, and Lake Manyara for free, and seeing those incredible animals-giraffe, zebra, lion, elephant, wildebeest, impala, rhino, and buffalo to name a few-in their natural habitats makes me as awed and happy as a little kid, and my students certainly had a few laughs at my over enthusiasm. But is not a vacation and very different from my safari experience a few years back. Most of the time was either sitting in a bus juttering along a road it is not prepared to drive on, or broken down, or in the kitchen displaying my great ineptitude for cooking. I got very little sleep and nothing quite worked out how we planned-but that's Africa! So, I'm back to teaching now-looking forward to another 5 months but missing the summer in Ouray, and of course you all! Please, if you have ANY questions for my I'd be happy to answer!
Much love always,
Lynch Rocket Lab