Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The town of Gede (aka Gedi), a few kilometres inland from Watamu, was inhabited from around the 12th or 13th century until approximately 600 years ago. The reason for abandonment is unknown, although speculation is either that the sea receded, or that a local river changed course, leaving the town (which has many deep wells) without water. Information on the 'net is hard to find, but the guidebooks to the area have more details. It's a beautiful site, and well worth visiting.

This sign is from the small one-room museum at the Gede ruins. If you click on it, the enlargement should be easy enough to read.
This is Ashley, from South Africa, with the final catch of his fishing tournament. I enjoyed meeting the South Africans, who were all very positive about the future of their country.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I enjoyed late afternoons doing laps in the hotel pool, seen here with the hotel bar, and Watamu Bay in the background.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sunday, November 27, 2005

November is almost gone…..

Are these blogs meant to be written daily?!! Before I forget everything that went on in November, here’s a quick update. The last week of October and first week of November were spent working intensively with an education specialist/consultant to the project. Every day was a workshop; our research data was pulled into focus, allowing us to work on future plans. It was intense and rewarding.

In mid-November I took a week off work to celebrate my birthday (one of those big round ones!) and went to the Kenya coast. On the flight from Nairobi to Mombasa I sat next to a woman travelling to celebrate her son’s birthday – the same day as mine! The first noticeable thing about Mombasa is that it’s an island. The second is how dirty the city is compared with Kigali. Rwanda is a veritable ‘Switzerland’ of cleanliness next to Kenya. Maybe the heat has something to do with it. Stepping off the plane, I felt the familiar breath of warm, moist, tropical air, and my eyes feasted on much-missed coconut palms. I stayed at the New Palm Tree hotel, not far from the old city. In the late afternoon, walking down to Fort Jesus, I was reminded of Malta with all its Arabic influence, old men sitting below the thick fort walls playing cards, young men playing a game of soccer in the warm shadows. The old town is a fascinating mixture of African, Arabic, and Indian cultures. Narrow streets become ever-narrower as one delves deeper, passing ornate wooden doors and balconies. I hope one day to also visit Zanzibar and Lamu, which have inherited similar cultures.

From Mombasa, a two-hour drive north by ‘matatu’ mini-bus (less frightening than I’d feared!), to Watamu, which is just south of Malindi, where I had booked a room at the wonderful Hemingways ( as an extra special birthday treat. Apparently Bill Gates stayed here (I forgot to check the visitors book to confirm), and I know that Aidan Hartley stayed here, because the description in his book is unmistakable: “That night we propped up the bar under fibreglass black marlin trophies and old photos of Ernest Hemingway who had come here to go deep-sea fishing half a century before.” I enjoyed a drink in the bar on my last night with a group of new-found English friends, our only connection a week at Hemingways. Other guests included a large group of friendly South Africans here for a fishing tournament. The buzzing motors of the small boats taking them out to their flashy fishing fleet at six every morning roused me from sleep, and their return late afternoons marked time for tea (served by the pool, with delicate sandwiches and crêpes made on the spot).

Highlights from the week included a visit to near-by, fascinating, Gede, the ruins of an ancient Swahili town; and a morning out on a boat following pods of dolphins trying to get on with the task of feeding while we kept jumping into the deep water, masks, snorkels, and flippers securely on, trying to ‘swim with the dolphins’. They were too busy to have time for us, but it was a thrilling experience nevertheless! Hours gazing at the Indian Ocean watching the tide rise and fall, laps in the hotel pool, snorkelling on the reef, stretching in the gym, four-course gourmet dinners by candle-light on the terrace watched over by a full moon, and an inspiring book (The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini) from the hotel library…it all came to an end far too soon, and I would have happily stayed another week had work and budget allowed.

Back in Butare, my kitten, now named Jolie (because my driver kept saying ‘Elle est très jolie!), has grown and is softer and cuter than ever. Adrian Martin from UEA Norwich was in town and I enjoyed asking about all my UEA friends over dinner. My Indonesian friend, Rini, celebrated her 37th birthday last night with what must be the biggest, liveliest, party Butare has seen in a long time – a marquee in the garden, vast quantities of delicious Indonesian food, and an exceptionally divers group of guests from Rwanda, Kenya, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Sweden, England, and the USA. After my week on the coast I’d forgotten how cold it gets here at night – a Shetland sweater would have been a good idea – and when we returned to the car the condensation had to be wiped from the windows. I half-expected to see ice on the road. My fleece pyjamas were much appreciated last night!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Cat lovers only!

Everyone else, please ignore this post! There's a new addition to my family: 'baby' (the right name will turn up in due course!). She's a fiercely independent and determined ball of pale grey fluff, found near the university campus by a friend.
Safi wasn't too happy about the new arrival at first, but now they play together and chase each other around the garden. Funniest is watching baby chase Safi! She's so tiny, and he's a big black fella! Here's a photo of Safi (next to one of my solar lamps) looking rather anxiously at baby: