Life has been nothing short of a whirlwind since my arrival in Mombasa. My mind is pounded with information every morning and afternoon and I’m left in a powerful daze the rest of my waking hours, sifting through the mounds of new concepts and strategies I need to learn for dorm life, teaching life, etc. I’ll try to run through some of the highlights from the past few days as a whole lot has happened and I don’t think I can cover it all!
The drive into the city from Moi International airport was a fascinating one. The town itself reminded me very vividly of the streets I walked and drove in Uganda: generally dusty and covered in reddish brown dirt and sand, low lying buildings, non-descript hardware stores/ restaurants and heavy heavy traffic. Potholes are not uncommon.
Mombasa is Kenya’s port town and the import industry is very large and important here. It has been for centuries as Mombasa was used as a major export point for ivory and other goods by Arab traders. The city itself is remarkably multicultural with a fascinating ethnic mix of black Africans, Arabs and Indians. The architecture reflects the historical Arab influence strongly, especially in the Old Town, and all through out the city there are mosques, churches, and Hindu temples. Something like 70% of the population practices the Islamic faith. The cultural and ethnic diversity of Mombasa is what inspired His Highness The Aga Khan to establish his first school here, the school that is supposed to serve as the template, and guinea pig, for a planned 15 or so other schools across the world.
The school itself is nothing short of palatial. After driving through the town of Mombasa, through the crowded streets and concrete buildings, I heard someone describe the campus as an “oasis.” Construction is ongoing so the entrance is less than flattering, a few corrugated metal sheets and a lift gate, but once inside I could tell I was somewhere special. First I saw a sizable Astroturf field for soccer and tennis (the only one in Mombasa), but my eyes quickly turned to the gorgeous dormitories.
They are made “in the Swahili style” according to the website and are three stories tall with a large central opening that opens to the sky. The ground floor has a lush green space with tropical plants and the rooms all face into the center. The rooms themselves are great; the students have quads if they are in year 7-10 and when the enter the International Baccalaureate (IB) Degree Program (DP) they get either singles or doubles as the course load is much heavier and a little more personal space is necessary. They have a shower room with individual stalls and full laundry room with three washers and three dryers on each floor. Living large.
The rest of campus is equally amazing. The dorms are a recent addition and they are modeled after the rest of campus. I’ll attach pictures to give you a sense of what each building looks like as they are worth checking out and my verbal descriptions won’t do them justice. You know what they say about a picture being worth 1,000 words… I normally disagree but in this case I’ll give in.
All of the buildings are connected via second story walkways in a style that apparently reflects the Swahili building style of the past.
Aside from a Junior School and a Senior school (both have their own libraries), there is a full length pool, a diving pool (woah!), a track and soccer pitch, tennis courts, squash courts and a weight room. Not bad at all.
Now for my accommodations. I can honestly say I did not think I would have this nice an apartment a few months after graduation regardless of where I would be working, US or Kenya. I have a whole apartment to myself with a queen-size bed and two large closets which I certainly cannot fill on my own. I have a full kitchen with a range, sink, fridge (big one!) and plenty of drawers. I have a full bathroom with personal shower and toilet and I have a nice common room with couch, chairs, table and a desk. Oh, and no big deal, but I have a balcony that overlooks the Indian Ocean. Pictures will follow.
Needs some decorating
Big Ships loaded with goods are a regular sight out of my window
So, my living conditions certainly are nice, but I’ll be damned if I am not going to have to work incredibly hard for what I have been granted. Over the past few days I have slowly begun to realize and understand the incredible workload that I have ahead of me these next few years and daunting doesn’t even begin to describe it. I’ll go in to more detail in my next post as I am still figuring out exactly what I am doing but here is what I know for sure: I am a dorm parent, an assistant English teacher with 9 classes a week, a College Counselor with these kids futures well and truly in my hands, a Student Representative Council assistant (Student Government), and a Form Tutor (Homeroom teacher and Leadership seminar instructor). More detail to come.
-Mzungu currently adjusting to life in a foreign land and coming to grips with the potentially stressful and very busy turn my life is about to take.