Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Rowing Adventure

            Jacob, a fellow teaching fellow at AKAM, has become a good friend of mine here in Mombasa. He hails from the south coast of the UK, attended St. Andrews in Scotland, and has been in Mombasa for a little over a year. He is a medieval history buff, which meshes nicely with my affinity for medieval art and architecture, and a very talented musician. There aren’t many male staff members my age here and I’m lucky to have Jacob to go off on adventures with and spend time with.
            This Sunday, Jacob and I headed to the north of Mombasa Island to Tudor, a posh part of town, to Tudor Water Sports to try our hand at rowing. Jacob had mentioned this place a number of times before and had expressed interest in giving the rowing a go and I was more than happy to join in. We met up with Kevin, a twenty-two year old Kenyan who had been training for the Kenyan National Rowing team, who worked at Tudor Water Sports as an instructor.
            We made our way down to the water, checked out the boats and set them in the water. Jacob had mentioned that he once rowed a boat on a lake once, and Kevin immediately bestowed him with expert status. Jacob looked nervous and muttered a few words to explain his truly novice status, but they fell on deaf ears. Kevin put us in a double boat, gave us a thirty second tutorial, emphasized “balance,” and sent us on our way. After ten minutes of us floundering a few yards off shore, our instructor intervened. He placed me in the double boat with him and let Jacob take the single. After a few minutes of guidance and encouragement, Kevin and I were flying across the water, leaving Tudor far behind. We made our way back to find Jacob in a similar place to where he started, but a little more damp seeing as he had lost his balance and taken a plunge.
            We switched boats and my confidence was high after my ride with Kevin; I felt like I got it out there with him. This newfound confidence was soon shaken and shattered. While Kevin and Jacob zipped down the creek, I wobbled, attempted stabilization, aand wobbled some more. It seemed the boat was doing everything in its power to send me tumbling deep into the murky waters of Tudor Creek. After three minutes, it succeeded and dumped me into the lukewarm water.
            I righted the vessel and attempted a few half-hearted pulls on the oars. I slowly gained confidence and was soon jerking steadily across the water. I caught up to a resting Jacob and Kevin. Kevin then informed me that the tide was taking me out and that I needed to adjust my course to get back to shore. This request proved far more difficult than I imagined and I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to turn my tippy vessel while fighting the current dragging me out to the Indian Ocean. This moment was my low point for the day, good to get it out of the way so early, and I was very close to giving up until I realized there was no system in place to rescue me or to pull me back to shore. After yelling at me to “balance!,” Kevin decided I was a lost cause and he and Jacob zipped away to cover some more distance, leaving me to fend for myself. This was it. Me vs. the Tide. Me vs. The Boat. My pale skin vs. the Kenyan sun.
            It took me thirty minutes but I was able to limp my way back to shore. Scattered throughout my floundering efforts I was able to get some good solid pulls in there and I didn’t tip over again. I’ll consider it a success. I think with a bit of practice this rowing thing could come to be something I might actually enjoy.

I'll post about the rest of my highly eventful Sunday in the next day or so with plenty of pictures to back up my sometimes seemingly absurd tales.

-Mzungu currently enjoying all the coast has to offer

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