Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Let's Go to the Beach


I hope this post finds you well, wherever you may be!

Big news! Bowdoin College, my beloved alma mater, runs a daily news blog that has a conglomeration of stories about alums, notable news items and miscellanea. By some stroke of luck (or guidance from a kind benefactor), my blog made it on to the site with the very formal title “Chase Taylor ’12 Chronicles His New Life in Mombasa.” (http://www.bowdoindailysun.com/2012/11/chase-taylor-%E2%80%9912-chronicles-his-new-life-in-mombasa/) Fortunately, they don’t make any cracks at the lame pun that is the actual title of my blog. Phew.

            Anyway, it caused a brief flurry of activity here on the blog and hopefully those who were guided here enjoyed some of what they read. Thanks again to those to continue to read and welcome to those who just found out. I appreciate any feedback and welcome any suggestions of topics to cover. Just reach out through the blog or through email at chase.b.taylor@gmail.com.

Anyways, back to the writing.

Phew. Well, it has been a while hasn’t it. It has been one heck of a month for me. I had been planning, along side my boss/ co-worker Nicole, a massive fundraiser for the student community and service organizations. November was also my birthday month which lent itself to some fun happenings.

Well, even though I have traveled quite extensively, I have rarely spent a birthday away from home, wherever that may be at the time (Nashville, Surrey, Brunswick). I’ve never really made much of birthdays, not to say I don’t enjoy the celebration (and attention) but I always feel a tad strange celebrating, well, me. Nevertheless, it is a strange feeling being a continent and an ocean away from family and friends during a birthday. The 19th fell on a Monday this year so I had a nice weekend lead up to the day itself.
As I have mentioned before, there are some fantastic beaches a mere twenty minutes away from school and some even better ones a ferry and matatu ride south. School can sometimes feel like a bit of a bubble, so it is fairly often that we try to flee off-campus when the situation permits. This weekend was no different so I threw sunscreen, water, a book and a few changes of clothes (in decreasing order of importance) into a backpack, gathered with Lindsey and Safiya and hopped on the next ferry out of town. We zipped down to our accommodation, quickly unloaded and breezed down to the beach. Any worry or stress associated with school simply melts away when you step out from the palisade of palm trees, onto the endless silvery stretch of sand and into the warm embrace of the sun.

We made our way south toward the restaurant/ sports bar/ club/ beach hangout called “Ali Barbour’s Fourty Thieves.” This time around, the beach boys were less intrusive, probably due to the unusually large numbers of German beach goers. The German men are either extremely confident or doing their part to save the world from a lycra shortage.

After a short walk, so short it didn’t even necessitate that I apply sunscreen, we arrived at our home for the day. We posted up on nice sofa beds, Roman style, that overlooked the Pacific Ocean and were shaded by the large thatched roof that covered 40 Thieves. We arrived around 11 am and did not end up leaving until around 8 pm, at which point we merely changed clothes to be prepared for the evening and returned promptly.

It short, it was bliss. We lounged around and read all day. I finished off a sizeable chunk of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a series of books that I am absolutely crushed to not have discovered earlier but that transported me away from Kenya to the far reaches of space and time and back again to find myself sprawled on a sun kissed beach. Not too shabby.

We also, as a trio, took on a few formidable Sunday Crossword puzzles from the New York Times thanks to a great book borrowed indefinitely from a good friend of mine back stateside, Eliza.

Late afternoon, we were joined by Heidi and Jason for a few hours of rugby watching, calamari eating and Dawa drinking. “Dawa” is the Swahili word for “medicine,” and medicine it is. Dawas have rapidly become my drink of choice in Kenya. If you are looking for a taste of the tropical during the cold winter months in the States, take notes. Take a short, wide glass and add a small spoonful of brown sugar. Take a whole lime (or lemon if you wish) and chop it up into thick wedges and place them into the glass. Using any sort of blunt object, crush the lime wedges until you think you have squeezed out all of the juice. Leave the limes in the glass. Add a few ice cubes. Add a shot (or two) of vodka and a thick dollop of honey. Mix thoroughly. Imbibe.

After dinner, we were lolling around for a while when we noticed a few men out on the large swath of sand in front of the bar drawing what looked to be a rough field of sorts. Soon enough, we saw a few men tossing around a rugby ball and start to organize a pick up game of touch rugby. Fortified by a few rounds of dawas, Jason and I sauntered down to the sandy pitch and asked if we could join the fray. The players were happy to oblige and to have two more bodies on the field.

Jason is a goliath. He is an ex-firefighter from the UK who is working as at the Academy as head of Security and Transport. He has played rugby for years and certainly looks the part. He stands a good head taller than me. He cuts quite an imposing figure, especially when lined up across from him on a rugby pitch. And he has got a hell of a quick wit to boot.

I should add that we were in the midst of a “Movember” facial hair growing competition. My facial hair comes in a reddish-blond and slowly. This was a good three weeks in and I was looking almost as clean-shaven as the day I started, just slightly… shaggier. Jason, however, had a dignified thick black/ grey combo beard going on. If this was a masculinity fight, I was losing.

            Regardless, they still let me play, and start nonetheless.

Harsh floodlights from the bar, partially obscured by the palm trees, lighted the field. The moon added an extra glow. Soon enough, we were underway. The field was small and the game was quick. I was sucking wind no more than ten minutes in but, boy, was I having fun. A crowd from the bar gathered to watch and arbitrarily cheer on one side over the other.

 My energy began to ebb so I tagged out and took a seat at our sideline, closer to the ocean than the bar. The beach was covered in crabs, their pure whiteness amplified tenfold by the moonlight. Any movement in their direction and they would skitter into the surf and then tentatively emerge back into the open air. Their movements mirrored the movements of the men on the pitch, hurtling this way and that, recklessly and without abandon, dodging anything in their path.

Halftime was called and we bundled into a gritty, sweaty, heaving mass. It seemed we were ahead, but it did not seem like this game was about the score. Our little game had caught the attention of some young Australian men, who we later learned were there on a gap year and were not unlike this fellow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKFjWR7X5dU They were heavily lubricated and rather gruffly forced themselves into the game. We played on for a while but the energy of the original group was quickly fading and the shenanigans of the Aussies were swiftly moving beyond merely amusing towards rather obnoxious. We dispersed. Once the sweat had dried and the adrenaline had ebbed, I realized how ridiculously sandy I was, simply caked with it. The music was still playing at the bar so I squeezed in a few halfhearted and abrasive, literally, dances before calling it a night.

My first beach birthday, and undoubtedly not my last. I apologize for the delay in posting, and the severely backdated post! Work has really caught up to me of late but the next few weeks are looking clearer. Be on the look out for a new post soon.

-Muzungu scrambling to get back up to date with these blog posts

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