Just 3 days prior, I had no long term plan for the remaining 4 free days I had in Kenya. Then, just by staying at the hostel and talking to new people the plan became incredibly clear. Traveling with Lina and Lena, two 20 year olds, and Nico, a 25 year old, seemed to just work. Lina and Lena seemed like Kenya veterans and navigated the matatu and restaurant system with ease. We grabbed one matatu to Ukunda, then transferred but grabbed a $1 lunch first, then got off the matatu before Mombasa to board the ferry by foot for free transport across the river. When we landed in Mombasa, there was some confusion as to whether a matatu would connect directly to Kilifi and the 20 Kenyan men yelling in our faces didn’t really help the situation. We decided to just walk away, which is a vital skill in Kenya – sometimes removing yourself from the situation is the only way to find a solution – and sure enough, a Kilifi-bound matatu showed up. Departing Diana around 12:30, we landed in Kilifi via 3 matatus and a ferry at 4pm and Lina and I decided to walk to the orphanage while Lena and Nico hopped in a tuk tuk with our bags. A tuk tuk is a 3 wheel taxi. I’ve only seen them one other time in a town in Peru’s Amazon forest. They speak hot weather to me.
As we walked to the orphanage, we saw some of the older children from Saidia kwa Moyo leaving school for the day. They were middle school aged boys and girls and they politely introduced themselves. We settled in to our new temporary home which was really nice as the orphanage has guests on a regular basis. The guests are usually “godparents” that sponsor the children and then visit for a few weeks a year. We met the founders , Petra and Helmut, a lovely, older German couple, and many of the staff including “the mamas,” kind and beautiful Kenya women who cared for the children daily and taught them vital Kenya skills like traditional cooking and hand washing. Many of the children at Saidia kwa Moyo had lost their parents to HIV, Petra explained the “missing generation” to me – where the children had grandparents but no parents. Of the 34 children at Saidia kwa Moyo, many were brothers and sisters. Some were away at boarding high schools and the oldest was at university. Petra and Helmut’s plan was to support the children through young adulthood, until they were successful and self-reliant. Though the orphanage couldn’t replace their parents, the support they provided in access to water and food, clean shelter, showers, clothing, tutoring, sports, games, and mentorship was better than 90 percent of what I’d seen throughout the country. If you’re interested in getting involved and supporting a child, visit their website.
We sat down for a dinner of dango and rice. I think dango is red lentils – it was delicious. The children have a rotating menu that consists of dango and rice, small fish and rice, beans and rice, chicken and rice, ugali and greens and some other traditional Kenyan dishes. They rotate in helping to prepare the food. I have to admit, the scene at the dining room was straight out of Annie or Oliver Twist. I do think the food was better though! Nico and I were introduced and the children were told they could ask us any questions they wanted to. Questions flew off their tongues, “Where are you from? How old are you? Do you have any siblings? What are their names? Are you married? Do you have kids? What is your favorite food? Do you have any hobbies?” It was amazing and hilarious. After dinner, the children sang a beautiful song for us and showed us some awesome dances. My “whiteness” showed through in my dance moves, but they accepted me anyway. Everyone was super happy and it was a great welcome. Nico and I looked at each other and proclaimed that we definitely made the right decision to visit Kilifi! We spent the rest of the evening talking to some of the children about Michael Jackson, Rhianna, and movies and then called it a night after a long day of traveling.
The next day Lina and I headed to the Kilifi beach which was as beautiful as Diani beach, but without all the tourists and beach boys. We were even able to leave our stuff on the beach while swimming. After lunch, we headed into town for a look and some groceries. Kilifi had at least 40 tailors and I regret not having something made. We returned to the orphanage in time to help the children with homework and play some sports before dinner. I hung out with Robin who used an old tire to catapult himself into the air doing a variety of flips. It was super impressive. He tried to get me to give it a go, but I just couldn’t trust the tire or my front flipping ability!
When more children returned from school, we started up a football (soccer) game. Because we only had about 4 players, the game was keep away, basically every player for himself. The boys stared in disbelief as I was able to take the ball from them and keep it from them. It’s always nice to show Kenyan males that women can play football too. With more players, we were able to shift into another type of game and by the time dinner rolled around, I was covered in sand and sweat! Since the children were eating small fish that night, which none of the volunteers liked, we headed out to the Kilifi club for dinner.
We decided we’d stay one more full day. I was having fun and Nico wasn’t feeling well, so it was the best option we had. Lina and I were up early to head to the beach. The weather was great and the tide was out, so we walked a few miles all the way down to Kilifi Bay. When we returned, we decided to head to the Distant Relatives Backpackers Hostel to check it out. It was run by Americans and I found out the girl was actually from Maryland, quite near where my husband is from. The eco-hostel had a beautiful common area and bar, composting toilets, outdoor showers, comfortable looking rooms, chickens and a pig, and two friendly dogs. We decided to check out the beach, which was on the very wide Kilifi Creek, not the Indian Ocean and one of the dogs joined us. She swam with us and when she was done, sat guard over our possessions. It was nice to have a pal. On the way back to town, we met a local woman who offered us a ride to town. It was a kind gesture and we accepted. It was probably one of the first times of the trip a Kenyan stranger had helped me without expecting anything in return.
When we returned to the orphanage, volleyball was the sport of the day and we had 3 large and competitive games before dinner. I announced our departure to the children at dinner. Part of me wanted to stay, but Nico needed to return to Nairobi and it was nice to have someone to make the long bus trip from Mombasa with. So, we reluctantly caught a matatu out of my favorite place of the trip early the next morning for the 8 hour bus ride back to Nairobi.