When I first stepped out into the city of Mombasa I felt a great sense of dread and overwhelming anxiety. Mombasa is a small island, but literally has about 4 times as many people as the entire state of Idaho. It has a constant buzz about it where it never seems like people never stop moving, and things never quiet down. I’ve experienced big cities in the states, and although I’m not a huge fan of them, my dislike for them is nothing compared to how I felt in Mombasa.
Probably the worst part of it is driving. Imagine a clustered traffic scene in the States. Lots of people. Lots of honking, lots of yelling. Now throw in the following things: No traffic lights or signs whatsoever, nobody using their blinkers, people riding bikes, motor bikes, or pushing carts on the equivalent of a highway, and finally stray chickens, goats, and herds of cows in the roads.
It’s pure madness. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was instantly terrified that I was going to hate Kenya if this was a glimpse of what to expect.
Fortunately, I am not stationed in Mombasa. I am working in a small village called Shimoni, located about 3 hours outside Mombasa. Shimoni has about 2,000 residents and is located on a peninsula stretching out into the Indian Ocean. If you step outside our front door in one direction you can walk a few yards to the ocean, and in the other direction you can walk a few yards and be in the Shimoni Rainforest. It is impossible to describe how beautiful it is. Especially now during the rainy season when the forest is so green.
The drive from Mombasa to Shimoni is a bumpy one. I don’t think the two places are geographically that far apart, however bumpy dirt roads worsened by daily rain make the travel difficult.
The most striking difference between Mombasa and Shimoni would have to be the reactions from the natives. The further we got out on those bumpy roads, the friendlier the people got. Children started running outside and shouting “Jumbo!” (hello) as soon as they saw our van. And here in the village of Shimoni, the GVI employees and volunteers are completely embraced by the community. They constantly try to make us feel welcome, offer their assistance, and make sure we don’t get lost.
This was the Africa I had hoped for. I am so happy to be in Shimoni.