Well folks I'm so relaxed I may not be able to assemble an eloquent missive, so please accept my apologies upfront. After 30 hours of travel, I arrived in Diani Beach where two of my professors and I are staying at the Bahari Dhow Villas. As soon as I am able, I will upload some photos for you, because I cannot find the words to provide you with the tools to create an accurate mental image. But picture a large white villa with a Spanish tiled roof, white tiled floors, big windows, large airy bedrooms overlooking the ocean and young coconut trees. Our villa is steps from the Indian Ocean, whose colors change from midnight blue, pastel turquoise, seafoam green, and sandstone. Our complex is flanked on either side by clothes lines with brightly colored kangas flapping in the breeze. The complex has three palm tree lined swimming pools, and the villas are occupied by people from many different nations. It was a pleasant surprise to find that a minority of the guests are white tourists. There are many families with young children in addition to couples and groups of friends.
This morning we took a glass-bottom boat out to the Ali Baba Reef, where we went snorkeling. We had a guide who showed us sea urchin, lobster, puffer fish, eel, and coral. The most amazing creatures were the star fish, which varied in appearance from gangly and deep purple, stout and pink with electric red spines, and a purplish grey with electric red grooves and spines. On the way back from the reef we sat on the flat roof of the boat, basking in the sun and intermittently exclaiming "This is amazing!" "This can't be real!" And it doesn't feel real. We hadn't originally planned to take a holiday, but schedule changes due to Wednesday's nationwide voting and other unexpected events left us with three free days at the beginning of this trip. I am so happy we visited the coast. It's beautiful and peaceful, and it has made me think about how Africa is presented to us via the media. We usually hear alternating stories of war, disease, poverty, and corruption with the occasional romanticized exoticism sprinkled in. My time on the coast has reminded me of Kenya's natural beauty and its strengths--a view that is often underrepresented by what we read or see in the news.
Speaking of strengths, you may have read that the Referendum passed, and the voting was peaceful. I am greatly relieved, and have enjoyed reading the newspaper coverage of the election and its significance. Since we are in a holiday location, we have not heard much talk of the new constitution, but I think when we greet our colleagues will we hear more about what meaning it holds for them and for their futures.
That's all for now. We head back to Nairobi tomorrow, and our two-week research methods course begins on Monday. We'll be teaching about 50 faculty and postdocs at the University of Nairobi. On the weekends Martina and I will travel to Kisumu to wrap up our project there. More to come.