karibu sana! spots is the travel journal of cora, a student flying to nairobi with mcgill's canadian field studies in africa program in january 2012.
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April 3rd 2012

   no more school! it ended on the 26th or so, after which 32 of us students took a late afternoon bus ride to nungwi where we’d booked a hotel called kendwa rocks on the beach for a week. we arrived, ate dinner on the beach, then watched the sunset burn the ocean and the sky alike to a purple and orange crisp behind saltwashed wooden boats and their grimy white sails. it smelled like plumeria and it was terribly romantic. we spent the rest of the evening alternating between dancing and phosphorescent algae-lit midnight swims.

   by day, i opted to do a four-day open water scuba diving certification course. our class of roughly eight rose early for breakfast, then swam out to practice emergency underwater skills like taking off and putting back on our masks and clearing them; ‘losing’ our breathing regulators and using our buddies’ octopus (spare regulator) … all of this would have been totally fine had i not been terrified of deep water. the very last thing i want, ever, is to be relying on plastic tubes that feed fast-depleting air to my lungs, which are at constant danger of overexpansion should i hold my breath. and if anything goes wrong, the only option is to swim upwards - but slowly (and calmly) so nitrogen bubbles don’t get into your blood, even if you’re on the verge of blacking out or swallowing/breathing in the entire bloody ocean because you have no air and you’re trapped eighteen meters below the surface. also it’s a good idea to equalize (pop) your ears so they don’t explode from pressure while going up or down, so you need to be level-headed enough to do that, too.

   after four days i’m still not stoked on sinking or staying at any significant depth and i suck up a tank of air in half the time i should from panicked breathing. still, being underwater is super surreal in a sweet way, regardless the reef, and i wouldn’t be entirely opposed to diving again.

   on saturday the first, the owner of kendwa rocks get married and held his wedding reception on the beach at the hotel. white lanterns were strung up, banana leaves woven with bourganvellia into archways, paper bag lanterns along the paths to the beach, bouquets of tropical flowers and intricate shisha pipes on heavy driftwood tables. a mixture of arabic, swahili, french and english music skipped from the towers of speakers that were set up in the sand; habib koite & bamada and salif keita sang with alaine, kanye west and rhianna, to name only a few that i recognized. an african dance troupe performed, then by a caribbean one, followed by fireworks and a lot more dancing until early the next morning.

   yesterday, after a final swim in unbelievably blue water, five of us piled into a taxi to stonetown still brushing sand off our feet and salt off our arms, hair dripping. i checked into a white-walled hostel called the flamingo and woke up this morning to stonetown’s calls to prayer and breakfast on the rooftop, where i watched massive indigo clouds moving in over rusted corrugated tin roofs and whorled mosque spires.

   i’ve been accepted to an internship with un habitat in nairobi and am heading there once i have sorted out my means of transportation to work for three months.

   is this real life? i keep asking myself and i still don’t know.


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