Thursday, 21 February 2013

Kenya Diary - Reflections on Watumu by Lottie May

York based student Lottie May spends every Christmas in Watumu, just North of Mombasa. She has kindly shared some thoughts with us. Enjoy her fantastic insight to this amazing country.

Reflecting on tourism - What is the 'real' Africa?

It’s hard to remember the last Christmas I spent at home; the typical English Christmas isn’t familiar to me that’s for sure. Instead when December comes around my family and I set off to Watamu, Kenya – a small village 2 hours north of Mombasa and 1 hour south of the Somali border. Undoubtedly we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, first visiting the continent 7 years ago, we are drawn back every single year. So December 2012 it’s no different; once again we settle back into our usual resort, apply the sun tan lotion and get comfy on the sun beds. 

All you can see is the serine white beaches and the clear blue Indian Ocean reaching for miles. The deserted surroundings allow the faint whistle of the breeze and the crashing of the waves to ring in our ears as we doze in and out of our sleep.

The break and drastic change from the normal hectic lifestyle back in England, makes it extremely easy to get into this daily pattern, wasting away the days one by one. I can’t fault people for doing that, as long as they understand that sitting in a resort, is far from the ‘real’ Africa. You can’t say you have been to Africa until you venture from the haven of tourism, characterized by the stereotypical holiday privileges, which are expected by holidaymakers. The built up hotels, running water and food at hand all come unnaturally in this country and stepping out into the local villages strongly initiate this realization.

Photography - Lottie May (all rights reserved)

Kenyan Culture and the great Sense of Community

The contrast between environments when simply walking beyond the exit of the hotel still amazes me. When first visiting Africa I remember it being very overwhelming. This is down to the main fact that you can’t walk for more than 5 yards without being approached by someone. However despite the slight irritation of this, the majority means no harm, only there to greet you or maybe try to sell you something hoping to make small profit. This is common within the African culture with all the communities being so tightly intertwined, showing a genuine sense of compassion for one another. This is not only displayed when simply walking down the dusty African lanes, but also through organizations set up to help individuals in the communities. 

Visiting the Rainbow Orphanage

One of these organizations in which I regularly visit is the Rainbow Orphanage, run by an American woman called Linda who sold all her worldly possessions to build this orphanage. The facilities are very basic with no electricity and the children are squeezed into bunked dorms. They have so little but are so happy and grateful. Rainbow orphanage is full to the seams and Linda often has the difficult task of turning away small children who are left overnight waiting at the gate. Many of the children have AIDS – an epidemic in this part of Africa affecting 1 in 4 people. Linda draws her inspiration from her religious beliefs; indeed this is the value base, which guides the behavior within the orphanage. I feel so humble watching these small children sing grateful thanks for the food they have been given for the day – a bit of rice and some dried goat. Then I return to my hotel and face the buffet of luxurious foods that their minds could not even imagine.


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