For the second year running, one of my New Year resolutions was going to Mombasa. Last year, I did not manage to go. This year, my plan was to take up one of the extra-curricular activities like choir, drama or netball and perform so well that we would go all the way to the national competitions. I hoped that nationals would be held in Mombasa, giving me a chance to step on the coastal beaches for the first time in my life.
But things did not go as planned. Due to budgetary concerns, we could not compete well with other schools, and as a result, drama and choir fell long before we even reached the sub-county level.
So my plans to go to Mombasa died. But I serve a living God who works in mysterious ways. Just when I had given up, an opportunity presented itself. Last year, our MP had promised to take the five best subject teachers in KCPE to Mombasa for three days.
We took it as a joke – aren’t all promises from politician jokes? But towards the end of last term, he started looking for the winners.
Number one in our school was madam Ruth, who is on maternity leave. The next was Lena, also on maternity leave. Then there was Mrs Atika, who although has completed her maternity leave, declined to go.
The MP wanted to drop our slot but we begged him to consider the next person, and that is how my name ended up on the list.
“As long as you get yourself to Nairobi, you will go to Mombasa,” Baraza, his personal assistant told us. That was not a problem. I arrived in Nairobi last Thursday, and went straight to my brother’s house in Syokimau.
MOMBASA BY TRAIN
I contacted Baraza to inform him that I was already in Nairobi.
“Please be at Syokimau Railway Station by at 6.30am,” he told me. It was then, after asking Pius, that I came to realise the MP had a big surprise for us – we would be going the Mombasa by train – the big new SGR train. I would be the first person in Mwisho wa Lami, and among the first in this region to use the train. I was over the moon. That night, I packed all my favourite clothes, including four new Kaunda suits. I had to show the people of Mombasa how I am a smart dresser!
Only two other teachers had made it, including Kizito, a former colleague; and another teacher I did not know. The other teachers had declined to travel on hearing that they were expected to take themselves to Nairobi.
With the help of Pius, I was at the SGR station by 6.30am. There were so many people, many of them school children. They must have all come from one school because although their uniform were different, they all arrived in yellow buses. Barasa and Kizito arrived a few minutes later. We went through several security checks, including one where dogs ransacked our bags. One dog lingered on my bag for some time, wagging its tail, and I had to be called aside to show what I was carrying. “What is this?” the policeman asked, as he removed a plastic bag that the dog was excited about. It was mahenjera (aka githeri) that I had carried from home, and which I hadn’t even opened during the two days I was at Pius’s.
“Mombasa ni mbali, you will need food on that road,” Fiolina had said. I explained to the policeman. Besides it was a flask full of tea that Fiolina had also packed for me. I had taken half the tea on the Western Coast Bus to Nairobi.
“But zimeharibika na zinanuka!” exclaimed the police officer as I insisted that they were fine.
“Na hii paper bag ulitoa wapi?” he asked me. “Plastic paper bags were banned. Utawekwa ndani. It took some good negotiations to be let off, with my team and mahenjera!
From here, Barasa printed tickets, and gave me mine. It was an amazing ticket for it was used to open doors just by pointing at them the receipt. The other teacher had not arrived. We went through several moving staircases – my favourite modern technical innovation, and we were finally led to the train. We were seated at 7.45am. It was a spectacular train manned by very beautiful, well dressed ladies.
The train left the station at 8am. It was such a great and smooth ride, stopping at several stations for exactly five minutes.
When we reached the Mtito Andei station, which I was told is the halfway point between Nairobi and Mombasa, I removed my lunch of tea and mahenjera from my bag. Everyone started complaining about the smell, and it took the intervention of train officials to have me to return it in my bag.
We arrived in Mombasa at around 2pm. The Mombasa Station was amazing, it was hard to believe that I was in Kenya. We were pleasantly surprised to get a car to the hotel waiting for us. In fact, the driver had a placard with my name, Barasa’s and Kizito’s written on it. The van was written Nyali Sun Africa Hotel. Going by the way he opened the door for us, it was clear we were very important persons.
It was very hot, and I was sweating profusely. There was heavy traffic and we arrived at Nyali Sun Africa Hotel two hours later. It was a fantastic hotel. We were welcomed with a glass of cold juice after which each we were taken to our rooms. I could not believe my eyes when I was taken to my room. I kept pinching myself to confirm that I was alive. “Enjoy you stay sir,” said the waiter after he had shown me how everything in the room worked. It was the first time someone, other than a student, was calling me sir!
There was a small fridge in the room and when I opened it, I could not believe it when I saw several bottles of beer and wine. I immediately gulped down three beers. I then changed into another brand new Kaunda suit, completing the look with a vest, IEBC t-shirt, red socks and black sharpshooter shoes; and walked towards the beach.
It was very hot, I was sweating profusely, but I soldiered on. As it always happens when I am the best dressed person, all eyes were on me, with many children pointing at me. I was soon at the beach and while everyone was wearing skimpily and walking barefoot, I chose fashion over comfort. The excessive sweat droplets that were literally falling off my body were a small price to pay for being smart!
I enjoyed walking along the beach and many boys who were working there walked over to me and started asking several questions. They must have been informed by the hotel that I was a VIP because most of them took photos of me. Later in the evening, I joined my colleagues for dinner. I would be lying to say I have ever taken such a meal. Since I worked hard to earn this, allow me to enjoy Mombasa. I will surely tell you the full story next week!
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