BootsnAll Travel Network

Pole Pole in Lamu


Pole Pole (Polay Polay) translation: slowly, slowly, or, ‘take it easy.’
Hey all, blogging from Zanzibar, my final stop on the Becky Africa Tour 2007. Well, actually, I’m going to stop in a town called Moshi, which sounds like a video game character to me, to see Mt. Kilimanjaro, which I thought I saw en route to Nairobi the first time, but didn’t. Oopsie. Otherwise, I’ll be here for the next week, at the beach. Went to the beach one day in Lamu, but it was a disappointment – very windy and rocky. So we’ll see what Zanzibar has to offer. But for now, back to Lamu. I took the bus from Malindi, the “good” bus, with armed guards. I guess the road between the two towns used to be pretty heavily preyed upon by bandits from Somalia. I couldn’t decide if the soldiers made me feel safer or more worried… Stayed, for the majority of the time in a guest house called Casuarina, a picturesquely crumbling Swahili building, tall and a little maze-like inside, with a thatched palm roof and an open balcony to catch the sea breeze. My room had a big double bed with a mosquito net, which I love sleeping under – very, very romantic, but the mattress was so thin I felt the slats of the bed every night. Bathrooms were pretty bad – no hot water. Actually, I can’t remember the last time I had a hot shower.

Lamu is a center of dhow building as well, and all the traditional boats have this blue carving on the wood. I took a dhow trip with a bunch of other tourists on my second day – all girls, a few Canadians and Brits. Spent most days hanging out in cafes, in one called Bush Gardens – not sure if the joke was intentional – but the owner is named Satan.

Me: Nice to meet you; I’m Becky.
Him: Hello, I’m Satan.
Me: Could you spell that for me?
Him: Just like in the bible.

OK. It was at Bush Gardens that the true meaning of pole pole became apparent: You order a juice and a companion orders a tea, for example. Someone will make your juice, fresh passion fruit and lime in my case, and then, after they are done doing whatever they have to do to a passion fruit to get the juice out, and juicing the lime, let’s say 20 minutes, they’ll put the tea kettle on to boil. Dinner = a two-hour affair. Luckily, I had nothing better to do than sit there and read or spend most days wandering the streets, soaking up the culture. Went to “ladies night” at the local bar – one free soda! Other impressions of Lamu – no cars, they get around on donkeys and try to convince stupid mzungus to take an embarrassing donkey ride. I can just imagine them talking about which one is the bigger ass in Swahili as they lead the donkey along. Anyway, I gave it a miss, but all those donkeys add up to one thing: lots of donkey shit, everywhere. And the electricity in Lamu is sketchy at best, so you can be walking down a dark alley in a mine field. And me with no flashlight. I got some funny statistics though: 3,800 donkeys, 4,500 cats, 45 mosques and 19,000 residents on Lamu. I’m not sure who counted all the cats, which are everywhere, all strays, and oddly, almost all calico. I thought much of little Gracie. The buildings are beautiful though, but like I said, crumbling everywhere. No one seems to fix anything here.Everything, from the roads to the buildings to the buses, is in some state of decay. Most of the clothes people are wearing seem to be the castoffs of the west, actually. All the clothes and shoes you donate to places like Savers get sold to some third party if they don’t sell there, I think, and then get resold in African markets. I’ve seen countless Green Bay Packers jerseys, for example, and the other day I saw some dude with a “Smith Family Reunion, July 5th, 2005, Charleston, South Carolina” t-shirt on. There were also lots and lots of veiled women here, with only their eyes peeping out from flowing black tents. They definitely got a raw deal, as the men are all in white robes, which is at least cooler.

So, all-in-all, Lamu was very enjoyable. Got some culture, ate tons of seafood and coconut rice. Met a Peace Corp girl and her boyfriend on their way to Mombasa the same day as me, so we were all on the same bus, in the back: big mistake. It was so bumpy, aka, filled with the usual potholes, that at one point I had my sandal clasp undone (though they were still securely on my feet) and we hit a pothole so huge that they flew off and under the seat next to me. The best part was that there were speed bumps on this road – I mean, could a more arbitrary speed bump even exist? I think not. Spent the night in Mombasa, which seems a nice enough town. Got around in little tuk tuks, a preview for Thailand I’m guessing. Will try to take some pictures of them for you.

Bus the next day to Dar – which I was not looking forward to. A long, long dusty ride, with a seat that was stuck in a reclining position and a seat mate who was taking up his entire seat and half of mine. I kept trying to nudge him back, to no avail. And then he noticed me struggling with my seat, trying to get it to sit upright and he very kindly reached across me, touching my chest in the process, to help. There were these two British kids (19 qualifies as a kid now) sitting behind me who saw all of this unfolding and I found out later that they were remarking on its hilarity. Got to Dar without serious incident though – one flat tire and one more border crossing, spent the night at the good old Safari Inn, met some dudes randomly in the restaurant, and set out the next morning for Zanzibar, where I now sit. That’s it for now folks, probably it till a wrap-up “Becky’s impressions of East Africa” entry from Nairobi, where I’ll arrive on the 25th, leaving for Singapore on July 27th. Hope you’re all well and I’m out to the beach. xxx


3 responses to “Pole Pole in Lamu”

  1. Amy Maurer says:

    Hi Becky! Just wanted to let you know that I’m totally living vicariously through you and your epic adventure… especially now that I’m home with the kids 24/7 and my new idea of excitement is when they both take a nap at the same time, or better yet, Jack actually poops in the potty and not in his super hero undies! YA-HOO!!
    I love the details, especially the “Smith Family Reunion”shirt… it made me laugh out loud, which of course made Scott go “What?!? What’s so funny?” which proves he’s only really paying attention when he thinks he’s missing something. Ha ha!
    Zanzibar sounds so cool, like from some old black and white movie with Humphrey Bogart or something… I’m in awe and can’t wait to read the next installment.
    Safe travels!

  2. Fiona says:


    So we’re now back in the UK, which is rubbish!!!! I’m going to Paris in 2 days tho so hopefully that’l be good…it’s a hard life sometimes!! Turned out that it was a good job that we flew from Zanzibar to Dar – as we checked our flights when we got there and weren’t actually on a flight to Nairobi – really helpful!!!!! WE got home in the end tho! I hope i don’t spoil your next entry but I’ve been doing some research…well googling anyway on our not so friendly friend the sea urchin:

    Types of sting: Venon within the spines that is released after the spine penetrates the skin of an unfortunate diver or reef walker.
    Pedicellariea – these are seizing organs on the surface of the sea urchin scatted among the spines. The pedicellariea will continue to deliver venom into the skin even if they are broken off of the body of the sea urchin. Any pedicellariea seen in the skin of a diver needs to be removed promptly to stop the flow of venom.

    Penetration of the skin by Sea Urchin spine results in the release of purple-violet colored fluid that stains the wound – and is a good indicator of penetrating injury.
    Pain develops quickly and is often out-of-proportion to the size of the wound.
    Pain is followed by swelling (local edema) and reddness (erythema). The involved extremity may also develop numbness & tingling (paresthesia).

    Treatment is largely directed at alleviating the symptoms of pain and swelling, there is no specific antidote.
    Inspect the affected area carefully. Carefully remove any adherent pedicellariea to stop the flow of venom.
    The long spines may break off within the skin and can be difficult to remove. It is not necessary to completely remove sea urchin spines (unlike the pedicellariea which need to be removed quickly. However spine remaining within the skin, may cause a later allergic reaction and should then be removed preferably by a doctor or other medical professional. (that was me!!!!!!!!!!!!) This may require minor surgery and local anesthesia. (oops…..)
    Pat the skin dry with a non-abrasive cloth. – well a baby wipe did us nicely!

    Hope you find that interesting and I really hope your foot’s ok now!

    Enjoy yourself lots and keep safe…especially watch out for english medical students, thay can be a right pain!!

    x x x

  3. Dane says:

    BECKY! WATCH OUT FOR SEA URCHINS! Whew! I have to admit, the getting from place to place in Africa does not sound so great from the comfort of my hot August afternoon living room. Nonetheless, I want to book the trip TODAY! Sounds like your feeding off it all…Run Becky Run!

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