The Moment Begins Now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Stoop Till You Drop

The barge mistimed it's stopping ability and crashed into our boat gently, bringing a warm spray of Ocean into my lap. The driver leaned over and said in a throaty voiced that exuded calm, "Hakuna Matata, man." No worries. At all.

Lamu exists as an enigma in East Africa. An island town, only available access by boats, the whole stone-city is navigated by donkeys. There are three (count 'em) cars on the island, as the rest of the place is navigated by bicycle, feet or donkey. The donkeys were muscular, timid and plodding creatures, one hammering me over, almost into a baby kitten, as he turned the corner. He didn't break stride. 

In Lamu, we 'stooped.' The rules of "stooping" aren't really rules at all. In fact, I can't even be sure that those who stoop know what it consists of. Which is a little maddening, knowing that Lamuians are born with an innate warning that must vibrate when one is becoming too excited, or walking too fast.

Slow. Down. Sit. Down.

Stoops, square chunks of fading and crack concrete, exist in arbitrary locations throughout the narrowed, grey streets of Lamu and perch upon narrow gutters that constantly flow with the whitish-blue water that drain from the town to the sea. As with tradition, our walking tour guide, Zera, an old persuasive Muslim man with an eye for making a quick buck and a relationship with everyone on the island, told us to sit on fomed planks of concrete complete with arm-rests. Apparently, he explained, the families of Lamu in the past used to gather in these narrow alleyways, out of the heat of the sun to watch the day turn into night.

Alternatively, you could chew 'Mira,' the local stimulant that literally took eight hours of non-stop chewing (think cow and cud) to induce even the slightest effect. For my compatriots and I, a sore jaw and a lot of laughing was all that we could accomplish.

Idyllic to the point where one day my only problem was deciding whether I should have a mango or orange-mango juice for breakfast. I spent three days in Lamu, and on the last day, a wanderlust traveler with a heart for Haiku (5/7/5 syllables) poems , wrote me the perfect one summing up the Kenyan coastal town perfectly. It read, simply,

Stoopers of Lamu
Chewing Mango and Mira
Beware the Donkey

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