I was groggy when I pulled on my shoes this morning, so I didn’t take the usual five extra seconds to wham them against the wall a few times and dislodge any nighttime occupants. I was surprised when I found they weren’t actually empty, although not half so surprised as the spider the size of a playing card that ran out. Luckily, rather than bite my foot, it tried to escape. By running up my leg.

I tell you, that will wake you up a hell of a lot faster than a cup of coffee.

The rest of the day went smoothly enough. I have a routine medical appointment this week in Nairobi, then will be staying an extra day to do some electronic window shopping for my clinic’s disease monitoring project. To accomplish this trip in a way that is both convenient and in accordance with Peace Corps travel policy, I’m spending the night in Mombasa and catching a morning bus out of there. It adds a little more time and expense than, say, the pre-dawn-departure-arrive-after-dark –slightly-sketchy Malindi → Nairobi Express, but it’s worth it. Besides, Mombasa’s *fabulous.*

On previous trips, I’ve almost always been here as part of a larger group (or with at least one other person.) This is fun, too, but traveling alone is something I have some familiarity and comfort with. You really test your knowledge of the place: how to get around, where to eat, what’s a good price for watermelon slices. That sort of thing.

I arrived in the relatively early morning and after refreshing myself from the typical death-defying matatu ride with a tall iced coffee, I headed out to explore. Even if you dodge the usual touristy places (I STILL haven’t been to Fort Jesus), Mombasa has a lot to offer! Markets! Fruit stands! Second-hand book sellers! Great samosas! Awesome tiny cafes! After mailing a record thirty-two letters (OW MY TONGUE WILL NEVER RECOVER FROM ALL THOSE STAMPS) I mostly just wandered. Took lunch. Bought a couple of used books to entertain me on the bus ride tomorrow. Practiced getting completely lost and seeing if I could find my way back to my hostel. Talked to a spice seller for a long time about how tourists never bother to learn the simple “please” and “thank you” portion of Swahili. Shocked a textile seller by buying a white-and-black checked scarf (“But … you are an American,” he said in exasperated Swahili. “This is like the head cloth of Mr. Arafat! An American cannot wear this! America! Israel! America!”) Explored endless quantities of singing Good Luck cards. Bought some snacks for the trip (slightly dubious looking … sesame cake things?)

It’s now early evening. I’m tired from all the walking, so I’m lying on the narrow bed at my hostel, plotting for dinner. Trek back out to that great Indian place I always go to when I’m coming through Mombasa, or get a chapatti and soda from the place across the street and save my limited food budget for something decadent and useless in Nairobi?

Decisions, decisions.

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