December 24th: Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve turned out to be an amazing adventure! We left our condo about 8am or so to take the ferry across to Denali Beach, which is a more posh touristy area of Mombasa. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were excited to head out for the day. We headed down the road to the ferry in our van with out hired driver, Abdul. We parked at hotel and headed out to the beach. It was a beautiful beach! We soon met this funny Rastafarian Kenyan named Friday, who offered to guide us on a reef walk. We took him up on his offer and walked out barefoot to explore the reef. We saw so many amazing creatures! We saw sea urchins, a spider starfish, a sea snake (which is extremely poisonous!), a regular starfish, brain coral, a Stonefish (who when touched squirts out a purply-reddish poisonous liquid), big clams with wavy shells, and other fish that I couldn’t name! We planned our snorkeling trip for Christmas day based on Friday’s offer to plan that for us as well! That afternoon we got sodas at the hotel and just rested on the beach for a while. Since we didn’t buy lunch, I consumed nearly a whole sleeve of date rolls (the Ugandan equivalent of fig newtons!) during the afternoon. That afternoon, I also bought what I would call sarongs, but they are called kangas in Kenya. They are basically swimsuit cover-ups or big wraps. I bought an orange one with African animals and the Kenyan flag colors on it, a green one with leopard spots, one with maasi on it, and red one with maasi villages on it.
After using the outdoor showers, we changed into our evening attire to go to a Christmas Eve service. We asked at the hotel about a church to attend for a Christmas Eve service and were told that the Word of Life Church was just down the road. We headed down there to attend the service and I realized as we walked into the service that the church and surrounding building were part of Word of Life from Schroon Lake, New York! There I was attending a Christmas Eve service in Mombasa that had connections to a ministry that many of my friends in the states had attended school at! The service consisted of Christmas carols, scripture readings, and testimonies given by Kenyans. It was truly a blessing to go to! It was strange having church in a big open-air thatched roof kind of building on Christmas Eve with the ocean just a few yards away. After the service, we met a few German students, who were spending a year with the ministry there in Mombasa. They recommended an Italian restaurant that was just across the road for dinner. We took their advice and went to the most amazing restaurant! So on Christmas Eve far from home, I found myself eating a great salad, Spaghetti Carbonara and peanut butter gelato in Kenya! The restaurant was open air (as are most restaurant in Uganda and Kenya) with a fabric draped ceiling and a waterfall in the center of the restaurant behind glass. The setting beautiful and very much resort-like! We enjoyed our dinner and then piled back in the van to head back to our condo at Nyali Beach. We stayed up late in our steaming hot apartment and ate popcorn to bring in Christmas Day. I think we were all trying not to cry thinking about our families back in the U.S. Christmas morning came quickly as most of us went to bed around 1am or later!
December 25: Christmas Day!
We woke to an incredible breakfast on Christmas morning made by “Mama” Terri! She made cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, sliced fresh fruit, and little boxed cereals! It was a great breakfast! Terri and I gave out our presents as well. Terri made each of us a little stocking with an ornament and a bracelet/jewelry inside. I got a big leather zebra striped bracelet. My presents were headbands for everyone. We then left to head to Denali Beach again. Once again, we had to wait to get on the ferry to go across. We hung out at another hotel called Leopard Beach Resort for the day. It was beautiful!
By 10am, we were off in the glass-bottomed boat to go snorkeling! There was just a small window in the bottom of the boat, though. Despite poor equipment for snorkeling, we had a great time out on the boat and snorkeling! I just wish I had been able to take underwater pictures! I saw so many amazing fish! I even saw one that was literally a plaid fish with orange, green, and blue! It was amazing! I also saw another sea snake, brain coral, sea urchins, Butterfly fish, purple and yellow fish, and other fish as well. It is hard to describe how amazing it was to be snorkeling on Christmas morning! That afternoon we rested on the beach as we listened to two serenade the tourist with a guitar and saxophone. The children followed them around like they were pied pipers. The saxophone playing combined with the beach setting reminded me of “Muppet Treasure Island” and the night scene on the beach with Muppet band playing while Long John Silver and crew tried to convince Jim to join them! One funny song they played was “Take Me Home” that I think was written by Jimmy Buffet. There’s a line in it that says, “Take me home to West Virginia”! It was rather humorous hearing that line since I was from Virginia!
We took some time to rest in the shade or sun during the afternoon and then had some sodas and chips mid-afternoon! We then walked down the beach some. Before we left that beach that afternoon, we did some wood carving shopping! I found a wooden bowl for my mom, elephant bookends for my dad, warthogs for my sisters, and cat carving for myself. Later that evening after enjoying the ocean for as long as possible, we left to head back to our condo, so we could get back in time to Skype from an internet café with our families.
A few of us changed and headed down to the Internet café only to find it was closed! A couple of us then resorted to using our phones to call our families. Sadly, I didn’t have mine! I sat on the curb and cried a bit as I watched the other three chatted with their families. Then, Nathanael sat and chatted with me for a bit. The rest of the crew then came down and met us at the Turkish restaurant. I had a beef kabob and passion fruit juice for Christmas night dinner, while we were serenaded by 90’s American pop music that was being played from a CD! It was rather humorous! We were then given complimentary Turkish tea as we finished our dinner around 11pm! Once we returned to the condo, I decided to call my family briefly so I could update them on our trip! I hadn’t chatted with them for about 4-5 days! It was so nice to chat briefly with them and tell them I had been on a camel ride and went snorkeling. As I got off the phone, I just couldn’t help crying! Thankfully, Terri, (who was really warm from making popcorn in our hot little kitchen), hugged me and let me cry a little. It was after 1am again once I showered and went to bed.