The streets of Nairobi and the streets of Lamu are as different as can be and yet on that Sunday mid morning, I found a likeness in the two.
On our second day in Lamu, Gathoni, my travel companion for the weekend, and I received guests at our suite. I say guests loosely because one of them was Swahiligal, our host at Shela. Swahiligal, she’s avert to the public use of her name on the internet, came to say hi. She was in the company of a cousin, the cutest baby, Jamila of Life In Mombasa and Aisha. She also brought some fried potatoes with her.
Fried potatoes. But not your regular fried potatoes.
Circular in shape, working the thin line between thin and thick-enough better than I am right now. Adequately seasoned and accompanied by the best chilli sauce ever, this bag of fried potatoes is the closest cafe potatoes can come to homemade. I would know, I’m the resident potato connoisseur in my house. I also live alone but that’s just details.
I got a plate and dumped the potatoes on it, moved it to the edges of the pool so even the guys that were having a swim could have a taste. The Betty Suite at The Moonhouses has a private pool.
Soon, no one was swimming, they were standing at the edge of the pool devouring these gorgeous potatoes. We told bad jokes as an accompaniment and soon the potatoes were gone.
We wanted more.
Swahiligal made a call. We were getting more potatoes.
The catch with these potatoes is that they are made on order, which is great because reheated fried potatoes can be a little bleugh. The downside is that I am anything but patient.
I had a pair of shorts over my swimsuit, a sure way to put the sexy in Speedo but Shela felt to me like it called for a bit more…. modesty. So I threw on a dera and asked Swahiligal for directions to the cafe. I was going to pick up them fried potatoes! We were going to have potato party no. 2! I was ready.
This particular Moonhouse is located right at the seafront. There’s this poetic view of the sea from the pool and if you open the doors while you are in the bathtub, then you have a view of both the pool and the ocean. It doesn’t take your breath away, at least it didn’t take mine away but I remember the first time I saw that view. I stood for a moment, silent. Then I turned to Gathoni and asked, ‘What did we do to deserve this?’ I have never seen anything like it. I want to say it’s beautiful, but you have witnessed beauty and this wasn’t your regular encounter with beauty. It was a confrontation. It was… a feeling?
Downstairs, just outside The Moonhouse is a tiny stretch with shops. It’s separated from the ocean by a few metres of the whitest sand you ever saw. There’s a couple of Maasais selling souvenirs, the kind you’d find at Maasai Market but the prices are not Maasai Market prices (with good reason). On this stretch with shops is a gallery with the most beautiful leather goods, a few offices and the cafe with the good fried potatoes.
I got to the cafe, barefoot with my dera sweeping floors. While the lady at the counter was expecting us, the potatoes weren’t quite ready yet. She did not mind delivering to The Moonhouse and I didn’t mind a few minutes to go for a solitary (romantic) walk on the beach.
Walking out of the cafe, past the isolated Italian couple that were staring a little too hard, the plan was to walk along the beach. Collect shells, write my name on wet sand and come back and collect the fried potatoes and go back to the girls. Five minutes later, I found my barefoot self going into cleanest alley I have ever seen.
You are tiny, tiny thing in big bad world and if you went missing the world will still go on. That’s the feeling Nairobi gives me each time I look up past the inadequate greenery, to the skyscrapers and fragments of sky. Walking in that alley with a heap of my dera in my hand, I remember looking up to white walls, hanging bougainvillea, interrupting palms and endless sky and thinking, ‘The world is a pile of beauty, you should explore it.’ so explored I did.
It felt like I had been walking for a long time. I had taken four corners too many, maybe more; walked under a beautiful tree, past two donkeys chilling in the shade, on XOXO tiled streets, past another Italian couple and found myself outside a gallery. I was lost.
I was waiting for panic to creep in, for sweat to crowd me and yet nothing happened. I was sure I’d be fine. It’s impossible to get lost when you’re home; my soul found a home in Lamu.
The rest of me found a kikoi clad dude named Yusuf, he showed me to the jetty and I was soon home to the potatoes and a group of girls by the pool. I can’t speak much about his ambition but Yusuf is a smooth talker that I am sure to find should I conclude that a husband from Shela is all my heart desires.
***Cover image by Vincent, the rest were taken by yours truly on her phone so be nice guys.