After a 9-hour trip on paved roads, including a rather spectacular lunch, we have arrived at a beautiful guest house in Maua. It is seemingly tucked away on a back street, although, probably, many of the streets in Maua will probably seem like back streets to my unaccustomed eye.
I am unable to get the wi-fi working so far, so I’ll have to write drafts of a post on my tablet locally and post when I can. If not early tomorrow morning, then when I get back to Nairobi.
Along the trip, we stopped at a “curio shop”, which is a place to buy souvenirs (and they can be shipped, so, go ahead, get that 4-foot-tall 400-pound piece of teak carved into the shape of a gorilla). What’s interesting about this particular curio shop is that it is a COMMUNITY shop, meaning its revenue is split among of the members of the local community, who produce the curios out of local materials (teak, soapstone, metal [probably not locally mined and smelted, to be precise], fabric. One thing I was impressed with was they told me straight up that the black wood was not ebony, but in fact, dyed teak. I’m not sure if “teak” is their word for “hardwood” or not.
I am finding Maua a challenge to pronounce. I found out today its meaning is “Many Flowers”, from the Swahili “ua”, meaning “flower”, and “ma”, meaning “many. The “ua” is pronounced “OOH-ah”, so the whole thing is “Ma-OOH-ah”.
Swahili I have learned so far:
* asante — thank you
* karibu — [you’re] welcome
* jambo — hello (I wonder if that’s related to the word “jamboree”, which is a Boy Scout gathering)
* sa sa — kind of a stylish, casual “how’s it going?” greeting used among young people.
The towns along the way are really striking. The main road (paved) goes through and side roads (dirt) branch off. There is no sidewalk, but a wide expanse of dirt between the main road and the storefronts, set back from the road 30-50 feet. There are large numbers of people standing around and walking in various directions. The shops themselves are tiny, maybe each about 12-15 feet across. They do everything, from sell sunglasses and cell phones to tailoring and welding. There are lots of bars, restaurants and guest houses. It’s a combination of downtown city, with stores for everyone and everyone visiting them, and wild west frontier town, with a main street running down a wide expanse of dirt, across which storefronts face each other.
The road is a major highway, but vans like ours (carrying passengers or maybe tourists) are restricted to 50 kph. There are speed bumps in the towns to slow everybody down, and there are police stops (slowdowns, really) on the highway between towns. On some sections, the police are prepared to stop you and give you a speeding ticket on the basis of a speeding camera that used radar to measure your speed and snap your license plate, elsewhere on the road.