Mombasa, Kenya – Uber Fucking Everywhere

 

Literally everyone: Are you doing anything fun before residency?

Me: Yeah yeah, heading back to East Africa for a global health elective. Six weeks in Mombasa on the coast of Kenya this time.

LE: Ahhhh, cool (very confused look).

End Scene.


It has been a touch over two weeks since I touched down in East Africa and I can only just now say that I’m comfortably settled in. The first few days lay clouded in a haze of jetlag, dust, fumes, and football. The human body is just not built for 30 hours of low oxygen air travel and MY human body, as we all know, is especially brittle. The adjustment from Seattle to Mombasa (and Africa in general) presents so many terrifying logistical and emotional challenges, especially if you’re relatively wussy like me. When you land in an African airport carrying your whole trip’s belongings the questions “am I safe?” “who is going to shank me?” and “seriously, how the F do I get to a safe place?” tend to dominate. I was told by my host Aender that there would be WiFi and that a simple Uber ride into the city would be both my cheapest and quickest option. Yes that Uber. Even in my travels to the third world, I can’t escape the gig-economy. Half the damn reason I go to places like these is to unplug from the ‘frictionless’ drive of big city life where you live in your devices and interact with other humans as a mere change of pace. I bet my god damn Amazon 2-day shipping still works here…smdh

Even in Africa (skrrt-skrrt…)

Frankly I had zero expectation for the Uber plan to actually work and indeed there was no WiFi to be found at the airport. I asked for help, but this is hardly more than a fun idea in a government run facility here. Eventually I decided to track down an ATM to get some cash and then I waded into the throng of taxi drivers. A mzungu (white person) at an airport is basically a gold mine. Fortunately my room is in the very central and well known Biashara building and I am juust good enough at pretending to not be terrified that I was able to negotiate down to a semi-reasonable rate. Thirty-some hours after departing Seattle I was on my way to my new home. (As a side note: I hate Uber… they’re run by a bunch of dickhead tech-bros.)

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The area immediately surrounding Biashara Building is perhaps exactly what I pictured Mombasa would look like. It might as well be a map on Call of Duty or in the background of a car chase scene in the movie Inception. Our penthouse is on the 8th floor and is what I would refer to as third-world-ballin. We have consistent electricity, AC, heated water, XBOX, and a killer view (see above), but also the occasional cockroach, and a ton of ants. Like if you leave ANYTHING out you will have an army of ants within the hour. Still, this is very much an improvement over our Uganda housing last year where electricity was a bit of a luxury and you had heated water, but only with bonus electric shocks.

Mombasa is actually an island. There are bridges to the West and North, and to the South is a terrifying ferry. The US State Department recommends against traveling on this ferry, but it is inevitable at some point. Plus does anyone actually still work at the State Department anymore? It’s unclear. To the immediate North lie the closest resorts and beaches as well as the closest shopping mall. Further North are more resort towns and awesome beaches. Aender happened to already have a weekend beach getaway planned for the day after I arrived, and never one to miss out on the fun I of course accepted an invitation #FOMO. So in the morning I made a token showing at the clinic for a quick orientation and then I immediately set off to meet Aender, Pedro, and their two friends Chris and Josh at Watamu Beach. And Jesus Christ let me tell you…

In Watamu we hit the beach, did some paddle boarding, went on a creek canoe ride, and had a crab-fest. I must admit that I had no idea how tropical it was going to be here. I knew I was headed to the coast, but the arid and oppressive Kampala loomed fresh in my mind. That and I had been fully expecting to travel to inland Ghana until that elective site folded and the global health elective team came up with this last minute site on the fly. With the residency match dominating my brain space (#thankgodnotbillings) there was hardly time to picture Mombasa. The coast, for its part, has not disappointed. Who knew my first paddle-boarding would be in the Indian Ocean??

My two Brazilian hosts Aender and his younger brother Pedro have been a delight. They were both very quick to welcome me and help me to settle in. Pedro knew roughly zero English before coming to visit his brother 6 months ago, but after daily lessons he can now tell you about the many ‘notions’ he holds about things. His older brother Aender similarly knew minimal English before moving here to work on a large railway project, but after 2 years of living in this English dominated country he is now basically fluent. Both brothers are extremely friendly and immensely helpful. I am particularly reliant on my local fixers when I travel and I simply don’t know what I would have done without them. So shout out to my brothers from Minas Gerais.

Pedro contemplating his many notions…

The vibe on Mombasa island is fascinating. The pace is coastal to be sure, but it is a small congested area with the second largest population in Kenya. Things feel a bit cramped and traffic is bad, but it’s nothing so bad as Kampala. ‘Matatu’ buses dominate the roads flanked by abundant three wheel ‘tuk-tuk’ taxis. The boda-boda motorbikes are rare, but more common in more rural settings and to connect matatu routes. Late at night though Uber is still the way to go with consistent late night availability and affordable rates ranging from 3-4 USD to get across the island. Plus you get AC and you don’t have to haggle for prices which gets old super fast when you have to bargain the same routes every single day. People are for the most part immensely friendly as is the standard for most of Africa. English is widespread especially for simple greetings and transactions, but a little Kiswahili goes a long way for negotiating and fitting in. The clinic staff is especially warm and ridiculously competent, most of them having worked on Dr. McClelland’s research team for around a decade. It’s technically a clinic for female sex workers and provides regular HIV and STI screening for women. Basically I do pelvic exams all day erryday which to be honest I did not miss one drop since completing my OB/GYN rotation. At least it’s good practice. Things are generally easy around here, until they’re not. There are tons of restaurants, banks, markets, and cafes nearby. There are weekly volleyball and football games with expats and I’ve already met quite a few awesome people through my Brazilian fixers. So basically I’m all settled in with everything I’d need. I’ve got a home base, a great clinic, and Uber fucking everywhere…

 

The rare borrowed camera in-focus shot :p – P.C. Chris Price

I can’t fuck with ops,

never stop,

pull up in that juice box,

uber fucking everywhere,

(skrrrt-skrrrt)

MadeinTYO – Uber Everywhere

One Reply to “Mombasa, Kenya – Uber Fucking Everywhere”

  1. I want to go to there! Didn’t you learn about ants on Archer? Love that pic of you!! Miss you and love this post!! R

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