I sincerely believe being raised in the coastal city of Mombasa should be classified as an extreme sport. It is as amazing as it is dangerous because one minute you’re strolling happily along the beach the next you’re running for your life from machete-wielding youth, all in a day’s work. Now I’m a stern believer in the ancient ways of some ass-whooping to naughty children because honestly sometimes reason tends to skip the meetings and all that is left is your fists and the slipper on your foot, classic case of when life gives you lemons.
A regular morning would start with a mild jog to the shores for a little game of beach soccer. A trip to the shores mostly on a Saturday morning would earn you a chance to meet around three Ronaldos, two Messis and maybe a Roberto Carlos shortened to “Carlos” somewhere, all local of course. Everyone in town has some roots in the beautiful game. Laziness would creep in after the morning swim and the renowned players would find themselves at the stage waiting for the next driver or tout they know and hitch a free ride home, yes a free ride.
Mama Khadija would already have set up her niceties at the stage, God bless that woman’s soul. That woman could cook. We used to say her cuisine possessed the one ingredient others don’t, a mother’s love and that set her above all the others but I think what also set her apart was the fact that she had Khadija; everyone would try and hit on her. I still remember her eyes; they had this thing where they’d make you want to look at them forever only to find her mother’s “stay away from my daughter” look that would immediately warrant a silent exit. Live to fight another day would come to be the motto.
Meanwhile, Sule would emerge screaming and panting as he is being chased down the street by his mother, who immediately entrusts us the responsibility of capturing and returning her son for some disciplining. We would take off in pursuit only to return empty-handed revealing to Mama Sule how her son is a speed demon. Sule would return when the storm had calmed and would receive a mouthing, one that the entire street would be audience to.
Weddings were and still are my favorite. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe happily ever after doesn’t exist and just like everyone apart from the bride and groom’s parents maybe, I am there to taste the mastery of the chefs and boy do they never disappoint. Food wouldn’t be complete without the complimentary “mnazi” to give the folks a confidence boost in preparation for the dance floor. The dance floor is madness. Women dressed in “deras” would swarm the dance floor and showcase their timeless gift of moving their behinds in sync with the live band’s music, always a spectacle. The men would then take this as their cue to enter the dance floor and secure a dance partner, with people’s wives being a no-go zone. At least that is how it was in public.
Of all the experiences, I have come to the conclusion that people from Mombasa are one of the nicest people you’d meet around. They may have their flaws but deep down they just want the other person to have a nicer day, a nicer life because that is what it all comes down to, taking an entire village to raise a kid.