The trip last Saturday, if you count the hours, only took 8, but the prep to get to the airport took half of that. Because it’s an early flight, you don’t expect me to have a proper meal at any of the stops. The planes don’t offer meals for an hour trip each way. So when I arrived in Nairobi, I am hungry. I realized I didn’t eat the night before – now thinking about why I have no answer.
But I arrived very early, so having breakfast at 6.30 in the morning seated in the domestic departure area was out of the question. Don’t get me wrong, there are coffee places, but that is way too early for me even to drink coffee. So, I promised myself that when I arrive at #DianiBeach and settle in the #QueensChateau, I will only eat seafood – fish, crabs, lobster, shrimps, and squid. The meat will not be until I return to Kampala in a couple of weeks.
I joined my colleague slash friend in Mombasa. They’ve been here for a couple of weeks, and they know their way around. They found the house a block away from the beach, so it’s not very far to get your feet on the sand anytime.
When I arrived, they suggested we have lunch at the beach. You don’t have to ask me twice, I obliged, and she didn’t disappoint. She brought me to #bidibadu restaurant along the beach and ordered my first meal of grilled fish with chips.
You be the judge how good it was
Before… I can’t help myself and wait for the others
After… Eaten in less than 30 minutes
I washed it down with my first coconut water
Overall it was a good afternoon on the beach.
It was delightful.
We went to dine at #Lantana resort. The place is very nice and well organized. The architecture mimics that of the middle astern building I am familiar with. After all, Mombasa has a significant Arab influence, so I guess that why Lantana has that feel to it everywhere, you look.
We ordered a seafood platter for three people, and it didn’t disappoint. We enjoyed every bit of it.
Finger licking good… Lobster, calamari, fish fillet, and shrimps
Stomaches filled. A brief walk to our castles, the queens are now ready for a night cup and sleep.
I took the plunge; I traveled out of Uganda to finally take my leave and have fun in Kenya!
Funny how talking to someone dear to me changed my mind about traveling. Well, he didn’t exactly change my mind about it but convinced me enough to re-think about joining my friends in Mombasa. Which, by the way, I should have done two weeks before, but I didn’t.
So here I am, in our castle #QueensChateau along Galu Beach.
But what brought me here was not without a hitch, which almost made me want to turn back, if I am that superstitious, which I am not.
Uganda still has a curfew at 9 PM. To make the trip to the airport after that time, I decided to go the official way, hire our organization go to taxi services. Good, I did that because to reach the airport, I was stopped five times – yes! 5 times!
The first checkpoint was not far from #TheSummit, and it was the one that asked many questions before we were let go. The rest is mere routine, but still best to be driven by someone allowed to be on the road after curfew.
Because of the curfew too that I almost had an accident pfffttt! 🙄
As we moved from our second check-point, getting out to the #LugogoBypass, turning to the right, one car was speeding in our direction — good thing my driver was alert and managed to avoid a head-on collision and the vehicle swerved but didn’t slow their speed. I suspected that those party-goers (it being a Friday) were intoxicated and were avoiding a check-point.
The sudden bright light in front of us woke me up while the driver slammed the breaks. When they passed us, they were still laughing as if nothing happened. I was shaken a bit after not being out at night for over ten months, and I was not expecting it.
I will only be away for a couple of weeks, but I felt like I am not coming back for a month — I have 19 kilos of luggage and a back-pack. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I just want to make sure I have everything I need since it is my first time in Mombasa.
It’s an early morning flight. I was expecting the airport will be quiet or at least not swarming with people – I was wrong. There are long queues, big suitcases. Four flights are flying at the same time as me, so you know what I mean.
The organization at the airport was right – I’ve sent off people, so I know that they were following SOP. All my documents were in order
negative covid-19 test – ✔
within the time limit – ✔,
passport with a valid visa – ✔,
and when I reached my airline counter, additional documents were validated —
registration and passenger are tracing QR code available – ✔✔ again!
One thing that irritates me, though, is that people, despite plenty of reminders around the airport to keep distance and stickers on the floor where to stand when lining up — they come to close and breathe over my neck (not literally because they have their masks on tho). I kept looking back and giving them the eye, and if it doesn’t work, I asked them to move! Snobbish right? Well, I am still a bit paranoid, traveling, or being in crowded places, knowing that I am the only one following the rules.
It was a precedent to my karma that morning — it’s already Saturday when I checked in! When it was my turn, I put my heavy bag to be checked using my non-dominant arm and twisted my wrist – bummer! I knew I sprained my wrist and without ice, it will hurt and slow me down. The pain was immediate, and I had no access to ice; I asked the cafeteria, but they don’t have any, even the water was not cold enough to offer relief.
My flights are short, and I know that by noon I will be in Mombasa, and I can buy something to get it set until it recovers. Good thing I carried my hot/cold pack, which I can use until it heals completely.
I’m not superstitious, but I do believe in karma — it just keeps happening to me to ignore.
I tried to make less movement as I could, but I made the mistake of putting my backpack overhead. When I took it out in Nairobi, the pain increased, and I regretted my lack of anticipation. The next flight was much better.
Off to the castle
#QueensChateau is waiting for me. It took an hour and a half and one free ride to get to Diani.
Arriving very early in Nairobi, I didn’t have a chance to go to a pharmacy to get a bandage and cold spray, so the first order of business to my driver in Mombasa is to the bank and pharmacy and get this wrist strain controlled.
The first half of the trip, the amount of complaint I had with the heat will make you think I don’t live in a tropical country. Only when we turned to Ukunda that I started to feel I am on the coast. The breeze turned fresh and cool, with very low humidity even during the middle of the day.
When I arrived at our lodging for the first week of my holiday, I was happy to be home!
Do you have a name for someone who likes sunrise, sunset, the moon, and cloud formation all the time? I gush every morning when I wake up and see the sun rising from the horizon. I like staying in my bed and watch the sun permeats my curtain and brighten the room, edging me to …
I am cleaning up my cloud when I started seeing photos from the different places I’ve been during the holiday season. Seeing the faces and the smiles of the people I have been celebrating Christmas away from our own families.
Four years ago this week in Palestine 🇵🇸
These are the people I go to church in Gaza every Saturday afternoon. The church is in the old town not far from a mosque and a Coptic church.
It was taken at the priest’s house slash office within the compound. Where we usually gather for simple meals after mass. Apart from the religious, there are three other Filipino, one Ugandan, and two Palestinian with me in the photo.
We all look forward to this mass every Saturday. As you know, Palestinians are Muslims, so having this mass, being part of the minority religion gives the service more meaning as it usually is back home. During the English Mass, we’ll be lucky to have ten people in the church, but the Arabic mass in the morning would have a little over fifty, according to some parishioners that join both services. There are only a small number of Roman Catholics living in Gaza. The majority are Muslims and the Greek Orthodox. I don’t think there are Jewish in there for obvious reason.
Like all in Jerusalem and other cities in Palestine, you will have all religions sharing the space – Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic, and Jews.
As it is with Filipino culture, food brings people together. So the house of HI always brings lasagna that we put on the table and shared with our small group.
The compound also has the orphanage and catholic school in the strip run by the Missionary of Charity. Children with special needs and disabilities are housed in the orphanage. In my personal capacity, while there, I tried to help out a bit and meet the physiotherapists that help the kids daily.
I like to add a disclaimer that my organization, Humanity, and Inclusion (HI), has no religious affiliation. My religious participation in any place I’ve been in my personal belief and tradition.
One year ago this week in Entebbe, Uganda
Last year before heading home to the Philippines, I chanced upon the skinniest Santa Clause, Mickey Mouse, and Winnie the Pooh in Entebbe.
I don’t know how kids around the world would react to see that their favorite Christmas guy and some of their bedtime buddies had lost so much weight when they moved to Uganda 😅
We’re so used to see them or draw them plump, larger than life character that young and older people love but not this lot, and my colleague cannot miss the opportunity. I won’t show my photo with me in it because it looks like I ate all the cookies and didn’t share 😂😂
We know that many children under five all around the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, suffered from malnutrition. Seeing these characters, in their skinny form, doesn’t help lift the image to fun and bounty at this time of the year. It takes away the joy of knowing the situation around the world, and something must be done, PRONTO!
Two years ago this week in Arua, Uganda
I am barely a month in Uganda when this photo was taken in front of the house I stayed in for the first three months. I’m with Gladys out mental health technical advisor, and Topista, our house manager, best dressed than the two of us combined.
In the photo, we are getting ready to go to the annual Christmas celebration of the West Nile team. The best team, I think, before they got disbanded, and new people joined in.
The party went on and on, and I discovered the wonder of Ugandan dance and dancers. Staff can twerk, shake their booty, and dance up to the wee hours if you let them. It was a good experience to have as a new member of the team. Unfortunately, this year, no party was happening because of the government’s SOP on the pandemic. Let’s try in 2021.
All these photos are leading to the day Jesus was born.
It’s good to look back at the memories of when I was away from home during the season. The celebration of Christmas is always ideal when shared with the family, but it was not always the case. We are lucky to have good friends to share it by making the distance feels not so far and the celebration is as good as it gets.
In all my travels and time spent living overseas, I can count in one hand the number of times I didn’t spend Christmas at home. I always make it a point to be home in time for the big day because I can. It was one perk I bragged to friends when we compared notes and the benefits of our work.
Last years homecoming … embracing all that is shiny and bright
I started my sojourn around Asia, then I moved further, but I always get to go home for one of the most festive seasons we have back in the Philippines. Why would you miss the holidays that literally starts when the “ber” months start. Songs and food begin to permeate your daily life, and some even begin to deck the halls and go full blast after the “Halloween” decorations are down.
When I first joined the Uganda team in 2018, I knew I would spend my Christmas in the country, arriving only four weeks before there’s no way my organization will send me back home, and my salary won’t allow me yet to travel that far and that long.
Instead, I talked to my friend and asked if I can spend time with his young family. Sil was my flatmate for a year when I was in Palestine, and he’s Ugandan. When he learned I am coming here; he introduced me to his family. The family I only knew from pictures back then are now my neighbors. My first visitor when I arrived was his wife Martha and the last born Michael – the little man was born the same time as my dad, so he’s a kindred soul. So we sealed the deal, and Martha was so gracious to accommodate me.
Martha and Michael welcomed me on my second day of arrival in Kampala
The celebration here is never comparable to the one we have back home. There no deck the halls nor blasting Christmas music everywhere. But what I experienced was a toned-down celebration, preparation of self for the arrival of Jesus Christ. I cherished the two weeks I was with the boys — since I was in their room, we got to hang out. I’ve grown attached to them that I allowed them to call me “auntie Josephine” while I refused others to call me that, let alone auntie 😁
Back then they are two … now they are three
But the best Christmas experience I had away from home was in 2016 when I had the profound experience of following Christ’s birth to where he was born – in Bethlehem. Oh yeah! It was surreal to think that I was in the place where it all happened, like being transported by Gizmo in Superbook.
Although I’ve been in Israel for a while before Christmas and visited the holy sites many times, when I was there during the season, I can’t help but feel to be the luckiest person alive. I was not a tourist; I was a pilgrim. I immerse myself in the whole experience, the entire nativity, according to the bible, to how we were taught in school. It was the best celebration ever!
Day parade … with friend Vincent at the Bethlehem grounds
Night festivities … lights, people, food, and music
Now, for a covid-19 reason, I am not going home. The pandemic had dampened my desire to be home, even though I missed my dad and my family. My sister and I – who’s in Rome, agreed that we would not risk ours and dad’s health by spending Christmas back home. He understood because he has quarantined himself too, only allowed to be in his garden.
Back home, people are still attending “simbang gabi,” a novena, nine days before Jesus Christ is born and social distancing they tried so hard.
There will be “puto bumbong” – Christmas dessert made of steamed rice, colored in purple, coated in muscovado and coconut shaving, at the church gates. A must-try if ever you find yourself in my country during the Christmas holiday season. There’s also the steamed rice cake “bibingka” topped with salted eggs, cheese, and more coconut shavings. Two of the many Christmas food I crave when home.
Despite the distance, our family is never far from us and the images of the season are always fresh in my head.
Our last family new year photo in yellow theme
I learned a long time ago that I would need to make sacrifices, one of which is being away from people I love. Thanks to digital technology, we feel closer to each other. Though it is different, it’s the best we have, especially now that a virus cripples the world. Nobody knows where it’s from and when it will go away.
Here now, I am trying to channel the holiday spirit and feel a little festive. Although if you see around me, my house included, it’s hard to tell if it is indeed Christmas season. I celebrate the friends I have and the reason I am here.
Back then and now, Kampala never gave that festive vibe, You can feel it in malls, but that’s all you can get. I haven’t been to church for a long time, and I have not heard live choirs and seen happy faces in places of worship. Regardless of where I spend the holidays, the spirit will always be there.
Saying that I am still in that “should I stay or should I go” indecisiveness. Although since yesterday, sixty percent of the people I talked to encouraged me to visit Kenya, others tell me to go to Zanzibar – which I missed last time I am in Tanzania. As I said, I still have the weekend to think things through, and before you know it, I might be sipping coconut juice out of its natural container somewhere in the region.
What is important is that we never forget the reason for the season – the birth of Jesus Christ, and all that follows are the fruit of him being born into this world.