The air is slightly humid and damp. The fan helps a little but not enough to make the night comfortable. I gingerly turn over on my side, trying to find a position on this thin mattress where I don’t feel like I might fall through the thin boards and down onto the bottom bunk. This bed easily wins the award for the most uncomfortable bed I’ve ever slept in.
I look over and in the giant king size bed next to our bunk beds the proprietor of the hostel, Leslie is cuddle up on the bed with another woman. Okay. This is weird.
Next morning, Kenta tells me about the entire transgression between Leslie and her friend before they got into bed. They waked Kenta up while I remained asleep somehow.
There are few hostels to choose from, especially hostels for grown ups and not a party hostels for the 20-somethings. This is supposed to be a decent place, except the owner is a junky and the house is full of her friends. The bathroom is filthy. There is no hot water, the mattress thin and awful. There is zero ounce of privacy in the dorm as Leslie’s bedroom is at the other end and one must walk through to get to it. This is not a party hostel for the travelers. This is a party house for the owner and her friends. There is something extremely awkward about being there. You feel like you are an unwanted houseguest and your presence an intrusion.
There are three of us traveling together, Kenta, Bridget and I. Meg, an unfortunate soul who also selected this hostel and is in our dorm. The four of us all wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.
In a lighting bolt moment, I logged onto AirBnB to see if there are any good options for us. HOLY SHIT. Is this for real? We could rent a villa that is a 10-minute walk from the beach for $89 per night. The villa sleeps up to 10 people in 5 bedrooms? It also comes with a household staff?! Okay. Yeah. Lets do this.
The house is lovely. Four large bedrooms and a fifth smaller one. Each room has a massive four poster bed, billowy white mosquito nets and a solid mattress. There is a pool, a grill and a couple lovely shaded verandas to sit, read, write, nap in. It’s hard to believe we can have all of this for $89 a night.
Just like that, the four of us moved from the hell hole hostel in Mombasa to the heavenly villa in Diani Beach.
Mbithi is the general property manager, Jacqueline the housekeeper. Erik the German owner only comes down during the holiday season. There isn’t much to do around the house for either Mbithi or Jacqueline. Our needs were modest as all of us are used to traveling as self-sufficient travelers, we never troubled either of them for much. Yet in their solicitousness, it is hard to not feel like we are playing a made believe game of “colonialists.”
Maybe this is more of an effect of being children of middle class than anything else. But the context of where we are, the extreme comfort and luxury surrounding us, made the analogy hard to escape.
One night, confronted with a minor cooking problem, Meg straps on a headlamp, grabs a kitchen knife and head into the garden. She came back with a banana leaf in hand for our king fish roast. The image of Meg with a headlamp, kitchen knife marching into the dark garden is forever itched in my memory and is one of my favorite moments from my two months in Africa. It is the little things I cherish.
Meg and I fell in love with Mbithi and Jacqueline. Good souls; generous people. It’s funny how quickly we get attached to people. Funny how in our nomadic wanderings, roots starts to grow as soon as we have a shelf to hold our things and a bed we are comfortable enough to have a lie in.