The week of March 8th was an array of emotions. I felt joy and excitement the first two days, comfort on the third, devastation on the fourth, and bliss the following three.
The week started with my new internship (check Week 9’s post). That Wednesday, the director of study abroad programs at AU was in Nairobi to speak with us. Amongst our cohort, many of us were a bit anxious at the thought of having to go home early. Over a tasty Italian buffet, the director assured us that we had nothing to worry about and we were likely safer in Kenya than in the US. This came as a relief to us all.
Within 12 hours, the situation drastically changed. The WHO had declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, President Trump was limiting travel between the US and Europe, and all AU Abroad programs would be cancelled effective immediately.
After another in person meeting with the study abroad programs director and lots of pushback from my peers about staying in Kenya, my roommates and I began the hunt for return flights. It was at that moment when one of my friends, Kenna, suggested an impromptu trip to Mombasa.
Now, I was supposed to go to Mombasa with Kenna and my roommate Janelle to celebrate Janelle’s birthday at the end of March. We had booked a GORGEOUS Airbnb, and were very excited to be near a beach. We decided to push that trip up, changing our accommodations and booking flights to the Kenyan coast. We refused to leave Kenya without going to Mombasa.
Within less than 18 hours of planning this abrupt vacation, we found ourselves at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. After a painfully long wait in the airport, we boarded a rinky dink small airplane and we were off to the coast.
Arriving relatively late to Mombasa, we decided to spend the remaining daylight at the beach, followed by dinner at a nearby resort. I had my last serving of nyama choma and ugali, and our night ended there.
On the second day of our weekend getaway, we had brunch at a nearby French restaurant before heading to Old Town Mombasa. I absolutely loved the vibe, the blue and white color scheme of the homes, the Arab influences, and the ubiquitous tuk tuks. We decided to see Fort Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built by the Portuguese to protect the Old Port of Mombasa. The remainder of our trip was spent lounging on the beach like tourists.
Upon returning to Nairobi, I had three more days to enjoy the city before embarking on a 20 hour journey back to the US. Given that we would not be able to participate in the Safari excursion booked by our program, we headed over to Nairobi National Park for our own rendition that Monday.
The following day was spent souvenir shopping. I decided to take a solo trip to Kariokor Market where I liberally spent my last remaining Kenyan shillings on gifts for family and friends. The minute I stepped out of my Uber, I was greeted by a shop-owner who guided me through the market encouraging that I buy just about everything. After a few deliberations about what I really needed and some negotiations, I ended up spending all the money left in my wallet. Oops.
That Wednesday was my last day in Nairobi, as my flight was that evening. I decided to take one last visit to my internship and the spend the day with the staff (pictures are also in the Week 9 post). In a few hours I’d be on a plane back to what is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seems like the final sixteen actually ended up being the final ten.