Welcome Home. Shela, Lamu Island

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We arrive to Jaha House, our home for the week, in Shela. Greeted with fresh juice as gentleman carry in our bags. To the right of the entry way is our pool, much-needed and often used to cool off in the 90 degree heat. Let’s do that. Get in the pool and enjoyed a couple of bottles of white wine to settle in.  There are small shelves/windows with the intention of storing treasures from your journey. These shelves are filled with sea shells. The house is completely open. Some windows with no covering. This is strategic in design to catch the wind and keep certain areas cool throughout the house.  Dinner is served, a wonderful welcoming meal somewhat familiar served around coconut rice, similar to a meal I prepare at home with shrimp, mango, papaya, garlic and ginger…kitamu (tasty)! Our meal tonight included fresh grilled tuna, a tomato based ratatouille, carrot salad, mango and roasted pumpkin. Absolutely wonderful. After dinner we head to one of the few places that serves alcohol on this side of the island, Peponi (paradise).  A full bar though. We get introduced to some of the locals, we spend time with throughout the week. Everyone is extremely welcoming.

We wake in the mornings to eggs prepared how we individually request them, toast and the most delicious butter spread, tea and a fruit plate usually including mango, papaya, banana and passion fruit. And always a freshly squeezed juice to drink. Our chef for the week, Evance, did a tremendous job.

Take in several sunset sails. One evening we were preparing to head to the dhow and a gentleman approaches our home selling oysters. At $6 for a dozen, I oblige. He breaks the shell in front of the house and our chefs prepare a plate of salt, lime and tabasco. An additional treat on the dhow in addition to samosas and wine.

Enjoyed shopping at Ali Lamu. An artist collective that formed in 2008 around making art out of old dhow sails. Items range from bags to pillows, wall art, notebooks and more. Local women contribute with the sewing and local fisherman paint on this canvas. The sale of these goods provides supplemental income for the fisherman during the low tourist season.

On a days adventure alone, I talk with locals at Peponi talking about the days catch and another one talking about the institution of marriage. Then I sit  to read The Alchemist and enjoy a cocoa dusted cappuccino served at Peponi. I take in a swim in the ocean. When I am laying out to dry off a family of vacationers from Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, make conversation with me. They comment on my red, curly hair. One of the teenage daughter’s asked to take a photo with me. I’m in for a couple of photos and have a Facebook friend request awaiting me on my return home. I had been asking around to find anyone who may make beer at home. I didn’t find beer but I did have someone take me on a hike into the dunes to try palm wine. Fermented sap from palm trees. I was served in a traditional pint glass. The locals were served in reused jelly jars with a wooden straw with a tiny wrapped filter on the bottom to keep from getting sediment. We visit a local in his home on our return back to Shela. The center of his home is a tree, the walls made of palm leaves. The center tree seems to be housing all of the home owners most prized possessions. The view from his home is spectacular. I finish my day alone by sitting on the top of Jaha house at a beautiful desk overlooking through palm trees, the dhows sailing during sunset. And the sound of the call to prayer sounds beautiful and historic.  When the girls get back, there is a beach party to attend.

Lamu is a magical place. I never would have imagined a beach vacation as something I desired. I am a pretty fast-paced person. The people of Lamu are incredibly open-hearted and welcoming. On my second visit I was greeted with, “Welcome home.” From what I hear, when anyone visits this place, we leave a little bit of ourselves behind. To be revisited again and again. This is a very happy place and you’d be surprised at how fast the day fills itself with local activities: dhow trips, fresh seafood, wedding celebrations, birthdays, backgammon or simply reading under happy tree.


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