[“Kilifi in Pictures” coming soon!]
I have been in Kilifi, Kenya now for over 3 weeks. I think some (word) snapshots are overdue…
Kilifi lies 3.6 degrees south of the equator on the north coast of Kenya. Despite what the U.S. and other governments would have you think, most of the coast here is very safe and very calm—even though it is majority Muslim (Sarcasm. Please catch the sarcasm.)—statistically much safer than Nairobi.
Sunrise and sunset both occur sometime around seven o’clock. I only seem to hear the call to prayer at four in the afternoon, though I know it happens five times a day. Most mornings at seven an outraged cacophony of clucking erupts from one of the bird pens; the dogs, too, rise to a frenzy at the taunting of crows.
The roots of mangroves along Kilifi Creek are as so many riddles, twisted mysteries temporarily revealed at low tide. The crabs seem at home there in their world of slick sideways and salt-cured dark.
The water is brine-y and calm. Everything about Kilifi, in fact, seems quieter than Diani. The dogs more mellow; the beach less windy; the locals who spend time there less aggressive. The Distant Relatives Ecolodge is a lush experiment in permaculture and sustainability. Sawdust composting toilets and resident chickens immediately show that this is not your typical backpackers.
The fingers of my right hand sport small gashes from my daily work on a recycled glass mosaic on the outdoor pizza oven. Tired of smashing glass and working with cement, I will switch to painting an indoor mural tomorrow.
Pineapple juice drips down my arms as I lounge on Musafir’s (a traditional Arabic/Swahili ship) unfinished deck. A volunteer sings in Italian as he empties buckets of water overboard—a twice-weekly task, as cotton fills the gaps between boards. We are far enough from shore that no flies would dream of making the journey out. The tide rises, approaching the roots of the first mangrove trees on shore.
I come to the beach often to write, resting in the welcoming arms of one of the trees. Kilifi inspires peace and creativity, movement and poetry… that, I believe, is plenty.
(I promised lots of pictures this time…)
|Watermelon flower. I think I am a little bit in love with these plants.|
It’s official, there is nothing invisible about my garden now. Two strapping zucchini vines are nearly two feet tall, competing with the flowers I didn’t know were already planted there. Tomatoes have turned from green to orange. Red is just around the corner. The turnips that I don’t want to eat and will probably give away are pushing round white haunches out of the earth. Even the watermelon vine (Yes, watermelon in Vermont!) displays one tiny fruit the size of my pinky nail, and several flowers. The haricots vert, too, are in bloom, with the scrawny beginnings of green beans dangling beneath.
|Teeny tiny baby watermelon!|
Soon we will be enjoying fiori di zuccha (zucchini flowers), stuffed with cheese and fried, fresh tomatoes and basil warm from the sun, and… something with turnips. (Maybe I will grow to love turnips.) Here they are, round two of garden photographs:
|Purple basil flowers. I hear you are supposed to clip them, but they’re too beautiful!|
|Oh turnips, what will I do with you?|
|The haricots vert survived the rabbits, hedgehogs and foxes!|
Yesterday, my friends invited me to an outdoor concert at Lincoln Peak Vineyard (about 3 miles north of Middlebury, VT). After a busy day at work, this seemed like the perfect way to spend my evening.
Sunlight dripped like honey into the Adirondacks on the horizon, and its warmth melted away the constant action of the past few days of work. Vibrations lifted from violin strings. Blades of grass sprouted between my toes while Bluegrass music washed over my nose. For the first time in some days, I felt totally at peace. (I’m realizing that I need to step back from work, ‘other work’ and other ‘other work’ far more often.)
Due to my new-found engagement with social media, I snapped photos of my friends, lively grape vines, and, of course, our new picnic innovation and the subject of this post…
Naturally, Lincoln Peak Vineyard offers glasses of wine for sale during their outdoor summer concerts. Now, my parents, and probably many others, own special wine stakes meant to hold your wineglass in place while you use your hands for other things, like eating your beautiful picnic food. These stakes are somewhat unruly, however, and regardless, I don’t have any.
Feet, I discovered yesterday evening, are equally, if not more, effective, and you never run the risk of leaving them at home! How had it taken me so long to stumble upon such a simple solution? In no time, all four of us were holding our glasses up with our toes while we feasted on tomato basil and feta salad, millet bread muffins, chicken, cherries, and chocolate.
I suggested that this idea could revolutionize picnics, and I was only sort of kidding. Rise up with me against the tyranny of wineglasses over our picnic fun! Join my picnic revolution and take back your two-handed freedom! But seriously, give this a try and you may never picnic the same way again!
Nine days now have passed since I planted what remained of these plots. (The owner had already planted beans and peas, chives and thyme some weeks prior.) I contributed squash and zucchini, cucumbers and collard greens, turnips, parsley and arugula. Nine days later and I begin to lose patience. Where are they?
The herbs and tomatoes I bought as starters stand strong in their pots by the driveway. Turnip shoots emerge from the earth in droves; the zucchini begin to display a few shy leaves; and the rest… the rest remain hidden, continuing along a mysterious, underground journey that I can only guess at. Well, thanks to high school Biology I can do more than guess, but even so, where are all the rest? I ask, exasperated. I don’t even like turnips!
Calm down, I remind myself. Breath. In and out. These are seeds, not magic beans, and they don’t in fact grow overnight. When I ‘woofed’ (worked on an organic farm) in Sicily, I arrived in June, at the start of a lengthy harvest season. Zucchini already a foot long and figs falling off the trees. There was no waiting; I enjoyed an instant gratification of food production matched only by… supermarkets. And fairy tales.
But in the real world of dirt and seeds and seasons and cycles, there is a germination period: 4-12 days for cucumbers, 7-14 for squash. That’s a lot of days. Nine days in, and I have to remind myself to have patience; to quiet the pessimistic, doubtful voice in my head whispering, they’re never coming.
Where are those darn plants? They’re coming. Are we there yet? No, but we’re on our way.
Lest you think classes were absent from this trip, most mornings featured Tibetan language class, and many afternoons we heard lectures from our traveling entourage of teachers and scholars. Unfortunately, these happenings failed to make the final cut for this post.