Excuse me while I rant about my summer.
Well it is never too late right? So here it is my long awaited blog post about my summer travels of 2015 with my best friend, sister, cousin and now my travel buddy, Shareefah. Since I am doing one post rather than several I am going to summarize but try to stay specific!
So it all began May 24th, 2015! Bags packed and stuffed, itineraries printed, camera’s charged, money converted, and ready for our summer filled with new journeys and endless memories. As we head to the Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) in separate vehicles we make our final goodbyes, and last minute phone calls to family and friends. Meeting together with our families at the airport, which was a total of twelve just to send off two people (your typical African family) it all began to feel real! Apparently preparing for it a year ago was not real enough. Hugs, kisses, and prayers – “Take care of each other” said my father and we were off! Ready for what the next twelve weeks awaited us as we adventured through England, France, and Kenya.
Destination #1 – LONDON, ENGLAND
Six hours later of flying we have reached our first destination London Heathrow International Airport (LHR) with no sleep but excitement, conversation, excitement, airplane food (which was not bad contrary to popular belief), excitement – wait did I mention excitement? Lol we were too excited considering it was the first time we had traveled outside of Canada and the United States in five years. Let alone it being over ten years since either of us traveled to England, at this point excitement was an understatement.
Now with less than two weeks, a total of eleven days we were on a time crunch between visiting family and friends, exploring, and our time in Paris. We mainly stayed with my uncles family in Milton Keynes, approximately 72 km and 30 to 45 minutes (by train) away from Central London. While in England we explored Central London’s main tourist attractions from Big Ben to Buckingham Palace,Trafalgar Square to Oxford Street, Tower Bridge, Hyde Park, Islamic Center of London, O2,West-field Mall ( Torontonians, Yorkdale Mall is NOTHING compared to it no sarcasm) and Madame Tussaud.
My other uncle lives close to Central London so we stayed with him and his wife for a weekend. This is when we got the opportunity for the two of us to roam around the downtown area and site see.
As we explored we realized how grand London really is! The malls are unbelievably gigantic, we would have instantly gotten lost. Thank god we did not waste time going through them. Besides we were more interested in adventuring through the city rather than shopping. We are use to traveling through subways, buses, and trains at home so we were not worried but rather confident we would figure it out . ” We can never get lost, if we do we will find our way back and ask for help,” is what we kept saying. We had no idea what we were in for! Sure enough we got lost – which was bound to happen I mean the Tube map made my head spin just looking at it! NOTHING compared to Toronto’s system, TTC needs to step up their game ha ha ha, true story though.
You see what I mean? Is it even fair to compare the two? Anyways within 10 minutes of being on the first over ground train we realized we went on the wrong one, putting us behind schedule. Now that would not have been a problem if we were not on a time limit to get back home, rest, and ready for Paris the next morning. We figured it out and started touring the central part of London at night. Boy was it beautifully charming with an Old English feel, yet calm for a Friday night, LOVED it!
Destination #2 – PARIS, FRANCE
Yes, we woke up late but early enough to eat breakfast and make it to St.Pancras Intertnational train station on time to catch our 9:00 am Eurostar train to Paris. 2 hours later we are in France, isn’t that crazy? A totally different country where as in Canada your just in another city in that time frame. Upon arrival at Gare Du Nord international train station of Paris we made our way onto the subway to Bin Hakeim station, around the corner from the Eiffel Tower. Hop onto the Big Bus, hop on hop off tour and let our adventurous day begin. As for Europe let me just say Paris is truly BEAUTIFUL, and maybe I am simply saying this because I truly have not traveled much. The European architecture, cathedral designs, narrow roads, Parisian culture, glamorous stores, theatrical performances, were amazing, to say the least!
As the day proceeded we continued taking pictures, buying souvenirs, and visually enjoying sights of Paris. We were in no rush to eat but mid day we grabbed some veggie sandwiches from a food cart for €5 ($8) and a crêpe for €3 ($5) which I did not even end up eating ! No time for a fancy sit down meal. Besides everything was too expensive. We managed to snag drawings and pictures from markets, plus Eiffel tower key chains being sold by Sudanese guys which were literally at every corner. The minute you turn your head there is another two to five guys. I respected their hustle but damn it was flipping annoying – Shareefah ended up yelling at them in French ha ha ha LOVE her! Anyways they were going for 4 for €1 ($1.6), not bad right? What was funny was when one tried to sell you them for more than €1 or less key chains for the €1, I caught up to their game! I probably bought about 20 for family plus friends in London, Kenya and back home. Of course they were not enough, definitely wish I got more. We had a little over 12 hours to spend in Europe’s home of art culture and the world’s busiest city for tourist attraction, we wanted to waste no time.
As our exquisite day in Paris came to an end it turned unpleasant. We lost track of time (yes I know very stupid on our part), but we missed our bus back to London. It was at that moment where we began to panic due to the unknown then I remembered my dad’s words “take care of each other,” and was confident that we would be fine! Long story short, after hours of coming up with a plan B, C , even D and with the help of a few strangers (very generous people, God bless them) along with family in London and my bestie Mishele back in Canada (love them) we managed. Got to a Comfort Inn hotel 5 minutes away from the train station. We immediately booked a train ticket back which costed more than double what we paid to get there but, we did what he had to do ! So Paris as we describe it was ” The best and worst” without a doubt the memories made are worth remembering (the good ones at least)!
Our train for London was at 10 am and we woke up at 8 am without even showering we left the hotel by 8:30 am. Shortly after printing our tickets and checking out. With no cash and only a credit card we could not do any last minute shopping, or more importantly breakfast nor did we have the time really! As we walked our way to the train station which was about 5 to 10 minutes, hungry, tired and smelly . The excitement grew, we just wanted to pray in peace ( a lot because we could not be more thankful to God), shower, eat and sleep.
BACK IN LONDON we got some rest, spent time with family and got ready for our good byes. With two days left we got some last minute shopping (souvenirs), did another trip to Central and back to packing. WOOHOO, BYE BYE EUROPE HELLO AFRICA!
Destination #3 – MOMBASA, MALINDI, KILIFI, VIPINGO, TAITA HILLS – KENYA
I feel like because I was here for 10 weeks this needs its own post. I will do my best not to rant, sorry if I do 😔
After a discomforting thirteen hour flight caused by the tight seat space, lack of sleep and rude customer service from the flight attends with British Airways we were more than ready to get off! We arrived in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya (also the sketchiest) which is 482 km away, about an 8 hour drive (yes Kenyan “highways” suck, one way lanes are never convenient) and a 45 min plane ride to Mombasa. Due to us being young ladies traveling at night along with the confusing airport situation between arrivals and departure our aunt was extremely generous and flew in after a long day of working to pick us up (may God bless her) . We rushed to our connecting flight which was literally an hour away, plus the last one for the day – talk about pressure! Upon arriving to Mombasa it felt good to be home to the smell of tar , and the musky humid air – yes it felt good because we were home with our families after five years, Alhamdulillah ( all praise is due to God).
I stayed with my grandmother (mom’s mom) in the island of Mombasa. My dad’s family are all in the island of Malindi, 273km away and a 2 to 3 hour drive (again due to the horrible roads). So I was going back and forth frequently and the mini road trip did not seem as long.
English Point Marina, Mombasa
With the holy month of Ramadan beginning shortly we spent the days prior doing activities around the island from days at resorts to nights out in town. I joined my aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family for a weekend getaway at my uncles farm.
Once Ramadan started I made about three road trips to Malindi. Although, the month was very different being away from home I was still home! I was surrounded with my fathers older brothers and sisters, my cousins, and my nieces and nephews. Even though they were family a few were like strangers as it was my first time meeting some and seeing others after fourteen years as I did not meet them my last trip in 2010. Being with my father’s family was always a little more fun 🙈🙈 They are just so funny, humorous , and sarcastic, I love it! Also ten times bigger than my moms, I love them just as much. I mean my grandmother is 90 something with all her senses, and understanding (God bless) but forever cracking jokes, love and miss her terribly.❤️
Now back to my summer. During Ramadan Shareefah and I saw each other less (we stayed at different places) because we were with our families (which are huge, Alhamdulillah). I got to spend time alternating between spending Iftar (meal after breaking fast at sun down) and weekend sleepovers with all my uncles, aunts and their families. Now this was an accomplishment and I say this with no exaggeration but I have a HUGE family, Mashallah (God has willed it) with over 100 people (my African, Middle Eastern, and European understand this) simply on my dad’s side, I was happy to have spent it with each and every one of them.
Eid came and boy did we miss our crew back home in Canada. I spent it in Malindi which was nice to see the whole family, including some of my cousins from Dubai as they flew in for the holidays. Shareefah was back in Mombasa with our mothers (side note: our moms are first cousins; my moms mom and Shareefah’s moms dad are siblings) family and her fathers as well. In Kenya, Eid is celebrated for a whole week and made fun for children with continuous festivities, visiting family and the elderly, all while being showered with yummy food, sweets, gifts, money and new clothes.
The next day we reunited in Vipingo for a cottage weekend getaway with family friends for a birthday celebration. It was nice to finally be with more ladies our age, who were a bunch of extremely kind souls. Since both our families are mainly filled with boys, young teens and children! Once we met a new group of friends , became close and constantly making plans we found ourselves short of days as they went by extremely fast.
We now had three weeks left and did the days go by! From sleep overs to cottages, a road trip to a safari lodge, more nights out and endless weddings. A trip to Kenya is not complete until you attend a wedding, and I apply no sarcasm when I say “there is one everyday!” My parents grew up in small towns where everyone knows everyone so there is no escaping them lol. I attended 3, with a total of 6 events and that was me picking and choosing, no lie!
With two weeks left we made a road trip to Taita Hills south east of Mombasa and approximately 194 km, roughly a 4 to 5 hour drive with my aunt, her husband, and son. We stayed for 2 days and 1 night, which was enough to see a wide range of wild life. During the first game drive we managed to see all the “big five” wild animals; lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopard. The most entertaining part of this drive was what we least expected! It was not seeing the animals, yes that was pretty amazing and eye dropping. Not my two year old cousin but rather his almost thirty something mother’s reaction who was scared shxt less. Whenever we got too close to any wild life let alone opening the windows and sunroof to take pictures she would literally freak out and scream like a child. It was even funnier as she calmly stood up taking selfies through the sunroof window. Simply priceless! The next day we saw some of the same animals along with some others including giraffe, zebra, and flamingo, to name a few. On our way back home to Mombasa we drove up the hills of Taita and drove through the peaceful, clean town. It was as though we were in a completely different country. So much greenery, floral’s, picturesque scenic views, and happy, kind people. All in all it was an amazing trip and we greatly appreciated my aunt and uncle’s generosity for taking us (God bless them).😝😂
Getting back to Mombasa with less than two weeks left we were on a time limit. Leaving us literally doing what we tried to avoid all summer, last minute shopping and packing! Overall I was pleased with the trip because I got to spend quality time with family I dearly missed all while knocking off my bucket list 😃
As our summer abroad came to an end we gained memories that we will cherish forever. Through it all we learned to appreciate one another, those around us and what we have more. The little things that may have mattered before mattered less because seeing that our lives are someone else’s dream was eye opening. As we live in a first world country, we tend to forget how people struggle and take our basic privileges for granted. It was a learning experience where we gained new values, grew as people and became more cautious of the world around us, Alhamdulillah.
Peace and Love,
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”