“You cannot Google Lamu,” that’s what a National Museum’s official told me on our last morning on Lamu Island; “You have to experience it.” Succint, nein? I had drifted away from the wolfpack to sample the town’s historical sites, the museum, the fort, and a bit of Old Town. I have written several pieces on Lamu in my short career as a pen for hire, but nothing prepared me for this experience. 700 years of continuous settlement and Lamu is still amazing!
Lamu is a history buff’s wet dream. Before the British made it an administrative center, it was a smaller island in terms of development compared to Pate. The fort now hosts the Museum’s offices, and years of restoration have taken away the authenticity you find in some of the Old Town’s streets. The narrow streets are actually alleys, one that brought eerie memories of the one the old man who conned me disappeared into.
Lamu has always been a party because of its access to the deep waters, a calm sea, and a long shoreline. But its dependence on tourism makes its economy a bit redundant as almost everyone is a guide or operates a motorboat. Some of the buildings have been redone and the corals polished to a bright white. All of them, including those ones that are now relics, were once that bright white.
You probably need to arm yourself with enough mosquitos repellant because the insects are ruthless! Add to the fact that mosquitoes are attracted to people who eat bananas (or are they?) and you will see why I had all the buzzy ladies were all over me. Balling!
Meet Sauda. She is a young girl with a huge smile and big dreams. She is a fantastic footballer, and we knew that the moment we met her on Day One in Lamu. We actually bumped into her and Chela had to chase her before she disappeared in Lamu’s maze of streets. The narrow streets are also short and unless you know where someone is going, it is easy to lose them.
Sauda is a tomboy with high adrenaline. She hardly talks though, and it’s easier to just talk to her as she dribbles. When we met her, she was playing alone along the narrow streets, using them to maneuver impossible shots. If her big smile doesn’t get you, her skills with a ball will.
The test shots took about half an hour as we sort her male guardian, Fadhili, a burly guy with a conspicuous beard. He walked out of the door sans shirt, and Chela had some optical nutrition of moobs. Okay, we all looked. It was hard not to when he was just standing there with water dripping from his conspicuous beard.
Migz says he hasn’t had any model, ever, a good as Sauda. She is a natural with the ball and getting her to do crazy dribbles for repeat shots is as easy as just asking. She can do it, and she is confident about it. “Golden child! That girl’s future is so bright!” Migz says as we have breakfast. Yet the entire time we spent with her, in Day One and Day 3, I think we only got one word from her, her name. When we asked her where she lives she just pointed and we followed. Her final shot is a marvel!
The other child model we had in Lamu, Samir, is a one-and-a-half year old cheerful boy. His dad, his co-model for the shot, is in his late twenties. Samir’s speech is still mostly baby talk but his confidence will win you over….and then when his father places him on the donkey, he goes ‘VROOM! Vroom!’ That really caught my attention given that there are only five vehicles in Lamu. One is the DC’s Land Rover, the others are all tractors. Although the sound could be from a motorboat, I think he meant to imitate a car.
When we got to Watamu Beach, our first models were three-year old Lenkoin and his father, Johnson. They we taking beach walk while dressed in Maasai shukas. Where Samir can’t talk yet, Lenkoin is chatty. He is a polite boy who wants to be a driver like his dad, although Migz’s inspiration might have added a second potential career to that short list.
Lenkoin can even spell his name; he thinks the ‘o’ is a zero though, and my efforts to correct that might have hit rock bottom. Touché. Touché.
…oh, and Johnson doesn’t know Lenkoin’s age off head, which is no surprise given our species-level inability to memorize such details. Its how he said it though (read with a Maasai accent) “Nani najua?”