“Intellectual Crushes, Culinary Tourism, and Cheeky Americanism”

On my About Me page, I alluded to the possibility of writing about my experience traveling in Africa – to add an entertaining counterweight to my more analytical rants and musings on the events unfolding on the continent. The following is a story about  what I’m up to right now in Kenya – learning, eating, etc:

Dear Readers,

Lesley on Africa is in love. I’m in Kilifi, Kenya right now attending the Rift Valley Institute’s Horn of Africa course and I’ve developed multiple very serious intellectual crushes on the course lecturers. These are some of the world’s leading experts on Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti, and for 84 cumulative hours this week, they are at my disposal so that I can get smarter on this region. I’d had doubts that taking this course at significant personal expense (six weeks salary and six vacation days) was worth it, but I’ve learned more in these first three days than I have in the past 7 months and 20 days of Beltway brain-rot. I only wish I could keep learning, but alas, life is not fair.

So tonight, to reward myself for my nerdiness and dedication, I decided to take myself on a dinner date. Every time I come to the Coast, I insist on eating at Porini Seychelloise Restaurant, which is midway between Mombasa and Kilifi. I hadn’t expected to be eating alone, so I’d ordered pretty much everything on the menu – enough for 3-4 people. When I showed up alone, I was worried that I’d be wasting so much food. But when the stewed beef, stewed chicken with coconut milk, jumbo creole prawns, and fish in coconut milk came out, I knew I’d eat enough for two and a half of my absent colleagues – at a minimum.

Left to right: Chapati, Coconut milk fish, Jumbo creole prawns, Coconut milk chicken, Stewed beef, Beans with coconut milk.

When I was done stuffing my face, the exceedingly personable owner of the restaurant came up to chat. I told her this was my favorite restaurant on the Coast, and that I insist on coming here every time I’m in the area. After we exchanged a few more words, she said “Oh. I know you.” And I start wracking my brain for how my reputation has preceded me when I have only been there three times. She continued, “You were here a few months ago with those important guys. One of my waitresses remembers you because you were telling them off and we were so amused.” I smiled sheepishly. I liked her characterization of me, but it also reminded me that I needed to be extra careful to conceal my cheeky, opinionated American side in certain situations. Haha…oops.

So now I’m back in my hotel room, laptop perched precariously on my protruding stomach, wishing I could hire someone to rub my belly as I doze off to sleep. The food at Porini is so rich and flavorful, that it’s hard to imagine that there’s not some sort of narcotic sprinkled on top. I mean, the stuff is culinary crack. How can I find another excuse to travel here and get my next fix?

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2 responses

  1. Leslie … since you are on the coast. Why not take a trip up to Lamu, go out to the island off the beach. And see if you can say Hallo to some of the Somali pirates. There is nothing like firsthand info about security topics. Hahahahahaha !

    1. Ha! I wish I could learn more about these security issues firsthand! Anyway, the course I’m on has actually been held in Lamu for the past 2-3 years, but they had t move it b/c of the kidnappings last fall. Regardless, I know I’ll get there sometime.

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