July 31, 1987

7/31/87 Pate Island

camping on the beach

Last night, Bousi feed us a real Swahili meal, no dishes or utensils. The meal was beans and potatoes in a sauce with chapatis and bread served on a large serving dish. A group of six or seven surrounded the dish sitting on woven mats, using only your right hand to eat. Young girls kept our cups filled with chai. Before and after the meal, a dish was brought around to wash our hands. Dessert was Arabian dates.

This morning after breakfast of fresh, hot mendazis, we set sail for Pate Island. The dhow is great! The crews are a bunch of cards, especially since only two speak English. So far I’ve met Sa'ad, one of the younger crew members and a great soccer player. Then there is Abdula. He’s the one with Fred Flintstone feet. And who could miss Captain Athman. The Fosa is a 35 foot dhow and the Bishara is 37 feet, with crews of about six each.

The Fosa sailing through the channel
with a little poling by the crew.

We camped on the beach near the village of Mtongawanga. We walked inland this afternoon to see the ruins in Pate Town. The people were real different than those in Lamu or Matindoni, the children especially. If we tried to take a picture of them, they scattered like mad. The men never smiled. The women were a little more friendly but the looked a lot different than we were used to. The older women had nose rings and seven or eight earring hoops starting at the top of the ear.

The children did seem mean. While we were touring the ruins, they threw rocks at us. We didn’t stay very long. One burial house had a stone plaque with 1120 AD written in Arabic. We walked to the local primary school to play another soccer game. It was a rough game and the referee had no idea of rules. But we came out with a victory, 2-1.

Ruins of a burial house with attached mosque.

Today I got my first earring. Three of us bought single gold hoops in Lamu. Because of the very real danger of infection in this environment, our instructors would only allow us to get our ears pierced if we cleaned them with alcohol several times a day. Margaret offered to do the piercing. Of the three of us, Dave volunteered me to go first as I was the oldest. So I sat down on the beach, and with a big sewing needle, Margaret just punched a hole through. Dave immediately said "No Way! My girlfriend can have the earring." It took Margaret about twenty minutes to finally get the hoop through the new holes. Harvard was next. Only they had more difficulty getting the curved earring through both the entry and exit holes. Several girls tried and finally after about an hour success.