From my vantage point on the roof of the Yumbe guest house I can hear all sorts of sounds this evening. The most pervasive is the constant barrage of squeaks everywhere, which is probably the sound of bats and crickets.
I can hear people talking in the houses around here, and the occasional crying child. Most of the buildings here have a fine green gauze on the windows instead of glass, so the sounds which are usually confined to the inside of a house escape into the streets. A donkey was braying a few blocks away, but has stopped now. Sometimes I hear donkeys trot past in the street below. A crowd of children walk past singing and cheering.
Because the streets are so narrow, the sounds of people 3 storeys down seems to bounce up the side of the houses so it sounds like they’re just below the roof wall.
There are shuffling footsteps of an old man in the street, followed by the light footsteps of a child. Another child is crying, and someone starts to sing to comfort it. At first I’m irritated by the crying child, until I realise that it’s the sound of helplessness and not of anger.
The Yumbe guest house is difficult to describe, with each side of the building being a different height and contains a different number of storeys. It is built around a small courtyard where there are lots of plants growing. Some sides of the building are roofed directly with banana leaf thatch, while other parts have flat rooves with a thatched canopy above them. My room looks like it has been added as an afterthought, and even more recently another room has been added on top of it, making four storeys in total.
The whole place is made of rough cream coloured blocks about the size of breeze blocks, cemented together with large amounts of grey cement. The floors are all concrete, the ceilings are uneven rows of wooden poles. I wonder if there are any structural checks on these buildings, or if you just keep building higher until the place collapses.
I can now hear repetitious Swahili music playing in the distance, and the hum of an outboard motor over the sea. Someone is wheeling a bicycle with squeaky wheels past. The other side of the building there is the sound of splashing water and the clatter of pots.
A prayer call goes out from all the 27 mosques in Lamu. Some are long haunting wails, some sound like barked orders, and most loudly one sounds like a woman singing, but is probably a young boy.