escaping the busy trap
In a recent NYTimes blog post, Tim Kreider extolled the virtues of idle time, arguing that too often we occupy ourselves with meaningless tasks that end up making us too busy to make time for what really matters – hanging out with friends, reading a good book, enjoying a movie or a show. On the one hand, the article felt a bit dismissive and condescending. Busywork is a lot easier to avoid if one is a writer who feels that “four or five hours [of work] is enough to earn [one’s] stay on the planet for one more day” than if one has a structured job and has to report to a boss. Rebelling over every menial and unimportant task one is assigned would not get one far in the corporate or government workforce, from which many of Kreider’s readers undoubtedly come.
On the other hand, it’s hard to counter his conclusion that idleness “is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body.” Anyone who has worked excessively long hours, stayed up all night to cram for an exam, or locked herself in her dormroom to work on a thesis knows how unhealthy it is to spend all of one’s time being busy. Having both worked long hours in the weeks prior to July 4th, we were looking forward to a chance to recharge our batteries and spend some quality idle time with our visiting friend Marni.
After several trips to Kenya’s south coast, we decided to give the area north of Mombasa a try and booked a house in Watamu with two other couples. Gorgeously set on a cliff overlooking Turtle Bay, the only downside to the house was that it was deceptively advertised as having four bedrooms. It turned out that the fourth bedroom was actually just attic space that was walled off on three sides, which meant that while we ran the AC to keep cool in our bedroom downstairs, Marni spent the nights cuddling under covers to keep warm, the wind whistling through the nonexistent wall of her room.
Watamu is a protected marine park where it is illegal to disturb the natural environment. This means that the wide stretch of soft, sandy beach is usually covered by a layer of dried seaweed several inches deep. It may not be ideal for sunbathing but it does add a certain charm and a touch of wild beauty. Though Turtle Bay is a favorite nesting spot for sea turtles, we only saw one – a three-legged turtle whose other flipper had been lopped off by the propeller of a motorboat and which was being released back into the sea after being rescued by Watamu’s Turtle Watch. Unfortunately, we only had a short weekend to enjoy the coast. After taking a boat trip to go snorkeling in the bay’s clear, aquamarine waters, we reluctantly packed our bags and headed back to Nairobi.
Thanks to Marni for sharing her camera and her photos.