Coral Ragging

By Shelbi Johnston- Combination volunteer 5 years ago
Categories Uncategorized

Nine days ago I arrived in Shimoni, a tiny town on the Southeastern tip of Kenya where GVI had established a volunteer base. This place was to be my home for the next four weeks, different from any place I’d ever lived before, so my first impression is blurred with excitement and nerves. I was struck by the simplicity of it. Everywhere I looked I saw clotheslines bent with laundry; dirt roads and pathways; small thatched houses interspersed randomly around the main street; and beyond it, nothing but vast ocean and wild forest. Evidence of the landscape encroached even upon the village proper: seashells littered the walkways, and between every house grew a veritable jungle all its own.

As I unloaded my things I noticed the houses were all made of some pale, porous stone, unlike anything I’d ever seen, and I wondered what the villagers had used for building material. I didn’t have to wonder long. With all of my possessions on my back I trekked through the village to the Shimoni volunteer house, and the entyre way I stumbled on the same sort of pale rock: coral rag. It was everywhere—jutting out of walkways, hiding in long grass, piled into mounds as high as my head. It was sharp as lava rock and twice as brittle. Coral rag is actually the calcified remains of ancient coral reefs; within it you often find fascinating fossilized shells or imprints of long past organisms.

The villages in Shimoni have been resourceful and have fashioned homes from the otherwise malevolent material. The forest surrounding the village represents an important fragment of Kenya’s unique and indigenous coastal forest, and the coral rag makes in that bit more exceptional. Filling an important niche for all kinds of flora and Fauna, this makes Shimoni a truly exquisite place. Although a week into my journey and the coral rag has already begun to wear down my hiking shoes!

Shelbi Johnston- Combination volunteer