A family trip to Mombasa… and Church on Sunday

This past week the kids have been on half-term, so we started the week by taking a long weekend to go to Mombasa.  At some ungodly hour of Saturday morning we all piled into the car, and headed off on the loooong journey to Mombasa.  I was somewhat wary of a 7-8 hour car journey with 4 kids under 5, but I have to hand it to them, they were very good.Kenya through the car window was simply awesome.  I fell even more in love with this country, driving from Nairobi to Mombasa.  It is just so beautiful.  We passed by Mount Kilimanjaro, it’s snow-cap sparkling in the distance, we passed by Tsavo national park, making me feel like a key actor in the Lion King… it’s just such a fantastic country.

We made it to our cottage on Diani beach, which was luxurious.  An open air sitting room, surrounded by white curtains, and beds with decorative mosquito nets (I say decorative, because there were plenty of mosquitos inside the nets).

We spent each morning in the cottage pool, which was amazingly warm even when it rained.  The climate in Mombasa is so different – really really humid, and warm.  But mostly humid 🙂

This trip was mission get all the kids swimming, as usually they kick up a stink when we try to get them to swim in Nairobi.  And it worked, they all loved the pool…and started begging to go swimming at around 7.30 each morning.

Afternoons we went to Diani beach (across the road)… it was like something out of a film.  It is such an idyllic and beautiful coast line.  And that’s just the visuals.  But there were also huuuge warm waves, perfect for playing in.  So I spent my afternoons holding hands with Lisette and Sammy, jumping waves… and listening to their cute little screams of fear and delight as the big waves crashed over them.  We also did plenty of sand castle building, and shell collecting 🙂

On the way back, we took a detour through the Shimba Hills national park (an elephant sanctuary).  We stopped there to see the elephants in the wild, as the park supposedly has the highest concentration of elephants in the whole of Africa.  First things first, we were given an informative lecture about how the sanctuary supports the local community… they have invented elephant dung paper!  A man gave us a demonstration of how the dung is mixed and drained and compressed into sheets of paper.  It is then used to make souvenir objects for tourists.  All funds go to the local community and the upkeep of the sanctuary.

We drove off around the park in search of elephants, and saw 2 families in the distance – but sadly, we learnt elephants are not too keen on being viewed up close.

We stopped to eat our picnic at a camp in the middle of the reserve which is an amazing place:  a safari tent camp, bang in the middle of the reserve, where apparently the elephants come in the morning to use the water hole.  Definitely have to go back there while I’m out here- although it is very remote to get to.

Very long journey home, which included the motorway suddenly ending in our direction.  Literally.  All of a sudden there was just no road left.  So all the lorries and cars had to cross over onto the incoming lanes of traffic!  Our lane had to drive up the hard shoulder of the oncoming direction.  That’s Africa.  Eventually we even had to go off-road, and onto the new road- they just haven’t bothered to connect the 2 bits of road yet.
Have to love Africa 🙂

Can I tack on another topic to the end of this post??  I suppose I can.

Yesterday (Sunday), my friend Tom (see Naivasha) and I decided to go along to an African church mass, just for the experience.  I have to say I wasn’t disappointed.  The place was packed out, so much so, that much of the congregation was sitting/stood outside.  A tent had been erected with plastic chairs for the extra people… giving the whole occasion the feeling of a cheery barbeque, or a fete on the village green.  The priest did his preaching, but much to our amusement got quite hysterical at certain points and would start screaming in Kiswahili.  To be followed up with a “CAN I GET AN AAAA-MEN?”.

The topic of his sermon was rather strange as well.  To all those children who have been orphaned and are suffering:  God will hear you.  Fair enough.  To all those women, who are not legally married, but have done their best to raise their child, and are abused by their no-hope husbands:  God will hear you.  Fair play.  But then:  “LET US NOT FORGET, HOWEVER, that it is not only women who are abused by their husbands.  But there are sooo many men, who are mistreated by their terrible wives.  Can you imagine, dear sisters and brothers, some men come home, and remain HUNGRY because their wives DO NOT COOK FOR THEM.  IT IS TRUE, YES, IT IS TRUE.  Let us pray for these poor poor men as well…let us not forget them…  (divergence into Kiswahili that we no longer understood).”  Very bizarre.

Also, the church is hoping to expand its building, and so is hosting a fund-raiser next weekend.  For which the priest assured the congregation: we will be reading out the name of each family, and how much they have contributed.  Lady X cannot make it, but has already contributed her cheque of 100,000 Ksh… and I promised her, that I would identify her at the mass.   Public exposure of private donations… a little shocking to me.

All in all, a very interesting experience!



The most epic blog post ever…

Be warned, this blog post is going to be very long and detailed, because this weekend was jammed with fun and games…and too many jokes :-)On Saturday morning, I headed into town to meet the lovely Monica, and Tom – a random man from facebook who I had never met before.  The three of us were heading to Naivasha- home to Lake Naivasha (hippo paradise), and Hell’s Gate National Park.

Got on a matatu-bus, for the journey there.  They were pumping out the music, with a TV screen showing a very severe looking man singing in a most strange and strict manner.  Turned out he was singing/rapping the gospels.  Funky.  Another amusing point:  the bus conductor kept diving under us (we were sitting on the back seat).  He was hiding from the police, because, in true Kenyan style, there were too many people on the bus.  But the first time it happened we were quite shocked to suddenly see a man get down and crawl under our legs, under our seat without giving a word of explanation…

Made it to Fisherman’s Camp, aka the “Glastonbury” of the Kenyan camping world.  I beg to differ, Lonely Planet.  But still a nice place- monkeys galore.  Two nice chaps put up our tent for us, which was tiny.  We pointed out that two people certainly could not fit in there.  They said, “but look, there are two mattresses in the tent!”.  Yes… the mattresses were on top of each other.  Literally.  In a pile.  (It’s Africa).  Eventually they got the two mattresses next to each other, and Tom the random and I accepted that we would be making friends very fast.

We headed out onto the lake, in an indestructible boat.  I say indestructible, because at one point we hit rocks and Emmanuel, our driver exclaimed “Don’t worry, it’s only rocks!! I didn’t hit a hippo”.  Rocks harmful to a small boat??  Of course not…  Made it to Cresent Island stopping by a family of hippos on the way.  Incidentally – I have come to know that hippos trump even human men in the jealousy league tables.  Lady hippos have to leave the family location to give birth, and if the kid is a boy, they leave it behind because father hippos kill all males to come near the family.  So girl hippo babies come and live with the fam, boy hippo babies have to go off and find their own family.  Daddy, jealous much?

Cresent Island was amusing – found a ranger, to whom we declared: “Let’s make a deal”.  We got residents rates, he got a bit to line his pocket, everyone was happy.  In a very jolly mood, off we marched on our guided tour.  First stop:  “Everybody!! Look!! (everyone gathers round)… THIS, is… hippo poo”.  Ahha…  Other stops on the tour were: aardvark holes, fox holes, and mouse holes.  Tom had a bit of trouble identifying what a mouse was – they are rare creatures after all 🙂

On the way back to camp on the boat, Emmanuel had many gems of entertainment for us:  on seeing a flock of pelicans: “Let’s make them fly!” (He accelerates into them),  and an eagle calling whistle – to which he them fed fish.

Back at camp we headed straight to the “restaurant” (bar) to start on the trusty Tuskers.  Mayhem of course ensued.  When the sun went down, hippos came to graze in the camp…awesome!  We got completely smashed, and started chatting to the waiter, Sam.  To whom we explained that while Tom and I are married, married life isn’t going too well.  This is probably sue to the miniscule size of Tom’s penis, and the fact that he has 4 girlfriends beside me.  Sam was horrified, and took it upon himself to break us up, and whisk  me away to a better life.  Oh the fun… 😀

Other highlights of our drunkenness included:  trying to climb trees, not being able to, so settling for standing on a tree stump.  Deciding to try out whether there was electricity in the electric fence – by throwing grass and sticks at it.  Getting caught doing this by a policeman, and explaining I’m scared of hippos, and my husband was just ensuring my safety.  Then diverging and asking if we can wear his hat and hold his gun for photos (hat yes, gun no).

After a surprisingly comfy night in the tent, I woke up (Tom being a baby, and refusing to get up)…and headed off to find a shower.  To be found “just over behind the banana tree”.  Then I went to have breakfast, where Sam greeted me with “Great! Are you single now??”…

We took a matatu to Hell’s Gate, and after a gruelling walk in the heat, made it to the gate.  Where it turned out, it’s 8km to the ranger’s post…walking or on bike.  No other vehicles.  So we rented two bikes, and set off.  The chain fell off mine before we left, so had to have it fixed.  Otherwise, I have never heard two bikes that make more ridiculous noises.  I was truly certain that we wouldn’t make it to the ranger’s post.  But despite our bikes and the midday heat – we got the post, met John, our Masai guide, and set off for our trek.

It soon became clear that a stellar sense of humour, and a lack of care for our limbs staying intact were going to be necessary for this walk.  John ran off, hopping down cliffs, running across rivers, and scrambling up rock faces.  With us in tow, crying tears of laughter over the ridiculousness of the situation.  At some points John had to say “just step on me”, and act as a staircase for us useless wazungus.

That man is a legend.  Towards the end of the walk, he ran across a tree fallen across a deep gorge…and shouted “Come on”… blank faces.  Tom was about to freak out (man that he is).  I was sat on the tree, laughing.  When John hops back and says “Just kidding, we’re walking down there” 😀  Joker!

He took us to boiling water springs, and we ended up on top of the mountain with a beautiful Lion King view, where we painted us with Masai warrior paint…to complete our transformation.  It was such an awesome day.

We did cause a bit of dismay for John though.  He explained that he is not married yet, because he’s saving up   his cows to be able to afford a mzungu wife.  Can he please enquire as to how many cows we expect in “Mzungu”? (Because he all come from a cryptic place called Mzunguland apparently).  I told him we don’t need cows for marriage.  He was astounded.  NO COWS???  I told him the man simply asks the lady, and she can decide whether to say yes or no.  He was shocked and somewhat horrified.  We asked how many cows he would pay for a very beautiful Kenyan wife.  Maybe even 25, he said.  If she was very beautiful.  But he wants a mzungu.  We asked how many cows he currently has… 150.  Poor guy.  That’s a lot of cows saved up for nothing.

That’s all for now… you’re probably all bored anyway 🙂

I would like to add a postscript:  Sorry Tom, I give you a lot of stick 🙂  But everyone, he’s a really nice guy actually 🙂

An amusing day at school

Yesterday was full of laughs at school…First of all, I finished my syllabus for this year with my year 4 class.  That textbook was shocking.  Gems of wisdom taught to students as part of the curriculum include:  “HIV/AIDS can be prevented by frequent hand-washing”, and: “Alcohol can cause unwanted pregnancy”.

Anyway, I asked the headmaster what I should teach them next, and he gave me the answer “It’s your classroom, you’re the master.  Do whatever you want.”  Haha… my licence to wreak havoc over the next two months…

I immediately decided that I would be teaching the real version of sex, pregnancy, and disease prevention.  I ran this past one of the other teachers, who told me it’s a brilliant idea.  The nuns who run the school don’t allow sex education – because it “teaches the children to sin”.  Well, in my classroom, I’m the master… so my upcoming classes will focus on: sex ed, pregnancy, HIV, malaria, hand-washing…

On the subject of hand-washing, I’m gutted to hear that 30,000 people a year die in Kenya from diarrhea.  More than the number of deaths due to AIDS, malaria, and typhoid put together.  October 15th is international hand-washing day, and I think it’s super important to educate about this issue.

Back to school…  So I was sitting out during my free lesson, chilling and sunbathing with the other teachers.  I allow them a laugh or two, as it isn’t too easy to be the only white person “sunbathing” with black people…  I go a little redder a little sooner 😉  Anyway, the teachers told me that yes, this is true of real white people – they do burn fast.  But I’m not really white.  I’m actually much closer to a “half-cast”.  And they managed to drag over the only “half-cast” girl in the school to prove that me and her are the same.

Welllll…. what can I say.  She was black.  I’m not.  But whatever… at least this shows my tan must be getting good…

But I then informed the black group that “half-cast” is considered a completely politically incorrect and offensive term.  And that the proper word used these days is mixed race.  They all laughed at me, (because I’m crazy, white, and endlessly funny)…and told me not to be ridiculous, half-cast is the official word for mixed race people.  Okidoki then…

Back at home, I walked into my bathroom to find 2 geckos running around the walls.  I was shocked, and slightly unnerved by them.   I told the Gege and JD, but they just laughed and said “yes, we have loads of geckos in the house”.  I then did actually spot a few running round the wall next to my bed.  This had raised the question in me:  Have I really spent the past month living in a room full of geckos and just not noticed???

I did a bit of discovery, and followed one to see where they live.  Well, it ran up the wall, and under the tiles, and just disappeared.  That, my friends, is roughly all you need to know about African architecture and building expertise.  Geckos live in the walls.

Mount Longonot

Yesterday, a group of us decided to climb Mount Longonot – a volcano in the Rift Valley.We met up in the morning, and took a matatu to the mountain – plenty of crazy driving of course.
We finally got there by midday… erm, not the best time to climb a mountain, but oh well.

We set off, in the scorching sun… and within a very short time, we all had sunburn despite being covered in factor 50 suncream – meet the African sun everybody!

The walk up was nice, although the heat made it more difficult than it should have been.  We met a giraffe on the way… I do love my giraffes 🙂

The crater is really beautiful… a big drop, to the crater floor which is now full of trees.  We walked around the whole crater rim, roughly a 2 hour hike.  There is a high peak on the crater, which involves very steep climbing, so the way up was not exactly easy… Although we got quite frustrated by the Kenyans, who apparently go to Longonot for a Saturday stroll… one guy was JOGGING around the crater, and all the others were wearing flipflops, and still overtaking us.  We were there in full hiking gear, chugging down the water, almost dying 😀

When right at the highest point, we sat down on the rocks for lunch!  We were almost caught in a downpour of rain, so we quickly packed up our lunch, and started down the other side of the peak, so we wouldn’t get caught in the storm right on top of the peak!

The walk down was much easier, and really pleasant.  The scenery is so beautiful, definitely worth the walk.

On the way home the matatu driver decided to make a detour, and ended up taking us down mudroads through villages where they clearly weren’t used to cars, never mind a bus full of white people 😀  He pulled up outside a shack and beeped his horn, and said “let me say hi to my wife”.  Out runs a lady, he chucks her a jumper, and says, literally: “HI”.  Then gets back in the car, grinning, and tells us: “Now I don’t need to come home tonight”….

I got dropped off at the round about in the centre of Karen, and it was getting dark.  It’s not safe to walk home in the dark, and the taxi drivers rip white people off.  So the house helpers that I live with have told me many times “just take a motorbike for 50 bob”.  So yesterday, I decided to extend my African experience, and I found a motorbike guy…and started bargaining for a lift home.  “100 bob” he says.  I laugh, and say “50 bob.  If you don’t want 50 bob I’ll go with the other guy over there”.  “Get on”  he says.  So off I zoom on the back of a motorbike.  I must have looked like a circus attraction…. Mzungu on the back of a motorbike, with hair flying madly in the wind 😀

Would have been an excellent day… only I got sunstroke, and had a terrible headache, and face ache, and lung ache and everything ache almost all night… The price of hiking in Africa at midday.

I am most impressed with myself though, because today I have woken up with almost no pain in my legs!