Monday, April 30, 2012

Greetings from Kibera!

I revisited Kibera Mpira Mtaani (their website is under construction-so I cannot pass it on at the moment) on the weekend with Anisa, who is heavily involved and committed to the organisation. I've written about the project a couple of  times before.  Firstly when I visited to do some painting with children on the weekend and then the time I made and took play dough.

The project is successfully developing and growing; becoming more and more self-sufficient.

This time we went to try and teach some of the teachers and older students to make greetings cards, so that they could be sold to raise funds for the organisation.

Phew-it was hard work! Some of the ladies were fantastic-so enthusiastic and motivated. Others were 'deafeated' not long after we began. A few more sessions are needed before the ladies will be confident in their tasks (it also became pretty obvious early on that an investment into a guillotine is needed!) but it was a great start.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I've got mail!

Look! It's like Christmas!

I ordered some  an excessive amount of goodies with Amazon vouchers and they are arrived today! Exciting! (The novel by Steve Martin is first on my list!)

Friday, April 27, 2012

What I've been reading lately

Book description (from Amazon)-

'This book is a novel in the form of variations. The various parts follow each other like the various stages of a voyage leading into the interior of a theme, the interior of a thought, the interior of a single, unique situation the understanding of which recedes from my sight into the distance. It is a book about laughter and about forgetting, about forgetting and about Prague, about Prague and about the angels.' The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is the most secret of Kundera's novels. This new translation is the first to be fully authorized by Milan Kundera.

My thoughts-

I need to read more short stories, I love them and so enjoyed this book that were recommended to me by a friend. I didn't understand everything Kundera wrote, but it didn't matter. The words were still magical. The stories were painful and beautiful, sad and loving. One of my favourites was Litost (a word that cannot be translated) about the young poet and his ugly lover from the country. Now that I have found this book, I will re-read these stories again and again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Beware! Ex-matatu driver

I know I have blogged about the weather (and driving) a LOT recently...but I am British.So...

If you have seen the news recently, you are aware that parts of Kenya have had an awful amount of rain. Yes, the farmers needed it for a while, but the thirsty land cannot cope with it. Never mind that it is now taking people an hour and a half to make 15 minute journey here in Nairobi, but there have flash flooding in Hell's Gate National Park, killing a church group.

The downpours are amazing and it can last all night. Thunder so close and loud that car alarms are set off. And skies that turn green with the lightening. (The only place I have seen better lightning shows were in Panama City-it was like watching a firework display there!)

Its natural to feel a bit frightened in thunderstorms. But my good friend and running buddy here, was telling me of their journey back in a taxi, when the driver, who obviously did not like storms, took his hands off the wheel to and put his head in his hands when he saw a flash of lightening. Probably not the best plan as the car was still moving..quite quickly too! (I have been asking some of the local staff at school if he thought the lightening was some kind of spirit...but everyone is in agreement that it was just a crazy driver...good to know!)

But, I am not letting the weather 'rain on my parade' (having a good term so is ONLY week 2 though!) and I managed to go out for a run in the drizzle before the storm arrived this evening. Happy days!

PS- Of course it rains in Uganda too, it rained when we were staying in Fort Portal (no surprise there then) but after the most beautiful hot day so we welcomed the rain that gave us the time and opportunity to have a warm bath...and then a swim in the lake!

PPS- I just had to get my askari (guard) because I think my little coastal cottage (!) roof is going to collapse...I no longer have leaks...just a slight downpour. My askari wasn't sure what I expected him to neither really...just sharing I guess!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Driving in Africa

I was writing recently about how I don't think I am appreciating the 'norm' in my life any more. Which, for the most part is true.
I do however never forget how much I love to drive here.

I am not being sarcastic.

Where I live in Nairobi, traffic is really not a problem. I drive around in my Surf like I have somewhere to go. Winding through the valleys, with the sun (more often than not) is shining and I think..I am so lucky.

I love it. I love the old battered trucks and the dust in my hair. (Again...not being sarcastic!). It's fun. I feel I am being adventurous and I feel like it is part of being in Africa. I can pretend, for that time, that I am rushing from the farm to see how my new house is coming on...the builders are just taking soooo long!! (Yada yada yada!)

Hey-we all like adventure...until you get stuck in the mud!

Ah well, I learnt from the good old Prado days...and bought a spade...which I now keep in my never know.

I think of the flat highways in Kuwait, where I drove at 120km per hour, in the slow lane. Eeeeeek! I used to drive a small Peugeot (say there an 'r'? I think I may not fit in one again. I might just have to plant a tree or two here, to offset my carbon footprint...just so I can get a 4x4!

The other night at a party, a friend was telling her 'worst day in her life' story. Which although might not sound that bad to some, sounded pretty traumatic. It was the day of her driving Nairobi. Now, I have friends who have been to the government building and $100 later have walked out with their papers...never having to sit in a car. But this friend wanted to do it properly. She arrived at the test centre at 6 am ,when requested, arriving before the instructors. She then had to do a lot of waiting around, lining up in queues, playing on her blackberry, until it was time to get in the car...with the 3 other candidates. She didn't leave until 8.30pm, but at least she did have legal documents in her hand...unlike some unlucky candidates. To me, the day sounded awful (doing it in the UK...more thank once...was bad enough!)...and I think I may have either walked out, cried or killed some unlucky person.

But, now, like me, she enjoys her drives in the valleys with her music turned up loud!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

School camp

Two tent evacuations in the biggest storm this season. But the rain didn't dampen our camp spirit.

I am now going to put a face mask on, drink a Lemsip and watch some Mad Men. That should get rid of my streaming cold! Who doesn't love spending the weekend with 50 8-year-olds?

Friday, April 20, 2012

What I've been reading lately

Book description (from Amazon)-

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack's curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating--a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

My thoughts  -

Honestly, I still don't know if I enjoyed this book or was just gripped because I needed to know that things for Jack and his mum turned out well. The content of the book is seriously disturbing. Every detail into life in the room was thought of, which makes the words harder to digest. (Actually-here I have to admit, that the breastfeeding part-won't tell you more-was really too much for me.)

I read this in two days, purely so that I would be able to get a good nights sleep once I finished it. I did however, really enjoy Donoghue's style of writing, through Jack and his view on the world and the 'outside'. I would like  to read another book by Donoghue, possibly The Sealed Letter, as Slammerkin also seems a bit too depressing for me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What did you do on your holidays?

Landing at Entebbe felt like coming home. One form to fill, some dollars to hand over and a warm welcome...and you are in Uganda! How easy! Why do you end up feeling like a criminal at other passport controls?

And basically, that set the tone for the trip. Easy. Relaxed.

This is my Africa. Mosquitoes and all.

I did not go on game safari once...can you believe it? Instead I played the 'count how many new buildings there are in Kampala' game. I was tricky! In just over 8 months it is amazing how many new restaurants, bars, cafes, apartments have been built.

Apart from trying to find green space in Kampala...what did I do? Laughed with friends, went swimming,lay by the pool, had lunch dates, visited my old school, danced in bare feet, danced in flip flops, had dinner dates and breakfast dates, ran on the red dusty roads, swam in the lake, got sick, got better, lost weight, ate some more, went to an art show, drank wine, had a few braais with friends, camped under the stars, woke up in the middle of the biggest storm, avoided morning sex (see photo!), got soaked, rode boda bodas (honestly, Alex was happy to see me...not a great photo!), read, played Bananagrams (Have you played it?Scrabble, just quicker-so fun!), drank Pimms, posed for a photoshoot, ate some more.

There is also so much that I didn't have time to do. But thankfully I did get to see lots of people that I love in my life. I can't tell you enough how good it was. I came back to Kenya feeling like me again.

 I don't want to brag...but I might have to tell you more about it another time..!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shake, rattle and roll

I didn't even sit up, just lifted my head for a few seconds to try and focus. Was my bed moving or was I just dizzy. But it continued for a lot longer than I expected. I wondered at first if it was a lorry on a nearby road. I looked at my clock, just after 5, a little bit longer before I have to get up. I just rolled over. I would be no good in emergencies.

I asked in the staffroom; Did anyone else feel the tremor this morning? Yes. Turns out it was a little shake after all, 4.9 is 'moderate' apparently, following on from the quake in the Indian Ocean. Not quite as 'exciting' as Mud's experience - but, I think a bit of shake on the first day of term is a sign. Hopefully a good one.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Highs and lows of adventures in Uganda

One of the best feelings in the world: Diving into an 11 000 year old crater lake on a hot day in Fort Portal.

One of the worst feelings in the world: Spending the night on the floor in the bathroom, rather than in your bed after said swim.

I still love you Uganda!

I'm back in the shiny city of Nairobi. I cried on the way back from the airport...a little dramatic perhaps for post-holiday blues. After a run this morning, endless cups of tea and coffee with a friend...I is not so bad here! But, for now, I am happy to relive my holiday through my photos. Stories to come.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

This is what you get by not having UN plates

Getting waved to the side of the road by two policemen shouldn't really be anything to worry about, when you know you haven't done anything wrong.

But you do. I did. I smiled and asked what the problem was, as the two policemen waved there machine guns around. They asked me to come further off the road. I was thankful that it was quite a busy street and just smiled. I checked they were wearing there pin numbers, they were. so apparently they were on duty.

They said I was on my mobile. Mmm. No. I wasn't. (I really wasn't.)
I ended up flattering the policeman with the breathe smelling of booze, thanking him that he is trying to do a good job.

He hadn't been drinking he said. Well I wasn't using my phone, I said. Have a good day. He needs my mobile he says, to check the log. I understand, I will help you and show you my log. Or, if you would like I'll be happy to drive to the nearest station to show them.


Just happy to leave, with my mobile and money still in my purse.

Really-there is nothing for it, but go for a glass of wine, who cares if I'm still in my running gear.

Then I think,bugger, I should have taken down their pin numbers. Then I think, what's the point. Sad, isn't it?

Like the fact, that (even though I don't get road rage) I have taken to use my camera (on my phone..I promise I wasn't doing this when the police stopped me!) to take photos of bad drivers. Why? Am I going to go to the police about some woman that nearly drove into me near school. No, but it makes me feel better!

Aaaaah-that's it! All better now.

Maybe I should just wear my Robin one, more often!

(PS- I know this is not unusual. (Not the Batman thing.) My friend got pulled over 5 times on the road from Mombasa to Nairobi when we travelled in convoy in October. He didn't have a liscense so ended up paying a small fortune in bribes, which we all found quite funny at the time. But I really didn't do anything wrong...)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

It's raining

There were signs this weekend and everyone I spoke to predicted the rains to come by Friday, but it is raining. It's not heavy though, not yet, I wonder if they will stay.

You cannot be seen to wish the rains to stay away. We all love the sun, but the heat is pretty stifling at the moment. We just hope they will come slowly, at first, the farmers need the land to have a quick drink so that they are thirsty for more. Hopefully the rains will not bring destruction and power cuts with it.

A lioness is prowling around the neighbourhood of Karen, disturbing the dogs and getting familiar with some gardens. Looking for food and water I guess.
This is not unusual really, last year 3 lions ran out in front on African Adventurer's car in the same area...on the same night that I saw the biggest cane rat in story did not quite have the same impact once he had shared his!(Have I shared that story? Sorry if I have, but I swear, if that rat was any bigger, you just needed to put a saddle on it and you could ride it! It nearly ruined going to the Irish pub for me!)

I can't say that I  was (am) in a hurry for the rains to get here, (ssshhh-don't tell anyone!) because I will be sad to lose my runs in the forest. But, I am looking forward to not having ants in everything I own and sleeping through the night, rather than drowning in a pile of sweat. I'll leave you with that image.