Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pay it forward-passing on a little love

I arrived home from my Ethiopian adventure to find that a quiet but faithful reader of mine awarded my blog a sweet award. 

Comments on posts are like little gifts in the mail.  Awards are even better! 

Barbara (who gave me the little award) writes at Tanzania 5.0 about her life in Tanzania and travels in other parts of Africa. She is now back in the States, but Africa is obviously still in her heart. 

As I am not really ready to write about the holidays or recap on the year, but want to spend my last day of 2011 arranging snapdragons in vases and having a walk in the sunshine, I thought I would pass on this sweet award. It also might introduce you to a couple of new blogs that I read. 

Basically, this little award is only given to blogs with under 200 readers (phew...I made the cut!!!) and has these stipulations:
1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you. 
2. Reveal your 5 blogger picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog. 
4. Hope that the people you have sent the award to will forward it to their favorite bloggers. awards go to...

The Times of Miranda- Miranda doesn’t blog often, but her writing and photos of life in small town Arusha, Tanzania, are beautiful.  I also love reading the excerpts she posts from her grandfather’s diaries.  She retells stories from the real Africa, not the shiny, new one that I live in.

Seedling- Mallory is so creative. Her photos and snippets of life, to me, look beautiful. She talks of her real life in New Jersey, not just the perfect one most bloggers try to capture. She writes about her business ventures, her growing family and her new puppy Autumn; the later always makes me giggle.

Long Story Short- I have been reading Katie’s blog for a little while now. Even though I think she mostly writes for her friends and family (in that sense I feel a bit like I am sneakily reading someone’s diary). She lives in New York and her happiness is contagious, she makes me laugh out loud. I am not sure if she has more than 200 readers though-she probably does as her blog is very sweet.

Rock the Kasbah- a blog by The Loerzels, an American expat family that live in Morocco. A blog full of their African Adventures.  A recent post of hers was about the family receiving a love package from ‘Santa’ – full of cereal and other little home comforts. It made me smile, as I know exactly how that feels!


.heart to heart. - Hannah is, like me, a young teacher. She lives in the States and writes about hiking, running and eating...I think we would get on!!  :)

I must  mention Mud’ s blog; Not Enough Mud, which I read faithfully, and who (surprisingly) has less than 200 readers...why, she is fabulous!? I am always at the edge of my seat (or bed) reading about her adventures. Anyhow, I couldn’t pass on the award to Mud though, as Barbara also passed it on to her.  :)

I’m choosing to have a quiet Hogmanay this year. I want to awake in 2012 feeling fresh  and  healthy  and ready for the adventures that lie ahead. Hope you enjoy your celebrations, whatever you are doing. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Very Merry

I'm back!

But I'm not quite ready to face the music of the end of a holiday and the start of a new year, so my stories of adventures had in Ethiopia may be a bit delayed.

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! I did! 

PS- The Santa hat stayed on all day!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ethiopia bound

I'm off to Ethiopia today. I've already been on holiday for a week, but it has been  bit of a blur. Every time I tried to do anything, my body screamed out 'NO!'. But I did manage to bake more cookies, drank copious amounts of mulled wine, made up Christmas boxes for the guards and my house girl (I suddenly I have four guys on the gate...!?),  I completed my Internet shopping for friends and family in the UK (too late! I'm sorry!), watched Love Actually (a must!) and downloaded more Christmas music. But, my camera is charged and my bag is now packed; Santa hat and stocking fillers squashed in.

I am meeting 3 friends of mine, Tim, Kelly and Sibyl in Addis Ababa. They are flying in from Uganda and then we are off on a 12 day adventure.We will be spending Christmas on/around the Simien Mountains, a World Heritage Site. It is said to be the 'roof top of Africa'. I could be told anything, as really, this is the first holiday in a long time, that I have not planned and really have no clue of our mum has a better idea of what I am doing! I don't mind what I see or where we go,  I am just looking forward to catching up with my friends. Maybe even getting a run or two in with Tim.
So, that is what I'm up to this Christmas.

But be sure, I will be thinking of friends and family around the world, especially my mum, my dad and my brother,who will be spending Christmas in Dublin this year. 

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Working overtime

 Although I have been to Kibera before, today's visit was a new experience. The seasons have changed. The recent rains have made the mud pathways even more uneven and bumpy now that the sun have dried them out. The paths are filled with rubbish; you can't really take your eyes off the route for long. Time has no meaning in Kibera. All your senses are working overtime; it is quite an intense experience, so a mornings visit seems like a full days work.

The office for my friend's project Kibera Mpira Mtaani, the study room (filled with 6 newly-donated computers) and the TV room (remember-I wrote about how the project is becoming self-sustainable before) are all above eco-toilets. So, as you can imagine, with the heat comes the intoxicating smells. You try not to show you have noticed. To screw your face up. But keeping the conversation flowing becomes difficult.

Thankfully we didn't stay there long. Vincent (one of the local employees and founders of the project) showed us the new tents and chairs the project has bought, which they can now hire out. Then we moved onto the 'classroom' , where the project holds after-school workshops and homework sessions. Local schools are now in their long 8 week holiday, so children are happy to go somewhere to read, play and learn in a safe and stimulating environment. As it is Christmas time, donations of bright and colourful books have filled the book shelves since my last visit; families are making spaces for their new toys and presents. The 'classroom' is really a very happy place to be. It is a relief to be inside it.

Anisa and I both made play dough for today's visit. The play dough seemed to go down well. A few cheeky chaps did of course want to try to eat it, but soon realised it wasn't a good idea! Helicopters, planes, girls with long hair,chairs and baskets were created. I worked on a snake (!) for a while, then spent the rest of my time picked the play dough off my hands!

Merry Christmas greetings were passed and goodbyes (until next time) said.
Fun was had by all, including my friend's adorable little girl, Yara, who visited for the first time today.

PS-I was offered this very cool t-shirt, but I reminded him that it may be a little small! :)

PPS-If you feel like you have not done your share of giving this Christmas, you can make a donation here to the project.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

sticky fingers

This evening I made my first few batches of cooked play dough (first without supervised help from an adult, that is!).

I  am taking it tomorrow; I am visiting the project Kibera Mpra Mtaani again, with my friend Anisa. Should be fun!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reason 6 for living in Kenya

After literally 5 weeks of rain. The seasons have changed. The sun makes everything better.
Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 12, 2011

a holiday hike

The term is finally over at the 'w' place and the sun seems to be here to stay. Now that it is so sunny and hot it is easy to forget that it ever rained. 

Some friends and I decided to go for a wee hike on the Ngong Hills on the weekend.

‘Bandits’ are known to be around that area, but you can pay for an escort or you can just walk to the top of the first hill, as at that point there is a sign where the ‘bandits’ do not pass. So up to there you are safe!? 

This made our walk, the equivalent of Ben Nevis, (yes OK, we started a bit higher in the first place!) much more enjoyable. As we could just picture the ‘bandits’ standing at the other side of the ‘do-not-proceed sign’ waiting for people to pass it.

Gordon took this photo-I was too busy on 'look-out' duty!

We all survied our we walk and felt much healthier and happier, for being outside in the sunshine, knowing we had a few cold Tuskers in the car to quench our thirst.

We were told of the best Nyama Chomo restaurant (traditional roasted meat, off the bone) in the area, Olepolos Country Club, looking out onto the Rift Valley. (I have been there to stay, in a previous life before I lived here, but this was a different experience to that).

(Vegetarians, turn away now...)

The animals are butchered on site, then the meat is taken to one of the cooks at the many fires. You  order the meat and which part of the animal you wished, then it is cooked for you and cut up skillfully hacked, in front of you  (Remember, we had just hiked in the sunshine. This was all a bit much for us-I think I just kept repeating the words ‘food’ and ‘four people’!) We were then found the best table with views of the Rift  Valley, where we enjoyed the wine we brought in the ice-box. We were all pretty close to eating the rice cakes I had packed, when 2 hours later our meat turned up!!

It was great, although we all decided that next time we would try to pre-order from Nairobi! But really, with a view like this, the wait was no hardship.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trying to be Martha

To myself...

Oh, that looks cute...

Don't count them yet, you still have lots to do...

Another broken one, shame. One for me, one for you, one for me...

Stop eating the cookies, you are going to run out...

Do I really need to give one to everyone!!?? Yes...

But, the office staff can just have a jar. It is easier for me for them to share!..

God, I need a glass of wine. How many more do I need to do!??

Oh-don't bother writing your name on the tag- it's quicker more fun guessing who gave the cookie!..


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Spiced Christmas Cookies

I have been baking these Christmas Spiced cookies  a LOT this week.

I used this Martha Stewart recipe and for the first time ever bought 'Molasses' (that is treacle to you        
and I)...which cost a small fortune by the by!
They really only take about 7 minutes to bake, I have learnt to just stay by the oven!

They are really easy to bake...I don't have a fan assisted oven, and it only has an on/off knob...and they turned out well. You will have no probs!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting into the spirit

This weekend was the start of the Christmas season, for me.

I downloaded the new Michael Buble 'Christmas' album. I ate mince pies and drank beer as I wandered round, in my wellies and sunglasses, one of the big Christmas Fairs in Nairobi. I started making some Christmas gifts and wrote a few cards. And I had my first Christmas dinner, complete with paper hats, Christmas pudding, crackers and a visit from Santa. (And then I had my second one, at school, today!)

This week I have two concerts to attend, carols to sing and more crackers to pull. As I am going to Ethiopia for my Christmas,  I think I better soak all the Christmas spirit up now, while it's going!

PS- Don't you hate it when someone says, "oh, you should have come for dinner/drinks/whatever last night," the next day. A belated invite is not an invite, is it?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Maple Nut Granola

Friends of mine at the 'w' place were laughing at me the other day, as I spent my whole evening (and admitted it!) at home looking (with my tongue hanging out) at the Martha Stewart website!

I wish I could be that creative! I'm I have mentioned before..!

Anyhow, I decided to make a few homemade gifts this Christmas. When I was younger it was snowballs and truffles, then the past few years I have made chutneys. This year I thought I would make granola. A funny kind of gift, but granola is expensive here, so I thought I would have a go-as you can actually buy flax seed, wheat germ and lots of other gems here. Anyhow, by the time I bought all the ingredients I would have been better off buying a box of Dorset's and decanting it into a jar with a home made tag on it!

Hey ho-it's the thought...

I used a recipe from this lovely blog, but I used dried blueberries instead of cranberries and I left out the coconut.

Friday, December 2, 2011

3BT-Arriving, preparing for the afterlife and catching snowflakes

3 Beautiful Things

1. Once I leave my neighbourhood, the road to work, through the valleys, is a quiet one. The muddy roads around the 'w' place are so pretty. I stopped for a moment.

2. My class presented their pyramids today. Tombs filled with photos, food and jewels. They were so proud to have completed their challenge!

3. Run Club ran around the grounds finding snowflakes. Sliding in mud, big smiles and laminated snow. It could have been an Ariel advert!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

the modern way of getting to know people

I met an interesting lady recently. I chatted to her about books we had read and were reading. ( She was reading a book I had chosen for my book-club meeting last year. The author was a friend of hers)We talked of life in Nairobi versus that to in the UK. I don't know this lady, but I enjoyed her company and enjoyed getting to know her.

A friend then asked if I knew 'who' she was. Apparently I should have, so she thought.

So then I went home and spent a good hour or so reading about this lady on the Internet.

I felt like I was intruding. (But I didn't turn off the computer..!) She didn't tell me these stories about herself, or her family, but they are there for everybody to read.

Strange, right?

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Some little things

Nairobi seems to be becoming the hub of my little ex-pat world. Friends are having job interviews, passing through, popping over for work –all great for me. My life here now seems more connected to my previous life in my recent past, the one where I lived in Uganda!

Uganda-where, I remember, the sun always shone (except at 4 pm on Tuesdays for Frisbee, or on the Saturday's I was free to lie by the pool!). Here in Nairobi, we have had an unusual amount of rain recently (I have heard this is quite late for the rain) and everyone at the 'w' place is getting a bit sick of wet plays and soggy fields. So it is good to remember the little things; the things that make me smile in Nairobi, even when it is raining!

These are a few of the little things on my list today:
  • Pouring fresh milk from a carton. No more fiddly plastic bags of milk or long life for me!
  • Kellogg's that stays fresh in a box, not stale, but crunchy and crispy.  I can also buy Dorset's Cereal too...for a treat!
  • Having my shopping packed into boxes and not one item per bag (if I forget my re-usable ones)-this is something that insanely annoyed me when I lived in Kuwait! Although having your shopping packed and taken to your car is always nice!
  • The sweet and kind local staff at school. They are so flattering and funny. I have to write a post all on its own for this...but I will share one example; A group of  teaching assistants were talking about me, then built up the courage to ask me if I used to be a model! Yeah they did! Once I had finished coughing-up the tea I was drinking, to ask if they could of the ladies said,  "I think it because of  the way you walk." Mmmm,ok! Sounds like it should be a compliment, so I'll have it!
  • The fact that I have still not tried all the cafes, bars and restaurants in my area, let alone Nairobi - and probably will never get through them all, as there are sooo many (good!) ones!
  • I have worn my Chie Mihara boots lots since my arrival. Yep, they were totally worth the *** Euros I spent on them!!!
  • Getting parcels without having to go to the post office to collect them (I will try to avoid that experience from now on!). A kind driver at the 'w' place now picks up my parcels and today I recieved girly gifts from my lovely friend Sara (that just got engaged!!!congratulations again Sara and Toby!)-of Scottish soap, soothing face masks and more!
  • The fact that,even though there are payment machines for parking (in most places), there is usually still someone employed to stand by the machine and press the button for you, or give you the ticket from the machine at the barriers. Love it!
    (PS- I watched 127 Hours last night on DVD and I keep thinking, 'Well, he had to cut his own arm off! "  Life is not tough.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Being thankful

It is American Thanksgiving tomorrow. If I celebrated this, I know it would be my favourite holiday. Not as commercial as some of the others perhaps. Just time to be with family and eat LOTS! Sounds great!

Today, my class at school visited their community development link. It was there first visit to the Cheryl's Children's Home, the project that this year group support.

As every community development link, both sides should be able to learn and grow from each other, rather than just a handing over of money or gifts. But, I have learnt, these visits for children in International (or Prep) schools can be quite difficult. From large houses, cars, classrooms, filled with belongings that we forget we want, to empty, dark shells of buildings. No wonder some children feel awkward in the basic surroundings; wide eyed, quiet and too shy to meet new buddies. 

However, today was not like that at all.

The older girls and boys at the home, led my pupils on guided tours of the Home and chatted to them with ease. My pupils soon felt more relaxed and soon the building was a buzz of laughter and high pitched happy squeals. Songs were sang, lunch was shared and genuine friendships began.

Some of the children at the Home shared their story of how they ended up being in care. Honest and harrowing, but their stories all had a happy ending middle end-of-the-beginning; all were thankful for the help they had been given, thankful they had been found and are looking forward, to a bright future. Dreams were shared, hopes of  being pilots, teachers and nurses.

Everyone in the room was thankful. Thankful that the children in the Home were now getting the love and care they deserved.  Thankful for the love and care we have around us. Myself; thankful for the loving, understanding and supportive (the BEST!) family at the end of a phone, friends that make the journey through life much more fun, the education I was given to get me where I am, the job, the car, the shelter, the luxuries and comforts that we take for granted, a full belly (!), a healthy body that can run (half!) marathons and help calm my mind during yoga and thankful for the love I have been given to share with others.

What are you thankful for?

PS -I think I need to start up my 3BTs (3 Beautiful Things) again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cities within a city

I forget where I am some days. Nairobi has many cities within a city.

I had to go back to the doctors for another injection for my dog bite, so needed to make my way to little India. Parklands is an area of Nairobi that during the colonial days, the British demarcated for civil servants and is predominantly populated with Asian families. The roads are ruled by tuk-tuks  and Tata trucks that have seen better days.

Later that day a friend took me to her favourite Shisha cafe. We stayed for hours, drinking mint tea, chatting and people watching (checking out the flashy Rolexs and hair styles!), I felt like I was back in the Middle East (minus strange orange trousers, that always seemed in fashion!) The music, language and wafts of shawarma and incense made me rather 'home' sick. Karen...a suburb in England. Girls in tutus going to ballet, driven by mums in big 4x4s. (I know...I can't talk!)

But, really, the past couple of days I could have been in any city in the UK. It has been pretty grey, chilly and wet. It was so hard getting up in the morning that I called off my 6am personal training session (the first one I have bailed from since my arrival). And, I've worn tights and boots two days in a row...shock horror. The school will have to increase wages at this rate!

As I drove home this afternoon, the sun came out...hooray, at last. I am in Africa after all!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Switiching off the white noise-the story behind the retreat

It is lovely to put up photos of the beautiful scenery that I get to enjoy in Kenya, the big sky of Africa and the animals that live here. It is lovely to hear comments about how lucky I am. But it is not always the life I get to enjoy; real life gets in the way sometimes. 

Last week I could have been in Barry or Beillericay (thanks Tania for the box set!!) as it is that time of year writing.

I was feeling rather low, but that was not the only reason for it: I have lost my running legs and fear they will be hard to find again. I haven’t had time to enjoy the white shiny cafes and bars that I was looking forward to so much when I was in Uganda and I miss my friends that know me. My mind was busy with pretty negative thoughts and it was hard to swtich off the white noise.

Something I haven't admitted to you is how hard it was arriving at Jomo Kenyatta airport knowing that the African Adventurer was not meeting me. It. was. tough. I am not as tough as I think I am, sometimes. 

It has been hard to meet friends outside of I seem to spend most of my time there this should not be surprising! I was a bit over excited when I drove someone I met at yoga home the other night...!Saddooo! a little pick-me-up; to help my body and soul get back into shape, I went off on a yoga retreat on the weekend. 

It was  held in a little lodge a few hours north of the city. I spent the weekend in the bush, beding my legs into Lotus, sweating in downward dog and attempting to lift my entire body on my little pinky. (Well not quite!!-but I do suddenly have muscles where I never had them before!) We talked in hushed whispers, preserving the peace and quite.  Spent hours gazing into the yellow moon and burning it into our memories - thinking only about our breathing.  But when my mind did drift, I thought about my friends and family around the world and thought about how lucky I am.

Oh dear-those photos of skies again!

PS- I met some lovely new friends! And I am off to yoga tonight to see them! Hooray!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

walking in silence

 I'm back from my first weekend yoga retreat and all my secret hob nobs are still in the box!

Photos are from our walking meditation near Lake Elementaita. 

I'll tell you more about it another day.

Hope you are having a lovely weekend. xx

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My birthday weekend

Armed with birthday breakfast goodies from Artecaffe, my friend Jeni and I heading to Nairobi National Park to hunt down some lions and their cubs.

The 5am get up meant that there were not that many other cars in the park (not surprising for a Saturday morning..!-but it also meant that by lunchtime I was ready for nap!).

Once the early morning mist had lifted the animals came out of their hiding.

We searched high and low for the lions, but they were not at number 5 or 7 where they should have been!hmm. Eventually we found a lone lioness on the prowl-  we thought she was going to go in for a kill at one point; the zebra nervously huddled together and the four ostrich trotted off to protect their eggs...but the lioness didn't seem that bothered and after sniffing around for a while continued on her journey.

It was a great start to the day-but I am still quietly hoping that next year I will be able to run the NYC marathon!

PS-  I know I have hundreds of photos of zebra-but that doesn't stop me taking hundreds more!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Remember remember the 5th of...

Morning safari and sushi. Messages and unwrapping gifts. A pretty great way to celebrate my birthday. Thank you x