How to Ride a Piki Piki

Actually I like the use of the word boda boda better. It’s the name we give to motorbikes that are used in the same manner as a taxi.

Boda boda originated at the border (hence shortened to boda) of Kenya and Uganda. With the drop in the price of the Chinese made motorbikes, there are plenty available.

I catch bikes every now and then and love it. Most expats freak out at the thought of catching a motorbike in Africa. Liz catches one to work each day. They are so cheap to go on you just can’t say no. For only $1 you can go a few kilometres which is about a quarter of the price of a car.

I was watching a Kenyan doco and the presenter said “Anybody who rides a piki piki takes their life into their own hands.  And they are correct!

Our boda drivers in Uganda

Our boda drivers in Uganda

Thanks to our generous friends we bought our own motorbike but we made sure that we also bought high vis gear (think bright orange council jackets). Drivers are shockers here. Today I was walking on the footpath and the next minute a large bus decided it wanted to share it with me.  While we are waiting to buy a car, I catch a piki piki when Pete has the car. This year I aim to get my motorbike license.

On our last trip to Uganda Pete and I went on bodas (they shorten it in Uganda) everywhere. One of our longest trips was about 30 minutes. Kampala traffic is twice as congested as Nairobi, hard to believe but true.

There are some tricks to catching a piki piki though:

  1. Always negotiate a price beforehand.
  2. Have cash in your pocket. Getting your wallet out is a bad idea and too tempting for the price to be raised.
  3. Ask for a helmet. You can’t grow another head (although I must confess that I am bad at insisting on this).
  4. Give instructions as you go along with your hands. There seems to be more ‘lefts’ than you think.
  5. Always be on the lookout for a jump off spot. You just never know when you might need it.
  6. Get off the bike before you pay the driver.
This is illegal, but it still happens

This is illegal, but it still happens

 

 

 

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My Confession

I’m not Catholic, but I think there’s something healthy about confessing something. It may not change the situation but you feel unburdened and hopefully get a fresh start.

I am jealous. Not even a small amount, I mean jealous with a capital J.

 

1. The thing I’m really jealous of is that people have the capacity to earn money.

Gone are the days when we could redecorate someone’s house, paint a building or do a photo shoot to get some extra cash or travel overseas with. I really miss those days. Sure, it may not seem much to you, but to both Pete and I it’s a huge thing.

Instead we have become professional beggars, accosting friends and family around the world for donations to live off and do our work in East Africa.

begging

Even people here have that one on us. Sure, there is a huge unemployment rate but I really admire the people who even have a stall on the side of the road selling foodstuffs.

There is something about earning a good dollar. A friend who is a trained counsellor told me that job satisfaction is the top priority for people in their 40’s and 50’ and I can identify with that. However, the pay also makes it worth it.

Actually, it’s not about making money, but having the freedom to do so.

I think that’s like a lot of people here who have far less options than us right now. They feel like their hands are tied and unlike us they don’t have hope nor a good circle of supporters who are doing life with them. So, although I hate this feeling, I’m thankful for what we’ve had, do have and will have.

I am thankful for every single person who partners with us. This whole thing makes us rely on God and to be honest, it doesn’t get any easier. But if I can trust God to save me, I can trust Him to take care of us each day.

 

2. I get jealous of photos people put up of the beach.

We lived in Sydney for 11 years and loved every moment of it. For the first two years I would wake up and say ‘another day in paradise’. Not sure what happened after that but we really, really enjoyed it. I loved going for a run most days and then spending 30 minutes at the beach – a 4 minute walk away. If there’s anything I miss, it’s being able to get out the door and go for a good walk. Here it’s a high risk sport going for a run by the road. In our first week here we almost got hit by a person pretending they could drive. I’ve never seen a driver with such large eyes.

beachOur nearest beach is a 9 hour drive – and not an easy drive either.

There’s a place we drive by that has this large unused field lined with trees and Pete would say in our early days here ‘I’m just imagining that there is a beach behind those trees’.

This past week we finally got a coffee table and we indulged in spending $20 on this absolutely beautiful canoe shaped bowl. We bought it specifically to put in it shells we had bought from Hawaii (my favourite holiday destination) which have been packed for the last 12 months. I look at them with fond memories and yes, I’ve even put one up to my ear to hear the ocean.

That’s what it’s about though – gratefulness. We’ve travelled all around the world, have seen amazing things and met some incredible people. I’ve someone working in our office who has never been out of the country and until a few months ago hadn’t been to a town only 2 hours away.

It’s about keeping things in perspective.

photo

3. I get jealous that you get Mainland Cheese.

Pathetic I know, but man does it taste good. I mean, it’s creamy, soft and melts on toasted sandwiches.  Even when we lived in Sydney you could buy Mainland Cheese there. No wonder I couldn’t keep the weight off!

There are several times I wish people could bring back real cheese in their suitcase. The cheese here just doesn’t taste like anything. Apparently you have to leave it in the fridge for a couple of months to get anything decent out of it.

I long for the days of macaroni cheese, toasted sandwiches and a decent cheese sauce over the cauliflower. What’s the point of having cauliflower anyway if you can’t have cheese sauce!

Actually you can buy New Zealand cheese here, for $30 a kilo. Even then I’m not totally convinced that it’s the real deal. Liz is in NZ and told me she had nachos the other night with stacks of cheese on it. She asked my sister for a whole pile of cheese. Proof that it’s not just me!

However, I have found an okay Camembert cheese for the rice crackers people have sent us. Unfortunately it has to be a special treat every few months, which is probably good for my waistline.

cheese

4. I get jealous of those overseas photos on Facebook

Actually that’s a total lie. I don’t at all. It’s the same when people put up photos of their latest car, clothes or anything very cool. Some people feel bad that they get these things while we are ‘giving it all up to live in Africa’. Not at all. I love to celebrate every single adventure people are having.

We are so blessed to be able to do what we do and yet live in an online world that allows us to live with a global family. Please, please, please keep putting up those updates and photos of your adventures. There’s enough sadness in the world and we need to learn to celebrate what and when we can with those that we care about.

If I can say anything, it would be to get out of your comfort zone and go on an adventure.

I have a friend who is a little older than me who is travelling through Europe and she looks like she is having an absolute ball. I love seeing her smiling face enjoying the sites, people and ice cream sundaes. I love the fact that after all these years she is taking a well deserved holiday.

You see, jealousy can be a driving force to eat you up about what you don’t have or it can be an opportunity to enjoy what you actually do have. If I spend all my time whinging ‘I don’t have this, I don’t have that’ it takes my focus off the joy of the moment and appreciating what we do have.

Sure, I’d give my right arm to get on a plane and shoot to Dubai for the weekend, who wouldn’t. We could do that and not eat for two months – that’s not exactly a winning situation. Or, I can enthusiastically look forward to our 6 visitors this week, knowing we have a house big enough for them all. It’s probably the first time in our lives that we’ve had a place big enough that people don’t have to sleep on the floor when they come. Now that’s something to be happy about.

When we lived in Sydney one of our kids (who will remain nameless but it begins with H) would always complain about living in a ghetto – Dee Why. We would remind her that our 2 bedroom apartment rental was a half a million dollar ‘ghetto’. After taking her on her first trip to Africa she really saw the meaning of the word and we didn’t hear a peep out of her about it from that time on.

People tell me that I am so lucky doing what we do. But let’s hear it people – what are you jealous of?

Dating, Marriage, Sex

This week we had an interesting conversation in the office and that was to do with how girls and guys date, what’s expected and what the general norm is.

It all started out when I shared about how in our family there’s a certain way we do things:

1. No boyfriends before 18

This went down like a lead balloon. Kids are too much in a hurry to grow up. They need to enjoy some of the most challenging years of their lives without the complication of ‘going out’. We always told our girls that you don’t have to be attached at the hip of a guy to be someone.

 

2. The guy asks permission to ‘court’ our daughter

We don’t believe in the try and buy scenario of dating. A relationship with the potential new family member is really important and if they respect you enough to ask permission, then they hopefully will respect your best investment – your child.

 

3. If one of our girls are in another town or country (as what we have now) they have to be sussed out and approved by a family member.

In line with our Pacific Island upbringing, Aunty is a pretty powerful person in the family. In New Zealand we have a cousin who has ‘Aunty’ status who keeps an eye on things. In Australia we had a friend who was an ex SAS member and he (okay he was a guy but you get the drift) would ask the hard questions on our behalf, it was great. I am sure they were scared of Jeff!

 

4. As a couple who profess to the Christian faith, they are encouraged to meet with their pastors and be accountable to them.

It takes a brave couple to tell their pastors that they are going to the next level in their friendship because it gives the pastors authority to speak into their lives and they may not like what they hear.

 

5. The couple set boundaries to keep themselves out of situations they may regret.

If it really doesn’t go anywhere, they can remain friends and still look each other in the eye.

 

6. Both parties take their ‘friend’ to their families homes.

This means involved in family activities such as dinners, going out to movies, church and special events. When you marry someone, you marry into their family as well.

Of course it all has to be in context. We have always encouraged our girls to make friends both boys and girls and if they are to go out, do it in a group.

We’ve openly talked about sex since they were 9 &10 years old (they’re 22 & 23 now) – in an appropriate manner of course. Both our parents never talked about ‘the birds and the bees’ so we decided to, bringing in a Biblical viewpoint. They were homeschooled till they were around 11 & 12 and then put into a public system when we moved to Australia.

We’ve always made a point of being involved in our girls lives. Even now we take them out of dates and a good catch up time. While we never had a lot materially we made this investment. When Hannah had finished secondary school we insisted that the whole family go on a two month tour of East Africa. At first she wasn’t happy about it (insisting she wanted to work, I pointed out that she had the rest of her life to work), but it changed her world forever. Both of our girls are global travellers and have experienced many cultures, which has broadened their personal worlds.

heartHere in Kenya I’ve discovered things are quite different.

  1. The only time the family sees the new ‘friend’ is just before the engagement happens.
  2. If the parents don’t like the potential addition to the family and the girl really wants him, she has to choose between her family or his if things get really bad.
  3. When the two families meet they sit formally opposite each other. This is when the dowry is discussed. It goes through stages of friends who can vouch for you (at the serious stage), then the uncles go.
  4. Parents don’t talk to their kids about sex. That happens in school (apparently).
  5. If a girl gets pregnant out of wedlock, she will most likely be beaten badly and kicked out of home. Some parents are more supportive but the guy involved has to front up to them.
  6. If you’re not married by your late 20’s you’re over the hill.

Of course, within the Kenyan culture there are lots of ways of doing things but above is what has been a long held tradition. I have a Kenyan friend who said when she got pregnant her mother accepted her and supported her.

I have another one who is not allowed to get married to the father of her child, but they can live together, because they don’t have the money for a huge wedding (the father knows some high ranking people who HAVE to be invited). When they go to her family in the country her partner is not allowed to sleep in the same house as everyone else.

ringsEven if my girls were raised in Africa, I still would keep to how we as a family do things.

As our kids grow into adulthood they have to make their own choices and live with the consequences. As a parent all you can do is your best and support your kids in the same manner.

So:

–        Do you talk to your kids about dating, sex, relationships or leave it up to others (school, friends, social media)?

–        When was the last time you took one of your kids out on a date by themselves, just for the sake of it?

–        What values do you hold as a family?

–        What memories are you building that your kids will take into adulthood?