A Visit To The Aberdares

The Aberdare Ranges is a 160km long mountain range north of Nairobi. It’s only 135km from our place and was easily driven in 3 hours. We’ve wanted to go there for ages but never made the time for it.

Hills everywhere

Hills everywhere

This weekend we had the opportunity because there was a group that needed some advice on growing crops, greenhouse s and irrigation. That’s Pete’s department, as a farmer, he’s pretty good at it. He has a whole lot of knowledge that can help community groups improve their agricultural situation.

You can hear the river from your room.

You can hear the river from your room.

Our host Zack, from the Aberdare Cottages and Fishing Lodge. Invited us up for the night so we could spend as much time as possible talking with his team. We’ve never stayed at a lodge before because it’s way out of our budget.

Zack explaining about the region

Zack explaining about the region

We were quite impressed with the road getting there. It’s the last 12 kilometres that is a bit of a challenge. It’s murram road, most of us would call it a dirt road, but it’s actually murram. It’s not horrendous, but you want to take it slowly. There’s quite a bit of building going on up the road so there’s plenty of machinery and people to contend with. Zack had emailed directions, and they were easy to follow – and correct!

bedroom

One of the bedrooms in the self catered cottages

Zack wasn’t there when we arrived as he was in Nairobi for a meeting. I thought ‘here we go, we’ve just wasted 3 hours driving and he’s not going to turn up’. Moses, the staff member in charge made sure we had cold juice and hot face cloths to refresh while he checked on Zack’s progress. He would turn up later, meantime, Moses took us up to the greenhouse area so Pete could have a preliminary assessment of the situation.

Everything in this area is on a hill. There are very few flat parts, so be prepared to get those legs working. People who live there are amazing how they have terraced out their properties to grow crops.

Self catered cottages, right beside the river.

Self catered cottages, right beside the river.

I have to say, the staff have been trained really well at hospitality. Our bags were taken to our room, which was partly a tent backing onto a bathroom. There was a king sized bed as well as a single (for Liz). I couldn’t believe how many blankets were on the bed, I hadn’t seen that for 15 years when we lived in New Zealand. I knew it could get cold at night, but that cold?

While Pete did some homework on the place, Liz and I crashed or an hour before lunch. I was really pleased that the bed was comfortable but I was worried about the road noise we might experience at night as there was the only road in the village outside our room. I didn’t hear one vehicle that night, and I am the world’s lightest sleeper.

Lunch was a small buffet outside under the umbrellas. Apparently there were two other couple staying that weekend but at that stage it was just us.

The first time we've had an indoor fire for about 15 years.

The first time we’ve had an indoor fire for about 15 years.

It didn’t take long to get a feel of the place. It’s not where you rush – you’re taking a breather out from the hectic life in Nairobi. You can do as little or as much as you want. The ideal is just to sit there, talk and enjoy your surroundings. The internet is on ‘E’ for enough so don’t expect to be uploading lots of videos. We found out afterwards that there is complimentary wifi but I think it’s a good opportunity to get off the Net and get connected with life again.

The cottages have a small verandah with chairs and a table to sit out on and relax. There are some cottages that are more like cabins but I quite like the idea of being in a tent – and in comfort. There’s no shortage of electricity and rooms have a couple of power points. I was really pleased to see there were hot water showers. I wish I’d taken my hair dryer but I didn’t know what we were walking into.

You certainly don’t come away from a lodge hungry. There was afternoon tea in one of the many community rooms on the property. There we got to meet the other couples and a nice verandah overlooking the valley. Zack had returned from Nairobi and the first thing he did was to greet all of his guests. To him, the lodge is an extension of himself. The property has been in his family for a number of generations. The rustic look comes from the trees that his grandfather planted. This is the only lodge in the area. There you can bring your own tent, use a cabin or just down the road they’ve built some self-serviced rooms right next to the river.

Looking at the river. The water was cold.

Looking at the river. The water was cold.

What I did like about Zack is that he’s a visionary. He wants to be able to use his property to teach the local community about different ways of farming, crops, business and education. He hires trained staff and gets them to work alongside locals to train.

I wouldn’t want the place to be packed out. With 11 cottages, when it’s full there would be at least 22 people. When we were there it was very intimate and peaceful. That’s the beauty of the place. It’s not an institution, it’s an invitation to tranquility.

Looking from the verandah where we had breakfast.

Looking from the verandah where we had breakfast.

That night the fires were lit, but it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. Who turns down a good fire while eating dinner? The meals were pretty good. Not over the top flash, but a buffet style, so you could eat as much as you wanted. I’m a coeliac and I was at peace knowing there was food from the garden I could eat. I don’t know if they serve alcoholic drinks because none of us there were into it, but the drinks came out cold and ice was on offer. Pete was happy as he could get a real coffee there.

When we returned to our cottage at night I was shocked (in a good way) that there were hot water bottles in our beds. I was a bit concerned because I had left our laptops and wallets on the bed. Of course, I checked the wallets and found all of the money there. Whew, that doesn’t happen everywhere.

The hills are alive with the view of tea

The hills are alive with the view of tea

In Nairobi I am attacked by mosquitoes at night – constantly. We have to use plug in mossie repellent things to keep them away. Due to the height of where we were staying, I could even walk outside at night and not get eaten. I really thought the 5 layers of blankets would be too hot – but it wasn’t. Liz said she was a bit warm but I’m a hot bod and it didn’t worry me. I did have to throw out the hot water bottle during the night – Pete kept his.

Breakfast was held outside on the verandah. I always take gluten free cereal with me because most restaurants can’t cater for my needs. I needn’t have worried. There was a full cooked breakfast available as well as cereals, juice, hot drinks, toast and fruit. Again, it was a chance just to relax. We were there at 9am, and the first to turn up. Again, don’t come here and be in a hurry.

Liz on the steps of our cottage

Liz on the steps of our cottage

Afterwards Zack invited us all for a guided hike. Too bad I was wearing black jeans, a black tee shirt, no sunscreen nor a hat. It had really warmed up and of course, I took no water. Fool! Zack gave us the history on the place and all he knew about tea. He showed us the self contained rooms which are literally metres away from the river.

Back for lunch (yes, we ate our way through the weekend) it was then time to head home.

My likes:

  • The staff went out of their way to make us comfortable
  • The quiet, relaxed atmosphere
  • Lots or little activities that could be done
  • Comfy beds

My dislikes:

  • We didn’t get to stay longer

We can’t wait to get back in a few months. Maybe you should take time out and spend a weekend at the Aberdares Cottages and Fishing Lodge. You won’t regret it.

You don't see a lot of wildlife here.

Wildlife includes lambs, eagles and rainbow trout.

Check them out HERE

Just Get Lost!

We’ve been very blessed to be able to do a lot of travel as individuals, a family and in a group. Every trip has its challenges and triumphs. Living in Kenya enables us to see amazing wildlife and scenery within a few hours.

Travelling with a large group complicates things and I thought I’d share a few pointers on it.

Most of our first team to Africa. It was fun/interesting.

Most of our first team to Africa. It was fun/interesting

Group dynamics become evident in a very short time. There’s the loud person who is sure they know the way (but not really) and enforces their viewpoint. There’s the quiet one who goes with the flow. In between you’ll have a whole range of people who try to be heard, get frustrated when they feel no one listens to them, and those that verbally let everyone what they think. The more people you have, the more variables in behavior.

I remember when the four of us and one extra went to Hawaii for a conference. The plan afterwards was to go to the volcano national park. It was the one thing I insisted on as I’ve a weird fascination with volcanoes, natural disasters such as tsunamis and the like. This trip was doable because we had sold our house in New Zealand and I thought we might not get this opportunity ever again. What I hadn’t counted on was 5 sleepless nights because one of the crew snored loudly, and I mean earth shaking snoring. I even threw pillows at her and told her to shut up. She didn’t notice a thing.

I did get to see the volcanoes and 10 years later we're still married.

I did get to see the volcanoes and 10 years later we’re still married

By the time the conference had finished we were really tired. It had been a full on week and the five of us were ready for a break. First, we missed our connecting flight to one of the islands. Then, I lost the plot and nearly divorced my husband because I wanted things done my way to get going on our ‘holiday’. I got so cranky that I walked out of the pancake place and was heading for my passport at the hotel. It all came down to tiredness. Three teenage girls and tired adults don’t always mix either.

Building memories

Building memories

Mixed ages can cause other problems too. If you have a group that might have pre-schoolers, teenagers and adults from different families, it can bring conflict. Teenagers are likely to want to just shop, adults hang by the pool and pre-schoolers just want to play on the outside equipment. Phones don’t always work in other countries, people don’t listen when it comes to meetup points and little kids can’t handle the long hours often required.

We went to Disneyland in LA one year. One of the family (who will remain nameless) was prepared to stand in line for 3 hours just to go on the Cars ride. The rest of us weren’t and wanted to go on other rides. It was his turn to lose the plot. Again, a mixture of jetlag, tiredness and disappointment.

Liz building a car at Disneyland

Liz building a car at Disneyland

To go in a large group, you really have to be selfless.

I guess we’re not there yet.

We wanted to spend a year travelling around Australia just for the heck of it. Our youngest daughter gets car sick and she was prepared to divorce us for even considering it. She’s married now, so we’re going to drive around Africa instead.

I’m a Type A person. I like to cross my T’s and dot my I’s, but living in Kenya I’ve had to learn to be much more flexible. I’ve learnt that when you’re on the road you may just have to give up trying to do everything and enjoy what you can see/do. Too many times we also try and fit too many things into a schedule and when we don’t get to do them, we get disappointed.

Sometimes, it’s also good just to get lost. That way you end up having adventures you would never had encountered.

Pete broke his leg on Mt Kilimanjaro. This is in Dubai on the way home. It's 43 degrees. Not planned, but it made thing interesting.

Pete broke his leg on Mt Kilimanjaro. This is in Dubai on the way home. It’s 43 degrees. Not planned, but it made things interesting.

In 2009 I did my first trip to New York City. I was by myself and for the most part it was for work. However, I always try and fit in some fun things to do. The people I was with weren’t very hospitable and pretty much left me to my own devices. One night I caught a train from Queens into Manhattan to meet a board member and his son for dinner. It was quite late when we finished and they insisted I get a taxi back to Queens. I was just thinking of the few dollars in my pocket and was very vocal about catching the train back. They were insistent and so was I. Remember, I was jetlagged and in a new city. I went to the train station to find the gate locked. I couldn’t find another entrance and then had to walk lots of blocks to find the right line. I jumped on a train but it became obvious I was heading in the wrong direction. Meantime I’m getting text messages from our board member wondering if I was in Queens yet. I get off the Harlem bound train and a nice old lady pointed me to the right one. I get off at Queens but then can’t remember how to get to the house. I start praying madly (it’s amazing how spiritual we get during a crisis) and looking for a familiar building. Thankfully, I eventually found it and of course never told anyone about by short visit to Harlem in the middle of the night.

Our plan was to go to New Zealand in 2015. Instead we went for our daughters wedding in 2014. Some things are out of your control, but you can have lots of fun anyway.

Our plan was to go to New Zealand in 2015. Instead we went for our daughters wedding in 2014. Some things are out of your control, but you can have lots of fun anyway. We did!

With all the crappola that goes on in our world, I’ve found people are pretty good at helping out in a time of need. The problem when you’re lost is that they’re not and they know how to get there but don’t always have the ability to communicate it. By the time you’ve got to the 5th turn, you’ll be lost all over again. Getting lost is okay until that goes on for hours on end.

When we first moved to Sydney, Australia, we had to meet up on the other side of the city with some friends to pick up a suitcase. Evan insisted on coming to our place, but we really wanted to see what their part of the world looked like. This was pre-GPS days. I don’t know how many hours later we got there, because Ev came and got us, but 13 years later he still gives us stick about it.

Golden Rules of Travel:

  1. Don’t book anything on the day you arrive – we’ve missed lots of appointments by breaking this rule
  2. Do one thing in a day – it should be fun not a marathon to get around
  3. Mix things up in your schedule – one day sight seeing, one day shopping, something in the morning, another day something at night
  4. Before you go, ask the group what one thing they want to do/see and make it happen (I’ve never got to the Statue of Liberty because of the weather, but one day…)
  5. Remember the world is big place – it takes more than 5 minutes to get from A to B
  6. Know where the toilets are
  7. Know and obey the local laws
  8. Make happy memories not disastrous ones.

So go ahead, travel and get lost. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t pan out like you thought – isn’t that life? You will meet incredible people, see amazing things and experience life changing events. You’re not going to get that while at home

Our 2012 guide to Kilimanjaro was the same as 2011. We wouldn't have known how good he was if Pete didn't have his accident. We are lifelong friends now.

Our 2012 guide to Kilimanjaro was the same as 2011. We wouldn’t have known how good he was if Pete didn’t have his accident. We are lifelong friends now.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. Augustine of Hippo

Go see the world, your adventures await you!

Go see the world, your adventures await you!

How We Travelled With No Money For Two Months

We’ve just done an 8 week trip away from Kenya, travelling through Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. In this blog I’ll be telling you how we did it with no money. For us it was a total trip of faith – that’s how we hang. If you’re not a Jesus follower, read the blog anyway with an open mind because it’s not something we can invent.

A bit different to how we look in Kenya.

A bit different to how we look in Kenya.

Hannah, our youngest was getting married on December 19th in NZ. Of course it’s something we wouldn’t/couldn’t miss, but we had no idea how we were going to do it. Our budget for living in Nairobi should be $3,500 a month, we get in around $2,000.

Hannah really looked stunning.

Hannah really looked stunning.

Until this year Liz has been getting in just under $800 on the disability pension from Australia. We knew it would be stopping in January. Each month we would use a couple of hundred dollars to put towards the budget. We didn’t like it, but the cost of living in Kenya is sky rocketing.

Hannah and Luke. The reason we took this trip.

Hannah and Luke. The reason we took this trip.

I remember complaining to God (He’s got big shoulders) saying I was over dipping into Lizzies pension money and He could find another way to find $5,000 to fly us home. She didn’t have enough in her account anyway but I wasn’t about to take any more.

In Auckland we stayed at my cousins - Jeff & Jeanettes.

In Auckland we stayed at my cousins – Jeff & Jeanette.

One Saturday we had a youth leaders meeting at our house. These are kids who run the child sponsorship monthly meeting, they also take about 90 minutes to get from the Kibera Slum to our place – many times they walk some of the way. We feed them lunch and then we do a bit of training. This day at the end we asked who had prayer requests. Some needed school fee money, others jobs, others provision – we needed 500,000 shillings. Remember, most of these kids live on 200 shillings a day.

Mathew, the leader prayed for us and for the wedding. This was on the Saturday.

On the Monday I’m in a meeting that is dragging on a bit so I check my emails on my phone and there’s a notification from a small church (The Embassy) in Sydney that supports us a small amount per month, instead it says there’s $2,000 this month. My heart skipped a beat and then I thought ‘maybe it’s meant to be $200 because we’ve been overpaid before, but $200 is awesome’. I send a Facebook message to someone in the know and leave it. The next day I get a reply that yes indeed, they decided to bless us with extra. I remember writing ‘thanks, you’ve just paid my flight home to my daughters’ wedding’.

Liz came with us to every meeting, sometimes 4 a day.

Liz came with us to every meeting, sometimes 4 a day.

On the Wednesday I emailed some friends who gave us $1,200 earlier in the year when we thought Pete’s dad was dying. We kept it aside for ‘the day’, which didn’t happen. They said we could use it for whatever. The same day, someone emailed me and asked how short we were for our flights home, I said $800. They said it would be in our account that day.

Ross & Ros are our faith partners in what we do.

Ross & Ros are our faith partners in what we do.

Within 4 days, God had heard the prayers of others and my whinging and supplied money for flights. Sure, we hop scotched around the globe on super cheap flights, but we did it.

So, we had our return flights sorted but that was it.

We saw the ocean from time to time but didn't play in it much.

We saw the ocean from time to time but didn’t play in it much.

When we got to NZ we had free accommodation at my cousins house and then our future in-laws lent us the ‘windy’ a super little car that kept going and going. However, that was it.

We flew in on the Friday and the next day we started our ‘furlough’. This is when you leave your work back on the field and spend endless days and nights visiting your current and potential supporters. Somewhere in the 2 months you’re meant to take a break – not something we achieved.

Evan and Moira used to pastor the church that supports us. This was before they went to NYC and us back to Kenya.

Evan and Moira used to pastor the church that supports us. This was before they went to NYC and us back to Kenya.

The plan was to be in Auckland with Hannah on the weekends and travel on the weeks. The week leading up to the wedding would be totally spent in Auckland.

That first Saturday we go and see some friends who we got to meet when they hosted us for a youth conference – 21 years ago. They gave us some money for ‘incidentals’ – for us that meant wedding clothes. We had nothing to wear to the wedding of the year. So that was provided for.

On our way around NZ we stopped in Waihi where Pete's family came from. This is the area being mined.

On our way around NZ we stopped in Waihi where Pete’s family came from. This is the area being mined.

Everywhere we went people fed us (a lot) whether that be at a café or in their homes – and they paid for it all. There were very few times we had to pay for anything, which was great because eating out in NZ is really expensive. There were times people gave us envelopes of cash, put money into our bank account or went out and bought us things.

Pete’s a country boy at heart. He milked cows a couple of mornings while we were staying with some friends on a farm. He loved it and it was the closest to getting a break. Not because he had helped with milking but because of the generosity of our friends, they gave us a fuel card to use for the next month. That meant all of our petrol costs were covered. Just as well because we ended up doing 3,000 kilometres in that time.

Pete milking cows in Cambridge.

Pete milking cows in Cambridge.

One of the things we kept praying for was $5,000 to give towards the wedding costs. It never came through. We felt really bad that we could contribute hardly anything. One thing we wanted to do was give our kids the deposit for a house when they got married. Going to serve in Africa killed that one. Sure, we pulled together some funds for a few homewares, wedding props and something towards the photographers, but it never felt enough. We have short term borders at our home and we managed to save that, but it wasn’t just the same.

So while we were super blessed to have our costs covered, this one thing never came through. I don’t know why but it is what it is.

One thing I did notice is that people who sacrificially give to us each month, went overboard in looking after us. Generosity is not just an action, it’s a part of a persons’ character. It was the same people who give to us, kept giving whether it was cash, cheques, petrol cards or gas vouchers. We especially noticed it in New Zealand because we were there for a month.

Uncle Bob knew Liz when she was just a toddler.

Uncle Bob knew Liz when she was just a toddler.

However, it wasn’t much different in Aussie. We had a friends’ house and car to use – for free. Sometimes we had 4 meetings a day. It was exhausting but good at the same time. Considering we weren’t meant to come back until June this year, we managed to fit in a lot. Again, people would just give us a blessing of cash, which was very cool.

Singapore was hot, humid and lots of fun.

Singapore was hot, humid and lots of fun.

I remember being there for a few days and we were in the car, Pete said “Well God, when’s it going to come through again?” The funds had dried up and this time we had to pay for petrol. That very same day someone gave us a few hundred dollars. It paid not only for our fuel but the hire car we needed for a couple of days at the end.

Last but not least, we needed $600 for travel insurance. Insurance isn’t one thing you can do without when you’re abroad, it’s not worth the risk. We hadn’t been insured for a couple of months and it’s not a nice feeling. In our last few days in Aussie, two people gave us cash which covered the whole amount. That will keep us going for 6 months and then we’ll get a 12 month policy in July.

No, we didn't go tenting.

No, we didn’t go tenting.

No, we never stayed in hotels (except a cheapy in Dubai on the way), we slept in lots (11) different beds. We caught 14 different flights. We spent endless hours in airports. We visited the beach 4 times in 2 months, the most spent was an hour.

Our ‘holiday’ was the day and a half with my cousins in Singapore but besides that it was head down and butt up.

There are two things this trip proved to me:

  • Nothing is a surprise for God, He knows what we need/want
  • Generous people are always generous, it’s who they are

Now we’re home and we, like you, have to keep believing God for more. In 5 weeks we move apartments to save money. It’s another opportunity to see what He will do for His kids.

Thank you to everyone who gave us a bed, meals, petrol, cars, flights, clothes, tools, coffees and more. You are not forgotten. You are appreciated and loved.

My friend Cath is part of our intercessors team.

My friend Cath is part of our intercessors team.

This Is No Holiday

We’ve been on the road for a month now and the biggest thing people say to us is ‘How’s your holiday going?’

This is no holiday, trust me.

Sure, we’re away from home for 8 weeks, so yes, it counts as an extended period of time. The recreation side of things is another thing all together.

The reason we came to New Zealand - the wedding of Hannah and Luke.

The reason we came to New Zealand – the wedding of Hannah and Luke.

The great thing is to catch up with many of the partners in our work, family and friends. We hadn’t planned to come away this year but our youngest daughter is about to be married, so we were coming.

If you’re spending $6,000 on flights, you certainly wouldn’t come for a couple of weeks.

Each weekend, we are in Auckland with our daughter and during the week we are visiting around the country. December is the worst time of year to fundraise so booking in group meetings is not just going to happen.

Ross & Beryl Shadbolt - Pete lived with them before we got married.

Ross & Beryl Shadbolt – Pete lived with them before we got married.

Weekends are full of shopping for clothes for the wedding, decorations for the wedding, going through the ceremony ideas for the wedding. Now we are getting closer it’s shopping for the household stuff and moving furniture into the apartment.

Since we are living off people’s donations, we have very little that we can financially contribute. However, we can offer practical help and advice.

As soon as Monday comes around we jump into the little Toyata we’ve been generously lent by the in-laws. Thankfully, we’ve been lent a fuel card for the month, so our petrol has been covered.

Pohutakawa trees. NZ is the only place you can see them.

Pohutakawa trees. NZ is the only place you can see them.

In some places we have back to back meetings, up to three a day. On Thursday we’ve squashed in 4. Today was the only day we haven’t had meetups with people or travelled.

No wonder we are tired, really tired.

Sleep when/where you can.

Sleep when/where you can.

What most people don’t realise is that this is part of work. Sure, we get to sleep in later but each day you’re telling people about what is happening in your part of the world. There’s still blogs to write, websites to update, fundraising campaigns to get going, emails to answer.

This is what they call ‘furlough’.

Liz with Don McDonell, someone who we've known for 20 years.

Liz with Don McDonell, someone who we’ve known for 20 years.

It’s not a holiday it’s a necessary part of keeping in touch with donors and putting a face to where their money goes. It reminds them that you are more than someone on a social networking site. You are human and you are grateful for their sacrifice.

Pete getting to see his ailing father.

Pete getting to see his ailing father.

It’s quite hard to let them know of the ever growing financial needs and the shrinking budget. You don’t want to seem ungrateful and that you need more. But that is the reality. The cost of living in East Africa is skyrocketing, while the income diminishes. Donors move to other countries, some just stop, others forget.

You also have to buy clothes and tools for the next 2 years. Pretty much everything is twice the price in Kenya so you have to outlay for what you will need. There are some things you just can’t get back home. For example, I bought a wooden clock for teaching time to kids – it cost a whopping $5. I’ve also got counters for using with a bingo game and Pete has picked up some chainsaw files. No point in having a chainsaw if you can’t sharpen it!

Speaking at the Tokoroa Elim Church about our work.

Speaking at the Tokoroa Elim Church about our work.

On the flip side though, catching up with people we haven’t seen, some for 15 years, is fantastic. We’ve eaten way too much food, stayed up too late too often and had time to hear what others have been up to.

Kevin & Jan Ahern shouting us out to a BIG breakfast.

Kevin & Jan Ahern shouting us out to a BIG breakfast.

So although it’s not a holiday – it’s still been lots of fun.

A Wedding Fundaiser In Kenya

On Sunday we were invited to a wedding fundraiser for our friends John and Joy. Joy and I used to work together and also attend the same church.

MC, Joy, John

MC, Joy, John

This month John and Joy will get married. We won’t be able to attend as we will be in New Zealand preparing for our own daughters’ wedding. However, Liz and I went along to a fundraiser, so I thought I’d share about the process.

It seems to be a normal thing to fundraise for weddings. There’s lots of ways of doing it but since this was my first one I totally had no idea of the process. All I knew is that Liz and I would probably be the only white people there and stick out like a sore thumb.

Me winning the USB.

Me winning the USB.

In usual Kenyan fashion, it started an hour late. I’ve learnt pretty fast not to turn up to an event on time and Sundays are the best day to drive around in Nairobi. The traffic is much lighter than during the week, so what would normally take at least an hour, took 15 minutes.

The big item for sale.

The big item for sale.

We sat right at the back of a small meeting room. I got to sit next to Shiko who was Joy’s sister. There would’ve been about 30 people max at the event. It all started with buying a handkerchief for 100 shillings, which you then had to pin onto you (don’t have a clue why). As with any good event, there is food involved. So, we started off with tea, bananas, sausages and mandazis. Sundays are a busy time in Nairobi so this would’ve been the equivalence to lunch for most people.

The MC

The MC

The most important person at either a fundraiser or the wedding, is the MC. He’s the one who is meant to be the life of the party and make things happen. At the fundraiser, his primary job is to get as much money out of people possible in a fun way. He sets the rules for ‘fines’ like not taking part or coming late.

Moses, Joy's cousin selling handkerchiefs.

Moses, Joy’s cousin selling handkerchiefs.

I had been warned to bring lots of small notes like 50, 100 and 200 shillings, which of course I did. Pete and I had already decided how much we wanted to give which was a winner because it saved us bringing a present back from our overseas trip next week. I was pretty happy that we didn’t get fined, although it doesn’t really matter because it was all going to the wedding costs.

People made pledges on behalf of those who couldn't be there.

People made pledges on behalf of those who couldn’t be there.

I did however, buy 4 raffle tickets. We don’t actually need any more ‘stuff’ but people weren’t really buying this so I hoped to kick things off. There were lots of prizes including a live chicken, humungous watermelon, USB stick and a number of wrapped secret gifts. At the end of the day people bought up large on the raffle tickets which was great.

room No matter how much I tell people just to treat us normally, it’s often far from it. People used to call me ‘their boss’ when I was just their colleague, simply because I’m white. Hence, I got to be on the VIP list and guess who got called up first to give their donation. Of course, I couldn’t just walk up the front, I had to be danced up the aisle. Normally I hide behind the camera but didn’t have a chance this time.

With Lucy and Joy. We all used to work together.

With Lucy and Joy. We all used to work together.

You get given a basket (mine was yellow) to hold. Then you have to count out the 1,000 shilling notes to give towards the wedding. The MC then gives people the opportunity to add to it. After this, the money goes to the accounts people to add to the funds. While I was dreading the whole thing, it actually wasn’t as bad as I thought.

The same yellow basket I had to hold.

The same yellow basket I had to hold.

Other people got to put in their amounts – family members, singles, marrieds or anyone else who hadn’t been given the opportunity. Within 3 hours the whole things was over.

Joy's sister and cousin pledging money.

Joy’s sister and cousin pledging money.

Towards the end of the evening there was one highlight and that was the raffle draw. Yes, I got to win the USB drive which was great because mine had got lost. However, there was something much more fun to finish the day.

The chicken.

Basically there were two teams vying for the chicken, me and another guy. People were putting money on the chook, it was a bit like an auction. I REALLY didn’t want to take the live chicken home. I live in an apartment block, imagine what the neighbours would think? And I was really worried I would have to hold the thing, which was far from my favourite hobby. I got desperate enough to put 200 shillings on the other team. In the end they won by only fifty cents. I was more than happy for the chicken to go to the other guy, and he was a happy camper.

liz n girls All in all, it was a great afternoon and no doubt we will have many more of these to go to, each with their own flavour.

 

 

 

 

Honour Thy Father

Yesterday it was Father’s Day in lots of countries, including Kenya. Our youngest daughter lives in New Zealand and it doesn’t happen there until September.

So in honour of all dads (and single mums) I’m writing this blog, but especially in honour of Pete’s dad – Alvin Crean.

Dad is in hospital and we are all unsure of how much longer he’ll be with us. At 83 his heart is just holding on. It’s been a tough week for all of the family, we all knew it was going to happen but it doesn’t make it any easier.

It’s hit Pete really hard being so far away from everyone. The last time he saw his dad it was exactly 2 years ago. It was to say goodbye before we moved to Kenya. Pete knew it would be the last time he saw his dad, so it was extra special. Yesterday we did get to make him a video and then speak to him which was really good.

There’s some quite famous Creans across the world. One of them was Thomas Crean, an explorer that went to Antarctica with Ernest Shackleton. In fact this year there was a huge festival in his name held in Wellington, New Zealand. It looks like they originated from Ireland and made their way across the world.

The family crest

The family crest

There’s even a ‘Creans Road’ named after Pete’s grandad in Waihi.

roadIn 1960 Pete’s dad married his mum (Alma). She already had 4 children from her previous husband who had passed away. That’s a huge thing to take on 4 kids that aren’t your own. Then, Pete and his sister were taken in when their birth parents abandoned them. Pete and Dawn were just a toddler and a baby.

It takes a lot of courage to take on 6 children with none of them being biologically yours. It wasn’t always a peaceful household and Pete has lots of colourful stories about his upbringing.

Pete liked living where they did because their house was on the fenceline of the school. In fact, it was only a few years ago that his parents moved out of there to a more rural setting.

The Crean house in Tokoroa

The Crean house in Tokoroa

Our girls loved visiting their grandparents little lifestyle block. There were pigs, dogs, chickens and lots of parrots. Pete’s dad loves birds. Even now at 83 he keeps birds in the back yard. One of our regrets is that he didn’t get to come to Africa and see the amazing wildlife here. He would’ve really liked that.

One thing I really respect about Pete is that he honours his dad. He doesn’t agree with everything he did or said but the fact that he took in so many and provided for them and calls them ‘all of his kids’ says a lot. On our wedding day, 26 years ago, Pete made sure during the speeches that his parents were given the due respect and thanks. Although it’s a blended family I’ve never heard anyone say ‘step brother’, ‘step sister’ or his dad say ‘they’re not MY kids’.

December 1987

December 1987

Some handy things Pete’s dad has taught him (purposely or not):

  • Work hard/play hard
  • Provide for your family even if you have to get 2 or 3 jobs
  • Always be hospitable (be ready with that cup of tea)
  • Every kid is special, they are not an accident
  • Treat animals well
  • It’s okay to argue with your spouse but work it out cause you still have to live with them
Pete and his sisters at the bar

Pete and his sisters at the bar

Whether you’ve had a good relationship with your dad or a real crappy one, take whatever lessons you can and use them in your own family. We choose the environment we have within our family, we don’t have to repeat how we were brought up if we want it to be different.

family

Pete with Mum and Dad

The word ‘Crean’ means ‘heart’. I would say that my husband has learned through his life experiences to have a heart for people. He is compassionate and kind, especially to those who are downtrodden and rejected by society. He chooses to honour his parents through his lifestyle.Dad’s heart might not have much longer to keep beating but he can be assured that the hearts, thoughts and prayers of his family will be with him now and always.

 

 

 

A Kenyan Wedding

Weddings here are quite different to what we’ve experienced in the West. If I were to start a business here it would be in the wedding industry – there’s masses of money to be made. Our friends Steve and Edith invited us to a business partners sons wedding in Nakuru. It meant leaving home at 6.30am and returning the next morning at 1.30am.

We took Steve’s Pajero which broke down half way through the trip so we had to wait for another car to come from Nairobi. I was quite happy with that as the service was 4 hours long! We got their in time for the last 45 minutes. It was all in Swahili except for when the MC gave instructions for the reception.

Check out the video HERE

Because we were two of only three white people we were all the rave for shaking hands. As if I could remember any of their names!! We even had photos with the bridal party. Instantly we were family.

Silly me thought I would go to the toilet when we got to the reception area as it was a sports club. We got there to find out that it was at a sport grounds in marquees. I wasn’t sure if I could make it through the day but then the MC announced that there was a washroom AKA toilet in another area. The day was saved!

cake

The cakes

At Kenyan weddings there is lots of dancing, usually before the bridal party arrives. I used the excuse of a sore foot (it was true) but a bit hard to explain a neuroma when no one can see it and wearing high heels is a killer. It was a convenient excuse from being totally embarrassed, especially when you’re the only white women amongst hundreds.

We ended up sitting in the VIP area right next to the grooms parents. The food was typically Kenyan so very nice. By the time we had food the bridal party still hadn’t arrived. Apparently they might not do so until the end.

bridesmaids

The bridesmaids

The setup was that the brides family sit under one marquee opposite the grooms family with lots of grass in between. In the middle were several cakes under a smaller marquee.

After the bridal party arrived of course there were the speeches but the important part was the family gifts. It was a major competition between the families about who could bring more and bigger presents. It was mentioned about the gifts that had already been given like an oven. Of course when it came to the grooms side it was done with much ceremony and pomp and the announcement was made that the father had bought them a piece of land.

marquee

One of the many marquees

We thought it was all over until the cake cutting ceremony. The bride kneels to feed her husband a piece of cake and then vice versa.  Another cake is cut and then served to the parents (and us), they didn’t get it that I can’t eat cake because I’m gluten free. Hope they didn’t think I was a snob!

After everything we planned to head home, but no, we had to go to the parents place for an after wedding thing, apparently it’s the norm. Hence we didn’t get home until 1.30am!