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!

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Solomon’s Choice

When people think of labels like ‘Third World’ or ‘Developing Country’ there’s this automatic picture we get in our mind of streets lined with beggars.

I can only speak on what I’ve seen here in Kenya – there aren’t that many beggars. Pete tells me that he was shocked when he went to Ethiopia and saw so many people begging on the streets. We see some regulars at their normal spot. A mother with a child, a legless man, an elderly bearded man and a bunch of kids (on the weekend). They’re all situated by shopping malls where traffic slows down or there’s an intersection. During the holidays there’s a whole stack of primary school boys who have a ‘pimp’ telling them how to get more money.

We’ve made it a general rule not to give out money to kids begging on the street. It’s a hard one because you know that these kids are from families that live on $2 a day. They wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t have to. Most people here will find a way to make money, usually by selling some goods, clothing or services.

The reason we generally don’t give out money is that we don’t want to encourage the practice. There’s a huge assumption that because you’re a foreigner you have lots of money. It’s true, foreigners generally do have more money than a local. However, if you look at whose driving the BMW’s, Mercedes and Prados, many of them are driven by Kenyans.

Last Sunday our stance was challenged. Liz had stayed to hang with her mates at an after church event so Pete and I snuck out to a great Chinese restaurant by our house. The food there is ridiculously cheap and tastes fantastic. Sundays are the only time you can drive around the city and not get stuck in a traffic jam.

This is not the boy I saw begging

This is not the boy I saw begging

As we’re driving into the restaurant I notice a boy aged around 4 dressed in rags and looking like he hadn’t bathed in days. He was by himself which is unusual because they normally work in groups. He wasn’t actively begging, running up to cars and tapping on the window. He was simply standing as close as possible to the road with a vacant look in his eyes.

He was four.

Two hours later we drove out of the restaurant and he was still there, in the same spot.

As we refueled the car I just kept staring at this boy. Here, we had just spent hours eating, having a Coke and planning out the next few months. This boy had no future, he didn’t even have today. I had to make a choice – stick with the plan or give this kid a chance.

As we drove past I told Pete to slow down, wound down the window and handed the boy fifty shillings (around 50 cents). I said to him “Go buy yourself some food”. He probably hadn’t started school so didn’t know what I was saying but I’m sure he got the gist.

The reason I only gave him that amount is that he was by himself and if I gave him more someone would’ve snatched it out of his hand. If I had something like some fruit in the car I would’ve given him that. At least then there would be food in his stomach.

This is why I hate poverty. It makes people do things they normally wouldn’t. It stops them from having a life where they can go to school, find employment and have a future.

All I did was help for one minute. Imagine how many more we can help long term.

Would I do it again? Maybe. I’m not planning on making a habit out it but I am planning on helping a whole bunch more who can help themselves.

Want to help me achieve that?

http://makingadifference.gofundraise.com.au/page/TheGirlsProject

Dentists and Rats

Admittedly, I haven’t been to the dentist for 15 years, but I was surprised to find parts of my left back molar in my hand as I was eating popcorn at the movies. I love their popcorn, it’s caramel coated. I didn’t love feeling a giant gap in my tooth.

The last time I went to the dentist I had 3 wisdom teeth out – no wonder I make the decisions I do! It was one of the most painful experiences in my life.

I’ve never liked going to the dentist. At primary school we used to call it ‘the murder house’. As an adult I figured out that dentists were most likely bullied at school and this was their revenge, and to make lots of money doing it.

I mean, who wants to look inside the mouths of people every day?

I was thinking of a quick fix, even getting it pulled out. Not going to happen to this chick. It was a crown or nothing, and I had a few other holes, another cracked tooth and the final wisdom tooth that had grown sideways which had to come out.

The drill is a horrible but effective tool.

The drill is a horrible but effective tool.

I got depressed. Where was I, a missionary, going to find the $1,000 to get this done, even some of it? We’d just spent $400 on Pete’s broken arm and we’ve got to find a few thousand to get our visas renewed next month. Pete was really good about it, probably the same support I’ve given him over the last 3 years and the numerous hospital visits he’s undertaken.

I hate going to the dentist the same as I do with rats. I hate rats. Snakes, spiders, even getting robbed at gunpoint, fade into comparison to visiting the dentist or having a rat in my house.

Whenever I get unwell I will do ANYTHING not to go to a doctor here. Pete and others assure me there are some good guys, but I don’t want to find out any day soon.

At least the chair was comfy.

At least the chair was comfy.

I’d heard of a dentist about a 5 minute drive from our place, on the 4th floor of the mall. The place is called Skye Dental. The night my tooth broke I went up there but they had closed. I returned the next morning for the verdict.

It was bad.

Just to get a consultation, x-ray and clean it was $120. Dr. Yakub told me that dentists like to do mouths in quadrants, which meant I have to get one filling, a tooth out and a temporary filling in one go. The next visit $284. The last part, for just one tooth – a whooping $710. No one can even see where that money is going!

But what choice do I have?

Today I got the first part done. Pete insisted on walking me all the way there in case I chickened out. What was I going to do, he had the car keys.

I came prepared this time. I had my playlist ready to go, headphones on.

Dr. Yakub promised me that it wouldn’t hurt. Who ever believes a dentist?

I guess dentistry has come a long way in 15 years. I remember the needle being the absolute worse, but it wasn’t. I had 3 injections and only felt one (slightly). This is because he put this numbing dawa (medicine) on the site first. Even when he pulled out the back tooth I felt nothing.

When it came to the broken tooth, he had to get off the old filling first. The drilling sound is still as awful as ever, but I turned up the music loud. What I really struggle with is the gagging reflex. You feel like you’re drowning even though you’re not. Then they put that sucking thing in and it’s a shocker. It was made worse because I’d drank lots of water when exercising that morning and really needed to go to the toilet.

Straight after an hour at the dentists. Pretty bad shot, no makeup, numb face and the dentist looks interesting too!

Straight after an hour at the dentists. Pretty bad shot, no makeup, numb face and the dentist looks interesting too!

The other horrible thing about my visit was the metal ring they put around what’s left of your tooth. It’s not pleasant. He had three goes at building the tooth and the ring kept slipping. So I spent my time not drowning in saliva, trying to ignore the sucking thing and letting go of the pain as the metal ring was shoved up into my gum. The only pleasant thought was ‘at least I’m making him work for his money’.

I’ve given birth twice, climbed the world’s second highest free standing mountain (Kilimanjaro) twice, moved countries twice, been robbed at gunpoint and watched as our oldest daughter has taken on the challenges of being disabled. But for me, going to the dentist and rats top it all off of the things I hate most.

I’m impressed with how professional and compassionate the staff of Skye Dentists are. I had verbal diarrhea because I was not happy with going, but they let me rant on. The equipment is excellent and the after care is good. Dr Yakub explained what he was about to do and never rolled his eyes when I gagged.

I’m still not sure where we will find the money from for the next part as it’s about half of what we get from our supporters each month. But, for the next 2 weeks I will focus on work and see what happens.

Meantime, I’m really enjoying the numbness in my face.

If you would like to help the Creans get insured while they are volunteering in East Africa, feel free to make a safe, online donation HERE.

When You Break A Bone

This last week has been an interesting one in the Crean household. We had visitors staying overnight who we were taking to the airport the next day. That night Pete (who didn’t put down the bathmat) slipped on the floor as he came out of the shower. He made the biggest bang I’ve ever heard in my life.

Then there was silence.

It doesn't look broken but it is.

It doesn’t look broken but it is.

After yelling 3 times Pete finally answered. He knew right then that he had broken his arm/wrist. I wasn’t convinced and mandatorily put on a packet of frozen peas to see if the pain would subside. It didn’t and so off to the hospital we would go.

Two weeks ago our insurance ran out and we didn’t have the funds to renew it. We put out the word to everyone on our social network sites – nothing. We just hoped that nothing would go wrong until we magically found the money.

Part of the waiting room at A&E.

Part of the waiting room at A&E.

Because he’s a man’s man, Pete insisted on driving the 15 minutes (at 11pm) to Nairobi Hospital. I tried to convince Pete to go to a cheaper one but he was insistent on going there. Nairobi Hospital was the place we went to when he broke his leg on Mount Kilimanjaro. They did a great job, but the insurance was paying for it – $12,000.

I was thinking it wouldn’t be busy getting close to midnight. What a fool I was. The place was packed.

Because Pete had been a patient before they had him on record so I was saved from filling in a registration form. First step – pay to see the doctor ($26). Typically you have to pay for every step along the way before it’s done. Naturally, the staff thought that our insurance would pay for it and wanted to dole out anything they wanted. Till they found out it was a cash job.

Waiting for the first cast.

Waiting for the first cast.

Second step is to go to a nurse to have a look at the wound, take your blood pressure, temperature and weight.

Then you wait once again.

Everything was moving slowly and there was the worst movie on TV. Mind you we had the choice of 3 TV’s in the waiting foyer – a Swahili program, an old cartoon or a movie about a prostitute. At midnight, what you want to do is go to sleep.

There were only a few people left and at 12.30am we were called in to see a doctor.

The next day we returned to get a better cast on.

The next day we returned to get a better cast on.

I’m not sure why doctors ask you “So how are you this morning?” when you wouldn’t choose to be there if you didn’t have to. After I had paid another $57 Pete was given a jab in the butt and we were sent off to the X-ray department. I was thinking it was going to be another hour wait.

Actually there was no one there for a few minutes. I reckon half the staff were sleeping at 1am as no one was around. The x-ray didn’t take long and Pete’s arm just above his wrist had a small crack. Thankfully nothing major (says she who has never broken a bone).

Back to the small curtained area to wait for the attending doctor to give us her final word.

A much happier Pete Crean

A much happier Pete Crean

She had a 5 second look at the x-ray and told us they may want to wire it. No way was that going to happen, there was no money for that. We would have to see the orthpeadiac surgeon in the next couple of days but meantime they would put a cast on it.

Another $93 later, it begins. I had to go out of the room because it was too small for 4 people. Meantime I was instructed to go and get his medicine. I was thinking to myself ‘it better not be just Panadol, as I’ve got stacks of it at home.’

At the beginning of our hospital visit I had asked if all the charges could be put once on a card, thus trying to avoid several international transaction fees. Looked like it wasn’t going to happen.

What infuriated me was the last bill I had to pay was only for $23 for the medicine.

It was 2am before we were able to get out of the hospital. Again, his royal highness insisted on driving home. Pete’s one crazy guy.

Overall the hospital visit wasn’t tragic. Nairobi Hospital is one of the best in town, and it’s the closest to us. You don’t have to pay for parking but like other medical places, you have to wait a long time to get seen. I’m glad it wasn’t something life threatening like a heart attack and you’d die while waiting to be seen.

Nairobi Hospital has a lot of high tech medical devices, it’s just whether you can afford to use these. I was surprised how helpful and polite the staff were in the early hours of the morning.

The medication is working, the heavy cast has been replaced by a much better support cast, after spending another $200.

Dr. Atinga repaired Pete's broken leg 4 years ago. Now he's done the arm.

Dr. Atinga repaired Pete’s broken leg 4 years ago. Now he’s done the arm.

All up the slip coming out of the shower cost $400. Insurance for a year is $1,400. Go do the maths.

The next day we returned to visit Dr. John Atinga who put Pete’s leg back together after he broke it on Mount Kilimanjaro. Unlike the doctors the night before he took a quick look at the x-ray, never mentioned surgery and gave us the simple option – a lighter support cast or 3 weeks and then a review. I wish he was on the night before as it would’ve been a much cheaper and simple option in the first place.

Here’s hoping we can get covered soon as Kenya isn’t exactly the safest place to be in (even without slipping). There’s a high terrorist threat at the moment, the roads are crazy and personal security even walking around isn’t good.

Here’s also hoping we don’t visit a hospital for a long time. Meantime, if you feel you could help us be covered by insurance you can donate online HERE.

Keeping Fit In Kenya

There’s a group of us that get together at our place each Wednesday night. We have a meal and then one person leads a discussion from the Bible. It’s a low key but important night where we can connect with each other and God.

A few of us have decided we want to get healthier and fitter than in the past. We’ve also made ourselves accountable to getting out and exercising.

But, like everything else in Kenya, it’s complicated.

Sure, you can join a gym but it’s anywhere from $80 a month for a small room with little equipment up to $150 a month for something decent. You can do a Zumba class for around $11.

gym

There seems to be lots of gyms in various sizes around town. I’ve visited a gym in the city where our lawyer goes and it was packed during mid morning. We have one about a 10 minute drive away but it’s fairly expensive. The biggest issue is actually physically getting to one. To say traffic is busy is a slight understatement. Unless you’ve driven in Italy, Indonesia or Mexico you don’t have a clue of how packed things get here.

Security is a huge issue here. I know of someone who was ambushed on her way to a boxing class at 6am, just outside the gym.

When it comes down to it though, it’s easy to make excuses wherever you are for not getting healthy. I’ve a friend who tells me there just isn’t time in 24 hours to look after herself. Another one says there’s too much work to be done. And I’ve told myself ‘it might rain’ and avoid what could’ve been a good 45 minutes of my day.

So here’s Sharon’s solution to keeping healthy in Kenya (or wherever you live):

1. Commit yourself to a healthier lifestyle

It’s easy to say you want to lose some weight or feel better about yourself, but it doesn’t happen by doing nothing. I believe a lot of the battle is in our minds. I know when I’m running as soon as I start thinking about walking, it’s not long before it happens. Commitment means paying some sort of cost. However, be realistic. Start small. I started by doing 20 situps and then added 10 each week until I got up to 100. I did the same with other exercises like squats and pushups (okay I do the girly ones).

Too many people start with a bang and then end up fizzing out.

Don't fizz out like a sparkler

Don’t fizz out like a sparkler

Liz plays soccer on Saturdays so she focuses on becoming healthier because she wants to enjoy it more.

2. Get to bed earlier

Whether you consider yourself a morning or night person, you CAN change your behavior. We used to be youth workers and it wasn’t unusual to be still working at 11pm most nights. When we moved to Australia Pete started in construction work and he would be up at 5am. He still operates better at night time but you can’t burn the candle at bother ends. If you’re a later night person just start by going to bed 30 minutes earlier for a week. The next week try going another 30 minutes earlier. That way your body can adjust.

Here in Kenya it gets dark at 7pm and light at about 6.45am, the beauty of being close to the Equator. While we don’t have to worry about daylight savings or long/short days, you can make the most of these, even if it’s an evening walk.

sleep

3. Get out of bed earlier

We all like that extra 30 minutes in the mornings to snooze some more, but we are the first to claim that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Like I said, it doesn’t get really light until just before 7am, which is a bummer because I wake up between 5.30 and 6am. I have to wait until at least 7 before I can go for a run. It eats into my day and sometimes I can’t do any exercise for a few days. On Tuesdays I Skype our daughter Hannah who lives in New Zealand at 7am. It normally lasts for an hour so after that it’s a mad rush to get as much done, downloaded or sent before the power goes off for it’s normal shutdown on Tuesdays.

wake

4. Make it part of your lifestyle

I don’t go for a run because I’m a running freak. I do it because I enjoy pushing my body, it makes me drink water (which I don’t do enough) and it gets me off my butt. I run/walk three times a week first thing in the morning. I like putting on my headphones, have some good music going and hit the pavement (which we don’t have many of). I know of others who get out in the afternoons and I pass a neighbor who is going for a walk as I get into the compound. You have to make whatever works for you, but you have to start.

When we got back from Australia a few months ago we made the decision not to have any sodas unless we go out. When we have visitors and they bring it, we drink it. We’re not super religious about it, we just made a decision that we thought we could live with. Every now and then we might get a bottle of Coke with something like takeout chicken and chips but most of the time we get fruit juice. I’m not totally convinced that the juice in Kenya isn’t laden with sugar, but at least it tastes better.

5. Add variety

I haven’t done it for a while, but when we were living in our other apartment I set up a little workout area in my lounge. It was a simple yoga mat and a large gym ball. I had a routine of exercises I could do as I wasn’t running at that stage. Now that I’m hitting the pavement (or dirt) I plan to do a gym workout when I can’t get outside.

Instead of having a Coke when you go out for a meal, try water or a juice. I’m a routine driven person but even I have learned that you’ve got to challenge the way you do things.

The reason I started running again after 2 years was because I had set in my mind why I couldn’t do it:

  • The fumes from the trucks are disgusting
  • I could trip over where there’s no footpath
  • Maybe one day we could find the funds for a gym
  • I don’t have time

It didn’t matter how many excuses I put up, the fact is I just had to get on and do it.

sign

Even with my running I am forced to have some variety. Because of security issues I choose to run at 7 in the morning because there are hundreds of people walking to work. It’s highly unlikely I’ll be mugged. I don’t take my apartment keys but I do take my phone which is in an arm band under my tee shirt.

I don’t follow the same route, I go different ways on different days. I also tell Pete which way I’m going. He knows I should be back within the hour, so if I’m not and he can’t contact me – then he can panic.

6. Enjoy your life

Liz and I were held up at gunpoint at our house around 6 weeks ago. Although it was horrible and traumatic we’ve decided not to let it define who we are and what we will do. We chose to live here and will make the most of it. We work with some great people, have made some lifelong friends and generally enjoy life here. We are super blessed in Nairobi because local fruit and veges are really cheap to buy, so we could have fresh fruit juice and smoothies every day if we wanted to. We could have a maid for all of $180 a month if we had the budget. We can choose around 10 national game parks within a 4 hour drive. It’s a 5 hour drive to Tanzania, a 60 minute flight to about 5 other countries. There are lots of sport and cultural events within Nairobi – every weekend. If we were the clubbing type we could go to a different spot every night.

We all know that a healthier lifestyle and exercise a few times a week has psychological benefits. The problem is we want it all without the pain, commitment and cost involved.

But, if I can do it in Kenya, so can you – anywhere in the world.

sign

When A Gun Is In Your Face

This last week has probably been the hardest ever in our lives, well, to date anyway. Five days beforehand we had just moved into another apartment (see previous blog). We were just settling down, most of the unpacking was done bar about 5 boxes and ready to do life in a new place. The only reason we moved was to save $300 a month to help our shrinking budget (due to the declining dollar). We wanted to live in the same area because it is nice, but also one of the safer places in Nairobi to live.

That was all about to change.

Just after 3pm on Tuesday, Liz came home from the preschool she volunteers at. I was sitting on the sofa working, and literally 5 seconds later 3 men walked through the door. For some strange reason I automatically slid my phone under one of the cushions. My immediate thought was ‘maybe it’s Lizzies motorbike driver and she’s left something with him’. It only took a split second to realize this was going to be a holdup.

gun

One guy went straight to Liz, another one came to me. He said “You see this (the pistol), you know what it’s for, do what you are told’. Immediately they demanded the phones, I told Liz to hand hers over. They never asked for mine.

One of the guys grabbed my arm and asked to see the money. In that moment an older woman walked in, she was tough. Obviously she was the ringleader. I showed them my bag and they emptied everything out. There was only about $30 in it because I had just paid the power bill. The woman said ‘Is that it, give me the gold’. She started pulling at my wedding band really roughly. I told them it would come off easier with detergent and started going to the kitchen. Things immediately got tense, maybe they thought I was up to something.

We couldn’t get out because they had locked all the doors and even pulled the curtains.

Liz was getting really upset saying “Why are you doing this to us?” They told me to shut her up otherwise they would gag her. They kept demanding the gold, so I took them down to my jewellery box. There’s not much there but they tipped everything out. All I kept saying is “Take what you want just don’t hurt my daughter”.

One man came back to me and took me alone down to Lizzies room. He had my wedding band in his hand and said “Madam, I can get this back to you…” Immediately I thought he wanted sex or money and he wasn’t getting any of it. I said “No, I don’t have anything” and walked back to the lounge.

They then told us to get on our stomachs on the floor. One tied us up while the others ransacked the place. By now the woman had disappeared. I remember pleading for them to leave the purple hard drive as it had all of my babies photos. Then they covered us with blankets.

hands

I was trying to keep Liz calm by telling her to keep her eyes closed. I just kept praying out loud and telling her it was going to be okay and we would be out soon. To be honest, in my mind I was worried they were going to shoot us before they went out.

I could hear them pulling things off the shelves and cupboards, one person was even right by us by the bookshelf. They were obviously looking for hidden money. They then pulled the blankets off and demanded to know where the cameras were as they had seen the tripod in the cupboard. I said to them that I was just a missionary and I was storing stuff for people. They covered us back up.

It seemed a lifetime but the whole thing was probably over in 15/20 minutes.

One of the thieves slid the hard drive under the blanket. He was polite and said “Here is your hard drive as promised”. “Wait 20 minutes and then you can go”.

They took the house keys and left. I heard a car start so got up and untied us. I found out our feet were loosely bound with a phone cord and our hands with a tie. I ran to a window and realized the guard couldn’t see me so I ran to our bedroom window and yelled “Stop that car, they are robbers” but it was too late. The white car went slowly through the gate.

I called Pete straight away, probably gave him a heart attack. Liz had her door key in a pocket. She was absolutely terrified. She thought they were coming back and I just needed to get her out of the house. I grabbed the car key (the only one we have) and ran downstairs. By now the neighbours had congregated. I sat Liz in the car and called some friends who live just up the road to come and get her. She just needed to get away from it all and I knew we would have a long night with the police.

The neighbours were really good. Instantly one got onto his phone to a friend because he recognized the car as he was pulling into the carpark. His friend told him which hire car company he had sold it to. The foolish thieves did not know that it had a tracking device in it, which would be their demise.

I called Lucy, our Kenyan daughter as I didn’t have a clue what to do. She called the police, and her aunty to help out. Lucy came home with a motorbike driver. It was really good having her. She said we need to go to the police station immediately, I wanted to wait for Pete.

Thankfully Carey and Martha arrived and took Liz straight away. It was only minutes later Pete arrived. Instead of taking the normal one hour to get home he did it in a world record time of 20 minutes. It was such a relief when he arrived. You should’ve heard him rip into the security guards, I think the whole of Nairobi did.

Martha & Carey

Martha & Carey

The rest of the night was spent going to the police station and reporting it. Then the deputy commander and his aide came back to look at the apartment. It was then we found the apartment downstairs had been robbed before us. All 6 of us jumped in our car because the commander had been told they had found the car on the other side of town (via the tracker) and we had to go to the hotel where it was. We got there to find all of the thieves had run away after shooting a police officer. The police had (again) rushed into the situation, didn’t wait until the guys went into a room, just went in guns blazing.

We were assured that all of the laptops and iphones were there but for some strange reason none of us were allowed to look at our stuff. No reason, it’s just was as it was.

Once we had dropped off the police (they didn’t have a car), and the neighbor we discovered there was no power at our place. Bummer as our phone chargers were stolen. Even though it was 9pm, we went and grabbed some dinner. It was a somber night, but it was just the beginning of another saga.

You will have to wait until next week to find out the rest of the story.

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The Move From Hell

The past week has been one of the longest for a very long time. We’d only been back from overseas for a couple of weeks when the opportunity came up to get into a cheaper apartment. It was just across the road from us and we will get to save about $300 per month. Sounds ideal right?

Well it should’ve been. How hard is it to pack, get the movers in and unpack again?

As with everything else in Kenya, it’s not that simple.

Five weeks ahead of schedule we signed the contract, handed over the money and started packing. We found a great company through some friends and prepared for the move.

How the flooring guys had left the kitchen.

How the flooring guys had left the kitchen.

In the more expensive apartments you have to paint the place before you leave it. The owner will hold back money until they are happy with it. It’s totally dodgy but that’s the way it is. Friends of ours were told by the owner that it would cost $850to paint the apartment, they got it done for just over $200.

Pete and I decided we would paint the place ourselves. It’s what we used to do in Australia and we had brought some of our gear back with us.

In the week leading up to the move pretty much all of our belongings were packed into boxes and stored in the lounge. We all slept on mattresses and prepared for the Monday move.

On the Wednesday before the move we met up with the landlady to collect the key. We get all the way there for her to tell us that the floors had not been varnished but it would be ready. We would pick up the key at the apartment on the Saturday. We go there to find the place full of dust and dirt, none of the repairs done and half the flooring pulled up.

We were livid as we had paid thousands of dollars and waited weeks to get in. It would be at least 4 more days before we could move in. But, our lease was up, we had to move out on the Monday and the movers were coming whether we were ready or not.

Quite frankly, the new landlady couldn’t care less.

It didn’t seem a big deal to her that she wasn’t organised enough. We had no place to live and no where to put our stuff.

Yes, there was a lot of dust everywhere.

Yes, there was a lot of dust everywhere.

Sunday was spent letting the landlady know we weren’t impressed and that SHE needed to do something about it.

Monday morning comes. The movers arrive an hour early and are into it like nobody’s business. It’s easy for them, normally they would have to pack it all but we’d already done it. It wasn’t till that morning that we were told we could store our belongings into one of the bedrooms. It was only after several text messages and phone calls that we found out where we would be staying and for how long.

We ended up at the Classic Guesthouse. While it was only 10 minutes up the road we spent nearly an hour looking for the place because the landlady had given us the wrong directions (surprise, surprise). The staff told us that 2 nights had been paid for, the landlady said it was 3. For the first night it was okay. The second, that’s another whole story.

Me in action and obviously not happy.

Me in action and obviously not happy.

On the Tuesday we spent the entire day painting our old apartment. We had a friend, Lencer, come in and she cleaned for 7 hours straight. None of us had lunch, we just kept moving. The place looked great, which is what we wanted to be able to get all of our bond back.

We heard absolutely nothing from the landlady that day. We still didn’t have a key, only the security guard did. We went to check it out and could see that only one coat had been put on the floors and all the crap of the flooring people was all over the place. There was dust and dirt still everywhere. And there was no electricity.

Here, it’s the landlords responsibility to make sure the place is ready to go, including the power.

That night none of us slept much. We still didn’t know when we could go to the apartment, we had to spend money eating out that we hadn’t budgeted for and we still had to catch up with the old landlord to see what money we would get back. The walls at the guesthouse are paper thin. That night people were happy to bang every door in the place and there was a couple who decided it was party night.

We decided no matter what we decided we would move into our apartment that day. We packed our bags after breakfast, sent Liz off to work and went to the apartment. It was in an absolute mess.

The shower

The shower

Pete went off his tree at the landlord and we finally got some things happening. The flooring guys came back to clean up their mess. We got Lencer back to help us clean and then the landlady rocked on up with her househelp. Mind you she wasn’t apologetic at all.

Pete and I ended up taking 2.5 hours just to clean the walls of the lounge and dining area. First we had to sweep the dust off the walls and then wash everything away.

6 hours later we were finished. Well, not really because there are lots of boxes to unpack, but at least we were in.

We’ve pretty much moved house every 2 years. Of all the moves this would’ve been the worst, all because one person, just one, couldn’t be bothered doing her job.

Here’s hoping we don’t have to move for a very, very long time.

Not quite finished but we're getting there.

Not quite finished but we’re getting there.