Why Birthdays Are Important


My 40th birthday

On the weekend I read a pathetic article in the local newspaper, so I just had to write about it.

Here’s a couple of short snippets of what it said:

‘Any man who throws a party or even considers some kind of bash after the age of 16 is a disgrace to the institution of masculinity. For women, we can be a bit accommodating and give them up to 25.’

‘Until adults in this country start acting more maturely, we will end up raising self-absorbed children who think the world owes them a living.’

Seriously, singing happy birthday to an adult compromises their masculinity?


I’m not sure who was more excited.



Lizzies birthday is on Dec 31st, so NYE is always important in our house.

And this is why I don’t buy newspapers very often.

I’m all for birthdays, but I guess that is how we raised our kids. Life itself is a great reason to celebrate. I’ve tried to find out if there is some deep and meaningful reason to why here in Kenya birthdays aren’t a big deal but all I could find is that it’s always been this way.


Bec and Han at a friends birthday.

In some cultures children aren’t named until they’re weaned simply because they may not survive until then. Totally understandable. Many of the kids we work with don’t know the date or year they were born because it was no big deal, until they need a birth certificate!


It’s all about the dressups.


Jo and Min, always smiling.

For the last couple of years I’ve been taking birthday cake along to some of our kids programs. I figure it’s no big deal to spend $5 on cake and get them to sing happy birthday. Who doesn’t like to get a card which tells you how special you are and that you’re not a mistake?


Liz and Han at Georgie Pie for a birthday.

Birthdays give us a reason to celebrate. I don’t think we celebrate the real things well. Sure, there’s huge sporting events and the Queen’s great grand-babies but nothing matters as much as our own families. With so much tragedy in the world we should celebrate more.


Me on my 16th birthday.


A birthday with our extended family – the Renatas.

Birthdays give a reason for families and friends to get together. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard at funerals “We should get together more” and yet we don’t. If you’re like me, you wonder where the weeks and months go, before we know it 2014 will be done and dusted.

Life is fragile and we need to handle with care. Meantime – enjoy and celebrate it!


Pete’s parents

Food, Kenya Style

So this week I thought I’d do something totally different and let you in on our eating habits here in Kenya.  Nairobi is a modern city so we don’t have to cook goat over an open fire, although we’ve had it, and it tastes really good. Of course watching the goat get killed and sliced up isn’t so pleasant.

In Sydney we would live on BBQ’s most nights with chicken in between. To buy a BBQ here we have to pay out around $800, not a top priority but we wish it were.  Barbequed meat is much better than that done in a frying pan. When we first moved here Pete conquered a charcoal BBQ but I think our neighbours might not be so enthusiastic about the smoke, but man did the food taste good!

A frozen chicken costs about $8 and it’s pretty straight forward to throw it in the oven to roast. But I’ve learnt, thanks to Google, how to make chicken pilau. According to the locals it tastes more like a biryani (Indian) but they think it was cool that I actually tried. They must’ve liked it because three people took the leftovers home. I also like chicken pad thai but Pete’s not really a noodle fan so we can’t have it too often. He’s more of a meat and three veges guy.

pilauI’ve also learnt how to make kachumbari. It kind of looks like bruschetta but better and you don’t have it on a slice of French stick, you can have it with anything. I found this recipe but apparently it’s not very Kenyan. Firstly you need to soak the red onion in salty water to take out the bitter taste. You’re also meant to add spring onion and white vinegar to give it a kick. Lucy, one of my co-workers made some and it was much better than mine.

kachumbariUgali is one of our least favourite dishes. Pete refuses to eat it, that’s because he hasn’t has a good version of it. Basically it’s maize flour and water, with a touch of salt. No, it’s not a homemade recipe for glue, I’ve made that one. Ugali is a staple food here, especially if you’re in poverty. It is totally non-nutritious but here the thinking is that if you don’t go to bed with a full feeling then you haven’t eaten enough. Ugali just sits in your stomach. I got Tinga, a young man who was staying with us one weekend, to show me how he made ugali and it wasn’t half bad. Still, I only eat it when I have to.

imagesGitheri is probably one of the hardest meals to handle. I’ve never had it with meat, simply with beans, maize and tomatoes. Again, Pete refuses to eat it, mainly because he needs serious dental work on his back teeth. It’s borderline okay when it’s hot but as soon as it starts to cool down it is so hard to handle. Also, my stomach reacts badly to it, to the point I can’t have it any longer.

githeriBefore coming here I never really was a coffee nor tea drinker, only when I had to. Each Thursday I go to our training facility in Kiserian (an hour away) to teach a class of boys. There we get black tea, as milk is too expensive. Here, Kenyans love their sugar. It is not unusual to have a cup of tea with 3 – 6 teaspoons of sugar in it. I’ve even got a small taste for very weak lattes. I can say I even enjoy a coffee from time to time. Mind you, at Dormans (a café) they have this delicious gluten free brownie, the only place in the whole of Kenya, which helps the attraction to coffee.

So overall, there is plenty on offer here. You can buy bananas for 5 cents each, fruit and veges are cheap, meat isn’t. There are hundreds of cafes and restaurants to choose from. Food in Nairobi is much more expensive than out of town. On Sundays after church we go to Galitos for chicken and chips. If we wanted pizza – it’s the in thing here and you can get a family size pizza on Tuesdays for $7. There’s even a place to buy frozen yoghurt – we’ve been there once with visitors who had kids, nice but so jolly expensive.

You will never starve in Africa as long as you’re not fussy. We miss real cream, cheese that has flavour and veges that you don’t have to soak in a special cleaner. But, we do have lots to choose from as you’ve seen.