Ol Pejeta

We thought we’d be clever and have a mid-week break instead of trying to battle traffic on the long weekend (Madaraka Day). I had always wanted to head up to the Mount Kenya region, where we’d never been, and so we settled on going to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, just outside of Nanyuki.

cranes kissing

Their website is full of info but quite complicated to make bookings on. Eventually we got to book our tent site, which is something we have wanted to do for some time. Our tent hadn’t been used for over a year and we’ve got all of the accessories so all we had to do was to get food and get going.

perfect eagle

We were so surprised on how good the roads were heading out that way. We expected potholes all over the place and even though the website said it would take 3 hours to get there, we allowed for 4. We had only been as far as Sagana in the past and had stopped at a great resort/café.

Setting up our home

Setting up our home

In typical Kenyan style the resort only had half of the things on the menu, but at least it had decent toilets.

The trip was pretty non eventful except for being pulled up by a policeman for speeding 5km’s over the limit of 100kmph. Note that there are no speed signs, no speed radars and we were going up a very steep hill at about 90kmph. Here you don’t argue with the police. At first he demanded 10,000kshs about $120. We had two options, talk him down or go back to the same area the next day to face court and pay ‘a fee’. Corruption is a filthy thing and destroys the country. The officer knew we had no choice but to pay, in the end we got away with $30. We grumbled for the next hour because we knew we were only pulled up because we were white.

The weather started caving in as we got closer to the Mount Kenya National Park. Then it started raining – heavily.

Greys Zebras are endangered

Greys Zebras are endangered

Thankfully by the time we got to the conservancy it had cleared up, just in time for us to put our tent up.

Of course, we had to find the place we had booked. Simple instructions, go right, then left and follow through to you see the sign for the Ol Lerai campsite. We got there and saw a small rusted sign that said ‘campsite’. There was no water, firewood nor latrines as promised. Just a river and a really bad area for a tent. We were ticked, thinking we had spent a considerable amount of money (for us) for a dodgy site. After a few frantic calls to the managers we found out our actual site was through some trees and on a rough dirt track to the most amazing site. Sort of like a cul de sac made of dirt that was surrounded by a rushing river.

Morning neighbours

Morning neighbours

And there was a large family of elephants right beside us.

That night was spent erecting the tent, getting the fire going, cooking dinner and listening to the wildlife around us.

I have to say that Pete and I didn’t sleep much because elephants were trumpeting, I’m sure I heard a lion roaring and there were definitely warthogs outside our tent. Something spent a long time outside our tent chewing at a tree.

big horns

There was no way I was visiting the latrine in the middle of the night!

The next day we spent around 8 hours in the car looking at the wildlife. I had seen a lion and lioness about 20 metres from our tent on the other side of the river that morning and we knew it was going to be a good day of viewing. There are a lot more elephants here than what we thought.

The cool thing about camping is that we could call back to our site for lunch. Again to be greeted by elephants.

Baraka with one of his carers

Baraka with one of his carers

Today we also got to see Baraka, the blind black rhino. The poor guy got a cataract in one eye then went blind in the other from fighting. We also visited the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. It’s actually within the park and we found out that the whole area used to be called Sweetwaters. Chimpanzees are not native to Kenya and all of the 38 chimps they rescued had been in conflict, mistreated or abandoned. Someone had posted that it was like a zoo, but the area we saw was massive 250 acre enclosure. We were really impressed with it.

elephant hiding

We slept much better the next night because we were so exhausted.

One of the main reasons to come to Ol Pejeta was to see the world’s last remaining five northern white rhinos. It’s definitely worth paying for. They are guarded 24/7 and they also have their horns sawed off to dissuade poachers. There were also Greys Zebras who are endangered. Who would’ve thought that a zebra was on it’s last legs!

Max

Max

The bummer about camping is that you have to pack everything up. Mind you we had been really lucky with the weather as there had been no rain at all over our stay. The cool thing about camping is being right in the middle of wildlife. At night we would put marshmallows on a stick and heat them up.

The trip home was uneventful, except we had to lug the tent, sleeping bags, clothes and cooler box up 4 flights of stairs. In another week we head to Kisumu to do it all over again.

Amazing sunrises greeted us each day

Amazing sunrises greeted us each day

Camping is definitely the way to go. However, if you plan on doing it at Ol Pejeta, definitely hire a night guard, you might sleep better than what we did!

rhino 3

Our Partners Are Important

It’s coming up to 3 years of us living in Nairobi, Kenya. It’s been an interesting time, never dull or boring that’s for sure.

This time last week I was in Dubai escorting a teenager on their way to Australia. I remember thinking ‘Maybe it’s time to go home because it’s so convenient’. There’s hot water out of the tap, the electricity works all of the time, it’s clean and you can even walk about at night on the street. Although it was all a false world, it was pretty good for 2 days.

Me with Sam on his very first flight of his life.

Me with Sam on his very first flight of his life.

The truth is, life here is not always easy and you’ve got to have big shoulders to handle some of the challenges. Security is always an issue – gangs, terrorists, pickpockets. You’ve got to consider more than 40 tribes in the country, all with their own way of doing things. There’s the learning of Swahili, trying to cope with the traffic and not being able to buy all of the things you need very easily.

This is the cost that those who work in developing countries pay. However there are many benefits to it as well.

You meet amazing people who are similar but different to you. You get to see sights and in our case, wildlife that is particular to this part of the world. You get to experience a type of life that others only ever dream of.

elephant faceon

We try and see what we do as a privilege.

That privilege is only possible because of the partners we have. There’s 75 year old George who is nearly blind and is on the pension, who gives us $30 a month from his small income. There’s also a couple who give from the rent on their property. Someone gives us $5 a month as they are a single parent. It’s always very humbling.

March 2014 with George who always takes us to KFC when we visit.

March 2014 with George who always takes us to KFC when we visit.

Without partners we can’t be here. Without people’s sacrifice, we’re stuffed.

Some of our partners give just once or twice. HD Projects is one such partner.

hdprojects1

Pete worked for HD Projects in Sydney for around 7 years, starting out as a labourer and eventually as a project manager. If you asked him he would say that it was the best companies he’s ever worked for. He has a lot of respect for the owners Richard and Clyde. The only reason he left was because he was tired and his role was pretty stressful. One thing about Pete is that he is committed to his work and gives it 150% of his effort.

HD Projects are one of our corporate sponsors. This happened way before we even came to Kenya, they just didn’t know it.

HD helped finance into Pete’s ute which he used for travelling all over Sydney for jobs. They then bought is back from us when we left in 2012. This helped provide for moving some household goods over with us.

In 2013 they provided the funds for a vehicle for us to use in our work here in Kenya. You can’t just buy a small hatchback here, you need a 4 wheel drive and a car that you can easily get parts for. In the end we found an X-Trail and are super happy with it.

Now in 2015, HD Projects have funded our car costs for a year. It’s such a relief as most things are really expensive here and our budget for living costs is quite small. One tyre is $330 and we needed 4 of them. Pete is absolutely ecstatic that we are much safer on the road and that we can actually have funds to repair his bike and the car.

Pete changing a flat tyre in the middle of an animal wildlife park.

Pete changing a flat tyre in the middle of an animal wildlife park.

Whether it’s a retiree, a business, a church or a total stranger, all of our partners make what we do possible.

Today we want to say asante sana (thank you very much) to those who sacrifice and partner with us. It doesn’t go unnoticed and every day we are aware of the people in the bigger family of the ‘Wild Creanberries’.

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

Easter in Kenya

A while ago we had decided to go away for the Easter Break. We were so busy leading up to it though, that we hadn’t actually planned anything. In the end, we decided to crash at a friends house in Nakuru, around 2 ½ hours drive away (on a good day).

The day before we were to leave, the tragedy at the Garissa University happened. The loss of so many young people in a horrific act of violence put a damper on the whole country. What should’ve been one of the last long holiday before Christmas turned into a weekend of mourning. Watching it time and time again on TV was too much to bear.

One of the 10 rhinos we saw

One of the 10 rhinos we saw

We escaped to Nakuru at a slow and painful pace. I don’t know what public holidays do, but it brings out all of the idiots on the roads. It took two hours longer than normal to get there but we figured it was better to get there in one piece than not at all.

Janine and her team run Metro World Child here in Kenya. Each week they teach 52,000 children life skills. It was at Janines house that we crashed at. The whole idea was to pitch our tent in their large yard. That went down the toilet when it bucketed down with rain.

wet windscreen In fact it continued to rain for the rest of the weekend.

When it rains in Kenya, it’s not that nice gentle drizzle, it’s a downpour. The next morning we left just after six t go to the national park. The rain had cleared by then and the roads were really wet. We were only on the road for a few minutes when we saw two trucks and a car collide. To us it looked like a fatality.

Hyenas are mean looking things

Hyenas are mean looking things

Getting into the park seems to take forever because the systems are so slow. I was really looking forward to getting in because last time we were there we saw so much wildlife.

This time it was quite different.

The grass was the brownest I’ve ever seen. The place where there used to be a beautiful waterfall was dry as a bone. The animals were much harder to find than normal. We drove for 7hours and saw a lot, but they weren’t easy to find. We were stoked because we got to see 10 rhino, the most we’ve ever seen.

The one part of the park that did have water was invaded by zebras

The one part of the park that did have water was invaded by zebras

Once we returned home, Janine, our host had to go to the hospital. Here, you don’t go to a medical clinic, you wait for hours at a hospital. Janine had malaria a couple of weeks ago and just hadn’t recovered well. Pete and Liz took her tone of the many hospitals and they returned 4 long hours later. I had attempted to cook dinner, but the gas ran out after one batch of cooking chicken.

Yep, it was a long night for all.

To the horror of the locals we didn’t go to church on Sunday morning. Instead we headed to Java House for a celebration brunch and ate our way through the morning. I really didn’t think Liz could eat 2 massive pancakes, but she did.

The lake is so flooded that a road sign is now under water

The lake is so flooded that a road sign is now under water

We headed to Thomson Falls, a 90 minute drive away. The scenery was amazing as we headed up some of the steepest hills I’ve seen yet. We were told that the road was good – it wasn’t. Apparently that was a different road.

The valley

The valley

We passed bright green tea bushes and short stumpy coffee plants. We also passed a couple of times a sign that announced we had crossed the Equator. Pete wanted to stop and take a photograph, I said we’d get one on the way back down.

Bad move.

We got to Nyahuru to see Thomsons Falls. Little did we know that we had to pay $2.50 each to go and see it.

Thomsons Falls

Thomsons Falls

The waterfall was quite amazing. Brown but amazing.

It was only a moment before we were accosted by a local to come and have a look at her shop. Esther was her name, and no, we didn’t visit her store.

We could’ve gone down to the bottom of the falls but really we couldn’t be bothered. There were also lots of people there because it was a Sunday afternoon. A festival was going on at the lodge next to the falls where really bad country music was playing.

A track opposite to the falls, note the people looking from the top. They didn't want to pay the $2.50 to see it closer.

A track opposite to the falls, note the people looking from the top. They didn’t want to pay the $2.50 to see it closer.

We stopped in for a coffee before heading back to Nakuru. For some reason the road on this side was much better. The downside was that for the next 90 minutes it poured down so heavily that at times we couldn’t even see where we were going.

Liz at the Equator sign

Liz at the sign for the Rift Valley

We did get out of the car for 15 seconds to get a very wet photo by the Equator sign. A guy came up to us and wanted to know if we wanted to see the ‘water trick’. The trick is that you stand on one side of the Equator sign and the water goes down one way. You stand on the other side and the water goes the other way. It was pelting down so much there was no way we were going to stop for it.

At the top of the lookout

At the top of the lookout

The good thing about it raining is that we wouldn’t get picked up by the police, they were all hiding in a house.

Unlike the 7 police checks we passed on our 4 hour trip home the next day!!

Trying To Move On

It’s been two weeks since our house was broken into just after 3pm by armed men. We’ve all been on an emotional roller coaster that we weren’t prepared for.

A lot of this was due to small things. Like on the Sunday ‘after the event’ we discovered that a small pottery container which held all of Pete’s cufflinks was gone. It might not seem much to the average person but I was happy that none of Pete’s things had been stolen. Even more so, Hannah, our youngest daughter had given Pete a set of cufflinks with ‘Dad’ engraved on them, when she got married last year.

Dealing with the police has almost been worse than being held up at gunpoint.

Lizzies Lego gun she made to protect herself.

Lizzies Lego gun she made to protect herself.

The first night we spent hours with the police while they stood around the car that had been used in several burglaries that day. They insisted that our gear was all there, including the laptops but we could not see it because it was late at night. No matter how much our neighbor insisted on looking at our things, the big boss refused to allow us for a viewing.

Pete jimmied up the door with a plastic chair so that we would feel safe. None of us slept well that night. The next morning we got the call to go back to the police station. We really needed to get a new lock but that would have to wait. We kept Liz with us all day, she was in no state to go to work. None of us were.

Pete's extra security - actually it was for my peace of mind.

Pete’s extra security – actually it was for my peace of mind.

The landlady came around, I’m not sure why because she just sat there and waited to be served a coffee. She has made our stay here very difficult and we can’t wait to move out. She has lied constantly – we found out that there is only a water supply 3 days a week and we are expected to pay for all new locks and keys.

Basically the next three days went like this:

  • Wait for a phone call to go to whatever police station was needed
  • Get there and wait some more while not being told anything
  • Spend wasted time shaking hands with the same police officer who spent their time talking to one another
  • Pete being hassled by one or two officers for him to buy them a ticket to New Zealand because he was rich
  • The same officers following Pete to the canteen badgering him to buy them a drink
  • Go home still without a police report

Meanwhile, we also ran out of water, waited for plumbers to fix endless problems and try and get the place ready for our visitors from Ethiopia.

The getaway car with the bullet hole from where the police shot at them.

The getaway car with the bullet hole from where the police shot at them.

With new locks and new security measures in place we started sleeping better. We started finding a ‘new normal’.

Then there was the one week anniversary of the break-in. I made sure I wasn’t home at the time it happened. It was all still too fresh.

We went to get a new wedding band to replace the one that the woman who was the gang leader, ripped off my finger. The first Sunday it was all too much for me. The second Sunday I had psychologically prepared myself to get it sized.

ring

We’ve decided that while we can’t replace the personal items such as our anniversary rings that were stolen, we could make a new start on some things. Our good friends at a church in Australia donated enough for us to get a TV. It’s going to get a lot of use over the NRL season that’s for sure!

We’ve been super blessed to have people lend us a laptop until we get another one and we are trying to move on with our lives.

Once again, it’s the police that keep tripping us up. To claim on anything for our insurance, we need an abstract, it’s the official police report. Our neighbor keeps getting phone calls from a police officer demanding money. We are sure that is why we haven’t got the report – because we won’t pay up. Yesterday we were asked to go back to the police station.

A TV thanks to the church of C3 Coomera, Australia.

A TV thanks to the church of C3 Coomera, Australia.

We thought it was for the abstract – in fact it was for a line up.

There was no preparation, no telling you what was going on. I was told to go into a room and there were 10 or so women and then I had to choose one who was ‘the culprit’. How after only seeing her for about 5 seconds, and two weeks later, was I supposed to get the right woman? Of course I got it wrong. The worse thing was that I had to stand about 90cm away from these women, and when I thought I had the right one, walked up to one and tap them on the shoulder. How dodgy is that.

Still, we walked away without an abstract.

The sign for the officers room

The sign for the officers room

I’m not sure all this hassle for an abstract is actually worth it. The police keep dragging everything up and still nothing changes.

Nothing except us. We are more vigilant in security – we lock the car doors as soon as we get in, Pete has installed new and more locks, Lizzies motorbike driver collects and drops her off at the gate.

This is how the police put out the few belongings they recovered. Notice all the Mac products were missing...

This is how the police put out the few belongings they recovered. Notice all the Mac products were missing…

I miss the freedom we used to have. But in fact, was I blind to what the situation was really like for the majority of people who live here in Nairobi.

If you would like to help us move on, you can make a donation HERE

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.

Run, run as fast as you can

One of the few things my father left as a legacy was the love of running. I can’t remember what age we were made to start running but I remember being in middle school. I never entered competitions except for the Round The Bays in 1983, just after my father died.

I’m not a fast runner, now I do what I call a ‘granny shuffle’.

But I do like to run. At 46 though, the body doesn’t quite bounce back like it used to.

We’ve lived in Kenya since 2012 and I pretty much decided that running would go on the back burner. While we lived in Sydney I could jog along the streets and then the beach, it was great. I entered the City to Surf, the biggest funrun in the world where 80,000 people run the 14km trek up Heartbreak Hill to Bondi Beach. I ran it years ago.

My finish wasn't so enthusiastic.

My finish wasn’t so enthusiastic.

Nairobi is a little (okay a lot) different to run in. I can’t go for a run before 6.45am as it’s just getting light. At that time of the morning there are footpaths full of people making their way to work. There’s no ‘keeping to the left’ you just have to squeeze in between the crowds. I actually like to go later when there’s less people but it’s way too hot.

One of the biggest obstacles for safely running here is the footpaths, or lack of them. Around where we live there are a few footpaths but they have holes in them or are broken up in places. When you’re running you kind of feel like you’re in a cross country event. About 200 metres from our place you turn a corner to go down and up a hill. You would have to be insane to try and even run over that spot. A few times I’ve nearly twisted my ankle on loose rocks.

And then there are the trucks.

I don’t know what it is about trucks here but they are way overloaded and go slower than a snail up hill. They puff out this thick, dark smoke that doesn’t go in the air but out at face level. It’s gross.

This photo doesn't even show how bad the smoke from the trucks are.

This photo doesn’t even show how bad the smoke from the trucks are.

So for the first few years I didn’t bother running. I set up a home gym area but once you get up to 100 squats, situps, pushups and the like, what’s next?

We returned back from our overseas trip a month ago and I decided ‘what the heck, why not give running another go’. So I have.

I’m only a couple of weeks into it, and amping up the anti to see if my foot can handle a run three times a week. I’ve a Morton’s Neuroma under my right foot which plays up whenever it feels like it. It’s like having a hot, sharp poker up through your foot. In 2011 and 2012 I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. In 2012 the last day was excruciating because my foot played up so much. I just couldn’t wait to get down.

My faithful runners.

My faithful runners.

On March 8th, Lizzie and I will be running 10km’s in ‘The First Lady’s Half Marathon’ around Nairobi. I really want to get up to a half marathon status but not sure if my foot would make it. One of my dreams is to run in the Lewa Marathon through an animal conservancy. Here’s hoping I can do it by next year.

So why do I run?

I run because I like getting out there with my headphones on and not worry about all of the world’s problems. I need to run to keep myself fit. When I run I drink a lot more water than if I sit in front of a computer all day. I run because I can’t afford to go to a gym.

And I run because I like it.

Why Kenya

I always get amazed on what draws people to come to Kenya to work or volunteer. Everyone has a story and I try and get them to tell me.

Some come to escape from their former life. Others to get themselves up the ladder of success in business. Some found that this was the only way to get to see this part of the world.

And then there’s me.

Food is an important medium for connecting.

Food is an important medium for connecting.

When I was in Standard 4, at about 10 years of age, we did a study – The Manyatta of Kenya.

I’m 46 years old. In ‘my day’ very few people travelled internationally. I remember one friend whose entire family went to Disneyland and they brought back a huge (and I mean huge) Winnie the Pooh. Another friend went to The Netherlands. But that was about it. I remember the same year that a plane full of tourists from New Zealand flew to Antarctica and them all perishing on a mountain there.

And then there was me.

The War Cemetery is one of the tidiest places in Nairobi.

The War Cemetery is one of the tidiest places in Nairobi.

We didn’t own a car until we inherited money from a grandparent passing. I remember travelling out of town once or twice.

Over my teens I had grown up reading adventures of people who had travelled through China, Africa, South America and India. But I’d never been there.

At the top of Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

At the top of Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

The first time I travelled internationally was when Pete went to college in Australia for 3 months, so we packed up and headed for the Sunshine Coast. Our girls were 8 weeks and a year old, I was 22.

A couple of years later we went to India for a few weeks, left the babies behind and had a blast. We would’ve been happy to move there but things didn’t pan out that way.

As the years went by we hosted plenty of international development workers or missionaries, many who worked in Africa. We threw (not literally) our girls out of their beds for our visitors. The girls thought it was cool, they didn’t know any different. I home schooled them for 6 years and integrated a lot of history, country information and cultural teaching.

You can't come to Africa and be in a hurry.

You can’t come to Africa and be in a hurry.

Then life took a turn.

We moved to Sydney, Australia where we’d never been before. Set up a new life, and it was great. That was 2002.

In 2007 I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya to graduate my students. I emailed a Kiwi friend of ours who we hadn’t seen for a few years and met up with them. It was great seeing their work with streetboys. I returned home for only a few weeks and then had to go to Ghana for a seminar. Ghana was so different to Kenya. East and West are like chalk and cheese.

Pete being walked down Mt Kilimanjaro with a broken leg.

Pete being walked down Mt Kilimanjaro with a broken leg.

In 2009 Pete and I decided that we wanted our girls to have a bigger world view. We wanted to show them that not all of the world was white, English speaking and middle class. So, we took them to Africa, specifically Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. Our youngest daughter DID NOT want to go. She had just finished her last year at high school and decided she ‘wanted to work’ we told her she had the rest of her life to work, and she was coming.

Pete was flown to Nairobi to receive top class medical care.

Pete was flown to Nairobi to receive top class medical care.

For a year we saved, sacrificed and made budget. A couple of other young people came with us some of the way. It was a cheap trip – buses, backpackers and motorbikes. We had a blast (most of the time). After 8 weeks we returned home tired but changed.

titanic

Han & Jules on Lake Victoria

In 2010 Pete and I went to Hawaii to drop Hannah off at school. It was there that we decided to move out Sydney, we were bored. The answer was either Hawaii or Kenya. I LOVE Hawaii, love, love, love it. But we thought ‘what the heck, what have we got to lose by going to Kenya?’

In 2011, Pete, Liz and I returned to Africa with the specific thought of ‘Could we really live here and what could we do?’ This time for another 2 months but it was to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (Climb Mount Kilimanjaro). Pete broke his leg on the mountain, so he stayed back in Nairobi and Liz and I went throughout Uganda checking in on our projects. The change in plans gave us a longer time to see if Kenya would be our new home or not. We’d travelled through lots of countries but there was something pulling us back to Kenya.

Nairobi is bustling with small businesses.

Nairobi is bustling with small businesses.

Nairobi was the most modern city we visited. We had people we knew there. It could give us easy access to other countries. We liked it. We liked it enough that we moved in 2012.

While there is lots of wildlife which is absolutely the coolest, it’s the amazing people that you get to meet. Those who struggle from day to day but keep a positive attitude. Those who are starting out in business and doing well. Expats who come here for some sort of experience.

The scenery is amazing.

The scenery is amazing.

Nairobi is made up mainly of Kenyans but there are representatives from pretty much every nationality on earth.

DSCF2031

And so are the people.

Kenya is never dull and boring. There’s always something to do and people to meet. There is a lot of history here (which I love). It’s diverse and interesting. You’re always learning something new. We’re close to our water projects and the communities we work with.

We could’ve gone anywhere in the world and it we would’ve been fine but we chose Kenya.

Actually, I think Kenya chose us.

Being Home

We’ve been back in Nairobi for 5 days after being away for 2 months. Next week I’ll write about how we managed to do that trip, but this week I thought I’d focus on what it’s like being home.

After 2 years of settling in Nairobi, it really is home. When we were away we felt we didn’t fit in anywhere. Here, things are familiar and to some extent comfortable. You don’t have to explain the challenges of living here to people who don’t understand, no matter how you tell them. No words can describe the sights, sound and smell of Nairobi.

In 8 weeks we had 3 days 'holiday'

In 8 weeks we had 3 days ‘holiday’

It’s nice not to have to live out of a suitcase. We went with 2, picked up another one in Sydney (marketing material) and came back with 6. Yes, 6 suitcases. They were filled with clothes and tools for the next 2 years of work. Most of the time we travelled from town to town with just one big suitcase and a small one. Now I am overwhelmed at how much ‘stuff’ we actually have in our apartment. We’ve spent months travelling with the basics. We got into a routine and we loved it. Now all I see is the things at home that need dusting. Some of the belongings I wonder why we have them. Why did I spend money on certain things? I am sure I will adjust but right now I’m kind of craving the simple life.

I haven’t cooked for over 2 months. We were so spoilt when we were away and now I actually have to find food for the family. I had really hoped to buy a BBQ but didn’t have the weight allowance. We love barbecues, there’s nothing like it. When we lived in Sydney we pretty much had them every night. Before we left there was just Liz and I because Pete was in Ethiopia, so we used whatever we had in the house. When we returned our cupboards were literally bare. Thankfully, our friends who had borrowed our car got us some food for a couple of days. We’ve gone through three shopping lists in as many days, as we figure out what we need and don’t have. We are reminded how convenient it was back in Australia where everything you needed was in the supermarket at the same time. Here, it’s pot luck. Pete’s not a happy camper because he can’t get the peanut butter brand he likes. I think he will survive.

Pavlova - the reason we got fat

Pavlova – the reason we got fat

I haven’t driven since coming back. Not that I don’t want to, but I haven’t needed to. Today is our first ‘official’ day back at work, so Pete has been home. The traffic hasn’t changed. The car needs some engine work on it and Pete’s motorbike comes out of the garage after taking 3 months to get it fixed. We are reminded once more to forget going on the roads after 4pm as it’s just gridlocked. I’m saving myself the pain of a 90 minute drive into town tomorrow (9km’s) to pick up a certificate by paying our motorbike driver $6. I’m not silly, I know the best way to get things done here!

This IS NOT a road in Nairobi

This IS NOT a road in Nairobi

My brain is in a fuzz. I thought at first it was the jetlag, but we beat that by going out for a 45 minute walk each day to lose the kilos we’ve put on. It wasn’t until last night that I clicked on what the problem really was. For months we’ve been used to the sun going down and getting dark about 8.45pm. It took us 6 weeks to get used to that, now it’s pitch dark by 7pm. I remember when we first came in 2012 we went through the same thing. I don’t like it and I will miss the option of getting out there after dinner and going out.

You can't get gluten free hamburger buns in Kenya

You can’t get gluten free hamburger buns in Kenya

At the end of it all, we chose to come and live here, so we have to get used to it all again. Trying to figure out Swahili, the locking of the car doors, the security checks and the unproductiveness of certain areas, not being able to get stuff where and when we want to.

But if we look at what we don’t have, we will miss out on some very cool things here. The ultra cheap fruit and veges which we can buy on the side of the road. Great friends we’ve made. Eating out at a reasonable price. Coffees Pete can afford.

No doubt we’ll do what everyone else does and ease back into life here again. Nairobi is where we are meant to be – it is home.