Overcoming Trauma

It’s coming up 6 months since Liz and I were held up in our home, during the day by 3 armed men and their boss – a woman.

It’s not the worst thing that can happen in life because we came out alive. I’ve got friends over here who have lost a child, that would be the ultimate nightmare. A terminal illness, that’s certainly no fun. A messy divorce – that sucks big time.

I thought I’d share how I’ve dealt/am still dealing with this trauma.

When it happened, it was only 2 days after Liz and I had gone on a 10km fun run for the First Lady (of Kenya). I’ve always enjoyed running since I was young and for someone who can spend 12 hours a day on a computer, it keeps me fit (kind of). I tend to call it more of a granny shuffle than a run, but it gets my heart racing. On that run, we had some special purple tee shirts that entrants received. It was a great day and I was proud it be a part of it with Liz.

That was the Sunday.

By Tuesday at 3pm our lives were changed forever.

Gone was the feeling of safety in our own home. What was weird is that I didn’t mind being home afterwards. I just didn’t want to sit in the particular seat I was in when a guy shoved a gun in my face. I certainly didn’t want to watch any cop shows. The blanket that they covered us with when they tied us up – I wanted to throw away. Whatever they touched I wanted to get rid of.

What really compounded it, was having to deal with the police over the next 3 days. I think it was almost as bad. In most countries you go to the police for help, not here.

The biggest help we got was actually from a friend in South Africa who we haven’t seen for years. Rod was really good support for us, especially for Pete as he felt guilty that he wasn’t home, because it wouldn’t have happened. Rod put us in touch with some other Aussies who we only knew through Facebook, and when we were ready, we would spend some time with and talk through how we were going.

What I really hated was for people to be shoving it down our throats the next day “YOU MUST GET COUNSELLING”. Forget counseling, I was just trying to make sure Lizzie was okay and get through dealing with the police.

While I didn’t mind being at home, I couldn’t deal with being at home by myself. Pete had a meeting on about 2 days after the armed holdup and we had workmen coming in to do some repairs. I had an all out panic attack, the first ever in my life. It was awful. It happened a couple of times after that. I immediately jumped online to a pastor friend of ours in Australia who gave me some practical tips. By then I had calmed down, but man was it not good!

The guys in our church and the Australian High Commission were helpful, but at the end of the day you just have to get on with life.

But I stopped running.

I no longer felt safe to go out our compound gate by myself. I made triple sure that all the doors to our apartment and car were locked. I jumped at sudden noises.

Even now, 6 months down the line, while things have improved, I’ve still got some ground to take back. There’s certainly nothing wrong with making sure you’re safe but I don’t like to leave the apartment door unlocked even for one second. I think it drives Pete nutty but I don’t care, I was the one who was held up.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve wanted to go back to running again, but I didn’t want to do it by myself. I started with walking up an area that Pete found. It’s safe (well safer than dodging traffic), just up the road and it’s peaceful. You don’t even feel like you’re in Nairobi when you’re there.

I dragged Pete out of bed a few times to walk the route, but I wasn’t ready to do it by myself. And I certainly didn’t want to wear my purple tee shirt – it was still too fresh.

Well, last week, I’m proud to say I actually went on a granny shuffle run all by myself. Today, I even wore my purple tee shirt.

There’s no sense of victory or getting back what ground was stolen from me. There’s no air punch declaring it’s all gone.

I’m just doing it because I know I have to.

I’m using our speaking tour in the US in October as my motivator. I want to be physically and mentally prepared for 6 weeks on the road as possible.

I’ve heard that it takes a good 12 months to get over a trauma. Personally, I think it’s different for everyone. Both Pete and I have decided that it would only take one more ‘big thing’ to happen and we would probably pack up and return home.

I don’t dwell on the fact that the intruders could’ve shot us instead of the policeman. But it doesn’t take much to go back to that day. I’ve purposely chosen not to even remember what date it was. I know it was the first Tuesday in March at 3pm. That I’ll never forget.

I know God saved us on that day. We weren’t raped, beaten or killed and I am very grateful for that.

Next March we anticipate the arrival of our first grand child. I know that March will be better than this one.

I’ll eventually get to the point where the pain of the event will be wiped away but I hope I don’t ever forget some things that came out of it. The close friends, being better at our personal security, learning not to say some dumb things like others said at the time, the love of family and compassion for others who go through tough times.

I’m not glad that it happened to us, but I’ve come to accept that we live in a broken and hurting world where it happens every day to someone. I hope I can be the symbol of compassion to someone else in a better way, because of it.

And I hope I keep running.

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.

Camping in Kisumu

Actually it wasn’t Kisumu but Seme about an hour out of the city. The 8 hour drive was great until we got lost, in the dark, and the directions we had didn’t match what we could see. Then it became a 10 hour trip.

Seme (sem – aye) is right on the edge of Lake Victoria. It’s a very small village, up a long dirt road. Think of close to Uganda, just below the Equator and that’s where we were. It’s in the Nyanza District.

These students are in school for 11 hours each day. We got to spend an hour with them.

These students are in school for 11 hours each day. We got to spend an hour with them.

We were visiting some new friends who are helping with our visa requirements and are also putting up a childrens home. Pete has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to practical things but especially putting up buildings. Many people lose money in construction here because of dodgy builders who do a half decent job and never return.

How we got around Seme

How we got around Seme

While the weather in Seme was warm (29 degrees) we had to pass through rain and hail storms to get there. In fact we missed the turnoff from Kericho to Kisumu because we just couldn’t see anything, way too much hail.

From visits to other places I expected our hosts to live in a very small one bedroom house. Instead they had built a beautiful 3 bedroom, two storied place. On the second floor was an open walled meeting area which looked out over the lake. It was lovely.

The view from upstairs

The view from upstairs

Because we got there so late we slept in the house that night and pitched the tent the next morning. The weekend was full on with visiting families, filming for BeyondWater, giving out a health pack to a soon-to-be mother, playing games with the kids at church and even a community consultation forum. In between Pete was able to peg out the building on the land.

Lindah, our host, showing a soon to be mum how to use the things we had bought her.

Lindah, our host, showing a soon to be mum how to use the things we had bought her.

Sleeping in a tent is great. That is until your blow up bed unexpectantly goes down in the wee hours of the morning. And it’s not so great to discover that you’ve pitched the tent right next to the chicken coop where a rooster starts crowing at 4am. I can do without running water and electricity but a rooster…. He was lucky not to become dinner.

However, having a fire burning and everyone sitting around it having a good time is priceless. Last year we bought a bunch of fireworks but never lit them off in case the neighbours thought it was gunfire. So we took them to Seme and within 10 minutes they were all gone. I don’t know whether they just aren’t as good or when you’re small everything is bigger and better, but fireworks just aren’t as good as they used to be.

Teaching the kids 'River/Bank'.

Teaching the kids ‘River/Bank’.

At least in the country you can see the stars. There’s too many lights in the city. It’s quite noisy at night as the sound travels a really long way, especially when a lake is involved. It seemed someone up the road liked to party every night. In truth, it was probably miles away, but it still went all night. Of course, when it’s dark, it’s really dark. Our wonderful hosts are trying to organize solar power to their house because the electricity provider is making it impossible for the average person to afford to get it connected. We brought with us 3 small solar lamps which lit up their house (and our tent) wonderfully. Apparently since we left, they’ve invested into one and the kids love it.

The camera doesn't do justice to the sunsets we saw.

The camera doesn’t do justice to the sunsets we saw.

One thing I really noticed in Seme is that there’s this massive lake (Victoria) and it’s the only water supply for the area. It’s also very unclean. People bath in it, pollution comes from Kisumu onto the shores, it’s for drinking by humans and animals and for washing your clothes.

collecting 4

Lake Victoria is the biggest in Africa and it’s the largest tropical lake in the world. However, the people living around it have so many waterborne diseases. Thankfully our friends had a really good water filter.

When you live in this area you need a filter like this one.

When you live in this area you need a filter like this one.

Lack of clean water, no electricity, slow internet. If you’re fussy about any of these things, don’t go camping and don’t go to remote areas. When you’re there you find instead wonderful, hospitable people, young people hungry to learn, little children who love to laugh and communities who do it tough, but always with a smile.

With a face like this, why wouldn't you want to come back.

With a face like this, why wouldn’t you want to come back.

Our friends thought we had really gone bush by tenting at their place. We felt honoured and spoilt by everyone and can’t wait to return.

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’.

The Life Of A Child

What is a child worth – a million dollars, a billion, a trillion?

I don’t think you can put a dollar value on the life of any person, let alone a child. Over the last year Pete and I have been working on a unique situation which couldn’t be told until he had left the country.

Early last year I was teaching a small group of boys at a residential rehabilitation farm about an hour out of Nairobi. Pete goes there a couple of times a week to help out the practical side of things. I was teaching an English class.

Basically what happened is that the father of one of the teenagers appeared as he found out his son was in the program. Many years before he had been granted refugee status in Australia and he had just returned to his homeland and stopped through Kenya on his way back. He found out his son was alive so came for a visit.

What proceeded for the next year was this father working with us to get his son to be reunited with him. It’s a very long and laborious process but we all held our breaths at every roadmark waiting to see if he would pass the test.

It’s certainly not as easy as one would think.

There’s the court case to make sure no human trafficking is taking place. You have to prove that this 14 year old actually belongs to both parents. He has to get a birth certificate, no easy feat in Kenya.

Many of the places we went to he had never visited.

Many of the places we went to he had never visited.

One of the first tests is a biometric one. It’s a flash name for fingerprinting but you have to go to an assigned testing station.

Then there’s the mandatory health tests for TB, HIV/AIDS and a full health check. It takes about an hour to get there and you have to book out 2 full days.

Before each test we have to feed the young man and his mother, it will be the only meal they will have that day because they don’t have much money to get by.

The dad has to get a form couriered by DHL because he’s told that it has to be an original form and not a scanned one. I meet with the mother to get her signature. She travels about an hour for a 5 minute meeting. I then call the Australian High Commission about dropping it off and the lady says ‘you can always just scan it and email it through’. I dare not tell the dad that he didn’t need to pay the $60 to courier the A4 paper through after all.

It was only 2 days later we got the news that Sam (not his real name) had been given an all pass visa to move to Australia. We were so relieved, he finally could go to his new home.

But it isn’t that simple.

Imagine, this kid has never lived anywhere but Nairobi. He hasn’t finished primary school and the only aeroplane he has seen is in the sky. In Kenya not just anyone can enter the airport terminal, only those with a ticket. Sam would not have a clue of what to do or where to go. He’s intelligent but it would be way overwhelming when it comes to travelling.

So, we go and book his flight and at the same time. I will be travelling part way with Sam – only to Dubai. From there he will become Emirate Airlines VIP.

A tour of the animal orphanage to see a lion close up.

A tour of the animal orphanage to see a lion close up.

After this I realized that this kid has never seen real wild animals. It’s a sad state but many children in Kenya haven’t simply because they don’t have the money for it. After chatting with his dad, we were given permission to take him to some animal game parks. One week we took Sam to see the baby elephants and then to the giraffe centre. The next week he got to stay overnight with us and at 6am the next day we spent hours driving through the Nairobi National Park. We couldn’t spot the lions so ended up going next door to the animal orphanage where there are caged lions who cannot be released back into the wild. At least he could see them in the flesh.

Very difficult to get a smile out of this kid!

Very difficult to get a smile out of this kid!

Often in poor families the kids all share the clothes. Whenever we have seen Sam we see him in different shoes and clothes, which often don’t fit properly. Today we take him to get two sets of clothes, brand new ones. That way, when he gets to cold Australia he won’t freeze too much (we hope).

I have to mention Sam’s parents. Both of them are brave and committed to this huge step for their son. It is difficult for any mother to release her child to someone on the other side of the world. She doesn’t have access to the internet. She doesn’t have a post office box (no mail boxes here). The likelihood of him calling her is very small. She won’t see him for years.

The father has spent A LOT of money not only for a ticket but all of the expenses involved in the process. He also has a new family in Australia he is providing for. The easy road would’ve been to forget his son or send money every now and then to the mother. Instead he chose to go on this long journey which never had any guarantee of success.

Mum and son

Mum and son

A child is not a small adult. They are vulnerable. They don’t think and act like an adult. They are immature and make dumb mistakes.

But they have hope and vision. They believe BIG things for themselves.

For this kid, the world is now his oyster. The possibilities for Sam are endless and we look forward when we return to Australia next year to see how he has blossomed.

He has a new home, bedroom and family waiting for him. He will go into high school. He will achieve his goal of going roller blading.

He will do well.

It has been an honour for us to be involved in this year long process and wouldn’t have swapped it for anything.

It’s been worth it because Sam is worthy.

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.

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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.

If you would like to help us get back on our feet you can make a donation HERE

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.