Yesterday morning our eldest daughter went off on her very first 2 night ‘residential’ school trip. All week we have been in a lather of anticipation. They are camping at the foot of Mount Kenya.
My husband said, ‘I don’t understand? What are they actually going to be doing there?’
My daughter said, ‘it’s just about environment, conservation and stuff. We are going to go for walks, look at animals, that sort of thing.’
I quietly thought to myself, ‘wasn’t there something in the newspapers about a tourist being crushed to death by an elephant while out walking around Mount Kenya?’ but kept my mouth shut.
Last term we got a comprehensive packing list so have had plenty of time to plan ahead. On the list it said;
‘At night it gets very cold. Children may need to sleep in socks, tracksuit and hat!’
Needless to say, I left everything to the last minute. On Tuesday I looked in the cupboard for our warmest Nakumatt sleeping bag and found it was definitely missing. I remembered last seeing it when our eldest took it off to a sleepover in early March. Damn. After frantic texting to a fellow mum it became clear that the sleeping bag had vanished. Plus our daughter does not own a warm hat, unless you count the one she still has in her drawer that she wore at 9 months (she’s now 9 years!). The day before I’d tried to stretch it over her head, but she wasn’t having any of it.
Shoehorning a trip to the only decent camping supplies shop in Nairobi on Tuesday was a bit of a trial with traffic etc, but it was worth it when I found a children’s sleeping bag that was better than anything else we had at home. I also managed to buy two fleece hats in different sizes. I bought the first one from the camping shop where there was little choice and they only had hats in adult sizes. I then went to Woolworths and found it was choc full of winter things with lots of (cheaper) warm hats and scarves for children! I didn’t have time to take the first one back.
Feeling rather proud and well prepared (though she didn’t have the required ‘warm jacket’ on the list) I went to pick up my daughter from school.
‘The teachers said that the Mums and Dads are not allowed to phone us all the time checking that we are alright. And by the way, absolutely everything for the trip has to be named,’ she announced, ‘even my pants.’
Hell! I thought, before miraculously finding iron on name tapes that I must have bought four years ago and never used. That evening we took everything out of her bag and armed with iron and black marker pen, named everything, even the toothbrush, the plastic bag holding the bedding and a plastic bag for dirty wellies. The name tapes in her pants might well prove to be be itchy.
Meanwhile, my daughter was pencil ticking items off the list. Thanks to her we remembered at the last minute to find a soap dish and flannel.
‘Shouldn’t I name the flannel?’ my daughter asked.
‘Let’s not bother,’ I said, ‘I’m sure you will be the only one to have a picture of a baby lion on your flannel anyway.’
That night I lay awake thinking (as my husband snored), without the warm jacket she’s definitely going to freeze! The problem is that there isn’t much call for warm jackets in Nairobi in regular day-to-day life and having lived in East Africa all their lives, none of our children have any real concept of being cold. At 6am I added two further jumpers to the bag, then realised over the usual rushed breakfast that they too had to be named. These ones I did in biro.
After adding the jumpers I gave my daughter a mini lecture about layering, I said it would be as cold as it was skiing (shame we had returned all that borrowed warm kit!) and about how she would certainly be cold at night.
‘It actually wasn’t cold at night when we were skiing,’ she said, ‘in fact, the hotel was quite warm.’
Ahhh! I wasn’t getting my message across. I said that she could wear a long sleeved t-shirt, thin fleece, thick fleece, scarf, hat then the (not warm) rain jacket. I also packed her sheepskin slippers.
By 7am my daughter had boarded the school bus and was gone. I got a call from my friend,
‘Did you remember the camera?’
CAMERA! I thought, I never saw that one on the list! And there’s a disposable one just sitting here in a drawer! Double damn.
This morning it was raining cats and dogs and I thought of her but reasoned, oh well, I’m sure she’ll survive! I don’t dare phone.