Africa Expat Wives Club http://africaexpatwivesclub.com News, Views, Debate & A Healthy Dose of Trivia Fri, 04 Aug 2017 10:23:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/cropped-AEWC_heel_icon1-150x150.png Africa Expat Wives Club http://africaexpatwivesclub.com 32 32 Latest Travel Stereotype article out now! http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/08/3637/ http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/08/3637/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 09:14:54 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3637 Are you a frequent flier or a business traveller? There’s a new Travel Stereotype article now out in the excellent, home-grown Nomad Magazine. Will you recognise yourself or somebody you’ve traveled with? In previous issues I’ve covered the archetypal travel/lifestyle blogger and the long suffering safari guide. I feel very lucky to be a contributor […]

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Are you a frequent flier or a business traveller? There’s a new Travel Stereotype article now out in the excellent, home-grown Nomad Magazine. Will you recognise yourself or somebody you’ve traveled with? In previous issues I’ve covered the archetypal travel/lifestyle blogger and the long suffering safari guide.

I feel very lucky to be a contributor for this publication. So many fab articles, many of which peel back the marketing veneer and get properly under the skin of life and travel in Kenya.  Click the link below to read/download the latest issue online or pick up a copy at any Artcaffe/coffee shop outlet.

https://issuu.com/nomadmagazineafrica/docs/nomad_mara_issue_5

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Hair. Why is visiting the hairdresser’s always so emotional? http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/07/hair-visiting-hairdressers-always-emotional/ http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/07/hair-visiting-hairdressers-always-emotional/#respond Mon, 24 Jul 2017 06:00:42 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3622 I’m always afraid of visiting the hairdresser, mainly for fear of emerging looking ‘different’ (oh the horror) but sadly I HAVE to go to the hairdresser, as my highlights have become bleached out and my roots are horrid mousey brown and they appear so quickly these days. It’s a style that my husband refers to […]

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I’m always afraid of visiting the hairdresser, mainly for fear of emerging looking ‘different’ (oh the horror) but sadly I HAVE to go to the hairdresser, as my highlights have become bleached out and my roots are horrid mousey brown and they appear so quickly these days. It’s a style that my husband refers to fondly as ‘badger’. I fear that I am looking like a middle aged Miley Cyrus more often than I’d like. The dark roots situation – I’ve made it my own.

Miley Cyrus – rocking the roots

So, I head off this morning in search of some colour correction and yay, wow, shocker, I found it! Long story short, I wanted to blend the dark brown roots into the yellow blonde ends so that I don’t have to keep on getting blonder and blonder to the point that people have to shield their eyes as if from the sun when they see me coming…. But colouring hair is an emotive process. I don’t know anyone who colours their hair who hasn’t got a horror story to share.

So I place myself in the capable hands of Kadesa, who apparently loves working with colour. I ask her why on earth she likes dying people’s hair – it must be one of the most stressful jobs in the world. She says that it’s only stressful when things go wrong (I can imagine!) but that generally happens when clients don’t give her the full story of what colour they’ve already had in their hair. The supermarket box types sometimes don’t agree with the imported Italian colours that Nothing Like It Salon uses. I said that it must be like glazing ceramics in a kiln, you’re not sure what’s going to come out of the oven. Kadesa laughs – in fact she’s pretty calm in the face of my jitters. She trained at Revlon and has been doing this for 6 years at the same salon, so I am in safe hands. After my 101 questions about hair dyeing, we chat about Malindi, where she’s from and I sip coffee. I’m calming down.

 

Once the colour is washed out (before rinsing, I keep looking into Kadesa’s eyes to see if she appears worried at the results but she’s still calm), I am handed over to David who is the new hairdresser in town and doesn’t talk much because he’s still learning English – but he’s an artist. They way he spins his comb and scissors around his fingers then teases out tresses of hair to snip reminds me of a cocktail waiter tossing shakers. He’s a perfectionist too. The hair is cut, then dried, then snipped again and I feel like I’m in safe hands – and my hair is drying and the colour is good. Phew. So far, so enjoyable!

And when I get home, the kids don’t even notice that I’ve been to the hairdresser (except that it’s 2pm and there’s no sign of lunch yet) which means that I don’t look different!

So Nothing Like It Spa (in Hardy/Karen) thank you! I’m definitely coming back for the Kadesa/David dream team and in the meantime, I feel great. To book the David and Kadesa dream team and rid yourself of the badger – Call 0721 834577, or 0726 543977

Nothing Like It Hardy branch is located on the 2nd floor of Hardy Post mall.

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Clothes shopping in Kenya http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/07/clothes-shopping-kenya/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 12:30:35 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3606 In the run up to our trip to UK (and so as not to make too many hideous clothes shopping mistakes such as the very mumsy dress mid length from Jigsaw that makes me look booby, and awful, and cost a fortune), I’ve become a ever so slightly obsessed with the fashion blog Does my […]

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In the run up to our trip to UK (and so as not to make too many hideous clothes shopping mistakes such as the very mumsy dress mid length from Jigsaw that makes me look booby, and awful, and cost a fortune), I’ve become a ever so slightly obsessed with the fashion blog Does my bum look 40 in this to help guide me through (see below). 

It’s super refreshing to relate to somebody who is roughly the same age (if not – very different figure) but still has a fun fashion sense, buys (largely) affordable stuff and has a great sense of humour (check out her Insta stories). She’s all about blazers over boyfriend jeans, fun tees, ankle boots and maxi dresses or skirts that you would never dream of picking up in a store. Layered jewellery, makeup, highlights and not a skinny jean in sight – just up my street. Oh to be released from the skinny jean!

Style queen – in a very different life

However….the amount of sheer shopping involved is mind boggling. The trying on of clothes, ordering stuff, taking stuff back, putting together ‘looks’, going to events – to be honest, it’s all pretty alien to my life in Kenya.  Of course, there are a handful of fab fashion bloggers here in Kenya who have their whole thing going on – but just cyber stalking this UK blogger’s Instagram account makes me realise (duh, as if I didn’t know) that the UK is on a whole other level. The clothes – oh the clothes!

It used to be the case that you saved up all your shillings for an annual trip back home in order to refresh your wardrobe and to be honest, this is still definitely a thing but you can certainly buy a lot more locally than you could before and I, for one, am grateful that I can run out and get a pair of trousers or top here, which makes me feel good and means less shopping pressure on precious trips seeing friends and family. (who am I trying to kid – of course I’ll be shopping, shopping, shopping given half a chance).

What irks me, is that buying clothes locally is often super expensive – and given the fact that I feel horribly guilty about forking out for a new lamp shade or bottle of wine or olive oil here in Nairobi – the idea of buying an unjustifiably costly item of clothing that may well equal a monthly salary for many people, feels horribly wrong. There are some incredible designer Kenyan brands, some of whom export but they are generally very expensive (I’ll blog about the cool Kenya boutiquey stores later) but  thankfully, we’ve now also got a handful of affordable global chains who fill the gap for those basics that we crave (does anyone else wait a year before refreshing your pants and bras drawer? I used to – not any more). What’s annoying is that these cheaper, global brands charge significantly higher prices that you would expect back home due to the heavy import tax on clothing here. Sadly, you just have to suck the price difference up.

  • You can find various branches of these big brand stores (below) spread around the larger Nairobi shopping centres: The Hub, Two Rivers, The Junction, Galleria Mall, Sarit Centre, Yaya Centre, Garden City Mall, Westgate etc.
  1. Bossini (Hong Kong/China) – This is a Hong Kong brand that sell coloured chinos, cotton shirts, tops etc. Kind of like Gap circa 1990. For years, I never thought of going in here, but once I did and tried some stuff on – I was converted. I now live in my black or khaki slim-line cotton chinos. Downside – much of the clothing is tiny, so I am definitely heading for the largest sizes on the spectrum (not exactly a confidence boost) and even in the larger size I have to breathe in.

Average Price range 3,000-5,000/-.

Bossini slim fit khakis – breathe in!

2. Woolworths (South Africa) – Remember that this is the South African Woolworths and no relation to the deceased UK one. It’s not unlike the UK’s M&S. This store has got it’s head around the conservative Kenyan style of dressing and there’s lots of great work stuff and smartish basics here. They also have shoes! There is more of a snappy/young dresser range but only available in certain branches (Yaya Centre has a big branch). They also do homeware.  (it’s definitely worth getting their WRewards card as they often have offers).

Av price range: 4,000-6,000/-

3. Mr Price (SA) – To be honest many of their stores are a hot mess and the clothes seem extremely cheap, often creased and fall-aparty but the turn over is fairly fast and, after a good hunt, I have been super lucky with some pre-teen party dresses for my girls and cotton tops for me that look more expensive than they are. My preferred branch is at The Junction. A recent success was an off-the-shoulder white shirt that resembles stuff in the shops back in the UK at the moment. Kicking myself for not buying the blue and white striped one at the same time. Now they only have size 20 available.

Average price range 1,500-3,000/-

Mr Price, off the shoulder and cheap as chips at 1,500/- if only they had one in stock!

4. Florence and Fred (UK) – just dropped. There’s a branch in The Hub shopping centre. I am a little put off that this is basically Tescos clothing but they do have some good basics, sleep wear, trackies, underwear etc and you can be lucky and find something that looks more expensive. I bought a navy dress here that I thought I loved, knew I was paying so much more for it than I would have back home (4,500/-), then got it home (having ripped off the labels) and am now in hate with it. It’s too synthetic, the material flops around unflatteringly and it’s basically a sack. I forced myself to wear it to a party just to get my money’s worth then regretted it.

Average Price range: 3,000-5,000/-

The F&F dress I have is a bit like this F&F one but  needless to say, doesn’t look anywhere near as good…

5. LC Waikiki (French) Okay – so to be honest, I haven’t headed up to the gigantic Two Rivers mall to shop here yet, but I just can’t wait to get over there. They opened one flagship branch earlier this year but others to follow soon I’m sure. From what I can gather, it’s fast fashion that is a cut above Mr Price. Price range – to be discovered…

Levi’s stores – Oh so pricey in Nairobi but there are 3-4 branches

6. Levi’s Store – I do love to find gems here  – but boy, it’s expensive (and sometimes hard to justify). You can buy a decent pair of branded jeans, skirts, great tops. The range is limited but they bring new stock in regularly.

Average price range: 6,000-10,000/-

Finally  – there are the second hand clothes markets …. known locally as Mitumba where you can pick up used designer bargains and basics too. See post: Second hand clothes shopping in Nairobi. And, as I said, there are the fabulous boutiques that sell fashion that is designed and made in Kenya as well as imported stuff from places like India. I fell in love with a pashmina yesterday, but of course had to walk away when I saw the price tag 15,500/- (over 100 UK pounds, $150). What a craven soul I am but probably it was for the best.

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So you think you are having a bad day in Kenya? http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/07/think-bad-day-kenya-mondays/ http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/07/think-bad-day-kenya-mondays/#comments Wed, 12 Jul 2017 16:11:16 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3596 On Monday, by 10am, I felt that I was having a bad day. The power/electricity was off and our once-a-week city council water supply was not reassuringly bubbling through the main pipe into our empty ground tank.  I could only wince at the thought of how we’d senselessly wasted so much water at my daughter’s […]

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On Monday, by 10am, I felt that I was having a bad day. The power/electricity was off and our once-a-week city council water supply was not reassuringly bubbling through the main pipe into our empty ground tank.  I could only wince at the thought of how we’d senselessly wasted so much water at my daughter’s devil-may-care water slide and slippery slip party on Saturday. That day hosepipes snaked around the lawn and the kids were having buckets of water thrown over them. Oh, the crazy abandon of that day! And now we have no water and no power. This life is really one of contradictions.

First I tried around 16 of the phone numbers in my City Council Water leaflet that I had picked up a while ago, but no one was answering. So, un-showered (post exercise), I dash down to the City Council water offices to find out what the problem was. As I arrived, a comfortably proportioned woman was blowing her nose noisily. I waited for her to finish.  I should actually be restrained from ever going into those offices because I find it so emotional. No water. It’s stressful and brings out the worst in me. So by way of confession, I’m going to tell you that the encounter went something like this:

My mains water supply is not coming through. What’s the problem?” (abbreviated version).

“They are striking today. I’m about to go home. In fact I only came here to pick my bag,” the lady said. “Probably you will get it tomorrow.

Now I’ve been told that if you miss your one-day-per-week day for getting water, then you’ve had it. There’s no way they are going to send water to your street on the wrong day – so at this point, I know that she’s just trying to get rid of me.  After trying a few more lines in enquiry, I soon find myself running my mouth in Swahili. Why are they striking? When will we get water? If we miss our day then we are doomed. The lady says,

you’ll get water tomorrow, I promise“, I reply ,

how can you promise? I don’t think we will get water tomorrow.” (I’ve lived here long enough to categorically know that we will not get water tomorrow – and guess what, we didn’t).

I then walk into the next door room and ask the cashier that if there was a strike, why wasn’t he striking? “Oh, the cash desks are all open today” he says breezily. I reply,

so you’ll happily take our money but no one will give us any water?” He laughed (generously). I told anyone who would listen that we paid a bill of over 4,000 shillings last month for water and now we have none and there’s a lady who visits our house every month and threatens to cut us off for no reason, even though we are fully paid up  so what kind of service is this?

The cashier wanted to take money from a better behaved customer so I step aside then spied and grabbed, a friendly looking older chap who was slipping into an side office to hover with a colleague who also popped his head out from behind a closed door. My new friend said he would call the CO of Nairobi Water to take up my complaint. I cheer up. “What can we do for this lady, she’s got no water today, is there anything you can do?” he asks in Swahili over the phone, but it soon appeared that the conversation is going anywhere.

The comfortably proportioned lady walks back in and looks askance at me. What was I still doing there?

“Oh, I’m talking to him now,” I say (somewhat dismissively since she hadn’t exactly fallen over herself to help). She shrugs then shifts some papers around on her desk, sort of spinning out the fact that she was making to leave.

But then the CO of Nairobi Water seems to  hang up on my new friend. Then my friend tells me that he only works in IT and was only there to do maintenance work. This whole thing is not going well. The friendly man asks the soon-to-leave lady if she can help me.

Why don’t you order a truck?” she says.

“Yes, but your City Council trucks take over a week to arrive (true!) and we need water now.”

“Yes, they do take very long.” She confirms, pulling her shawl over her shoulders.

At this point I revert back into my not very gracious Swahili rant and (oh my, I am SO not proud of this) mumble something about this being like socialism in Tanzania in the 1960s. (Okay, I lived in tanzania in the 90s but, like I said, I hadn’t showered and was feeling sweaty and the hope of getting mains water was fading by the second).

Finally, I am instructed by the woman to write my complaint on a scrap of paper that will no doubt find it’s way direct to the bin, then the lady announces that she’s leaving.

“Have a nice rest at home” I said to her – honestly, I try not to use sarcasm here.

“Yes, I am. I’m going to have a jolly nice rest.” She says in Swahili. Good for her. She wasn’t cowed by my whining mzungu peformance –  probably because she’s seen it all before.

And with that, the exchange is over and I thought to myself – please – someone restrain me from going to these offices EVER AGAIN. And on my way out, I glance up at the building and remember that nearly 10 years ago, they found a dead body in the roof up there – (apparently a victim of a G4S security guide serial killer) – and I think that maybe it’s tough working for Nairobi City Council Water and after all, they must have reason to strike. Then I google the strike at home and see photos of people carrying buckets sitting around dry stand pipes and I remember that we don’t have it so bad (especially as we’d wasted all our water at some extravagant kids party). And this is a drought year, so the water situation is probably only going to get worse. We order an expensive bowser (water truck) from a private company and it arrives.

So that was my bad day but it really wasn’t that bad. The week before, our gardener told me on Monday morning that he’d had a bad weekend.

***

My son was kidnapped at home in Kakamega on Saturday. Those bad people often come when the maize is high and grab small children who are playing there. Luckily they just found him an hour ago and now he’s safe.”

Wow, what! The poor boy was kidnapped, locked alone in some room somewhere, his parents were frantic, they’d just got him back and the boy wasn’t speaking – in shock apparently. He went to hospital for a check-up and physically he’s okay. A week later and he’s down with malaria. I asked the gardener (repeatedly) if he wants to go home on leave to check on his son (in fact he only was there a couple of weeks ago) and he says no, it’s all fine now – his wife has the situation in hand. Just a little cash for the hospital is required. Fine?! The hardships.

Then our ex-askari messages me, “In hospital in Kibera, unwell, vision, neck, pain, shivering, vomitting (sic), head ache, joint weakness, lack of appetite – need 3,600 for tests and then need to buy drugs but have none”

And then yesterday I see the sweet crippled man on crutches who sells homemade cards walking along the dusty, rough road outside the sparkling new Hub shopping centre and ask him how he is and he says fine, and I think to myself – you are not fine, you look thinner than usual and tired and by telling this posh lady who sits in her posh car that you are fine is just incredibly brave.

Last week the charming plumber who has been doing a few odd jobs around here for years, rang at 10pm to say that his wife had died and he had no money to bury her.

And I also sunk to the depths of getting everyone in the house, including house helpers, to produce a stool test because I am so tired of the recurring tummy issues that we all have and the doctor calls back to say that all the samples are clear an probably I am suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

Finally, there’s still no flour for unga (ugali) in the shops (Kenya’s staple food), and food prices are super high, electricity costs a fortune and people suffer so much with doctors and nurses striking and no water – so I really don’t know how this Presidential election is going to pan out on 8th August 2017.

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Blogging’s fun, but it’s not a job is it? http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/06/bloggings-fun-not-job/ http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/06/bloggings-fun-not-job/#comments Thu, 29 Jun 2017 16:17:11 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3593 Or am I wrong? Hat’s off to those who can make blogging or instagram into a full time job. For me, it’s a bit of fun (plus some much needed regular writing practise).  Fashion blogging is a hard nut to crack but my impression is that there are many more lucrative opportunities there. ‘Lifestyle’ blogging […]

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Or am I wrong? Hat’s off to those who can make blogging or instagram into a full time job. For me, it’s a bit of fun (plus some much needed regular writing practise).  Fashion blogging is a hard nut to crack but my impression is that there are many more lucrative opportunities there. ‘Lifestyle’ blogging has less traction, however, this does not necessarily mean it’s not worth doing.

I’ve been blogging since 2006 (OMG – what!?) and this website has morphed from a very personal stream-of-consciousness about living in Kenya, a dabble in the world of fraught local politics (again… what?!), to an advice column for expats moving here (read with interest by quite a few Kenyans apparently) to whatever it is today – a bit of fun?

Doors that blogging has opened for me include writing for local PR agencies, writing articles for local publications, finding the confidence to write my own book manuscripts (unpublished, duh), a couple of major writing consultation gigs for a global organisation, an interview on on the BBC news TV (embarrassing), a feature in The Times (more embarrassing), a regular slot on the UK Telegraph Expat Life page (kind of proud of that one),  a couple of fun travel assignments in Kenya, a 3 year long role as magazine editor, a small contribution to the new Airbnb Trips app and now… a freelance social media strategist and content provider (how did that happen?!).

If you are thinking of starting a blog then my advice would be do it! There are tons of rewards that are just not that obvious (disclaimer: for not very business minded people like me who are not good at promoting their brand). I have partnered with a couple of advertisers in the past (can count them on one hand!) but, for me, it’s not a business. The blog/website is more of a shop window. A place where people can find you if they want,  see what you are all about and hopefully it’s a safe space where you can keep a few entertained while you try to figure out what you could feasibly be a success at.

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Expat life. Finding your own happy… http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/06/expat-life-finding-happy/ http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/06/expat-life-finding-happy/#comments Mon, 19 Jun 2017 14:35:50 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3586 Life can throw out more than a few curve balls. You may not be exactly where you thought you’d be, or doing what you had imagined and your circumstances may not sit well with you at a given time but whatever the situation, it’s important to find your own happy. Horrific events in London over […]

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Life can throw out more than a few curve balls. You may not be exactly where you thought you’d be, or doing what you had imagined and your circumstances may not sit well with you at a given time but whatever the situation, it’s important to find your own happy.

Horrific events in London over the past weeks put day-to-day life in sharp focus and remind me of the dreadful Westgate mall attack here in Nairobi in 2013. During the aftermath of Westgate we heard of threats of terror attacks weekly, even daily, mostly via anonymous SMS/text messages that were circulating like wildfire. Don’t go to the mall, don’t sit in traffic jams, school buses will targeted, attacks are imminent. You barely wanted to hear the news for fear of hearing of the next atrocity in Kenya (the Garissa University attack etc). Life changed. Shopping centres are now surrounded by steel rings. We have our car doors and boots opened and our handbags searched when popping in to do our weekly supermarket shop.

There’s a certain amount of added risk related to living in Nairobi anyway with the common threat of armed break-ins or carjacking, meaning that going out after dark (particularly alone) takes an extra dose of courage, but this shouldn’t cow us into submission. The disparity of wealth is still heart-breaking and I haven’t even got onto ill health!

Just last week, our house helper got ill with bronchitis, the chap who was once our askari contacted us to say he had TB and needed help urgently, food prices have skyrocketed for basic commodities which is affecting people badly (there is still no maize flour in the shops) and the prospect of yet another presidential election on August 8th doesn’t bode well. Still deeply scarred from the 2007 election crisis in Kenya, we’ve already seen land related troubles brewing in Laikipia. Apparently rippling discontent comes with the territory around election time but we keep hopeful of a peaceful outcome.

A lot of the above has not affected me directly but it does make me feel fortunate. I’m the lazy type who likes to get swept along by life so have to remind myself to appreciate each day (rather than, as an expat, worrying and second guessing what future might lie in store). So in this spirit, I signed up for an evening art course (we giggle, muddle and drink wine – our teacher is very patient), I go to the gym regularly and relish having coffee with friends (even when there’s work waiting at home). I sit in the sun when it peeps out just for 5 minutes to soak up some rays (it’s cold season here so a bit overcast) and I thank goodness that the family is all well. We need to find our own ‘happy’ in the small things. Who knows what life might throw at us next?

  • Returning Home – BBC, The Why Factor. Interesting discussion on the migrants’ yearn to go home that is almost built into our DNA, the ‘myth of return’ (or intending to return but not quite making it), plus the reality of returning home. 30%-50% of migrants do go home.
  • Be useful. Be kind.” Advice from Barack Obama.
  • Have 3 types of hobbies: 1 to make you money, 1 to keep you in shape, and one that allows you to be creative.

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Nairobi Craft Fair Fun – Africa Expat Stereotypes http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/05/nairobi-craft-fair-fun/ Mon, 29 May 2017 12:19:29 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3560 Did I really need to buy 3 handbags last weekend? Oh dear… Africa Expat Stereotype – The Craft Market. Tana has booked a stand at this year’s craft market but is already on non-speakers with organiser Beth, after the latter refused to give Tana a discount on the astronomical price of hiring tent space for […]

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Did I really need to buy 3 handbags last weekend? Oh dear…

Africa Expat Stereotype – The Craft Market.

Tana has booked a stand at this year’s craft market but is already on non-speakers with organiser Beth, after the latter refused to give Tana a discount on the astronomical price of hiring tent space for the weekend.  This news was particularly galling since they are friends who go to the same book club together.  However, Beth is unbending.

“Business is business and there are many others who will take the tent if you don’t.  Kate from Safari Stuff and Geoff at Canvas Essentials have both been begging for space for months. As it is, they’ll probably have to be squeezed in next to the port-a-loos again and they are not going to be happy.” Beth says with authority, tapping her clipboard as Tana rolls her eyes.

Tana has put together an eclectic ‘safari luxe’ collection that includes wrought iron loo-roll holders decorated with welded-on flowers, skirts made of local African kanga fabric, various bead necklaces slung over white washed wooden candle sticks.  Most prices start at around the 10,000 Kenya shillings mark (£80) but she might bump everything up once she’s sent a spy into Sarah’s tent next door.  Most of Sarah’s home furnishings are made by the exact same ‘side-of-the-road’ fundis (craftsman) that Tana uses.  In fact she’s sure that Sarah has copied her candlestick design. Competition for custom is high and Tana has pinned her hopes on this fair financing her ski holiday next year.

Once the fair is in full swing, Beth’s mobile rings. She’s summoned by her security team to the entrance gate. A stallholder complains that her money-belt has been stolen, another customer has lost his phone and as Beth tries to get to the bottom of the problem, she’s interrupted by a older lady wearing a floral smock and Jesus sandals,

“Are you the organiser of all this?” The lady waves her hand across a sea of upmarket tents in a picturesque garden setting, face flushed under a straw hat, “This whole place is far too expensive and not worth the extortionate entrance fee. I hope that some of your profits are going to charity? If not, it’s a disgrace.”

Beth swivels away from the retiree, then attempts to firefight the other  crises, by going on the offensive.

“Well, were you hanging on to the bag or had you put it down?” Beth asks, a tad accusingly.

The aggrieved stallholder leaves muttering something about the police. The other chap finds his phone has dropped to the bottom of his shopping bag. Beth notices that he’s had a few and decides she too needs a drink.

Back at Tana’s tent and it’s pretty hectic. Mainly due to the high traffic of friends stopping by armed with cappuccinos and Pimms, lounging on safari chairs inside the tent, gossiping endlessly about various shenanigans going on in Kenya Cowboy life. The scene resembles more of a hoedown than an operating business. Potential customers are loathe to break up the party.

“Did you hear that Flip and Pip have split? And old Woolly has lost his ranch?”

Tana is handed a gin and tonic and can’t help getting drawn in. The worst gossips are vendors from ‘up-country’ who make a weekend of the craft fair, slipping away from their own stalls to chat for hours because they basically are starved of company and up-to-date news.

“How much is this?” asks a bold, mealy faced customer holding out a toilet roll holder.  Tana is too busy to respond as she’s trying to catch the eye of Siana, a passing, glamorous TV presenter.

Oh Siana, hi!” Tries Tana, stepping out of her tent hopefully with a wave. But Siana, unhearing, wafts on by amid a group of young bearded male admirers who are decked out in Indian cotton floral shirts, laughing at all her jokes.

The fact is, Tana tends not trouble herself with price tags in her own tent. This is a strategic move in order to lure potential shoppers without having them balk at her high prices. This also gives Tana a certain amount of flexibility with her pricing, although the constant interruption by customers asking how much things are is such a bore.  Tana did once organise more help with her stall but getting her brother to help was absolutely hopeless.  All he did was take off to get plastered with his mates in the beer tent, then at the end of it all insisted on collecting a commission.

Somehow the day passes and it’s time to go home. Scratchy and exhausted, Tana makes a point of seeking out Beth to tell her that the tent has been like an oven, customer numbers are markedly down and the venue is not nearly as good as last year’s.  Beth, still wielding her clipboard, is not in the most accommodating of moods.  Earlier in the afternoon, two parking attendants disappeared on a tea break leaving the road to back up with traffic, just as the local police arrive to look into a certain handbag theft. Unraveling that mess took all of Beth’s skills in diplomacy.

By the end of the weekend, Tana has sold most of the kitenge (African print) miniskirts that she has been modelling all weekend (after all, she does have nice legs) but overall sales are not good and the skiing holiday will have to wait.  At least the fair wasn’t a wash-out like last year when torrential rain ruined half her stock. Tana cried over the unsold destroyed leather and cowhide beanbags for two days.  Fortunately the weather over this weekend stayed relatively dry (apart from one faintly catastrophic downpour); however the atmosphere at book club will definitely remain frosty.

Featured ImageCrafts and Markets

Related PostThe Mitumba Maven

 

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Travel and Lifestyle Blogger – latest stereotype http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/05/travel-lifestyle-blogger-latest-stereotype/ Mon, 22 May 2017 17:34:59 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3555 Travel and lifestyle blogger Angel is planning to make it big. It’s just that journey is proving a little hard. After weeks of outfit preparation and planning, Angel’s domestic flight to Kisumu is delayed. She is seen pacing the departure lounge complaining loudly on the phone to her bestie, bemoaning the fact that the flight […]

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Travel and lifestyle blogger Angel is planning to make it big. It’s just that journey is proving a little hard. After weeks of outfit preparation and planning, Angel’s domestic flight to Kisumu is delayed. She is seen pacing the departure lounge complaining loudly on the phone to her bestie, bemoaning the fact that the flight is so late that she’s going to miss the sunset (holy grail of Instagramable posts).  Stakes are high. Angel wants to be nominated for a blog award so she needs good content.

This travel post is, like, the whole reason why I booked the trip!

Later, Angel enters the hotel juggling suitcases while taking pics and recording selfie videos on her smart phone. Fellow guests vaguely wonder if she’s a celebrity but if so, where is the entourage? Once at the front desk, Angel insists on a room with a view. The receptionist explains that this is a budget hotel with no views to speak of yet Angel is undeterred.

“Don’t you know I’m a blogger, with 20k+ followers? Just one post on my website would blow this place up!” The receptionist looks alarmed before Angel adds, “Like, in a good way.”

Read the rest here (back page) Nomad Magazine – The Wild Outdoors Issue

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Touring Nairobi’s art scene – part 2 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/05/touring-nairobis-art-scene-part-2/ Tue, 16 May 2017 07:09:35 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3531 The GoDown Arts Centre was a place I’ve wanted to visit for ages but never went as I’d been put off by the location. Those words ‘industrial area’ had me recoiling, however, I was pleasantly surprised to arrive at the venue just one minute after crossing the Nyayo Stadium roundabout and within 30 minutes from […]

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The GoDown Arts Centre was a place I’ve wanted to visit for ages but never went as I’d been put off by the location. Those words ‘industrial area’ had me recoiling, however, I was pleasantly surprised to arrive at the venue just one minute after crossing the Nyayo Stadium roundabout and within 30 minutes from home.

Michael Soi Studio

The chance to see Michael Soi’s studio and shop was the main draw for me here, but there are loads of other artists workshops there too (around 30 artists are based at The GoDown), as well as a performance space and office space for various creative types. As we arrived, the sound of a live band practising rang out across the courtyard and the sun was shining. I went to the GoDown office to ask if we could look around and stumbled upon Michael Soi himself, who allowed my daughter to interview him, albeit with some jaded comments and gentle complaining.

“I normally avoid people like you if I can. So many people who I have never met are experts on my work. So many students ask to interview me about my work, yet I never see what they write, so this is kind of a waste of time for me.” Probably quite annoying, I agree, but we pressed and wasted his time nonetheless.

There was something energising about looking at his work in progress, huge canvases standing about in a bright space, with all of the edgy political messages or social commentary that each picture holds. He chatted about his daughter, and life, and disappointments mainly in the lack of public art funding in Kenya and difficulty accessing the right markets, but I thought – good for you. This is a pretty nice set up and you are doing what you love and it all means something and it might also contribute to change. Which is exciting. And useful.

(Obama’s dad told him the key to living a good life is: “Be useful, be kind” then Obama himself added “be fearless”. I like that.)

When I got to the studio shop, I had already made up my mind to buy something. I had initially thought of picking up a bag (à la Lupita Nyongo’s instagram account, which made his totes famous), but then felt that hand painted canvas bags and purses were a bit of a waste of his talent and the bag might soon wind up sitting in a cupboard, so I went for a reasonably priced/generic female heads on canvas instead.  (at 15k), which now sits above my computer and makes me smile every time I look at it. Oh and a pair of very well printed scatter cushion covers which now give our kitchen sofa a little extra pop.

Polka Dot Art Gallery.

Next stop the newish Polka Dot Art Gallery, to meet Patrick Kinuthia at the opening night of his exhibition. I actually bought one of his paintings before Christmas, so am already a fan of his immediate, impressionistic style, bright colours and ability to capture strong light. He’s a quiet, reserved man and this exhibition included coast paintings of Lamu and Malindi too – one stunning beach scene. I could just picture him standing on the beach with his large canvas, drawing from life as the tide was coming in. Again, I skulked in the background as the interview took place but Patrick Kinuthia was kind enough to say that my daughter had really good questions about the challenges of being an artist in Kenya today.

This week I start an evening art course at The Polka Dot Art Gallery. Need to go out and buy paper and charcoal. I haven’t done any drawing, painting or sketching for so long, so it’s bound to be an emotional roller coaster of an experience (joy and frustration). #excited.

 

 

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Help! Teenagers in the house. And forget about being the cool mum. http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/05/help-teenagers-house/ Thu, 04 May 2017 08:26:01 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3519 Once I imagined that I had an outside chance of being a cool mum who would get my teenagers. What they wear, what they eat, what they get up to on social media; I was all over it. I could be the exception to the rule. To be honest, I believe that my husband harboured […]

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Once I imagined that I had an outside chance of being a cool mum who would get my teenagers. What they wear, what they eat, what they get up to on social media; I was all over it. I could be the exception to the rule. To be honest, I believe that my husband harboured the same ambitions. He would be the cool dad. I would be the cool mum. We would be the cool parents. Fact is; we’re not cool. In fact, we’re pretty average parents who don’t get it. Not even remotely. Heck, I think that granny is probably cooler than me in the eyes of my kids. Painful truth.

The watershed happens at around the age of 11/12. You still get ‘I love you mummy’ and great cuddles but there is also the odd eye roll and ‘no need to walk me to the classroom mum‘ thrown in. Take this as a warning shot across your bows.

Later comes the request to buy clothing for your child that you just don’t get (yes, and you who are SO trendy should be able to get it, right?). The clothing thing is a big one. Forget lovely mother/daughter shopping trips. My daughter asks me if she looks okay and I try hard to disguise confusion, wracking my brain for something positive to say. On another occasion, she might throw me a lifeline. ‘Hi mum, you look nice. I like that shirt.’ My totally over the top reaction? ‘Thanks! Have the shirt! Take it! It will look really good on you.’ (Sense my total relief at the fact that we’ve finally found some common ground – let’s throw a party!) Her response, ‘mum, just because I said I liked it, doesn’t mean that I WANT it, I was just being nice‘. And so the communication break down continues. Three quarter flare jeans. Just don’t get it. Totally see-through mesh tops? Not there yet. And don’t even get me started on the piercings and the tattoos – it’s still no, no, no, NO!

Secondly, I thought I might enjoy ALWAYS being right about everything but boy, it’s exhausting. You still find yourself saying; ‘you will need a jumper, run upstairs and get one.’ (because you are too old to carry one for them). And the response invariably is; ‘No I won’t need a sweater, I’ll be fine, stop fussing mum’. Then whatdoyaknow but one hour later and they are freezing and grumpy because they don’t have a jumper. Or the other one is, they are wearing a sweater but nothing whatsoever underneath and are too hot. And who has to pay the price for these small problems? Yours truly.

Teenagers often need to check that you approve of their plans and movements (which change constantly by the way), but they have no intention of altering anything and ideally would rather not hear any constructive advice. Hence, rows blow up out of nowhere.

However, it’s not all bad. There are some truly golden moments. On a good day, you might be unexpectedly hit by a wave of pride in your offspring. They might suddenly offer to cook (okay, this is stretching things a bit) or be polite to one of your friends, give you a kiss or a hug, say thank you or simply smile a lot. Snatches of quality family time are precious, for instance over mealtimes when the whole family is laughing at the same joke. You can occasionally have adult conversations or debates that are fun (not a war zone). I wouldn’t swap my teenagers for the earth, but I have to admit, they do take a little getting used to.

 11 common behaviour traits of teenagers.

  1. Teenagers like to be online. They melt down irrationally at the slightest sign of a wifi or power outage (happens a lot in Nairobi). With no TV series to watch, youtubers to stream, no snapchat to converse with friends through it’s, like, a total disaster. Hang on a minute, they might just have to speak to their parents.
  2. They like to slob around at home wearing pyjamas all day then, just as your evening is over, (i.e. you’ve had supper, watched TV and are heading to bed) they announce that they’d like to to go out on the town, meet friends and would you mind picking them up at 2am? You never saw it coming.
  3. You’ll find yourself housebound. There’s always homework/studying to do, but this suddenly becomes 200 times more pressing when you happen to suggest that the family leave the house for an hour.
  4. You are the enemy. Even without saying anything. You, as the parent, are the one who doesn’t approve of friends, boyfriends, clothing, career choices, interests, and above all, you judge. Worse, you alone are standing in the way of nights out, parties, holidays, piercings and tattoos. Steel yourself for sudden outbursts of temper that come from a place that you don’t understand.
  5. Teenagers can be highly critical of you. Suck it up. But woe betide you if you criticise them or any of their friends. They’ll take it VERY personally.
  6. They go to bed after you and, even when safely tucked in their bed, who knows what time they actually go to sleep? It’s generally guesswork based on how grumpy they are the following day.
  7. Forget making suggestions. There’s a book or movie that you really want them to read/see, but they won’t even countenance the idea (however, they’ll get back to you 6-12 months later to tell you how much they loved it, without remembering that it was initially your recommendation).
  8. Their plans change from minute-to-minute. Best to roll with it, keep up or put your foot down. Whichever way, it can be confusing.
  9. Your teenagers can be very immature. Expect bouts of uncontrollable giggling and silliness when you are least in the mood.
  10. Teenagers can be forgetful. The last thing you want to be is a total nag, constantly reminding them to do things, but you find yourself becoming this terrible nag anyway. #parentingteenssucks.
  11. Expect to learn a new language. Mainly comprising of abbreviations, acronyms etc. LMAO, Amaze, CBA, Snapchat stream, stories, that pic, it doesn’t fit with my Instagram aesthetic Mum….

I definitely need to pick up some books on parenting teenagers but in the meantime, I’ve accepted it, I’m never going to be cool. I’m just the mum.

Related post: The Boarding School Teenager

Featured Photo Credit: Unsplash.com

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