Africa Expat Wives Club http://africaexpatwivesclub.com News, Views, Debate & A Healthy Dose of Trivia Mon, 19 Jun 2017 17:09:19 +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 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/ http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/05/nairobi-craft-fair-fun/#respond 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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10 unusual facts I learned about the Masai http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/04/10-unusual-facts-learned-masai/ Thu, 27 Apr 2017 05:50:15 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3511 Last weekend my friend and I had a few great opportunities to chat to two Masai guys (Sunguru and Toican) who pick up casual work as guides around Lake Magadi. Our chats took place in the car on drives around the lake and by the camp fire. Once again, I got some fresh insights into […]

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Last weekend my friend and I had a few great opportunities to chat to two Masai guys (Sunguru and Toican) who pick up casual work as guides around Lake Magadi. Our chats took place in the car on drives around the lake and by the camp fire. Once again, I got some fresh insights into this fascinating nomadic culture. There are always a few laughs too.

10 Random facts learned from chatting to friendly Masai at Lake Magadi

  1. Masai sleep on cow skins and a ‘bed’ constructed from sticks at home but when on a walking journey, they just sleep with a blanket (worn over the shoulder during the day) and settle down anywhere, even sleeping on rough stoney ground.
  2. On a long journey on foot, masai carry dry food such as maize flour and beans as well as a couple of litres of water which is refilled from rivers, lakes and streams along the way.
  3. A lot of Masai who live Magadi have never been to Nairobi, but they often walk to Tanzania to trade and barter with fellow Masai down there. The journey takes 2 weeks and is very tiring but, for the Masai, there’s no border control.
  4. The masai don’t marry for love and are not in the least bit interested in good looks in a wife. Rather, they look out for someone who is hard working and politely spoken. Young girls can be ‘booked’ by a masai who will then wait until she comes of age. A bride costs around 5 cows, but one masai recently offered 1,000 cows for Barack Obama’s daughter (on Facebook).
  5. Many Masai around Lake Magadi are Christian, thanks to the influence of colonial settlers who have been mining salt from the soda lake for 100 years (though the factory is Indian run now).  Oil has also been found in the area relatively recently but is yet to be mined.
  6. The star constellation we call Orion, is known as ‘The Mother’ by Masai who see a woman with arms cradling. Masai also read the stars to interpret weather. For instance, spotting one particular star can tell the Masai that there will be no rain.
  7. Masai navigate their way around on foot using points on the landscape for reference (hills, rivers etc).
  8. Masai have mobile phones. Some dream of travel (Toican said that he watched English football  games on TV and had seen movies set in London, so was keen to visit there), whilst others are perfectly happy to stay put.
  9. There are ‘plastic’ masai and ‘traditional‘ masai. The ‘plastic’ ones go to school, have a few western belongings, speak some English and/or Swahili as well as Maa and perhaps work part time in town as tour guides, security guards etc.
  10. The masai have a reputation for being totally fearless (in decades gone by, their initiation to adulthood involved killing a lion), but Toican says that a few of them are still actually scaredy cats. Having said that, my view is that they’re all hard as nails. Living totally at one with the landscape requiring very little in terms of material goods and as a result, also producing scant waste, is nothing short of a miracle in this day and age.

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Weekend at Lake Magadi (for 5,000 Kenya shillings or under £40) http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/04/weekend-lake-magadi-5000-kenya-shillings/ Wed, 26 Apr 2017 12:24:28 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3482 I am the least spur of the moment person and often berate myself for being totally adventure-shy. So when a good friend suggested last Friday, that we gather up our youngest daughters and go away for one night – the following morning, laced with a level of inward panic, I said yes. Swung by the […]

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I am the least spur of the moment person and often berate myself for being totally adventure-shy. So when a good friend suggested last Friday, that we gather up our youngest daughters and go away for one night – the following morning, laced with a level of inward panic, I said yes. Swung by the fact that my 11 year old said, ‘Mum, I think that this would be good for both of us’. Oh, and my friend offered to drive, which was a pretty major bonus.

Lake Magadi is within an easy 2-2.5 hour reach of Nairobi (depending on how long it takes to get out of the city) and the tarmac road down there is pretty good (in the past it has been shocking). I had only been to Lake Magadi once years ago when I decided to surprise my husband to go and watch his Rhino Charge motoring event. My husband didn’t know we were coming, the kids were very young and we didn’t find one other until after dark (at which point, we hadn’t even pitched our tent), but that’s another story.

On this occasion, my camping savvy friend, perhaps reading a hint of hesitation on my part, suggested we stay at Lake Magadi Tented Camp. The good news is that tents are already set up and meals can be purchased at the Lake Magadi Sports Club (so packing was pretty simple). Even better news, the tents were air conditioned! So far so brilliant, however, when paying 5,000 Kenya shillings for accommodation (cost of a shared tent for me and my daughter) a certain amount of managing expectations is necessary. The tents were slightly oddly laid out facing each other inside a fenced off area some distance from the lake. I believe that the fence was there to protect campers from baboons, but it did resemble something of a prison camp or army barracks. Not that I am complaining though. The tents were furnished with 2 super comfortable beds, en suite bathroom and Magadi is boiling hot, so the quiet air conditioning unit was not much short of a miracle.

But first the drive down. We popped in to Olorgesaille gorge where, in the 1940s, Mary Leaky found a sort of hand axe factory (or loads of hand axes) dating back to early man (100,000-200,000 years ago). It was a furnace like temperature when we arrived at 1pm, so we requested the shortened tour of the excavation sites and enjoyed our picnic in a shady banda afterwards, grateful for a hot breeze while wondering how the heck present day archaeologists manage the heat. Of course I couldn’t avoid the ‘shop’ run by local masai ladies and picked up a bead covered Ostrich egg, which I then had to juggle around the car for the rest of the weekend.

Arriving at Lake Magadi, which lies in a valley, was stunning. Yes, the landscape is dominated by the very industrial salt works but there’s something time-stood-still about it and the skies are huge and reflected in the still water of the lake. We were given a friendly greeting on one of many causeways by a smart security guard wearing dark glasses and couldn’t believe how hot it was outside. We found our way quickly to the Lake Magadi Sports Club, a colonial era building with high ceilings and were delighted to find a swimming pool. Being a Saturday afternoon, the club was rammed and quite noisy with music blaring from very large speakers but that didn’t matter. Again, everyone was friendly. Once we ‘checked-in’ to our tents about a half a kilometre along the road, we went back to the club for a swim.

In the evening we took a half hour drive to the hot springs, in convoy with the Travelling Telescope crew, who were off to set up camp there to watch stars all night and witness a very special meteor shower. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the springs but when we arrived, that part of the lake was more like a wide estuary with certain points where you could see hot water bubbling. There’s a small area of deep water where you can dip. The water was properly boiling, like the hottest bath you can imagine. My legs went pink and I had to steel myself to get into the water (apparently the saline water is very beneficial to your skin – so it had to be done) – but when I got out I had that my bath was too hot dizzy feeling. The sunset there was spectacular and the kids had loads of fun slipping around on the algae covered stones around the edge of the pool. On the way home in the dark, we gave a lift to a Masai whose English was good. He said he had only been to Nairobi once to sell cows, and that time he was nearly arrested for riding on the back of a truck with his cattle.

Dinner at the club was a touch soulless but not bad at all. Very friendly service and the club house is clean and well looked after under the watchful eye of Julius, who seemed to be in charge. We opted to pay for accommodation only and had our meals a la carte rather than do a half board option which includes a buffet. We then asked for a bonfire near the tent, as we’d brought marshmallows. Another Masai, nickname Sunguru or rabbit on account of his forward facing teeth, helped us with this. Again, he was fascinating too. He told us about how he walks down to Tanzania to sell herbal medicines in exchange for goats. It’s a 2 week walk. All was going pretty well until, just before lights out, my friend’s daughter found a small scorpion in her mum’s bed. Not an ideal precursor for a peaceful night’s sleep. My daughter and I slept well, only the air conditioning was so cold that I had to turn it off in the end. Not your usual camping complaint is it? #myairconditioningistoocold

The next morning we headed back to the hot springs. When we arrived there was a huge bus load of students from Mount Kenya University and one girl fainted after she had been in the springs. Sadly the students had a 2km walk back to their bus (but the lady who fainted got a lift on a passing motorbike). After more paddling and splashing in the very hot water, we headed back to the club for breakfast. On Sunday morning the club was fabulously quiet and this time we had the pool to ourselves. It’s a bit of a shame that the club grounds are a bit squeezed and have a high fence around them. There’s no view of the lake from the club but apparently more tents are planned down by the water’s edge, so that will be good (especially if they are air conditioned too!).

On Sunday we wrenched ourselves away from the club at around 4pm (by which time it was busy again with school kids swimming, families etc) and managed to do another lake drive, this time beyond the salt works and over various causeways to see another part of the lake and some distant flamingos. In some places, the lake was dark pink from algae.  We were grabbed by our Masai guide, Toican (who hangs at the bus stop), who acted as our guide whilst waving in a slightly superior fashion to all of his masai friends who passed by begging a lift. (My daughter thought Toican might have been showing off). By this stage I was a bit twitchy about getting home after dark and worrying that we might get a puncture on the way home (always the optimist), but my friend who was driving was totally unfazed and we got home safely and quickly in just a couple of hours.

On the drive back, all up hill, you get a vivid idea of what a high altitude Nairobi is situated at. So in July and August when we are cloud covered and chilly, I might just pop back down to Lake Magadi to warm up. And chat to a few Masai.

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Family fun. Zip lining at The Forest, Kenya http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/04/family-fun-zip-lining-forest-kenya/ http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/04/family-fun-zip-lining-forest-kenya/#comments Thu, 20 Apr 2017 13:44:39 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3465 So we opted for an Easter Staycation in the end but did manage to head out to The Forest zip line on the edge of the Aberdare rain forest, which was definitely a highlight of the holiday weekend. Two words to sum the experience up for me: adrenaline and sunburn! I had heard from a […]

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So we opted for an Easter Staycation in the end but did manage to head out to The Forest zip line on the edge of the Aberdare rain forest, which was definitely a highlight of the holiday weekend. Two words to sum the experience up for me: adrenaline and sunburn!

I had heard from a number of my 11 year old daughter’s friends (and their parents) that The Forest zip line was fantastic and definitely worth a trip. We had been waiting impatiently until the school holidays so that we could go and experience it together as a family and the adventure certainly did not disappoint. We were massively lucky with the weather. Incredibly clear skies and bright sunshine (which explains the sunburn). We enjoyed fantastic views of the forest and country around. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and every moment you are there, you are hugging yourself for having escaped Nairobi for a rare change.

This is the advice we had received before leaving home (from a very helpful 11 year old who had been before):

  • Take water – as there is a bit of hiking between zip lines
  • Wear leggings – as the zip line harnesses can pinch a bit in short shorts
  • Avoid the restaurant – as it’s not all that great (so we decided to take a picnic).

Booking

I tracked down The Forest Facebook page, booked by phone and paid a 50% deposit via MPesa a week in advance.  The lady offered me a 9am zip line slot, which I declined (was there a smirk in her voice when I said 9am was too early?)  After all, the Forest is an hour out of Nairobi and I was a bit worried about chances of early morning rain, so we plumped for 11am. Once I sent the money, I followed up with a text to confirm that they had received payment (repeating the booking date and time in my message) but got no response.  Having heard nothing, I rang to confirm our booking the day before we left, only to hear that we had been penciled in for the day after we wanted to go. Apparently it was no problem to shift our booking, but at this point it would have been great it the lady I had spoken to had offered to send us directions and more information about the venue. *Ironically I was Whatsapped really good directions and loads more info on leaving The Forest when I asked the front desk to give me details about other activities on offer.

Getting there

I hadn’t given much thought to exactly where we were going before setting out in the car but we left town in high spirits, heading vaguely in the right direction, however the last couple of kms became tense as Google maps sent us on a circuitous route along bumpy roads and goat tracks.

Zip line intro

So far, so negative – but in fact it was great to arrive at the smartly built zip line HQ. The drive through the forest was stunning and once we got to the activity centre, we received a warm welcome. There was another group in front of us, but we were advised to hang back to get 2 instructors to ourselves for our family group of 5. The test line was fun, with lots of emphasis on safety and instruction was very clear. At this point I slapped a cursory coating of sun cream on my face and neck – missing great triangles of exposed flesh over my shoulders (while bossing the kids that they absolutely must not get sunburned), then we embarked on our 2 hour, 6 zip line tour. The tip on leggings was great and the kids wore t-shirts with sweatshirts over the top (as you are quite high and so it’s not hot). My husband wore a rucksack and carried water for us to share. *Tip: You can’t hold a smartphone to film yourself while you zip, but can get really fab footage with a Gopro. Our helpful and super friendly instructors Joseph and Samwell lent us a hand held/selfie stick type of thing for the Gropro which worked perfectly

 Zipping

When you set off, you are looking down into this valley thinking that the zip lining it will be WAY too terrifying and what the hell have you got yourself into. However the first line was so much fun, kind of ‘take your breath away’ fun, and as you step off the end I was feeling – give me more! The speed of zipping is fast but comfortably controlled. You can go faster depending on how much you bunch up your legs. It’s surprisingly noisy as you zip along. Your ears are filled with the sound of your runner speeding over the metal line. Shooting over the tree tops for nearly half a km is probably one of the most exhilarating things that I have ever done. However, my husband’s baseball cap blew off immediately, so best not to wear one for the actual zipping.

Doing the full x6 line tour (you can opt to do just 2 if you like)

We had such a good time chatting to Joseph and Samwell and rushing through the course of 6 zip lines, wondering what to expect from each one. The entire tour took 2 hours spot on and the lines were impressively long. It was quite windy, so because of a headwind we stalled on a few of them and had to pull ourselves to the end or get rescued by Samwell. Our party of 5 was a perfect number (though groups can be up to 12 pax) because it meant that we didn’t have to wait for too long between each person’s go. The hiking was not far, there’s only one quite steep section which leaves you feeling a bit breathless (due to the high altitudeand/or Easter excess?), otherwise it’s just a few minutes pleasant country walk between the beginning and end of each line. *We loved every minute of the tour. My youngest kept repeating, ‘this is so fun!’ and I would have been more than happy to do the course all over again that same day.

 Big ‘no, no’ to picnics.

We packed a picnic that the family had been heavily involved in putting together (Read: we made our own sandwiches so were pretty excited about them) – but bringing our own food turned out to be a big no no. Having not received any information before leaving and only been gently asked if we wanted to order lunch from the restaurant in advance of our zip line tour (answer: ‘no’) – I hadn’t hauled in the fact that no picnics are allowed at The Forest at all.

So as we all settled down under a tree near the car park to tuck in, we were very quickly shooed away by a security guard. This left kind of a bad taste. I felt like we got chased out of the venue when we might have been tempted to do another activity after lunch – such as archery, mountain biking or paint balling. As it was, we found ourselves eating our sandwiches in the car a few hundred yards down the road, surrounded by village kids who abandoned their firewood collecting to have a good look at us. Suffice it to say, we gave away 6 bags of crisps but still felt bad about our sandwiches, sodas and boiled egss. The Forest restaurant was beautifully situated, so in retrospect it would have been more fun to sit there, but the menu struck me as being formal and heavy (chips, meat and two veg) and quite pricey.

Watch out for that strong sun

Perhaps it was a good thing to have been moved on, because it was while eating lunch that the kids pointed out how horribly sunburned my shoulders were. My strappy top and low necked long sleeved t-shirt (my attempt at activewear) was an ill advised choice whereas the kids round necked sweatshirts worked much better. (There was a woman in front of our party wearing a vest top – let’s hope she sun creamed up properly!)

The patches of sunburn that I am still sporting now took me back to being a kid when I used to get burned to a crisp on the beach, couldn’t sleep on my back for days then peeled horrifically. In fact, the following day I felt like I might have been suffering from sunstroke with a headache etc. When you are up there and zip lining, it’s so fresh and clear that you don’t feel at all hot – so it’s all too easy to get burned.

Overall – fantastic experience that I would definitely do again. Scores out of 10? Booking: 4/10, friendly zip line instructors: 11/10, zip lines themselves/the course 11/10 – stunning, value for money 10/10 (at 2,500/- per head for the full 6 line tour) being rushed off the premises for having a picnic 0/10. Can’t review the restaurant as didn’t eat there…but definitely want to go back.

Beware: There is a weight limit for zip lining, so smaller kids and heavier dads can find themselves exempt. 

*Campsite coming soon, hopefully by December 2017. TripAdvisor reviews Here. Related Posts : What to do for the Easter holidays4 fun days out in Nairobi

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Touring Nairobi’s Art Scene – Part 1 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/04/touring-nairobi-art-scene-part-1/ Wed, 12 Apr 2017 10:25:01 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3447 When my daughter said that she had to do an extended project (EPQ) as part of her A’level studies, I figured that suggesting a topic that both of us were interested in might be a good move. Especially since there was never any doubt that I was going to be the designated driver for this adventure. […]

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When my daughter said that she had to do an extended project (EPQ) as part of her A’level studies, I figured that suggesting a topic that both of us were interested in might be a good move. Especially since there was never any doubt that I was going to be the designated driver for this adventure. So she settled on ‘the exploding East African art scene‘ (specific title to be decided), and doing on the ground research over the past couple of weeks has been a blast. She’s been so lucky chatting to both gallery owners and artists in person, all of whom have been remarkably open and happy to be interviewed.

So while I thought I would be cooking, relaxing, feeling slightly stir crazy this school holiday since we are staying at home (kind of splashed out on the ski trip, so needs must), what I have actually been doing is driving all over Nairobi, looking for butter (there isn’t any in stores because of the recent drought) and touring various Nairobi art studios and galleries.

*It’s been so all consuming that this post will need to be split into 2 parts.

Banana Hill art gallery.

Banana Hill gallery is tucked up past a place called Ruaka, out of town. If you want to avoid Ruaka traffic, then there are various, slightly scary off road tracks weaving between corrugated iron homes etc. The first time I tried to get there, I gave up. The second time, I wasn’t with my daughter but dragged my parents after our blow out lunch at BrownsCheese . I met and chatted to gallery owner Shine Tani who told his story on BBC Outlook. It was a more organised and bigger space than I had anticipated (after listening to the podcast). I told Shine Tani that he was very famous and he laughed, saying that he was in France when the interview came out. A lot of the artists we chatted to are really pretty well travelled. In spite of the location in a slightly deprived area, the gallery still commands serious prices for the works on sale there.  There was an exhibition of work by Tanzanian artist Haji Chilonga.

Next stop – One Off Contemporary Art Gallery

The gallery is wonderfully eccentric, set in the owner’s garden in a residential area in Runda. There’s a long drive and once you park up, you are first greeted by geese and a pack of rather odd ball dogs. Stepping stones lead through the trees, down the garden to the gallery itself which is packed to the gunnels with exciting canvasses which each need explanation by gallery owner Carol Lees, otherwise you would simply feel overwhelmed. With over 20 years experience in the business, she is a fountain of knowledge.

Kuona Trust

We did pretty well popping into the Kuona Trust studio/gallery space for up and coming artists, mainly because we bumped into an artist right off the bat, Dickson Kaloki who was exhibiting there and he was happy to chat. Kuona Trust is a hive of activity in the Kilimani area with around 30 artists based there renting studio space, mainly in containers, at a subsidised rent. We also chatted to a charming John Silver, artist and print maker, who has exhibited overseas too (it seems that everyone we met has)

Next up.…meeting the slightly world weary Michael Soi, “so many people that I’ve never even met, even 19 year olds, are experts in my work”

Plus Patrick Kinuthia‘s latest exhibition at Polka Dot art gallery.

My big problem? I just want to buy everything dammit… Would love to go down in history as a grand patron of East African art, but with only 3 paintings so far, it’s looking unlikely…

Related Posts: Touring Nairobi’s Art Scene – Part 2

Contemporary African Art is kind of a BIG DEAL

How do you buy African Art?Business Daily Africa –  April 6th 2017.

*If you would like to book your own tour of Nairobi’s galleries and studio spaces then you can, with a blogger guide. Book an Airbnb Experience. Just a quick tip – stamina required!!

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Three cheers for the Kenya Red Cross http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/2017/03/three-cheers-kenya-red-cross/ Thu, 30 Mar 2017 15:58:46 +0000 http://africaexpatwivesclub.com/?p=3432 Three cheers to the Kenya Red Cross who always seem to be in the place that they are needed most every time that disaster strikes. I just dropped a donation at Kuwinda PCEA church in Karen, behind which some 2,200+ people were displaced last night due to a raging fire through slum housing (News story here). […]

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Three cheers to the Kenya Red Cross who always seem to be in the place that they are needed most every time that disaster strikes. I just dropped a donation at Kuwinda PCEA church in Karen, behind which some 2,200+ people were displaced last night due to a raging fire through slum housing (News story here).

I was a little unsure of heading right to the disaster to scene to drop my bits and pieces. To be honest, until today I had no idea that Kuwinda slum was even there, nestling in the neighbourhood where I live just a stone’s throw from the nursery school that my kids once went to. Seeing people salvaging charred mbati (corrugated iron) sheets from the wrecked settlement in wheelbarrows was an extremely humbling experience. But as I entered the church compound, it was also humbling to see men and women in Red Cross bibs already on the ground helping out with practical support less than a day after the disaster. Two women judiciously listed the items I was handing over and gave me a receipt. More helpers spirited the mattresses, nets and clothing away before I could even pick up a carrier bag. Other wellwishers arrived with donations while I was there. They were told where to park then offered help to unload. There were security guards in place. The scene was well organised and above all, it was easy.

The timely presence of the Kenya Red Cross in the heart of a crisis reminded me of seeing their ambulances screaming down the road toward Kibera in the early hours of the morning when large areas of that slum were on fire during post election violence in 2007/2008. And they were there again during the terrible drought of 2009, when Red Cross bins were coordinated to be placed outside major supermarkets to make it easy for shoppers to donate. And again, the Red Cross were compiling missing persons lists and putting together a much needed blood drive during the Westgate crisis in 2013. In fact it was Red Cross workers who were first on the scene, guiding out wounded and traumatised hostages.

This is not a sponsored post. I’m just seriously impressed by those guys. Without any real (or at least formal) emergency services in Kenya, where would we be without them? As it was, I gather that the fire fighting effort last night was desperate in Kuwinda since water trucks apparently had to head miles away to the CBD to refill.

So after dropping the donation today, I nipped in to pick up some imported/fresh pasta at a glitzy shopping centre for a quick and easy celebratory family dinner (the kids are home), passing coffee bars selling cappuccinos and stores full of expensive clothes (places that I love to frequent). This city surely is a place of extreme contrasts. So many lives playing out in parallel in such very different circumstances. I wonder where all of those poor Kuwinda residents will be sleeping tonight?

#WeAreAllKenyans –  Kenya Red Cross drought appeal. I like their motto ‘We are always there‘. In Kenya, it’s true.

Historic Posts from the blog (all mentioning how the Red Cross stepped in when needed): Carrying water, Disparity of Wealth in Kenya, 24 hours to fight hunger, Supermarket fire downtown

Image credit: AllAfrica.com

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