Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas in Nairobi


It's Christmas time! We've been a little quiet on the blog because life has been busy with Christmas celebrations. We had a big Christmas dinner with the Aussie volunteers, complete with Secret Santa - I was given the gorgeous Christmas Angel from Amani Ya Juu

With our church, we had an outdoor evening Christmas Carols event at Karen Blixen House, a nyama choma lunch with the young adults and on Wednesday night we watched Elf on a big screen, under the Kenyan stars and snuggled up in Maasai blankets - it's cold!! We've been enjoying delicious mulled wine and the general Christmas cheer!

We didn't commit to a Christmas tree this year because we're away over Christmas, but we decorated our apartment with red Christmas candles, paper doily snowflakes, and Christmas carol lyrics. And of course, Green Bunny looks very festive in his green coat.

We're flying out tonight for ten days in Ethiopia, where we'll celebrate Christmas with an Australian friend from Kenya, an Ethiopian family and some Aussie expats living in Addis. We're also heading north to explore the ancient stone churches in Lalibela, and then south to Bale Mountains for a three-day horse trek. 

It's a bit of an understatement to say that we're very excited, and that Christmas this year will be very different from the usual!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stonetown by night

Here's a secret - Stonetown is actually more fun after dark. The kids carry their televisions out into the courtyards and the grown ups go for night time strolls through the cool of the evening, chatting and smoking as they walk.

The stone alleys are also beautifully and hauntingly lit - just perfect for a night time photo shoot!




Saturday, December 8, 2012

Z is for Zanzibar: Curios & Sundowners

It takes more than one or two days to really get to know Stonetown and we decided after Pongwe to head back and keep exploring the town. We stayed at the Tembo Hotel, a beautifully presented Swahili style hotel right on the waterfront which was a good base for our last two days on the island spent exploring through the curio shops and many alleyways.


Apart from the Swahili tourist shops selling bloodwood carvings and figurines cut out of paint tins (which are easily available in Kenya), some of the Omani Zanzibaris run curio shops that are full to the brim of old trinkets and faux-curios masterfully constructed to look like something out of an Indiana Jones film. These were particularly fun to poke around in and revealed old cameras, rusted pistols and Arabic brass coffee pots which are famous in Zanzibar.


It was getting late on our last afternoon in Zanzibar and we decided to try out the famous Emerson Spice hotel for a final dinner watching the sun set over the town and sadly our second honeymoon. After we actually found the place hidden away we couldn't get a table as it was fully booked. Instead the manager invited us up for pre-dinner cocktails and we enjoyed what is known as a 'Sundowner' looking out over the town and the sun setting across the strait and the mainland of Tanzania. Not a bad way to end an epic holiday!




Thursday, December 6, 2012

Z is for Zanzibar: Pongwe

It seems everyone who has been to Zanzibar has their own secret place, and this is ours - Pongwe! The moment you walk through reception and into the beach side resort problems like traffic ''snarl ups' and criminally priced cheese melt into the background and make way for white sands and the warm Indian ocean.

We spent three nights and four days lazing around Pongwe. The quality of the food was simply outstanding and if it wasn't freshly caught seafood then it was South African beef or something just as ridiculously good.

If you're looking for full moon parties and hooking up with an Amarula induced Italian backpacker there are other places for that. Pongwe is all about good food and um... doing very little at all.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Z is for Zanzibar: Stonetown & Spice Tour

Piecing together the last 12 months we realized that we hadn't had a real holiday since well, our honeymoon, which was about 12 months ago! Sure there were the weekend jaunts and short escapes but our 1st wedding anniversary was a good opportunity to actually get away. Considering it's the 'paper' anniversary we decided to buy some paper tickets that would fly us to East Africa's island of spice - Zanzibar.

Stone Town

"Mambo."

"Poa."

*fist bump*

- Traditional Zanzibar greeting


The best thing to do in Stone Town is to simply meander its maze-like alleyways, discover ancient and amazing architecture, eat good food and meet the locals. We met one young girl who invited us back to her house to meet her family and watch Barbie cartoons on their small TV set.

Getting lost in Stown Town is an important rite of passage for any serious tourist and we passed with flying colours on at least two occasions. The town is so eclectic and interesting that two days didn't do it justice, so we decided to return back and get to know the place a little better later on in the week.


Pretty much every spice you can think of grows in Zanzibar, and first timers should should make a point to head out on one of the many spice tours that take you to the economic heart of the island.

We left Stone Town behind and headed into the lush green of rural Zanzibar. When we arrived at the spice farm we were met with the sweet scent of cardamom lingering in the air. Our guide took us around the different bushes, trees and vines and Laura won the 'Which spice is this' game hands down. If you liked those fruity smelling textas in school then you'd love this place.

It's quite amazing to see how the spices hiding in the back of the pantry are grown. We were treated to lunch and given woven palm crowns and a ring to put on Laura's finger - quite appropriate for the fact that it was November 19. I did the exact same thing twelve months ago but this time to the hollering and encouragement of a guy who had just sang hakuna matata from the top of a coconut tree.



After lunch we kept heading across the island to the East coast where we landed in paradise and did what everyone does when in paradise - very little indeed! Next up we'll take you to Pongwe and the turquoise warm waters of the Indian Ocean.


you do the hokey pokey...

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..and you turn around, and that's what it's all about!

Along with the other Aussie volunteers here in Nairobi, I spent Thursday painting, sweeping, cleaning, colouring and hokey-pokeying in a local school. Well actually, I spent the whole time taking photos, but everyone else did a lot of hokey-pokeying :) The day was a little different to my usual desk job, but a whole lot of fun!

Monday, November 26, 2012

another reason to celebrate

Did you know that November 19 is World Toilet Day?

I guess some may not be so excited to find out that they share their wedding anniversary with such an event, but I think any effort to increase access to sanitation is worth celebrating (albeit a little late)!


Did you know that:
  • 2.5 billion people don't have access to a clean toilet?
  • Hundreds of children die each day due to water-related diseases?
  • 1.1 billion people have no private place to defecate - they have to use fields, bushes, ditches or even a plastic bag?
  • Girls are often forced to skip school during their period due to the lack of clean, private toilet facilities?
  • Every one dollar invested in sanitation yields a return of five dollars?

I still remember my experience in Ghana, where I lived and volunteered in a Liberian refugee camp for a couple of months. A group of teenage girls used to walk past each day, off to a bushy area behind the camp to relieve themselves. I mistakenly assumed these girls were also affected by this strange need teenage females have to visit the bathroom together. Why is it we can't seem to go alone?

They told me later it was actually for safety - without clean, accessible, private toilets, the girls were forced to use the private but dangerous forest area behind the camp, where they were vulnerable to attacks from local gangs.

Oh how we take our ceramic thrones for granted!

World Toilet Day aims to break the taboo around toilets and draw attention to the global sanitation challenge. Sanitation issues aren't as 'sexy' or 'impacting' as some other issues, and thus don't always get the funding that they need. But given poor sanitation affects so many people, and good sanitation is essential to a healthy, happy life and personal dignity, it really is a cause worth investing in.

Perhaps you'd like to give someone the gift of a clean, hygienic toilet through World Vision Gifts or Really Useful Gifts by TEAR?

Friday, November 23, 2012

baby!

I don't think we ever shared this little darling on the blog - what a cutie!


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On our third day in Kenya we visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an organisation that looks after elephants orphaned by poachers or accidents. Along with about a hundred other tourists, we got to see the elephants' feeding time, where they guzzled down bottles of milk at a lightening fast speed.

Some of the elephants were still so young and small that they had big blankets on their backs to keep them warm, and their keepers actually slept in their enclosures with them at night. They were pretty darn adorable!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

the countdown

Less than two months now until these two travel half way around the world to have the best holiday of their lives. In Kenya! With us!

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 We've been lucky to catch up with a handful of friends passing few Nairobi, mostly old work colleagues of Will's. It's been so great meeting people I've heard so much about, who shared a lot of good (and bad) times with Will in Sudan, and continue to stay good facebook/skype/twitter buddies. We also got to share a meal with a long-time Fraser family friend whose known me since I was a baby - that was very cool!

But Kate and PC will be our first real visitors and we're really looking forward to sharing our new home with them. We've got a growing list of places to go and things to do and I'm not ashamed to say that many of them revolve around our favourite restaurants :) The countdown is on!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

a billion reasons


I've never been a huge fan of Coke, but oh this ad makes me smile! Despite what the stereotypes may lead us to believe, there are so many reasons to believe in this amazing, diverse and growing continent.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

in the mist

flamingo 

Watching this beautiful flamingo in the mist, under the bright light of a full moon rising, is a memory from Crater Lake we won't soon forget. We've seen lions, giraffe and a whole host of other amazing wildlife here, but flamingos will always be my favourite.

These birds are stunning in all their awkwardness, with their knobbly knees, large nose and big bum. They remind me of awkward teenage girls going through adolescence - limbs too long, pimpled faces, feeling ever so self conscious - not aware of how truly lovely they really are.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

one year.

Can you believe that it's almost been a year since we got married?

We celebrate our first anniversary on Monday, 19 November.


We fly out to Zanzibar tomorrow for a week for our 'second honeymoon' (you get one every year, right?) and we can't wait to eat fresh seafood on the beach, explore the nooks and crannies of Stonetown and reminisce about the incredible year it's been. We are beyond excited.

I've set a couple of little posts to go up over the week, so while we'll be disconnecting from the world completely, check in for some more bits and pieces. We promise beautiful Zanzibar photos for you to vicariously live through when we return.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

in the matatu

Here we are crammed into the back of a matatu, on route to church. These public transport vans are supposed to seat 14 passengers, but have been known to squeeze in over 20. Last week I was very almost sitting on the lap of a rather elderly gentleman - there is certainly more physical contact with your fellow passengers than any public transport back home.

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The matatu fare is usually no more than the equivalent of 60-70 cents, but can be as little as 15 cents. For that low, low price you get a unique travel experience that, on any given day, can vary from booming ghetto beats to Lionel Ritchie, flashing fairy lights to multicoloured vinyl roofing to random stickers, the scent of hot sweaty passengers to the almost overpowering exhaust fumes from a vehicle in front.

And if you're really lucky, you'll get to experience that life-flashing-before-your-eyes kind of fear that accompanies speeding down a hill, on the wrong side of the road, into oncoming traffic, or the equally frightening 'oh-look-at-that-the-roads-are-jammed-let's-use-the-side-walk-as-a-super-highway' ordeal.

On another note, you wouldn't believe how much our prayer lives have improved.

Monday, November 12, 2012

home sweet home

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1. Our Catholic priest neighbours playing a lively game of volleyball.  2. Snapshots from home that make here feel more homely.  3. Beautiful natural light that streams into our bedroom.  4. The best map ever - have you seen that West Wing episode?  5. Looking out our kitchen window to a nearby school. I've counted ten blossoming jacarandas from that window.  6. Our dear Green Bunny, alive and well and still staring down all of our visitors.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

the higher, the better

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We watch with amazement as these four inch heels navigate pot holes, gravel, mud and broken pavement.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

life in the big city

    When friends have asked what life is like in Nairobi, I almost feel strange trying to explain to them just how comfortably we can live here. I'm sure images of mud huts, dirty water and bad roads are flashing through their minds, and while they are certainly part of the picture in Kenya, there's a whole other side to Nairobi / Kenya / Africa that perhaps we aren't so aware of in the West.

    Nairobi is a big city. There are skyscrapers (best viewed from here). There are big shopping centres. There are restaurants from almost every corner of the earth. In rush hour, the streets are teeming with smartly dressed Kenyans, off to their office, to do the shopping, or to get to university. It's not so different from home.

    There are small businesses on every second corner, selling electric goods, furniture, video and editing services, groceries, vehicles and so on. In the matatus, I've sat next people with vocations as diverse as a university lecturer, an IT officer, an NGO's driver, a school teacher, a young mum, and a lumberjack (with his chainsaw sitting awkwardly across his lap).

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    There's a growing middle class in Kenya and Nairobi caters well for them. Within 15-20 minutes of our apartment, you can find not one, but two, cinemas, hospitals, dentists and chemists, a golf course, a casino, an Irish pub, a horse racing track, a war memorial, a great green grocer, a fish market, a wine bar (which we just had to check out, see above) and a microbrewery bar with salsa dancing every week.

    We've already tried out the local Ethiopian, Italian, joint Japanese/Lebanese, Chinese, American, Mediterranean, Brazillian, Swiss and Kenyan restaurants, and we certainly can't complain about the food. I'd even go as far to say that sometimes, we're eating much better than at home.

    Nairobi feels surprisingly like our hometown, albeit a little more mud and far fewer blondes. Even the trees feel 'homely' at the moment - there are jacarandas in bloom throughout the city and I can't help but think of all the uni students studying for their final exams.

    So when you're thinking of poor W + L in 'deepest darkest Africa', please imagine us eating delicious fresh sushi, heading out to see the latest Bond flick, or catching up with friends for a drink at the bar, because that might be just what we're up to!

    Tuesday, November 6, 2012

    obama fever

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    Spotted while driving out of Nairobi the other week, but certainly not our first sighting of Obama in Kenya. Like in many parts of the world, the US election is being closely followed here.

    We've discovered very quickly that Kenyans love their politics and are well versed on their MPs, presidential candidates and the nitty gritty of electoral processes. The front page news story is almost always a political one and I've never met so many people who have not only read, but seemingly memorised, their country's Constitution.

    Everyone from the taxi drivers, to fellow colleagues, to the guy that shines shoes down the street can and will give us their insight into the latest political happenings. It's fascinating!

    Monday, November 5, 2012

    chasing giraffes

    Sorry for the loooong blog silence, we've been very busy chasing giraffes, eating spare ribs on a floating restaurant and convincing a Chinese Hot Pot restauranteur to introduce chocolate fondue to the menu. It's all hard work and no fun here in Kenya.

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    Will has some amazing photos from our last weekend away in Crater Lake. He'll share as soon as we can get him a working card reader. I've got some other bits and pieces to put up over the week as well, so I promise there will be less blog static this week and some more tidbits from our life in the big N.

    Friday, October 12, 2012

    Lake Magadi

    I had a field trip a couple of weeks ago to a place called Lake Magadi, southwest of Nairobi and close to the Tanzanian border.

    Wow. Despite the dying quality of my very-aged iPhone camera, I hope you can see how beautiful this part of Kenya is. Rough, arid and yet spectacular.

    I spent the trip interviewing project staff, Maasai health workers and even a Maasai chief. It was HOT (Nairobi is not so) and sweaty and we had to pause our interviews a few times because I couldn't hear my interviewee over the bleats of a noisy group of goats! It was an eyeopening, enjoyable mid-week adventure.

    Things only got strange when my colleagues took me out one night to the hot springs on the lake, turned the car headlights towards the water and then proceeded to strip down to their underwear.

    I remained polite but firm, and thankfully, fully dressed.

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    And as I watched all the gorgeous scenery rush by on our way home, I saw a young goat herder trip over his goats because he was too distracted playing with his mobile. Two worlds colliding, don't message and muster folks!