Wednesday, January 23, 2013

a weekend in nairobi

So first we introduced Kate and PC to traditional Kenyan cuisine - nyama choma (grilled meat), kachumbari (tomato salad), ugali (a maize staple, with a doughy consistency) and, umm, french fries. Not that they really needed introducing, and perhaps they're not so traditional but definitely a Kenyan favourite. It was a beautiful blue sky day and we loved sitting out in the garden at Valencia Gardens.

And then we introduced them to the delicious goodness of Planet Yogurt. We love this place too much and have rationed it to a special treat when we head to see a movie. Which means we've seen a lot more films together in the last six months than we ever have ;) Anyhow, we enjoyed our sweet treats and headed to the cinema to catch the amazing Kenyan film Nairobi Half Life.

Monday, January 21, 2013

a merry little christmas dinner

Even though we were sick in bed on December 25, we didn't want to miss the opportunity to celebrate the most important birthday of the year (or of the history of the world, really!). So we loosely adopted the Ethiopian calendar, which celebrates Christmas in early January and hosted a cosy Christmas dinner with friends on January 5.

Our favourite memories from the night are probably the hilarious series of mishaps that almost made us cancel. First, some key ingredients for our Christmas menu were impossible to find at various shops, despite being on the shelves just a day earlier. And then our oven, which exploded a few months ago and was finally fixed the day before, actually turned out to still be broken. We only discovered it when I went to put a tray of brownies in, about an hour before we'd need it again to start the roast pork.

Long story short we got access to our neighbour's apartment and used their oven. Which also wasn't working perfectly, but managed to do the job. But not before we almost lost our pork roast and a tray of veggies when Will slipped on a huge unseen puddle of water and ended up flat on his back and dripping wet. Thanks to his super quick ninja skills the tray of food miraculously ended up on the counter and not all over the kitchen floor!

We decorated in red and gold and I diy'd some glittery safari animals - you can see more on my blog. The warm brie with honeyed raspberries and pistachios was a big hit and these paleo brownies (with santa hats) were rich and delicious. 

We had such a nice night - isn't good food and great company all you really need? It was a very merry belated Christmas indeed.

And this was what we woke to on 'Boxing Day'.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

happiness is...

1. Having our travelers arrive safe and sound!
2. Yummy hot chicken soup for dinner (and breakfast too)
3. A suitcase of wonderful goodies from home - thank you family and friends!
4. The growing pile of Kenyan goodies ready to send home
5. Finding photos in our inbox of our beautiful niece and nephew loving their new Kenyan hoodies
6. A peaceful day as voters throughout the country voted in the primaries
7. The thrill of upcoming adventures - a safari and a beach trip are calling our names!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

on the tennis court

To celebrate our friend Simon's birthday, and in honour of the Australian Open, we spent a lovely sunshiney Sunday afternoon out on the tennis court with friends. One thing we really miss from home is the abundance of wide open green spaces - it was so nice to have so much green grass to enjoy!

There was an elusive cardboard cup to win, so the stakes were, you know, really high. But the competition stayed friendly, with handshakes all round. In the end, we ran out of time to progress to round two, so we'll just have to find another nice Sunday to head back to the courts and enjoy this perfect Nairobi weather.

Monday, January 14, 2013

we have wheels!

We felt we were really 'putting down roots' last weekend when we finally bought a new food processor, after months of umming and ahhing. But then this past weekend we bought car and we feel like the whole world has opened up to us! 

Hello weekend adventures. Hello lazy Sunday afternoon drives in the country. Hello to going out at night and not having a huge taxi bill. Hello freedom! 

And just in time for a safari-style road trip with Kate and PC, who arrive in four sleeps!!

Friday, January 11, 2013

One week until these two arrive in town. Seven sleeps! We're pretty jazzed.

And we're also pretty happy we got a copy of their flight itinerary. For some reason we thought they were arriving a day later than they actually are. I had flash backs to the time our family arrived in NZ for Christmas but our grandparents had mixed up the dates and we were stranded at the airport at 1am in the morning. Being stranded at Nairobi airport would not be a fun start to their African adventure.

We've been sending emails back and forth as they make arrangements to bring various things from home for us. Things we miss - like our good kitchen knives, our favourite lollies and some clothes we forgot - and things we can't get here - like a vegetable julienner and a replacement camera lens cap. We even have some coffee coming over which is kinda hilarious, given we're living in Kenya of all places!

With all the travelling we've done recently, we've actually seen very little of Kenya, so we're keen to explore this great country with two of our favourites!

Seven sleeps!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Rock Churches of Lalibela

To tell the truth, we knew very little about Ethiopia, and even less about Lalibela, until a few different friends returned from their own Ethiopian adventures. Everyone raved about the country and especially recommended visiting the rock-hewn churches.

Lalibela is home to eleven churches that were all carved out of rock between 800 and 900 years ago. The churches were commissioned by King Lalibela and chiseled from stone by thousands of men and, according to legend, angels that assisted them day and night. The area is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and rightly so. The churches are truly remarkable on a historical, cultural and religious level, and breathtaking in real life.

Armed with this small amount of knowledge and a much more knowledgeable guide, and together with our friend Justin and another Aussie couple, we set out from Lalibela Lodge on Sunday morning, ready to explore these historical buildings.
 We marveled at the design and execution of each church. Without any help from modern technology, the ancient community of Lalibela carved out straight walls, symmetrical detailing and perfect archways. 

Our guide pointed out different crosses and symbols, sharing the historical significance and meaning behind each and providing us a simple history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. What we found most remarkable was that even today, hundreds and hundreds of years later, the churches are home to living breathing congregations who worship there each Sunday.

We slipped off our shoes and joined the crowds entering the church. The rock stairs were polished smooth by the footsteps of millions who have entered over the years and we took a moment as our senses adjusted to the darkness, the soft scent of incense and the sound of the priests slowing shaking sistrums.

Once inside, we were mesmorised by the crowds wrapped in white and the melodical rise and fall of men's voices. Young and old, they sang slowly together, picking up speed to a cresendo, then softly slowing down again.

In one corner, a priest was blessing individuals, rubbing a solid gold cross across their head and body. In another corner, we watched the old men bend in prayer or pour over their precious Bibles. Though we were clearly foreigners, very few took notice of us. It was incredible to get such an authentic insight into the religion and culture of the people of Lalibela.
As the morning church crowd slowly meandered out of the area, we continued exploring the rest of the churches. Pilgrims from out of town were reading scriptures or kissing the cold stone walls and our guide pointed out ancient murals of various Bible scenes and paintings of St George slaying the dragon. We heard stories of secret tunnels joining the eleven churches and rumours of dishonest priests using the tunnels to steal precious church relics.

Honestly, our words and photos do not do the place justice, so if you ever get the chance, be sure to visit Lalibela. It's a big call, but we're pretty sure it's the most incredible place we've ever explored.


Funnily enough, it was in Lalibela when things began to unravel for us. Our mate Justin sprained his ankle in one particularly dark church, and a couple of hours later I was knocked out with a gastro bug and missed the rest of the church tour. Like dominoes we fell - Will got food poisioning on Christmas eve, and then Justin got hit with a cold. Ethiopia kinda beat us up, but we couldn't help falling for this beautiful country anyway! More photos and stories to follow...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Market Day in Lalibela, Ethiopia

Our first adventure in Ethiopia was exploring Lalibela in the north, home to the famous rock hewn churches. We had the weekend in town and quite by chance we'd planned it perfectly. 

Saturday is Market Day and brings in people from throughout the region and on Sunday morning the rock churches are full of people attending the weekly service.

On Saturday morning, we drove from the airport down in the plains, weaving up through the hills to Lalibela, a little town perched high up on the side of a mountain. Along the way we spotted hundreds of people with produce packed tightly in bags, on their backs, or strapped to donkeys. Everyone was on the move to make it to the market.

After dropping our bags at our lodge and taking a brief mid-morning siesta, we climbed the hill and followed the road back to the ridge where the market was held. We were escorted by some cheeky little people who were keen to practice their English and show us the market fare.
Wow. Amongst the sea of umbrellas and make-shift awnings were piles of grain and dried chillies, pots of honey and the local wine tej, plastic shoes and the whitest white shawls to be worn at church. We loved how un-touristy the market was - no cheap Chinese imports or over priced trinkets - this was the outdoor version of the community supermarket.
Very few people spoke English, so we made do with comical hand signals and a little help from our tiny escorts. We sniffed fresh spices and dried tea leaves, dodged donkeys and marveled at the vast number of people meandering through the market. It really was incredible.

And speaking of incredible, look what we found perched on the top of a nearby ridge! We enjoyed a sunset drink at Ben Abeba, an out-of-this-world restaurant with the most spectacular view of the highlands. After the sun snuck behind the hills, we stayed on for a delicious traditional Ethiopian dinner, snuggled up in thick blankets and warming ourselves by a small bonfire.
It was a wonderful first day of our Abyssinian adventure!

Monday, January 7, 2013

2012: the big year that was!

The past 12 months have been big. Our first year of marriage. New jobs. New home. New country even! Big and wonderful and challenging and growing all at once. We're hoping 2013 will be just as fun.


we started the year on a very relaxed note, with a lovely summer holiday and sunshiney days at the beach. our scheduled quickly filled up with our french school intensive, but we still found time to hang with our besties. Oh, and we were incredibly blessed by incredibly generous people!




in february, it was all about photos. we shared lovely little moments from everyday life, as well as the lovely little moments from our favourite day (our wedding day!) and our honeymoon adventures in New Zealand.


we made our first impulse buy as a couple and discovered one of us says funny things in their sleep. we celebrated an 80th, enjoyed good food with friends and congratulated ourselves on finishing french school with a yummy french dinner.


april was all about family. we welcomed a new sister into the family and celebrated five months of marriage ourselves. we will celebrate anything if you let us! i introduced will to the traditional fraser trip to uralla for easter and we enjoyed lots of swanson family time too.


may brought perfect picnic weather and we reminisced about our first picnic together. we camped at the beautiful noosa north shore to mark six months of marriage and then we made a very big announcement!



in the midst of everyday life, we started preparing for our move to kenya. we celebrated Sophie and Jeremy's marriage and made the most of our last big Fraser / Digby gathering before we moved.


july is birthday month and we continued our 13 days of birthday tradition. we also continued prepping for our move, enjoyed a last girls hurrah in sydney and then on july 26 we flew out from Brisbane International.



we made it to kenya, found a new apartment and started exploring this new city of ours.


september was a month of firsts - our first Kenyan music festival, our first bento box and our first adventure out of nairobi.


we shared embarassing swahili blunders, a bit more detail about what we're doing and a field trip into rural Kenya.


amongst updates on obama fever, big city living and braving public transport, the biggest event of november was our very first wedding anniversary. one year of marriage - a lifetime to come!



december was all about our zanzibar adventure, with some cute dancing kids and a little bit of christmas cheer.

as we reflect on this past year, we're so grateful. we have great families and friends, a great new home and God has been ever so faithful to us in so many areas. we've had amazing opportunities to travel and are finding a wonderful little community here in nairobi.

amongst all the highlights there have also been challenges - leaving our beloved brisbane and our dearest people has not been easy. and if anything, our move has brought more uncertainty to the next few years and we tend to be bigger fans of the 'we know exactly what's ahead' kind of living. but that's all part of the adventure, right?

so 2013, bring it on.

(and here's our 2011 year in review)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

hello 2013

A belated Happy New Year from our little family to yours!

We are back in Nairobi after an amazing holiday in Ethiopia. Despite knocking us and our travel buddy Justin down like dominoes with various illnesses and mishaps, we've fallen hard for this beautiful place. We've got stories and photos, oh so many photos, to share soon.

Our Christmas Day was memorable, if only for the fact we had to cancel all our plans and camp out in our guesthouse, one recovering from a gastro bug, the other recovering from food poisoning and our friend nursing a sprained ankle and a cold. We had big bowls of vegetable soup for Christmas dinner and Will almost fell asleep at the table. We were pretty out of it! 

Thankfully, we're back on our feet on Boxing Day and able to fill our remaining days with sight-seeing, adventures and picnics in the sunshine.

We flew back to Kenya on the 31st and had a very quiet NYE. Someone fell asleep at about 9:30pm, only to wake at midnight with a fright because 'a horse was eating my foot!' It was a funny start to 2013 and reminded me of Christmas Eve, where the same somebody asked in his sleep 'what about all the girlfriends and all the immigrants? They won't get presents!'

All the girlfriends, huh? :)

But karibu 2013, we're very excited you're here.