Monday, February 1, 2010

Hakuna Matata!

Habari zenu? Jambo once again from S&J,

Our adventures have been continuing since our last email, and it’s been almost a month since I stepped off the plane to begin my life here in Nairobi (meaning ‘place with cool waters’ by the Maasai) with S- being in England feels like a lifetime ago already!

One of the greatest blessings for us this month was to be offered the chance to borrow a champagne coloured five door Rav 4 for three months from a friend of S’s. Thanks to his generosity, S and I have been able to feel the freedom of having our own transport- something that is so necessary here in Nairobi, especially as we live in the North of the city. Asante sana K!

S has been honouring his new work schedule (no work after 6 or at weekends) which has led to relaxing and fun weekends together. We live very close to the Windsor Golf Course, and we spent one glorious afternoon walking amongst the fuchsia coloured Bougainvillea and the verdant trees, coming across the occasional Sykes monkey and constantly being surrounded by colourful butterflies. Last weekend, we explored the incredible Nairobi National Park and were treated to plentiful viewings of zebra grazing on the wide open plains which are dotted with acacia trees, elegant meandering giraffe feeding amongst the taller trees, plus numerous hartebeest, gazelles and impala watching us as they appeared to bathe in the sun on the winding hillsides. Muscular eland strolled past and groups of hefty buffalo eyed us as we slowly drove by. From a waterhole we were mesmerised by a small family of three hippo as they surfaced to catch the air, often just by poking out a hairy snout, but occasionally lifting their heads so we could see their eyes and little ears peeping at us.

We found one place where, with armed guard, we were able to explore a little by foot, and we wandered down a muddy path that ran alongside a chocolate coloured river filled with hippo, crocodiles and turtles. At another quiet spot, we were amused to see little vervet monkeys walking amongst a meadow, and then just minutes later, as we passed by a picnic spot- we saw a group of menacing baboons fighting and playing on top of the picnic benches. One big hairy baboon circled our car to remind us just who was in charge!

Even as we departed from the park as the sun began to set, we saw a little mummy mongoose and her offspring dart across the mud track, and then as we approached the gate we heard the magnificent and unmistakable sounds of lions roaring- awake as the heat of the day had passed; they were getting ready for their evening hunt. I was reading in the paper this week that some villagers outside of Nairobi are being tormented by four lions that keep attacking their animals. Can you imagine that in England? The worst we have to deal with is a fox with our chickens or a cat with our goldfish pond! Luckily the only snake we have seen so far was a dead one- long and silver at the side of the road- that is one creature I am not overwhelmingly looking forward to seeing alive!

One side effect of living in such a place with abundant wildlife is that S and I have mutated into bird watchers- binoculars, bird guide et al! I resisted at first- but haven’t been able to help myself! It’s hard not to be in awe of such vast variety in bright eye catching colours and all kinds of sizes- from the tiny starling to the mighty ostrich! We have seen so many in just a month- cranes, egrets, grebes, cormorants, herons, kites, buzzards, go-away birds, vultures, ibis, marabou, weavers, Egyptian geese, and plovers to name but a few! I expect after a year of living here, S and I will be phenomenal photographers as we will have had so much practice trying to capture them on film.

Yesterday, we ventured to the shores of Green Crater Lake which is 17km beyond Lake Naivasha- about an hours drive from Nairobi. There were breathtaking views of the escarpment- as we drove along the high roads- with the magnificent Rift Valley spreading out for as far as the eye can see. We drove by Longonot, a mighty volcano that Sam recently climbed, before we were greeted by friendly black and white colobus monkeys that scampered about the trees whilst we picnicked. A stroll to the lake side in the scorching sun revealed woodpeckers and then finally a solitary Kingfisher perching upon a boat. At the smelly but pretty crater lake (it is situated inside the crater of an extinct volcano- there is a lot of volcanic thermal activity in this area), we saw pink flamingos. As we returned home, we saw more zebra, giraffe and warthog, plus minature dik-diks hiding in the long grasses.

School life rolls by with the usual routine of lessons, lunchtimes and extra curricular activities. It is such a different pace of life than in London and it allows for a strong sense of community and school identity when you can get to know every child in the school. I have felt the successes of the two students I work with- its amazing how quickly students can progress with support.

S has been playing football with the Railway Wanderers and I have gone to cheer at a few matches. His team is made up of a variety of internationals and Kenyans- whose careers range from being world class lawyers, to cutting edge architects to working for the U.N. We enjoyed a match this week, where afterwards we went to celebrate their defeat by the University of Nairobi team (young whippersnappers!) by having a BBQ at N’s house. As we ate our vegetarian sausages looking out on the leafy garden with a full moon in the sky and stars twinkling in the night, it was easy to see how expats can come to love a life in Kenya. Warm weather and the great outdoors has its appeal!

We’ve been swimming in our outdoor pool several evenings after school- refreshing after the heat of the afternoon and S has been pursuing his Taekwondo. This week we added a new activity to our afternoons- dancing! We have hired a private dance teacher to show us how to salsa, waltz and cha cha cha our way around a dance floor. Shockingly its only £2.50 each per lesson- something we can definitely afford! So fingers crossed we will be ready to wow and amaze by the time of our first dance at our wedding on the 17th July! Our dance teacher said, ‘there is hope!’

A few Fridays ago, I created a staff quiz in the school club house to help get to know the teachers that work here and to fundraise some money for our charity work at Dandora. It was a great success with 30 staff attending and I hope to make it a regular event. S was excellent as co-quiz master!

Our weekend work at Dandora is developing- we have introduced the idea of having an assembly and set lesson times which means the children can get used to a routine for learning. S was hilarious as he got a puppet and did a puppet dance to entertain the children as I read them a story- he is a natural entertainer! The children are eager to learn and they love to be read to. You have never seen so much excitement as when we bring out the balls and skipping ropes for them to play with. Every time we go to Dandora, we are reminded of how much we take for granted. Coming home to a warm and cleansing shower, electricity at the touch of a button, a fridge full of food and knowing that we are safe as we sleep at night- its something that we all forget that we are lucky to have. Knowing if Sor I get sick, we can get well again. Knowing that we have been immunised against diseases that are a regular occurrence on the slums like Typhoid. If only everyone in the world were so lucky…

On that note, we wish you good health and the peace to enjoy all that we have. We always look forward to hearing news from home!

Tutaonana & Hakuna Matata!
J&S x
February 2010

PS- Some friends have emailed me to ask if they can help out with Dandora. If you would like to fundraise, please let me know and I will let you know how. Or if you would like to send a picture book that we can read to the children- contact me and I will send you our address.

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