Sunday, 31 October 2010

I am in awe...

of the Coulson family. I have been reading about the Restart boys in Gilgil. so many stories but Paul Karuga's was particularly heartbreaking.

Paul Karuga's story

This country is so wonderful and beautiful and has so much potential. But help is needed for all those children who have lost parents, who have nothing and end up living on the streets and indeed every little seems to count.

I hope I will be able to do something to help - not sure what but I will definitely explore this further and I would urge any of you to think of those in greater need than yourself.


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Wednesday cricket, taekwondo and more...

G. is the webmaster for the school here and part of his duties is to upload the team lists for the various games each week.
I was kind of aware that there were all kinds of games going ahead today but when he was doing the lists yesterday you could have knocked me down with a feather when he said "Did you know A. is playing tomorrow against St Andrew's Turi" - I am clearly a very disloyal parent because my initial thought was "they can't want to win very much if they are putting A. on the team" but apparently he did ok and he was very excited about it when I talked to him before he left this morning!

It transpires that this is not his only match either, he is also scheduled to play a full day Taekwondo tournament in Nairobi on 6th November (together with E.)!
I've never known my children to do so much sport and considering that A. had never even held a cricket bat until we arrived in Kenya I am quite proud of him.

This evening the entire staff had a Child Protection Meeting which was very interesting in some ways and kind of self-evident in others. The wine and cheese were especially appreciated as it certainly livened up the meeting!

Finally,before I call it a night I have to mention an excellent book I am reading at the moment it is called "Newton and the Counterfeiter" it is extremely interesting and I can't put it down!


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Sleepless nights and painful ankles!

Another rather bad night last night followed by a full day. There is something about Tuesdays that makes them the worst of all days, at least I wasn't on duty today as well after very little sleep!  I twisted my ankle quite badly about 10 days ago and was hoping it was just get better on its own but today it was so painful and still three times its normal size so I went to see the nurse who bandaged it up and recommended I have it X-rayed. Blech! It is ok as long as I don't move my ankle, so I can walk with the foot completely straight without much problem, only if there is a duvet on it or I turn the ankle, then it is extraordinarily painful! EL. is still not 100% during the night and disturbs quite a lot crying with tummy cramps but on a positive note she did ask to go on her potty today!

Have been faced with some stark choices this week as well which is never nice. G. is looking for jobs but there is not much available here so he may have to travel much further afield! He's trying to qualify for CIMA and wants a job in accounts (of all things).  Will be hard on us all and not entirely sure how we will arrange our family life, but money makes the world go around I guess.

We also noticed that the kids had been home more as the Internet got used up twice as fast as the month they weren't here!

I am now busily designing the websites for Latin and History as well as trying to write the Christmas exams, History is just about done but Latin I have yet to start - and making sure the kids are stretched while simultaneously being able both to complete the exam in an hour AND not finish it too quickly make for quite a delicate operation.


Sunday, 24 October 2010

The joys of parenthood...and some other bits and pieces.

Last night has to be rated one of the worst in a long time.  It started out well, sat down with the children to watch Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and El. came to sit on my knee, unfortunately part way through she clearly began to feel unwell and wriggled a bit so I picked her up but not quick enough! She covered me in the Lasagna G. had cooked for dinner, undigested bits of chewing gum that she had got and the rest of the contents of her tummy. It was a scene rather reminiscent of the Exorcist and it is astonishing how much such a small person can contain!

So G. cleaned up the floor and sofa while I cleaned myself and El. up. I gave her a drink of water then but that was a BIG mistake as we had a repeat performance not once but four more times during the night. She looked as white as a sheet and her eyes rolled up in the back of her head, really rather concerning to me but G. shrugged and said "don't worry it's just a bug". She seems to have recovered today although is rather dehydrated.

One amusing moment yesterday was F. piping up in the bathroom, "mummy, we are girls so we have bottoms but boys are different, they have PEANUTS!"

We got up at 7 this morning to get ready for mass and left by 7:30 for Nakuru and the Christ the King Cathedral where there is mass in English at 8:15. All went as well as might be expected with five children in tow. One interesting element was the trip to the loo with F. I say loo but really it was a hole in the ground. I made her take off her skirt and knickers rather than try to squat with them (if this isn't too much information). Good job I did as her aiming is pants! Then she screamed blue murder while I tried to dress her again and I got ...hmmm how to put this...quite irate!

On the drive home I was sitting next to P. in the back and E. was beside her and they bickered the whole way home, this was not a good plan with a tired mummy who had not had much sleep and already had had a run-in with a four year old. I lost my patience and told them to stay on their sides of the car, put my arm around P. to indicate it and E. not realising where my arm was made a surreptitious punch at his sister, managing to slam my wrist (the one El. has permanently damaged)  - for such a little guy the punch was excruciating and I almost blew a gasket telling him off.

Luckily once home I counted my blessings at having an understanding husband who let me go and have a sleep for a bit before lunch.

Lunch at the club went almost without hitch barring the screaming tantrum F. threw just before so G. and the other four children left first and I followed after having tackled F. into some clothes (where does she get these nudist tendencies I wonder??)
They were all pretty ok at the club except for the fact that El. used the moment I was distracted and helping F. get her dessert to smash a glass into a gazillion pieces - right in front of A. who takes after his father for not seeing what children are doing right under his nose!

So, I am really quite relieved that three bigger kids are now tucked up in bed in their dorms and the other two are tucked up in bed next door.

Time for a glass of wine...or maybe whisky!


Friday, 22 October 2010

A trip to Nakuru

Today we had a trip to Nakuru Matumba which is like a second-hand market. The children each had 200 sh (about £1.50) to spend. We were particularly looking for some clothes for E and a dress for El and P and a dress for me as well and some sandals for G.
We managed to find everything I got two summer dresses for £2.00, P got an outfit for the school disco for £1.50 and E got some clothes that were not full or holes and actually fit him so that was good.

E succumbed to some hawkers selling home-made CDs of Gospel music in Kiswahili which I think is rather good but G. hates for some unknown reason.
A. used his money to buy a pair of snazzy sunglasses and the girls bought some hair scrunchies and a cheaper pair of sunglasses each with their money, making sure the scrunchies were the right colour for school (they can wear red, white, blue or black). E. used his money for his CD and a cheap pair of sunglasses and even had enough for some disgusting sweets!

The Matumba is a very lively place with lots and lots of stalls with all kinds of things in each one. The funniest moment was when a man who knew we were looking for T-shirts for E. handed him one that said "Sing Up" on the front and "Hereford outreach programme concert in the Albert Hall ..."he said he wanted the equivalent of £3.50 for the T-shirt we both laughed as it was absolutely clear this had been donated by somebody probably in a charity drive for Africa! Needless to say we didn't buy that T-shirt and looked for some bargains from more reasonable stallholders!
One important thing to remember...ALWAYS haggle!

We are off to the Gilgil Matumba tomorrow, but mainly for oranges, little dried fish for the cat and other fruit and veg. The main difference I have found between the smaller Gilgil Matumba and the larger Nakuru one is that they are much less 'on the make' in Gilgil (perhaps a small town mentality?).

Half-term is drawing to a close and I think G. is particularly looking forward to our Ayah Mary coming back as we gave her a week's holiday while all the kids are here!


Thursday, 21 October 2010

half term

So today I have been relaxing a bit as half-term is coming to an end. The boys have been very good every day working on their Carol Vorderman's Maths Made Easy books and have now already finished both books. The English made easy is proving more difficult but they are battling on!

We have been searching for the cheapest flights to get G. to Europe early next month.  British Airways seems the best option so far but will keep looking! Air travel is such a minefield!

The children all desperately wanted to go swimming so G. decided to take this this afternoon unfortunately 5 minutes after leaving the heavens opened and there was a big storm so they all ran back from the pool - I don't think swimming in an open air pool in thunder and lightening is a very good plan really!

One interesting development since moving to Africa, the children wake up by 6:00 AM at the very latest and then decided to come and jump on our bed so we tend to be up quite early, even on Sundays.

Having tried mass in Gilgil in Kiswahili a few times we have since discovered the cathedral in Nakuru where there is a mass in English so we have decided we will go there in future. It makes it easier for the children to sit still if they understand what is going on and it is not quite as far as we used to drive to church every week in Sweden. The mass is 8:30 am however but that is not a problem as we are up so early anyway!

It was a public holiday yesterday, a type of remembrance day for the heroes of the war of independence in Kenya. Sad in some ways as the oldies here who have been here since independence tell stories of entire European families being wiped out, children and all but on the other hand the country clearly deserved its independence and has done very well.

There is much talk here of the new constitution and we all hope it will be a new beginning for this country. One interesting element is the possibility of allowing Kenyans dual citizenship, until now that has not been possible. We'll see how this develops further!


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

some more kenyan experiences...

 Here is A. Playing with Trigger who belongs to Mr Ross the head of Middle School and English teacher for year 7 & 8.

 View from the back garden...quite breathtaking!
 Patricia has just finished the cross-country run here...she dreamed she came first, unfortunately on the day she was "just too slow mummy!" and came in last!!!

Here are more pictures from the back garden, Peter our gardener had the swing and see-saw made for us and then dug them into the ground as well so they are secure! 

The first weeks...

During the first week we arrived the school had organised a few trips for us to allow us to acclimatise with the other new staff.
We did one trip to Crescent Island which was magnificent, a walking safari and we got so close to the giraffes we could almost touch them! There was also lots and lots of other Kenyan animals but no big predators which is why you can do walking safaris I guess!

A few pictures from Crescent Island - No hippos this time unfortunately, will have to wait until next time! 

Another  trip was to Nairobi to a place called Village Market which is a massive mall, much bigger than anything I had expected! Anyway, G and the kids went to Village Market and I went in the minibus to the uniform shop to get the uniforms for the kids and to the textbook centre and a few other places.
I got a few frantic sms from DH asking where we were, eventually we got back in the crazy traffic in Nairobi. He had taken them bowling and then had lunch at a cafe and while waiting F decided she liked the Koi pond in the centre of the mall and promptly fell in.
She had no change of clothes and then said she needed the toilet but refused to go in the men's with daddy. DH waited ages outside and then a lovely Kenyan lady came out with a stark naked Cessie and said: "she refuses to put her clothes on, perhaps you had better buy her some new ones!" So he did in Woolworths but he was quite put out by the time I met up with him! 

We also went to the local matumba (market) and G got two t-shirts 140 KSH (about £1.20). I also bought 3 terry cloth nappies and 2 plastic covers and was astonished that it cost me just under £2.00 for the lot!. I have to talk about the fruit and veg as well! The avocados, tomatoes, pineapples and oranges are just out of this world! We get them fresh from the market, a big pineapple is 90 p eight tomatoes 20 p,  three avocados 40 p and the flavour cannot be compared to the flavours in Sweden! 
I never really noticed a real lack of flavour in Sweden until I came here.

We have filtered water in the school which our lovely house-girl Mary collects for us. This is a big improvement, we don't have to travel 9 km to get fresh water as we did in Sweden but only go about 100 m to the school kitchens.
Staff in the house is something I still can't quite get used to. Our House-girl Mary comes every day Monday to Friday and does all the washing by hand in the bath tub as there is no washing machine, she hangs it all out and irons it too and then puts it away for us all. She does all the washing up and also get the water as I mentioned. She also does the majority of the cleaning!
We also have an Ayah (nanny), also called Mary who comes every day Monday to Friday from 7:20 AM - 4 PM and takes the two youngest to school. E had difficulty in the very beginning but now loves Mary very much and she cries when Mary  goes at 4!
Finally Peter does the garden, which is beautiful, we have a Papaya tree, which is just ripening now, and some passion fruit trees so hopefully will have some fruit soon! 

The children are all ok boarding, E had the most difficulty but is boarding most days. I see them all a lot during the day and on Friday a fortnight ago went into the dining room in the evening and asked them if they wanted to come home. When I asked P she looked shocked and said: "What, I have to?" which made me think she must really be quite happy! She is always surrounded by a gaggle of friends. A. is less sociable and although he says boarding is fine he is often on his own which is a little troubling but he got rather angry recently when I asked him if he was ok. "YES...I am ok, why does everyone keep asking me that it is really ANNOYING!!!" 

The house is lovely with fabulous views of the mountains from the back garden. We also have visiting dogs almost every day. Jitu who is a large mix breed belonging to the housemaster of the boys' house, Trigger who belongs to Jim the head of middle school and English teacher, unfortunately Trigger is very ill with tick fever at the moment so we are all crossing our fingers he will be ok (he is the brown dog on the picture with A.). Finally we also have a visitor called Missy who is a terrier cross, she and Fiona are great friends and often play in the garden. We tend to take her for walks on the golf course or down to the forestry area near the stables. 

On Sundays we go to the Gilgil Country Club for roast lunch which is really worth it and the food is incredible and on Fridays we tend to go there for supper as well. G. did his first bar duty there last Friday while I was at the Year 8 dinner.

Work is going quite well with some ups and downs as could be expected. 
It took us a while to sort internet access that didn't cost an arm and a leg but we managed it in the end! 

The third week we were here the woman who usually does the riding lessons had a pony spook and she fell off and broke her collarbone so I substituted those lessons for a while  (6.30 rides, 2 pm, 3 pm, 5 pm) on top of my teaching timetable of 29 periods (one period is 40 min) a week, which was really rather tiring! 

Then just as R. was getting back to being able to walk without being in constant pain and do the riding from the ground her husband was driving back from Gilgil in the evening and there are railway lines that run though and there are very rarely trains. It was dark, he drove across the railway line (no signals or anything) and a train hit his car and pushed him along the line. Luckily the trains go so slowly and it hit him on the rear passenger side but it had no lights on in the pitch dark. The police came and the owner of the train company but the train continued on its journey. He was then told he would either have to be put in prison for 1 month or pay 3000 sh fine for having been hit by the train!

Which brings me to the roads - the driving in this country is completely insane! There are minibusses called matatus that pick up people along the roads, they are a kind of private minibus taxi but although the busses only have about 16 seats they fit at least twice that in each bus. They deliberately break their indicator lights and break lights so that people behind them don't know what they are going to do. I haven't yet dared drive here although G. is quite happy to do so! The overtaking is loopy as well, they will overtake on blind corners, they come out and drive straight at on-coming traffic, ...
We have got a 1991 Mitsubishi Pajero with 7 seats from the current deputy head it is a pretty old clapped out car but still does the job (for G that is...)
There is no public transport which is not something there was much of on Gotland either but at least there was a skeleton service when you needed it. There is no way on earth you would get me in a matatu so the only other option is taxis.

One rather amusing aspect: when you drive into the towns, firstly the trucks and cars emit huge clouds of black diesel smoke with no kind of emission standards and they also constantly burn rubbish by the side of the road and not paper and garden waste but plastic and pretty much anything that you would normally sort for recycling in Europe. It does make you wonder what use it is with the environmental laws and taxes in Europe when a country like Kenya with 40 million just burns waste by the side of the road. I know the carbon footprint per person in Kenya is a fraction of the carbon footprint of a European  resident but still...

I've also had my first experience of a mission hospital, I took E to have his cast replaced in the second week or so and we waited 5.30 hours to see the various doctors and so on but eventually he had it done.