Thursday, December 18, 2008
palm trees swaying,
Indian ocean beckoning.
Top lip sweating
fractious 3 year old on my knee crying - she needs a sleep.
Numerous daily applications of suncream followed by layers of mosquito repellent.
I am vaguely wondering what is happening in Nairobi as we haven't seen a newspaper for a couple of days. The Media Bill, The Waki Report deadline, the price of maize flour? Is that sad? - I have becoming addicted to local news in all it's depressing glory.
I'm also thinking of signing up for an online writing course that promises to teach writers how to make money! It's part of a new years resolution of mine.
Plus, I have been texting all my school run friends to see if they have old bits of furniture, curtains, toys, books for a new American friend who has just set up an orphanage in Nairobi. She has rented a 6 bedroom house and has nothing to fill it. She is incredible. I never thought that she would do it. I wanted to warn her that she would get her fingers burned, it would be very difficult, why not just travel in Kenya as she intended to and just have fun etc. but after 5 months she has very nearly pulled off the impossible. She has a website. Her childrens home is called acacia house. (http://www.acaciahouse.org/)
p.s. we had a small drama last weekend when the glued on chip on the eldest's daughter's tooth fell off again in the swimming pool. Much tears and frustration all round. It was gutting at the time, but now the bit has gone, the dentist coated the top of the remaining tooth with cement and we are all relieved. My daughter is back on the apples much to her disappointment.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Kenyans, in general, are slender and fit (hours of bicycling and walking is part of the daily routine for many). Unfailingly smartly dressed; men often wear pressed long sleeved shirts and trousers (chinos/jeans), women wear sassy smart suits, tight jeans and funky tops. You won't see many mini skirts around and it's rare to see a man wearing shorts in Nairobi. The Grunge/Punk/Crusty look has never taken off here. Unkempt overlanders and travellers with wispy beards and frayed clothes stand out a mile. Most overseas visitors will arrive feeling under dressed for Kenya. The local look is polished, smart, proud. The clothes worn in Nairobi are mostly Western in style, but never scruffy.
Not only this, but Kenyans are super cool. They have a great sense of humour and they laughed and smile an awful lot. They will carry off many an unusual item of clothing and make it look fantastic. You might see a man wearing a pink woman's shell suit/tracksuit top and he will make it work. You will admire him for it. Bobble hats still look cool - never fuddy duddy. Everyone has an air of confidence and self possession.
During rainy season you will see many women with plastic bags on their heads to protect their carefully coiffed hair. You also see both men and women painstakingly washing their shoes in puddles to clean the mud off. Kenyans are probably some of the best turned out, best looking people you can find in the world. Correct me if I'm wrong.
It also helps that the sun shines and people have more time, a slower pace of life as things are not sped up by an infrastructure that works. Excusing yourself for being late for work 'because of the rain' still works here because everyone understands. It's OK - we're cool.
We visited the elephant orphanage and I was embarrassed by a UK tourist who was haranguing her tour guide/driver who was an older man -
'what's happening next? haven't we seen the baby elephants now? Are we going to see anything new? I think we are done here unless anything else is going to happen? Shouldn't we go and feed the giraffes now? How far is that? We don't have much time.'
She couldn't enjoy the moment.
'I understand' he said coolly (wearing a sharp dark suit and blue open necked shirt) 'time is important for you.'
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
'tooth fairy' he rasped.
(in relation to our six year old who lost her second tooth - no relation to the tooth breaking story in previous post.)
Groan. I was in a very deep sleep.
'Shall we leave it?' I said hopefully,
'No' he said. We gently argued the toss for a few moments. The prospect of managing the disappointment of our daughter won over the urge to roll over and forget about it. We also had a bit of banter about whose fault it was that we had forgotten. The usual.
'My handbag is downstairs' I said
'So is my wallet' said my husband.
We got up, switched on the main bedroom light, unlocked the security gates, disarmed the alarm, let the dogs out, stumbled in the darkness (the joys of Nairobi living). My husband scrabbled under our middle daughter's pillow for at least 15 minutes in search of the tiny tooth. Got it.
Back to bed. We then lay awake until dawn but pretended to be asleep.
'I never went back to sleep' I said,
'well that's a funny kind of wide awake snoring you were doing' said my husband.
In the meantime, the christmas tree is up and decorated, half the xmas presents bought (had mixed success at the xmas craft fair dodging moody stall holders who were complaining about their displays being knocked over and odd bits going missing) but still in search of wrapping paper...
My husband has had a bacterial stomach infection for 5 days. It has taken ages to diagnose. A few of my good friends have had the same. Even I have been feeling a bit dicky in sympathy,
'At least we don't have coughs and colds all the time' my husband said pale faced and rather heroically in the circumstances.
'Yes, but you at least you don't have to do a stool test to work out what's wrong with you for a cough or a cold either.' I countered.
'Hmm' he agreed silently.
Friday, December 05, 2008
I had read or learned at some point that if you get a tooth knocked out, then you should hold it in the gap until you reach the dentist.
When I found my daughter sitting with the school Sister I had a look in her mouth. A bottom tooth was broken diagonally in two, so quick as a flash I asked,
'where's the bit that came off? Did you swallow it?'
my miserable and traumatised daughter who was holding a wet bundle of cotton wool to her mouth tried her best to answer me through swollen lips.
'Take me to where it happened' I demanded.
We went to the scene of the accident at a run then set about scouring the tarmac for half a tiny tooth. Fortunately fellow school pals got involved and we miraculously found it after quite a lot of false starts,
'Is this it?' someone would pipe up,
'No, that's just a leaf'
'Is this it?'
'No that's a stone.'
When we'd got it a Mum shouted over,
'Put it in milk! It can save the tooth!'
'Really?' I asked but obviously wasn't going to argue. 'OK then.'
The Sister, my daughter and I then ran to the school canteen,
'Please can we have some milk?' The dinner ladies looked bemused. Sister was by this time holding a small pill box that she'd rustled up from nowhere.
Next we ran to the car park and from the car I phoned the best dentist I knew (battery flat, I had to run the engine to charge the phone to make the call.... oooo, you can imagine!)
The receptionist asked a couple of questions,
'Is she in pain?' My daughter uttered a muffled, 'yes...' followed by a concilliatory, 'a bit'
The receptionist continued, ' You see the dentist is very busy.'
I said that I was coming in to their offices post haste. There was no stopping me.
On arrival the dentist swooped out of his office and said,
'Where is the tooth?'
'Here in some milk' I said,
'Oh well done!' he said, 'you have done the right thing. If you don't put it in milk then the tooth can dry up then no longer be used.'
Phew, I thought.
I love the dentist now. I had only met him once before and he was nice, but now I love him. He fitted in my daughter immediately in spite of waiting patients and the poor thing was stretched out on a chair, under the lights with a plastic thingy to hold her mouth open, all before you could say 'knife'. He glued her tooth back together, (it was a lengthy process involving local aneasthetic), and gave her a pink rubber that said 'I love my dentist'.
My husband arrived. He said,
'I hope the boy that did this knows he is in trouble!'
'It was an accident and he did take her to see the school Sister himself.'
'Hurumph' said my husband watching his pained daughter recover herself.
This morning the dentist's receptionist rang to say that the dentist wished to know how our daughter was and whether she went to school today. As callous parents, we did send her to school on the basis that a) she was fully recovered and b) she will be viewed hero for a day by all of her piers (and it's the last day of the school term so it's the only chance to revel in the glory).
We've been told that she will not ever be able to bite into hard foods like apples in case the tooth breaks again. My daughter is delighted as she hates all fruit. We asked her if she had been put off going to the dentist now and she said, quick as a flash,
'No, not at all!'
I think it's because he told us that she never has to eat apples again. I think that that the dentist is now her hero too.
I sent a message to my sister in England to tell her of the drama and she replied that her two year old broke one front tooth and the other one got jammed back into her gum when she fell off her high chair the day before. Her dentist said that nothing could be done about it. My sister said that it was all made better by the fact that her daughter recovered quickly and that the dentist was 'a dish', which helped enormously in the process of accepting that her daughter now looks a bit funny and will do for the next few years.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
I must admit that in Kenya we have thus far been cocooned from the full credit crunch impact but there are signs that it is coming our way as the local news has been dominated by announcements of further price hikes in water, food, fuel and school fees effective from early next year. The shops are busy enough, but then I have never seen a particularly crazy pre-christmas shopping buzz here in Nairobi. Today my search for christmas wrapping paper at our biggest supermarket chain proved futile as I was told that it was not in stock yet.
Here in East Africa we are spared from the onslaught of relentless Christmas marketing via the media and accompanying christmassy cold weather (the sun is blazing), but it is more than that; never have I felt so disinclined to spend money on plastic tat, video games or other miscellaneous things that my children might secretly be hankering after. (Bless them, they have been remarkably undemanding thus far.)
Yesterday, a friend of mine was cajoling me to write a Christmas shopping list but I resisted saying that I couldn't yet get my head around it. I am lucky enough to have three children, ten nieces, a nephew and between my husband and I, four godchildren. To be honest with you, I'm panicking!
We have another big Christmas Craft Fair this weekend at the Ngong Racecourse. I intend to approach it like a hard nosed business woman leaving crying children at home because they would be too much of a distraction on my mission of bagging 24 suitable and worthwhile gifts.
On the upside, my husband has also treated me to a Safaricom 'dongle' that should work wonders in speeding up my Internet connection. Online shopping beckons....weakly...
Is anyone else feeling like me or am I alone in failing to suppress my negative, lackadaisical attitude? At this point, faced with the mammoth Christmas present shopping challenge, I am sorely tempted to take to my bed until New Year. 'Bah Humbug!'