I have farmed the older two kids out to tennis school this week. It is based at Sadili Oval (http://www.sadili.com/) which is located on the edge of Kibera slum, in the middle of a residential area off Langata Road.
The idea of the sports club is really to help underpriviledged African kids - it's a fantastic cause, but there are tons of Karen mzungus there too - shamelessly bulking out numbers and hopefully pumping a little bit of cash into the place. This week the tennis camp has two American instructors and one from UK, plus the Kenyan coaches who are excellent and visit schools to help with sports coaching (football and tennis). Sadili is quite famous now because Serena Williams visited last term and did a bit of impromptu 'knocking up' with the kids, much to the delight of the local press. I didn't see her but gather she looked quite big and beefy in the flesh.
My kids are not very good at tennis, but , last week my eldest daughter descended into almost a comatose state, struggling through the book, Harry Potter 5, failing to get dressed in the morning and hardly leaving the house. The problem was that all of the children's friends were away so we were sort of stuck together. Last week, the sky was overcast all day and it was freezing (relatively speaking). We sort of did one thing a day - usually a trip to the supermarket, once a trip to the dentist. Boredom and bickering levels were high. I thought it was quite nice actually, but guiltily booked them into tennis camp anyway - 8.30am to 3.30pm, Monday to Friday.
This week my two went along with two friends who were back from their holiday, they live around the corner from us and are also siblings. Their mum was keen to send them off as she is trying to paint a life size lion for the Born Free foundation and has four days to get it done.
As far as I understand it, our four form a happy group who spend the day thinking up ways of minimizing the amount of tennis they have to play and taking notes on how naughty Callum is being, then reporting back in righteous tones when I go to pick them up in the afternoon. Callum obviously stands out among the x80-100 other children who are participating.
'Callum threw my water cup down the stairs!' 'Callum ran away from the tennis lesson and sat on the step!' 'I fell over and Callum laughed!' 'Callum got told off!'
If it wasn't for Callum, it might be more boring.
Plus there is the challenge of dodging tennis, 'They allow us to have as many water breaks as we like!' 'We persuaded them that we could play a game on the grass instead of doing tennis!'
Today they took the card game Uno with them. They also have to take loo roll and are not allowed to bring any snacks - but can buy snacks from Sadili, so they must take money too. Yesterday they got to muck around in the tennis club's gym and buy chocolate bars, so were delighted.
When I asked my older daughter if she was enjoying it, she said - 'Yes, I love it! I just pretend it's like High School all day!' She's right, it does look a bit like American High School with open stands next to the tennis court etc.
The younger one, aged 6 - slightly sunburned on her neck from yesterday, on her way out to the car this morning said, 'I feel like crying but I don't know why' 'Do you still want to go?' I asked, 'sounds like you are tired.' 'I still want to go Mummy' she replied firmly and bravely swung her tennis racket onto the back seat.
The guilt of offloading the responsibility of childcare is twisting in my stomach..... though not to the point where I will stop them going.
I know that other desperate parents send their kids off to christian Bible club or the 'Blue Sky' camp for 6 nights, then get their kids back singing religious songs on a loop for weeks. Perhaps I'll try this next year....