I must admit, we snuck off for a few days. It was a crazy drive to the coast and back, two days driving three days there, but anyway it was worth it to see the palm trees, the white sand and the sea. We swam, snorkled, watched turtles being released, stayed in a hotel and stayed with lovely friends, ate far, far too much, got spoiled.
I loved going on our friends' boat for sundowners on the Mtwapa Creek and getting a guided tour of who all the houses belonged to over a glass of wine - while the best bit for the kids was probably jumping in the water and swimming around the boat in knickers - hoping not to encounter one of the rogue crocodiles that live in that stretch of water now.
I am pleased to report that our four year old's swimming (the armbands came off at xmas) has come on leaps and bounds - though we are not quite out of the woods yet. We still need to keep a keen eye on her, as her technique needs some work. She currently simulates the desperate movements of a person near drowning. Frantic arms, eyes and nose just barely peeping above the water.
The road is pretty good these days and if you leave Nairobi early enough (ie 6/7am) you can make it to Mombasa comfortably for lunch - if a little jaded and in need of a stretch. On the way down we stopped for one wee in the bush in Tsavo (petrol station loos are to be avoided at all costs) and on the way back none! At home, after fumbling with the door locks and dodging our over enthusiastic dogs, we all dashed into the house as fast as is humanly possible with legs crossed! I always monitor the kids' water intake in the car religiously (cruel), as there's nothing more disheartening than overtaking a stone lorry on a winding road, only to watch it rumbling past again when you pull over.
There are always lots of lorries on that Mba/Nbi road but when there are 5 of you, it's worth saving the cost of flights. We even managed to dodge the traffic police by some miracle and my husband always insists on doing the driving so it's a pretty easy ride for me.
There were a few reasons for going to the beach this time, but one highlight was to go to a 'proper' 40th party, complete with dj, a bigger disco ball than ours with proper spotlights, an actual dance floor, just as many fairy lights as ours - but all stylishly in white, covered chairs and tables with real table cloths, knives and forks, food that included not just salads but puddings! Proper plates (rather than paper), a NEMA certificate of approval for the party and more than 100 guests etc etc.
The party was great fun but it was hard to dodge the shot glasses that both host and hostess were offering around and a bit bewildering to be plunged into the long term residents' social scene. On meeting new people I tried my best not to slip into the default setting of discussing kids, schools and how long will we be here for? but failed rather miserably... I did talk to one lady who works for the rich and famous in Lamu. She said that a recent client insisted on not only flatscreen tvs but fireplaces in each bedroom?! see Times article 'Kaftanistan': http://property.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/property/overseas/article7006992.ece
Lots of fellow guests said, 'Oooh Nairobi is so dangerous isn't it? While it has its faults and drives us nuts, at least you know where you are with Mombasa' and while agreeing tacitly - I didn't agree. I think it's all a matter of scale - there are more people in Nairobi. The traffic in Mombasa seems every bit as bad as Nairobi too. Our friend said he asked a traffic cop the other day what the problem was on the road up ahead. 'It's the British' the traffic guy said. Our friend looked quizzical so the cop went on, 'they didn't do a proper job of building this road fifty years ago - it's too small'.
At the party, we danced into the night, but kept our eye on our watches, mindful of the drive back the next day. When we left after 2am no one had landed up in the pool...yet, and the host had gone to bed, apparently having peaked too soon with the tequila bottle. His wife soldiered on.
At Christmas I lost a pair of Havaianas slim flipflops that I foolishly left on the beach while going for a dip in the sea and this time I lost one precious hoop earring after snorkling with the kids .... Will I never learn?! However I came back with a couple of new design kangas and some hematite bangles from Zaire (or that's what the beach vendor said anyway) - so all was not lost.
Unpacking salty clothes beckons and our washing machine is on the blink. Hey ho.