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Wintery Nairobi

Nairobi on a grey day

What is with this winter weather in Nairobi?- It feels like July or August at the moment rather than May, with overcast morrnings, drizzle, cold nights with only an hour or two of sunshine at around midday - if we are lucky.

I met someone from the States who came to live in Nairobi for a couple of years to do some voluntary work. 'They lie in all the guide books' she said, '....they said Kenya was hot.'
The lady in question had only packed t-shirts and shorts for her visit.  Time for an emergency trip to the second hand clothes markets to find some fleece jumpers and jeans.

In fact, it's true, Nairobi can be cold.  While anyone who has experienced a dry season here is extremely happy to see that the rain is falling, for foreigners arriving from colder climes, this kind of Nairobi weather can be depressing. 

It's a terrible thing to say but when Kenya is in the midst of the worst kind of drought, conditions are ideal for the tourist who revels in the dust and baking sun - it is Africa afterall.

Because the seasons in Nairobi don't change all that dramatically, we wear the same clothes all year round.   Variations might be 'add a cardigan' or 'exchange shorts/skirt for jeans'. 

The temptation is to wear clothes until they literally fall off our back - I've had numerous 'jeans splitting across the butt' moments.  In England we might put away winter things at this time of year (I have to say, it really is heaven not to have to own an overcoat or thick wool jumpers any more), then I would pull out Spring/summer clothes. 

This seasonal 'clothes exchange' was heathy process because anything that looked too washed out, ripped or damaged would then get binned - resulting gaps in the wardrobe would then provide a great excuse for a 'new season' shopping spree. 

Now I am more lazy.  Here in Kenya, all my clothes are jumbled together in a year round mess.  I find it agony to throw anything away.  I've even repaired the split jeans in the past rather than throw them out!  Do I ever actually ever wear them again with the giant patch? No.

One year my Mum visited.
'That linen skirt is so thin that I can literally see your whole bottom through it.' 
I was gutted. I have to admit that the skirt was bought in the second hand mitumba market - but I loved it, it was a wardrobe staple (I often tied a cardigan or long sleeve t-shirt round my waist to hide the bum) and still I could hardly bare to part with it.  It eventually got re-used for fancy dress when I tacked a union jack over the 'skeleton' skirt fabric - still haven't thrown it away!!

The problem translates to uniform for the lovely ladies who work in our house.  Their flowery skirts and white shirts had to be literally falling apart before they quietly and tactfully mentioned that the uniforms might need replacement (one lady's gathered skirt ripped, almost top to bottom, while she was playing hide and seek with our five year old).  After purchasing more fabric, when I visited the tailor's shop (this place will run up new shirts and skirts for a very reasonable 500/- each), she looked back in her book and confirmed that the last lot were made in 2005!  That's terrible!

A week or so ago, I noticed that my middle daughter's duvet had worn very thin....not surprising after eight years of continuous use.

'Are you cold at night?'  I asked her.
'Not really,' she said.
I added an extra stretchy fleece throw to her bed then forgot about it. 

(I should really invest in proper blankets - oh, for the stylish White Company to open up a branch here rather than be left fending for ourselves, choosing from Nakumatt's finest.)

I let the subject drop for a couple of weeks.  It was my daughter who brought it up again when she said,

'You know that feeling when your feet are cold when you get in bed and then they don't really warm up again all night?'

Gasp.  I was so mortified that we raced straight to Mr Price home, do not stop, do not pass go.   There were 3 types of duvet on offer, I was leaning toward choosing the middle priced product, when my daughter said, 'I really like this one.' pointing at the most expensive.

Of course I bought it - pure guilt. 

My daughter was so pathetically grateful and excited about her new duvet that it nearly brought tears to my eyes.  (Add to this that she was off school because of an ear infection - probably brought about by extreme cold!  She is not on anti-biotics.)

Kenya might be located on the equator so you would expect plenty of sun and for the most part, it is pretty warm here, but don't forget that Nairobi is at an altitude of 1,759m above sea level.  There are cold nights and when the rain falls, unless you are well prepared, the damp (and inescapable mud) creeps everywhere, into your bones almost. 

So when you visit Nairobi any time between May and August, then pack jeans/trousers, socks, closed shoes and a few cotton jumpers/cardigans & scarves (maybe one fleece) - along with your suncream.  There's no need for winter coats, jackets or woollens but wellington boots (available locally) can be a godsend!  By the same token, be prepared to throw off your layers when the sun comes out!

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