This update is so long overdue, I hardly know where to begin... apologies for that..
We've had a couple of tentative emails and text messages asking if we are alright in Kenya - particularly in view of the recent scaling up of the security threat/foreign office travel advisory. In fact, in Kenya we are very much alright, security threats notwithstanding. The sun in shining. After a mega sized 'short' rains in November which lasted 6 weeks, the country is looking particularly green and beautiful for this time of year. In previous years, the drought has meant that this time of year has been particularly dusty and desperate - as cows are herded into the Nairobi city centre in search of any remaining pastures and there are food shortages, but this year, dams for hydroelectric power are full of water, although the rains damaged some crops we are not in bad shape on that front. The Kenya shilling is thankfully back under control (1$-87 Kshs), we still have a cooking gas shortage but petrol prices are due to drop a little next week.
For me, the run up to christmas was the usual whirl of visitors, children at home and then ordering hams and turkeys that turn out to be so enormous that you have no idea how you are ever going to eat it...but somehow you do. Thinking about what to give everyone for a present - sadly, due to my distracted state, my husband ended up with precisely nothing for Christmas from me - a fact that I'm more than ashamed of and plan to rectify for his birthday next month - that is.. if I get my act together of course.
Obviously, living here, there's not just your own family to consider with regard to gifts, but also the people who work in our house. As well as the usual xmas bonus, Nakumatt vouchers are always a good idea as they can be cashed in all over the country and this year I gave solar powered light sets to our house staff before they headed out of Nairobi to visit family over the holiday period. These apparently were gratefully received at the other end. There are loads of portable solar lights on the market these days, and most sets can charge a mobile phone from the solar powered battery too. You would be amazed how few people in rural Kenya have access to the grid and since the price of kerosene for small lamps has gone through the roof, many people are forced to resort to sitting in the dark in the evenings at the moment.....and it gets dark early here...
In Nairobi, the number of random security checks have been stepped up - particularly on arrival at shopping centres. Foreign office staff have been advised to spend no more than 20 minutes in such places (where possible) - I honestly don't see how this advice makes any sense at all - who knows which minute is going to be an unlucky one if disaster does strike? The majority of people are just continuing life as usual while keeping fingers quietly crossed. There was an interesting BBC report that said that Nairobi and indeed Kenya is such a cosmopolitan melting pot, made up of so many cultures mixed together, Kenyan, East African, Western, Asian, Arab - that it's almost impossible to keep an eye on what is going on.
I've been watching the story of Nancy Baraza (known for her fiery temper), acting deputy Chief Justice - with utmost interest. She is reported to have insulted a female security officer at Village Market on New Year's eve, when she was asked to undergo a routine security check on entry. Apparently Nancy pinched the security woman's nose then threatened her with a gun (which of course Ms Baraza denies) - sadly for Nancy - the CCTV cameras were running. The whole incident has now gone to court - her career hangs in the balance. The security officer is sticking to her guns. We also find out this month (before the 20th Jan) whether or not the 6 leading figures accused of organising 2007/8 post election violence - will have charges confirmed against them or dropped. A couple of them are planning to run for presidency in the upcoming 2012 elections. Can't wait to find out what happens!