Archive for November, 2016

The ‘Safe Flat’

November 29, 2016

Another amazing initiative of Sally & Stuart’s – they’ve recently rented a flat right near the Angel Kindergarten to us as a ‘safe house’ for women and children needing temporary crisis care.

Running a Kindergarten for Kibera families means they see it all. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, you hear the stories and realize why this is so needed here.

Right now, the little 2 bedroom flat is housing one of their teachers, Florence, from ‘Angel’ and her 2 lovely daughters, about 10 & 12. They left home in the midst of severe domestic abuse and threats that I prefer not to repeat.

It’s also currently home to a local Kibera Mama with a little boy who attends ‘Angel’. She thought she was having a baby in November but gave birth to 4 tiny little girls in September! Four! Miraculously they are all doing well. They each sleep in a plastic crate from the local ‘Nakumat’ (Woollies) and have been provided with blankets, bottles and formula. Florence and her girls are helping care for the little girls. Mama has a mental disability. What an almighty struggle this all is. Honestly.

From there we went to look at a plot of land (for sale) adjoining the Kindergarten. Then we went off to lunch with Sally and Stuart (in a very nice cafe in a very nice area with very nice food – so bizarre) and listened to Bill & Stuart discuss fund raising / buying / building plans and the myriad of ways that another property could be used to better the lives of the people here.

Extend Angel to take more kids? A community shower facility? Another safe house? I have absolutely no idea where they got up to but I’m sure they’ll come up with something. Watch this space I guess!

We’re heading home.

Oh Kibera

November 27, 2016

We’ve done this before and I’ve written about it before but it never ceases to amaze me – the heartbreak, the impossible conditions, the happy kids, the welcoming families, the stench. I hope I never get used to it.

We met Sally, Stuart and our security at the Angel Kindergarten, ready to walk into the Kibera slum.

We’ve been in a few times before. This time the purpose was two fold: to visit Edwin (a blind boy whom we’ve spent time with before) and to watch ‘Teacher Faith’ leading Jelly Wobbles and AMS songs at the Lunchbowl Saturday food program.

As we walked from the kindy across the bridge into Kibera itself, Stuart happily reported that there have been 17 shooting deaths across this strip since January. Oh goodie. Hello security guard

Because of all the recent rain, it was stinkier and more revolting than we’ve seen before! I was gagging once we crossed the bridge. Yucky festy sludge. Ugh!

We visited a home where 2 little girls from ‘Angel’ live with their Mama and Baba. It’s a one room, 3.5 x 3.5m mud hut with a couch a table and a bed. The walls adjoining the next abode are fabric or sheets of plastic. Clothes hang from the ceiling. There is no power, water or anything else. It’s just a dingy room.

They welcomed us warmly, thanked us for visiting their home. Baba has lived in Kibera his entire life – he was born there in 1951. He went to school up until the end of primary, then worked in local security to help support his family.

We sat and chatted, asked a few questions. Bill asked ‘are you happy here?’ (Which I always think is brave) and the emphatic reply was ‘Yes! We are happy!’ I asked what changes he has seen in all his years living here. He said it is much, much better now (!!!) because they have some water in the local area and there are clinics to visit for the sick. It’s honestly hard to take in. Im not a crier really but I was taking very big breaths…

On we went, dodging muck and jumping rivulets of sewerage.

The kids are happy and we’re always greeted with ‘how are you!?’ as we walk.

The shops crack us up. There are computer stores, verge stalls, revolting gizzards hanging up, tomatoes on tables. Our favourite are the hairdressers and beauty salons. We stopped for a photo of us girls in front of the ‘Glam Salon’. Very tempting….

On to Edwin’s house. His mum, Grace met us at the entrance to their laneway and saw us in. Grace has many children and has 2 rooms (girls sleep in one, boys in the the) and it is as neat as a pin! She has electricity and Edwin has an electric keyboard, which was pride of place on the table in the centre of the room.

We were thrilled to see him again! He’s home from boarding school (up in Thika) for the holidays. Edwin has grown and looks fantastic! He is a happy, healthy, musical boy. My beautiful friend in Sydney, Liz is his sponsor, sending funds each year for Edwin’s schooling. He is thriving!

He and his friend John, who is also blind, were very keen to present a few songs for our enjoyment. Edwin played and John sang. An absolute delight. Amazingly, their songs were all about praising God, exchanging sorrow for joy, being grateful for their lives…. again, hard to digest.

We walked into the compound where ‘Lunchbowl Kenya’ (Sally and Stuart’s incredible initiative!) feeds 3-400 kids each Saturday. The process to qualify for this program is too heartbreaking to explain but let’s just say that this is the only decent meal these kids will eat each week.

We got there just in time to enjoy teacher Faith leading more than 300 kids in some Jelly Wobbles songs – which they know SO WELL! As I’ve already said I’m not really a crier but this bit really sent me – It was a little overwhelming.

Then the assembly line as every child received their meal. I’ve described this before but it never gets old!! I was busy chatting to teachers and taking photos when Tilly came and said ‘Mum- help! They’re hungry!’ Yes, good point.

As Tilly was grabbing plates a young girl came up to her and asked ‘What is your brothers name?’ Tilly said ‘Jacob?’ She said ‘Yes, where is he!?’ It was Anna. The girl that had melted Jake’s heart a little over a year ago. She asked us to say hi Jake – you’d be thrilled – she’s well and happy, same big smile. (And wearing a beany in a boiling hot steamy stinky room full of people!!)

Angels at Angel

November 25, 2016


Off in our Uber to the Angel Kindergarten on the edge of the Kibera slum.

This place is a slice of heaven in a wider environment that is about as far from heaven as you could ever dream up.

Kibera is 4 square km and home to around a million people. Its a sludgy, stinky shantytown.

Angel caters to the poorest of the poor – these families have nothing. The kindy is funded through the Lunchbowl network – run by our amazing British friend, Sally, living here in Nairobi.

We were pretty excited to return, especially for Tilly’s second visit. She was absolutely mobbed and loved it. A little boy, Leon, permanently attached himself to her. A little girl, Clarice, very deliberately posed for photos with Bill. Lots of hugs and giggles for all of us.

Because it’s so wet, there is constant mopping of constant mud. Last time we were here, the open area between the classrooms was a disaster. Bill designed a roof to go over the hallway that connects the main areas, and sent funds over for it to be built. I’m beyond happy to report that it has made a huge difference – the area was dry even in the pelting rain! Yayyyyyy!

Bill mopped, I did some training with Ruby and Celine and Tilly joined the ‘Mamas’ in threading beads to make beaded ‘angels’ which are sold in the U.K. to support the Kindergarten. What a hoot. We’re bringing some home!

The rain was SO loud on the tin roof. We were yelling at each other and still lip reading.

Power is intermittent here and today was no exception. We couldn’t get a CD player to work but managed to have keyboards for a while – on and off.

We watched teacher Celine with one of the more advanced AMS classes (6 and 7 years olds) – amazing!! They are doing so well. She is a brilliant teacher and we couldn’t be prouder.

Teacher updates

November 25, 2016


Off we ‘Ubered’ to Elizabeth’s office for some teacher training. The 13 kms took well over an hour even with the new bypass. Sigh.

So great to see our teachers! We had already caught up with Celine but we haven’t seen the boys for 6 months.

We spent quite a while just finding out how they are and getting a feel for where they are at. We asked about the highlights and the challenges since we last met. We learned some amazing things:

They have all managed to ‘improve their lives’ with the salary they earn teaching AMS classes. They are incredibly grateful and always thank us for ‘providing them the opportunity to have a good job’. It’s wonderful and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Other than Simon, they all still live in the Korogocho slum where they’ve been all their lives and ‘dream every day’ of leaving it eventually. We talked about planning for this and how realistic it might be. They are clever, resourceful, hard working people and their plans are optimistic but reasonable!

Celine is one of 7 kids. Her eldest brother died several years ago – he was in a gang and was killed. She says that he was better than the others at looking after their mother, so when he died she took the role on for herself. Celine had previously used her earnings to rent some land ‘upcountry’ and her Mum has been farming it and earning an income. She is now in the process of buying the land – she was excited to tell us about it.

Simon is one of 8. His eldest brother was shot and killed by a cartel a few years ago. Simon has used his earnings to put himself through university – he is doing a music degree. Earlier this year he was granted a bursary through the uni to attend a music and arts conference in Edinburgh. We loved listening to him talk about being on an airplane!!

Erik is the eldest of 7 and has enjoyed being able to support his Mum and siblings. He has been able to pay school fees for his brothers and sisters.

Joseph is the youngest of 8. Three of his older sisters died a few years ago. When we asked how, he said they were ‘partying’ as teenagers and fell in with the wrong crowd. Joseph has recently bought land and is currently building a house for his Mum. He is soooo proud.

There have been some class lessons abandoned due to fires in the dumping site (right behind our classroom), no electricity and having to fight to use our room, but generally they’ve taught consistently me are identifying ‘talented’ students amongst their classes.

We trained for the rest of the day. Lots of progress!!img_3273

Tuesday – oh the traffic!

November 23, 2016

I have 2 announcements to make:

1: UBER is in Nairobi! This has changed everything! No more dodgy deals and being ripped off. No more using up all our cash and constantly looking for an ATM. No more waiting forever for the driver to arrive. It’s been great!

2: I have been relaxed and have not felt scared once this trip. By the grace of God and the prayers of the saints, I have felt safe the whole time. I’m not kidding! This is a major breakthrough. I’ve been happily walking around, finding my Uber, getting myself wherever, swatting off people trying to sell

me things through the car window and chatting to kids who are asking for money. (I try to carry food to give them instead.)

So I was across town yesterday while Bill & Tilly were packing boxes back here in Karen – (trying to help get Cathy and Paul out of the country!) My 18 km trip home took almost 2 hours. As I’ve tried to explain before, this place is mental. I took a few snaps from the car to give you an idea of the scenery.

Singing in the rain!

November 22, 2016

Stepping Stones!
A busy morning at the Kindergarten showing parents what has been going on in AMS class this term. The kids were gorgeous and it was all very well received! Teachers Ruby and Celine did a fabulous job of their first ever AMS ‘concert’ and Tilly was my right hand man.

A quick meeting with Sally (runs the kindy) and then full steam ahead into teacher training.

I trained Ruby and Celine in the rest of the Junior Starter Course as well as half of Junior 1. That should keep them busy for a bit…

It POURED rain – so loud! So much water! So much mud!

While I was training, Bill & Tilly did a bit of a reconnaissance trip. There are a few things we need – canvas bags to keep the gorgeous Nairobi dust off our keyboards for one.

At the end of the school day they collected me and took me to our local village shops to see what they’d found. I love this place. It’s a long way from Carrefour ….

Personal faves include the boots by the roadside and the ‘car wash’ in the mud. They were doing a roaring trade!

Safari in the city

November 20, 2016

Up at 5am to go for a drive through Nairobi National Park with friends who live here. They collected us in their Prado and off we went in the dark. The speed bumps here are huge, plentiful and totally unmarked. Not a lick of paint or a sign in sight. If you don’t see one coming (which we’ve done a few times) you certainly feel it! This morning’s little drive in the dark was no exception.

The National park is only about 15 minutes from where we live in Karen. Seems funny that we’ve never been in! It’s 117 Kms of parkland just 7 kms south of Nairobi city centre. Quite bizarre to be driving on a dirt road, feeling like you’re on safari but with Nairobi smog and the city skyline just beyond the giraffe and the zebra!

The animals are apparently most active at dawn – hence the early start. We did pretty well – over a couple of hours (park opened at 6am) we saw hippos, lots of giraffe (up very close!), plenty of zebra, some cute birds, antelope, gazelle & wilderbeast.

We were following friends of our friends who have an open top safari vehicle which Tilly enjoyed for a while.

The experienced safari family had brought a fabulous little barbecue and some chairs and we enjoyed a great cooked breaky at one of the picnic spots. They’ve been doing this for years and apparently quite regularly have ‘lion encounters’ at this picnic spot. Happy to say, not today.

It’s cold and rainy. We didn’t realize we would be outside the car at all during this experience and while the others had ski jackets and parkas we were totally inappropriately dressed – Froze!

The red dirt that we’ve come to love (!!$&?) here in Nairobi turns into an impossible red sludge in the rain. It sticks to everything and is a bit of a nightmare. We have a few pairs of shoes that are unlikely to recover….

This afternoon we went to a farewell for our friends Paul and Cathy who are returning to Sydney this week after 6.5 years in Nairobi. It was in a beautiful home in gorgeous grounds in the lovely leafy suburb of Karen. The area is all tall hedges, big gates, security guards, beautiful old homes. Hilarious to see cattle being driven down the street right in front of us.

Tonight we did a bit of grocery shopping at the big new shopping centre, ‘The Hub’. There’s a Carrefour supermarket which changes the experience here considerably. After a bit of a walk around, Tilly announced that she’s not a fan. ‘It’s boring – it feels like we’re at Warriewood Square’. Very fair point. Still, love that I can get everything I want – including great salad and Bocconcini cheese!

We’re home tonight with a bit of work to do in preparation for our week. Tilly & I made use of the gym and she had a quick dip in the pool!

Moving lodgings…

November 19, 2016


Yesterday afternoon hubby called to say that he’d found a place nearby on Airbnb and he thought we should move out of our ‘executive apartment’ at the guesthouse.

I wasn’t sure. Like I’ve said before, we are in Kenya. And there’s something awful about me that doesn’t mind roughing it – especially with the first world teenage daughter who has never really wanted for anything…and possibly never will.

I loved his response: ‘if this was all that was available, we’d just do it and make the best of it. But it’s not. And just because we’re working in Nairobi doesn’t mean we have to live in utter poverty’. True. I booked the new place while I ordered pizza delivery to our little hovel.

I also went to see if we could get a beer from the front¬†‘bar’. I asked the little guy at the desk (night guard) if I could get a beer:

‘or is it all closed…?’

‘You want a beer?’

‘Yes please is that possible?’

‘It will be given’.

Bahaha ok great I’ll have wine as well thanks.

Pizza and drinks around our crappy little coffee table in our crappy little place!!!


Quiet morning. The toilet is working again but the shower is utter garbage!!! The nozzle kept sliding off and the water was squirting all over the loo. Argh. Time to go!!

We packed, waited for our driver and left.

New lodgings – gorgeous! A 2 bed apartment with a fabulous living area, kitchen etc. Ahhhh – and for about $8 more per night than where we were. Go figure!

I worked for a couple of hours and then we set off to the special ‘Christmas market’ at Marula Manor. ¬†(Quite the Ex Pat high end market thingy.)

It didn’t take long for Tilly to announce her discomfort at being surrounded by white people. Her experience of Nairobi has previously been quite ‘native’ and the wealthy ex pat / ‘white Kenyan’ population is a new idea to her. Lets just say she was not so happy. (Nothing a cheap manicure didn’t fix in the end!!)

I found an elephant that used to be a car (and bought it). Hubby found a tent that would look great in our backyard…. (and I think is buying it!!! $&@&) Met up with Aussie friend Cathy (who also had a pedicure) then off to afternoon tea at the home of an expat friend of theirs, Peter.

Lovely older gentleman, born here, inherited lots of land, sounds exactly like David Attenborough – you get the idea…

Wow. Monogrammed Silver tea service, enormous house for one, pool, jacuzzi, imported Bluthner grand piano!

We took tea, I played, we chatted, our girls had a blast in the jacuzzi. Good fun. Peter shower us his little self-contained apartment and offered it to us on our future visits. It’s gorgeous!

Spoilt by a great day off.

Friday – Stepping Stones

November 19, 2016

Thursday disappeared in time travel so now it’s Friday.

Woke, showered, dressed and realised that my little pouch of jewellery didn’t make it all the way here with us. I guess those X-ray machines do show up everything! I didn’t bring much – certainly not enough to bother with a claim – but there are things I’ll miss, thats for sure. Shook it off over strong coffee and some toast.

Off to ‘Stepping Stones’ kindergarten, where 2 of our Kenyan teachers work with our British friend, Sally. It’s beautiful!! A real little paradise and our music room is a delight. This is a recent initiative of Sally’s – a kindergarten in the upmarket Karen area catering to a mix of wealthy and not so wealthy families. She has plans to integrate the kids from the Kibera slum… very interesting times here!

Tilly and I spent a few hours with teacher Ruby, getting ready for a special performance to parents on Monday! This is new for Ruby – she has never prepared classes to be ‘seen’ by parents before. We worked out a program, rehearsed all the groups and did a few extra things along the way. She was excellent – her manner with the kids is gorgeous and she has the most beautiful singing voice. Ruby comes from the Kibera slum and it’s a dream come true to be training as a music teacher. This year we’ve had her on the preschool classes but she is desperate for some piano lessons so that she can learn to teach the next level. I’m working on it…

And of course, the kids are gorgeous.

It wouldn’t be an update without a quick weather report: Quite cool, 18-22 ish and alternating between lovely sunshine and pouring rain. When it rains it really rains – huge big drops hitting the tin roof. When we’re teaching and it starts we actually have to stop for a few minutes because you just can’t hear anything else!

Getting there

November 18, 2016

At the very last minute, we decided to bring our 15 year old daughter Tilly with us. Im already glad we did! She’s a trouper and she’s been here with us once before so she won’t get a big shock…!

I’m always nervous arriving in Nairobi – wondering what they’ll try to pin on us for a quick buck – but we had no questions asked with visas and passports. My heart was racing a little as I followed hubby through customs. He asked the (scary looking) woman if we needed to stop and she said ‘Proceed’. So we did! Managed to hide our relief and happiness til we made it through the doors.

Yay! Fresh air after 25 hours!

Tilly found the sign with our name on it and we met our driver. Typical Nairobi madness on the roads for almost an hour – but the bypass is now finished and it definitely made a difference to the usual clog. (Now if they can just come up with something to get everyone to stay in their lane and obey a couple of road rules….)

Because this is Africa, our prebooked accommodation fell through at the last minute. Our friends booked us into a guesthouse nearby.

The guesthouse is basic in the extreme. Tilly and I immediately decided that this is a useful ‘Kenya’ experience. No point in being here if it feels just like being in Sydney!!

We are in the ‘executive apartment’ called ‘Kampala’ – their top notch accommodation. Whilst the ‘apartment’ would have most of our friends running a mile, they do have a lovely garden, so we set out and had ourselves a well deserved gin and tonic. Our Aussie friend Paul came to collect us & ran us around a bit, getting our SIM cards sorted and saying hi to their girls! (So exciting!)

We grabbed some KFC (yep they have that here! We NEVER eat it at home!) and went home. By this point we’d been on the go for close to 40 hours and feeling it. It wasn’t until I went to have a shower that I realised there were no towels….

Which brings me to the apartment.

Although there are plenty of lights, only 1 or 2 actually work. But there are power points so that’s a bonus. And wifi! The sheets are a bit like sand paper but the beds are ok. We did eventually get one towel each. I’d like a hand towel but can’t be bothered to ask. The toilet didn’t work but a little man came and fixed it. It worked once then went on the blink again…. The kitchen tap doesn’t actually turn off properly but it stopped making noise when I put a KFC chip packet under it. The kitchen cupboards are empty – as in just not one single

thing in them, which made me giggle. The shower has warm water. Not adjustable but warm and it will do. My favourite thing is the view from the kitchen window. Yep, we’re in Nairobi.

We slept.