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.

Nairobi Nov 2016

November 15, 2016

Mess. Promise the photos will improve!

Trip Diary
Day -1
Sydney Tue Nov 15

Not an easy time of year to get away but you gotta do what you gotta do! There are a few things that ‘can’t wait’ over in Kenya, so hubby and I are off to Nairobi for a week and a bit.

Did I mention it’s a tricky time of year? While I’m away Sandi, Elisha and Lindi will be beyond busy in the AMS office. There’s ongoing staff training, enrolling for next year, general end of year madness! (They’ll all be fine, of course!)

My students are preparing for exams. There are a hundred family things going on with our 4 kids while we are away. (They’ll all be fine, of course!)

My borderline fear of flying and and generally scaredy cat nature is nicely helped along by comments from our gorgeous Miss 15: ‘Where are you flying into again?’ Me: ‘Sydney / Doha / Nairobi and the same to get back’ Her: ‘Ugh. Don’t die on this trip OK Mum?’ Yep, I’ll keep that in mind.

We’re packing a mountain of AMS books and CDs amongst our clothes to give us the best possible chance of getting it all through Nairobi’s notoriously corrupt customs when we land. We’ve been charged for something (invalid) 2 out of our 3 trips. We have our meds & our Gastrolyte.

I’m teaching today. We fly tomorrow….!


May 25, 2016

Our last day here for this trip – and finally a slow morning.

Then off to Rugby! It’s Sally and Stuart’s (Angel Kindergarten / Lunchbowl Network) brand new initiative for the kids of Kibera.

115 kids aged from 5-12 years. Some of them from the Angel kindergarten, some from the Saturday Lunchbowl feeding program in the slums. All of them excited to be donning a uniform and learning some rugby skills.

The coaches are volunteers from Rugby Kenya (not bad!) & everyone gets a hot lunch – always a bonus.

It’s only week 3 of this new venture but it’s pretty clear everyone is loving it. As usual there’s a thousand people behind the scenes making it look easy when in fact, getting 115 kids bussed from Kibera, changed, trained, fed and back again on a Sunday is no small thing. Hats off to Sally and Stuart (and their kids who are all involved somehow or other) for another amazing program.

As always there is plenty to keep us amused. We love the kids names – ‘Gift’, ‘Goodluck’ ‘Blessing’ and today, we had both ‘Barak Obama’ and ‘Bill Clinton’!! Really!!

We served food, cleaned boots and played with the kids.imageimageimageimageimageimage


May 23, 2016

We went into town to meet with Elizabeth, who runs Ghetto Classics and more recently, the Safaricom Orchestra. Think major sponsorship from one of Kenya’s biggest companies. Certainly the biggest telco here.

The orchestra is a wonderful opportunity for teens from a wide variety of backgrounds to come together and make music. Entry is by audition and there are wealthy kids, slum kids and middle class kids.

Safaricom is providing instruments, rehearsal space, tuition, performance opportunities. Good stuff.

Elizabeth originally sourced our Kenyan AMS teachers – they came through the Ghetto Classics program at Korogocho. It was great to update each other on where we are at, how each of them are going and what new opportunities lie ahead.

Turns out there are some big ideas around – Elizabeth is keen to put the AMS courses into new areas in Kenya and is currently talking to Mombassa County about training new AMS teachers… Watch this space!

While we have been here it’s been great to see street lights go in for the first time around the Karen area (where we are living). It makes a HUGE difference to the feel, security and driving in the area.

As we were coming home late afternoon the guys were up the pole working. And when we drove past again a few hours later they were still working away – pitch black and well into the evening. It’s nuts here.imageimageimage


May 21, 2016

Early start to battle the traffic, which was so bad on Ngong road that our driver took a different route through some of the village areas. The shops are amazing – (photos don’t do them justice) love some of the names…!

Over 2 hours later (and really not all that far) we arrived. I swear if it was safe it would be faster to walk.

I trained teacher Celine in the Junior Starter Course and all 4 of our teachers in the next module of Super Starter.

Such an encouraging experience. They are smart, insightful and thorough.

It was our last day with them for this trip. Bill spoke to them about their future, our future and our hopes for them over the next year.

Each of them made a small speech thanking us for our support, talking about their lives and telling us what they they have learned – still gives me goosebumps.

We took off into the centre of Nairobi City to the ‘Credible Sounds’ music store (which some of you may remember from our last trip) to buy 4 new keyboards so that we can run ‘Junior Starter’ at the Angel Kindergarten. I’m happy to report that this time was a whole lot more straightforward than the last!! We didn’t get arrested, we didn’t get ripped off, we didn’t get lost and it didn’t take 7 hours. Yay!!

We did come home with 4 nice new instruments all ready for teacher Celine to begin next week!imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage