Saturday, 16 August 2014


Our time in East Africa has now finished. Tales from Tanzania are now in the past for us and we are no longer in a state of limbo, as I am now typing this from our new home in Juba in South Sudan!

We have new adventures, new challenges and a new home to discover and to blog about. To mark this transition, I have created a new blog page to relate our stories from South Sudan. From now on, I will be blogging at a new blog site, entitled "Stories from The South" (to follow the theme of our Tales from Tanzania!).
To follow us in our new venture, click on this link:

Hope to "see" you there and share our new stories with you from a new country! You are most welcome to drop by and visit us there! :-)

Saturday, 5 July 2014

A Different Kind of Africa

Our time in Kenya comes to an end tomorrow. On Monday, Andrew will move to South Sudan to take up his new MAF posting. Meanwhile, the kids and I will be en route to Lancashire for a family visit and holiday. After a couple of weeks, Andrew will join us in England for an exciting family wedding, which we are all really looking forward to!
In August, we will eventually all travel together to Juba, if all goes to plan (which it doesn't always, so watch this space!!).

From tomorrow, we will no longer be Living in Limbo. Instead, we will be on what we hope is the final step in our journey to Juba. We will close the door on our Nairobi home and the short term life we had here for the first few months of 2014.

Living in Nairobi has given us a whole new perspective of living in Africa. What we have experienced these past few months has been a very Different Kind of Africa.

When we arrived in Nairobi in January we experienced an unexpected culture shock. Although we had moved within East Africa from neighbouring Tanzania's capital city, we were not prepared for how developed Nairobi is in comparison to Dodoma.

There are so many factors that shocked us when we landed like aliens from a semi-rural planet, BANG!, into the thriving metropolis of Nairobi! To list just a few of the differences....
* we found a city with some very new, very slick highways. We saw pavements and traffic lights, which were amazing novelties for us after Dodoma!
* we now had access to 1st world medical care, with hospitals people travel across East Africa to use and teams of doctors who are reliable and well trained.
* the major international airport being just an hour's drive away. In Tanzania, a trip to England meant a whole day's drive to Dar es Salaam before being able to get to the aeroplane! Tomorrow, it will be just an hour's drive away...if the traffic is not too heavy!
* huge, sparkling shopping centres with some familiar UK shops like "Accessorize"! There are enormous  supermarkets with shiny floors, trolleys and aisle upon aisle of choice food, wonderful packaged goods, household goods and even cat-food (poor Moshi missed out on that option, putting up with our home-made cat-food for 4 years in Dodoma!!).
I was physically unable to step forward when I saw the freezers in Nairobi's Nakumatt Supermarket with over 30 different types of ice-cream. In Dodoma, we were lucky if the man at the ice-cream parlour happened to have any containers of ice-cream in stock! The developed nature of the shops here took some getting used to after 4 years of market shopping and Dodoma's small, local shops where I never fully expected to be able to find everything on my shopping list!
* Even the more familiar "duka" stalls in Nairobi stock fruit and veg that I only dreamed about in Dodoma! This is the fruit stall on our doorstep here in Nairobi: it has every fruit or vegetable I can think of in stock!

 I was amazed when I started to shop there (I go several times a week!) and could not help complimenting the store holder on the variety of the produce...items that had been elusive in Dodoma were stocked up high in this "duka": mushrooms, broccoli, butternut, strawberries, grapes, red cabbage, leeks, courgettes, lettuce, yellow, red and orange peppers... these I only dreamt about in Dodoma! We used to buy such items as gifts for each other from far off Dar es Salaam when we went on holiday!! The store owner thought I was funny when I got so excited at the store's produce. He was very amused when I brought my camera to capture his stall in a photo, to remind me of just how different Dodoma's market is from Nairobi's corner-"duka"!
*  in Nairobi, we have had access to amazingly resourced schools. Esther and Ben finished their 2 terms at Braeburn school on Friday and despite all the teething problems in settling in, it has been so good for them and opened their eyes to a whole set of new possibilities.
* not speaking Swahili. People here are mostly fluent in English, so I am already losing my grasp on Swahili as I use it less and less. Those who do speak Swahili mix it up with English and other Kenyan dialects, so it is quite different from Tanzanian Swahili.
*Even the climate is different, with lots of rainy, overcast days and chilly mornings and cold nights at Nairobi's high elevation.
*Fashion is different in this big city from sleepy Dodoma! When I got here, I looked in vain for colourful kangas,  for the traditional East-African-style kitenge dresses and the bold, loud style of African print clothes. I was taken aback at the western dress styles and the smart fashion. My wardrobe suddeenly seemed terribly out of place. My sandals which handled the dusty paths of Dodoma now seemed like ungainly, ugly footwear. I often felt out of place in my Dodoma outfits, in my long skirts which were ideal for more conservative Dodoma but looked old fashioned in Nairobi.
* Church has been a new experience here. Like Tanzania, there are many Christians, but the choice of English-speaking services to attend is vast, unlike Dodoma. In Nairobi, we chose to attend an international fellowship located at a Nairobi American school. There are so many willing people passing through Nairobi that we have not needed to get involved, which was good for us to have a time of rest for a short while, to simply be part of the congregation, whereas in Dodoma, if  I wanted Sunday School for my kids, I had to lead it. Here, an amazing team of people have kept my kids entertained in their various age-appropriate classes for fun Sunday school sessions! We have traded the traditional cathedral in Dodoma for a modern, trendy church setting in a smart, swathe theatre, with state of the art lighting and sound system and a team of enthusiastic youthful musicians:

These are some of the main differences... However, I have found aspects here that make me feel more "at home" with what I have known of living in East Africa. The friendly nature of most Tanzanians (not all, but many!!) that I met is also evident in Kenya. In general, people are happy to chat and have time for people. I can go out with Joel for a short walk to buy some milk and be quite some time as we are greeted by so many people. Friendly smiles and welcoming handshakes are such a wonderful part of the warmth of Africa, which I always miss when I go back into a western context.
The rich, earthy smell of the rain approaching is the same here as Dodoma. There is nothing like the scent of rain in the air in Africa- my children always tell me when rain is coming, as we smell it before we see it! It is a welcome and sweet, heavy scent, bringing relief from the heat and wetness for thirsty ground. Likewise, the intense heat on a hot Nairobi day is simply African, burning into us with a scorching sensation on our skin, which is certainly not an English experience!
The deep ochre redness of the soil in parts of Tanzania is echoed here in Nairobi. Its colour is reminiscent of sunset hues, but despite its beauty, the stains it leaves on the clothes of my little boys, who love to play in it, are hard to wash out.  The mess it makes on my floors from the muddy, bare feet of my children takes real effort to clean up!
On the other hand, the shocking potholes on some of the roads here give me a different type of reminder, as they bring back my driving days in Tanzania!

There are also reminders of some of the harder issues we saw in Dodoma. I still see the poverty that bothered me in Tanzania. Nairobi is not developed for everyone. Daily, I see struggles on our doorstep, contrasting with the wealth that is portrayed from the large homes and fancy housing compounds concealed behind high walls, with security guards on patrol.
I see the ladies who wait at the bottom of our main road, sitting on the muddy banks, hoping that someone passing by will offer them a day's work and a wage to feed their families. I see the young men rifling through rubbish bags on bin-day, carefully sifting the contents for anything worth saving. I see the billboards asking us to remember the less fortunate, to assist struggling schools and provide for orphans or needy children. I see the homeless sleeping in Nairobi's open parkways, plastic bags wrapped around them as protection for the damp ground.
 I hear the stories of house-ladies whose water supply has been cut off in their street, meaning that the one tap shared by several homes in the Kibera Slum area is shut off and families are struggling to get by without basic water supplies. I see the outstretched hands at traffic light intersections, as the beggars reach out in hope of a gift from distracted motorists. I hear of people's health issues and not having enough money to pay the doctor in a system where health care means paying to receive medical attention. It is hard to know who and how to best help.

Now that we are finishing our time in Kenya, we start to look ahead to South Sudan. I know that South Sudan will have its own culture, with a very different history. It has different issues too, with the tense current situation.When we finally get to Juba, I will have so much to learn, it will be a new type of place in a new country. It will definitely be interesting to see what kind of  an Africa we are moving on to...

Friday, 20 June 2014

Logistics, Luggage and Loading

It's taken 6 months, but we have finally been able to move our household goods out of Tanzania!

Andrew flew down to Dodoma last Thursday to load up all our boxes:

With a bit of help from friends, all was safely stowed on board!

Then Andrew flew out of Dodoma for what will probably be his final time. The MAF base in Dodoma is closing down and will no longer be operational. MAF Tanzania is down-sizing as the country develops, with a much smaller base operating out of Arusha and a limited service in Dar es Salaam and Mbeya. The end of an era for MAF in Dodoma...

We have had a long and complicated wait for our boxes from Dodoma. There were several factors which delayed the removal of our household goods...
-First, we were not able to import anything to Nairobi without a Kenyan work permit. This took a long time to be issued; it came at last in mid-April.
-Next, we needed clearance from the export people in Tanzania. Without the correct paperwork and an inspection by customs, we could not take goods out of Tanzania. Waiting for the appropriate people to sign the appropriate papers took longer than anticipated.
-Finally, it was tricky to line up the logistics of having a plane available and Andrew available on the same day!
Many months and many prayers later, we are thankful to finally have the boxes in Kenya!

However, our boxes are not yet with us. They will not yet be unpacked. They are in storage at the airport until we can get the correct paperwork/ visa clearance to move them on to South Sudan...
It seems like such a long time ago since I started packing up all those boxes in Dodoma, back in November/ December last year! It will feel like Christmas when we finally get to unpack them, once we have moved into our new home in Juba!

Meanwhile, it is time to get out the suitcases and pack up our clothes and odds and ends here in Nairobi. The Chaos of packing has once again been unleashed...

With a trip to England before the move to Juba, my brain hurts from trying to work out the logistics of which suitcases to take to England (what can I manage to carry on my own with 3 kids, before Andrew joins us after a couple of weeks?) and which suitcases to pack up for Juba:

The mossie nets have been unearthed from forgotten suitcases that came with us from Dodoma in January. Since we will be needing mosquito nets again in South Sudan, I decided to wash the gathered dust off them and put them through the washing machine. Washing the nets is the easy part. Trying to hang a mosquito net on a washing line is the tricky part- they get all tangled up! I wrestled a long time with this bunk-bed net before I managed to get it strung up on the line!

The rooms in our Kenya home have started to look disorderly as I begin the preliminary sorting for packing up. When we leave this home in 2 weeks, it has to be ready to be handed back to the landlord, with every trace of the Parker family erased. I marvel at how much extra stuff we have to pack up, accumulated from random garage sales over the past 5 months!
Looking at the disorder and chaos caused by packing always makes me feel tired! The working out of what should go where and what should fit where is the exhausting part, but once I roll my sleeves up and start actually packing, I know I will feel much better. Thankfully, there is no shortage of tea in this tea-producing nation of Kenya, as I feel a lot of tea breaks will be necessary over the next 2 weeks of sorting, packing and getting ready to move the five of us on again for a new adventure in another country!

Saturday, 14 June 2014


Living in Nairobi exposes us to certain disadvantages such as traffic congestion, high crime rate and a tense security situation. However, it is so much more developed than Dodoma! This means that we now have access to many more opportunities! Compared to Dodoma, Nairobi has a wider variety of people from all kinds of countries and professions and a wider range of resources and available activities.

Joel and I have discovered some fun weekly activity groups!
On Wednesday mornings, Joel and I go along to a singing group for preschoolers, called, "Bible Singing Class" where the children sing along to a set of songs with fun actions, instruments and picture card cues. This Wednesday routine has been good for us. On the days when Joel feels compliant (not a consistent trait of a 3 year old!!) he sings along heartily and bashes his instrument with enthusiasm! Since April, I have helped to lead the singing on a rota basis and it's been good fun singing with the little ones and their mums or nannies!

On Thursday mornings, Joel joins other little ones for a gymnastics class, with energetic and fun teachers:

Twice a week, Esther and Ben have recently started piano lessons with teacher Cara from America, who was trained as a concert pianist and is a great teacher to get Esther and Ben started on beginning piano skills:

 I really hope we can find a teacher in Juba who will be willing to help Esther and Ben continue with their music lessons...

Additionally, Nairobi boats a wealth of second-hand sales! This means that I have been able to stock up on several Home-School resources for Juba :-) Boxes of books and puzzles are beginning to stack up in the corner, next to the second-hand school desk which I also purchased at a bargain rate!

The boys tried out one of the puzzles this morning:

At school, Esther has made a mini stage debut, taking part in her school assembly play of "Handa's Surprise" in the school theatre:
 On Wednesday this week, I will be going to watch a Year 3/4 production of Robin Hood, where Esther will be singing with her classmates as part of the informal "choir". I had a sneaky peek at the impressive scenery as I wandered past the theatre door on my way to the cafe. It looks very promising!

Both Ben and Esther have also had been to some wonderful birthday parties, with horses to ride and with swimming pools gracing their hosts' gardens and with amazing dressing up themes! A rather different world from dusty Dodoma, where children seemed satisfied with our more homely kids' parties! Happily, I found this "Transformers" dressing up suit at a garage sale, ready for one of the themed parties Ben went to:

It has been great to have these opportunities in this thriving metropolis of Nairobi. I was overwhelmed by Nairobi when we first got here. I felt confused and uncomfortable with the culture shock we experienced after tranquil Dodoma. Five months later, I can step back and see many advantages from our time here. I hope we will look back from Juba and feel like we made the best of the fun opportunities Nairobi gave us for this season!

Monday, 2 June 2014


We got him!!

Just a shame about his furry friends, who we have spotted lots more of over the weekend! It seems there's a plague of them on this compound. One came running into our garden as we were eating on our garden patio today!! I've been swapping rat stories with several neighbours on this compound, listening with revulsion to their tales of the rats behind their oven, rats brushing against their feet as they stand cooking, rats under their bed, rats in the underpants drawer!! Am starting to count down the 5 weeks until we leave Nairobi and can say "adieu" to these rats....

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Mistaken Confidence

Well, I was mistaken about that rat: he just ran by Andrew's toes when Andrew went into the kitchen to fetch a glass of water! Andrew fished out the trap and re-set it, which made an almighty "bang!", sending the rat into a panic. It darted into Andrew's office across the hall way, sending me into a panic!
 As I type these words, I hear the sound of battle! Andrew has bravely entered the office, closed the door on his hysterical wife and is now crashing around with a broom, a wooden rod and a mop trying to squash the Invader. So far, it's not working- the wily little thing keeps disappearing into hidey holes.

On Monday, Andrew leaves for Juba again. I am not relishing the thought of another week in a house, with a rat but without Andrew's help!
There is one thought that helps: just 5 more weeks in this Nairobi house- and then we'll be moving out! Apparently, there is a bit of a problem with cockroaches in our new house in Juba, as Andrew reported after visiting there 2 weeks ago. But what is a mere cockroach compared to a disgusting rat?? I guess all things are relative and if I have to choose, at least a cockroach, although foul and malevolent-looking, is not as vicious as a rat!! Maybe having a resident rat is good preparation for steeling me against the cockroaches to come! Although, if anyone knows of any effective anti-cockroach poison or tactics, I'd love to hear from you!

Mission Against Vermin

We may be part of MAF, but these past 2 weeks I have felt like I am also part of MAV: Mission Against Vermin!

It was a dark Monday evening when I first heard a suspicious munching in the corner of my kitchen. Everyone else was sleeping. Andrew was far away in Juba. I grabbed a broom and advanced slowly into the centre of our kitchen, eyes fixed on the corner where gnawing could be heard...With one swift movement, I attacked the cupboard door where the sound seemed to be coming from. I bashed it and crashed the broom against the wood. The munching stopped. Cautiously, I approached the cupboard. I flung open the door. Nothing was there except pots and pans, their metal edges twinkling at me in the light of the overhead florescent bulb.

Anyone who has followed blog posts from "Tales From Tanzania" will know how afraid I am of rats and mice! The suspicion that one might be in my kitchen was very disturbing. I went to bed that night feeling uneasy, jumping at the slightest rustle, scared of encountering a rodent without Andrew being around to protect me!

Two days later, I was dismayed to wake up and discover that our bread had been eaten in the night! I came into the kitchen early to start breakfast for a normal school day, but quickly saw that toast would be off the menu: the bread had been burrowed into from the corner, with big bite marks through the plastic packet and a rat shaped hole protruding a few inches into the loaf! YUK! Now I had proof: a rodent was roaming my kitchen!
Tentative investigation also revealed a few droppings behind the oven. Horrified, I pulled out all the kitchen appliances and looked in vain for the little creature. Happily, I had a lady called Mary coming to help me to clean that morning. When Mary arrived at 07:30, as I left for the school run, I asked her to take everything out of every cupboard, to disinfect the cupboards and to clean all the pots, pans, dishes etc and put all food in the fridge. She scrubbed and cleaned all morning! No more evidence of the mouse was seen that day.

The next day, we found more droppings and items on the kitchen counter had been moved about by Something scurrying about! I was on high alert for combat against the vermin loose in our Nairobi home!

Once Andrew came home at the weekend, we stepped up the effort to discover the hiding place of our unwelcome kitchen visitor. And we found him! Mr. Rodent was snuggled into a compartment within the mechanics at the back of our fridge! We had 2 guests staying with us last weekend and they kindly assisted us in ousting the beastie from his hiding place. This was fortunate, since I had run screaming out of the kitchen as soon as Andrew spotted the rodent in his hiding place! At least Andrew now had sensible assistants, as he prepared for all-out battle:
 This is the weapon Andrew used to scare the rat (or was it a mouse??) out of its hiding hole! It shot out of the fridge and straight across the kitchen to disappear into a tiny gap between the tiled floor and the bottom of the cupboards! Armed with a head-torch, Andrew and one of our guests could see it running, terrified, up and down within the thin space:
 The rat was foo fast to be caught, but Andrew's weapon did reach in to attack it and possibly injure it. We haven't seen it since, but we rushed out and bought this trap, which is poised with bread and peanut butter bait next to the fridge:
I am a bit squeamish about checking it, but Ben is a great help in peering round to see if anything is caught and reporting back to his cowardly Mum! So far, it lies dormant, although we have just seen a rat on our back patio this evening! However, I can handle them being outdoors. I just don't want them in my house!

On a similar note this week, I  had to visit the chemist on Tuesday, to ask for a bottle of nit shampoo to wash all our heads, since we also had a suspected outbreak of headlice! Just a smaller version of vermin! As the kind pharmacist handed me the bottle of chemicals, she enquired as to whether I was familiar with this type of medical formula?  I lost my courage and just could not bring myself to tell her that it is the same brand as the scabies medicine we had to order from England when Ben had scabies in Dodoma!

Vermin in the kitchen, vermin on our heads and a now a reminder of the vermin that took up residence on little Ben when he was just 2 years old, back in Tanzania! I am just grateful that here in Nariobi we have good access to traps, super-germ-killing cleaning products and medicated treatments to help us in our mission against all the little nasties which we have been exposed to recently! Hopefully, we are on a winning streak now in our battle to be rid of all the little invaders!

Saturday, 17 May 2014


Andrew is now flying regularly out of Kenya and into South Sudan as part of his MAF pilot role. When he goes to South Sudan, he often borrows my old phone and pops in a South Sudan sim card to make and receive calls whilst he is there.
When he gives my phone back to me on his return to Nairobi, I find myself receiving text messages like the one below:

Hmmmm- it is not very easy to decipher what this Arabic text message means!

However, help is at hand! Each Tuesday morning for a few weeks, I am joining a class with another MAF lady to learn some basic Juba Arabic! Pencil at the ready, I brace myself for a couple of hours of learning a few words and sounds in this language which is so very different to anything I have ever learnt before. Our helpful South Sudanese teacher is ready to instruct us in her native language:

It is fun to engage my brain in activities more mentally stretching than my usual Mum tasks (making packed lunches, packing school bags, doing toilet training, cleaning up sick, helping with homework, washing up, doing laundry... etc etc!!). However, when I say that I am learning some basic Arabic, I really do mean "basic"!
This is for several reasons:

-partly because Arabic is made up of an alphabet and sounds that are completely alien to my language experiences so far. In fact, yesterday, when I tried to practise some Arabic words and phrases that I have learnt, Andrew looked at me and exclaimed, "You sound like an alien!" !!!!! It is a very difficult language to tackle!!

-my brain is so distracted thinking about my daily Mum tasks in looking after 3 kids and also in planning logistics of our move to Juba in July/ August ( we still have not found a way to get our goods from Tanzania up into Kenya). I have barely any space in my mind to absorb new ideas, concepts and a whole new phonics system!

- Joel has to come along to classes with me. Not surprisingly, he gets fed up and needs attention at regular intervals, so I am easily distracted from the lesson!

-my head is still full of Swahili verbs and vocabulary from our 4 years in Tanzania. Regretfully, I don't get to use my Swahili much in Nairobi, so I feel it becoming rusty already, but I keep subconsciously throwing the odd Swahili word into my Arabic phrases. Out teacher gets a bit annoyed: "This in NOT Swahili!" she cries. In my defense, many Swahili words come from an Arabic root, so there are often similarities in certain words which I can't help but see and then accidentally express!

- finally, it is hard for me to feel seriously motivated to learn a new language when I know that most people in Juba will speak good English! Far, far better than any Arabic I can learn in just a few short sessions! In addition, some in Juba have Swahili, as I found out on my visit there last September. I even met some French speakers in my few days there, so if I can get by in English, French or Swahili, it seems a bit unnecessary to add a new language into the mix and create confusion in my tired brain!

I also know from experience that language learning can take serious, long-term commitment, especially a difficult language like Arabic. It is not something I will just pick up and remember without serious immersion into the culture and language. This is not going to be my calling or mission in South Sudan. I will be there predominantly in a supportive role for Andrew's pilot work and as a Mum, working to keep my family settled and also as a part of a Christian community under MAF, doing what little we can within the local community as we see who or where we can help out .
So for now, I will simply enjoy these Arabic lessons! I will continue to enjoy the experience of stretching my brain a little, the interaction with our teacher and the novelty of trying to express new words, even if they do make me sound as if I have something nasty lodged in my throat! (Maybe that dreadful hacking sound will ease off if I make a bit of progress!!). For the next few weeks, my expectations are gentle ones. My Tuesday mornings will be fun times to look forward to as a time of insight into a new culture, new sounds, new alphabet and new letter shapes.

Sunday, 4 May 2014


I am glad that it is Sunday and the start of a new week! Last week had some rather discouraging moments. On Sunday morning, in the wee small hours, Ben was sick. He needed a couple of days to get back to his bouncy self.
On Wednesday, Esther came home from school feeling unwell. Between 4:30 and 10:30pm, she managed to vomit nine times!
On Saturday, Joel joined in with his siblings and was sick a few times as well!

However, all this can be a pretty normal turn of events for a Mum of young children, whatever country she may find herself in. What was less usual and a little more stressful was the fact that Andrew ended up in a Nairobi jail for a few hours on Tuesday! Here he is, with his fellow inmates, in his cell in downtown Nairobi:
Despite Andrew's hesitant smile, he endured a frustrating Tuesday morning!

His crime? Andrew was guilty as charged, of talking on his mobile phone whilst driving the car. The Traffic Police who I dread so much (see blog-post, "Nervous in Nairobi") had apprehended him for the above crime on Monday afternoon. I felt somewhat culpable, as it was me who had phoned Andrew on his mobile, so he was talking with me when he was pulled over by the officials!

Although Andrew had paid an on-the-spot fine, the system here still required that he attend Court the following day. Accordingly, he went early. He endured a long morning- of waiting to see the Judge (in a room full of random offenders, some in hand-cuffs), then being charged, then pleading guilty and being ordered to pay an additional penalty.
Next, Andrew was escorted to the above cell. The local system meant that Andrew had to wait in the holding cell until his penalty was paid at a nearby bank and the receipt presented, accepted and noted by the relevant authorities. Since he himself had been locked up, he clearly could not go to pay the fine in person!!
Thankfully, help was at hand in the form of a Kenyan MAF colleague, who went out to pay the penalty and bring back the receipts on Andrew's behalf. If Andrew had not had anyone to help him, he could have been detained much longer in his cell...
Meanwhile, Andrew had some time to reflect on this new experience of  being locked up...and time to get acquainted with fellow offenders, including a friendly Kenyan man who snapped the above picture to give me- the Worried Wife- a better idea of Andrew's circumstances on that stressful Tuesday!
It was a happy moment when I received the text message informing me that Andrew was a free man! I sent a relieved text message back to Andrew. I didn't dare to phone him, just in case he was driving...!!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Up Close with Hippos

In Kenya, we have found ourselves getting closer than we have ever been before to some amazing wildlife: giraffes, elephant and now hippos! Over the Easter weekend, we had a couple of nights camping at Lake Naivasha. Our campsite was right on the shores of this vast, freshwater lake, with the lake and jetty on the left of the picture:

We were overwhelmed with the kindness of people here in Nairobi who lent us all the camping equipment we needed, including a wonderful 6-man tent with 2 bedrooms inside! A bit of a different design from the heavy, old canvas tents I used to sleep in on Girl Guide camps!

We were keen to get out onto the lake, to experience Lake Naivasha from a boat, with a local boat-man at the helm:

I was a bit nervous about getting too close to the many hippos who live in Lake Naivasha, but when I voiced my concern, our boat-man laughed heartily and did not seem at all concerned! We got rather close to this group of huge, heavy, hippos:

When living in Africa, one hears such frightening stories about how dangerous the hippopotamus can be. However, here we were in a campsite very close to the water where they reside, with just a short electric fence between our tent and the lake! There was a large, open gateway a few metres from our tent where the campsite opened up to the jetty, BUT there was no gate! It seems that the hippos are trusted not to come into the actual campsite! I may have had a moment of  trying to remember where I have put my Will (!!), but I did not want to upset the children by acting scared, so I put on my brave face and pretended that I like hippos very much!

 In the evenings, as we sat near the fantastic campfire carefully built by Andrew, we could hear the snorting and grunting of the hippos and even the sounds of their teeth pulling up grass. It was amazing to hear them grazing as they enjoyed their evening meal of lake-side greens! When we shone the torch from our camping chairs, we could see them clearly, lumbering slowly along on the other side of the rather tiny electric fence. I have never been so close to a hippo before. I approached the fence tentatively, just a few steps away from the hippos. I tried to take a photo- but the camera could not pick up their grey profile against the dark backdrop of the water at night. Besides, I was rather nervous about upsetting them by flashing camera lights at them in the dark! So we retreated to our chairs and enjoyed the experience of simply hearing and seeing these water-loving giants in their natural habitat, without having photos to remember how near they were.

Hippos were not the only wildlife we got close to: the children were delighted with these tall marabou storks:

There was also the cheeky monkey who sidled up to the rubbish bin after we had eaten our lunch. Climbing nimbly to the top of the bin, he reached in and triumphantly produced our apple-cores, munching happily before taking off up a tree with our plastic bags full of crumbs and egg-shells!

We discovered a few cray-fish who seemed to have lost their way and were crawling slowly through the grass. We rescued this one, throwing it back into the lake by the jetty!

All too soon, it was time to take the tent down and move on from our fabulous, first family camping experience ( I don't think camping in the garden really counts, which is all we had ventured up to this point!). It was lots of fun, although there's nothing like sleeping in a house again after a camping trip and it's nice to sleep without fear of a hippopotamus wandering too close to my bed!