Saturday, 31 January 2009

Chicken Sitting

Hoping you are all well and life isn't passing you bye too quickly!

I still don't understand the details of chickens and eggs even though many people have tried to explain! I will try and pass on what I know and see if you understand!

My chicken laid an egg and I left it in the nest as requested by Henry (the guard). The next day there was another egg, the next no more eggs, then the following day two more eggs. There are now 6 eggs in the nest and the chicken is sitting on the nest....... I presume that at sometime they may hatch? I have been told that I can remove the eggs one by one and then return them in a quantity to the nest and the chicken will sit on the eggs for them to hatch, but I MUST NOT PUT THE EGGS IN THE FRIDGE TO STORE THEM, before replacing them in the nest. (The chicken may get a cold shock!)

So I still don't understand what constitutes an egg that will hatch as a chick or the ones I take and eat????? Time and heat seem to be the only differing factor...... I still don't get it!

Fatso is still lolling around, but not showing any signs of having the puppies...... Kim did lots of digging and making her birthing place, Fatso is just lying around, being lazy, but then that was always in her nature. I expect one morning to just get up and find them looking up at me!

Henry is eager to start planting as the rains are around, not here with gusto yet, they are waiting for my sister to come in March!!!! I think I will look at spinach, potatoes, maize and whatever may think of growing! All I seem to get when I plant seeds in the seed bed is weeds, (oh, I lied out of a while packet of carrot seeds I have one very weak looking tufty bit coming through, won't get good eye sight with that now will I).

I went yesterday, with the acrobats to Egerton Castles Founders day celebrations. It was the younger acrobats as the others were all at school. Last year would have been the 50th anniversary of the castle but with all the post election violence the celebrations were cancelled.

The boys performed very well and everyone had a good time, I got roasted even though I was sitting under a marquee. It was actually very windy and the location was on top of a hill, just before the proceeding started a huge gust of wind blew one of the marquees with all the dignitaries in into the air, I had my camera in my hand but in the confusion forgot to snap a pic, it was very impressive, reminded me of the house in the wizard of oz, it just took off. Took them one and a half hours to put it back, with pegs this time. The boys were so tired when we were given a lift back to the project on the University bus that many fell asleep, they looked happy.

Today Dr. Kuria came early he has moved the clinic time from Sunday 9 ish to Saturday morning at 8.30am. Suites me better means that I can go out on a Saturday night and have Sunday in bed!!!!!

Well today is a short one just to keep your interest.
Love to you all,

Monday, 26 January 2009

I am in Heaven

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I am truly in Heaven...........Nakuru just got so much better.

I know I haven't been in touch much of recent but have been busy at SCANN as the teachers strike is now in its second week and the primary school boys are all at the project as no school. It is crazy, so many lessons so I have taken over trying to teach the two youngest as I have said James Mwangi and Stephen Kuria, no easy feat. James is eager and willing now to start forming words and start reading, this is such a breakthrough as he was never interested at all.

I have been praying and as you who see me of Facebook will know, dancing for rain. I was rewarded over the past few days with a few outbreaks of rain, but nothing momentous. I have been carrying round my rain jacket and an umbrella for safety and wishing I had reason to use both.

Today, Catherine and I decided to make an concerted effort for her to be early, as usual it didn't work... she was 10 mins late again. It was so dry and hot that I just carried a hoodie with me, we complained all the way to SCANN how dusty and dry everything was. After lunch and al ot of teaching 'with patience' with the two boys, I headed into town to pay my electric bill and check my 'rock' was at the post box, it was but there was no post! It rained lightly as I wandered round town doing my list of 'things to do'. I decided as it was Monday I would treat myself to a drink and time out at Cafe Guava, an old friend called Dixon who used to serve me at Sweetmart now works there and I pop in now and again to say hi and see how he is doing.

Today I couldn't work out what to have and decided on a cafe latte and a cake, I was recommended the pineapple or orange cake. After a bit of deliberation I chose the pineapple, I sat at a comfy sofa and relaxed leafing through a Kenyan travel magazine called 'Twende'. Dixon came over sat and chatted a while, they were playing a great sax cd which was totally out of place in Nakuru but I lost myself listening to. The latte and cake arrived, I was expecting to be disappointed again as Kenyan cakes are nothing to write home about, actually they are very dry and lacking flavour. I cut a slice and slipped it into my mouth, it was delicious, so moist and lovely, I almost wanted to shout .... YES YES.... at last! My pleasure must have shown as Dixon came over again and I expressed my delight with the cake and the latte was no disappointment either, they had poured the latte into a large glass mug with handle and it was layered in three stripes, of milk, chocolate and caramel it looked fab, was a pity to drink it.

I sat lost in the travel book, noting destinations that I would like to reach savouring my cake and latte, when there was a break in the sax music I realised there was the sound of torrential rain. I looked out the door and saw the heavens had opened, sheets of rain bounced off the road outside and the streets were deserted of people. Rivers of overflowing gutters were flooding the streets, I didn't care I was in a blissful heaven, an oasis of warmth, nice thoughts and gastronomic delight. Even when I had finished and paid I smiled and complimented them on the cake saying that if they made more I would get very fat but be very happy. I bought another piece of cake to take home and let Catherine sample, so she knows what cakes should taste like.

I wandered out of the cafe, it was still pouring with rain, no rain jacket, no umbrella, I put on my hoodie, pulled up the hood and wandered off up the road with a beaming smile, a good cafe latte, fab cake, amazing images from the travel magazine, and it was pouring with rain, who could want anything more! I had sent Kimberley a text message to this effect from the cafe, she probably remembers the lack of good cakes and nice, and I just wanted to let her know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is 'nice' in Nakuru after all!

Nathalie I am sure you will be very very pleased with that news too. Ah something that I find very amusing but have never managed to photograph is the fact that women here when it rains grab the nearest plastic bag, carrier bag etc and cover their hair with it as a shower cap, it looks hilarious and it is interesting to see how many designs come out of their handbags. One day I will be ruthless and take a photo.... I just usually allow my hair to get wet and curly, they hate it.

Ok it is time I headed off, but just wanted to share my news with you as it happens.
This is Susannah Chandler, reporting live from Nakuru, Kenya.......... a very happy lady!
Love to you all

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Let me tell you a story...

Good morning,

Today I decided to add some amusing life stories that may bring a smile to your face on this midweek day, so are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin.....

What came first the chicken or the egg…..

As those of you who read my emails regularly will know, I found when I returned to Kenya that there was a cockerel living at the house that belonged to my guard Gibson. Mama Sweetie added to this when she bought ‘on my behalf, of course’ two hens to make good use of the cockerel, some 600ks later. Then when Gibson (the guard) went home for a funeral he came back with another hen (the same colour and type as my hens). We initially had a couple of eggs then it dried up, by all accounts I think because they were being eaten by Gibson and his family.

When Gibson and Co left they took with them their cockerel and ‘their’ hen, not that we could tell them apart. From that day we have had not one egg. Now my knowledge of chickens and eggs could be written on a head of a pin, but, I reasoned that it was not because we had had a cockerel that the hens were laying. I ‘spoke’ to the old man who tends the shamba at Scann and who keeps chickens and he said without the presence of the cock the hens won't lay, I wasn't so sure about this, but bowed to his extensive knowledge and made a mental note. Weeks went by and still no eggs, although we had encouraged the hens by up- ing their food and mixing the variety.

On Monday, Catherine, Anastasia and I went to the open fruit and veg market on the way home for some provisions, on the way into the market are the pens for the hens and cockerels being sold. I wandered over to see what they had, as you can imagine having not a clue...... after a lot of discussion we said we would return on our way out and buy a cockerel. The produce at the market was great and we ended up all three of us with bags in tow.

When it was time to leave we passed the man selling the cockerels and negotiated a price, although when we saw the scrawny bird he was talking about we went to walk away. We now got into heavy negotiations for a more favourable bird, we agreed on a price and he tied it by the ankles and whilst doing this I told him that if the cockerel didn’t perform as required I would bring it back to him, he smiled and put it in a large carrier bag for ease of carrying as it would sedate the cockerel.

Anastasia said she would help by carrying the cockerel but I decided I needed to do this to get over my nerves of handling live stock. We managed to get the matatu and get home in one piece, cockerel still alive. Catherine disappeared as soon as we were in the gate to get some kale leaves to give the hens for dinner and to settle the cockerel. I was left to manhandle the bird out of the bag and into the chicken house. Didn’t seem like a big deal. I opened the door to the chicken house…….. low and behold there in front of me was sitting a lovely fresh EGG. I couldn’t stop laughing. The first egg we have had in weeks and it is on a day that I buy a cockerel to keep the hens happy so they will lay, law of sod.

I moved the egg to one side, lay the bag with the cockerel in it inside the chicken house, while laying on its back untied the string from round the legs and before I could release the cockerel, it was off and running with the plastic bag still over its head. I relieved it of the bag, collected the egg. I then went for water and joined Catherine back at the hen house as she was putting the food down for them. We both erupted into fits of laughter…….. we had nothing to worry about concerning the performance of the cockerel, as soon as we put the food down and the first hen dipped its head for food he was straight into action, no introductions or settling in period for him.

That was Monday evening he has been at it with gusto ever since, even Henry the guard has commented on how busy the cockerel is, I actually think maybe he has been given Viagra!! Not only will we be having eggs but at this rate we will be having broody hens too, more to the menagerie.

Vertically Challenged – who me?

I have, some time ago explained about the lack of post men in Kenya therefore there being no home postal delivery service. What happens is people rent post boxes at the Post Office in town. When you apply they provide you with the number of a post box and a couple of keys for access. My post box is situated outside the back of the post office, access is from the street, as opposed to the ones that are in blocks within the building, this in itself is not a problem and access was fine, even though my post box was at eye level……. That is until I returned to Kenya in November and found that they had been doing work on the block where my post box was.

The whole block of about 50 boxes had been raised about a foot from their original position. The first time I went to the post box I thought there may have been secret cameras around and someone was filming for a joke. The whole area where the post boxes were was cordoned off but still accessible for those that needed to get to their boxes. There was still a pile of rubble from the workmen and whilst I was pondering on the dilemma of how I was to check my post box, I found a large block of concrete which I used to stand on to reach my box in order to open it. Once opened I then had the problem of trying to reach into the box to check whether or not there was any mail, at this angle my arm would not reach all the way in, I could only access from the hand to the elbow in length.

I regularly check the post box for mail as you can never tell when electric or water bills are due. At this time Grace joined me and I used to open the post box door and she used to stand on the pile of rubble away from the post box and be able to look in from the distance and see that there was no mail. When Grace left I was accompanied by Thomas who was very tall and could stand on tip toe and check it for me. Now they have both gone I struggle to check the post box. One hot afternoon I decided to go into the Post Office and talk to the woman about the possibility of changing my allocated box.

This in itself was an amusing exchange……… she pointed out to me that the work on the post boxes had been done in August and why had I only just decided that there was a problem. I explained that I had only just returned to Kenya in November after a period in the UK. She said she could go now and open the box for me, I said I was not talking about access today, I was looking at the problem long term and was not prepared to go through my balancing act every time I came to check my mail. I did point out that my post box was not the top row and I could not imagine how other people managed to get access to their boxes, mine was at least 6 down from the top row. She said this was not my concern, I agreed and said it was just an considerate observation on my part. I got back to asking if I could change box numbers but she kept avoiding this and looked at me challengingly. I suggested the recommendation that there are steps constructed at the base of the post boxes to allow access, again nothing. I then asked her for the name of the person for me to write to at the Post Office, she said that was a good idea and handed me a piece of scrap paper and a pen, I thought this was for me to write down the name, but she said go over there (pointing to an area of counter where people gather to stamp their letters) and write the letter now.

Who was I to refuse such a friendly request. I was told to address the letter to the Manager, The Post Office, Nakuru! I duly wrote the letter explaining my dilemma and requesting a response to my changing Boxes. I handed the letter to the lady with little hope that I would receive a response, there was something in the look on her face that told me my letter would be filed as soon as I turned my back in the round thing under her desk. I thanked her for her time and consideration and left the post office.

To date I have received no communication, however, I am pleased that I add amusement to the people who pass by the Post Boxes. I am the vertically challenged lady who has to collect the large piece of concrete (it keeps moving about, obviously used by other Post Box users), place it so I can stand on it, balance on it to open the door to the post box, then rise on tip toe (whilst still trying to balance on the block), I reach up with my arm and insert it to the elbow (it is as far as I can reach up) into the post box, and scramble around by feel to try and ascertain if there is anything in the box, bearing in mind that I can only reach half way in. All the time I am muttering the merits of the Post Office, I then remove my arm (with or without mail) steady myself and lock the door to the box. I then dust myself off and leave the construction area, still muttering. I have thought about learning how to use stilts, or walking around with a set of steps but these ideas are just the crazy rambling thoughts of a vertically challenged woman in the ever challenging place, called Kenya!

Please don’t under value the Postman and the postal service. (I too in the past, have moaned about the service), when doing so, bear a thought for the small group of people of Nakuru, Kenya, who perform feats of balancing and juggling when they collect their mail, never a dull moment!!!

This is the end of today story time, get back to work or whatever you were doing.
Love to you all,

Monday, 12 January 2009

Monday Monday...

Good morning,

thought I would just drop you a line to let family know that I have forgotten my phone, it is lying on my bed under the blanket. So today I haven't been kidnapped, or sold to slavery I am busy as usual and contactable when I get home this afternoon.I am taking more time for myself at the moment as I have a few issues that need ironing out at the project, until they are resolved I am on my own flexible timetable.

Oh, my water issues are over as the pump now works and the new guard 'Henry' is getting to grips with ensuring it is switched off when the storage tank is full. So we are never without water, bliss, had a hot shower this morning, it was lovely. I am also starting to recycle the water from the sinks drainage pipes to be used for the plants as they are drying out so much and costing me a fortune to water!

My hair is in great need of a cut as it is so so dry, but I will get to it eventually.
Love to you all,

Ailsa: thought I would add you to my list, thanks for the info on the email address, its a real pain I know.
Bro: a giko looks like a small round BBQ!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Cooking the Kenyan Way

Hi There, my brother asked me to share with him how I made coconut chicken after I sent it to him I decided to share it with you all as it may make you smile a bit!


Preparation time about 3 hours from start to finish…..

Empty the old charcoal ash from the giko, dig out of the charcoal bag some good lumps of charcoal, together with paper or card to help with lighting the charcoal and matches. Take all this and the empty giko outside, open the vent door in the giko to allow good air flow. Tear and twist the card and paper so it burns slower and put in the bottom of the giko where the vent door is, then put the same twists in the top of the giko to help light the charcoal. Put on top of this a small amount of good sized charcoal. Light the base of the giko and wait for the flames to rise then fan frantically with a large flat plastic lid to encourage the flames. After about 5 minutes of fanning the flames should be well on their way and the charcoals should be taking.

If nothing is happening repeat the process again!!!!

If all is well then leave the giko outside to smoke and go and prepare dinner.

Chop an onion and put in a pan with a bit of oil. Chop a tomato and carrot and leave to one side. Cut up a chicken breast. Mix up the coconut milk powder with water ready. Wash rice.

Go outside and collect the giko, the smoke should have died down by now and the charcoals a nice shade of red. Don’t burn your fingers whilst carrying the giko, hold by the handles.

Place the giko in the chimney, collect the pan with the oil and the onion and heat on the giko, when the onions are nicely translucent add the chicken, tomatoes and carrots. When this is cooking nicely add the coconut milk and rice and allow to simmer for as long as it takes the rice to cook, add water as needed to prevent burning. For added flavour you can add a little chicken masala seasoning. Add salt to taste.

By this time you would be so tired, you have fallen asleep and burnt the dinner!!

Coconut chicken done and dealt!
Easy peasy.


I hope you are all well and enjoying the cold weather you are having, I must admit we are having cold nights and lingering fog in the mornings.

I was feeling under the weather on Friday and left the project early, forced myself to the internet to try and get in touch with some business contacts to see if I could get any jobs for the older boys who are being asked to stand alone from Scann now. I was falling asleep and it was only 3pm. I got home, didnt even strip off my clothes and hit the sack, Catherine returned home and tried to get me to have food but I just couldnt wake up. Eventually after sleeping all night I awoke on Saturday at about 11am, I pottered around and still felt shakey. I cooked dinner "coconut chicken' not quite to my usual standard..... a bit bland but then that was how I was feeling. We then had a power cut and sat in darkness eating dinner, lit the candles and then watched a movie from my laptop on battery power, luckily before the battery gave out the power returned. I was in bed again before 10pm and slept soundly till 7am.

As I was on duty with the SCANN clinic today I spoke to the Dr, who said it was probably down to my age and hormones as opposed to anything medical....... ummmmmmm checkie man!

We did the clinic with only a few boys, one with asthma, another with a skin complaint and one with recurring head aches, not bad. The Dr left and I sat in the dining hall with the boys watching Sunday morning TV, a few boys with issues came and sat and chatted.

Brian Kisia appeared with a gashed little toe so I leapt into action took him to the medical room and prepared for minor surgery. He had been stood on by a man with very hard shoes and ended up with all the skin on top of his little toe coming away held only by a flap under the nail. It needed removing, cleaning and dressing. Surgical gloves donned, sterile blade in hand and betadine and dressings close by, I set to work. Not a nice job, but someone has to do it. He went off with clean dressings for tonight and tomorrow for Housemother to apply for him.

One of the very old 'boys' at the centre is now aprox 35 years. He has severe learning difficulties and still stays at the project and works in the Gilanis supermarket. This is the only home he knows and he manages his daily routine with little hastle. In the staff meeting on Friday it was decided that we as staff need to counsel him and prepare him for independant living, ideally by finding him a suitable wife/supporter. Not an easy task. This morning he came to me distressed and muttering many words that meant nothing to me, when I calmed him down and found Anastasia to interpret, it would appear that one of the staff present at the meeting had prematurely told him it was time to leave. He was not ready for this news and had his world turned upside down. I calmed him and said that now was not the time and we would discuss in a lot of detail with him what was happening.

Tomorrow I will arrange another staff meeting to shame the culprit for causing Peter undue stress before he is ready.

I love my 'job'.

I decided that as there was little to do I left after the dinner was served and am now heading home. I have sewing repairs to do there and can spend my time better doing this than watching pop videos at SCANN.

Love to you all,
Age'in lady in Kenya!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Live long, be happy and prosper this 2009

Happy New Year.....

Christmas Day was a manic and fun event with lots of activities and smiles at SCANN.

Well the New Year has started with my guard and his family leaving on the 31st December. Must admit things were starting to be a bit difficult as after Gibson had been here for a while he invited his wife and three children ‘to visit’ this wouldn’t have been too bad but they didn’t ever leave. This meant that they were here living in the one roomed ‘guard room’ (whilst in Kenya this is still considered to be roomy) they still had to run of the compound (grounds) and freedom to come and go as they please.

When I returned from the UK and put in some rules it was me who was made to feel that I was interfering with their world, as opposed to them living on my property. We had various issues that were not easily resolved like…… trust…… that is a big one for me as you can imagine with what happened with the last guard.

We decided to part company and for a few days I was without a guard but the dogs watched out for us. Catherine and I managed to have a crazy last minute New Years Eve, we dressed up and went to Sumit a large night club. It was so packed that we actually thought about coming home again, instead we held out and had a mad night, dancing like crazy people. We eventually summoned the taxi to collect us at 6am getting home with the dawn light at 6.30. We were exhausted but had had a good night. I let the dogs loose for a run then closed them again and went to bed. At 10 am I awoke fed the dogs and remembered I had two chickens that needed attention to. As Gibson had dealt with them I followed what he did and collected some kale leaves from the veg patch tied them by the stalks and went to the chicken house to hang them for the chickens. Catherine at this point joined me and showed me what to do, add some maize meal and water to the kale and they had a banquet, no eggs though!

We then had food and went back for an afternoon snooze, needless to say we were exhausted. I got up and did some housework and then cooked dinner, chicken in coconut, potato/sweet potato/carrot and onion mash together with some tomato and onion salad, it was lovely and well received.

Thomas (my lodger) had left for Nairobi on Tuesday morning and I went with him as I decided to meet up with a guy who maybe able to provide some work for the university graduate from Scann. Although John wants to study for his Masters the trustees of SCANN are unable to fund further studies and he has to do so under his own steam. He will have to earn a living so he can save to study further. I was treated to lunch and a nice afternoon visiting the new offices of the company in Nairobi, however my hope for an opening concerning work was not fruitful as he was leaving for two weeks leave in South Africa the following morning and so my request was delayed until his return, good excuse for another lunch!

Thomas left me with his parting gift to the boys, sorting out giving them ‘slippers’ which are like flip flops, basically rubbers that they use in the dorms and around the project when they are at 'home'. The problem is this is not a small job, we have ordered to slippers and now find that the boys have given all the wrong sizes, this means that I have to sort what we have and then return and exhange what does not fit. With 130 boys who some lucky ones are spending Christmas with relatives and friends I am finding it a slow and thankless job. Hopefully tomorrow the balance of the boys will be at SCANN ready for starting school again this week.

I have given up on the sewing front and asked Yasmin to order some more shorts for school as the ones they have given me to repair are beyond it by hand.

My attempt at stopping the dogs from having puppies again has been a little late for Fatso who is now hobbling around looking sorry for herself with a very swollen belly…… yep looks like she was already with pups when I gave her the injection as she hasn’t been out since and is definitely looking like she will deliver in the next week. I am unable to feel any movement though and whilst it is a bad thought I am half hoping that the injection will result in ‘still births’ the thought of going through puppy raising again is not one that fills me with pleasure

I met a man yesterday who was recommended to me for an askari, I interviewed him and he appears good, I asked him to come to the house today and we would start a months trial. My phone went at 7am, after a sleepless night of the dogs being restless and barking, it was Henry the new askari saying he was here. I leapt out of bed and quickly dressed and was greeted at the gate by Henry with a beaming smile of his face telling me he was so happy to be here……. We will see. At least he doesn’t have a family in tow. He is at the moment busy tidying the ‘compound’ as he has been out of work for a while and is excited of being able to work he wont stop. It would be nice to have someone that I feel happy with, instead of someone who I tolerate because I have no one else.

I have taken the day off today to be around the house for him to settle, although I will be heading into town in the afternoon for flea powder for the dogs and some food. Maybe even manage a quick sit by the pool with a book for an hour. I have decided to speak to Yasmin and let her know that I will do SCANN every alternate day as I am finding everyday a bit too much with looking after the house as well.

I have had an enquiry from Facebook, a lady looking for accommodation for two weeks end of Jan beg of Feb, only problem is her project is the other side of town, will see what she says after she gets my email…..fingers crossed.

Ok well it is now 11.45am and it is so hot outside that the dogs are struggling to find shade from its glare and Henry is still working hard. I have done all my house work and busied myself sorting washing and dusting. I think I deserve an hour of indulgence by the pool especially as I will be at SCANN tomorrow for the doctors visit and sorting the slippers.

Love to you all, I hope you all get what you wish for in 2009 together with happiness and good health.

Ok that was yesterday, today has been a day and a half, so hectic, especially as the new guard is not too well versed in the barking of my dogs, I was up in the night so many times, I think there was alot of dogs running round the neighbourhood annoying the others. I spent most of the morning with the doctor at SCANN as we had a number of visitors to the clinic which resulted in me spending a long time sorting out the resulting meds. Then came the slipper sorting, we are still short of many boys returning for school this week which means I am unable to get their shoe size. I have asked the dorm master to go round and check the sizes against other boys who have been issued with slippers. Save me time tomorrow as I need to go back into town and swap sizes etc.

The mood at SCANN was not good today as a number of the older boys who have finished at college and are in part time or temporary work have been asked to move on and become independant. It is always a hard time pushing the fledglings out of the nest, so mood was heavy. I am very tired and on my way home, I had thought about not sending the email today, but thought it had been a while.

Lots of love care of yourselves,