Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The long awaited Part 17 - New life as a Wife!!

Well it has been nearly 2 years since my last post, life is busy and I am clearly not computer literate as I managed to lock myself out of my own blog!

When I wrote my last post I was engaged, still living in Kenya and had just received a promotion. Two years later I have been married twice (fortunately to the same guy), still living in Kenya and have been Deputy Head Pastoral for nearly 2 years.

I always imagined keeping a detailed organised wedding blog documenting all the exciting elements of wedding planning; the endless shopping trips trying on beautiful dresses, falling in to floods of tears, blubbering it's the one on several occasions, discussing colour themes, table decorations and hair styles. The reality of wedding planning is stress, tears of stress, endless wedding dress shopping without the tears of joy but with tears of worry and frustration!
I eventually found a dress after trying on over 50 and I never once felt like 'this is the one' until perhaps the morning of the wedding but at least we had a dress.
Despite the stress of planning a wedding from a different Country nothing could dampen our spirits and excitement for the big day not even the torrential rain that fell ALL day. Luckily we had a back up wedding planned in the tropical heat of Mombasa in December so all was not lost.
We had the most magical day, surrounded by amazing people. I cried and laughed all day and I re-live every moment in my mind frequently. From the moment of waking up, to cherished time with my sisters and niece tucked up in one bed, my dad's first look and reaction, the walk down the aisle to the man of my dreams, to the amazing readings from 2 special friends, brilliant speeches and the best party I have ever been to. Like every Bride states the day goes so quickly and I wanted to do it all over again! ... or so I thought until reality hit that we actually had to start planning wedding number 2.
Without boring you with the details we had another magical day and this time round magical weather. I feel so lucky that we were able to share 2 special days with special family and friends from all around the world. There is something about a Kenyan wedding that just works and creates the most amazing atmosphere and party spirit, possibly something to do with the free bar! but it was worth it.

So 2 weddings down, 1 mini moon done and 1 honeymoon planned for the summer! I am certainly never getting married again that's for sure, but fortunately enough I don't think I will ever need to.
I have often heard married women claim that being married feels no different than being engaged but for me it felt instantly different. I am such a head-strong, independent person that I finally felt able to let part of that go and understand that what we have we share in every sense of the word and I feel so much richer (not literally, although I am sure Mr McGuinness might disagree) for entering the next phase of my life. It is exciting to see what the future might hold for us.
I continue to work my way through my bucket list - in the past 2 years I ticked off Mount Kenya, getting married, Dubai, Amsterdam, Zanzibar and Rome and so far this year Lions Bluff and America planned for the Summer. I am heading home at Easter for one of my best friends weddings and can't wait to see her feel how I felt on my day.

Short and sweet might be the way forward to ensure more regular updates and more meaningful posts.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Steph xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Friday, 18 April 2014

Part 16 - 2014 is turning out to be another great year!

Well following 2013 I firmly believed I was in for disappointing year, after all what could top 2013? The year where I achieved so much, had great fun and got engaged?? But I couldn't have been more wrong. We are only 4 months in and already 2014 is turning out to be quite the year. Following a great new years celebration with some fantastic friends and far too many homemade Dawa's 2014 started off positively. I got to start planning the wedding I have secretly been planning since I was 11, it is most girls dream to have her dream wedding and I am fortunate enough to be having two! With all my family and friends in England and most of Alex's friends and some family in Kenya there was no way we could get all those important people to the small town of Northallerton, and it was vitally important for me to get married in the church where my parents married and I was christened. So there was only one thing for it ... two weddings!!! woohoo. Double the joy but double the stress. As it turns out planning a wedding from abroad can be pretty difficult especially as I have 'Monica' control tendencies. However I am so so lucky to have amazing family who were able to look out venues and help us make the decision! After many visits and many many changes in decisions we finally have our wedding date!!! I will officially become Mrs McGuinness on Friday 14th August 2015, and I will share my wedding anniversary with my gorgeous friend Sabrina (deliberately done so she can remind me of my anniversary) we will then follow up with a wedding in the sunshine in Mombasa in December 2015.  I now can't wait to get home, try on dresses, look at cakes and decorations and fully submerge myself in all things wedding and if I'm honest to get my Bridezilla on!

As 2014 got underway we knew we had a fantastic holiday to look forward to in the Easter Holidays; good friends, culture, QT and some much need R and R. As we headed off on a jam packed adventure to Thailand to visit our friends Liz and Marie who I worked with at Braeburn for 2 years. Following an hilarious visit from them at Christmas we knew we were in for a lot of laughs. On arrival in Bangkok we pretty much headed straight out for some Thai Food (after a short nap on the sofa) what a sheer taste sensation, Alex did his usual impatient ordering of bitings before listening to the size of a portion so we ended up with an extreme amount of food but it was delicious. Number 1 reason for loving Thailand = fresh delicious food. The next day Alex and I headed out on our own adventure as Liz and Marie still had a week of work to go before their hols. We hopped on the sky train to the pier, jumped on a boat and head to the reclining Buddha and to the steepest stairs to a temple I have ever seen, the hilarious view of people getting up and then being too scared to come back down tickled our wicked sense of humour. Reason number 2 and 3 for loving Thailand = Great culture and logical transport. We then headed of to take full advantage of something we seriously lack in Mombasa ....... SHOPPING!! (reason number 4) Alex had an extensive wish list so we scouted out some shops. It's amazing how after living here the smallest things bring me great delight, Pantene for 99baht, H&M, McDonald's and food courts!! I decided to start the holiday as I meant to go on so we headed for a Thai massage, I seriously left the parlour feeling 3 inches taller and de-stressed; despite the moment when she had her elbow on the back of my neck squashing my trachea, cracking my spine at least 7 times and shoving her fingers in my ears - it was the best massage I have ever had (reason number 5). Tuesday evening we headed out for dinner at a restaurant called Condoms and Cabbages - aptly named when the entire d├ęcor is made out of condoms you even get a condom instead of an after meal mint! We had later arranged to meet with another Ex-Braeburn teacher who had also moved to Thailand, we went to a street lined with VW camper vans which were all bars and ATM machines - bonus!
On Wednesday Alex and I jetted off to Chiang Mai for 3 days, we straight away hired a scooter thing (something I would never normally do) we had intended to hire one each but I think it was safer to share. Alex having told me of his great experience on bikes took the lead and immediately swerved us into the line of fast moving traffic - good work Mr McGuinness, once I had pulled my nails out his waist I began to settle into the ride, that is until a Police Officer pulled us over; coming from Mombasa you never quite know the objectives of officers. We were wearing helmets - check, the bike had insurance - check, we had a licence - check, or so I thought. Alex pulled over and stepped off the bike, the officer asked for his licence. "Babe, give them your licence" "erm I don't think they want my licence I'm not driving, and believe me we do not look remotely the same" The officer kindly fined us 500 baht before setting us on our way!! Always a Drama. The drama was set to continue when we discovered we were both ridiculously bad at map reading and got lost on several occasions, to the point where we couldn't actually find our hotel, got caught in a storm and nearly got wiped out by a parked car opening their door. Whilst we still had all our limbs in tact we returned the bike and opted for a foot massage instead! The next 2 days were super busy with planned trips, we experienced an elephant safari followed by bamboo river rafting on Thursday and then literally threw ourselves into Flight of the Gibbons - a huge zip line course through a jungle home to really cute but noisy Gibbons. Saturday we headed back to Bangkok to experience Koh San road and collect Marie and Liz before our next adventure. Saturday night was so much fun, the live music on Koh San road was amazing (reason number 6), I ate a crispy Locust and Alex drunkenly bought some ridiculous art work. Despite a shaky start on Sunday with a few sore heads were headed to a huge market in Chatuchak which I think we only scratched the surface and still managed to buy 4 dresses, a caftan, shorts, a clock and a notebook (reason number 7). Before heading back to the airport to fly to Krabi for 4 days in Railay (reason number 8 - amazing quick, cheap and easy to jet off to different parts of Thailand) After the plane landed we had a luxury mini bus transfer to a hotel, a golf buggy to the pier, a long tailed boat to Railay, a tractor from the boat to the beach, and another golf buggy ride from the beach to the hotel! Railay was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, stunning blue waters with huge rocks bursting up through the water. We kayaked around the various rocks and even visited the prestigious fertility cave, which is basically a cave full of carved penis'. I continued with my quest to keep having treatments and ate some more amazing Pad Thai.
Liz and Marie are such good fun, as you get older it becomes more rare to meet people who you can be totally yourself around, have intellectual conversations, have deep and meaningfuls and absolutely rip them apart with humour about their chosen holiday nightwear, unfortunate inability to play netball and lack of desire to attend my hen party! We feel very fortunate to have found that all in these two. On return to Bangkok we had time for one last shopping trip and of course a final Thai Massage (a painful one by a lady boy).
Overall an absolutely unforgettable holiday with great friends, finished off with a first class fly home, I don't think I can ever fly economy again knowing the treatment those people in first class will be getting :( I slept like I was in my own bed and drank Moet to my hearts content.
Prior to our holiday I had applied for a new internal position within my school in a senior management position. I interviewed the day before I flew and loved the whole process, despite the interview being really tough I thrive on that pressure to think on your feet and to be pitted against other international candidates. On returning I was delighted to find out I was successful! Another promotion in consecutive years. I am so excited to start the new role in September, developing my skills, knowledge of how schools are run and further moving a growing school forward.
Perhaps not one of my most clever ideas I now have a Senior Management role, 2 weddings to plan, 2 trips home and not forgetting another mountain trip!! Having successfully scaled Mount Kili I am now planning another school trip to climb Mount Kenya!
I cannot wait to head home in the Summer this is the longest I have been without seeing any of my family members :( they haven't yet had chance to see my engagement ring in real life so I look forward to popping some corks with family and friends to celebrate in the summer. I also have 3 weddings, a hen party and new baby being welcomed into the Circle of 7 to look forward too!! I will then spend my first Christmas at home in 3 years so I can continue some wedding planning and dress fittings and finally experience that Christmassy feeling that is always missing when wearing a bikini in Mombasa!
Let's hope 2014 continues to be an amazing year with great adventures. If my birthday has anything to go by it could b a fun and crazy future I'm letting myself in for with Alex. Not only did he unintentionally enter a golf competition across my birthday weekend but he then left me a present the day he left with birthday candles that read 27!! I'll happily remain 27 for one more year but I'm actually turning 28! God love him and his ditsy ways! Ooh and I nearly forgot I also have a new car and 2 new additions to the family - 2 gorgeous puppies Sala and Titus!
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Steph xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Monday, 30 December 2013

Part 15 - The year of the bucket list!!!

Wow what a year 2013 has been! As usual I have been rubbish at updating the blog but thought it would  be nice to document some momentus events.

Braeburn Vs Kilimanjaro

During half term a group of 18 students and 2 members of staff braved high altitude, freezing temperatures and not so pleasant toilets to try to conquer the world’s tallest free standing mountain – Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of KESHO and KSPCA. Students and parents had an early start meeting at school at 4am to get luggage packed and on the road. The anticipation, excitement and apprehension were palpable. The first few days were tougher than we had expected. From Day 2 onwards we saw students slowly experiencing the effects of altitude- early morning wake up calls from students who were sick in their sleeping bags, quiet walks whilst others battled with headaches and feelings of nausea. Day 3 saw a number of students vomiting as we reached altitudes of 4600m; definitely not our finest moment but once against our students showed compassion towards each other, support and an abundance of hugs were provided. As we reached each camp our story was spreading and many others climbers were interested to pass on their words of good luck and discover how we were all getting on. When we reached our summit camp – Barafu Camp we met a gentleman who had heard about this crazy school group attempting to climb to roof of Africa – he wasted no time in telling us we had no chance of making it to the top! – A challenge our students strongly accepted and took a “watch this space” stance on his less than kind words. That evening, knowing we all had a tough night ahead, students were provided with letters from home – a truly special moment, we had tears before they had even opened them, students relished in sharing their parent’s motivational messages with others and we laughed and cried as a group. We headed off to bed hoping to get some sleep before our 1am wake up – sleep became more and more difficult with altitude and this was not helped by the howling winds ripping through our tents. At 1am we were up and dressed in what felt like 900 layers ready to face the Baltic temperatures. The pace is slow as you make your way up to Stella point and Uhuru Peak and tiredness really takes over your eyes, every step causes strain on your breathing and as you are walking up, you see many people being brought back down the mountain, having being unsuccessful in their attempt. Braeburn kept trudging on inspired by each other, driven by the beautiful sunrise and determined to achieve their dreams. On many occasions Mr Read and I felt emotional watching the strength of our students. We finally reached Stella Point and had Uhuru Peak insight, by now temperatures were way below freezing and we had limited time before we would have to move back down the mountain. So despite our bodies craving rest we had to continue. The last few steps before reaching Uhuru Peak were painful and cold yet exhilarating, we had done it!! The first group of 12 made it to the top with many more still on their journey. Although we could not stay long due to the ever dropping temperatures those few minutes were filled with relief, pride and amazement. We are immensely proud of all our students; I have never witnessed such perseverance, compassion and team spirit in a group of young people. Although the climb back down the mountain and eventually after another tented night, back to luxury was tough, every child bounded with the sense of achievement they all deserved. In the end all 20 students and staff made it to Stella Point and 19 to Uhuru Peak – an amazing feat! It was just a shame we never got to see the man who doubted our abilities. Through sponsorship and a bake sale we managed to raise approximately 159,000Kes for our two charities. A huge well done to all the students who took part, remember you can achieve anything if you have the belief in yourself!

Following on from conquering Mount Kilimanjaro Alex whisked me away to the South Coast for a weekend to fulfill another wish off my bucket list!! SKYDIVING! Wow what an experience, it true Kenyan style it took hours to get sorted an in the plane, but once we were all sitting in the plane I coudn't contain my excitement - despite the rather large man sitting on me instead of infront of me! It was finally my turn to jump having watched Alex fall out moments before I was ready- I saton the edge of the plane overlooking a beautiful coastline and was more thanhappy to just fall forwards! After a few twists and turns we finally striaghtened into our free fall, i could not breathe or catch my breath and was slightly concerned that if the free fall continued I would die but fortunately I managed a few sips of oxygen before my instructor pulled the parachute! Due to our lack of weight weight we had a slow decent to the beach but that just enabled me to take in the scenary. We had a slight crash landing which despite being on sand was still pretty painful but no broken bones and soon taken over by the feeling of euphoria!!

What more could 2013 offer .... A Proposal maybe??!?!? What a lucky girl I am following a fantastic year of setting up my own gym school, getting a promotion at work, spending an awesome summer in the UK, climbing Kilimanjaro, throwing myself out of a plane and now I am an engaged woman!!! Following the perfect proposal, dream engagement ring and fantastic future husband! It's safe to say 2013 will be a difficult year to top! Here's to wedding planning, fulfilling more of the bucket list and continued happiness, fun and love!


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Part 14 - Family, friends and new beginnings!!

As promised I have tried not to leave it too long between blogs! It’s amazing I am actually even more super organised than normal this term yet still find little time to write a blog, possibly something to do with motivation.(hmm I clearly started writing this blog a long time ago ;s)

My final thought from my previous blog stated that I may have an exciting prospect – well that paid off and I have finally found a hobby on the coast which is sustainable, challenging, stimulating and motivating …. I have started dance classes It started with my desire to learn tap dancing, I love the sound and decided you are never too old to learn. Luckily there is a wonderful lady in Mombasa who teaches dance and who would allow me to join one of her classes, I was so excited which was then topped off by her saying “you can stay for the ballet class straight after if you wish.” it has been approximately 15 years since I last ‘pas de bourree’d’ into a ballet lesson, but I absolutely love it. Must admit I am pretty useless at tap, still trying to figure out where to put my weight and when but I have 100% fallen back in love with Ballet, it is just a shame when I was a child I didn’t have a teacher as wonderful as Jean. You'll be pleased to hear that since writing this part of the blog i have received some new tap shoes and the tapping is coming along :). I have my first dance show in a few weeks!! Ha I am the oldest by about 13 years!

When I was about 20 I started a formal bucket list, I have always said there are certain things I would like to do before I die but never really kept a record. So I created a list and ever since then I have been constantly updating the list, unfortunately more get added than get ticked off, however in the last 5 months I have managed to tick 3 off; learn to scuba dive, try a cigar and get a tattoo. There are certain points on my list that I never imagined I would ever be able to achieve. The main one being to climb Mount Kilimanjaro – I looked into it a few years ago and the amount of money you have to pay plus the amount of money you have to raise in sponsorship just seemed unattainable. I am aware that teaching has certain perks, finishing school before 5pm, long frequent holidays, rewarding children… but now after many years of missed skiing trip opportunities I can finally add school trips to the perks. I am getting to achieve my dream and climb Mount Kilimanjaro with a school groupJ I cannot wait, we will climb in October.

So I have officially signed up to stay for another year at Braeburn. I love Mombasa but as a teacher it is well known that it is not a great place to stay in terms of pay, I would earn more stacking shelves in Aldi! It’s easy to say “yes, but the lifestyle is awesome” and for 1 year living by that mantra is fine, however it soon becomes apparent you need to make more money or move on L. Unfortunately many of my closest teaching friends will all be moving on this summer and for me to stay this extra year I knew I needed to earn more money. I moved here to see more of the world but just can’t afford to do so, what little money I save throughout the year funds my holiday in the UK. So I plucked up the courage to finally ask the school if I could run a gymnastics club on a weekend, to my delight they said yes and have even allowed me to run it using the school premises. The club has been running for 2 weeks and I am thoroughly enjoying getting back into coaching and the numbers have increased each week. So excited about the prospect of displays and in-house competitions. There’s a long way to go but as they say ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’.

One of my excuses for taking so long to write this blog is that quite simply I was so busy over the Easter holidays, largely due to the fact that I had back to back visitors!! Yey was so awesome to have people visit, always nice to put things into perspective. First I had my 2 friends Jen and Allan visiting from Hong Kong, they very kindly hosted me in 2009 so it was fantastic to be able to return the favour. They were staying for 8 days which meant we had a lot to squeeze in, not helped by the fact that I had been having a terrible time with our housing situation. However we made the most of it, the 2 highlights have got to be diving with sharks (even though I was sea sick and absolutely freezing between dives) and seeing a cheetah with her 3 cubs on safari!! The cheetah paraded right next to the car it was amazing!! Makes me realise how lucky I am to have all this on my doorstep. It’s amazing that although Jen, Al and I only really met in 2007/8 and soon after meeting they jetted off to Hong Kong,  that we have been able to stay such good friends, conversation never dries up, I love their life philosophies and time spent with them is generally easy, entertaining and heart-warming! Really hoping we can coordinate a future holiday and meet somewhere in the middle.

Immediately following Jen and Al’s departure saw the arrival of my Mum, sister and nephew! Was so good to see them; Skype, Whatsapp and phone calls are all good and well but there’s nothing quite like receiving a proper hug off your loved ones. Kimberley has always wanted to visit Africa and go on safari so this holiday had a lot to live up too. I think there were times of sheer amazement but also of brutal reality of life. It was fantastic to be able to go on safari, seeing a ridiculous amount of animals including another cheetah, we camped under the stars and waded through some very slippery mud, but it all added to the adventure. We had days on the beach, by the pool in a luxury hotel, at the water park, feeding the giraffes at Haller Park, go karting and shopping for souvenirs so I felt it was also important to show them the other side of Kenya, especially my 8 year old nephew who luckily has had limited exposure to poverty. To be able to show them where people live on rubbish dumps, walking through mud and faeces with no shoes on and where children work from the crack of dawn until the sunsets, can be quite an awakening experience.

Another of those experiences that I felt was necessary was to take them to Kongowea market, I did my usual spiel before we left ‘take off jewellery, don’t take any valuables, hide you money somewhere, don’t wear a bag, and try not to look so much like tourists!’ Hmm easily said, as I looked around and saw these 3 very pale white people covered in mosquito bites, sunburn and my nephew wearing a full man united kit!! I think not looking like tourists was a cry to far!! So off we went, knowing that my family would not be purchasing any second hand clothes, but would hopefully learn something from the experience, and that we did ….and that something was to probably not listen to me, as it was I that found myself being barged front and back and felt a sneaky hand creeping into my pocket trying to grab my money!! The cheek of some people! My natural reaction was to defend my ridiculously small amount of money, but still it was the principle. I grabbed the man’s hand and firmly (and not so politely) informed him to get off my money, before pushing him and herding my family into the nearest duka to rearrange my personal belongings!! Laughable now but I’m just glad it was me and not one of my family!! A bit like when we went to Haller Park and Alex had been informing everyone how a mongoose may look cute, but they can also be very nasty! He then proceeded to edge closer to said mongoose to take a picture, I’m sure you can all guess what happened next! Yes the mongoose bit him on the toe!! Again very glad it was Alex who then had to go for rabies injections and not my family. It was so amazing to see my family and although it was another emotional goodbye it was nice to know that it’s only a couple of months until I’ll see them again. Woohoo I can’t wait until July!!

As I mentioned earlier we had been having a few housing issues. On a positive note Alex moved back to Mombasa!!!! On a not so good note the dream house we fell in love with fell through (the landlord was a disorganised plonker) which meant after wasting a day in tears I had about a week to find a new home. I looked at 10 houses in the space of 2 days before my guests arrived and nothing met Alex’s high expectations. The agent of my current property (also a plonker – there’s a reoccurring theme) was ready to kick us out (perhaps because I had refused to pay my last month’s rent as I felt it was the only way we would get our deposit back!) anyway I found a house but it had tenants (not the dream house but it ticked all the boxes) it was now a race against time to find out if we could move in before we would get kicked out.  Luckily the owner of my current property had finally been contacted to inform her of how useless and corrupt the agent she employed was. He had been lying to her about how much rent we were pay and taking the community fee for himself. The landlady couldn’t apologise enough and allowed us to stay as long as we needed. Happy days ….. so as of last Wednesday we officially moved house and Alex and I get to start the future. Still need to make the house homely but it’s certainly getting there.

So all in all life is very good at the minute, really disappointed that many of my colleagues and friends will be jetting off to pastures new in the summer, but just means I have a great excuse to fit in some further travelling and go and visit them all. Lots to look forward to in the coming months including turning our house into a home, flying home for the summer, meeting more of Alex’s family(Alex will be coming for 2 weeks too), 2 wonderful weddings, and some great family and friends to catch up with. I will not make false promises that my next blog will be more entertaining or at least posted sooner, as unfortunately I know all too well how little time I get to sit and reflect formally on my experiences.

Final thought – I read this quote on a teachers wall last week and it stuck with me … “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”     Albert Einstein

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  Steph xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Monday, 14 January 2013

Part 13- Festive fun and a few run ins with the law!

Happy New Year!! I think I should have perhaps made my new year’s resolution to make more of an effort with my blog!! Maybe I’ll make that a late addition!

Well apologies again for my poor performance in 2012, I find very little time to sit indoors, with my laptop burning my legs, whilst sweat runs down to my feet! However I do have a few tales to share from the festive period! Hopefully I will start to write shorter more frequent blogs J

As many of you may be aware …… I WAS BRAVE!!!! I got my first tattoo (only tattoo – sorry mum and dad) much to my dad’s disapproval, his very words were  ...’I thought you had more bloody sense’ clearly not, sorry dad. I decided that, 1. I have been boring my whole life and never rebelled, 2. When I’m 80 no-one will see me naked and my boobs may be down to my waist by then anyway so even I won’t be able to see it and 3. I need to prepare myself for child birth by indulging in painful experiences!!! I did not expect for one of those experiences to be a full body massage!!!! Many people opt for a massage to relax them, take away stress and leave them feeling refreshed! Apparently by asking them to smooth our knots this signed me up for; feeling excruciating pain whilst she massaged giant knots out of my ankles!!! Yes ANKLES people! Followed by knots in my thighs, buttocks, lower back, upper back and shoulders. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever experienced pain quite like it! I was nearing the point of feeling faint. I have never felt so pathetic in my whole life; I could barely walk to the car park never mind drive! This then made me question both having children and getting a tattoo – how could I possibly cope with the pain. I spent the next week preparing myself and decided to just enquire with the guy that I had been recommended – I text him stating I wanted a tattoo, but wasn’t sure exactly what or where, as there were 2 I liked, I stated my concern about the pain and whether or not we would need a consultation…. 5 minutes later I had an appointment for a 1 hour tattoo the next day at 9am!! At least this gave me minimal time to back out. I arrived for my appointment and continued to display my concern about the pain, the guy helped me design the tattoo I looked through 35 pages of fonts just to make sure and checked and checked again that I had made no spelling mistakes!! Can you imagine! My besties from back home sent me some encouraging pictures of tattoos in the local area which filled me with ….. I’d like to say inspiration but to be honest … dread! Many looked like a child had been let loose with a needle. I decided this was a good time to ask the tattoo artist how he trained-bearing in mind this is Kenya, probably not the best question to be asking whilst he’s shaving my body (making me feel like some kind of silverback) in preparation, particularly when his response was ‘Well you would normally do an internship or something but this is Kenya so I bought myself a tattooing for dummies type book created in the 70’s and taught myself!!’ I think he saw the sheer horror in my face so attempted to reassure me. ‘I started 8 years ago and my first tattoo was ok, I mean I’m loads better now but the customer never complained!’ I was curious to how you learn tattooing surely you need something to practice on and as he has just said this is Kenya, apparently he has 7 sisters and practiced on all of them, therefore there are probably at least 7 girls walking around Kenya with extremely dodgy tattoos. Anyway I felt I had come too far to turn back. I lay on the couch and prepared myself for torture, knowing that if I flinch I could end up like one of his sisters. Fortunately I am hard as nails and managed to lie still throughout, I must admit it was not a pleasant experience and in parts bloody painful but I was happy with the end result! I choose the quote a year ago and researched hundreds of others but felt this one suited my lifestyle the best and reflected exactly how I feel about my family and friends back home.

Christmas was a bit weird this year, my flat mate had jetted off for a 4 week holiday in South Africa and Alex could only be here for Christmas day, so I kept myself busy playing Mother Teresa at charity events and had the pleasure of visiting an orphanage called New Lights to deliver some food and gift donations. It was a very humbling experience and something I would like to continue to support. The home consisted of 26 boys all without parents but receiving a fantastic education making them all so ambitious and driven. The children were delighted to receive books and games and were so grateful to have had them donated. So next time you’re throwing anything out bear me in mind J

Christmas day was fantastic, Alex arrived Christmas eve so we had dinner and crawled into bed to wait for Santa, I read him the book ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ and sang Christmas songs J (much to his disapproval). We had a champagne breakfast on Christmas morning (another new tradition – along with the book readingJ) and then opened our presents, I was thrilled to receive a new camera lens off Alex, and I now have a much greater zoom range and can’t wait to try it out on safari. We were fortunate enough to receive an invite for a group Christmas at the same place I went last year, great people, great setting, great food and amazing weather. We spent the whole day in the pool, drinking, eating a traditional Christmas dinner, mince pies the lot. Then more drinking in the pool. Topped off with the nicest bloody Marys on Boxing Day produced by a great host – thanks Tania!

Alex left on boxing day which gave me 4 full days to do nothing but watch 24 – it is ridiculous how many episodes I managed to get through- by the 4th day I was starting to believe I was a special agent myself, driving like a manic, weaving through traffic – it was time to go cold turkey!. Fortunately New Year was just around the corner and there was a group of us travelling to Watamu for a new year’s eve/day party. Alex arrived at 11.30pm so was promptly pushed out the door with a shot of vodka and a beer to head to the party before midnight. I was relatively sober when I left the house, I remember the countdown, and then very little after that! I have a sneaky suspicion the reason for this was my tipsy Skype session with Mrs East, who felt it appropriate to make me join in her drinking games, bearing in mind I have no way of knowing if she is cheating … and of course she was!!! I have never in my life been told to down 5 fingers of drink, mainly because you only have 4 fingers to measure with, whilst holding the glass but I was by this stage unaware and just downed it anyway – after this the night is a blur, I do recall speaking to a Korean man who I was calling my brother because we had similar surnames, I rocked the dance floor during Gangnam style then at 4.15am demanded a kebab (which I have never had/found after a night out) fortunately Alex is a legend and drove us to this place that can only be described as food poison wrapped up in plastic bags and zebra print! I was drunk and I quite frankly didn’t care what I ate – luckily my insides are now like steel and survived the possible tragic illness the next day J which meant we could wake up and start the party again on New Year’s day!!

I am still working through my ever growing bucket list and have managed to tick off getting a tattoo and smoking a cigar over the Christmas holidays, my flight to Nairobi got upgraded but I hardly think that classes as first class so that could be the next on my list, that or owning a pair of Louboutin shoes J not much need for them in Kenya though. Travel is definitely taking over the list, so many places I want to see in the world. I have decided that if I stay one more year in Kenya then I need to see more of Africa I’ve been pretty rubbish so far! Although I did have my first Nairobi trip at the start of the hols without travelling for 10 hours on a school bus! Alex and I decided we should try and meet in Nairobi, as for one of us to travel for a visit for a weekend is just not feasible between Uganda and Mombasa. So we had our first trip, I met lots of his friends, we went to Giraffe manor, met with some old Mombasa friends for lunch, went on a game drive and had the nicest salad I have ever had, at Karen Golf Club. We have our next visit planned for Feb where we hope to drive up to Naivasha – another first for me.

I have to admit I have had a few run ins with the Law recently – I think it’s quite easy to become complacent here especially when it comes to driving. I think at one point or another I have quite possibly broken every driving law (although I actually only know about 4) my first infringement came at the airport when I was kindly taxiing Alex to the Airport, I drove in blissfully unaware of any rules, followed a car through some bollards, which did not faze me in the slightest- apparently nor did the zebra crossing I was driving on. Alex thought this would be a good moment to point out my fault to which I responded in a comedy voice ‘ooh I broke the rules, but who’s gona stop meeeee!!! Feeling very smug I hopped out of my car to the feet of a police officer – apparently he was there to stop me, he was all for taking me to his office and “fining” me apparently. ‘Sorry I just followed the car in front’ is not a good enough reason. ‘Madame you were not reading the signs of the road!’ again pointing out that there actually weren’t any signs did not work in my favour! Luckily Alex came to my rescue and smoothed it over with some Swahili chat. However I was convinced he would wait for me to come back to my car, so I walked rather inconspicuously back to my car and dashed out the car park – ensuring I did not drive through any ‘no entry’ signs!

My second run in came in the centre of town, where I should of known better – town is usually rife with police officers attempting to control traffic, I was approaching the centre from out of town having a quick chat with my house mate arranging some plans- I had thought to myself ‘ I should probably try to end this conversation before I reach town, but before I knew it I was in town and just as I saw the back of one policeman in slow motion I started to drop my phone but simultaneously  interlocked eye contact with another!! NOOOOOOOOO I was still in with a chance the back police man was controlling the traffic of the roundabout I was entering the roundabout all I needed was for him to continue to allow the flow of traffic from my direction, but no of course he had to stop it, as the eye clocking policeman marched over to my car, he started to do some hand signalling which I took to mean you may drive off, so started to proceed- apparently I read that situation wrong as he yelled at me to stop. The conversation then went a bit like this: Policeman: Madame why do you think it is ok to talk on your phone when driving? Me: (frantically trying to think of a feasible excuse) Erm I don’t I’m really sorry. Policeman: Why were you talking on your phone? Me: Erm I don’t know, I’m really sorry. Policeman: It is not ok! Me: I know I am really sorry – AWKWARD SILENCE – Me: (smiling sweetly) I am really sorry I won’t do it again! Policeman: Do not talk on your phone when driving! Me: I won’t I promise – as he waves me on – Phew! There are only 2 possible reasons for the lack of bribery required and they are, either my smiling sweetly was HIGHLY effective or (which is more likely) he decided that the central lane of a roundabout surrounded by people was not a good place to practice corruption!! Either way, happy days and a lesson learnt!

I have also had my first tourist experience in a long time, and finally visited town rather than just driving through it, I had an educational tour of Fort Jesus, and although it was possibly not as exciting as I had anticipated it was great to learn some history.

Despite having many future plans to discuss I feel this is an appropriate point to leave before it turns into a book!

Final thought: ‘I am challenging myself to find an activity/hobby to grasp my attention, commitment and motivation. I have one exciting prospect lined up this week – I shall keep you informed’

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Steph xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Part 12 - A mammoth catch up

Jees ok so it has been quite along time since my last blog – I think a brief overview will have to do so that I can catch up!! where to start?! Weddings, weddings and weddings, trip to the UK, new school build, new home or things to look forward too!!!

Well I suppose I should start from where I left off which I believe was in May :s oops!! Well the next big event was moving home – as mentioned in my previous blog myself and Lauren had found a potential new home -3 bedrooms in a central location, what we didn’t know at the time was there were children who against all odds and language barriers became best friends yet because of that language barrier they communicate purely by shouting each other’s names A LOT therefore Tito and Edan are definitely off the baby name list (don’t think they would of ever made the cut to be honest!) but despite the sprogs we love our new home, even with the architectural faults (which we have learnt to be a Kenyan building feature!!) who needs drainage on a balcony anyway!!!

I then had my first experience of ‘Diani Rules’ an annual competition comprising of beach sports, sports injuries, drinking and near drowning! It is a charity event where teams gain sponsorship from local companies to take part – we were lucky enough to gain sponsorship from a new hotel in Diani called ‘Swahili Beach’ which meant we got a complimentary 2 night stay whilst the competition was on – I was in heaven!! A beautiful hotel, with stunning views and an all you can eat breakfast!!!!!!! Woohoo. The first night of competition was rugby football which saw possibly 30% of the competitiors wiped out of the competition for the rest of the weekend due to injury (I don’t think rugby balls and people are supposed to be kicked on a beach with no shoes on)over the course of the weekend we competed in waterball which is basically netball in the sea where drowning is allowed, then Ultimate Frisbee, downing a pint through a straw race, sliding on your stomach through cooking oil, blindfolded tennis ball throw, Volleyball, tug of war, touch rugby and the obstacle raft race. Had such a fun weekend, in fact one 5 minute moment of that weekend remains to be one of the funniest moments of my entire life thanks to Sebastian Chambers!! I still laugh to this day just thinking about it I cried continuously for approximately 25mins- No joke!! What a cruel legend that man is!!!

The 3rd term of school was hectic, seemed to have so much to do and so little time, and was just generally tired by the end of term. But I survived and was seriously looking forward to going home, but first I had my first Kenyan/English/Norwegian wedding to attend. A beautiful ceremony, followed by a fantastically fun, and entertaining reception.  I have decided that when my time comes I am going to take traditions from numerous weddings and cultures, to add a little originality and as many of my friends are married now I have a lot to live up to, which leads me nicely to my trip home J

I was so excited and so ready for my trip home in the summer, I was desperate to see my family and friends and just put things into perspective. My first duties were to visit my sister at work, surprise my nephew by picking him up from school and then finally catch up with my girls and meet the beautiful new additions to my group of friends Eva and William.

As I mentioned at the start, this summer was all about weddings, I had a lot to look forward too as both my sister and friend were getting married and I had the privilege of being a bridesmaid at both – I am seriously becoming like that woman of 27 dresses I think I now own 6 bridesmaid dresses in the space of 6 years. First we had Deborahs hen parties, first a day session and night out in York followed by a continued joint stag and hen party at their house then a week later a beautiful spa day at and exclusive spa. It was so nice to spend time with my sisters, mum and cousin for the day being pampered, sipping champagne and watching the Olympics (which unfortunately I did not get to watch live due to the weddings and hen parties…. But still I loved the Olympics this year, definitely one of Britain’s finer moments)

Next was Claire’s hen weekend – Claire only knew the dates and nothing more, she confirmed how little she knew by stating she did not know where she was as she was in Gateshead, and she thought when she saw the sign posts she would be going to Newcastle!!! Oh dear Trish!! The weekend started with a meal followed by a karaoke pod, drinks and dancing. On Saturday we did a pop princess dance session, which was awesome(just wish I could remember the moves) we then hit the town in fancy dress making sure Claire looked utterly ridiculous in her clown costume – suitably selected due to the size of Claire’s feet.

Then came the weddings, first Deborah’s in Northallerton, followed by Claire’s a week later in Belfast. Deborah’s had a black and white theme and was a church wedding followed by a marquee reception in the grounds of their home, a perfect day – horse and carriage arrival, great jazz band reception, lovely food, great speeches and an opportunity to watch my sister on the happiest day of her life, It is so nice to finally see Deborah happy and with a deserving man who looks after her so well and loves her so much. Priceless.

Claire’s wedding continued to exceed wedding expectations! A fantastic family affair.  Their theme was Hunters Green a gorgeous colour, and the reception had a golfing theme in homage to her husband’s love of golf. The whole weekend was an amazing experience I was fortunate enough to have a great table throughout the meal which entertained me no end! The target for the day was to see both Claire and her Dad cry – and mission accomplished but then I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house! A fantastic couple whose happiness to be married was so evident on the day!

After the excitement of all the wedding festivities had passed I had less than a week left at home. There truly is nothing nicer than spending time in your family home with your closest relatives eating traditional home food (I think I had lamb chops and mint sauce 3 times in the space of 2 weeks) I loved spending time with my family and the goodbyes were as tearful as ever. I firmly believe that no matter how old you are, leaving home never becomes any easier. But I did have a nice little holiday to look forward to, before heading back to the sunny coast of Kenya. I jetted off to spend a week in Uganda with Alex. It was great to play house, prove my culinary goddess skills in the baking front and spend time with his friends, but best of all he whisked me away to Fort Portal to a beautiful place called Kyaninga Lodge, I have never seen anything so absolutely breath taking in my life – beautiful log cabins built overlooking the most stunning lake with a scenic backdrop. The staff were meticulously accommodating, the food was beautiful, the lake was the cleanest lake I have ever swam in and the company wasn’t bad either ;) a perfect end to the week before heading back to Mombasa to start work.

There was a certain buzz to this start of term as we were moving into a new school build, unfortunately in true African fashion the build was not complete. All the staff arrived on the first day filled with anticipation and excitement only to be handed a paint brush and a list of furniture needed to be moved. In true Braeburn fashion all staff mucked in and got the classrooms up and running for the start of term. Unfortunately PE was a little further down the list so now on week 10 we are still awaiting areas to be completed, or improved but we are certainly getting there, and the school is definitely a growing school with an improved atmosphere.

The start of term was as fast paced as ever and I had only 4 weeks to put on a dance performance evening – stressful is not even the word. 4 weeks later the dance performance went ahead and I was very proud at how well the girls and boys had performed, the support from parents was fantastic and I look forward to more performances in the future.

In half term myself and Alex had planned and provisionally booked a trip to climb mount Kenya which I was very excited about, however in the true form of our relationship Alex had his leave cancelled and therefore our trip could not go ahead, after throwing my dummy out of the pram I recovered and decided I need to use my half term to its full potential, so endeavoured in a Padi open water scuba diving course. Despite vomiting on my first open water dive, and feeling like I was on a boat for the following 2 days, I absolutely loved it and with my new friend ‘Sealegs’ taken I completed 3 further sea dives and 2 pool dives to complete my course. I definitely think diving is something I could get in to, being 18m under water surrounded by tropical fish, stunning sea turtles and sharks was incredible. I look forward to many more dives around the world.

I am pretty sure last year I said I would not be doing the Pantomime again this year however I couldn’t resist, at that time of year I seem to forget how busy this term gets with fixtures, reports, sports days, and lesson planning and put myself up for another performance. This year the show is Humpty Dumpty and I will be playing the good fairy! (Suitably cast don’t you think??) in less than 3 weeks eek!!!

Although I was very disappointed not to be seeing Alex over half term, I did have 2 weeks to look forward too when he visited Mombasa for a holiday, it was just frustrating that I had to work and attend a weekend Nairobi fixture whilst he was here! But we did have a lot to discuss for the future and despite hours of chit chat we still seem far from a solid decision, the discussions will continue J we do have a cheeky little holiday planned in the summer which if it goes ahead will be awesome! Whilst he was here we did manage a weekend away to stay with his dad and step-mum in Watamu, it was so lovely and a very much needed getaway. I loved getting to know his family, eating home cooked meals and he even surprised me with my first scuba dive as a qualified diver, was great to have that experience with him. I also think I experienced the nicest ice-cream in the world!! Fact!!

Now we approach Christmas with only 4 weeks left of term – where did that time go? I look forward to spending some time in the sun, to remove the ridiculous tan lines I have once again acquired – yes Mike the special sock lines have appeared once again! I look like a patch work quilt.

Anyway if I do not finally get this blumming thing posted then it will end up being a year long blog!! So I apologise for the lack of humour, detail and interest I promise to try harder in the future!!

Final thought – I have now selected my very first tattoo design (kind of) so watch this space to see if I was brave enough to go through with it –eek!!!

PS I always write this in word and I am actually questioning the web address to my blog!! Sign of not logging in for months on end oops!!

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx StephxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxX

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Part 11 - Big Lind and Tricky Visit Africa!!

Well so much for me not leaving it so long until I write my next post – time just seems to fly here and every time I sit down to write this I get distracted by something else. So since I last posted my mum and dad have been and gone L I have aged, and I am already 4 weeks down in the 3rd and final term of the year.

Having Mum and Dad here was great it’s so easy to forget how little I knew before I came and when I arrived, so to hear certain questions being asked and to see their surprise at things like the roads etc was quite amusing it’s amazing how you just adapt to this way of life. I know for my Mum and Dad it was a big culture shock, particularly for my Dad as I think my Mum has read my blogs more so knew a little bit more what to expect but when I called him up 2 days before they were flying out and he asks me if I need him to bring biros out or batteries as he wasn’t sure if I could get them out here I understood that he perhaps thought he might be staying in a mud hut after all. He then advanced to the other extreme when he was here by saying “I’m not bothered about much for tea … a Fray Bento’s pie would do me … do they do them at the supermarket!!” “erm no!!!!”

I had lots planned for their visit and yet I still turned out to be the worst hostess ever, I am definitely not cut out for that role, I have noticed it in the past but it was so evident throughout their 2 week stint, they probably went home 2 stone lighter due to the lack of food on offer in my house, my rubbish cooking facilities and the fact I often forget to eat in the holidays so forget that others might quite like food. Despite having day trips planned I found it really difficult to fill the evenings, my accommodation is quite limiting – I don’t have a nice veranda to sit out on and have a BBQ and since I was sleeping in the worst bed known to mankind I was shattered by 9pm every night and suffering from a severe stiff neck.  Not only were my hostess skills appalling but my tolerance of mankind – I have become so used to living on my own and being self-sufficient and independent that I found it really difficult been around people all the time, leaving me absolutely racked with guilt, after all these are my parents, I am sure they have wanted to escape the realms of my sisters and I on numerous occasions throughout the past 32 years and yet we would never of known about those moments and yet here I am being ,in all honesty, a total cow after living with these very parents for 2 weeks. I learnt a lot about myself and not very much of it I liked!! L So I continue to apologise to my parents profusely and I am prepared for them to reciprocate the same behaviour when I crash into their world for weeks during the summer holidays. I think my 2 sisters will be very pleased to hear that I quite possibly lost my 26 year reign of favourite daughter within those 2 weeks.

Anyway looking on the bright side (which I hope my parents did at least experience at times during their trip) we had some really fun excursions which hopefully gave my parents a bit of a taster of what Mombasa and Kenya have to offer. I think just the trip from the airport to my house was a bit of an eye opener – the camera was out within minutes to take photos of half cars being wheeled down the road on wooden wheelbarrows, goats roaming freely and plenty of people just meandering around aimlessly. Well saying bright side I spent the best part of the first day walking them around Mtwapa where I live explaining how safe it is and how friendly people are, only to get a phone call that evening whilst out at dinner to inform me a hand grenade had been thrown into a Christian gathering by suspected supporters of Al Shabab – yes very safe 2 people died and 8 people were seriously injured!!!

Their second day they got to meet my not so mystery man, Alex we went for lunch and had a really nice afternoon and evening, followed by a day of fun at the local waterpark the next day. I have never in my life been to a water park with so few people in it! But that meant no queuing for the slides!! Woohoo!! Alex in true style cracked his head on the bottom of the pool during his first attempt at the head first slide!!I think it was either head butt the bottom of the pool or slam head first into my Dad’s buttocks!! He opted well!!  I thought our trip was going to be cut short with a trip to hospital for stitches but luckily it wasn’t as bad as it first appeared!!

We started with a trip to the shops for my Mum to visit a project in Shanzu which she had come across in her charity work with the lionesses. It was so lovely for her to see the work of these incredible women all working with disabilities and creating beautiful bags, purses, jewellery and clothing. We then headed to Bomboolulu another workshop for the disabled. We took the tour around the site which houses the workers, has a nursery school on site and numerous workshops from jewellery to wood carvings and also some interesting plants which apparently grow in colder climates. My parents love a challenge so my Mum was soon purchasing some seeds to take home (I must admit I was initially concerned that she may be smuggling some kind of drugs into the country on behalf of the disabled, I don’t think there would be much leniency with that in court!) I will be interested to see if these plants to indeed grow in my parent’s beloved green house that normally only house the rabbit on its rampage –well before it died!!

That evening I took them to Volleyball to meet the crowds and to experience the white sands of Nyali beach, I think my Dad was happy he managed to unintentionally rip off the bar – he hadn’t become accustomed with the money yet so it was allowed.

The first week we also visited Haller Park to feed the giraffes, watch the hippos and crocs being fed and also to become a main attraction for all the local school kids that were visiting. Secretly I think those children made that day trip for my parents, they were all very sweet and we gave them some food to feed the giraffes and even helped many to brave their long, wet tongues whilst feeding them.

When they originally booked their flights my Dad was adament he wasn’t too fussed about going on a safari but after my photos from a previous trip he changed his mind so at the start of their second week we headed off on our planned safari - camping in Tsavo East for 1 night taking the same route I had taken during Hannah’s visit in a hope we would see just as many animals. We packed up the night before ensuring we had enough to survive but also not too much that it wouldn’t fit in the car. I love my little Delilah but seriously her boot is ridiculously small. My Dad made sure that I didn’t overfill the coolbox so he could fit in his beers but also had a back up plan, and carried a bottle of red wine for safe measure. My poor Dad ended up sharing his back seat with some mattresses and pillows but we eventually made it safe and sound to Tsavo East.

Within a few minutes we were spotting herds of elephants, zebra and impala. Already an entrance fee well worth paying.

Whilst we were driving along, we hadn’t seen a car for about 40 minutes. I approached what looked like a stretch of sinking mud, it had very deep tyre marks right through the middle – clearly made by a larger vehicle than my own. The mud looked wet and thick and clay like. I sensibly asked my parents for some wisdom and advice as how to handle this situation – My Dad’s response “erm well erm you’ll just have to go for it” I didn’t really fancy my chances going through the middle so the sides looked slightly drier. I decided to drive up the side of the bank unfortunately too steep to go around the road. I got half way through and yes as you all probably guessed the left hand side of my car got stuck – My Dad’s response “bloody hell Steph, I knew it!!” erm well if you knew it why not advise me against it in the beginning I sensibly suggested putting my car into 4 wheel drive – My Dad’s response “ bloody hell Steph nooo (in a very yorkshire accent) I’ve seen cars do that and they just get more stuck”. Right so we are in the middle of a game park where there are lions, leopards, cheetahs and elephants to name but a few animals which could harm us. I am now feeling about 12 years old again after getting shouted at by my dad and frantically try to think of a way of getting us out! I hop out of the car and decide I will dig us out I pick up a wooden sign at the side of the road (which could of said ‘beware lions eat humans’ but it didn’t.) I then proceeded to try and dig my wheels out of the wet thick cement like mud. My Dad decides that he will drive and Mum and I will push!! I’m not been funny but I don’t think me or my Mum could push a fat kid in a pushchair never mind a car! Anyway whilst still on the lookout for animals and with my Dad safely tucked up in the driving seat myself and my Mum try to push the car whilst getting splattered with more mud. Whilst I was on the periphery of an emotional breakdown suddenly the car jolts forward!! Yey I was delighted I asked my Dad “what did you do?” – My Dad’s response “oh I just put it in 4 wheel drive!” aarrrrggghhh did I not suggest this in the first place!!! Anyhow there was no time for standing around, Mum and I had spent far too long outside in the danger zone but according to my Dad not long enough “ Steph just run up there and move that log, otherwise that will be the next bloody thing, we’ll hit that and get stuck again!” hang on a minute can I just run up there 50 metres away? in lion infested lands? and move some wood which you can drive around!?!? I don’t think my
Dad was getting the whole danger issue. So I have a quick look around and start trotting up to the log my Dad then proceeds to drive past me and as I turn I see my poor little mum running behind the car as my Dad has failed to actually let her back in!!!! You could not make this stuff up!! There was a very sombre atmosphere in the car after initially getting shouted at like a 12 year old, however 5 minutes on and we could see the funny side!! We even discussed what a shame it was we hadn’t taken photos – I definitely think that would of tipped my Dad over the edge if I’d of whipped out my camera and asked for a family pic!! We did however reinact the scene safely from the camp site – minus sinking clay!!!

We continued towards camp after stopping for what I advised as a quick stop to clean our shoes out the window (after they were caked in mud) but what my dad took as get out the car and spend 15mins scraping all the shoes with a knife and cleaning them with baby wipes – still not sure the whole lion thing has sunk in!!!!

After another couple of hours and many more sightings of warthogs, elephants - including heaps of tiny (well tiny for elephants) baby elephants, zebra, eland and giraffes. We were trundling along the road when my mum claimed to see something – now bear in mind that my mum had previously shouted quite excitedly to stop the car on approximately 150 occasions claiming to have seen elephants that turned out to be mounds of sand, lions that turned out to be logs and giraffes which turned out to be trees! My dad and I were a little sceptical when she claimed she may have seen a cheetah!!! I went along as I had done previously stopped the car and put it into reverse. To our amazement – just sitting there 30 metres from the roadside was a stunning cheetah, she looked uncomfortable and breathless and in no hurry to move despite her clearly laying her beady eyes on us. I questioned whether or not she was pregnant because of the way she was sitting, and as if she had heard at that very moment she should up and turned side on to reveal her big baby bump, no wonder she was so nonplussed by our presence. In my caring ways I decided we should move on so she does not become distressed – my dad’s idea “can’t you get any closer??” My mum had finally redeemed her animal spotting and we spent the rest of the trip hearing about it J.

We finally reached camp after stopping to look through the binoculars at another one of my mums “lions” which then attracted attention from a bus load of tourists – well what actually attracted the attention was my mum shouting – “Stop – LION!!!! To which the bus responded by putting it’s foot down and pulling up alongside us – 6 people hanging out their windows with binoculars and cameras – as we discreetly rolled away a nice shade of crimson after discovering once again it was a log.

We reached camp greeted by a mass of baboons – wonderful!! But there was a very nice man who helped us with our tents, wanted to share his wine with us and would also be keeping watch whilst we slept!! Again I say slept but once again I barely got any sleep largely due to the panic that my parents might get eaten by a lion. We had a steak dinner – well a rock hard lump of meat that was supposed to be steak and played cards by torchlight!!

Once I was tucked up in my tent, my dad decided to come and ask how dangerous red and black snakes were, I was caught off guard of my apparent Bear Grylles knowledge – seriously how the hell would I know which snakes are dangerous. I then panicked “have you been bitten dad?” “Oh no I just looked at it and it slithered off” “hmm don’t think you have anything to worry about then!!!!” With my mums least favourite animal on my mind I struggled to sleep worrying that if she got up to go to the toilet and saw a snake she might die of a coronary!!.

Morning finally arrived and we headed out on a morning game drive – no lions but Jekyll’s, buffalo and some massive elephant bones at the side of the road. Once we got back to camp we packed up tents and cooked cremated sausage sandwiches for breakfast before heading out of the park.

On proceeding to the exit gate we approached an area popular with lions – unfortunately the lions must of heard we were coming so decided to hide or not show up, literally 30 seconds after pointing out the area we saw the lions last time my dad piped up “Steph, just pull over for a minute will you, let me get out and stretch my legs, my bloody back is killing me!!!!!” “Erm dad we’re not at the zoo you’re in a game park there are lions that will eat you” “what? Where? Well I haven’t seen any bloody lions” “yes dad just because you have not seen any does not mean that they are not there.” So we continued to the gate with no leg stretching!!!.

I don’t think I will ever get bored of safari’s seeing such beautiful animals and their offspring in their natural habitat is amazing!! Next time I must go with someone more experienced who can show me a new route and give me some cooking and camping tips!!

The final few days with my parents were spent revisiting preferred places, chilling and tanning – before bidding them farewell on an early morning flight! L Luckily not too long until I see them again and I can allow my mum to teach me a thing or two about hosting.

The following week was my birthday and I was looking forward to finally spending some proper time with Alex, he had originally booked a week off work so we would get plenty of time to make some memories, however at the end of march that was cut short to a 5 day stay I was disappointed but knew it was out of his hands due to having training on the Monday and Tuesday. The Monday of his training arrived only for him to be told the training was cancelled but he now had another meeting on Friday – my birthday!! So not only could he have come the Friday before but now we was having to leaving the morning of my birthday I was very annoyed and unfortunately Alex took the brunt of it!!! Jees the things the guy has to do to get out of spending time with me!! We ended up having 3 days together which we managed to fill with lots of fun, laughter and adventure. We celebrated my birthday on the Thursday.  I was awoken to find presents including champagne (which tasted amazing – it’s been way too long and he might regret reigniting my love!!) Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, 2 bracelets a necklace and then he whisked me away for a full body massage at a beautiful spa (which after my back and neck problems during my parents visit, was the most painful massage I have ever had, yet so necessary!) We then went snorkelling which was not the most successful but still highly amusing all topped off with dinner at my favourite sushi restaurant! J all in all a very good birthday eve. Followed by a lovely chilled birthday with friends, puppies, food and baby cuddles on the Friday and a mountain of cards and gifts from home J Thank you!!

Unfortunately it’s now a long time until I get to see Alex again he travels to the UK for his sister’s wedding at the end of May so by the time I see him it will have been nearly 9 weeks L but it is all going well despite the distance. I am planning a trip at the end of august when I return from the UK, then we are planning on climbing Mount Kenya in October. Also I won a night for 2 at a Beach club resort in Malindi on a raffle so we are heading for a romantic night away in June when he next visits. Exciting times!!!

I have some very distressing news to announce – Delilah has been taken ill and has spent the past 4 days in the car doctors!! She is recovering well but costing me a fortune!!!! Due to Delilah’s condition I have to rekindle my relationship with matatu’s and boda boda’s. I have made 4 trips on a matatu and have seen 3 fights, nearly crashed into a tuk tuk and been touched up by an overweight priest who kept coughing like he was bringing up a hair ball and could at any point follow through a little bit of vomit!!! I know what you’re thinking why would I ever want to drive again!!

Spent the last few days helping my friend plan her wedding, and house hunting, which is very exciting. I have decided to finally leave Mtwapa as the road is driving me nuts and the drive to get anyway is beginning to turn me into a hermit!! So I have decided to move in with a friend and colleague so that we can put our allowance together to get somewhere bigger and in an ideal location. After looking at many apartments some disgustingly under budget some amazing but over budget and some ideal but with greedy landlords we think we may have found our new home. It is a 3 bedroom furnished apartment in Bamburi which is close to all our friends, Nakumatt supermarket and the new school. Fingers crossed everything goes to plan.

Really really looking forward to my trip home in the summer I have so much to fit in but can’t wait. Still missing food quite a lot I think after family, friends and working internet food is my biggest loss. My mum and dad brought some cheese out! WOW! Amazing!! I’m still pining for Chicken Parmo but also looking forward to orange lucozade, my mum’s homemade panacotta, bacon sandwich in a soft bun with HP fruity sauce, something from the bakers i.e sausage roll, cheese straws, yum yums … the list could go on!! Ooh nearly missed off a Garthway sandwich!!! Anyone I am visiting when I am back if you could make sure you have some food delights in then that would be most appreciated!!! J

I am not looking forward to the weather but will be nice to wear normal clothes, be able to get properly dressed up on a night out and to sleep under a duvet and without a mosquito net caging me in and not get bitten by mosquitos or any other little critters!

Most of all excited to see my family, catch up with my girls, meet the new babies joining the group and be bridesmaid at both my sister Deborah’s and my friend Claire’s weddings!!

Final thought ‘feeling old so decided I need to stop being so sensible so that when I am 80 I look back and can say I lived life for those who don’t get the chance – which means I’m back on the idea of a tattoo and want a puppy!!! J

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Steph xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx