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Archive for the ‘Funny Stories about East Africa’ Category


Dear Beautiful People,

Apologies for the long break in my blogging. It has been a year of learning, losing and recreating.

Bullet pointing this time:

  1. My eldest daughter Tiva married the love of her life (Eddie) after graduating with distinction and making the Deans list, from Rhodes University.
  2. My darling friend and house lady Joyce lost her daughter to bacterial meningitis.
  3. My once friend Dawn, is no longer a part of my life.
  4. My Mum passed.
  5. Rian moved to Australia to continue university.
  6. Savanah my youngest continued her Gap year and then went to work in the South of France.

These are just a few of the major things that I will mention, there was more and it kicked my bottom to say the least, but all better now.

My AMAZING Mum passed away in March of this year! She had moved back to Kenya to be with her Grandchildren and me. We were led to believe she would be around for at least another two to three years, but unfortunately it was just under four months.

When my Mum and I knew her time was nearing I called her Doctor to come check on her (Yes, wonderful Kenyan Doctors still do house calls). He walked in to my Mum’s room and said “Hi, Toni how are you today?” In perfect clarity, and with her continuous humor she replied, “Hi, finally are you here to ‘put me down’ ?” with a wicked little smile on her face. Of course I cracked up and the sweet Doctor was dumb struck, I quickly explained our animal background to him and he got the joke, even giggled himself and replied “No, Dear.”

When I knew Mum only had a few days left I sent out a message to all her friends and family from around the world and asked them if there were any “Good Byes” they would like to send and assured them I would read her each one. The response was overwhelming. I never expected hundreds of emails; with such heart felt concern, love, blessing, and wonderful stories about them and her. Between my daughters and I we managed to read each and every one. It was a transcending experience for us all, and my Mum heard and loved each one.

Soon after, all my daughters left home one by one to go out into the world and I was left at home completely alone for the first time after 23 years! This was not fun; I started to talk to the animals more then normal, I am sure I looked like a crazy person. I became a couch potato and dove in to all the DVD’s I could muster, it was glorious for a week, then my darling house lady, and friend (Joyce) became concerned. “Tana, we need food for the house honey.” I sent her to do the shop! Something she had never done before and she was not amused, but afraid of the crazy woman on the couch with dogs and a cat sitting with her, I am sure taking on the task of a shop was much more plausible then getting my depressed bottom out of the sitting room let alone the house. I did arise from my couch aka throne a couple of days later and went on the next shop with Joyce, and we had a wonderful time and even took some extra time to grab lunch and enjoy being out.

Although this has been a trying year I always try to take the positive from it, not easy to do right away, but I always succeed. As I was raised that way, these words echo in my head from my parents, “Tana, turn nervous energy into Exciting energy,” “Don’t mourn a natural death, as it is just a rebirth into a new life,” “Appreciate the time you have had with people and animals as they all come and go in and out of lives, let them go.” With these words, which I hold close, some people feel I come across cold and uncaring, but it is the exact opposite. I am so loving and caring that it would hurt me to think any other way, so I have embraced these beliefs so that I can always move forward in a positive way.

My daughter Rian has started her own Blog called LoquaciousRambling at: http://loquaciousrambling.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/the-helfer-club-5/ When you have a moment take a look, she is an amazing writer, like her Nana (Toni Ringo Helfer Law).  Rian also started a new Facebook page called Ralph HelferBooks at: http://www.facebook.com/RalphHelferBooks please note if you write in the search Ralph Helfer it will appear and it has the ZAMBA book cover as the Wall picture. I am also excited about this FB page as it will give people a chance to do Q&A with us about the history of our family working with and living with the amazing animals that we were blessed to have as a part of our lives.

Huge Hugs,

XXX

 

 

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“What is it like to live in Kenya?” This is for Jules ( http://julieangelos.com/ ) , my dear friend who got me started on my blog and who continues to show me support.

Living in Kenya is a huge basket of fruit, vegetable and meats. With a side of coke (soda).

There are so many wonderful and enchanting pleasures to living in this country that match us so well and there are vast amounts of plight, drought, death and corruption that is equally the same. It is a constant tight rope to balance on and not get lost in the negative, but always remembering to celebrate the beauty.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly! From our perspectives, here are some of the stories and insights to living in Kenya, a country we love and are adopted daughters of and truly grateful for it.

Dawn (The Goddess) and I are single mums, which means not getting invited to too many dinner parties: how do they fill the extra chair where our husbands once sat? Also, as many people in the world have heard the saying, “Are you married or do you live in Kenya?” Dawn and I DON’T SHARE! As we have had to tell many married woman here, we want nothing to do with their husbands. The sad thing is there are young women here who do share married women’s husbands and don’t care who it affects. I know this happens everywhere in the world, but here you cannot keep it secret and people have been known to die because of it. Remember Lord Earl?

We have to take on the Black African Men who have a hard time differentiating us from Black African Women (whom we consider our equals). We are single! Where do they put us? There is no man for them to discuss business issues with – they have to deal with us, or should I say, we have to “deal” with them.

When my children were first starting preschool and kindergarten, I would have to drive them through a part of town that was busy and had bars and shops (kiosks) along the side of the road. Inevitably there would always be a dead body on the side of the road in the morning. Tiva and Rian used to ask me as we passed them, “Mummy is that man dead?” “Sweetheart, I think he just had too much to drink,” I would say, as I felt they were still too young to need to know that side of life.

Rian came to me, when she was about 15, and she asked “Mum, I told you I saw the man killed today on the side of the road, the bicyclist who got hit by a car.”
“Yes, honey, I am sorry about that.”
“Mum, have I seen dead bodies before this?”
“Yes, honey, remember when you and Tiva used to ask me about the men on the side of the road that were lying there when I used to take you to preschool?”
“Yes,” and her whole expression took on what I was about to admit to her and she bellowed out “ OH MY GOD! I KNEW IT!”
“You were 4 Rian! I just thought seeing a dead body everyday and knowing it, might not be the best way to start your day.”

We have freedoms here to be ourselves in certain situations and at the same time we have to be the most amazing “lady” in other scenarios, you will be judged here at all times as Kenya gossip is endless and ruthless. Anyone can do something off coloured upcountry and all of Nairobi will have heard about it the following day.

The two year wonders as we call them (UN and N.G.O. employees, here on two year contracts) have out-priced most of us locals: whereas before renting a house was reasonable – they came in offering the landlords four times the amount that was normal to all of us and have made it impossible for our grown children to move out, as they can’t afford it. It takes them time to get a job and save up and it is twice as hard for single parents to continue to provide for our children the same way.

The Somali pirates made it even worse as they bring in all their cash and throw it down in front of a landlord and buy the house for ten times the worth, just to hide their cash in Kenya.

You have to always beware that at any time and at any place you can be robbed, which could also mean, beatings, being shot or raped, but if you are lucky you will be left on the side of the road to find your way home. This normally only happens in the cities, as they know the upcountry farmers all sleep with their guns.

Upcountry people who have farms have to deal with cattle robbers and gun fights. Now all this sounds a bit crazy, but it is just the norm and if it does occur no one really talks about it as it is not that big a deal unless someone gets shot, which is never a good thing, unless of course it is a poacher, then there are usually pats on the back.

Most of us have had friends and family members killed in road accidents, as many drivers here just buy their drivers license and the Matatu drivers (Matatu: local transport for people in a mini bus) are the worst. They drive as fast as they can and on whichever side of the road they feel like when there is traffic. Different from the rest of us, who drive on the ‘best’ side of the road, as cars have been known to get swallowed up in our potholes.

I read in the newspaper a few years back: “Man kills wife in rage, sentenced to 6 months in jail.” Next headline: “Man kills neighbours cow, sentenced to 6 years in jail.” Hope this helps you understand women’s rights and value here.

Circumcision still takes place for both men and woman even though it is against the law for women. This issue is difficult, because a lot of the woman in these tribes ask to be circumcised. If they aren’t then they are shunned and never considered a grown woman able to be married. The women in these tribes who can get away and have educated parents can escape it, as the parents just tell everyone that the girl had it done while they were visiting an auntie or grandparent that lives elsewhere. But, this is rare.

Most Black Kenyans have never seen a lion, elephant or any wildlife for that matter.

Oh our electricity! Such a wonder to us. We get excited when we switch our lights on and they work! It is not uncommon to be sitting having a dinner party and the lights go out, the conversation will continue in the dark as the hosts reach for the candles, always nearby, light them and carry on.

Hospitals are tricky. Just because they look impressive does not mean they are. Ones that look like they are dated back in the 1950’s can be amazing. Our doctors are wonderful and are sought out all over the world. There are only a few operations we would leave the country for and either go to India or South Africa, obviously wherever you could afford really.

We also have clinics and doctors here from all over the world who specialize in certain procedures, for example my house lady needed a hip replacement, the cost 400,000/- (USD 5,128), she had it down at a hospital most would not want to walk into, but it is renowned for the great work they do. Now true most Kenyans can’t afford that, but they will through a harambee (a fundraiser) and come up with the money.

Water is considered gold here! It is common knowledge, if you are out in the bush and you’re invited to a meeting from a Maasai, he will offer you a coke before handing you a glass of clean water.

We also have the ability to have amazing staff, who helps you to raise your children and look after your house and garden while you are trying to bring in money.

You can jump in the car and drive (depending on where you live) 15 minutes or 6 hours and be in Gods Palm. Nature all around, pure beauty and an orchestra of sounds that would match and may even out do the New York Symphony.

The food is fresh and has amazing flavour.

You can be a child and run around naked with no shame, roll around in the mud and get as dirty as you want. We believe in our kids getting dirty as it helps their immune system.

Children here can make a toy out of anything! Give them a tyre and a stick and they are happy, give them wire and they will make a car to play with. Most children are loved here, it is just in recent years with TV and movies that things have started to change.

Children at very young ages are given huge responsibilities and take them on with no problem. You will see a four year old walking to school alone or with a younger or older sibling, or a six year old carrying their baby sister or brother on their backs.

Children who live in the bush will be sent out to tend to the cattle, goats and sheep.

If you live out in the countryside and ride horses, you can go for a hack and within minutes be riding near zebra, giraffe, impala, elephant (if your horse is alright with that). You try to stay a distance away from lion or leopard, no need to explain, I hope.

Now the subject so many people ask me about ‘snakes.’ Yes we have a vast variety of snakes, venomous and non-venomous, but I promise it is rare to ever spot them. They don’t like humans. In 40 years I have only seen 4 poisonous snakes and one of those was dead. I have seen a few more non-poisonous, but mostly brown house snakes which are very sweet and help with the rats. The problem is they come in a multitude of colours and identifying them is not always easy for me.

Both Dawn’s and my children have attended private schools and all them were accepted to top universities, meaning that our educational system, when it is private, is exceptional.

There are monkeys on the campus and quit often children will be chased by them, if they haven’t learned how to deal with them they will learn fast.

Drinking age here is 18, although most of the children start taking beer bottles off the tables when they are tall enough to reach them. You can usually find them under the table giggling. As parents we give our children sips and teach them how to drink without getting drunk, as it will always be offered to them at parties. Sort of like Italian children and wine over dinner.

Dancing is a big part of the culture here, for our children it is a rite of passage to learn how to rock and roll, they love it.

Bush parties, we love them! Huge bonfires, good friends, your 4×4 and tents. Depending on who is cooking there is usually amazing camp food (I am never asked to cook, but will bring my cook if asked). Occasionally you will get the curious hyena looking on or hear lion in the distance, elephant sometimes pass by and all around great fun.

Sun Downers: After a very long day at work or a weekend break, we will get our finger food and drinks and drive out to the Ngong hills or find an open space, park the car and watch the sun go down.

I hope this answers some questions about living in Kenya. IF you have any others please feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer them.
xxx

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My daughters Rian and Savanah asked if they could have a story just about them, posted to my blog. I asked which one they wanted me to write, to which I was told by Rian, ‘No Mum, I want to write it because you weren’t there, it was just Savanah and Me.” I said that would be great and I look forward to reading it.

Allow me to introduce Rian’s story that took place at our farm in Nanyuki in 2003.

It had been a very normal day for the lives of Tiva who just 13 years old, Rian who was 12 years old and Savanah who was 10 years old. It was early in the morning in Nanyuki but the sun was already scorching through their private classroom window, where the girls were being home schooled before they would start the new semester at Hillcrest, a private school in the capital city.

The teacher, Scott, was busy trying to explain the importance of grammar, and while all three of the girls were entirely uninterested, Tiva was the only one who persisted. As Scott took a break to go to the bathroom, Rian convinced Savanah that they should escape, Tiva, being the ever unwavering academic would not leave, Rian, being the ever bored student had spent the first thirty minutes of class trying to figure out a way to leave, and Savanah being only about ten years old was always eager to follow whichever older sister appeared to have a more exciting plan of action.

As soon as Scott left so did Rian and Savanah, with the warning from their oldest sister about the trouble they would get in to. Little did they all know, the trouble would not pertain to their sure to be angered teacher. Rian and Savanah ran out of the class room and in to their backyard, which was just a couple hundred acres, but a couple hundred acres was like owning your own unexplored planet when you were two little girls. Their dogs, an Alsatian and two Jack Russell Terriers, came to them immediately, the loyal pets always just as eager for the girls to finish class as the girls were themselves.

“Where are we going?” Savanah asked, “We could go to the river,” Rian suggested, “No, we do that all the time,” she refused and then suggested, “We can play in the woods up front.” “No, mum will probably see us,” Rian reminded her. “Okay… Let’s go to the dam,” Rian suggested after a minute of them hiding behind the staff quarters with the dogs wagging their tails, anxious to know the plan. “The big one or the small one?” Savanah asked, “The small one,” the small dam was an unfinished mess of over turned soil and a small lake of water. And with that, the two small girls set off, going the short way round to the dam, the three dogs never leaving their sides.

As they climbed over the hills of dirt and in to the cavity of the dam they smiled, “Did it again,” Rian exclaimed, “I don’t know how Tiva stands him, I hate him!” Savanah burst out, after an incident where Savanah tried to convince Scott to not unnecessarily kill a bee and he ignored her pleas, she was not particularly fond of the man. Savanah was allergic to bee stings, she wouldn’t touch them, and wouldn’t want them in the same room as her, which is why Tiva or Rian would always willingly trap the bee and get it out of the room for her. The way Savanah found out she was allergic was when she was trying to save a bee from certain death and it stung her; nonetheless, she would not kill them and as long as her sisters would get it out of the immediate vicinity she was happy to co-exist with the bees.

“Do you want to go in?” Rian asked, after a minute of silence, watching the dogs run around, sniffing the area and playing with one another. “No, but we can put our feet in,” Savanah negotiated, “Okay,” Rian agreed, and the two of them walked down in to the small basin. The dam was only partially constructed at this point, it had walls of soil around it, these mounds were so high that once you were in the water you could not see outside the dam, which had never seemed to be a problem before. As the girls stepped in to the dam water they laughed about how cold it was, threw some mud at each other, and played with the dogs; infinitely better entertainment than sitting in class. The best thing was, living on a farm, there was no way their teacher or anyone else would find them because there would be just too many places to look. This too never seemed like a problem before.

After about twenty minutes of playing around and aimlessly starting new games and talking about their hate of class, a noise erupted, a low grumbling, filling the dam. Rian and Savanah were silenced by it, the dogs all stood still, tails out, ears up, staring at the mounds of soil. “What was that?” Savanah asked, “Probably nothing,” Rian declared, but when she saw the dogs still hadn’t relaxed despite the noise having stopped she got worried. She had only ever heard one thing make that noise, it was the same animal who left a mess of bones in a hollow near the river under a mess of twisted trees; it was a leopard.

They had seen the leopard before, but just briefly, and their mother had been there. “Rian, what is it?” Savanah asked, knowing that it was indeed something and knowing that the dogs would have gone back to their own enjoyment had it been nothing. “Shatu!” Rian hissed, and her Alsatian didn’t move, “Shatu!” She called his name again, and reluctantly the large dog trotted over to her, “Jema! Hap!” Savanah called her own dogs over, and as soon as they reached her heel she swept them both up in to her arms. Rian wished she could pick her own dog up but knew it wasn’t possible, so she gripped the loose skin and fur on his neck.

Again, the noise happened, but it sounded like it was coming from a different mound, this one behind them. The girls and their dogs whipped around, it was a low growl, a released hiss, like a wild echoing purr. “Rian…” Savanah looked to her sister, “It’s the leopard,” Rian told her, Savanah nodded. They stood there not knowing what to do. Then they heard it move, it flicked up the soil as it left one mound and went to another, coming around the side of the dam, the dogs started whining, kicking to be set free, Rian crouched down to get a stronger grip on Shatu and Savanah strained to keep both dogs in her arms. “Where should we go?” Savanah asked, Rian looked around quickly, not sure what to do. The leopard let out another hiss, almost like a sigh, but it was coming from the other side of the dam now, the leopard had moved around them instantly.

The dogs whined and growled, wanting to be set free. The two girls stood there, in the middle of the makeshift arena, not being able to see over the mounds they could not see where the leopard was, but they could hear it moving. When dust flew up again from another location, and the cat unleashed another grumbling hum, resonating through the walls, Rian believed she knew where it was. “This way,” she decided, moving out of the back of the dam, opposite to where the leopard was. They moved as quickly as they could but slowly at the same time; a speed difficult to explain to anyone who had never encountered wild animals, you needed to get to your destination as quickly as possible but if something went wrong, if the animal spotted you, then you would need to be still and hope your submissive pace and stance would show you were no threat.

Rian pulled her dog towards the back of the dam, his reluctance to go that way showed he knew where the leopard was and wanted to go find it, they were going the right way. Savanah followed in tow, they began to walk over the mound of dirt, and just as they reached the top, the leopard called out again, shooting both girls in to action, they made their way to the far trees, trees that grew parallel to their farm house. The dogs were urging to go back, trying to escape their owner’s holds, but Rian and Savanah, both deeply attached to their pets, would not let them go, which did slow them down a bit. They made their way up the line of trees, through the growth of purple flowers, and were home, in the main backyard between their house and the staff quarters.

They dragged their dogs inside the house, afraid they might go back to the leopard, and shut the doors. Quickly, they ran in to their classroom, which was also in the house. “Where did you two go?” Scott began yelling, “No where, Scott,” the girls chimed, both shooting looks to their older sister, “They wont leave again,” Tiva stepped in, and with that, they continued with class.

After class Rian and Savanah decided to tell their Mom what happened. Tana listened carefully to the both of them. “I am so proud of the two of you. You obviously did everything right, as you both are okay, Well done guys.”

Written by Rian Herbert

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Hello Beautiful People,

All right, time for a Kenya Story. This is a wee bit longer then most stories (sorry) but, lots of fun and explains things one should not do while on safari!

It was Dec 25th 2006 and as tradition has it we always go to the coast for Christmas and New Years Eve Holidays.

My Dear sweet Princess Savanah (my youngest, then 14) decided she wanted to fly down with her friend and her friends family and meet us there, while Tiva then 17, Rian 15, David (who would be 21 in a few days), Dawn (the goddess) and myself decided to drive down in our glorious old Land Cruiser with our driver David, who was a new hire.

We all wanted to camp that night and drive into Watamu the next day. Dawn had booked us a tent at a very special, African owned and run camp in Tsavo. It was cheep and had an ok reputation, plus the kids could camp just next door to us at a KWS campsite. Yes, this was one of those years Dawn and I tore up our house scrounging for every last dime we had to ensure that we all had fun and an amazing holiday.

We were driving through Tsavo and the only mammal we saw was an elephant in the far off distance, as it had been a bad drought year.

After around 10 hours on the road we reached the camp.

Walking in to the camp Dawn and I were pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness of the place and the kindness of the staff. One gentleman showed us the path that would lead us to the campsite, where the kids and David would be staying. Yes, alone! Are kids have been camping their whole lives and know all about the bush. Plus there was a ranger near by, just in case.

We helped set them up (which, in Dawns and my Motherly way means, we dropped off their tent and all their belongings, kissed them and said we would see them for drinks and dinner in the camp mess at 7pm) and then Dawn and I walked back to our tent, which we were sharing.

We were walking with the manager who was showing us to our room. We arrived at our tent and set our things down. The manager was standing outside our tent and asked us if we needed anything else before he left. Dawn and I said we were fine. He nodded, and then said, “I just need to tell you a few things. One; we ask all our guest to join us around a fire before dinner so we can get to know one another and go over all the safety rules while you are staying with us, the fire will be just outside the mess tent.” Dawn and I both looked at each other and smiled (meaning, ugh) and, “Two; dinner is at 8pm.” With that he smiled at us and walked off.

Dawn and I walked back in to our tent and retrieved our wine and two glasses and walked out to the plastic floored veranda to relax on the safari chairs. Beautiful birds were in the trees and the smell of the bush was the perfect perfume to relax us.

Not far off was another tent and a very nice African couple that were so excited to be camping. The gentleman walked over to our tent and politely introduced himself and then said, “If you would like to see some Impala they are eating right behind your tent”. Dawn and I got up to see, as we hadn’t seen any wildlife driving in, except that lone Elephant in the distance.

We slowly and quietly got up and walked around the tent and there they were, 5 goats! We just busted up laughing; thank god the nice man had walked away before seeing our explosion of laughter.

We went back to our tent and sat drinking our wine enjoying the stillness of being on the ground and out of our Old land Cruiser, which was extremely bouncy to say the least.

It was time to get ready to go join everyone by the campfire, we had already let the kids know what time to join us for drinks before dinner. We were starving and we knew the kids must be too.

The mozzies were out in force and I had left my mozzie spray with the kids. Dawn had not packed any, knowing I would have packed some.

She looked at me and said, “we have to do something, hold on I have an idea”. Now remember this is, ‘The Goddess’ my all-knowing dear and kind friend who confirmed that humans can be kind and good. She taught me how to be more diplomatic. To say the least I TRUSTED her.

She had walked in to the tent and came back out with a can of DOOM in her hand. She said, “Here let me spray your legs!” “ Are you crazy, that stuff is pure poison!” I bellowed. Dawn reassuringly told me, “Don’t worry, it will be fine, I will just spray a little bit, it will work!” Now I am thinking TANA DON’T DO IT! Well, unfortunately I TRUSTED Dawn. She gets this look on her face that makes you think twice of your own good judgment. So she sprayed away, her feet then mine.

As I was waiting for the burning pain to follow, I was relieved to feel nothing. I thought to myself, darn she was right again! LOL and left it at that.

We headed off to the campfire and found around 10 other people plus the kids waiting for us. The manager stood up and started his introduction spiel. “We would like to welcome all of you and wish you all a Happy Christmas. I have a few points to go over with everyone before you head off to dinner.” At this point Dawn, the kids and I were just waiting to get to dinner and eat.

We were all sitting there listening, when we couldn’t believe what we just heard.

The manager of the camp says, “ If you see a lion while you are back at your tent, DO NOT call me, I wont be here, no one will be at the office, stay where you are or in your tent and call out MAASAI, he should get to you as soon as he can.” Dawn and I fell off our logs that we were sitting on. We tried so hard not to laugh out loud, but we didn’t succeed. If the man said anything after that, I truly don’t remember it. The kids and us couldn’t stop laughing at the looks on the other guest faces. They looked like a deer in headlights. We were trying to figure out if they were scared that a lion could walk into camp, or that a Maasai would “try” to get to them on time.

We all had a wonderful Christmas dinner; we walked the kids back to their tent and made sure they were all settled in. We walked back to our tent, trying to get each other to call out ‘MAASAI’ just to see how long it would take for a Maasai to get to us, but we were behaved and didn’t. We got to our tent and got in are own beds. Dawn had let me pick which bed I wanted, very kind of her!

I got comfortable and had the lantern on to read my book, when all of a sudden my feet and legs started to itch, then burn. I asked Dawn if her feet were itching, to which she replied, “no”. I informed her that I thought that I had bed bugs. I threw back the covers and turned on my torch. I didn’t see anything! Except a huge rash running up the front and back of both of my legs, from were Dawn had sprayed the Doom on me!

Dawn was cracking up, most likely because she didn’t have an allergic reaction, and seeing me in a scratching frenzy made her whole night.

From my stupidity from the doom incident, I didn’t get much sleep. Dawn on the other hand slept like a baby! I jumped in the shower first just letting the cold water hit my feet and legs trying to get some relief, it worked for a short while. Dawn kindly reminded me we could stop at a chemist shop in Malindi, which was another 20 minutes on from where we would be staying in Watamu and we still had about 5 hours drive in front of us.

We met up with the kids for breakfast who were full of exciting stories from their own camping experience. The stories involved Baboons in camp and David who forgot to check himself for ticks before going to bed and woke up itching like me. There were at least 6 ticks on his body, of which the girls kindly removed with huge mocking for each tick they plucked off, at least the ones that were not in private areas.

We sent one of the camp staff to find David, who had been in the staff quarters, making new friends. We packed up and got back on the road.

We had been driving about 2 hours when we hit a small town, where everyone stopped at while driving this road trip; as it was one of the last stops to fill up with petrol or diesel. We pulled over in to one of the petrol stations. David turned off the vehicle and the kids all got out to find the nearest toilet or bush. The vehicle had been filled up and paid for, everyone but me was in the car, as I had gotten out to pay and was waiting for the receipt.

I heard the one noise that makes you cringe when out in the middle of nowhere, the key being turned, and the car NOT starting. David tried about 5 times and I told him to stop, as I was afraid he would flood it. It sounded like the battery was dead, and there was no way we could afford to buy one here.

I looked where the vehicle was parked and saw it was on a very slight slop. I yelled to David to put the car in neutral, which he did. Not thinking, I am sure due to the immense inching restraint I was concentrating on. I walked to the back of the car and started to push this 1200lb car forward. Now I am sure most smart people would have called out to all the teens in the car and asked them to get out and help! But no, I was a bit loopy at the time, and of course thought I was wonder woman.

Sweat started to form on my brow when I heard laughter coming from inside the car. I looked up and of course it was all the teens and Dawn laughing at me. I looked around and about 4 African men were staring at me in complete disbelief.  I had to laugh at myself at this point in time.

The African men were walking over as I started to push again, sure enough I got the vehicle moving forward. Trust me everyone was shocked at my strength at this time. The African men got to the car just as it was rolling and started pushing with all their strength. The car started to move, and David through the car in to 2nd gear and took his foot off the clutch, and presto the Land Cruiser started.

All the African men patted me on the back and were grabbing my arms muscles, extremely excited about seeing this crazy white woman pushing a Land Cruiser by herself and how strong I was! I thanked all of them and jumped in to the land cruiser. The whole car exploded with applause and jokes began about good old Mum. I thanked each and every one of them for getting off their butts and helping me! They all agreed that I was doing such a great job on my own they didn’t want to take the fun away from me! Adorable children and friend!

We finally got to Watamu and Dawn and I walked to the reception area. The first thing I asked for was a large bag of ice for my massive rashes. They kindly looked down at my legs and all squinted up their eyes and said, “oh Tana, what happened to you?” I informed them that, “my darling and most dearest friend sprayed me with doom.” Yet Again, huge amounts of laughter exploded. Yes, I am the dummy. Huge bags of ice were brought to me. While Dawn signed us all in and our bags were taken to our rooms, it was time to get to the chemist.

Savanah wondered over all fresh and lightly tanned with an ice cold drink in her hand! “Hey Mum, how are you? How was your trip?” I pointed to my legs. “Ewww, that looks like it hurts. Well hope you get something for it, love ya, see you later.” She walked off, and at that point I am thinking to myself, “I know I have loving children, has anyone seen them?”

We drove up to Malindi and found the nearest chemist. I am sure I bolted in there like a crazy person looking for any kind of relief. The woman at the counter asked if she could help me, Dawn was standing by me and said, “We are looking for anything that will stop her itching.” At this point I threw my leg up on the counter and pointed (All lady like behavior out the door). She put her hand over her mouth and then slowly pulled it away to say, “Oh, that looks like it hurts!” I just thought, ‘do you think so?’ She went behind the counter and handed me some cream and a couple pills to take; I didn’t even ask what they were for at that point in time, I just popped one. I started putting on the cream right there and then. We paid the heavenly chemist and I, for the first time since the night before had total relief.

On our way back to the hotel, Dawn and I stopped at the local dukas. Dawn was craving a ham sandwich. Now remember when I said Dawn and I had to find every last dime we had to take this holiday? Well, this is how poor we were! Dawn walks in finds the ham pack and puts in the trolley, she gets a roll of bread and puts that in the trolley, then ever so stealth like walks by a head of lettuce and tears off a piece and puts it in her purse. I looked at her with wide eyes, and said, “What are doing?” “ I just want one sandwich, what am I going to do with a whole head of it.” Coming from the woman who I let spray Doom on me, how could I argue with her. “Besides, they won’t mind, I have been shopping here for over 20 years.” She added.

We all had a wonderful time that holiday and many stories to laugh about. For those friends of mine who asked for a Kenyan story and how things are done here, I hope I answered some of the questions. Although I think I answered more of what not to do. Do not spray Doom on your body parts, Have a second battery with you in an old vehicle if going on a long journey, remember to pack insect repellent for everyone’s bags if staying in different camps, Ask for help when pushing a heavy vehicle and always trust your own instincts.  LOL…

xxx

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngorongoro_Conservation_Area#Wildlife

On our second night at the Ngorongoro crater, we were celebrating a wonderful time. We had seen splendid game that day, close encounters with Elephant, wonderful Lion, Lioness and cubs, and cheeky monkeys who tried to share our food. We even spotted tourist, something we do at times for fun! Spot which country they are from. Amazingly enough they all have their own quirks. At one point, we had spotted some lions and we were parked there having a silent giggle watching the cubs wrestle with each other and one little guy would sneak up around the back of his mum and then pounce on her and think this was the funniest thing he had ever done! Mum would feel this thump on her back and then roll over and put a paw on his head, at one point she pulled him in to her with her massive paw and pinned him down lovingly and started to lick him all over, the little guy just lay there looking like a drowned rat! Too cute.

Then the loud tourist came, the driver politely drove up, and then unleashed his clients on all our serenity. They were loud Europeans, I am sure they had no inner voice barometer, even the lions who are used to being on stage, sat up! We looked at them, with kind smiles but slanted eyes! The driver put his head down and raised his hands in the air palms up and shrugged apologetically.

He didn’t know we were from East Africa, must have thought we were tourist too. So you can imagine the look on his face when Tanyth spoke to him in Swahili and asked him “tafadhali utaweza kuu mumbia hawa ma punda kuu nyamazia”, although with a bit of a teenagers twist of language, translation: Please would you ask your car full of donkeys to be QUIET! We all quietly cracked up laughing, even the other guide did. Then he turned to the back of his mini van and explained to them that they should lower their voices. They did and we waved to them in appreciation. The guide in the Europeans vehicle smiled at us as we drove off.

David our driver had a great sense of humour and thought we were all bonkers, but enjoyed being with people who also do safari, we laughed all day telling animal stories and of sightings we had in our pasts. There were a few animals between us that we had not seen in a while or ever. Anteaters, Giant Forest Hog, Large Python and a few others.

We were back at the camp and had a huge roaring fire and full tummies, although not fed by the Over-Lander this time, I had treated the girls to dinner at a nearby lodge.

We were full of laughter this night and being a bit silly, playing games and singing songs and joining us were the staff from the Over –Lander Truck. Their clients had gone off to their own fires and made it clear they wanted to be left alone.

The stories were amazing and funny from all sides and we started imitating different animal sounds to see who had the best imitation. Again much laughter followed. It was about 2am when most of us decided to go to bed. With hugs all around and shared appreciation between us all, I excused myself. About 30 minutes later, I was sound asleep. A little later in the night I was woken up by our driver David, tapping on my tent. I woke up thinking this was a joke that was being carried on from earlier and played along. “Yes, what’s up?” David Said “Tana, I have a Giant Forest Hog in my tent (Adult giant forest hogs can weigh between 300lbs to 600lbs and have very impressive sized tusks, and we had just been talking about how I hadn’t seen one in years and would love too)!” I broke out in laughter, thinking this is a good one, never heard that before! I laughed and told him to go to sleep and that was a good one! He walked away. I didn’t hear any ruckus or screams, so was convinced it was just a joke especially since he was casual about it.

In the morning, I woke to the beautiful sunrise and crisp air. I got dressed for the day. I climbed out of my tent to see who else was up. It was fairly early still, except for the Over-Lander staff, whom I waved to.

I walked over to our Land cruiser to get some supplies, only to see our driver sleeping in the back. I threw my hand up to my mouth in shock, as there could only be one reason he was in there and it wasn’t because it was more comfortable. I ran over to his tent and saw the entire front of his tent was torn to shreds and all his stuff was askew. I felt horrible, as I knew instantly that the poor man was indeed scared out of his own tent by a Giant Forest Hog. I seriously had thought it was a joke when he came to me that night.  And because he didn’t make much of it, I didn’t think twice about it till now! I turned around and he was standing there.

“Oh David, I am so sorry, I had no idea you were being serious last night! Please forgive me, are you ok?” He laughed and said “yes, but I thought you were some big animal trainer and stuntwoman who would come to my rescue!!!” I looked at him and he busted out in huge laughter, I joined him.

He then said, “it was pretty scary trying to get out of my tent while he was trying to get in, I had to throw all the apples and oranges at him, I think he liked that part!”  I could visualize this scene immediately and I started to laugh with him at this point, then remembered when we had come back yesterday that we had dropped off food supplies at his tent and we all had forgotten to put them in the vehicle before we went to bed. We were in the wrong, as you never leave food out, but this was thankfully a lesson well reminded with out anyone getting hurt, except of course our tent.

xxx

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I decided to take my daughters and Tiva’s best friend Tanyth (whom I call my adopted daughter, she lives here with her Father, Step Mum and three Brothers) and Seb (a son of a friend who was visiting from the UK) on safari to Ngorongoro Crater ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngorongoro_Conservation_Area) in Tanzania one summer. We all piled in to our old beige Land Cruiser and set off on the road with water, sodas, bitings, music and plenty of excitement.

We set out that day around noon and drove in to Arusha that early evening. This would normally be about a four hour drive, but we were delayed at the boarder because Seb forgot his passport and we had to send him back to Karen with my driver to get his passport and ID. We had to leave them there with money in their pockets to grab a bus back to Nairobi while we carried on on our own. Seb took a bus the next day to Arusha and we collected him at the hotel where we were staying.

There are many stories to tell while we were on this amazing holiday, but the one I am going to tell for now is about what happened when we were camping at the crater itself.

We hired a driver in Arusha to drive us to the crater, as I had never driven there before. We unloaded our gear and put up our tents. We hit the mother lode when we saw an overlander (these are the big trucks that take 15 plus people all together on safari, I call them cattle trucks) pulling up just below where we had set up, this meant they could cook food for us if they felt like it. As there were always leftovers after feeding their guests.

We made friends right away with the driver, guides and cook from the overlander and negotiated a deal as their smaller vehicle had broken down and all their firewood was in it, which lead to our good fortune, as we said we would collect dry wood for them if they fed us. As they were exhausted from a grueling drive and breakdowns along the way they happily agreed. We happily obliged.

After about an hour of collecting wood we started a fire for them and piled up the remaining wood.

My daughter Savanah had been watching how to fire dance via Zoe – Zoe, my friend Dawn’s (the Goddess) daughter, had been learning and Savanah had been watching her and started teaching herself. I had not allowed Savanah to light them for at least a month until I saw she wasn’t hitting herself and Tanyth had been fire dancing for years and convinced me Savanah was ready to light them up. That night was going to be her first time fire dancing with fire!

A few of the people that had arrived with the overlander where not at all the friendliest of sorts, they were loud, disruptive and judgmental of the fine crew who were looking after them and showed no appreciation of where they were. They were also complaining that they had not seen an elephant and blamed it on the guide.

It was dusk and the beautiful orange and red sky was getting darker by the second, Tanyth decided Savanah was ready to light up and give it a go! We were all so excited for her and sat on the lawn and awaited her debut.

With all the grace Savanah possesses she lit up and started to dance in amazing unison with the fireballs blazing by her head. I was so proud of her and we were all clapping and cheering her on.

The not so nice clients of the overlander were sitting nearby and started making very rude comments of how dangerous it was to let a child do that, loud enough to make sure that I could hear. We all ignored them and kept our attention on Savanah who after about 4 minutes was finished performing and smiling from ear to ear. Just around this time and before it was completely dark, I looked up and pointed towards the bush about 20 yards from us, walking out of the bush was this massive six ton male elephant. If I had not been sitting where I was I would not have heard him as he was in stealth mode. By his movement we could tell that he knew these grounds very well and knew exactly where he was going.

The girls looked at me and said should we tell the mean people? I just smiled and said if they are meant to see him they will. We all just sat there and looked on at this magnificent creature for about 5 minutes, moving so gracefully along the path as he then disappeared back in to the bush.

It was one of those moments where you felt blessed to be alive and in the presence of Mother Nature. The mean people never saw him, as they were to busy complaining to one another.

Savanah has been fire dancing for several years now and has been asked on numerous occasions to perform at events through out Nairobi. I am so proud of her.

God Bless and Best Wishes to everyone!

xxx, T

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Hello Beautiful People, Below I have posted my future Son-in-laws (Eddie) Camp Questions and Answers. I found this to be hysterical, as it is so true. Please know his answers are how most of us in this field would like to answer our guest after living in the bush 3 months straight, answering the same questions for the 400th time , but we are all very professional and have to keep these thoughts to ourselves. Maybe those of you who are coming to visit this amazing country in the future will have many of your questions answered here. If you would like to add some questions, please do, I will be more then happy to answer any questions on camp life, safari or life in Kenya for you in a professional manner, I promise. Hope everyone not in this field can appreciate the humor in the below Question and Answer statements. Huge Hugs to everyone, Tana

Why don’t lions just jump in the vehicle and eat you?

Contrary to what you may have seen in movies, lions are not on a mission to consume all human life. In fact wherever possible they would rather avoid you. It is they that view us as a threat and will, in most cases, run away if they can. They largely ignore you in a vehicle because they see the car as a barrier if you will: you are safely inside your cage and can therefore can do no damage to them. You are not seen as meals on wheels.

Can we get out and take photos with the lions?

Sure, why not? You’ve signed your waiver and release form and obviously have no understanding of the term ‘WILDlife’ so go ahead and I’ll write up a report for the Darwin Awards.

Can elephants run?

The common answer to this is no. However, running is far more complicated than simply having all your feet off the ground at one time and involves things like transfer of kinetic energy in the limbs. Recent study shows that when elephants travel at full speed they somehow manage to run and walk at the same time, in fact they run with their front legs and walk with their back, or the other way round according to some. Basically scientists can’t agree so I don’t know, but what you need to know is that they will easily outrun/walk you whichever way they do it.

Why is it raining?

This involves all sorts of complicated things about weather systems and such, but by your tone of voice I deduce you are implying that I am somehow responsible for this unseasonable downpour. You’re right of course, I apologise, I do control the weather and chose this moment for it to rain so you could sit there and give me grief.

Will we get to see alligators in the river?

(Sigh) No we do not have alligators in Africa; they exist solely in the Americas. What we have here are crocodiles. I could explain the difference but you will forget it so I won’t bother, just accept that there is one.

Are there snakes here?

There are snakes just about everywhere except Antarctica although for some reason they couldn’t quite tolerate Ireland either. This is Africa, this is the bush so yes there are snakes. You are unlikely to see any but they exist and no they are not all waiting to ambush you.

What about spiders?

Ditto, except for the Ireland bit, you’re not safe there either.

Would the lions come into the tent?

No, and sleeping next to the zip won’t put you in a more dangerous position. Even if they did want to eat you their grasp of the zip mechanism is fairly limited.

What do we do if there’s a lion outside our tent?

Be very polite, laugh with and not at, remember to say please. No, just stay put. It will leave, especially after hearing your scream.

We saw a jaguar in a tree

No you did not. I’ll make this clear: jaguars – South America; leopards – Africa… and Asia as well but let’s keep it simple.

Is this local beef/chicken/lamb/vegetables/fruit?

Why yes; Kenya is surprisingly capable of producing its own food and it tastes great. Actually the veggies you purchase from your local supermarket are most likely from here too so it should make you feel right at home.

How does your cook come up with these meals?

I’ll ask him, I suspect it’s magic.

How does one approach the Maasai?

They’re people; treat them as such and the outcome will be wonderful.

Do the Maasai still kill lions?

Not legally.

But does that mean…

No comment.

What would your askaris do if a lion walked into camp?

Would the answer to this question make you feel any different about your stay here? If the answer to that is ‘yes’ then they would chase them away fearlessly. If your answer is ‘no’ then nothing.

How bad is malaria?

Bad, but not that bad. Quick treatment and you’ll get over it pretty quickly, but given that you’d probably only develop symptoms back home where a diagnosis would require a ‘tropical disease’ specialist, I’d say keep taking your Malarone.

Why are the lions roaring?

Despite what you’re feeling they are not planning an all-out killing spree on the camp. Roaring is simply communication between pride members, however bowel-loosening the sound may be.

Is the Maasai language a different dialect to Swahili?

They are entirely different languages with no connection whatsoever, and while we’re on the subject there is no such language as ‘African’, just because I speak Swahili it does not mean I can understand Zulu.

We want to see a leopard.

So do I. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Unfortunately they’re a bunch of divas and are very picky about when they show themselves. You’ll just have to hope and deal with it if you aren’t lucky enough to see one.

Can we see Shakira?

Big Cat Diary naming animals is a pain in the rear. Shakira is as special as the next cheetah and so be happy to see any at all. Alternatively I could tell you than any cheetah we see is Shakira and there’s very little you can do to prove me wrong.

How do you find your way around here?

It’s not an innate skill, I’ve been here a long time. Drive around enough and anywhere will become familiar – I don’t know why people find this incredible. I couldn’t begin to find my way around London but you can, because you’ve been there for years. The Maasai don’t have inbuilt GPS, they’ve lived here their whole lives. Are you getting my point?

I can’t quite get my camera to…

That’s because you went and bought an overly expensive piece of equipment that you haven’t the first idea how to use and can’t be bothered to read the instruction manual. It’s highly unlikely that this trip will turn you into a wildlife photographer extraordinaire, so why not get something simpler and more familiar that you can at least use instead of spending half your holiday trying to figure out why the photos are blurry.

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