Saturday, May 24, 2014

Things I like to do in school

This post is from Matthew:

I love going to ISK. It is a very fun place to go to school. At ISK you go to school with people from all different nations (Greece, Canada, Germany and even India). In ISK we learn math, reading, science and sportsmanship. I started ISK when I was 6 years old and in 1st grade. My teacher was Ronnie Spilsberry. Now my teacher is Ms. da Conceicao and in 2nd grade. At recess my favorite thing to do is to play 4-square. Then when it is time for swimming it is really fun because we do all kinds of different strokes. But the most fun thing at school is making books. I've made 19 books at home and 3 books at school which adds up to 22 books.

Here is the link to my book about Kenya:

Here is the link to my book on Zanzibar.

Here is the link to my book on South Africa.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Zippin' around Zanzibar

Last month, for our last extended time off while in Kenya, we decided to spend it in Zanzibar. We had a fabulous time exploring the island, enjoying the beach, and relaxing by the pool. What made it real special was that we also spent some time in Stone Town - which is the main city on the island. Lots of winding alleyways and a real sense of history going back hundreds of years.
Harbor scene - the boat was under repair while hundreds
jostled over the right to buy the latest catch coming in from the sea
Intense memorial to the slave trade
At one point in Stone Town we stumbled upon a typing class,
Matthew and Ruby joined in
full moon dinner on the beach
Back at the beach we loved our hotel. Big swimming pool and child care too. Rhonda and I took advantage of that for a local walking tour that the kids weren't interested in. We spent a couple hours visiting a village, seeing the school, and learning how they harvest seaweed for export.

After the spice tour - Ruby posed
for a pix with a guide who knit her
accessories made from
banana leaves
 Another highlight was taking a spice tour. We all loved seeing many, many different kinds of spices, smelling them, and learning about them.

Matthew joined in local game while waiting
for the tour to start, it was similar to pool, except
of course no stick - you snapped your fingers to flick
a bottle cap to knock another into a hole

An interesting footnote is on the way back, while in the Zanzibar airport going through Immigration Control, there was a couple from Belgium who must have just been robbed a couple hours earlier. The poor lady was screaming at the Zanzibarian immigration agent because they would not let her leave for her plane since she could not pay her departure tax. It was quite the dramatic scene as she also claimed she was four months pregnant. Rhonda turned into their guardian angel by agreeing to loan them the funds. In the back of my mind I thought it might be some elaborate scam. Turns out they did wire us back the money a couple weeks later when they returned to Belgium.

Matthew's book on Zanzibar

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

April Visits with Tooth Fairy, Seamstress and Cheese

As we approach the last few months of our time in Kenya, the pressure’s on to make sure we do those things we haven’t been able to do yet.  And, indeed, April was a full month.  As if our impending departure isn’t significant in its own right, Ruby helped marked the coming of a new chapter by losing her first tooth! 
Strange to think that she came to Kenya having just turned 4 years old, and she’ll leave almost 6.  That’s one third of her life…

Nevertheless, for several weeks she was very proud of her “wiggly tooth”. After many years of watching her older brother cash in, she was looking forward to scoring some Kenyan Shillings of her own from the Tooth Fairy.  We learned early on that the Tooth Fairy does come to Kenya, and apparently she works in the currency of the country where her customers reside.  The big day finally came on April 3rd, and Ruby’s tooth came out.  She was not disappointed - 100 KSH!!   (that’s $1.20).

The next visit we received in April was from a seamstress.  Having African clothes made is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and I finally got a good connection. It’s quite common in Kenya to have a seamstress make you clothes from fabric you buy at the market.  I had bought some fabric in Rwanda, and a colleague brought me some from her trip to West Africa, which have been waiting to be transformed.  Ruby dragged herself away from playing with the seamstress’ son long enough to put in her own order for a blue African dress.  We’ll see how they turned out later this week. And, if we never wear the clothing, I’ll still be glad we had the experience.

Later in April, we visited Brown’s Cheese Farm, a very popular family-run farm that produces cheese for Western tastes. Brown’s is in Limuru, an area about 30 minutes outside of Nairobi with pretty rolling hills, fresh air and tea farms.
Now, cheese is not especially a Kenyan specialty. Despite the large dairy industry, cheese just doesn’t seem to have the creamy texture we’re used to. Brown’s is one of a few brands that you can find in the grocery stores, with everything from blue cheese to brie. For American palettes, the jury’s still out on whether it really cuts the mustard.

Nevertheless, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful and interesting experience. The day started with elegant “bitings” (appetizers) and drinks. Incidentally, fresh passion juice is a family favorite in such situations.
Once the small crowd of visitors was properly outfitted for the hygienic environment needed for commercial cheese production, we started the tour. Everyone was fascinated to learn about how cheese is actually made from the delivery of the freshest milk from other local dairy farms in the area, stirring at the proper temperature for an extended period of time and curing for very little time for soft cheese and for up to two years for hard cheese.


We were then served a delicious meal on the back lawn with plentiful samples of all the cheese we saw being made.  When we were properly stuffed and children were restless, we made our way to the back stables and gardens to visit the animals.  We even got to try our hand at milking cows. Matthew wasn’t exactly a fan, but Ruby loved it!  I guess she takes after the chicken farming side of the family…
There’s no better way to end a day than with homemade ice cream with milk straight from the cow.  And, ice cream just may be the perfect food to eat when you’re missing a front tooth.