Friday, 9 July 2010


Mist and Drizzle today, look here if you've forgotten what rain looks like!!

Last Sunday it was ten years to the day that we arrived to live in Ireland. Its odd how the mind seems to fracture into sections of time. The others have been talking about the last ten years and the changes it has brought for them, but my mind seems to have turned back to East Africa and I've been wandering through memories of that time.

There are many things about living there which I don't miss- drought, food shortages, the poor roads and worse driving, lack of phones, electricity and water rationing, lousy security, the uncertainty of day to day living, two hours driving and more to get to a supermarket or School or friends or Church, riots, living in fear...and being homesick.

But although those are some of the reasons we decided to leave, there were many many delights to living there:
Once you get to know them the people are lovely; resilient, amusing, easily amused, forthright, chancers, generous and kind. Like the Widow at Zarephath many people would share their last meal and smile while they did it.
Of those who are Christians their faith in God's provision and goodness is absolute.
I miss being around African people.

The countryside is incredible; everyone who visits will tell you so, and its true. The variety from tropical greenery and endless coconut palms along the Coast, to the red dust and rocks further up-country, to smooth green tea and coffee plantations, the little cultivated plots of vegetables and bananas dotted everywhere and the huge swathes of blueish pineapple plantations.
For a while I worked in a Del Monte Plantation school and besides money, my salary included two pineapples a week and a tee-shirt at the end of the year!

Having grown up by the sea in the West of Ireland, whenever we had the opportunity we headed either to the Coast (eight hours driving to Mombasa, another couple to Malindi or Diani), Lake Baringo (five hours driving, very arid) or Lake Naivasha (three hours, highly populated, very lush). With those distances we didn't get too many safaris but still over fifteen years of living there I reckon I saw parts of just about the whole country.

I was lucky though because when I arrived the country was only beginning to change and it was still very safe for a single girl in a beat up car to belt about on her own- the only risk really was getting stuck somewhere and not being able to dig myself out by myself! That was the only problem I ever had and it happened just the once when I was trying to get away rather fast from some annoyed elephant, came round a corner too fast and misjudged the ruts. I bottomed the Datsun and was on my hands and knees under the car digging when a taxi load of Russian tourists came along and their driver stopped to give the Datsun a push. It then took off so suddenly I had to tear after it to grab the handbrake before it hit the taxi- still full of Russians sitting watching out their rear window!! It was terribly funny- the driver and I stood and roared laughing, we couldn't help ourselves!

At the Coast it was a humid heat but once you are up 1000ft or so it is drier and very pleasant, in the Highlands and around the Aberdares and Mt Kenya it gets frosty at night. Since the only heating is by a fire, and usually the only hot water too, in many places to sit around a fire every night is quite normal, having had to stay in from the heat through the middle of the day.

I've heard it said that East Africa is a place of contrasts, and I suppose that is true in many ways, but when you are there you don't notice, its just the way it is. It is still a rather slower and more old-fashioned way of living, certainly in the rural areas, and you soon learn to be very self-sufficient but inter-dependant too. You would never pass someone who needed help, you'd offer lifts to people until your car could hold no more (thereby turning many journeys into a party!), you talk to everyone language barrier or not because that might be the only person you see all day, and as I said above, you learn to be generous with everything you have because you never know when you'll be on the receiving end.

This isn't meant to be a summary of fifteen years, its rather a collage of present thoughts. I love living back here, and will stay as long as the Hub can get work, but East Africa had its moments too!


ladydi said...

Wow! That's a lot to think about. I'm glad you shared some of your experiences with us. Do you mind me asking what took you to Africa in the first place? Your parents must have missed you a lot. Did they come visit? I wonder how I'd feel if one of my children moved to Africa for 15 years. Do you mind me asking what kind of work your husband does? I do like the idea of being paid in pineapples! My sister has been to Tanzania twice, 25 years apart. The most recent time she was helping her church group build water sheds.

ladydi said...

p.s. I tried to leave a comment on your other blog, and wasn't able to for some reason. Beautiful Irish scenery!

Amanda said...

How lovely to hear about any part of Africa from an 'ordinary' person's point of view. So often we only hear about dramas and crises and then filtered through the media. Thank you for this.

Griselda Pugh said...

This is such an interesting post and so well expressed. The length of time you were there must have given you time to see quite a few changes in the country. Such experiences and memories are fantastic. Thanks for sharing them :)

collettakay said...

I didn't know you lived in East Africa. How, interesting!

More details, please.

soggibottom said...

Wonderful memories. X X X

Heart2Heart said...

Thank you for taking us back on a trip back in your memories for places and people you truly loved. I can see why based on the detail descriptions you gave of each of them.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Dawn said...

Fascinating! Sounds like a great memoir!

Micki said...

That was a great post! I lost the link to your new blog, but I am so glad to have found it.

Rachel Cotterill said...

I haven't been to Africa. It's on my list, but probably not for a few years. I'd like to do it justice when I do visit, and I think that means going for long enough to get an understanding.

Hazel said...

Those memories are fantastic and I'd love to hear more, I was laughing out loud about the Datsun vs the Taxi story!! Classic! It sounds like it must have been an absolutely fantastic time in your life! :) Hazel

Trishia said...

Heckety, i think i smell a book here!!! have you ever thought of writing about your years in africa? as everyone else said, your perspective is an eye-opener and of course, your style makes it so lovely to read. You should think in terms of chapters....!


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