Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No more 'bigging up' my runs in Nairobi

Recently I wrote about running in Nairobi and how I love these times to feel that I live in Africa. The week that I published that post, my buddy and I were spat on while running by a child and then a rock (more like a small boulder!) was thrown at us and bashed my ankle (honestly, I got such a fright, I thought I was bitten by a dog and I was worried that I would be off running for a while, but it is fine, thankfully). Rubbish, right!

Looking forward to some runs on the back road at home in Cove this summer, although, I still get frightened running past cows...really, who knows what they are thinking..?

Anyhow, saying that, my buddy and I ran 19.5km on Sunday; the weather was perfect and I nearly (nearly!) enjoyed all of it!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pre-race nerves

This time next week, I will have finished the Lewa half-marathon...and be home in bed.

After my long run last weekend, my runny buddy and I felt strong and ready (ish) for Lewa. Then it was announced in assembly at the 'w' place that we were running the race and the nerves set in. Everyone seems to be chipping in with their race techniques, talking of the last few km of Lewa having the toughest hills, the heat and the dreaded altitude (Lewa is 5, 500 ft above sea level).

Runner's World Magazine has named this tough run as 'One of the top ten races to run in your life'. Two helicopters will be guarding us runners as we run through the conservancy that is home to lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs and wild dogs. Pretty cool huh? Maybe  it will help me keep my pace up, like when I ran for my life at Lake Mburu in Uganda!

I am SO nervous!

Not just about the run, but the logistics of it all. I have not had any confirmation from Lewa that my replacement or a team member has been accepted, it is a Saturday run, so we are making a mad dash up on the Friday, and after the 5 or so hours drive, set up tent, light a camp fire and cook some pasta before dark. Not the most restful pre-race evening, but I have heard it is beautiful, so hopefully it will be worth that little bit of effort!

Tomorrow is going to be my last run. I plan on doing 18km and then just do some yoga during the week. I worry that I have not done enough short and fast runs, or hill training for the race-but I am going for fun and the experience...so I keep telling my self!

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Friday!

Dear Mr Goodwin, It was so much fun playing tennis, drinking 'Pimms' and eating cucumber sandwiches with you this afternoon, to wish you a Happy Retirement. I think my doubles partner and I did well, but I thinking it is fitting you won the 'G' Cup! Dear 126 pupils in my production, You did a great job today, performing to your first audience. I was like a proud mummy! Dear Kind Colleagues, Thank you so much for your kind words and glowing praise today. It (nearly) made all the crazy work worth it! Dear Knees, Yesterday you were so sore on my 11km run. Please enjoy your two days of rest before your last long run, then please please please behave yourself next weekend! Dear Surf Buyer, I am still waiting for you to show up with some money. Haraka haraka! Dear Kenya, I have less than 3 weeks here. I can't believe it! I will miss you!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Last weekend I visited  Diamond Plaza, (known as‘Little India’) for the first time since I arrived in Nairobi. It reminded me of Fahaheel in Kuwait. More of a souq than a ‘mall’. Shiny plastic statues of Ganesha, ‘cheap-cheap’ DVDs and sparkly synthetic dresses that would stick to you as soon as you walked outside. Places to get your Kindle fixed and to buy an ‘almost real’ Blackberry. I liked it. 

I was there hunting for 'cheap cheap' make-up for my production. It made a change from writing reports and marking test papers. As that is all I seem to do lately, that, or rehearsing with Witchy Girls and Hunks or running, trying to rack up the last few kilometres, before the ‘Toughest Marathon (Half!) in the World’! (Not the best selling point of the run in my eyes!) Other people seem to have more time; time to send me e-mails. (12 days and they still want to spend the time writing emails!) 

12 days!

So friends. I am sorry if you have not heard from me in a while. I’ll see you on the other side!

Friday, June 15, 2012

It's Friday!

Dear Polly Elizabeth Piper, Welcome to this beautiful world. I haven't seen any photos of you yet, but I am sure you are as beautiful as your name. Dear working week, You have been one of the busiest and most tiring, but there was still time for two great runs, yoga, sushi and beers with friends. Thank you! Dear Future-Surf-Owner, I know you want to buy my Surf, I just haven't met you yet. Why not save me a little stress and get in touch sooner rather than later. Dear Dad, It's Father's Day on Sunday! Happy Father's Day! Looking forward to seeing you in Dubai. Not long now! Dear Running Buddies, Even after a horrid day at the 'w' thing, you help me to put my trainers on and make me feel better. Dear Kampala Fair, I am so excited to see my skirt and dress that will arrive on Monday. Dear Colleagues, I really hope you have a good weekend, so that when I see you on Monday you might be a bit happier! Dear Pupils, Even when I am having a bad day at the 'w' thing, I never get sick or tired of you. You are all my favourites! Dear Bed, You and me are going to spend some time together this weekend (starting soon). I can't wait!

I haven't been reading much this week. I think it will be like that until the summer. So today I thought I would write a letter or two. I love getting mail!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Running in Nairobi - more notes

Nairobi is such a funny place. I wish I wrote about it more, tried to explain it, but it is so hard too.

Sometimes I am not its greatest fan. At first, after Kampala, the fact that I could buy fresh milk or good bread or decent chocolate made me happy. (and a lot of the time it still does). I sometimes joke to friends that I need to go to my favourite cafe, it might have been a while, and I think the waiters will worry about me! (Report writing has made me even more regular!!) But there are lots of things that I don't like about this city. The cost of the city being a big negative

But the fact that I can put on my trainers and run to the forest or on the roads on the quiet valleys is something I love about Nairobi.

Enjoying running is a gift here. On quiet Sunday mornings, running passed locals in their 'best' waiting for their Matatu to get to church or people walking to work or from a night shift. Nobody shouts 'mzungu' or giggles (like in Kampala), nothing is a surprise (not even the passing Hummer H1), but if you shout 'Jambo' passer byers look pleased and return the greeting. Passing little make-shift dukas (shop) with music blaring out but then in places it is so quite as you tread the roads, you can spot two hornbills in the avocado tree and some monkeys swinging from the branches.

Or, now that the rains have stopped, on a trail run in the forest. Passing a runner or two, if I'm lucky spotting a diki-dik hidden behind trees and bushes.

I feel like I have had little time this year to enjoy Africa. My runs are my time to do that.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Security in Nairobi-no joking matter

It could have just been a freak malfunction and accident. Like the helicopter crash in Peru earlier in the week.
But why do our ears prick as soon as we find out that George Saitoti was a victim of crash.

Theory 1 -Kenya's war with terrorism

Kenya is still at war. It is easy to forget. Fighting the Al Shabaab in southern Somalia. The war is not fought in Nairobi, it doesn't really effect our day to day lives. Some people may go to the shiny mall less and there are a few more badly trained, badly paid security men around, but that is about it.

Saitoti is a security minister. I read in the BBC that he was on his way to a security meeting, but in other sources I read he was on his way to a religious ceremony. Either way, he was a man in the know and controlled the National Security Intelligence Service and he had recently declared  that Kenya would not be cowed by 'terrorists'. There will be 3 days of mourning for the two ministers and it is quite clear that the ministers, particularly George Saitoti were very highly thought of and liked.

(image from the BBC)

Barely a week goes by without another security waring, of  a threats of an attack in Nairobi. These (perhaps too) frequent warnings seem to have the effect of complacency rather than awareness. I have a friend in security who keeps me far to well informed. I texted him on the weekend, jokingly, to say I was touring the Al Shabaab hot spots in Nairobi. (All the places he won't go with me basically. I know- not so funny Mother dear!) Then the strangest thing happened at one of these 'hot' cafes. A man with earphones silently stood up and moved around the cafe with an open magazine (it was Vogue by the way!). Once I had noticed the strange behaviour I couldn't ignore it and I couldn't relax either. Neither could others. Somewhere else you may pass someone off for being drunk or possible mentally ill. I normally do, but think I have been told too much. It was time for me to move on.

Security in Nairobi is an issue, I think (I think) it will have to get worse before it gets better.

I'll share theory 2 another time.

PS- Hello readers in Russia. You seem to be my biggest fans...yet I have no idea who you are. Don't be shy.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


I got a surprise the other day. I got a place on a team for the Lewa Half Marathon (which is just outside Meru, Kenya) at the end of June.

There are only 1000 spots for half marathon runners and my team didn't get a place. But a member of a team had to drop out, so a text arrived out of the blue last week offering me the place.

Yeah! A moment of excitement. Then a moment of sheer panic. Although I have been running regularly(ish)-I am no way ready for a half. And because of my bad toe (which is now better) I didn't run at all last week and the week before I was just being lazy (kicking myself now!!). But I can't turn down the opportunity to run in the wild, so although I am sure I will end up walking a lot parts of it  - I'm doing it!


I heard that Kate (you kow, my friend Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge!) is running too. It could just be gossip. Probably. Or maybe it is Pippa? She is a runner. I'll let you know!

A nice surprise, right.

I like surprises. Receiving unexpected mail in the post, an unexpected ending to a novel and flowers at the door (not that the later has happened for a while!).

I saw this recipe recently on Joy the Baker and started to make it, then realised I left my cake tin at a friend's house.

So I make cupcakes with the batter. The roasted strawberries were unsurprisingly good (how could it fail?). The texture definitely suits a cake more, but still worked well as cupcakes.

Friday, June 8, 2012

What I've been reading lately

I needed some advice...

On the weekend I caved in and bought a couple new books. (I said I wouldn't, I don't have money, have reports to write, yadda yadda yadda). Anyhow, I went straight to the balcony of a cafe and started reading it. And didn't stop.

The book description (from Amazon) -

A new way of looking at feminism from one of our funniest writers

My thoughts -

 I read this book not long after reading Tina Fey's book. Quite similar in style, Caitlin often putting herself down for the sake of humour. But there are less 'in' jokes in this book, even men don't have to be 'in' the women camp to find it funny, plus it is British- therefore funnier (to me...).

I seriously laughed out loud at parts. A favourite being when she was talking about a woman's choice to have a baby and her experience as a young mum, juggling life as a journalists with being a parent.
'And we were so exhausted that we had to simply give up the project, downgrade to something easier, and less vital,' I continued, eating dry coffee granules, for energy.'

This book has been on the best-seller chart for a while, but reviews are very mixed. I can understand why. In some ways it was quite repetitive; explaining what a feminist is, not a man-hater you see. Someone who wants equal rights, not who thinks they are better than men. See-easy to understand. No need to repeat it, or even stand on a chair and shout it out (as suggested in the book). I am a feminist. I bet you are too.But no need to shout about it.Moran also uses capital letters QUITE A LOT...gets the point across though! But hey, the book was funny (did I mention that?)

Thursday, June 7, 2012


I took a sharp intake of breath when I walked in the fruit shop to see a load of (imported) soft fruit. Cherries, peaches, blueberries and nectarines. Yeah! I love passion fruit and mangoes, but it is nice to get a change from time to time.

I took another intake of breath when I saw the price, but decided I would just get a little of each as a treat.

Black cherries are my favourite fruit, yep, love them. gobbling all 6 cherries (!) I was inspired to make a cherry cheesecake. As I said, the cherries were mucho expensivo, so I bought some jam for the topping! (Nice jam!)

This Nigella recipe was my go-to-recipe in Kuwait...and have made it a dozen of times, but this was the first time I made it here in Kenya. It is honestly the easiest and tastiest cheesecake.

The photos are a bit crap. I took it over to a friends and could hardly just cut a slice for the photo, could I?

I can't believe the first week of June has disappeared. Where is the time going? Not long now...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sleeping in a tree house

Hey, so you remember I bathed in a canoe in a tree house not so long ago. Well, my friend Karen and I got a voucher for a free return visit (as there was a mix-up with our accommodation the first night we stayed on our yoga weekend). Score!

So, to celebrate Madaraka Day (a holiday to mark Kenyan gaining self-rule after Independence from the British) we escaped the city and went ALL the way to Karen! (So it was really like a stay-cation, as I was only in the car for about 40 minutes!).

There was no canoe this time...but our tree house had the best view of the Ngong Hills.

Ngong is the Maasai word for knuckles. See it?

My friend Karen (whom I stayed with in Karen, got it?) had to work far too hard, so I basically spent the time chilling out my myself, drinking endless pots of tea, then wine, writing report comments (makes me more honest!!) and reading. (Oh, I did also write a blog post, but think I had too many drinks by that time...it might need a bit of editing!) But mostly, I just sat and stared onto the Ngong Hills, mesmerized by them. Reflecting on my time in Kenya and thinking about my future. (Did I mention I was drinking wine!?)

Sweet huh! The food and service was also fantastic. You can go to the lodge just for a meal. I would recommend it!

Around the campfire in the evening we discovered that every guest (bar my friend) was a teacher. Oh the joy!

Now, just so you don't think I live a charmed life,I'll tel you, I did not sleep a wink. A little cut in my toe got infected and decided to throb all through the night. (Friends, you will be pleased to know that I did not in fact have to get it amputated...anti-biotics only. Panic over!)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Grating on me

Sometimes emails are too easy, to accessible and you can pour your thoughts onto the keyboard, with no regard to a response from the other person or for their feelings.

I have resorted to name calling (in my head); The Witches of Eastwick. Hey, I know what they think of me, they have told me, so don't feel sorry for them. I wouldn't normally vent on my blog, but they are grating on me, every day.

My mum has a no-fail courgette cake recipe, that when I am home I always use at least once, in that holiday. It has been a favourite for years.

I found this one on a blog the other day (can't remember who, and I have tried to find it since, but can't...is it yours??If so-thank you!).

Courgette (Zucchini) Muffins
1 large courgette (grated and then squeezed through kitchen towel)
1 cup of light brown sugar
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar (I used unrefined whole sugar)
2/3 cup of vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
a large handful (about 75g) of roughly chopped walnuts

Whisk sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs.
In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon and salt.
Add to mixture with courgette and nuts. Fold.
Divide into cases and bake for about 20 minutes.
(Since my oven has on and off-no joke...I couldn't tell you the temperature. I am guessing, 'hot'. )

1 cup of cream
1/2 cup of sour cream
3 tablespoons of icing sugar
whole walnuts to decorate

For my last 25 days at the 'w' place (not that I am counting), my friend has suggested that I just not open my email account. I'm going to follow that trinket of advice! It is harder for people to be nasty to you to your face and if it what they have to say is in fact important (doubtful!) then that person surely can walk 5 steps to my classroom.

I made these for my running buddy, who has some great (hohoho!) advice!

Friday, June 1, 2012

What I've been reading lately

Book description (from goodreads ) -

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.

Now Tony is in middle age. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.

 My thoughts -

This is a tough book to review, but here goes...
The writing is beautiful. The words poured off the page seamlessly, flowing and rippling like a gentle stream. In many ways I can understand why this book won the Man Booker Prize in 2011.

Tony is forced to recall events of his younger days (school and university) and it is interesting how he selectively remember events. Then realises that he may have been remembering them wrongly, emphasising different aspects. Something that we probably all do. Making some snap seconds seem more important than they were/are, which we obsess over. (A theme in The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk, one of my favourite books).

There was no hurried or rushed page turning and I took my time reading this, happy to float along the stream. I didn't think the plot was overly exciting or thrilling; the main character, Tony, was a content divorcee and was a 'nice' man.  But, the lack of a thrilling plot doesn't even matter. I still felt a massive lump in my chest at the ending. (I was blown away by the sad ending actually and totally surprised by it.) This is in no way a feel-good book (I am ready for one of those), but it is a wonderful story written by a wonderful story teller. I would highly recommend it.

On a side note, the edges of all the pages are unusually black and makes out like it is blurring onto the cover design. Interesting. Why? Is it because the book is quite dark and depressing? Or do you think it is just to be different? I am thinking about getting a Kindle...but I think I would miss holding a book, looking at its cover, being enticed by the book to read it.

This was my last book from my recent package to Nairobi. I don't really feel like I can justify buying anything at the moment (as the cost of moving is way beyond my means as it is!)-but I just don't feel like reading any of the ones on my shelf at the moment. Are you reading anything good at the moment?