clinelliott

Feb 022014
 

This is part two of the memorial article I wrote for the 10-year anniversary of my dad’s passing.  You can read the first post about dealing with grief here.

Things I Learned From My Dad

Every parent wishes to impart on their child some values they will take with them through life, and hopefully it guides them to good decisions.  I was extremely lucky to have been raised in a loving family and I couldn’t have asked for a better mom and dad.  There are certain characteristics of immigrant parenting that I find to be universal.  There is always this drive to do better and to make sacrifices for future success.  I think a lot of this impacted what my parents taught us and I’m grateful for it.  Some of it may seem reminiscent of “Tiger Parenting,” but I think there is some good in those tactics.  I often try to put myself in my parents’ shoes.  Flying on a one-way ticket from Taiwan to a foreign country you’ve never been to must have been terrifying.  On top of that, you didn’t really speak the language or have much money, but you knew that was potentially the ticket for your future success.  I’m amazed at how they went from renting a freezing attic and eating canned Spaghetti-Os, to saving enough money to live in a neighborhood with a good school and send their three children to college.  I once asked my mom how they managed, and she replied, “It’s simple, we didn’t go on vacation for 10 years.”  I think this paints the picture of how they came here, assimilated into American culture, and tried to set up the best possible future for their children.  It’s incredibly humbling.

My dad worked a lot when I was young, and he often came home from work after we were already asleep.  It was hard to get quality one-one-one time with him. I was very lucky to have done an internship at his startup company the summer before I started college.  It was an hour commute, so I got a precious 1 hour slot with him twice a day.  There is a certain way you talk to your dad when you’re a child and then suddenly one day you find yourself speaking with him as an adult.  For the first time, we talked about things beyond, “what did you score on your test?”  I remember talking about having priorities in life and needing to make choices.  I will always hold those drives close to my heart; you can never get back quality time after someone’s gone.  Three themes hold strong when I look back at what my dad tried to instill in us: enjoy life, have discipline, and make your own opportunities.

Enjoy Life

My dad had very much a mantra of enjoying life in the moment.  This meant that whenever we went out to dinner, you could order whatever you wanted without worrying about the cost.  The same went for when we were on vacation.  I know my parents budgeted meticulously in order to be able to provide these luxuries for us, so it meant a lot to me.

I have to say, I think the most fun I’ve ever seen my dad have was at a Father-Daughter Day for my sorority.  He made the trip up from LA to Berkeley my junior year and the Father-Daughter event took place in the city.  Our sorority had reserved a fifties themed diner for dinner and dancing.  If you could have seen my father dance!  Wow, he really was jumping all over the place and everyone was saying, “Now I see where you get your dancing genes from!” I don’t think he ever stopped the whole night, grinning ear to ear.  It surprised even me because I had never really seen him let loose like that before.  Perhaps I got a glimpse of the supposed party animal he was back in the day?  It makes me really sad that I couldn’t share a dance with my dad at my wedding.

Be Disciplined

If my dad taught me to enjoy life’s moments to the fullest, he also definitely emphasized discipline.  My dad was always a bit extreme like that.  Sometimes I joked that maybe that was why he went into computers, it’s always 0 or 1 with him.  He either did things all the way or not at all.  With our schooling, it was your typical Chinese immigrant family upbringing: summer school every year, Kumon after school, Chinese school on weekends, piano for 12 years, etc.  When I was in junior high, I remember he was resistant to me getting my ears pierced.  The reason? It might make me too vain and thus, not focus on my studies.

When I was applying for college, my dad of course researched all the schools and decided that being a Business major at Berkeley was the best for me (which is what I ultimately ended up doing).  We took a trip to visit the campus, just the two of us.  What he didn’t find out in all his research beforehand was that we happened to be there during the 30th anniversary of People’s Park!  If you’re not familiar with People’s Park, it pretty much epitomizes the hippy-ness of Berkeley.  What that means is while we were touring Berkeley, we encountered lots of naked and homeless people.  You can’t imagine how uncomfortable it is to witness unattractive naked men in line for a public bathroom in front of your dad when you’re 17.  Looking back it was hilarious; I think both of us just said nothing and turned back the other way.

Discipline didn’t just apply to studies, it also applied to being physically active.  In that sense, I think we departed from your standard immigrant Asian household which stressed academia only.  From a young age, I was in dance class all the time and my brothers and sisters played soccer and tennis.  Every morning before work without fail, my dad would go for a run in the neighborhood and do sit-ups and pushups.  Knowing now how hard it is to get up every morning to exercise, I have huge admiration for his discipline in staying in shape.  This has definitely rubbed off on me now and keeping active is very important in my life.

Live Life to the Fullest

When someone so close to you passes away, you really inherit a heightened sense of mortality.  Life really is so short, and you never know when your time is up.  This has affected me a lot and it manifests itself in strange ways.  I will get antsy around the house on the weekend unless we have activities planned.  Part of me can’t sit still and do nothing.  I need to be teaching dance class, learning how to draw, maybe taking online courses, or learning a language.  What results is I always have the urge to do these things but then I find sometimes my body really does need down time, and so there are a lot of half-finished projects, goals, resolutions.  My dad always felt that idle time was wasted, and almost every waking minute he dedicated to either being active or furthering his knowledge.

As an example, my dad always read non-fiction books, whether it was biographies, histories, or technology books.  It wasn’t worth reading unless it was real.  I remember I went through a phase like this too—only reading non-fiction and thinking, “why would I ever waste time reading made-up stories instead of learning something practical?” He also refused to watch what he deemed were “silly” movies, usually animated movies and comedies fell into this category. I remember back then I didn’t understand why he was so rigid in his choices, but now I can see that he was forever driven in always pushing himself forward in the best way he knew.

Another way my dad made sure we got the most out of life was planning annual vacations for us.  My husband and friends always laugh at how I keep detailed spreadsheets for our trips, but you should have seen my dad’s!  They put mine to shame.  His was down to the minute: set up tent at 11:37am.  He claims it was from his two years in the Taiwanese military.  But all the research and planning I think came from a drive to get the most out of our trips—after all, that was hard earned money and precious time.  There was not a wasted minute.  We went camping every year and visited a lot of the National Parks in the West.  It really instilled a love of the outdoors in all of us.  During the winter break, we would go skiing and snowboarding.  I remember when snowboarding got really popular and all the kids wanted to try it.  My dad took the lessons with us!  He was the only parent to try it.  He was never afraid of trying something new.

All of this has really influenced me in a great way.  Whenever there is something I want to try or learn, I always feel that the resources are there if only I just put my mind to it.  If you want to try something, you should just go ahead and do it.  Why not?  Be brave and don’t make excuses. I’m so lucky to have had such an amazing dad, and I’m eternally grateful for all that he has taught me in life.  While 10 years have passed, I still feel his influence on me all the time and I can only hope to carry on his teachings to my own children.

 February 2, 2014  Posted by at 6:41 pm Family Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
Feb 012014
 

It’s been 10 years since my dad passed away and my mom is collecting memorial articles from friends and family to compile.  I thought I would share mine here.  There are two parts, so this is part 1 about grief and I’ll post part 2 about memories tomorrow.

~~~~~~~~~~

Dealing With Grief and a Memorial to My Dad

After a dance performance at Cal

After a dance performance at Cal

This month marks 10 years since my dad passed away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  I don’t think we ever fully get over the grief of losing someone you love, but time definitely helps with the healing process and it’s took me many years before I could even talk about my dad without breaking down.  I’d like to share with you my experience of going through the grieving process and a few memories of my dad that have particularly stayed with me.  The grieving process is important because without it I would not be able to sit here and write this memorial to my dad.  I hope it can help any of you when dealing with grief.

The last 10 years have probably been the most formative years of my life to date—my 20s.  It was 2003; I had just graduated college and was off in Hawaii with 2 girlfriends plotting how I was going to live there permanently when I got the phone call.  “The cancer’s back.”  After a week of tossing and turning, I took an early flight home; I couldn’t stand being away from my family during this time.  From September to January, I stayed at home and I’m grateful for those last 5 months.  My dad was taken so quickly so for a long time I was in denial.  After my dad passed away, I lived at home for 3 years, working and trying to be strong for my mom.  I had to be her rock, keep her company, and try to find a way for her to figure out how to live without my dad.  I felt it was my duty as eldest daughter.

In reality, I was incredibly lost and my escape was alcohol and partying.  Every weekend I would get so drunk I wouldn’t remember what happened that night.  It was unhealthy and I made a lot of poor decisions, one of which landed me in a Las Vegas hospital, and I’m lucky to be alive today.  I never talked about my dad with my friends or with other people and I always tried to keep my tears to myself.

I remember the moment I realized that it was time that I dealt with my grief.  My mom had left a newspaper article for me on the kitchen table and said, “I think you should read this.”  The author had also lost her father to cancer and I think I got to the third paragraph when I just lost it and couldn’t read any more.  That’s when I realized I needed help.  I couldn’t even read an article about loss!  A few weeks later, I went to visit a close friend in Santa Barbara.  She happened to be living with me in Hawaii when I found out the news 3 years back.  I told her what happened to me when I tried to read that article and broke down crying in front of her.  I apologized for crying and tried to stop.  That’s when she told me, “No, it’s okay to cry and I want you to keep crying.”  After I was done, she asked why I felt like I couldn’t cry.  I told her I always felt crying was a sign of weakness and you especially shouldn’t cry in front of others.  It makes people uncomfortable.  She said, “Well, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all and you need to learn that it’s okay to cry in front of your friends.  We are here for you.”  After that day, I made a conscious effort not to avoid conversations about my dad anymore.  I had to get to a point where I could talk about it without breaking down.  And it took a lot of tries and a lot of tears.  But I eventually got there and I am better for it.  Not allowing yourself to grieve creates a lot of pent up sadness that inevitably gets released in an unhealthy way.  I delayed my grieving process for 3 years while I was busy being “strong” for my mom.  And that’s okay, I don’t regret it.  But I am so happy that I finally became aware of what I needed to do and got over my uncomfortableness with crying.  There are still situations I can’t really handle: for whatever reason, that last scene in Armageddon where Bruce Willis says goodbye to Liv Tyler still gets me every time!  But that’s healthy and now Mike knows to change the channel when that movie comes on TV.

 February 1, 2014  Posted by at 6:16 pm Family Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »
Jan 142014
 

The weekend before last, Mike and I joined from friends just 45 min outside of town at a local tea farm.  We were really looking forward to it, since part of our New Year’s resolution was to get out of the city more.  We went to Kiambethu Tea Farm close to Limuru town, which is northwest of us.  On the weekends, they have a lunch session where you can go learn about the farm, take a walk through the forest, and enjoy food on the lawn. It was a really nice day out that Saturday, so perfect weather to be outside!  As we came up on the tea farms, I was pretty startled by how bright neon green the tea bushes were.  I guess I’d never seen a tea plantation before.  It was gorgeous with all the rolling hills.  When we got the farm, there was a living room set up in an old house, and they had set up chairs for people to sit and listen about the history of the farm.  The owner now is this really old cute British lady whose family had come to Kenya in 1903 (!).  I can’t even imagine what it was like back then.  Tea was introduced to Kenya when all the workers from India came to work on the railroad.  They used to bring it from India, but people tried to grow it here and it grew very well, especially in higher altitudes where it was cooler.

Beautiful day!

Beautiful day!

The tea pickers are paid by weight, and it’s amazing to see how fast they work.  They go through the bushes which are planted densely together, and throw the plucked leaves over their shoulders into a basket on their back.  It’s one of the few industries where they still employ human labor to pick the leaves since they’re so delicate and the machines would crush the leaves.  You have to be very careful, because once the leaf is crushed, it immediately starts oxidizing and would get rejected by the processor.  When they pluck, they also only take the first 2-3 shoots off the end, so the bush keeps generating.  The top shoot is the youngest and the best quality.  The different types of tea are made from different types of tea plants but they are all in the camellia family (had no idea!).

Tea leaf pickers hard at work

Tea leaf pickers hard at work

Camellia bush up front with a stripped section in back

Camellia bush up front with a stripped section in back

Then we went on a walk through the indigenous forest–there’s not many left near Nairobi unfortunately and that was nice, but a little strange since it had nothing to do with tea.  But nice to take a walk nonetheless.  They don’t let you walk through the tea fields since you can damage the bushes.

Huge fuschia bushes on the plantation

Huge fuschia bushes on the plantation

Then we all ended it with lunch outside with some nice Kenyan iced tea!  Great afternoon spent and learned a lot.

Overlooking the tea fields

Overlooking the tea fields

 January 14, 2014  Posted by at 10:35 am Attractions, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Jan 022014
 

It’s been a long time since I last wrote, and I’m sorry I haven’t been very good at keeping this blog up to date!  Work has been pretty hectic with a lot of changes in the last 6 months and sometimes I’m so tired after my 1 hour commute home that the last thing I want to do is pop open my laptop.  We all get in these funks, and I hope to be better about it this year.

So, let’s recap 2013…

Countries visited: US, Rwanda, Ghana, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa (most of these for work)

Have taught contemporary jazz and hip hop dance classes since May (!).

Feel comfortable driving stick shift now on the opposite side of the car and road, though I still hate steep hills.

Have really embraced making homemade ice cream and baking treats in my free time.

After the initial culture shock of working in Africa, I finally feel adjusted at work will have relaunched websites for 17 countries by next week.

2014 is going to be nuts!  I always like reflecting at New Years and setting time aside to think about what I’d like to do (and then feel bad about how I don’t really accomplish a lot of what I set out to do every year).  So here’s my stab at a list of goals for 2014, please feel free to hold me accountable!

1. I haven’t been great about exercising outside of the dance classes I teach and I really feel like it’s such a huge part of how good I feel on a daily basis.  So outside of teaching twice a week, I’d like to get in a workout at least two other times a week, whether it’s on the treadmill, using my Yogaglo subscription (also feeling guilty about that one), or a walk in Karura Forest.

2. We haven’t been able to get out of Nairobi much on the weekends, since my hip hop class was every Saturday afternoon.  Now that I’ve moved it to Wednesday nights, we would like to get out and enjoy the outdoors and beautiful Kenya at least once a month, hopefully camping.  On the list: Aberdares, Naivasha, Nakuru, Mt. Kenya, Amboseli.

3. Get back into music.  I used to be obsessed with music and often went to concerts at least once a week.  Chicago and New York were great for fostering that.  Now I feel completely out of touch with new music.  Where did that go?  There are lot of things in my life that I feel are ‘gone’ that I attribute to growing old, but I kind of hate old age as an excuse for anything.  Because it’s really not.  I’m hoping my dance classes will also help inspire me to find good music.

4. Draw at least once a week.  Don’t laugh, but this year I downloaded a book called ‘Learn to Draw in 30 Days’ since I’ve always had a hidden desire to be an artist.  I’m not very good, but hey, it’s a start!  And I think it’s really important to infuse more creativity in your life.  If I could do my life over again, I think I would have liked to be in the design field.  It’s something I don’t really have and so am always drawn to it.

5. Get over it.  Living in Africa that is.  This year has been a really tough adjustment and you don’t realize how much you take for granted in the States.  Simple things that being able to walk around or being able to buy whatever is on that recipe in the supermarket that day.  I think every week brings on an existential crisis of what am I doing with my life?  Some of that is because you have some more free time (you won’t believe how much time is freed up by having bad TV) to think and be bored.  In the US there are plenty of distractions.  This year, if I get into one of those funks, I want to be more proactive instead of just wallowing in it.

6. Last but not least, write at least once a week here.

Let’s do this!

KEN_080413_769

 January 2, 2014  Posted by at 1:06 pm Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 292013
 

The best part of our Diani weekend probably includes our best meal in Kenya so far–yes, I said it!  Best meal in Kenya so far.  We went to Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant on Saturday night, which is a famous restaurant in Diani literally set inside a coral cave.  We were tipped off by our diving buddies earlier in the day that we should make reservations (they were also going that night for the second night in a row) so we did that as soon as we got back from diving.  The restaurant will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel which is really nice.

We had no idea what to expect when we arrived, but it was even more beautiful than I imagined.  When you think coral cave, you think dark and maybe a little…damp?  Well they have decorated the place amazingly, and it was very warmly lit with a huge opening at the top so you can see the stars.  Very very romantic.

Beautiful Coral Cave

Beautiful Coral Cave

We started with a great wine from Simonsig, one of our favorite South Africa wineries.  We had visited Simonsig during our 3 month stint in Cape Town during business school and it’s still just as fantastic.  Sometimes it’s hard to get really good wine in Nairobi, even at the nice restaurants.  Mike had prawns in this to-die-for sauce and I got the grilled lobster.  So so good.  I was thinking to myself maybe the trip to Diani is worth it just for this meal!

Yum!

Yum!

 June 29, 2013  Posted by at 3:35 pm Diani, Food, Kenya Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 232013
 

Last month, Mike and I decided to do a weekend getaway in Diani, a town on the Kenyan coast, just south of Mombasa.  We didn’t take any days off, just left on a Friday evening as it’s a 1 hr flight from Nairobi to Mombasa.  It was low season so we didn’t have any problems booking hotels or flights.

I think if we were to do it again, we would probably take at least a day off to make it a 3 day weekend.  Friday night – Sunday is just too short for the travel logistics that are involved.  Fridays are the worst for traffic in Nairobi and even though we left at 5pm for the airport, we didn’t get there until 7:30pm.  We almost missed our flight!  We got there 30 min before take off and they let us through.  Whew!  The flight is quick but then to get to Diani it’s an hour and a half taxi ride — mostly it takes this long because you have to wait for the ferry.  We don’t arrive at the hotel until around 11pm and we hadn’t eaten dinner.  Luckily, the hotel had dinner waiting for us.  We stayed at Southern Palms Resort.  It’s a huge complex and it must get really crowded during busy season, but it was a bit cavernous while we were there during low season.  The pools are huge and winding all around but the rooms probably need a bit of updating.

Swim Up Bar

Swim Up Bar

I was fascinated by these yellow weaver birds who had made their nests in the waterways in between the hotel lobby and restaurant.  They would loudly chirp all day and weave their little nests.  There were so many of them!  Mike and I watched one weaver for a long time as it took down an old nest and then started a brand new nest from one long blade of grass.  It’s pretty incredible that the birds know how to build those with just their beaks and feet.  In order to get to the bottom of the nest, they would hang upside down and beat their wings to keep themselves up while weaving the nest.  I feel like I notice the birds a lot more here–partially because there’s just so many more here (nature!) and also they’re usually brightly colored or unusually patterned.

Amazing Yellow Weaver

Amazing Yellow Weaver

The first morning we got up really early and went diving with Diani Marine.  The first dive was a wreck dive that was sunk for diving and the other one was a reef dive.  Diani Marine was a good shop but definitely expensive.  I think compared to the diving we experienced in Indonesia, we are really spoiled!  The diving was good, but not great.  Hindsight, it was probably not a good idea to wake up at the crack of dawn after getting in so late the night before!  But pretty much everything closes on Sundays in Kenya, so Saturday was our only option.  After we got back to the hotel, it started pouring…ahh, low season.  But we played a mean game of ping pong. =)  Mike always has very low expectations of my hand-eye coordination skills (rightly so), but I think I impressed him and surprised myself with the ping pong skills.

The next day was a beautiful sunny day and we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves at the beach and pool.  Diani is known for its beautiful white sands.  The sands were definitely super soft, powdery, and white but I think during low season there is more seaweed washed in from the rains.  It’s still beautiful, nevertheless.  The only reason we didn’t spend more time out on the beach is because you tend to get harassed by “beach boy” selling boat rides and crafts.

Soft Seaweed Drifting

Soft Seaweed Drifting

White Sands

White Sands

All weekend, we kept seeing this mysterious set of blonde twins, dressed exactly the same, walking around the resort.  They were very distinct, with blunt cut platinum blonde hair, super pale, and very tall and skinny.  It was so bizarre!  We felt like we were in the twilight zone and the other hotel guests seemed to think the same too, since everyone would stare at them.  Turns out they were German and were shooting some sort of TV program at the hotel.  Wild.

Strange Twins...

Strange Twins…

We didn’t want to leave when the time came–just needed one more day!  Next time, when our parents come visit us in August, we will check out Watamu which is 2 hours north of Mombasa.  It will be closer to high season then, so we will see how it is up there.

Hypercolor Lizard

Hypercolor Lizard

 June 23, 2013  Posted by at 2:49 pm Attractions, Diani, Kenya Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
Jun 172013
 

Nairobi is one of the few cities with a national park right next to it.  The national park is actually right across the street from my office, and I often stare out at it whenever I go up our glass elevators.  It’s quite big–you can’t even really see where it ends from my office.  Some of my coworkers who live in Karen drive through the park every day to get to and from work, and they post photos of a group of lions by the side of the road on their way home.  Crazy right?  It’s typically hard to see wildlife from the road though, and to get a good luck, you usually have to get up by 6am when the animals are out.

You can drive around yourself in the park as long as you stick to the roads.  Mike and I haven’t really been though since a) we don’t feel like waking up at 6am on the weekend, and b) it’s a bit far from where we live and we usually stick close to our neighborhood due to traffic.  But one weekend my coworker invited us to his house for lunch and he lives even further from us than the national park, so we decide to visit the park before we go visit him.  Since we don’t wake up super early, we decide just to check out the Safari Walk, which is a sectioned off area of the park.  We have friends who bring their kids on the weekend.  You go through the entrance of Nairobi National Park off of Langata Rd (just past Wilson Airport), and the Safari Walk is on the right hand side of the parking lot.

But we get to the ticket gate and it’s more like a zoo.  Mike and I aren’t big fans of zoos at all since it’s so sad to see the animals locked up.  But we were there already, so…I guess if you were going to have a zoo, the Safari Walk is a better model.  The animals have a larger space to walk around and it’s their native environment, so there’s not a lot of fake habitat.  But what ends up happening is that since it’s natural brush, you can get to an exhibit and not see the animals at all since they are hiding in the bush or trees.  We were lucky to get a few peeks of some of the animals, so I’m sharing those photos here.

Baboon and Her Baby

Baboon and Her Baby

Cheetah With Nowhere to Run =(

Cheetah With Nowhere to Run =(

An Eland - This Thing was Huge!

An Eland – This Thing was Huge!

When we got to the lion exhibit, we couldn’t see any lions since they were hiding.  But after we left and were walking away, we heard these crazy loud roars!  We saw a groundskeeper and he told us it was the lions.  So we ran back and there they were, coming out of the bush.  The sound was like nothing I’d ever heard.  Much louder than you think.

Lion Coming Out of the Bush

Lion Coming Out of the Bush

Next time we are going to wake up early to drive around the park – no more Safari Walk for us!

 June 17, 2013  Posted by at 9:19 pm Attractions, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 162013
 

It’s been a way long time since I last posted!  Sorry, sorry.  It’s been really busy at work lately so the last thing I want to do when I get home is sort through my photos and write.  So these photos are quite old, but still worth the update!

Since we’ve been in Nairobi, Mike and I are always on the hunt for outdoor spaces to go on walks.  We really miss walking around and while we have Karura Forest, we wanted to explore the Arboretum which is not far from us.  I had heard mixed reviews; people said it was actually quite busy and not very peaceful at all because of singing church groups (huh?).  But really how bad could it be?

You can get to the Arboretum off State House ride and then make a turn on Arboretum Drive.  There’s a small parking lot where you pay a small fee.  It’s free to walk in though.  There’s a paved path when you enter, but pretty soon it’s just dirt paths.  There are large fields scattered around and it’s less of an arboretum and more of a green public space.  Wow, but we were unprepared for what we experienced!!  It was actually super crowded, and sure enough, tons of church groups.  Mostly, they were doing team building activities–lots of holding hands in circles.  There was preaching, singing, jumping up and down, games, anything you could think of.  And the groups were literally all next to each other so you almost felt like you were at a very crowded church camp.  It was actually quite cool to see, but definitely not our idea of a peaceful garden walk.  Pretty chaotic.  Since there were so many groups, it was actually quite loud with all the singing and yelling in teams.

Kids About to Break a Tree Branch

Kids About to Break a Tree Branch

Team Building Mania

Team Building Mania

To escape the crowds, Mike and I tried to take the side paths around the park.  When we came upon this little guy!

Karma Chameleon

Karma Chameleon

I had never seen a chameleon in real life before.  It’s feet were the coolest.  Of course Mike had to pick it up and take a look.  It didn’t really flinch at all and just kind of settled on to his arm.  We’re glad we went to check out the arboretum, but honestly, I’d probably stick to Karura Forest if I’m looking a nice quiet place to walk around. =)

 June 16, 2013  Posted by at 9:17 pm Attractions, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Apr 272013
 

It’s been rainy season here since mid-March and it’s pretty consistently rained almost every day.  But it’s probably the best kind of rainy season.  It doesn’t really rain that often during the day and like clockwork the rain comes in the evening.  So that means on the weekends, the day is clear for you to be out and about still.  The only time the rain really sucks is when it causes major traffic.  I guess in that sense, Nairobi is like LA.  When it rains, people drive really slowly!  Of course, in LA it’s because it barely rains whereas here when it rains, people drive slowly because the roads flood and there are huge potholes hidden beneath the puddles. =)  Sometimes it’s raining so hard on the car roof that you wouldn’t be able to have a conversation easily.  Thunderous!  And you can’t see 5 feet in front of you at night.  Pretty scary.  We try to avoid going out if it’s raining at night.

The other crazy thing that happens when it rains is the winged termites come out.  Yes, you read that right!  Winged termites are attracted to the light like moths and they come out in droves when it rains.  If you don’t know what one looks like, here’s a link to photos Google Image Search.  They’re pretty harmless, just startling when you see the swarms of them for the first time.  They even swarm around your car headlights.  So they are all over the street lamps and you have to be careful about leaving your windows open.  One night I came home from work while it was raining and Mike was playing his video game.  This was the first night I saw all the winged termites on the way home and they were all over our apartment lobby stairway area since it’s lit up.  My first thought was oh no, Mike likes to keep the windows open, I bet they’re all over our apartment!

Mike was absorbed in his video game and probably hadn’t seen any of the winged termites.  Sure enough, I run into the kitchen and they are EVERYWHERE!!  Wow, you’ve never seen anything like it.  Kinda creepy.  So we turn on the light to our laundry room and turn of the light in the kitchen.  That was hilarious because soon after they all started crawling/flying towards the light like a mass exodus.  Once we got most of them in the laundry room we were careful to keep the lights off and put a rag underneath the door since there was a small crack they kept coming through.  So no problems, the rest we just vacuumed up. 😉  Apparently the winged termites are an old-time delicacy here and people fry them up and eat them.  My driver Richard says they taste sweet and some of my coworkers say when it rains in the villages, they get huge plastic bags to put over the termite mounds to “harvest” the bugs.  And they’re not cheap to buy since you really only get them once a year.  I guess one day i’ll try them…

It’s nearing the end of rainy season so it doesn’t rain much anymore.  It’s been quite “cold” lately I guess, mostly around 60s to 70s.  I definitely bring a jacket almost every day.

We hope to get outside of Nairobi for a weekend some time soon so I promise there will be more fun updates then. =)

 April 27, 2013  Posted by at 5:19 pm Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Apr 212013
 

Last night Mike and I met two other couples at Little Sheep Hot Pot on Ngong Rd.  It’s just west of Adams Arcade, Green House.  Little Sheep is a restaurant chain in China and has quite a few locations in the US too.  My mom and I went to the one in Beijing in 2008.  It’s debatable whether or not the one in Nairobi is an official chain or if they just took the logo and name. 😉  The restaurant is literally in someone’s house that was converted, so the dining tables are in 3 different rooms, complete with floral wallpaper and paper lanterns and decorative fans hanging.

There were the classic two broths, chicken herbal and spicy.  Sometimes the spicy broth is way too hot for me with the Sichuan peppercorns, but last night it wasn’t too bad–just right!  I ended up using the spicy broth the most.

Our Meat and Vegetables Cooking in the Herbal Broth and Hot and Spicy Broth

Our Meat and Vegetables Cooking in the Herbal Broth and Hot and Spicy Broth

With 6 people, we got to order a bunch of different plates: thinly sliced lamb and beef, lotus root, two different types of noodles, seaweed, dong tofu, shitake, tofu skin and sheets, dumplings, and fish balls.  And believe me, we ate it all!  Our heat plate wasn’t working and then we blew a fuse, so they had to replace it.  There was a lot of fiddling with the outlet and the extension cord under Mike’s seat.  So it took a while to get it boiling so we were hungry by the time we could eat the food.  The good was great–I’ve really missed hot pot!  Reminds me of when we were in China and we had it all the time there.  I think that’s where Mike got sick of hot pot. 😉

The owners of the restaurant are really nice.  They’re from China (we think Jiangsu province?) and apparently they’ve been in Africa for 10-15 years.  She was really cute, coming over and speaking Chinese to us and saying “I like to listen in on your table since you speak such good English!” (there were 3 Chinese speakers are our table).  There’s quite a large Chinese population here; I think someone told me 30,000 Chinese in Nairobi?!  So quite cool that you get the “real” Chinese food in Nairobi, not American Chinese food.  Funny, huh?

For dessert, we topped it off with sweet sesame soup dumplings (tang yuan).  Yum!  Hope we go back soon.

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot - Thumbs Up!

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot – Thumbs Up!

 April 21, 2013  Posted by at 4:11 pm Food, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »