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!


 January 2, 2014  Posted by at 1:06 pm Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Nov 032012

While Mike was at his conference in Nairobi, I went to check out iHub, which is one of many tech work spaces in the city.  The startup tech industry in Nairobi is growing rapidly and many have dubbed it the Silicon Valley of Africa.  My friend Mbwana, who I met through some business school friends, manages Savannah Fund, which is a seed capital fund focused on sub-Saharan African tech startups.  He’s been a great resource since I’ve moved to Dar and he suggested I check out iHub since it was close to my hotel.  It’s located across the street from Uchumi Supermarket on Ngong Rd.

I went several times over the week and was really impressed.  There is such buzzing energy in the place and people were coming and going all the time.  It’s on the top floor of an office building with great light and the space is bright and airy.  There’s a foosball table covered with stickers of tech startups and a small coffee vendor in the corner.  Table space is limited so you have to get there early to claim a spot.  It’s free to walk in and work there with free wifi.  Everyone was just working away on their Macbooks.  I saw programmers and graphic designers.  It was really something, very inspiring.

Early Morning at iHub Before Every Chair is Filled

Couches and Foosball

 November 3, 2012  Posted by at 8:00 am Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »