Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A year later....Westgate revisited

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of my arrival to Nairobi. Mike and the kids had been in Nairobi for some time before I arrived, so it was just me and the baby. It's a tough transition to have to endure as it is, but only 4 days after arriving, a terrible terrorist attack happened. Below I have attached an essay I wrote as my personal experience: "The Day of Westgate" We are reliving this day because the one year anniversary is coming up and HBO recently released a documentary on that terrible event, which we've now watched and I can't help but feel thankful, angry, relieved and so so sad. We were in that mall just an hour before the attack started with our 4 children, one of whom was only 2 months old. It is such a scary feeling to think what if... but also to think of all the people who have suffered from this event.

The Day of Westgate:
Arriving home, she stomps up the stairs and calls down to her husband, “I just need a nap.”  It was a long night with the baby and she hasn’t quite recovered from the 32-hour journey from Arizona. The days have been long and the nights even longer.
Her husband enters the bedroom apologetically, “There was a shooting in the mall we were just at. I might have to go to work, I’m sorry.”
Rolling over, she pulls the covers off and glances at the time; it’s only been 20 minutes since they arrived home.
Padding down the stairs, the baby is crying and the TV is on full blast, she feels more annoyed. “What happened?” she huffs as she walks into the kitchen, grabbing a glass of water that is sitting on the counter.
“They say it was a robbery,” he responds.
Her husband receives the phone call, yes he has to go to work, which leaves her to set up for guests arriving, none of whom she knows and play hostess on less than four hours of sleep.
The house is prepared; food is set out, the beer is the cooler, the doors are open wide to let air in and her kids are running around outside.
 “Do you think anyone will come?” she asks.
“I sent an e-mail explaining that I had to bail out, but people were still welcome to come.”
This was not the answer she wanted to hear. She relied on her husband in social situations, how could he expect her to host a party without him? Her annoyance level increased as he walked out the door and drove off. She could see dark clouds in the distance, maybe there will be another storm; the weather has been so dreary since she arrived.
The kids are happy in the yard and it’s now 30 minutes past the posted start time of her Welcome Party, an appropriate time to pour a glass of wine and check the news online as no one has arrived yet, perhaps no one will come. The police are asking people to stay away from the mall and the Embassy has sent an urgent message asking people to shelter in place. The knot in her stomach is growing, but not from the fear of hosting a social gathering; the news coming out of the mall is that terrorists have taken over and have hostages.
She looks out the window to watch the dark clouds roll in and spies her first guest, on his cell phone, holding a bottle of wine. He has a little girl in tow, must be the neighbor from across the street. The kids run through the house screaming excitedly.
Throughout the evening more guests come in and out of the house, welcoming her to her new home. “Sorry you got here at such a horrible time,” was the typical thing people said. Wandering from one conversation to another, all the talk was about what was happening.
“My co-workers wife was shot, she didn’t make it.”
“I hear there are 20 people in there with guns.”
While most people are being chatty, no one is without their phone, checking the internet, receiving phone calls from worried family members and friends.
Before the end of the party the computer starts making a noise. “I think that’s your Skype,” someone calls to her.
She approaches the computer with a guilty feeling, she wanted to answer and talk, especially since most of the people around were on their phones, but she was host and knew it’d be inappropriate. She ignores the call and sees her guests off.
Once everyone has left and the children are in bed, she walks through the house locking it up and turning on all the lights. Her husband is still at work and doesn’t know when he’ll be home.
Sitting at the computer she reads the news for hours. The longer she reads, the more she can put the timeline of events together; it seems that the sleep she so longed for got them out 10 minutes before gunmen entered the parking lot and started shooting. Her heart is heavy with grief for those who are suffering inside the mall and out.
She turns out the lights and walks up the stairs; it feels like a hike up a mountain, the events of the day have left her exhausted.
After checking on each kid and giving them a kiss she checks her phone, her husband called to say he would be coming home around 2 a.m., it’s only 10 p.m.  She sinks into her bed, letting the day’s events run through her mind as she falls asleep, the fan in the background and a light breeze blowing through the window.
She wakes with a start, it’s her phone ringing. Her husband is locked out of the house. “I’m in the backyard, can you let me in?”
Walking into the backyard she notices that it rained while she slept. The air is fresh and cool and everything in the yard is damp. The wind blows her hair gently. Her husband looks up from his phone, “You look beautiful.”
“Thank you,” she says looking down at her pajamas and  sits down on a chair near him.
He lights a cigarette, the first she’s seen him smoke in over a year. “There will be a meeting tomorrow to determine if we will become a voluntary evacuation post.”
She gives him a serious look, “I won’t leave.”
“I didn’t think so, I just wanted you to know,” he says. “I have to go back in early tomorrow.”
Knowingly, she stands up and walks up the dark stairs.
 As he settles into bed he pulls her close, hugs her tight and kisses her head.

Lying in his arms, she forgets the anger she’d felt earlier in the day over her lack of sleep. They fall asleep, thankful to be alive and together.

This essay was written just after the event. With an educated timeline, we now know we left the mall at least 45 minutes to an hour before the attack happened. 

Below you will see a picture taken from our house of the mall burning and also a picture of the book our son made for himself. He was 6 at the time and I decided I'd rather have him home until everything was resolved, he took it upon himself to make a picture book out of the stories he was hearing.

View from our guest room. The siege was 4 days...

Finn is a smart boy and this is what he came up with to deal with what he was hearing and feeling

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Camel Derby, Maralal, Samburu, Kenya

My lovely husband has taken to my new job as the post newsletter editor and CLO admin, so much so that he provided a story of our most recent adventure here in Kenya...This is the unedited version. Enjoy :)

Even before moving to Kenya, I had heard about an annual camel race in Maralal, a sun-baked, dusty outpost in the Northern Frontier District. It sounded, fun, exotic, and sightly preposterous. I decided I would check it out if I got the chance. 
There was virtually no information about the 2014 edition of the race. I wasn't even sure it was going to happen until a week before, when finally an inn-keeper in Maralal confirmed the dates for me through e-mail. It  wasn't much to go on, but I didn't care. I was somehow able to convince my long-suffering wife to agree to the trip, and on Aug. 29 we piled our four kids into the car to make the five and half hour journey north to Maralal.
It was a nice, smooth ride for about four hours, until we passed Nyahururu and the tarmac road abruptly ended. We kept bouncing down the dirt road for a while, and then - to my great surprise, considering we were in one of the most drought-stricken areas of Kenya - the skies opened up and started dumping rain on us. Although there were only about four other vehicles on the whole 150 km stretch of road, they all immediately got stuck in the mud. On a single-lane road, that's a problem. Everybody got themselves unstuck eventually, but the delay cost us a couple of hours and we didn't roll into Maralal until it was almost dark. I then made the rookie mistake of asking a random Boda Boda driver if he knew the way to our campsite. He led us on a wild tour of seemingly every corner of Maralal, before finally admitting defeat and puttering away in the rain. Somehow, we finally found the campsite and pitched our tent. That night at about 2 AM, in the cold and rain, with my 1-year-old boy screaming his head off in the tent, my wife looked at me with pure hate and said "I am never going $#&@ camping ever again!" It was a real family bonding moment.
In the morning we got up early and drove down to the actual site of the camel derby. I still had no idea what to expect. What I found was a poop-strewn enclosure with about two dozen filthy camels and about the same number of nervous looking expats who were all probably having the same second-thoughts I was. Yet, insanely, we all agreed to pay 5000 shillings for the privilege of humiliating ourselves in the 10 KM race. Having never ridden a camel or spent any time around these beasts, I was a little put off by how irritable and mean-tempered they seemed. Plus, the sounds they were making were horrific, kind of like gargling and vomiting at the same time. Nevertheless, I mounted up and we were led over to the starting line.
By this point a good portion of Maralal town had come out to watch. Most folks were in their traditional Samburu outfits - big beaded necklaces on the ladies, bright cloaks and daggers on the guys. They seemed to be getting a big kick out of watching us try to control our unruly camels. The governor of Samburu appeared, and gave a little speech for the TV cameras. Then he started to give a dramatic countdown: 10, 9, 8 . . .  But before he got past 7 all the camels erupted across the starting line in a wild, grunting stampede. 
I didn't know what I was doing but I figured if I just held on tight I would do okay. Plus, every camel rider also had a young guy running behind him swatting the camel's behind with a stick to get him to go faster. Truthfully, these guys were the only athletes in the race, since they had to run the whole 10km.
After a few kilometers, me and my camel were starting to get into a nice rhythm. I decided to stand up in the stirrups the whole way, instead of sitting in the saddle and having my butt and other important areas smashed to bits. This seemed to work pretty well, and we started gaining speed. At first, I only entered the race for the novelty of it, but suddenly the thought popped into my head: "I can win this God-damned camel derby!"  
We passed through the center of Maralal town where people on the streets watched us pass by with only the faintest interest. "Oh, it's that time of year again when stupid Wazungus ride through town on camels."
As we rounded the town traffic circle and came out on a long straight-away heading for the finish line, I was feeling confident. There were two camels ahead of me, but I thought I had a chance of catching them. But then my camel started to tucker out. I called out to a bunch of school kids sitting by the side of the road to come help. They came running over shouting encouragement and my camel started to perk back up. For the next couple of kilometers I ran with an entourage of about 20 kids, plus a guy on a motorcycle constantly beeping his horn to inspire us (or maybe just to be a jerk).
I was getting close to the finish line, but by this point I could tell that the two camels ahead of me were too far off to catch. "Well," I thought, "I'm still in medal contention." Third place would still be pretty good. But just then a riderless camel came galloping past me on the left-hand side. It was really moving fast. I was wondering what had become of the rider when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a motorcycle come roaring up with an expat woman on the seat behind the driver. She had a race bib safety-pinned to her shirt, meaning she was one of the contestants. It was the old switcheroo - she had dismounted way back at KM 2 and was planning to jump back on just before the finish line. 
I was calling her every filthy name in the book to no avail, but luckily when the motorcycle pulled over and she tried to re-mount her camel, it refused to move. Good sportsman, that camel!
So now third place seemed right within my grasp. I was in the home-stretch. I could hear the roar of the crowd as the finish line grew closer. I was almost there, but behind me I could hear another rider on my heels, gaining fast. We were neck and neck for a moment. It was a duel. I shouted encouragement into my camel's ear and we seemed to pull ahead. I looked over and saw my wife and kids on the sidelines, faces beaming as my moment of glory approached. The finish line was there . . . 
And then my camel decided to stop moving. I screamed, pleaded, and cried, but nothing worked. He just stood there as the rider who had been behind us came rushing past and crossed the finish line to a huge roar of applause. I couldn't believe it. I had come so close!  Eventually, some dude grabbed the reigns and dragged my camel across the finish line. No one seemed to notice. Bummer.
Ultimately, of course, I could give two craps that I didn't win the race. It was a lot of fun regardless, and something I'll always remember. If you are interested in participating in the Maralal Camel Derby, start searching for info next year around July. The derby almost always takes place in mid-late August. Even if you only go to watch and not participate, it's still worth it. Samburu culture is fascinating, and the landscape around that part of Kenya is incredible. 

Camels don't seem to like having riders, but Maggie didn't care, she was riding that thing!

Our 4th place daddy!

As the sky's opened up.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thanksgiving Trip 2013

I've been in Nairobi 3 months now, it really feels like a whole lot longer than 3 months, but that's all. While I've been here we haven't done as much exploring as we did in Laos, but it appears that we are going to make deadly road trips a Thanksgiving tradition. If I were high speed, you'd be all in the know about our deadly road trip we took up North to the communist caves in Laos, but, well as you are aware, I am LAZY and did not blog on that trip, but it was epic and I feel awful for not rehashing the stories of vomit and kids falling into ancient jars in field littered with land mines...

Anyhoo, lets get back to this Thanksgiving trip- the week before Christmas, because in case you missed it, I'm lazy and forget to keep up with my blog.

"Driving? You're driving?" Is the question we kept getting. Yes, us crazy Pryor's drove to the coast. Why is it crazy, let me tell you..In our first 20 minutes of driving a car slammed into the back of a truck, causing Mike to utilize his defensive driving skills to maneuver around flying car bits; through the whole trip he also had to overtake ( a way better word than passing) trucks going no more than 20 mph on a two lane highway, which in some cases had us on the side of the road trying not to spin out. While the drive was less than desirable...I MISS MY Sequoia! The trip is definitely to be remembered.

First we stopped in Mombasa for work, which wasn't bad, especially since this work trip I knew what I was capable of- pool all day with movies in the afternoon and a nice dinner at the hotel once work was finished. Really! Because if Bangkok taught me one thing, it was: don't over do it alone. I barely have enough patience at home to deal with the kids alone, but throw me into an unknown city that is possibly unsafe...meh I totally don't feel guilty. The kids had fun playing games swimming and Tess is now convinced her swimming costume is a ballet uniform.

From Mombasa we took our real vacation at Tiwi beach in lovely little cottages at Sand Island. Now that was awesome. We had our own cottage and our own food, plus the beach was pretty perfect for our family. With a sand bar separating the beach and the ocean waves with a shallow pool of warm water, allowing for non swimmers to swim freely and parents to read books while a fed baby slept in his tent... Yes, it was amazing, and a real vacation, even with 4 kids!

So while the drive wasn't the best to the beach, it was totally worth it. Enjoy some photos!

At the hotel in Mombasa
Don't be fooled by the fact that I grew him for 9 months and gave birth...he is HER baby.

At Tiwi Beach

And somehow there were 4!

While Maggie loved the star fish, Tess couldn't be coursed into loving them too.

And the happy parents of 4! are actually enjoying themselves.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween 2013

We like to do family costumes, and a certain husband likes to make said costumes, in years past this has been a fun project, often times involving my sewing machine, which pretty much only makes an appearance for said projects. 

This year was no different. We decided as a family that we would do Star Wars family costumes. Luke, Hans, Leia, Yoda, and R2D2...I was supposed to be C-3PO, but after realizing the best way to accomplish this costume would be a gold full body suit, that idea was cut...You can thank me for being spared that sight ;)

With the characters chosen all we had to do was collect items to assemble the costumes. Now this is where I find it tricky to do homemade and many arguments took place many nights leading up to Halloween. While Africa, and especially Kenya has a plethora of used clothes, I didn't have the guts to venture out to find specific items on the list and couldn't bring myself to pay full price for items that wouldn't be used again. Items like a vest or Karate top. I wanted to just buy the costumes, but the only costume I was allowed to buy was Yoda.

I ended up buying fabric to make a vest, and Leia costume; and hit the local sports shop for a Karate uniform...One of our kids better become a black belt! When I finally stopped procrastinating and broke out the sewing machine, I remembered there is a problem with the needle and bobbin thingy, broke in February and I don't know anything about sewing machines, especially not enough to fix one.

Taking my sister in law's advice on using a pillow case for Leia, I was able to use my fabric by just folding it in half, cutting a head hole and cinching it with her belt. Super easy. Then came Hans' vest...I cant sew so I just cut a vest then used saftey pins in the back to give it a more vesty look. Done!

Mike made R2D2 out of poster board and a bowl. We knew the costume would be difficult to wear, I did argue for the costume to be made with a pillow case, but it wasn't my project and in the end, Tess wore it most of the night, needing some fixes along the trick-or-treat path. 

The day of Halloween, I guess I felt a bit guilty for opting out of dressing up for yet another Halloween, so I looked up Jedi and Padawan costumes. I basically did the same thing I did for Maggie's Leia costume to make a Padawan costume, so even if I wasn't a specific movie character, I did join in. 

Enough words check out these shots Mike got before the costumes fell apart ;)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Giraffe Centre

Saturday our family made the trek out to the Giraffe Center. I say trek because the center is located in Karen, a suburb of Nairobi. It takes so long to get there and traffic is so bad, it feels as if you've left the city entirely. It's a trip that requires planning and knowing it'll be a whole day. It was a trip we made off the cusp.

After arriving at the center, my feelings of making a day out of the trip to Karen was solidified. While it wasn't expensive to get in, there was not much to do after we fed the one giraffe who was being greedy and listening to the talk about what the center does. All in all, it was about a 30-minute activity.

The talk was good to listen to, the center is focusing on breeding a certain species of giraffe that has been endangered due to the development of the country; the Rothschild Giraffe. These giraffes are very pretty, except for their yucky looking tongue.

Tess feeding the giraffe.

Because it takes so long to get out there and very near by is the Kazuri! Bead Factory, we decided to take the kids out there, I'd been once and wanted to take Maggie to see how the beads were made and to pick out a necklace of her own. Once we arrived though, it was clear that only the shop was open and the factory wasn't in operation. Total bummer, I feel it took the significance away and the kids were not on their best behavior in the store. 

Next time, if there is a next time...We will be making a full day out of Karen, hitting some other spots that are popular to include the Jolly Roger theme park, which was closed to the public Saturday for a private function.

Want to learn more about what The Giraffe Center does?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Culture Shock revisited

It's been a month since I arrived to my new home in Nairobi and I have to say I feel pretty good, maybe it's the sleep Baby Ty has been allowing me to get at night, or maybe it's the area we are living in, or maybe it's from having a better idea of what's important to me when I get to a place.

Many people might remember my blog post I wrote after spending some time in Laos, It's my culture shock and I'll cry if I want to. It was difficult to get into the swing of things, especially with a newborn so most would call us crazy for doing the exact same thing again, only this time we split up and the older kids came over a month before me and the baby. Tess was a pretty great baby, but she kept me up most nights affording me time to Facebook stalk all my friends who were 12 or 14 hours behind me. Ty is polite enough to sleep until 20 minutes before my alarm goes off, so I am a pretty well rested new mom of 4!

Four kids! It's crazy around here some days, so I am really thankful to be living on a large compound with lots of other families and very close to a playground and pool! It make my life 10 times easier to be able to tell the kids get out and go play! While Nairobi is considered a high crime place, and I don't expect to be letting my guard down, it's nice to be able to have the kids ride bike and socialize with their friends while i get to chat with other adults.

While we were living in Laos we didn't quite get into a good rhythm for getting out and socializing without the kids, so we agreed that it was pretty important to find someone who we felt comfortable with and wouldn't have a problem staying with the kids.

Having a reliable person in the house was also pretty important to me because I've finally decided to finish school. With a new baby at home school work can get tricky, but having someone to help with him will be very important.

It wasn't the smoothest of landings; having a terrorist attack occur 4 days after arriving and my husband having to work crazy long hours, all the kids out of school when Ty and I were jetlagged and a moody housekeeper banging around the house. It feels like we might be finding our normal and that's good.

I can't put my finger on the exact thing that has left me feeling good, but I can say it's great to be able to experience the honeymoon phase of culture shock and I hope it lasts for the next 2 year ;)

Time to put that baby on and GET OUT THERE!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hell's Gate National Park

As I mentioned before we have our first visitor. She was serving in the Peace Corps in Southern Africa and just recently did a big Safari with her parents, so Mike had to figure out a good out of the city activity. Originally we would've liked to go to the coast, but after the Westgate Mall attack a travel restriction was put on people working at the Embassy. The restriction has since been lifted, but it was too late of notice for us to get our act together. No safari and no beach, what else could we do with little time and kind of off the cusp...Camping!

Mike took the kids camping while Ty and I were still in the states, then again this weekend with Finn's Tiger Scout Den, so he was pretty knowledgeable on a  place, what to bring, what we could do without etc. So we grabbed up a few things and headed to Hell's Gate National Park, about an hour and a half drive out of Nairobi, with an awesome view of the Rift Valley about half way through.

Hell's Gate was originally named valley where lots of people died because a volcano erupted in the 1600's killing lots of people, but the first settlers who used the area to transport goods from Tanzania decided Hell's Gate sounded better.

In this national park there are tons of animals, but we are told no big predators, so we got to see lots and lots of Zebras, Impalas, Hartebeest, and even Warthogs, which I might add totally run like Pumba from The Lion King and it is too freaking CUTE! 

When we got to the park we had a nice picnic and watched the animals down below living the high life of not being hunted.

After our picnic, we went over to a gorge for a little hiking. Mike didn't tell me until we paid our guide that it might be a little steep with some parts making us lower ourselves down off high rocks. Probably a good thing because I doubt I would've tagged along for this one had I known what I would be doing and that my legs would still be hurting 2 days later!
Climbing down a particularly steep part of the gorge, wearing Ty.

Yes, I just did that. What a trooper little man is!

Always  good day when you get to see a tiny monkey, especially when he's not stealing anything ;)

Climbing girl

I like to call this "Doing it Pryor style" in other words something not suitable for children.

View from the bottom of the gorge

One of the many HUGE pieces of obsidian Maggie found. No, we didn't keep it, it's not allowed.


After a long hike we headed over to a natural hot spring that is being turned into pools for visitors of the park. Even though it was open the day before, it was closed for cleaning when we popped in, but Mike wasn't giving up, he was swimming. So he and the kids jumped into a pool that wasn't quite open to the public after being given permission from the manager of the building crew on site.
After Tess nearly drowned in a sulfur pool, we decided it was time to get to our campsite and relax a little. I slept pretty well on a bed in a room while Mike and the older kids slept in our tent. Ty did awesome and slept pretty much through the night, and didn't wake our visitor, which was what I feared.
The kids goofing off.
It was a seriously quick trip. Once we finished our breakfast we headed back into Nairobi. On our way home a lost Giraffe found his way onto the road we were driving on. While the park we were in was not controlled too much, some of the animals were kind of gated off from others to keep from spreading disease, so to find this guy wondering around was so strange that even the Kenyans about were shocked and staring!
Our morning traffic jam.