Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

In the thick of it!

Today is December 8th, and I find myself in the thick of the Christmas crazy hustle and bustle.

I listened to a wonderful segment on the radio about scheduling in “the ordinary” during the holiday season, just so you can have enough time at home….to get all the ordinary done.  Laundry, cleaning, feeding, email, bills, grocery shopping.  You block out a few days a week….to just do the ordinary…and when someone asks if you can do something/go somewhere/attend something, you’ve already got plans!

This afternoon, I’m trying to do the ordinary and be at home, and get a few things done….along with a few Christmas tasks.

First on the list of Christmas tasks to accomplish:  Christmas cards.

I was THRILLED beyond belief to find a link of a girlfriends blog for free Shutterfly Christmas cards for bloggers.  http://blog.shutterfly.com/5358/holiday2010-blog-submission-form/ For years now we’ve done a photo Christmas card from this site as well as other fun products.  I am LOVING how many options there now are for Christmas cards….photo  cards, stationary stock, stationary folding  etc.  I’ve made about 5 different cards that I hope to choose from in the next day or so. 

Here are a  few of my options, you’ll have to wait for the mail to see what I end up choosing, but you can make one for yourself, and take advantage of the free cards for bloggers if you do so before this weekend!  http://www.shutterfly.com/cards-stationery/christmas-cards

If I had just one adorable photo, I’d probably have to go for this card that is available this year.  I love the colors, graphics,fonts, everything:

These are 2 of our past photo cards:

Here are a few of the things we have enjoyed creating over the years!

and then we’ve made a variety of mugs, which you can explore here:  http://www.shutterfly.com/photo-gifts/photo-mugs

While these ones were made for Father’s Day a few years back, I love the idea of them for easy and inexpensive gifts for family who are far away from us!

And last but not least, I’ve eyed this product for a while yet, and I think that this year might be the year that I bite the bullet and get it done!  I’d love to have one of our favorite Kenyan pictures turned into some art for our home!   I see a picture very similar to this one, just of my toes peeking out over the Indian Ocean….

 http://www.shutterfly.com/home-decor/canvas-wall-art

I can’t wait to get this Christmas project off the ground and into the mail for all of you….if you are one of our wonderful friends in Kenya, please be so  kind to either Facebook your address to us, or email it to:  ianandanne1@yahoo.com, so I can send you our card!

Mama Eli’s Duka aka “my Kenyan garage sale”

 So months before our departure from Kenya I told Ian that I had hatched a fabulous plan that would allow us to fairly distribute all of the things we had accumulated that would not be returning to the US in our alloted 8 suitcases.

That’s right.  No shipping things home.  I’m about reducing and recycling when it comes to packing up a house—and what a wonderful way for us to bless the many friends we had made in Kenya. 

Kenyan’s have surely missed out on the wonderful concept of garage sales.  Or at least it is wonderful in my eyes.  I know there are those of you out there who cringe at the thought of used clothing,  or half colored coloring books, or shoes with other people’s foot sweat. 

That’s not me. 

Or Kenyans. 

Kenyans are the MOST fantastical people when it comes to cleaning something up so that it can look spick and span new.  So I just knew that they would adore my garage sale, or as Ian termed it:  Duka Ya Mama Eli’s  (Eli’s mom’s shop). 

Soooo, in preparation for our move home I began to sort through our house in Kenya with the help of some ladies from the community (which was a score for them because they carted off bag after bag of miscellaneous goodies for themselves).  Separate  from the furnishings in our house that were owned by OO and would  remain, we had amassed a ridiculous amount of items ranging from kid and adult DVD’s, to nail polish remover, to the ax and kerosene lantern.    

Ian and I converted the pregnant girls’ classroom space into my shop, pulled in a few tables, and set things up by category. 

A few days before the party I let all of the staff in to preview the items.  Some staff  took up to an hour carefully looking over each and every item. 

Now, I decided that in order to make it a true shopping experience the staff would need money.  So Ian, being the handy and fun husband that he is, printed out play $10 bills so that each staff was given $100 to “spend”. 

After our going away party, we had the 27 staff draw numbers and line up from the #1 shopper on back. 

Waiting to shop!

  They each got to go in individually to shop.  They could buy one item (no matter how expensive) during each round.  We did this for 3 rounds, and then I let them all in at once to spend their remaining money.  

I am so proud of the men who shopped! They did such a quick sweep and grab of the womens' clothing for their families that the women of the Centre had to find other things to paw through!

Well into the free-for-all, Notice the empty tables!

They went crazy.  The laughter and excitement was contagious!  I LOVED it!  And so did they.  I loved watching them scheme and work together to get all of the things they had their hearts set on. 

In this next picture, you can see Tito happily sitting on his 3 piece outdoor furniture set that he bought for $120!  That’s right, Tito was the one and only employee who managed to convince another employee to give him some money so he could afford it! 

Oh yeah, sitting in his new chair guarding the door to my shop.

It was a fabulous way to wrap up such a serious day of thank you’s and good byes.  I was thrilled to share my love of g-sales with my Kenyan friends.  Even better was a staff member telling Ian that “we had taught them something fun they could do together in the future.”  I’m just sitting here in my American home imagining future Kenyan garage sales among the staff and loving it! 

My grand idea

Most of you who knew me back home know that I love a good deal.

Garage sales make me happy.  Especially when you score the ones where the people just want to get rid of things…for crazy prices.

We’ve collected a LOT of things while here in Kenya.   Some of it basic household items, some of it frivolous, some of it brought with us from home and too worn to bother taking back.

Usually when local Kenyans hear that a mazungu is going home they are sad, and say, “You can’t leave.”  When you assure them that you are & that the ticket has already been purchased, quite often the next phrase might be, “Oh, well then, what are you planning to do with ____________.”   And fill in the blank.

Since we know that this will happen & that we have a great many things we don’t want to take home (extra tea bags, used writing pens, worn out kids clothes etc, etc) I have decided to hold my own garage sale.

Today Ian printed up some fake money.  Ten dollar bills.  Each staff member will be given one hundred dollars.  I’m going to have everything set out & priced the day ahead so they can “pre-sale”.  This was at staff request, “Can I see ahead of time what you have so that I might go home and think carefully about what I need?”

Hmmm.  Good idea!

We’re having the shopping right after the going away party we’re half hosting for ourselves.  Again, why should the staff use their hard earned money for tea and biscuits when we can use a little of our own money to have a sweet catered lunch?  Right, good food it is.  And, what better way to make sure that the party ends of time then to have the carrot of shopping hanging out in front of everyone???

And lest you think that the men won’t like shopping.  I’ve got those night guards asking for my kerosene lamp, my patio chairs, and some of my pirated action DVD’s.

Oh, I simply can’t wait for this fun!  It’s gonna provide some sweet people watching and a nice sociological experiment.  Who buys for themselves, who buys for their kids, who gives up some of their own money so their friend can buy something that costs more than $100?

Can’t wait to show you pictures and tell you how it all goes down & what the HOT selling item turns out to be.  Rest assured it will be something random like Megan found when she cleaned out her room & gave out things to the girls.  An almost empty bottle of nail polish remover almost caused a riot!

Ticket please

We’ve lived here in Kenya now for almost 14 months.

I’ve been to the different markets here in Thika plenty.  So much so that the locals all know me and I’m old news.  Gone are the days when everyone would turn and stare, call Mazungu, or try to charge me insane prices for items.

But then last week I took the Centre girls out shopping for their babies with some money that was left over from Janet Fraser’s shoe project.

They suggested that we shop on Friday, which was open market day.

Why have I lived here for 14 months and yet no one has told me about “open market”????  

Open market is as close as Kenya can come to g-saling in the states.  While the regular market days boast permanent stalls housed in stone, wood or metal; open market day allows for people to lay out tarps on the ground on which they lay heaps of textile items.  Each vendor sets their own price.   They hawk their wares by yelling as loud as they can the prices of their items:  “Thirty bob, thirty bob, thirty bob!”  Music to my ears.  That’s 30 shillings, which is equivalent to just under 50 cents US.

So, I went with the pregnant girls, all of their babies and their house-mother to the open market.  Oh, and Ameena too.  Tied on African style, with a twist–carried on my front in a kanga.  The Kenyan women didn’t seem to appreciate my style.  Too many comments about Ameena’s head being “too low” or “too crooked”, or my kanga not being tight enough.  At least they’re concerned for Ameena.

So concerned, that once they realized there was a Mazungu baby in there, all mayhem broke loose.

You’d think they’d never seen a white baby before.

Oh wait, they hadn’t.

Here’s the visual picture:  Ameena wrapped up in a brightly colored cloth, as she lays prone across my front side.  She’s tight, like you’d find in an american sling.  She’s sleeping, happily.  

So, I was nice.  I let a few women peek inside the cloth at sleeping Ameena.  And then I turned back to looking at some shoes.  Then I turned around and saw a line of women and children and thought, “What are they waiting for?”

And then the light bulb turned on and I realized that all of those people were waiting for their “peeks” at Ameena.  So I indulged.  And more came. 

And more.

So many viewed Ameena that I seriously thought I should start selling tickets for viewing.  I might have made back what I spent in the market.

We must have made quite an impression because when I went back to the open market yesterday (um, yeh, I’ll probably go every week now) everyone asked “Where is the baby?”  

To which I answered, “With dad”. 

You can’t seriously shop with kids in tow can you???

An afternoon….

I’m guessing that at times it might be hard to imagine what life over here is like.

At least that’s my guess since I really had very little idea of what to expect before we come over.  I thought I was pretty prepared with my expectations as I’d taken work and witness mission trips in high school and college to less developed countries.

What I wasn’t prepared for (now I think, duh!) was how different everyday life can be from a 1 – 2 week visit to one of these developing countries.

It’s the everyday mundane things we might take for granted in the States that often take up my afternoon….that and work stuff.  So, I thought hey, I’d share what a typical Sunday might look like here in Kenya.

We wake up here daily, without an alarm (which never would happen for me in the States), promptly at 6:30am  every day because the sun rises and sets at the same time, every day of the year when you live this close to the equator.  And, if the sun weren’t enough to rouse me, I have a 3 year old who is happy to stand by my net enclosed bed to alert me that the sun is out and I need to get up.  NOW!  If I am lucky enough to beg off a few minutes, she is promptly back to remind me that my few minutes are more than over…..

On Sunday, we hang around and eat some breakfast until about 8:20 when Ian leaves to take the Centre girls to church in the van.   On some days this can be quite an experience, especially if the dirt road to the Centre from the main road is flooded in about 2 feet of water (as it is now) .  Thank goodness the Centre van has a snorkle on it.  Plenty of gripping on the roof handle still occurs as we plow through the water, along with Centre girls saying all sorts of exclamations in Swahili.  Ian usually arrives home by 8:45 when we need to leave to make the hour trip into Nairobi so we can attend church ourselves.

Church.  Thank goodness it’s only  1 1/2 hours long.  American-style.  Out by 11:30.

When they travel a very short 5 minutes to eat at the mall food court (really people, there aren’t any other choices, and the food court is the highlight of our week).  Usually we are accompanied by friends from church.  1 hour.  Customer service just doesn’t equate to quick or fast food in Kenya.

Leave food court & drive to what is in my opinion, the good  grocery shopping store.  Really, you all know what it’s like to shop in a store with a horrible layout and poor stock.  It’s not even worth the effort.  This drive takes 30 minutes.

Grocery shopping.  1-2 hours.  Check out can last 30 minutes (usual) or longer.  I think that 10 key instruction would revolutionize Kenya…sometimes I just want to hop on over that belt and whip some UPC codes out for those guys.   I’ll take a slow checker or broken scanner though any day over having all of the groceries scanned and packed, and then having the computer (yes they do use a computer system) turn off.   That happened 2 weeks in a row, with cranky kids (and me) in tow and that was enough to ensure that now I carefully investigate the checker technique and speed of each line before lining my cart up.

By the time we leave the grocery store (and this is speedy by most standards because I have a list and Ian and I divy it up) it is either 2 or 3 pm.

We then cram in the car  (generally 3 adults and 2 toddlers in a 5 person sedan)and prepare for the hour or  more drive back to our beloved home of Thika.  This generally involves the following statement, “Kids, go to sleep right this minute or you’ll have to take a nap when we get home.”   Amazingly enough, this is all it usually takes to have them conked out in less than 5 minutes…..because who really needs a 3 year old asking about 20 times where the camel was that she was too slow to see out the side window?

We arrive home by 3:30 or 4pm usually, unload the groceries and put them into the fridge/pantry.  Today I put them into a warm fridge because the power was out again.  Thankfully it came on within the  hour.  It is not unusual for us to have power outages 3-4 times per week for as little as 30 minutes, but also up to an entire day.  You never know.  Thankfully, I’ve relaxed a lot about food in general, and it seems like a lot less gets thrown out here than would at home.  The food police or Terry Goldman are going to need to come and help me when I get back to Portland because I’m sure that I’ll be allowing way too many unsanitary food practices to go on.

Then, I usually end up doing laundry (like all of you at home), but in my  dual drum washer that requires manual filling/emptying and transferring to the spin tub.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love this baby…..it has reduced laundry to a 2 hour chore instead of all day.  Then (like today) I might take a bucket of water out to my front concrete porch to wash off all of the mud that was brought in by the nightly/morning rain.  If you leave it, it gets tracked into the house like no ones business.  Such was the case today, so I washed the concrete floors in the dining/living room and the kitchen too.

By the time that was done, it was 5:30….and dinnertime.

Dinner prep, dinner, dinner clean-up.

Kid clean-up, Bed prep, kids to bed.

Now it’s 8:30, and I am getting ready for me time.

So, I guess that there are many things here in Kenya that are the same as life in Portland, just without the speed and modern conveniences we are accustomed to.  The slowness rather than being invigorating tends to drain the body of energy…..and we have never found ourselves staying up til 11pm like we might at home.  Perhaps it is the heat, or the need to shut the house up from the darn Malaria mosquitos at dusk, the darkness by 7pm, or the inability to go out on the town at night because of safety concerns…..but, I’ll be heading to bed within the hour.

At home I’d “melt” by 10pm and need to be in bed.  In Africa, I feel melted by 8pm.

So with that said, goodnight all, it’s 30 minutes past melting hour.

Fun stuff

My dear friend Eve sent this baby onesie in a package to us a little over a week ago.

I love it!

The bag

I’ve been hunting on etsy for the perfect diaper bag.

I had the same bag for both Eli and Lucy and sold it at  a resale event in Portland before coming to Africa.  I think my line of reasoning went somewhere along the lines of “if I have another baby, it won’t be in Africa, and having another baby will probably happen after we return to the States, so that could be a while, so I better sell this.”    If I remember, I didn’t do so bad either when I resold that Petunia Pickle Bottom bag.

I’ve found a few bags on etsy that I really like.  But then I chicken out and don’t buy them because I run through my mind how much shipping to Africa will add (no, I don’t have one of those sweet embassy postal boxes that get me past the custom taxes added to packages coming into the county) and how long it might take for the bag to get here….and so on.

Then, today, I found it!

A bag that is functional, yet has just enough funk to suit my fancy and not SCREAM “Diaper Bag”!

I found it at Amani Ya Juu (see the link over on the right of this blog).

Here is a picture of it:

Kakuma Bag

 There are quite a few enterprising individuals here in Kenya that have made various items including purses that repurpose old rice sacks, coffee sacks and so on.  This purse, is named after the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya where many refugees fight to survive and provide for their families.  They receive food from relief agencies, including grains and sugars.  The women of Amani have incorporated these empty sacks into their product lines:  thus my diaper bag that is lined and embellished on the outside with parts of a Saudi Sugar bag.  I love that the handles and entire lining are made of this waterproof plastic material, and that it adds durability to it.

The best part?  The price.  I paid $15 US for it, buying it on the spot, the same day I saw it, because in Kenyan if you see it once, you  might never ever see it again….so BUY, BUY, BUY!   Much cheaper than the Etsy bags I’d been eyeing, very Kenyan, and NO shipping or customs taxes! 

It made my day.  If I admit it, there is a tiny bit of American consumer left in me yet.  But not much.