Friday, August 31, 2007

Fly Air Zimbabwe!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Zimbabwe - the land of plenty starves

Haven't written in a few days as have been away.
I went to stay on a farm with some friends just east of Harare in Zimbabwe near a town called Marondera.
It was an awesome trip.
It probably sounds quite strange to an outsider but I have always always wanted to visit Zimbabwe. I have no idea what it is that draws me there but I had never been until this weekend and although it seems desolate right now, you can see how it was once such a prosperous country and I absolutely love it.
At this time of year it seems days are dry and hot and evenings chilly. The colours on the trees are beautiful reds, oranges and goldens and shimmer in the winter sunshine. They tell me it is the harshest winter they have had for 60 years and everywhere is incredibly dry - bush fires are all over and burn brightly in the evening dusk. There are so few people around for it to affect anyone too much but that also means they are allowed to burn on as there in nobody to put those fires out. Rumour has it that 6 Million Zimbabweans have left (shocking - considering the population was only around 12 Million to start with!)
This mass migration really shows. Everywhere we drove is endless acres of abandoned farms. Mugabe's bright idea of chucking off the whites and giving the land to the blacks has worked out a treat! The war veterans took the land over - 'Thanks very much' - whilst the owners were told to leave, generally without more than a few hours notice, then the veterans came in and pillaged. Compensation was apparently offered to most of these farmers at of course the government's discretion. One quarter of this value was to be given on leaving the farm and the other three quarters over a period of 10 years. Most of the farmers (or all those I have knowledge of anyhow) did not take this compensation and therefore, although maybe living in another country right now far far away from Zim, they still hold the title deeds to their properties and pray that one day Mugabe will move on and someone else will take his place and give them back their land.
The war veterans were given perfectly good working farms for nothing - with better farming technology and equipment than you would find in the rest of Africa - and what was their next trick?!? - Sell it all - the tractors, the irrigation equipment, the fertilizer and the seeds, then winter set in there was nothing to eat on the land (as no one had actually tending the farming side of things) and then they just walked away. It is a terrible terrible tragedy - and although Mugabe puts it down to black and white - it really shouldn't be that way.
I do agree that the white Zimbabweans may be still a little backward in their way of looking at the world and do treat some of their menial workers with a little less respect than the majority of the world would agree with, but generally a little more education in respect for each other would of done it - rather than this anti-white movement that's going on.
Inflation is well read about the world over. Until you actually set foot in the country it really is almost impossible to imagine what is going on there though. The latest report I read was that inflation is running at 8000%. All I know is that since Mugabe slashed the prices for goods by 50% no-one could afford to sell anything and the shop shelves lie empty. Every day lives now seem to consist of queuing. Queue for bread, queue for sugar, queue for soap (if you're lucky enough to find a soap queue!), etc.
I went into the main supermarket in Marondera (once an obviously affluent town as I noticed a BMW showroom in the middle of town - it didn't have a roof or doors or windows as some lucky war veteran had obviously already sold those on, but it showed that not so long ago, there was money in this town), and there on those rows and rows of supermarket shelves was a lot of nothing. It seems if you're out for a bar of chocolate, a can of Heinz soup, or a half litre of dettol, then you're in luck. If you want some basic staples such as bread, butter, flour, etc. then forget it and go home - there isn't a chance of anything like that. And fuel is almost become a swear word - it just isn't available and what is, is only on the black market.
Where we stayed in the farm they were almost self sufficient and also fed most of their workers as much as possible (which I understand is quite illegal), and therefore we were really quite comfortable. What's so strange about being there is when you can actually buy stuff it is so cheap compared to our country, one fifth of the price it seems - but then salaries are one fifth too.
Gosh I could go on and on about the hardships that these people are dealing with as once there was some serious wealth (compared to us lot anyhow) and life was obviously rather comfortable for those with that cash. I must say I do see what Mugabe is trying to do but he really has gone completely overboard - it seems the power went to his head and he no longer sees clearly as the people suffering the most are those he was trying to originally help - the simple man - his 'war veterans'.
And after all this can I just say I absolutely loved the place and would live there tomorrow if given half a chance.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It's great to be Kenyan!

I was following a pick up down the road today packed to the brim with metal chaffing dishes – you know those big metal trays they use to keep food warm at functions.
Anyway, in usual Kenyan fashion, they were pilled to the hills and then tied on with the odd piece of string – like they may just all hang on to each other because the string is really just a formality. Well, funnily enough, they didn’t!!
One came flying off the back of the pick up and straight into the road in front of me – luckily enough it bounced once in front of me and then shot across the road rather than straight into my car blowing its radiator or windscreen or something else nasty! – I miraculously dodged it and it took off into the oncoming traffic and the fellow heading in the opposite direction slammed on the brakes and stopped right in front of it.
He of course got seriously hooted at and abused – and ignoring all, got out of his car, picked it up, stopped an oncoming car and handed it over so that everyone could now give chase!
I was already flashing and hooting at the pick up, and although they slowed down, they probably just thought ‘Mad Woman Driver!’ and kept going!! Then a huge 4x4 came by at high speed also hooting and flashing with the passenger leaning out the window shouting to the guy driving the pick up, so that finally made him pull over. I then also pulled over to explain to them why I had been hooting and flashing so wildly and then there came another car behind us and gave him back his dish.
We had all driven a good kilometre by then probably – but what’s so great in this fine country of ours is the help that everyone gave them. It just shows – if we’d been in the UK or perhaps some other European country – everyone would have just diverted round the dish and kept going I’m sure!
Here everyone did their bit to help these people out because, as we all know, chances are that if they arrived at where ever they were headed to without the dishes all accounted for - someone would have to pay - and that is something we all know about and yet can ill afford to pay for.
Today it’s great to be Kenyan!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mothers -or should that be 'Dictators'?

I find - as a single mother of a 7 year old - I spend my life saying the same thing again and again and again and ...
I think it must be the world over, something that is sub consciously learned throughout all those long boring months of pregnancy - perhaps it's because you feel so dreadful most of the time the anger builds up in side of you and by the time your little bundle of joy is born - you're just damn well annoyed really!
- In fact I think I should write a book on it.
Not the usual pregnancy books of this is what your baby should/should not be doing at 2 weeks/4 weeks/6 weeks, etc. during pregnancy and once the little blighter's born. Every book telling you something completely different. In one book your child is a genius at 4 weeks old (in or out of the womb!) - in another he's most definitely backward and you should be seeking immediate help!
In my pregnancy book I would throw out all the 'what your child should be doing' at whatever age and get all parents to just continuously practice the phrases:
'Don't touch that!'
'Stop doing that!'
'Turn that down!'
'Quick, get a cloth!',
and of course the absolutely essential (to be repeated regularly at minimum 5 minute intervals, and the absolutely critical answer to every question asked by the little darlings!)
... 'NOOOOOO!'

Now if we all practised these phrases through the entire 9 months of pregnancy we will be well equipped for when the little blighters are born, and worst of all -start walking - as I find once they're off that's it, all mothers transform into serial dictators.
I'm not sure it's a conscious choice - but in our house it definitely seems a necessary one - unless of course one is content in living in something resembling a bomb site!
For my poor son, there is little choice for self-expression - in fact it is only to be encouraged when he is not in his own home and my company! Teachers, friends of his parents, granny's - all very useful parties to my child’s self-expression and to be fully encouraged as if he wishes to trash someone else's place - that's just the little darling being expressive!
BUT at home 'Dictator Mum' just shouts orders and SHE WILL BE OBEYED!

Think I should rename my blog - The Site for the “Alternative Mothering Techniques!!” – Am sure it’ll be a hit but I’ll probably be done by the SPCA (Society of the Protection of Cruelty to Animals – Whoops! – should that be children?!? – It’s so hard to tell!)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

You're never too old to learn

Sorry about the title - statement in the bloody obvious really - but today i went to a seminar. Generally my worst nightmare and something - a little like the endless corporate cocktail parties and dinners i get invited to I usually volunteer one of my managers to go to in my place!
But this seminar was important to me and was the first i had voluntarily attended. What it made me realise is that even at my age there is so much opportunity out there in the world for everyone who is passionate enough for what they want to do and can get someone to believe in them. God i only wish i was 20 years younger - but hey - don't we all (Well those over 20 years old anyhow!)
I wish i had such insight all those years ago as what i learnt from today's seminar and actually did something more useful in my life than work for others for their benefit. Looking around the room at the other participants in the seminar made me realise that i work my arse off for not a lot and even if i changed that within my company - which i do have the power to do - all I'll end up with is making more money for those around me and as for me - I'll be just as stuffed as i was yesterday when i went to the bank and found out i only had $100 in my account to last me for the rest of the month!
Yesterday i fell apart - I cried in the bank - I mean how pathetic is that! I was so lost - how could i - the operations director of a very successful chain - end up with only $100 to support myself and my son until the end of the month when i can get my next salary through.
Sadly if i was an expatriate in this country - and a bloke would be helpful - i would actually be paid probably double what i am! So much for equal opportunity - it so doesn't exist here although they'd like to think they are so au fait with the Western World and the equal opportunities that exist there - here a Kenyan woman is still very much a second class citizen.
Then i look around me and i realise i should shut my mouth as i know that over half this country is living in abject poverty and i should think myself lucky!
......... But i don't. It makes me think of all those times my mother would tell me to eat everything on my plate and be thankful - as they were people out there starving. (The classic answer to that was always - 'Well then wrap it up and send it to them! - you see i was even an ungrateful child - haven't changed much after all!)
I feel like jumping off the fridge freezer and be done with it all. My son's father would end up having to look after him for the first time in the boy's 7 year life and apart from that and the fact that the company i run would completely fall apart without me - i doubt anyone would miss me for more than a couple of minutes. God how depressing. Mind you must say thank god for my son - otherwise that fridge freezer really may be a very tempting option than this endless bloody daily struggle.
Anyway i will try to look on the bright side - and the fact that i even own a fridge freezer - and shut up and get on with it. You never know - tomorrow i may meet that knight in shining armour that i dream of every night and the world will seem a so much nicer a place to be!
Perhaps I'll cry myself to sleep and feel oh so much better in the morning - doubt it - but hey - anythings worth a shot at this stage!
Should of entitled this blog DEPRESSION. Sorry about that.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The latest weight loss advice: get a thin friend!

Spotted this article and think its fab! Have now decided i must investigate all friends with tape measure in hand - work out their BMI (Body Mass Index) and if its not in the 'You'll DO' range - well frankly - they'll be off my 'You're my mate' list until they jolly well get back into shape!

Only hope my thin friends don't see this article and dump their fat friend - namely ME!

"Feeling fat? Forget the diet and dump your tubby friends instead. That's the conclusion of a study reported widely today that looked at the social networks of 12,067 people researchers followed for 32 years. The American research found that obesity can spread from person to person, much like a virus.
"People were most likely to become obese when a friend became obese. That increased one's chances of becoming obese by 57%," reports the IHT.
"There was no effect when a neighbour gained or lost weight, however, and family members had less of an influence than friends. It did not even matter if the friend was hundreds of miles away - the influence remained. And the greatest influence of all was between mutual close friends. There, if one became obese, the other had a 171% increased chance of becoming obese too.
"The same effect seemed to occur for weight loss, the investigators say, but since most people were gaining, not losing, weight over the 32 years, the result was an obesity epidemic."
The researchers say that they do not want people to drop their fat friends, because friendship is good for overall health. Instead, they suggest, "why not make friends with a thin person, and let the thin person's behavior influence you and your obese friend?"
* This is an extended extract from the Wrap, Guardian Unlimited's digest of the daily papers."

So Last Season !

Now i realise what a terrible mother i really am! - As if i didn't have a real inkling!!
Came home from work and - as usual - was complaining about our gardener. We have the garden the size of a postage stamp - probably enormous in European terms - but in Kenyan terms F.. ALL!! It's because we live in a small compound within a much larger one. Works great for security as there are 7 houses scattered throughout the place, but what it does mean is that we have a small fenced space which holds us in - mainly for my 2 enormous dogs - so they don't eat the countless Jack Russells that roam the main compound. Its generally not seen as politically correct to let my Rottweiler out to greet their angry toilet brushes - especially as they all belong to my landlord!
Anyway what this all means - is that my garden is far too small for one fellow to spend his entire day doing anything to at all and therefore i spend my entire time finding other tasks for my gardener. I've taught him how to iron - which can sometimes be a little dodgy - but hey I'm not one for designer clothes and such like and do most of my shopping in 'Mitumba' which is the local second hand clothes market here - so I'm not too proud of the odd burn mark and clothes ironed flat - that should of probably stayed with the 'ruffled' effect that some poor designer had spent hours getting perfect. And i do love the crease he gets in my socks!!
No seriously he's a great guy my gardener, it's just he is the laziest fellow on the planet. His entire day consists of washing the car, walking the dogs, and a spot of ironing. The only reason i keep him on - besides the fact that he's really quite a nice guy and deserves some kind of job - is that on the one day a week my house girl is off duty - the man is a godsend as he hangs out with my son when he doesn't want to follow me about to polo or some horse show or other - so for that he's great.
Funnily enough listing down here about his good points makes me realise that he's probably not so annoying after all. I mean this holiday - it's really been him who has got my son to finally ride his bike without its training wheels - as i have the patience of a flea and just end up getting annoyed when my son doesn't get it right immediately!
So there you go - perhaps i shouldn't be whinging at all about the man - but as usual i was the other day, and my son sits listening and then turns to me and says
"I know Mum, He's so last season!"
- Out of the mouths of babes! And it just proved the boy watches far too much TV!
My goodness - what would Granny say!! Luckily she usually warns me she's coming over so I can warn my son and get him to do something else (rather than watch TV) until granny's been and gone!! Otherwise you get that muttering under their breath of what a crap parent you are, that only Granny's have perfected (especially when they're your EX Mother -in-law!). Actually she's an absolute star and really helps out when she can (which is more than can be said of her son - the father of this small boy), so I can put up with the occasional muttering!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Less Sex - More Work!

Read a great article in one of the daily rags today - it didn't have an author or anything i can attribute it to but i had to share it...
Apparently turns out that someone has been doing one of those absolutely pointless surveys and has found out the following pointless information (How i do love useless information - it makes the world go round a lot quicker!) -
"Folks with pathetic sex lives work harder!"
A survey done by some University geek researchers somewhere in the world has noted that 35% of women and 36% of men said they were likely to put extra time in at the office and volunteer for extra assignments if they felt they were having an unsatisfactory sex life. This work ethic was even more pronounced (apparently) in those having no sex at all - 45% of men and 46% of women!
Now that really got me thinking.
Perhaps when we next conduct interviews we should include a question on how satisfactory the candidate felt their sex life was - and if the answer is "most unsatisfactory" or even better - "non-existent" - we should most definitely employ them immediately!
Yes i definitely think I'll re-do our employee forms tomorrow and include that one! Could be i end up with a serious bunch of hard workers. Mind you - knowing my luck - it'll just end up being a serious bunch of randy work mates who are all trying to get into each others knickers and we'll end up with more problems than we do already juggling maternity leaves!
No - perhaps I'll leave it out after all. Any more pregnancies in our company this year and it'll do me in!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Kids, Questions and undesirable pets

Read a great blog today with a couple of different entries - both relative to kids and anyone out there with one or more of the little blighters will completely understand and relate.
One of them was about asking questions. The continuous "WHY?" about absolutely everything around them. "Why this?" "Why that?" ... and it never ends!
I always start answering the endless questioning and then after some time completely loose my cool and go with "Because!" - That's it - that's my answer!
Now I'm feeling a little guilty as the 'Reluctant Memsahib' points out on her blog, we all get to a stage where the questions dry up as we think we know it all and then as you get older you wish you'd asked more questions. I found that so true and now i really wish i gave some better answers than "Because". Anyway there's no going back now but i realise that i shouldn't be such a crap mum and should give more intelligent answers as a child's quest for knowledge at such a young age is relentless and shouldn't be quelled as they listen to everything and absorb it all like little sponges, it's awesome.
The other posting i really related to was the one on children's pets dying. We've been through those and been down the pet shop first thing on a Saturday morning waiting for the place to open so you can rush in and get yet another hamster to replace the one who's stiff as a board in his cage that morning!
We went through 3 'Tomandy the hamster's' before my son got to find the last one himself - stiff as a board - behind his skateboard on the verandah and he never got replaced. The poor little thing had been taken out of his cage by one of my son's delightful friends and escaped, and we never could find the little beggar until he turned up under his skateboard. It was actually very sad and once again proved my complete incompetence to be able to look after anything - no matter how small!
Oh well - all I can do is soldier on and keep trying to be the perfect mother - no matter that I'm trying to do it alone, (and hopefully I'll not turn out anything like my own mother - or i really will be diving off the fridge freezer!)

Long Way Down

They've done it again. Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman have got back on their BMW bikes and headed out from Northern Scotland to Cape Town.
Sadly i had no idea they were doing the trip and hadn't even realised they were on it until the day they finished in Cape Town and there was a clip on the BBC news website.
Funnily enough i saw a picture of them both in the business pages in one of the local papers last week with Richard Branson at the Giraffe Manor giving away bikes to a great NGO 'Riders for Health' who go round with bikes getting out essential medical care into the middle of nowhere in and around Kenya and other African countries. Great cause and well done to all of them!
I'm a little gutted that they were here on my home turf and i had no idea but chuffed for them they've made it and can't wait for the new programme showing their trip. Shame we didn't know they were about as perhaps could of wangled some way of meeting them - Probably a little unrealistic - But Hey - Dreams are free!
Also saw something on the web which was very disturbing. Some rebels who hang out down near the gorillas in Bwindi threatened Ewan MacGregor if he dared to film the gorillas. Well it turns out Ewan and Charley did go and see the gorillas as i saw some photos on their website of their trip and although they were not threatened at all whilst there, there were 4 gorillas killed just recently by the rebels as a threat to the world - not for their meat or skins or anything else - but just left in the park just to show the world they were in control i suppose. All awful speculation, but it's terrible, and i do hope that those 2 on their bikes didn't cause the whole thing - horrific thought but all too uncanny that the 4 gorillas got killed around the same time as the Long Way Down trip visited Bwindi.
Anyway too awful to dwell on. Sadly here in Africa these kind of things are all too familiar.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My faith in humanity is restored!

My faith in humanity has once again been restored thanks to an article i read in the telegraph. There i am blatting the British and their crap ideas on their carbon footprint and there's Fred Pearce stating my exact sentiments in his article "Buying local and fair trade don't mix" in The Telegraph.
"Good Man" I say!
link to his story

The Royal Ballet comes to town!

We had such a rare treat the other night when the Royal London Ballet came to town.
There’s a great UK based charity NGO that has been set up here called The Kijani Trust who raises money in Kenya for HIV/AIDS and environmental conservation by bringing internationally acclaimed music and cultural events to Kenya to perform and raise money for their charity.
Anyway we got to see a ‘Ballet Spectacular’ which was a collection of traditional and modern ballet pieces with, what should have been Mara Galeazzi and her colleagues from the Royal Ballet. Sadly Mara Galeazzi got very sick the night before the performance and ended up in the hospital overnight poor girl, but the show went on, although slightly rearranged, without her and they were absolutely superb.
I must admit that at my ripe old age I had never been to any ballet performance before - bar the shows I took part in as a child from boarding school. Actually the only reason I ever took up ballet was that it was our treat of the week at boarding school as every Saturday we got to come into town in the school bus have our ballet lesson and then got to go via the bakery on the way back to school and we always use to fight to sit in the ‘dog box’ – which was the boot of the van – as there we could eat the middle out of the fresh loaves when no-one was looking!
I'm digressing - sorry! back to the ballet ....
The performance started with a very slow piece and worked its way through with more and more exciting pieces. The performers were awesome and the energy and athleticism they exuded was really breathtaking and they gave their all at the end. It was absolutely superb and so entertaining. How they can keep up the energetic lifts and spins and all with facial expressions to tell the story, it was really excellent entertainment and i would most definitely recommend that anyone who ever gets a chance should most definitely go to the ballet at least once in their lifetime. It should be on everyone's list of 'Things to do before i die!' - so am glad i got to cross that one off myself, and thanks so much to all of those amazing performers who came all this way for our charitable causes and for everyone who made it happen. It really was excellent.
I must let you into a little secret though - i felt really very awful when we were told at the beginning of the performance that Mara Galeazzi was ill overnight as i had donated them their lunch! I didn't dare ask anyone if that was the cause of her illness - hopefully it was just dehydration or perhaps she was stung by a nasty rampant African bee or something like that - but I'm really not sure, and i do hope to god i didn't poison her! I have to assume that if it was anything to do with her lunch someone would have told me and i could have done something about it - so lets just hope it wasn't that, and it was some other nasty that got her and that she is perfectly well now!!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Foot and Mouth outbreak

Woke up this morning to the terrible news of foot and mouth again in the UK and it broke my heart to see all those raked up images from 2001, and I am now feeling terribly guilty for all the things I said earlier of farmers and their subsidies. I realise they are not trying to take away our market of fruit and veg and that buying locally grown food is always going to be better for any economy and anyway basically I do not know enough to comment and should really shut my gob!
The foot and mouth really brought me back down to earth – those poor farmers have only just got their stocks back on track after the terrible disaster of 2001 and the way the government so badly handled the situation then. I only hope to god they don’t repeat that catastrophe this time and keep this foot and mouth outbreak under control without the unnecessary mass slaughter of animals as they did last time.
Here in Kenya, i wouldn't say foot and mouth is common place but it is not uncommon either, and it has never led to mass slaughter of any animal as quarantining areas – mainly slaughterhouses – in good time and preventing movement of animals from the areas in the vicinity seems to get it under control every time and surely the UK government should know a lot better than us poor backward third worlders!(- or so they’d like to think anyhow!) Keep your fingers crossed and your prayers with all the farmers and animals in Surrey I’d say.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Journalists Suck!

I can't believe i am so naive at my age but once again I've found out that i really am. My trusting of the world and the people in it is really beginning to depress me!
I met a journalist last week from a well known newspaper in London and he's the 'Africa' correspondent i presume. Anyway i was given his number and was asked if i would speak to him with regards to an article he's like to write about our business and how well it was doing here in Kenya.
Seemed fine to me so i gave him a call and we arranged a meeting to discuss his article. He seemed like a nice enough guy - chatting readily about what he'd been up to, what he'd seen and who he's spoken to with regards to our business in general and we discussed what our company was up to with regards to the competition and how i felt we had all carved out our own niches in the market and that there was more than enough room for everyone and we seemed to get along well.
Well - what a load of bollocks!
He promised the story would be in on Monday - and when it wasn't i sent him a text asking if he'd be putting it in - big mistake! He published it Tuesday or Wednesday - and he'd written an entire article about how brilliant the competition was, how they were the market leaders and we got a one line mention which basically said we only set up our business to compete with the leaders and we were lumped together with a third company that's products are so inferior - its a bloody insult!!
How could i be so stupid. All i can say is luckily our Kenyan reporters when writing about business aren't so damn biased (politics I'm not so sure) but with regards our business we have had many articles written locally and i think they are mainly pretty fair about all of us.
Anyway all i can say really is it serves me right for being so trusting in people once again - i shouldn't have wasted my time talking to the guy in the first place - and i set aside 2 hours for that can you believe - and i should know better. I mean - he was a South African after all pretending he was British - i mean 'Christ Alive' - I'm more British than he'll ever be!!

PHEW - Glad i got that off my chest - at least now i can go back to my innocent trusting happy go lucky self! HE HE!!