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Decide

Sometimes, momentous events take place on random, ordinary days. Not the first of the month, or the day before your birthday, or the day of a major terrorist attack. Just a random, unremarkable day. But that may be the day that changes your life.

That decision that you have been thinking about, but felt unprepared for, or that you have felt things were not in place for yet. But time has been passing and the situation has not changed, or has gotten worse.

So one random, unremarkable day you hear something, or read something and you just decide. You make a decision to act. And you do. 

And your life is never the same again.

Yesterday, I decided.

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Part One is here.

——
First stop was a slide. In my estimation, it was maybe 10 metres high. That is about 3 floors up.
“How much?”
“200/-”
It sounded like a lot
Someone must have asked if that price was per slide (as in the child slides down just once) because the man replied and said “No many times.”
Ah, that’s not bad. Indeed the number of times a child could slide was unlimited. In fact, as I stood there, it was some parents who were telling their children to leave.
I later thought it was a self-limiting thing.
For each slide, the child has to climb maybe 50 stairs, then slide down and climb up again. Naturally, the child gets tired of climbing.

After sliding a number of times, Amor finally said she had had enough.
“Utaenda mara moja ya mwisho ama umetosheka?”
(Will you go once more or you are satisfied?)
“Nimetosheka,” she said.
(Enough).

Next was the small Ferris wheel. Pretty basic. Maybe 4 metres high. And manually operated.
When I say manually, I mean people make it rotate and stop by hand (and leg and whole body). It started drizzling as Amor was waiting to get onto the Ferris wheel, so I gave her her jumper/jacket and my hat.

Do not be misled by my quiet description. The place was noisy! Children yelling, music, some shouting. Particularly prominent was a man inviting people to his booth to see allegedly amazing things. If you look in the background (on the right hand side) of the video above, you will see some of the drawings outside his booth – a bodiless head, a pygmy, mermaid…
“Mbao! Mbao!Mbao! Mbao!Mbao! Mbao!
Mbao mtu mkubwa shilingi kumi mtoto,” he said.
(“Twenty shillings for an adult, ten for a child!”)
“Wewe! Umeleta pesa yako?”
(“You! Have you given me your money?”)
(He was not too big on politeness).
“Nyumba ni ndogo lakini maajabu ni kubwa!”
Later, I heard him now saying “Mbao kila mtu. Nimesema mbao kila mtu.”
(“Twenty shillings per person. I have said twenty shillings per person.”)

On a side note, ‘Mbao’ is a corruption of the word pound. It means twenty (usually shillings). I hear that it came into use when the British pound was worth twenty Kenya Shillings. It is now worth about 140 Shillings.

We went to the mini-train, perhaps the very same train that my dad took me to when I was a kid. Or maybe not. We also went to one of the merry-go-rounds, and after that Amor had a camel ride.

There were very many secondary school students in uniform around. Many were taking photos at the many photo booths around. These booths had backdrops consisting of photos of people that looked like the actors in those Mexican soaps. A number also had pictures of the Jamaican artist Konshens who recently visited Nairobi. I contemplated taking a photo in one of the booths with Amor, but thought that years later she might not see the joke and might think her dad was shady.

Later, we visited a few of the agricultural stands and saw some cows and sheep and vegetables, but soon it was time to leave. Buses were charging 150/- per seat, because of the rain. Kenya Bus was charging a bit less, but for that you’d have to queue in the rain. It should have cost at most 50/- on a regular day. The rain ensured that the buses got passengers despite their extortionist fare. I finally got Amor home at about 8:30, I think.

 

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Glossary:
Show – In this case, The Nairobi International Trade Fair. It used to be called the Nairobi Show.
Bodaboda – motorbikes that carry passengers usually short distances – up to maybe 6 kilometres


The chaos started just as the matatu (public service van) slowed down at the stop, even before it actually stopped. The motorbike guys, upon seeing me with a child, immediately started offering to take us to “Show ndani.” (into the Show) There were also some guys selling balloons.
No, No, I said making my way past them, but encountering many more motorbike guys.
“Do you have a helmet?” I asked.
“Yes. ”
“How many?”
“One.”
“No thanks.”
I looked at the many motorbikes there and did not see any with two helmets.
Just the same morning, my wife had told me how a colleague of hers encountered an accident. There was a motorbike rider and his passenger. The motorbike rider had been wearing a helmet, while his passenger had not. The motorbike was nursing a leg injury. The passenger was not nursing anything, chiefly because his head had split open.

One rider followed us and made his offer as well.
“Do you have a helmet?”
“Yes”
“How many?”
“One.”
Moja aje na tuko watatu?” (How do you have one and there’s three of us?)
“Helmet ni wewe ndio utavaa mtoi hatavaa na ni hapa tu.
(It’s you who will wear the helmet, not the child and we are going just here.)
Later, I wondered if that guy has a child.
I told him to bring his bike, since it seemed no one had more than one helmet.
When he arrived, I gave the helmet to Amor, told the rider to go slowly and off we went. We arrived without incident and the rider set us down at a place near a sign saying ‘No Bodabodas beyond this point.’

There were VERY MANY people around, a good number of whom were pupils in school uniform. It turned out we still had a bit of a walk to reach the gates.
Again, predictably, there were guys selling things for children – mainly balloons and shades.
“Buy this one that matches what she is wearing”
The balloons were those long ones that had been blown and twisted and had a loop. A number of the sellers placed the balloons on Amor’s head. I firmly refused to buy. I asked Amor if she wanted any of those things and she said no.
I bought two bottles of water, though.
At various points, we passed groups of the uniformed pupils forming lines and holding hands. I remembered what my wife had told me, that when they were young and used to go to the show, they would be told to hold hands or they would get lost.
I told Amor, “If you get lost, or if I get lost,” (I added this because it’s a matter of perspective, isn’t it?), “don’t start looking for me. Just stay where you are until I come find you. Do you hear?”
“Yes”
“What did I say?”
“If I get lost and you get lost, I don’t start looking for you. I just stay where I am until you come find me.”
“Good. Because if you start looking for me and I start looking for you, you may be going like this,” (I moved one hand in a semi-circle) “and I am going like that,” (I moved my other hand in a semi-circle away from the first hand) “and we don’t find each other.
I will go back to the places we have been until I find you.”

We queued for a security check and queued again for tickets, but both queues moved pretty quickly. Ticket prices were 300/- for adult and 250/- for a child. Then we were in.

ShowTicket
Almost immediately, Amor asked me “Wapi pahali pa kucheza?” (Where are the places for playing?)
I decided that since we were late (it was maybe a few minutes to 2:00 p.m.) we should start with the fun fair, so that if we run out of time, at least we will have done that.
So off we went to try and locate the places for playing.

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This post has been lying in my flash disk for over one year. And I call myself a blogger. The info should still be reasonably current. I have updated where I can.

——-

This blog is named Baba Amor, so I think there should be a bit more content related to the said Amor. When I get to spend time with Amor, one of the issues I usually need to consider is where to take her. So I decided to write a blog post about places to go in Nairobi.

* Children’s World
This indoor play area at Adams’ Arcade used to have slides, tunnel slides, pools of balls, places to climb, a theatre, books. Charges used to be 250/- an hour, but sadly, it closed.

A similar place opened at The Galleria Mall. It is smaller and charges 500/- an hour

Galleria

Galleria

It has small slides, zip line, trampoline, ball pool, carts
I think this place is more suitable for younger children up to maybe 6.
Train ride available in the parking lot at 200/- I think, for a ride of about 5 minutes.

IMG_6807

I think they now also have small boats on an inflatable pool in the parking area.

* The Hood
Has swings and trampoline.
Strictly speaking, it may be illegal to have children in a place selling alcohol.

* Prestige Plaza

Prestige Plaza has different things at different times. The more or less constant ones are a merry-go-round and one of those ‘obstacle’ course things (below). I have once taken Amor there for roller-blade lessons. I think it was 300/- or 500/- for half an hour.

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Star Jump is usually available.

Sometimes there are events there which may charge separately.

IMG_2199

* Uhuru Park
From the days of my childhood, the Uhuru Park boats are still there.
Boat ride is – 150/- for 30 minutes. I think it went up to 200/-

There are other rides such as bouncing (bouncy?) castle and merry go-round offered independently and you pay for each.

IMG_7826

IMG_7824
There are those (once battery-operated) cars that the child sits in and is pushed – 50/- for about 5 minutes (one is shown below under Luna Park that is still battery-operated). The first time I went there with my then girlfriend now wife, she was worried that the guy pushing the car could run off and disappear with Amor. I was amused.
Horse ride is – 100/-
Camel ride should be 100/- also

Be warned that as soon as you are spotted with a child, you will likely be swarmed by people selling toys – balloons, whistles, shades and offering face-painting, photos that will be printed before you leave and so on.

* Luna(r?) Park
Just next to Uhuru Park is Luna Park.
It has mainly electric rides and each costs about 200/-
Train
Dodge’em cars
Ferris wheel
‘Helicopter’
Carousel
Boats on an inflatable pool

IMG_7844

IMG_5371

This car is still remote-controlled. The Uhuru Park ones are usually pushed by the operators.

IMG_5353

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The horrifying Banana Boat – it scares adults

IMG_5349
Luna Park tends to be more expensive than Uhuru Park

* Jolly Roger

Jolly Roger is in Karen, off Lang’ata Road near Mamba Village

You pay an entry fee – 200/-? per person and you can access all play areas. You may not carry in your food, but must buy from the establishment if you want to eat.
It has a small pool, water slide, swings, bouncing castle.

Amor *loved* this water slide

Amor *loved* this water slide

* Swimming

There are many places to swim.
Kilimani Kivu Last time I was there it was I think 400/= per adult and 200/- for children
Ministry of Works
Methodist Guest House – tends to be very crowded, but I heard they increased their rates so maybe the crowds thinned.
Rowallan Camp near Jamhuri Showground – I think it is 150/= for adults and 100/= for children
We once went to Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital on Othaya Road specifically for Amor to play there. 🙂

*Upper Hill Springs

I have not looked at the play facilities there for a while. There used to be swings and slides and a bouncing castle.

* The Junction and TRM

There also have play areas and I think they charge 1,000/= per child, but I have not been there

I’d be glad to hear of the places you go. Or went when you were a child 🙂

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I attended Amor’s school’s prize-giving day.
I arrived and sat just a few minutes before the guest of honour arrived. Good thing for me too because chairs ran out. There were tents that had been set up and decked approximately in the schools colours. After the national anthem, the guest of honour inspected a guard of honour of the scouts and girl guides. Pupils from various classes made various presentations: songs, poems, dances.

Guard of honour

Guard of honour

I noticed two things: One was that the pupils presenting were mainly girls, especially in groups from the upper classes. I think the ratio of boys to girls presenting was around 1 to 7 or more. In fact, I noticed one group had three boys as they came onto the front singing. Turned out the boys were there to crack some jokes as part of the presentation.

The second thing was that the songs sung were predominantly Christian songs. These were sung even by groups that had girls wearing hijabs in them. I wondered if the teachers who taught these songs thought about this. Maybe they consider it a form of ministry. I also wondered what the hijab-wearing girls and their parents thought about this.

The pupils were supposed to share a microphone, but in many cases, the one holding the mic hogged it, so that it was predominantly her voice that was heard.

Amor received a prize for her performance last year. I noticed that we are indeed still fairly British. I think every person I saw carried their prizes still wrapped, as opposed to the American way where you open presents immediately upon receipt.

After the event was over, parents went to collect report forms and marked exam papers from the class teachers, and also to discuss the pupils’ progress. Amor had topped her class again this term, and was third in the entire Standard Two. The teacher said she loves books and is always doing something book-related. Amor told me last month that from 3:10 to 4:30 p.m, pupils in her class draw, while some do modelling using plasticine. She herself does revision because she does not have a drawing book and she does not like modelling, because some of the plasticine is soft and sticks to the hands. I bought her a drawing book that day.
———–

“Do you know what an ATM is?”
Amor shook her hed.
“Do you know what this is?” I asked showing her my Visa-branded ATM card.
“Yes.”
“What is it?”
“Visa.”
“What is it for?”
Kama huna pesa unalipa nayo.
(“When you don’t have money you pay with it.”)
(Visa’s advertising seems to be working).
We went to an ATM.
“See what is written up there?” I asked pointing at the large letters ‘ATM’
We waited as the lady at the machine finished and left.
I put in my card and keyed in my PIN.
Amor was ready to extract the money. She seemed to know what to expect.
Then she put her had ready for the receipt.

We went to the bank and got a ticket.
The number on it was 1699.
“Can you read this number?”
“No,” she said.
I covered the first three digits, showing only the last.
“What number is this?”
“Nine,” she said. That one was easy.
I then showed her the last two digits
“Ninety-nine,” she read.
“Good. What comes after ninety-nine?”
“A hundred,” she replied.
“When you count up to one hundred and ninety-nine, what comes next?”
“Two hundred.”
She correctly read the ‘699.’
“Good. Then when you count up to nine hundred and ninety-nine, what comes next? When you count up to five hundred, then six hundred up to nine hundred and ninety-nine, what comes next?”
“One thousand.”
I showed the whole ticket number
“One thousand, six hundred and ninety-nine,” she said.
“Excellent!”

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It was Amor’s birthday, Monday 24th December 2012, the day before Christmas.
We were walking in town, going to collect her birthday cake. (Yes, I should have arranged to do that the day before).
I asked Amor:
“Do you know what day it is tomorrow?”
“Yes”
“What day is it?”
“Tuesday”
***

English: A bundle of collard greens, from an o...

English: A bundle of collard greens, from an organic food co-op. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who has spent some time with children of a certain age (3,4,5,6…) will probably know that they can be painfully honest. They will tell you to your face that this food (that took great effort, time and thought to prepare) tastes yuck! or that they do not want this or that that you have offered them.
It is as we grow that we learn to be ‘considerate of the feelings of others’ and at best give vague, non-committal responses or at worst, lie outright. (I personally usually go for the former).
Children simply call it as they see it.

Now, I do not cook much. I do not really enjoy cooking, but I do not overly mind.
On one of the days I get to spend with Amor, I took her home and made lunch for her. My wife was not around so our nutrition for that time was up to me. I made vegetables (spinach, I think, and/or collard greens – I am not sure if this is the actual vegetable commonly eaten here in Kenya, but it’s close enough) and fried eggs and something else that I can’t remember. Nothing fancy or appealingly colourful or anything. Just nutritious food.

While I was serving, she, not surprisingly, asked to be served with more egg. Who doesn’t like fried egg? She ate a bit of the food, then she did something that made my day – she asked for more vegetables! Not more egg – more vegetables! How about that for an endorsement of my cooking! I was elated!

Just in case you are thinking that she just said that to make me happy, I had also baked a cake that week – the pre-mixed easy-to-bake ones. I gave her some, she ate a bit and said “This cake is not very tasty.” Thus, we can safely dispel any doubts that the ‘more veggies’ request was sincere.

Aah, the joys of fatherhood.
***
23rd Feb 2013

Not verbatim.
English translation follows

“Ujue Daddy anakupenda. Unajua nani mwingine anakupenda?”
“Mum”
“Na pia C” [her elder sister]
“Ah ah!”
“Kwa nini unafikiri hakupendi?”
“Yeye hunichapa”
“Kwa nini anakuchapa?”
“Nikimwagia chai kidogo”
“Kwa nini unamwagia chai kidogo”
“Saa zingine meza inatingika”
“Mummy pia hukuchapa?”
“Nikifanya kitu mbaya.”
“Mummy hukuchapa lakini anakupenda. Hata Ciku pia anakupenda. Mtu akitaka kukuchapa huku nje C atafanya nini?”
“Ataambia Mummy.”
“Unaona!”

In English
“Always remember, daddy loves you. Do you know who else loves you?”
“Mum”
“And also C” [her elder sister]
“No!”
“Why do you think she does not love you?”
“She beats me”
“Why does she beat you?”
“If I pour a little tea”
“Why do you pour a little tea?”
“Sometimes the table shakes”
“Does Mummy also spank you?”
“If I do something bad”
“Mummy spanks you, but she loves you. C also loves you. If someone tries to beat you outside, what will C do?”
“She will tell mum.”
“You see!”
***
If you haven’t yet, you may want to take a peek at The Gio Chronicles

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Christy turned 2 on 24th December 2008. We went swimming and lunching. Christy’s mum dressed her in a nice 2-piece swim suit and she came from the changing room running joyfully along the edge of the pool. (Christy, that is, not her mum).
I went with Christy to the baby-pool. At first, she wanted to undress. I guess she is used to water bodies only at bath-time…
After convincing her to keep her clothes on and coaxing her bit by bit into the pool, she got in.
The water wasn’t too deep for her. It came up to about her waist. She was enjoying herself immensely, as demonstrated by her unrestrained shrieks of delight. Of course I was on high alert and less than a foot away.
She was basically walking around in the pool and waving her arms about in the water, splashing a little bit and so on. Sometimes she would go off balance and tip into the water and naturally, I’d grab her and set her on her feet again. She even learnt to and enjoyed kneeling in the water, in which case the water now reached her neck. This meant that her head would submerge sooner if she went off balance. She seemed to want to jump from a standing position to a kneeling one, something that was not always successfully achieved. All in all, she loved it and I was glad it indeed was a happy birthday.

Christy makes me reflect on many things – my own upbringing, my father, a child’s perspective, the future, myself and so on.
In this case, I thought of the fact that a swimming pool can be a very dangerous place. But Christy enjoyed herself oblivious of all that, leaving the care and concern to her father.

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