Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Twice the holiday length, twice the length my tan will stick around.

Those of you that know me will think 'nah, she doesn't have one', but I do. It's true. Not in the same league as my melatonin-hogging brother, but I do actually have one. So nyeh.

Contrary to the image I'm giving off at the moment, I don't actually sit around trying to get one - I gave up on that about 5 years ago. The fact I got one is just a fancy bonus to my holiday. Remember, kids, there's no such thing as a healthy tan. Skin Cancer is lurking everywhere.

So an entire week and a day late, I'm finally back in Lancaster. I've caught up on the few episodes of things I could, I've attempted to force my body to sleep past 9am Kenya Time (7am here) and failed, and I've just taken the damn Malaria tablet which I need to keep taking for another 4 weeks.

Today begins my revision: Sort out which themes were covered where, go to the odd lecture if I've been told about it, and start to revise perhaps 5 topics per module: 3 thoroughly, and cover 2 intermediately. You can't revise everything; that'd be stupid. At most, there'll only be 3 questions to do in one paper, and you get to choose from about 10.

I've started to decide what to do for my birthday, if anything. Of course, everything is as up in the air or on the floor as the various bits and pieces of my packing and bags in my room. C'est la vie de la student. =/

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Ka-boom 2.0

Despite experts saying that test flights were fine, and that the ash would be cleared by Thursday, the volcano has once again erupted, throwing their predictions out of the water AND a US Fighter Plane sustained damage to its engines flying over. I say 'Bah' to those 30 short test flights. I sure as hell am not risking being on the plane that crashes and burns - crashes. and. burns.

So we were hoping to get to Barcelona by the 26th, but what with the whole thing ''easing off'', we waited 48 hours too long and have missed the boat, so to speak, and now won't get to Cairo till the 28th. My grandmother has asked friends in Cairo to book her a room, but if they've not replied by tomorrow morning, we'll book one ourselves: decisive action needs to be taken before the 30th. If we're not in Cairo before we get kicked out of Hemingways, we'll be stranded in Nairobi, and that is a disaster zone: full hotels, fewer flight connections, one air line and no internet on tap to sort things out. At least in Cairo, the airport is visited multiple times a day by many European airlines, as well as of course having Egypt Air which goes pretty much everywhere in Europe. We need to get to Mainland Europe - anywhere, even if it's Greece, and find our way to Germany. Once there, we can chill at my Great Uncle's flat and sort something out - ferry from Holland, probably, since Spain is currently chuka-block with British Tourists trying to be 'repatriated'.

The even more depressing thing is that instead of being fortified, my tan is *fading*. Good lord. I've been forced to use a lower factor sun cream, cause we ran out and had to buy more (there was a limited selection) and the skin that was brown is fading again! I don't try to tan, but at this rate my face will be the only thing brown when I get back.
If I miss some exams, they'll all be deferred to late August. It'll suck, and also cost me yet more money, since I have no house nor room to stay in, and shall have to rent one on campus. Lame~

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Escape Plans

With meterologist reports growing steadily more depressing - such as "the lava is very thick and low in basalt, and high in silicone. This could lead to more explosions with more ash and debris being thrown into the air" and "there's no wind! It's all just staying put!" - the small group of us stuck here at the hotel have been devising many plots (growing more and more complicated as various bridges burn in our way) to just get out of here.

Plan A: Fly to Italy, get a train to the border. Get my grandmother's brother to pick us up and drive us to Holland after putting us up for the night.
Flaw: Can't book a flight to Italy, cause Kenya Airways doesn't want to risk it.

Plan B: Fly to New York and get a boat across the Big Blue.
Flaw: Direct flights to New York are now non-existant, and they all stop over in Frankfurt, London or Paris.

Plan C: Fly to Gibraltar and swim across to Spain!
Flaw: Nobody wants to do that, and we have luggage.

Plan D: Fly to Portugal or Spain and get a ferry to Southampton, possibly dropping in on The Boyfriend in Bournemouth, or my cousin Alan at his uni digs before getting a coach or train to Cambridge.
Flaw: Can't book the flights.

Plan E: Wait it out.
Flaw: We don't want it to turn into months.

Plan F: Fly to Morocco, get a ferry across to Spain or, if possible, Majorca, where a family here has a 9-seater car, and can then take us and themselves onto a ferry to Spain and then we drive to North Spain to get a ferry to Southampton. Or we can be dropped off in Germany and get Great Uncle KJ to give us a lift to Holland, where we might well have a better chance of getting on the ferry as foot passengers.
Flaw: Not certain that once we get to Morocco, there'll be flights out there. Though I suppose we can check online first.

...dunno if it'll all stay as speculation - it's certainly fun, but I don't really want to get stranded somewhere else either!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

"Sorry I'm late, I got stranded in Africa after Iceland's volcano erupted."

Ok. Here's the scoop:

On the final full day we were at Hemingways, there was a red alert that flights going to and from Europe were being cancelled. Turns out that Iceland's second volcano decided to erupt, and massive clouds of ash is floating about the 'air space', which is somewhat deadly to any aeroplanes in the vicinity.
We were told, on the cancellation of our flight, that we *might* be able to get a flight on Wednesday, but there were no guarantees. Instead, it's all got worse - The volcano's still going, Iceland is being evacuated cause of flooding and uncontrollable lava flows, and the clouds are sweeping more and more over Europe, shutting down France, Germany, Scandinavia and various other places. People that were merely changing planes in Europe are stranded. Hundreds in airports, and many more stranded in hotels.

My hotel is actually supposed to close for the season on the 1st of May, but since it's now been stated that the cloud's getting worse and there'll be a proper backlog of weeks before we can hope to fly out of here (those clogging up airports will get priority, and so they should) and of course the hotel has to stay open for its guests.

The insurance companies must be feverishly looking through all their fine print to find a loophole out of forking out for everybody's forced extra accommodation + food expenses. 

So yes, I'm stranded in an African paradise, with green-blue seas, warm sand (and the seaweed), pool-side lunches and all the free sun-bleaching my hair could ever want, but I'm rather concerned about the effect all this will have on my final term at university - I have to see my dissertation tutors, I have to take exams in 3 weeks (and it is *weeks* that it could take for me to get back - and even if I get back in time to take some of the exams, I'll not have been able to revise much since I left all my books and notes at home), and I would rather not be an absentee history social secretary. Yes, that sounds a bit high in my priority list, but I'm already missing a meal that turned out to be more difficult to organise than it should have been, and I'm missing out on a one-off trip which I put a lot of effort into - and I'm still going to be the one that's paying for the minibus with my card even though I won't be using it! (I get reimbursed by the society)

I'm somewhat concerned about how my exams will happen - if I get back in time, I'm surely have to retake more than one, and if I do, will I be treated as a normal resitting student, or will I get leeway for extenuating circumstances, and *not* have my retake marks capped at just 'Pass'?

Most I can do is inform my tutors (Especially the one I have a seminar for) and ask them for any online sources they'd thoroughly recommend for revision, and wait for instructions/advice from my Senior Tutor, Student Union Academic Rep and the "Part II" Course Convenor.
And, as Jeff, the lovely Manager put it "Just relax, chill, wait and see what happens. Go snorkelling, lunch at 1, have a swim in the pool, afternoon tea at 4, read a book in the late afternoon warmth and then shower and have dinner at 7.30".

...This is the most expensive term yet. I'm paying rent just for my stuff to gather dust. At least I'm saving money on the food and going out :(

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Days 4-7 of my Kenyan Experience 4.0

Ok, so I've failed miserably to keep this going, but in all honesty, apart from the odd walk around the gardens, and meeting people, I've not done much more than just sit and read in the gorgeous weather.

I'd taken a lot of photos - some really nice ones, even though it was just me and my brother fooling around with the camera. But disaster struck: One evening, after a particularly good couple of days of photographing lizards, flowers, and getting the odd nice one from messing around on the sunbed, I went to look through and sort them to find just the last two I'd taken were in existence. I don't know how they were deleted, or why, but I definitely didn't accidentally delete them myself; I'd deleted a few earlier that afternoon, before taking more, and as you delete them individually, the next one in the sequence shows up, so I know that at least the ones of the Plated Lizards in the front yards were supposed to be there.
I was actually rather angry and upset - I know I can just pinch one or two of my grandmother's, from when we'd photographed the same things, and I know I can retake the photos of the flowers. But some of them really weren't the sort you could fabricate again.
I also felt annoyed cause it meant a good 4 days of my Photo A Day project would be photos that weren't taken by me, or not even taken on the day I'd be claiming they were.

And then yesterday, my grandmother didn't see my sunglasses on her sunbed and broke one of the arms off. They were only 1 pound, but they were good sunglasses - dark lenses (shade 3, for extra bright climates) and definitely UV protection lenses, and my only other pair are currently at university.
Not good. Grandmother and I went to the Kipepeo Project, in Gedde, about 20 minutes from the hotel (by bus) - Kipepeo is Swahili for 'Butterfly'. Unfortunately, since the Rainy Season starts about a week after we leave, most of the butterflies were still just cocoons - but Grandmother was cheered up by the Butterfly-man, Edmund, who brought in a huge spider for her to play with. I'm not too keen on anything larger than a jumping spider, really - Spiders just seem to make me want to retch. They're the only creatures that truly disgust me, for whatever reason. Just an inbuilt reflex, really. I like insects well enough, normally, but spiders I'm less able to see as 'beautiful', even if I can acknowledge that they've got an amazing colour, such as this one - orange/black legs, with yellow spotted underbelly, and a huge patterned bottom.

I'll have to confess that the thought of touching, never mind allowing it to crawl on me, filled me with pure revulsion.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Day 2 + 3 of My Kenyan Experience 4.0

I just thought I'd quickly mention that the reason it's called "Kenyan Experience 4.0" is that this is the 4th time I've come here. Just in case you'd not cottoned on to that.

Last night, we were all so knackered that we went to bed at about 9.30pm Kenyan Time (7.30 BST) and we went to sleep. Until about half past midnight when my brother was hurling what seemed to be his entire abdomen, because of a stomach bug. He's alright now, but when he continued being sick after even just a sip of water, and on an empty stomach, we knew it definitely wasn't from over-eating. Wasn't food poisoning, either, since we all had the same thing.

So, since he kept bring up his insides for a good 2 hours, we didn't really get much sleep. He got up to throw up bile at about 7am, here, so we didn't get a lot of sleep. Whilst he went back to bed, my grandmother and I decided to have breakfast.
Normally, breakfast here at Hemingways is great; selection of foods is good, and the stuff you get done for you is well done. This morning, I decided to ignore the fact the waffle mixture resembled bread dough, and gave it a go. The cook on hand put enormous thick portions into the iron, so that when the waffle came out, it was about an inch high. It also had the texture of a Sandwich Sponge cake. Adding sugar, it might as well have been.

In the afternoon, we met our friends once again, and had afternoon tea with them. Somehow, we managed to end up having to explain to them why we are atheists - they think we're utterly bonkers, and will probably pray for us. Since their father's a preacher (he married his 3 wives before he became a christian) they probably think that they know better. At least they don't blame God for disasters - they blame the Devil. Don't think they quite know what omniscience is.

That evening we had a great chat with our friend at Reception, Anne, who, it turns out, has a 3 year old daughter (she didn't even have a man when we last saw her three years ago) and isn't even married! Quite the opposite of her prim and proper ways, and her general no-sex-before-marriage rule - some things are just not worth waiting for, for too long. Unlike you male readers, women have a limited body clock, don't you know?

Day 3:

I had a lie in. Fantastic. Breakfast was better - the batter looked thinner, for the waffles, but I went for a pancake instead. I've really only spent today talking to Omar, the gorgeous chef, and Jeff, the could-probably-have-a-gorgeous-singing-voice receptionist. My grandmother telling him so, and that he even has the looks (unlike Susan Boyle, who came up as an example of Music Industry Image) made his day. Gorgeous laugh, he's got.

At about 3.30, I went to my room, to freshen up after a nap on the sunbed, and when I poked my head out of the window, I spied my grandmother filming a monkey on the path. I was quite stunned. In the 8 years I've been coming to Kenya, I've never had a monkey in the hotel. Let alone an entire family group. It was really quite exciting - I've seen Vervet Monkeys before; there are looooads at Gedde Ruins, and in 2002 on Safari, but *in* the hotel, on balconies and playing with a woman's bikini top and jumping along the beams: never before.
It was really quite strange, since my grandmother had her early morning walk, and was picturing butterflies and local squirrels, when one of the employees asked if she was looking for monkeys. She wasn't sure whether he really meant monkeys, or mistook squirrels for them (you'd be surprised how ignorant some people can be about their local wildlife, honest). We asked a waiter at breakfast if he'd ever seen any here, and he said very rarely they come out.
And lo and behold, here they were. At least 10 of them - adults, three females with babies, and lots of younger monkeys playing about. It was quite fun to watch.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Day 1 of our Kenyan Experience 4.0

After a taxing 9+ hours of travel, I took in the Mombasa scenery (for what I was awake for it - it's easy to fall asleep in a nice warm bus, even if you don't have a headrest) and was really struck by the enormous advertising campaigning people like Coca Cola have in Kenya; you can get a sign for your shop, so long as it's a Coca Cola advert - i.e. Coca Cola red sign with the font, but saying your own thing. Every sign is in English, and when it's not in English, it's Swahili but with English translation underneath. They're all brand sponsored, and they're all making a lot of money out of people that probably don't drink much clean water anyway.

Arriving at the hotel was wonderful - a sore sight for weary, sleepless eyes. The receptionist behaved almost as though we never even checked out 3 years ago, and the chef came to say hi and ask us how we are.

Last year, we grew an attachment to 3 local children, whose father is a Vicar (but not before being) married to 3 wives; there are 14 of his children, between them, and many of his children are expecting children. They've no electricity or decent running water, or even proper beds. We gave them many clothes and things, as promised the previous visit on our last day, and played much sand-football, to my amusement and the dismay of my poor Brother's foot, which is used to playing football in shoes!

Today we half expected to have to search for them again; but The Grandmother went for a long leisurely walk on the beach, and after asking one or two local people, found the elder brother of one of them, who later brought the three to us. I had to go to get my brother from his slumber on a sunbed, but The Grandmother and children ran towards each other, and hugged her, and then when we came, hugged us, and were really very pleased to see us: apparently, because we said we might come in 2009, but we didn't, they assumed that The Grandmother had died. Aw!

They were fantastically pleased to see us, and the brother that we met today was a real clown and chatterbox. It was great fun, and we're seeing them again tomorrow.

The hotel is just as I remember and love it, with the exception of the room situation: although we booked a room we wanted, the people that were supposed to have moved out yesterday have extended their holiday. (Don't blame them, but they should get kicked out our room, rather than us being put in this one) and we've had to have a double bed + single made up, + an extra single for us. The extra single is rock solid. We thought that the double bed was hard, since it barely budged, but my weight does nothing to the springs! If there are any. I'm going to be very sore tomorrow, since I lost out to rock-paper-scissors over the double bed. Unless I just give up and crawl in the other side, hehehehe.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Searching high and low then NOM NOM NOM

Easter is here.

I'd actually not thought we'd get chocolates or anything since we're going away in two days, but I happened upon my grandmother in my brother's room, who whipped around with her hands behind her back concealing the goods, and a shocked look on her face.

Whoops. She came into my room later and dumped the bag on my bed, but I moaned and pouted so she banished me elsewhere whilst  she made it particularly a difficult hunt this year. And it was well done - I've only in the past hour or properly looking found the final one, which was actually in a stupidly obvious place. Sort of. I checked behind videos on one side of my shelf, but not behind a pile of dvds on the other - which is where it was snuggly hidden.

It was actually rather nice having them in the not-so-usual places; on the window ledge edges behind my curtains, on the shoulder of a dislodged stuffed toy, drawers, behind things, in my roll of toilet paper (I used up the box of tissues, and actually find the loo roll kinder to my nose) etc.

My brother has yet to find his final one - it's harder for him; his is a small one left, whilst mine had fairly limited (but still took me a while, cause I was being overly thorough) places in which it could be, being a loaf of marzipan in a silly packet.

I was looking for an Easter-y picture, and found this one amongst all the twee stuff.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Surprises at 10.30am.

At around 10am, I lay in my bed, awaiting the noises that signalled my Grandfather'd left the bathroom. It was the second longish sleep I'd had since getting home, since my brother still had to go to Sixth Form until yesterday. I got up, brushed my teeth and combed my hair, then dealt with the now-opened cut burn on my finger. My grandmother fussed and tried to get me to get dressed, took any clothes that needed washing (my jeans, and cause she needed something else, my hoody) and then when I was talking on the landing with her, the doorbell rang.

Granddad was in the kitchen eating, and yelled "can somebody answer that" - Grandmother looked at me, but I just gave her the "not in my skimpy pjs I'm not" look. She opened the door, and a voice said "Hello, there" and I saw jeans-clad legs come through the door, as my grandmother said "she's not got dressed yet. Tried, but she'd only just got up".

It was quite strange. A grinning face looked up at me, and for some reason, it  was The Boyfriend. All I could managed was a very surprised "hi!" and "you're a bit early" - by that I meant that he's supposed to be in Bournemouth and arriving  in Cambridge this evening. He took his shoes off, came up stairs and hugged me. I'd at some point retreated to my room to put a fleece on over my pjs. Maybe when he was taking his shoes off? 

It was so utterly surreal, a shock, and I couldn't get my mind to work; I quickly realised that my grandmother and boyfriend had been in cahoots, and she knew exactly what was going on. I stood there in with my arms around him, overwhelmed by the sheer shock of his arriving. Hell, keeping a secret or arranging a surprise without letting anything (except, as I look back, a thoroughly decoy story) on, which is something he usually fails to do, since he can't contain his excitement or anxiety that I should like a surprise that he got me.

I was horribly aware that I was pale, pasty, had red-raw nostrils from blowing my nose constantly, a stuffed-up-nose-sounding voice, and my pjs were ending their week life-span. He'd seen me first thing in the morning before - but somehow the being caught off my guard so utterly was enough to make me feel really shy. He took me into my room and hugged and kissed me, telling me how he'd arranged for him to come round with my grandmother via Facebook, since he knew she checked it fairly frequently, and that he planned this all last week.

I managed to persuade him to let me get changed, and I had a chance to get my head together properly as I got changed into some clothes, and to splash some water on my face in the sanctuary of the bathroom.
When I emerged, I found him talking with my grandmother in her room, and I joined the pair of schemers, each were individually quite pleased with themselves, I could tell.

Apparently, the expression on my face when I saw who it was, and then when he came up stairs to hug me was worth it. The Boyfriend had wanted to buy me flowers, but as I'm going abroad on Tuesday, he thought it would be better not to - I'd not be here to enjoy them. For me, it was the ability to enjoy an extra day with him (I haven't seen him in over 5 weeks) before I go was more than enough.

It was certainly the best day I've had in a while, and the nicest surprise.