Saturday, April 30, 2011


Recently I've been thinking about friends; my friends and the friendships I still nuture in my late fifties. A woman needs friends - from a young age - into old age.

Friendship is the cooperative and supportive relationship between people. In this sense, the term connotes a relationship which involves mutual knowledge, esteem, affection, and respect along with a degree of rendering service to friends in times of need or crisis.

My sister Rosemary and I, fifteen months apart in age, have been close friends for the past fifty-six years. As the older sister, I always looked out for her and she look up to me! As young married women living in South Africa, even though distance separated us, we regularly visited each other with our husbands and young families. She and her husband have emigrated to the UK but we are in contact via e-mail and telephone each other periodically via Skype.

While at high school, a girl arrived at hostel one Saturday morning in April 1967. The teacher called me and said: "Johanna, (my name at school), Norma is a new girl from Zambia and I want you to look after her." Norma and I became firm friends, never apart until we left school in 1970. As young women, we corresponded (by snail mail in those days) and spoke to each other once a quarter when our parents allowed the use of the telephone. We had our first children in the same year and then Norma and her husband emigrated to the UK. She and I met up in 2005, had a wonderful reunion and still correspond once or twice a year - now via e-mail.

My sister-in-law, Shelley and I have been friends since she married Grant's brother in the eighties. Back home in South Africa, we text and telephone each other. While I'm out of the country, it's much easier and cheaper to send mesages via Skype. Of course, I have often mentioned on my blog that Shelley kindly helps me to identify birds now that Grant and I are spotting so many new ones here in Kenya.

When we lived in a small farming community in Zululand during the seventies and eighties, there were many other young women. It was wonderful to know and mix with other young mothers with children the same age as my two sons. My closest friend was Anne who lived just up the farm road from me. Her sister, Brenda, lived about 20kms away in another farming area and through various church and sporting activities, she and I also became firm friends. Sadly, Anne died in her early thirties from breast cancer. I still correspond with Brenda and hope to visit them on their farm in the not too distant future.

Over the years I have made friends wherever Grant and I worked and lived. On the diamond mines of Namibia, in the nineties, I could count Olly, Leonie and Rene as my close friends. Sadly Rene was killed in a motor accident a few years ago and Olly died from Emphysema in 2005. I still correspond with Leonie who now lives in Cape Town.

While on the gold mines of Guinea, West Africa, my dearest friend was Sonja. She hailed from Middlburg in South Africa,  glamorous, blonde and beautifully groomed, even on a remote mine site and was the most loyal friend anyone could ask for. Sonja and her husband currently live in Tanzania (so we're neighbours!) and we hope to visit them while here in East Africa. Then there was Morag from the UK. Morag  and I worked together at the mine and at teatime would regularly pore over a website looking for healthy food options and new exercise regimes. I was secretary to the maintenance manager and Morag and I convinced him to refurbish the gym on camp. She and I utilized the gym together even when others' enthusiasm waned. On Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons Morag and I played our own unique game of golf on the four-hole gravel course that Grant,  as earthmoving manager,  designed and built for us. We are in e-mail contact and on our next trip to the UK, Grant and I will visit Morag and her husband, Ronnie in Peterborough.

When we go out on leave to South Africa, I always look forward to seeing my friends, Carin and Carina who also run a beauty salon in my home town. While they beautify my nails and feet, we catch up on children's achievements (Carin) and our beautiful grandchildren and their antics (Carina). These two ladies are trying to convince their husbands - farmers and 4x4 enthusiasts - to do an overland trip to Kenya to visit us. Imagine that!

As mentioned last week, Sue and I have become firm friends in the three months we've known each other here in Keirio Valley. Sometimes a week goes by and we'd not see each other. Then we meet up,  go to the market together or venture into the bush to photograph birds and interesting places. Often we' just sit and relax together in one or the other's garden.

Of course, like everyone reading this post today, I have many blogger friends; people I would not have known if it hadn't been for the Internet. I love the interaction afforded by Blogger and have made some very close friends through this. Thanks to all who continually visit my blog and comment.

The fact that I've used photos of monkeys in this post is not meant to add levity to my subject. I often sit at my desk and watch the monkeys on the lawn. The way they interact, groom each other, play together or sit and enjoy the early morning sun, is very reminiscent of humans.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Sunrise east of Keirio Valley

Sunrise over Keirio Valley taken on our trip to El Doret earlier this week

For more beautiful skies around the world, click here

Note: today is a historic day marking the fact that Prince William of England marries Kate who will enter the cathedral a commoner and emerge a princess.  I pray that these two young people have a long and loyal married life together.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Who may worship in Your sanctuary, Lord?
Who may enter Your presence on Your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
Those who refuse to slander their neighbours
or speak evil of their friends

Psalm 15:1-3

As God's people we have been called to particular way of life. We are called to a life of honesty and integrity, refusing to lie about ourselves and others. We are also called to build up God's people and to keep from hurting other people. By practicing these things,  our lives reflect the character of the God we serve.

Gossiping and slander is an extremely   destructive practice which not only discourages the people being talked about but also keeps us from examining our own lives as we should. Instead of reflecting honestly on our own shortcomings, we focus on the lives of others. We need to live in the power of God thus denying Satan a foothold in our relationships with others.
 Be still and know that I am God Psalm 46:10

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A new birding route

Friday morning being a public holiday, Grant and I went out to look for birds. Just past the office block, he turned down a road we'd not yet travelled. Within the first hundred meters we spotted birds flitting in and out of the thorn scrub, flying across our path and even some fossicking for insects in the grass verge and sandbathing in the dirt road ahead of the vehicle. At a glance we could see bee-eaters, warblers, brightly-coloured cordon-bleus, mousebirds and crombecs.

We have four different bee-eaters in the valley. I previously posted about the first birds I noticed and photographed when we first arrived on camp, the Cinnamon-chested bee-eaters. Driving around the corner,  we spotted the nesting holes of the White-fronted bee-eaters. They breed colonially in sandy banks and cliffs.

Distinctive features of the White-throated Bee-eaters are the bright red throat, contrasting with the white forehead and white chin and the broad black band through the eye. The remaining underparts are cinnamon, the upperparts are mainly green and the head and neck are golden-brown. The above bird has a meal in its beak and is about to take it to its nest in the bank below

Here two birds rest on a protruding branch before taking food to their respective nests

The birds arrive and take off continuously. There are about two hundred holes in this bank and many of them seem to be occupied at the moment

A hive of activity

As we drove around the next corner, we spotted the third bird of this kind; also the smallest and most common: the Little Bee-eater. It is mainly green with a bright yellow throat and black gorget which has a thin blue line running along its upper edge. A distinctive blue line above the eye borders a broad black eye-band. The upper chest is chestnut becoming paler below. The sexes are alike and immature is duller, lacks the black gorget and has a greenish, not chestnut front.
Above and below is an immature bird with the adult to the right

The quiet road we found running along under the dam wall, just rising up on the right, with the riverine bush on the left

As we continued along the road which ran along under the dam wall, we saw a flash of white flying across our path. We stopped and as I got out of the car with my camera, Grant pointed to a pair of Go-away birds in a dry thorn bush beside the road. This is a distinctive, slim-looking grey bird with a white belly and a pronounced crest and long tail. The birds typically anounce their presence by their well-known, draw-out "wah wha wah" call.

The White-bellied Go-away bird. I just love the stance in the second photo

I carried on walking down the road and Grant caught up in the vehicle. As he got out with the binoculars, I saw a bird fly to a tree and start creeping up the trunk. We both said: woodpecker! We'd been looking forward to seeing a woodpecker here in Kenya and this weekend we got our wish. I managed to get quite a few photos of this industrious and striking little bird, the Nubian Woodpecker.

I often assume that I'm photographing a male bird . However, when I downloaded the photos later and checked on the description in my little photographic guide: Birds of East Africa, I saw that the male has a red crown and a red moustachial stripe. The female has a white-spotted black crown,  a small red patch on the nape and a dark, slightly spotted moustachial stripe. The Nubian Woodpeckers spotted breast seperates it from the very similar Golden-tailed Woodpecker which is streaked.

 Nubian Woodpecker female

While photographing the woodpecker (above), another beautiful bird landed in a tree slightly lower down towards the river. This distinctive bright yellow bird, an African Black-headed Oriole, has a black head and throat and a coral-red bill.  It is a common bird, one which I hear daily in my garden, but not that easy to always spot. At last I had the perfect opportunity to photograph this bird.
African Black-headed Oriole

As if we hadn't had enough excitement out in the bush, when we arrived home, I spotted two little birds on the ground at the bottom of the garden. I watched them for a number of minutes until one  flew up onto a branch above me.

The African Golden-breasted Bunting. This is a small, long-tailed bird with a conspicous black and white striped head, a rich golden breast and a yellow belly. The back is rufous and it has white wing bars and white tips to the outer feathers. These birds are found singly (Sue had announced seeing one fleetingly in her garden two weeks ago)  or in pairs - as I had in my garden- and in open woodland, savannah and acacia bush - the latter habitat surrounds my garden

For more on birds around the world, click here

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fresh eggs? You bet!

Tuesday is market day in the valley. This Tuesday Sue and I had been to the market, bought our fruit and vegetables, passed the time of day with various stallholders and bought a homeless man a cup of tea and chapati (a flatbread pancake of Indian origin) and we were ready to go home. On the way back to camp, Sue asked Michael, the driver, to stop at Chebutie shop to buy eggs. I didn't need anything but of course, I wanted to greet the shopkeeper (who is Caro's aunt) and take photos!

Following Sue down the bank to Chebutie shop

How fresh are the eggs sold here, do you think?

Momma hen, small chicken and teenage chicken!

Protect me mum, from this creature pointing at me!

Outside a young herdsman passed the shop with a small herd of cows

And a lone goat...

For more of other people's worlds, click here

Note: Thank you to all of you who wished me a speedy recovery from my bout of malaria. On Saturday morning I awoke with sore joints and feeling very weak. Grant took me back to the clinic where Jo-Anne was dismayed that I wasn't feeling better. She did another malaria test and announced that the parasite was indeed leaving my body. This time I looked at the malarial parasite under the microscope. She explained what I need to look for (the procedure causes the colour purple to show up the parasite) and I could see that they were indeed minimal. This probably pschologically convinced me I was on the mind! Apart from a headache on Sunday night, on Monday morning I felt much better.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Week ending 24 April 2011

Tuesday last week the company had a very important meeting. Directors flew into the valley on Tuesday and were taken straight to the guest house for refreshments. Sue and I, with the able asssistance of Chef Wheatcliffe and his assistant, Caro,  made finger lunch for eight men, two of whom were vegetarians. As soon as the men had eaten and departed for the  boardroom in the mine office building, Sue and I began to plan and prepare for the evening's dinner. This time for sixteen people.  Caro and Wheatcliffe carried on with the cutting and cooking and by 4pm, we handed over to them. 

Sue and I walked over to her house where we sat on the
veranda and watched the birds enjoying her bird bath. We were recharging our batteries for  dinner which also went off successfully.

Greater Blue-eared Starling getting ready, steady...

On Wednesday morning, we drove down to the airstrip where the visitors and our financial manager, Johan waited to board the plane for Nairobi.
Sue photographs our company MD (in white trousers) and one of the directors who flew into site for the annual meeting

The financial manager, Johan, here on single status (wife and little girl back home in Pretoria, South Africa) went out on leave this week. He is very shy but Sue and I decided to make a fanfare of his departure: we took photos of him ready to board the small plane and also hugged him while wishing him a safe flight to Nairobi
Directors chatting while waiting to board the plane. I just love the mountains surrounding our valley and never miss an opportunity to photograph them in the background!
Don't all children just love an aeroplane? This little group was standing watching all the activity on the normally deserted company airstrip
Sue, funny lady and dear friend since I arrived on camp, photographing me photographing ... She and I have identical cameras: Canon Powershot but hers is about four years old. She and her hubby are in Nairobi this weekend with their son who's flown in from South Africa for Easter. He has brought her an upgraded Canon. I can't wait to see it!
Unbeknown to me, Sue had taken this photo and sent it to me the next day with the caption: professional paparazzi on the move!
And another!

The plane starts to move down the runway

It taxied for about 500m and...

... took off. Grant - just visible through the dust - was at the end of the strip checking that no stray goats, cattle or people were wandering around

After the excitement of seeing a plane take off from the valley, Sue and I drove back into the mine property, stopped the vehicle above the river running past the mine and walked along the banks. We were almost too late to view birds, but we sat on the rocks and chatted while resting our feet from the hard work of the day before.

Isn't this tranquil?

A while later we climbed back up the riverbank to the road and crossed it to the dam rising above on the other side. We hoped we might see a few herons or comorants. No birds,  but on a beach further along the dam, we saw two crocodiles sunning themselves. Of course, I took photos...

The Nile crocodile / Crocodylus niloticus 

The Nile Crocodile can grow up to five meters long. They have long snouts that can grab fish and turtles. They are dark olive in color, and young ones have bands around their body. But as they get older, the bands fade. They are the most intelligent reptiles on the earth. Nile Crocodiles live in freshwater swamps, rivers, lakes, and other watery places. They dig dens to hide in from hot weather or danger. They are only found in Africa and Madagascar.

The common name here is also Kenya crocodile or Madagascar crocodile.

On Thursday I woke up feeling very groggy with flu-like symptoms. A driver took me down to the clinic where Jo-Anne, a lovely young qualified sister checked my blood pressure (normal) and listened to my chest (clear). Then she drew blood from me did a malaria test. I photographed this procedure; very interesting and professionally executed.

Jo-Anne checking the malarial parasites in my blood sample under the microscope

 The verdict: positive. She gave me anti-malarial medication, I took them and rested for the next three days.
The weekend itself was rather quiet due to the fact that I was a little, quite, very ill.

On Sunday afternoon Grant and I watched the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer which was televised and watched by millions in 1981. I remember a good friend, Christine and I watching it on her television on the day, which was a Wednesday. There were political sanctions against South Africa in those days, and we were unable to hear the beautifully rendered Trumpet Triumphal March, the hymns sung by the congregation and the songs by the choirs. The sound would go off and a notice appeared on the screen saying: "Due to sanctions against the country, South African viewers are unable to hear the music." I sure am glad those days of apartheid are over in my country. The Royal wedding certainly had a fairytale quality about it. Makes it all that much sadder that the marriage went to pieces and Diana, Princess of Wales ultimately and tragically died.
As this post is aired, we're on our way to El Doret to fetch a technician whom Grant is flying in to do work on two large machines. We've known Bertus for over ten years, since he worked for Grant in Guinea, West Africa. At the beginning of last year, Bertus also did a six-week stint of work for Grant in Khartoum.  Then we all three lived together in the two-bedroomed flat, which worked quite well. This weekend, I had to arrange with Caro to prepare a bedroom in the guest house for Bertus and to cook lunch and dinner for today. 
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend with your loved ones.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Beautiful Africa

Small blossoms (unknown) with the ubiquitous acacia ahead and the beatiful mountains surrounding Kimwarer Valley in the background

I took this photo by lying low in the grass. 

Note: the photo Sue took is a link back to my own post on Thursday. See here if you wish.

For more scenes around the world, click here