The Wild Africa

I remember watching the documentary Invisible Children – maybe in high school?  I was blown away by the story of children who had been brainwashed into being part of gruesome violence.  We are very lucky here in the United States.

Years later, as I was graduating from college, I traveled to Kenya (a much different trip then S had).  During my short stay, I spent 2 of the weeks staying in a convent/hospital with the other students in my program. Our age group was from 18-25, which led to a very interesting dynamic.  The time spent with the nuns was eye opening to say the least.


One night, I awoke to yelling, and the nuns rushing around.  Our quarters were locked, and I knew we were safe.  The next morning, one of the nuns told me that they had admitted a man in the middle of the night because he had been cut by a machete.  According to the nun, the man had been trying to fight off his neighbor who was stealing his chicken.  Several days later, I saw him sitting outside his hospital room, with one side of his face and his arm bandaged.

Each day we would walk to a different school where we would break into groups and participate in different activities.  All of the children were required to wear a uniform to go to school, so in one of the most poor ones, often times families with more then one child would switch who would wear the uniform and go to school that day.  In the lowest end school, most of the children would eat their only meal of the day for lunch. Usually a bowl of porridge.  The entire community suffered greatly from lack of water and it was obvious.  Our last day of the program we hosted a carnival for the 4 schools in the area at the Catholic Elementary Property.  The head sister was in charge of informing the principals of the other schools about the carnival.  Somehow the message did not get passed.  Our group showed up ready to host the carnival and the only children there were from Sister Mary’s classrooms.  Our group leaders protested and finally the other schools showed up.


I don’t want to say that I am jaded now because of my trip to Kenya, but the further I delved into the culture, the more motives I found myself questioning.  I absolutely believe that what I helped accomplish in Kenya made a difference on the children, but my concern is that it made those children think that mzungu’s (white people) are only good for handouts.  I can only imagine what the conversations were at home when the kids walked in with gifts from us – stickers, frisbees, and coloring crayons.


My trip to Kenya was life changing in a lot of ways.  Even though I was only there for a short time, when I came back I felt unsure of my future and a little culture shocked.  Lunch with my boss, her 4 year old daughter, and her daughter’s friend led me to tears as the girls played with their food instead of eating it.  Half of the meal was thrown away.  I couldn’t help but think about when I was a kid and someone said, “there are starving children in Africa.”  Those words started to have meaning.  I bawled to R about what had happened at that lunch and he looked me straight in the eye and said, “What are you going to send your grilled cheese to Kenya, Hannah?”


He was right. What was I going to do for those kids from across the world.  Even mailing packages to them was not an option.  I received a letter from a friend I had met and it had clearly been opened already.

I don’t want to discount my experiences in Kenya.  I had a fantastic time.  I met extremely hardworking women and believe that some causes are SO worth it.  But on the other hand, some of the other people I met were liars, back stabbers, and wanted to take advantage of the generosity that was given to them.

I recently came across Falling Whistles.  I’ll admit, my initial thought was, “How can this possibly help in Congo?”  I read every single page on their website, learning more about Congo and about their efforts.  Their style of working with Congolese contacts instead of sending our American experts, I can appreciate.  When there is a common goal, there is a common path.  Maybe that’s what caused my hurt in Kenya, every person I met had a different goal.  They wanted so much from our group, and we couldn’t give all that they desired.  I believe that Falling Whistles will be able to help create Peace, their efforts are clearly making some sort of difference if they have 55,000 whistle blowers on board and counting.

We are lucky in the United States.  We can research and support non-profits of any type, international and domestic.  What means something to you?



My favorite things about Nairobi

As a begin to pack my things and prepare for the journey home, I have been reflecting about the things I like about Nairobi.  The truth is, it’s a hard place to love.  With a nickname like, “Nairobbery” you are constantly on the lookout.  The upcoming election brings fear of the reoccurring violence Kenyan elections are known for.  Luxury weekend getaways such as Mombasa and Lamu have become notorious unsafe places for travelers.  The city is filthy and littered with garbage and holds the absolute worst traffic known to man.  Despite all this, I have found things that I really love about this place…

  • Mangos are not seasonal, in fact they are good all the time.  Once you get the hang of how to cut into them, you are golden.


  • Every ex-patriot wants to be your friend.  They have all been there – in a foreign place where they know no one – it’s like a secret society where everyone is nice.  I love it.  They all have connections all over the world too, so they say things like, “if you ever go to…call me and I’ll have my friend show you around”.  So in return to you friendly people – call me if you come to Seattle.
  • I have met more people from more different places in the last three months than I have my entire life.  Here are the origins, from what I can remember, of the people I’ve met here (I’m sure I’m forgetting some):
    • Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Poland, South Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia, Tanzania, Spain, Ireland, New York, California, Tennessee, Sweden, Japan, Virginia, Austria, Germany, France, Zambia, Namibia and Rwanda
  • Outside of the city, it’s really beautiful.  You see more exotic (and some not-so-exotic) animals than you can in a zoo.  Let me see if I can name all the ones I’ve seen:
    • Elephants, Rhinos, Flamingos, Monkeys, Baboons, Zebras, Antelope, Gazelles, Geckos (in my house!), Ostriches, Horses, Camels, Lizards, Giraffes, Cows, Cats, Dogs, Chickens, Goats and Donkeys
  • A lot of things you can buy are benefitting something.  For example:
    • The bag I referred to in the What’s Not to LOVE? post I did last week gives proceeds back to the fishermen and their community in Lamu, Kenya.
    • Kenana Knitter Critter creates charming designs using all-natural homespun wool bought from local Kenyan women.  Money earned by Kenana Knitters goes directly to the women who are able to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families through knitting adorable critters such as this owl-
Knitter Critter Owl

Knitter Critter Owl

    • Pendeza Weaving is a company that uses handspun yarn from locally grown organic cotton, sheared wool and silk to create amazing textiles.  Purchasing their products supports the Pendeza Weaving Project which helps to keep a child free from malnutrition, enable a child access education, enable the girl child access sanitary towels, enable a family access to clean drinking water, enable those living with HIV/AIDS access proper nutrition to boost their immunity, save the environment and decrease global warming and provide descent housing to the destitute community members of rural Bondo.
    • Proceeds from Mara wine go helping Kenyan women provide food, shelter and education to their families.  Proceeds can also help support their entrepreneurships.
Mara Wine - with wine jewelry!

Mara Wine – with wine jewelry!

  • There are some truly unique and fantastic gates and driveway entries around.



  • They have the highest quality coffee company – Dormans Coffee – in the world…though I might be bias!
  • Chai tea.  To follow up on the recipe from Chai on my Mind posted a couple months ago, I’ve learned that for the extra chai kick to your tea to add cinnamon and cardamon.
  • Stoney soda.  It’s a ginger soda with a zing!  Delicious!


  • Did I mention charming co-workers who bring me bananas?
Joseph and I

Joseph and I

There are lots of things I really like about Nairobi and the above only scratches the surface.



Kiambethu Tea Farm

A couple weeks ago I went to Kiambethu Tea Farm for a lunch in the garden and tour.  I found the rolling hills covered in tea really beautiful, and the lunch in the garden was delicious and scenic.  They also had several animals roaming the area including some adorable pups and cows who’s milk is used for homemade ice cream.

Lunch in the garden

Lunch in the garden


A tree that people used to come to for worship

Weiner dog

Weiner dog


Ice cream cows!



If you come to the Nairobi area, check out Kiambethu Tea Farm in Limuru for a fun afternoon.



Learning to live with me

I came to Kenya with close to no expectations.  I really didn’t know what to expect in terms of environment, culture, living-situation, climate, people or really anything.  As my time here winds down, I am leaving with a different view about myself.  This experience has been life changing for me, but I think, not in the way you would expect.  I’m not leaving with a new view of the world.  I haven’t decided to give up all consumerism things at the realization that very few people in this world are able to even consider buying something just because they feel like it.  And I haven’t been humbled.  Growing up in America, everywhere you look there is some sort of foundation for those in need.  There is no shortage of awareness of how lucky you are to be born into a rich country.  For me, I haven’t been shocked at what I’ve seen here.  Maybe it’s me being selfish, I don’t know, but what has been most life changing for me is learning to live with myself.

I came to this country without so much as a familiar face to rely on.  At home, I am constantly surrounded by familiar friends and family and after recently moving from a house with six people, living alone felt…well lonely.  I admit, the first month here for me was really hard.  I found myself wallowing in my loneliness, but I got past it.  I started to meet people, get out and even make some friends.  More than anything, I feel confidence.  Confidence in my independence, personality and self.  Coming somewhere I knew no one was the best thing I could have done for myself.  It has helped me grow and learn to live with who I am.



From Safari Dancers to REAL Safari Animals

Two weekends ago I went to an amazing show called Safari Cat Dancers and Acrobats and it was fantastic, but this last weekend I opted for a real safari through Lake Nukuru National Park.  Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip…

Vifaru (Rhino) and Nyati (Buffalo)


pundamilia (zebra, but directly translates to “donkey with stripes”)

View from Baboon Lookout

Nyani (Baboon)

View from Out of Africa Lookout



Luxury Bazaar

Last weekend Dormans was one of the vendors at a Luxury Bazaar that featured catering, fine wine, gourmet food, high fashion, designer cosmetics, eco furniture and live music.  I was pleasantly surprised that this Kenya Concierge guided event was handing out free Rift Valley Leather bracelets and champagne at the door.  While perusing around, champagne in hand, I tried pie from KOS Delights, got a foot massage from Nothing Like It, tried Browns Cheese and jellies, drank Sierra beer and Kenyan made wine, had sushi from Talisman restaurant and checked out MIA designs.  I, of course, also enjoyed Dormans, who was handing out coffee samples and selling a special blend of espresso.  They were also selling coffee accessories, spices, salts and chocolate.  Every time I passed by, I was happy to see that there was a line of people waiting for coffee samples.

I heard people saying that the bazaar wasn’t very big, but I liked the intimate setting under a tent as the Nairobi rain misted the outside.

The entrance to the Luxury Bazaar

Talisman sushi making

Inside the Luxury Bazaar

Browns Cheese

Dormans Coffee – Happy workers!



Safari Cat Dancers and Acrobats

Last night I went to Safari Park Hotel for dinner and a show.  To start, the hotel is amazing.  It has beautiful grounds and includes six restaurants, a casino and a nightclub.  I visited the Nyama Choma Ranch where they have a large variety of meats that are cooked in a massive barbeque at the entrance of the restaurant and the chefs walk around and serve you off the skewer.  I tried the lamb, beef, pork ribs, crocodile, ostrich and goat.

The menu at Nyama Choma

One of the chefs at Nyama Choma and the giant BBQ filled with meat

Getting my first piece of meat (pork ribs)

After dinner, there was a really fun show of dancing and acrobatics that was on the stage right in the restaurant.  From my table, I was basically front row.  The acrobats were my favorite, doing tricks like standing four people tall on each other’s shoulders and limboing under a flaming stick.  After the show, I sheepishly went on stage for a photo-op with the performers.

Safari Cat Dancers

Fire Limbo!

With the Safari Cats

All in all, it was a really fun night!  I would definitely recommend, that if you are visiting Nairobi, you go to Safari Park Hotel’s Nyama Chroma for dinner and see the Safari Cat Dancers and Acrobats.  The performance is every Saturday night at 9pm and the show is 500 KSH or free with dinner.




Night Shift

Manufacturing is a tough environment.  You rely so heavily on you’re suppliers to get you what you need to produce what the customers want.  If you can’t supply the customers immediately, they aren’t going to want to wait and they will go somewhere else for the business.  Luckily for Dormans, our Customers are pretty loyal and they WILL wait for backorders, which is exactly what many of them have had to do for our top selling blend, 3K.

Our packaging supplier got delayed on delivering almost two months, which dropping our stock down to zero.  Once the packaging material was delivered, there was only one option to catch up on stock: night shift.  Starting early this week, our roaster, grinder and packager have been running almost 24 hours a day.  This will most likely continue for several weeks until we are back on track.  Among many negative factors of the night shift, such as cost, I am missing some of my buddies during the day that had to switch to the night shift for the time being.

Hurry up and get the stocks up guys!