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Let’s Go Flaneuring in Kenya

Today’s Flaneuring post is by Heidi Thulin who lives and works in Nairobi, Kenya (and happens to be from Minnesota too!)

It is evening by the time I’m hanging up my last load of laundry, but I’m not concerned. For months now, the air has been hot and dry, and with this wind blowing through our palm fronds, I know these towels will be foldable in no time.

This is the beginning of our third year in this Nairobi house. We came to this country with only ten suitcases to our name and furnished this house from scratch. No wedding registry this time around, and as a result, we live minimally. A few cozy couches in the living room, enough dishes to host a dinner party, and a handful of postcards and family photos to decorate the walls.

We feel comfortable here, content.

But I remember my surprise when we first pulled into the driveway and saw the fifteen-foot wall topped with razor wire that ran alongside our house. It was daunting and unfriendly, a cement cage. A city of four million people, many of whom live below the poverty line, lends itself to dramatic security measures.

The longer we lived here, though, the more that wall became part of the scenery. We planted vines at the bottom of it and watched the leafy fingers crawl upwards. We enjoyed the privacy it offered. And because every other house, office, and high-rise in the city had similar walls, its presence settled into the realm of normal.

On the other side of our wall is a forest full of tropical plants, acacia trees, and thorny shrubs. Not too many people here can say they live so close to the wilderness, so we count ourselves among the lucky.Wall1

A vast variety of birds live in that forest, and several of them frequent our yard. Weaver birds collecting long strands of banana leaf for their nests, mousebirds making a chattering racket in our bougainvillea bushes, and fire finches stealing grains of rice from our dog’s food dish.

Monkeys live in those tall trees too, and about once a month, a troop of fifty vervets trot along our rooftops, causing dogs to howl in their direction, children to scream in delight, and mamas to close their kitchen doors.Vervets

This place is alive.

My dog’s ears perk up as I reach to clip another clothespin, and then I hear it too: the rumbling growl of our Land Rover coming down the road. As Ginger bounces and barks, I fish out the keys and open the front gate for my husband.

He drives the truck into the driveway, and in the instant after he turns off the engine, there is an alarming silence. Until I swing the gate closed with a rattling bang.

It took awhile, but I’ve gotten used to the high walls and the bars on our windows. They no longer feel like a prison, but more like an embrace, one that welcomes us inside and holds the two of us snugly in our tiny piece of land.

They say home is where the heart is, and as long as our little family is tucked within these walls and razor wire, it’s safe to say that this place is ours.

heidi thulin1Heidi Thulin is a staff writer for a media team in Nairobi, Kenya, and she blogs at She and her videographer husband greatly enjoy traveling together, tossing ideas around with their creative team, and catching glimpses of the everyday lives and work of their fellow expatriates. She loves her Saturday mornings filled with a good book, a cup of hot chai (with plenty of sugar), and the company of her Kenyan mutt.

After Terrorists Attack a Shopping Mall

Quick Links: 5 Things to Do After Terrorists Attack a Shopping Mall on Babble Voices.

And, Terrorists and the Unshakable Kingdom on A Life Overseas


In case you haven’t noticed by the now three pieces I have written about this, have felt quite shattered by the terrorist attack on Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Am coming out of the fog today, now that the standoff is over, now that I have a guest arriving and life marches onward with or without me.

Dear friends have been shattered by the bombing of a church in Peshawar, Pakistan. There are shattering events every week around the world but it is always these human-on-human horrors that shake to the core.

I don’t know what to do with pain that sucks breath away. And I don’t want to make light of this darkness with a simple 5-step list. But writing it up and finding images to illustrate it helped me breathe this morning and so I’ll share it with you. The upshot? Keep breathing and hold each other tight.

Babble Voices: 5 Things to Do After Terrorists Attack a Shopping Mall

And on A Life Overseas I write about the unshakable kingdom. Though I feel rattled, God holds firm:

A Life Overseas: Terrorists and the Unshakable Kingdom

And from Monday: Whispers in the Dark

By |September 25th, 2013|Categories: africa|Tags: , , |2 Comments

Whispers in the Dark

westgate mall, 2010

westgate mall, 2010

I had another post planned for today. A humorous, sarcastic post. Something light after last week’s heaviness of sexual harassment and race and poverty issues.

But then I spent the day in homes that had no food at lunchtime. I don’t mean they didn’t have food people felt like eating. I mean it was lunchtime and there was no food in the house.

I heard from girls who sleep in every pair of pants they own (1-2 on average) in the hopes that it might deter rape.

I wrote a check to CSW for Syrian refugees and read a book about a hostage in Somalia.

And then I checked Twitter.

And it all came crashing in. Nairobi. Westgate shopping mall.

I waited to confirm what I already knew – that my kids hadn’t been in Nairobi that day, and what I didn’t already know – that none of the other students were harmed at Westgate that day, that none of the other people we love were at the mall that day. I wanted to hear that no one was at the mall. But that’s not what I heard.

And so I just can’t post the sarcastic, prepared post today. My heart isn’t in it. My heart is barely in writing at all this week. Sometimes I write my way out of darkness but maybe this darkness needs to linger, heavy, while I cry and whisper, “Mercy.”

Today I cover my blog with my hands the way I covered my mouth this weekend.

Few words. Just whispers in the dark.


By |September 23rd, 2013|Categories: africa|Tags: , , |19 Comments
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