Monday, 14 March 2016


You had to have the best marks in the country to go to a Kenyan University. There weren't a lot of them at the time and not enough spots for the students wanting to attend.  My big dream had always been to go to University. I remember doing the American TOEFL (Test of English as a
Foreign Language) and SAT after Form 4 and writing to lots of American universities to get information about their universities, even though it would have been way beyond what we could afford. So, when we came to Canada, I worked for a year and then started finding out how I could go to University.  My guidance counsellor, Frank, at York was amazing. He told me to apply as a mature student. I was surprised how easy it was to get into University as a mature student. All they needed was my transcripts from High School and a writing sample.

I applied to York University in Toronto for general courses towards a business program. It just seemed the easiest thing to do since I didn't really know what I wanted to study.  

1990 - York

I started University in September 1990 as a Mature student. I was 24 years old. The first courses I took were Economics, French, Math, Communications and one other course I can't remember.

I had always pictured University to be like in the movies, so much fun!  But York was not that! It was probably because I commuted and it was a long commute each way. Not to mention changing several buses in the winter when it was snowing and miserable! I didn't like the commute and I didn't like the fact that you didn't really get to know people because just about the entire 50,000 student population was commuting!

My friend Pauline from Nairobi was also going to York as a Foreign Student (she now lives in Kampala).

There were two good things that came out of going to York;

1) I took a basic French Course where I learned about a French exchange program in Quebec and
2) I quite by accident walked into a lecture theatre where they were talking about the University of Waterloo and its Geography and Environmental Studies program. 

I applied and got into both for which I am very grateful!

1991 - Waterloo

My Waterloo Student ID was 91200703! I remember that ID to this day, I have no idea why!
I went to Waterloo to study Geography. It was never something I had thought about studying because as an Indian, you don't think about fields like Geography or History... but I loved it. As Geography was part of the Faculty of Environmental Studies, I started taking environmental courses and realized I really liked these courses, so I decided to do a double major in Geography and Environmental Studies.

My first year I lived on Thorncrest Drive. It was a residential area on the north end of University. We lived in a house and each of us had our own room. My roommates were Zahra Ahamed from Nairobi and Saira Kanani from Toronto. I knew Zahra from Nairobi but we got to know each other well over that first year. The 2nd semester Saira left and we had a woman who wasn't a student as our room mate.
To get to university in the Winter, you had to dress in every piece of wool clothing you owned and had to fight winds and blowing snow and trek through corn fields to get to your classes!
Down the road from us lived Ashifa Hasham (Fish!), Ashifa Esmail and Salima Rattansi.
There was great camaraderie between the Ismaili students. We had evening prayers on campus and got rides from students with cars to the local jamatkhana (mosque) in Kitchener on Fridays. You could even get a ride to go for early morning prayers if you wanted (4-5 am). The Kitchener Ismaili community looked forward to getting new students every Fall.

1992 - Waterloo

In 2nd Year, I lived on Blue Springs Drive off of King Street with Hafsa Esmail and Laila Saleh. It was a fancy new condo and we had two bedrooms. I shared a room with Hafsa. I got to know Hafsa who was studying Business at Laurier and her sister, Fatima who was in Engineering over that year and we became good friends.

Fayyaz Vellani and Rishma, started in the Environmental Studies Program that year.

1993 - Waterloo

In 3rd Year, I lived in the Married Student Apartment (MSA) across from the University on University Avenue. Shelina Khalfan who went to school with my sisters in Nairobi and was now at the School of Optometry, was my room mate. This was the year that I became Kamadiani (lead at campus mosque) with Sadiq Adatia who was Mukhi. This meant going to jamatkhana and setting it up every day. At the time it was in a room at the Student Centre where the Bombshelter is. It was quick and a way for students to come and say a prayer between dinner and classes or studying (or partying!)

1994 - Waterloo

In 4th Year, I lived with Ashifa Hasham from Ottawa who was studying science and Salima Samji from Nairobi who was studying Actuarial Science. We lived in a walk out basement of a house at the north end of school, close to Erb and Westmount. I stayed in school that summer, so we were in that house for the entire year.

1995 - Waterloo

Thursday, 10 March 2016

My First Job!

Right after High School, I got a job at a place called "Hotel Secretaries".  It was located in town righ next to the New Stanley Hotel on Kenyatta Avenue. Don't know where the name came from, but it was an office that had much going on. The part I worked at was a rental for vacation homes along the coast; Mombasa, Diani Beach, Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi, Lamu.  The office was also a temp agency and organized Balloon Safaris. I always wanted to go on one, but one balloon safari cost as much as my monthly salary... 3,000 kenyan shillings! With the current rate, that would be $39 Canadian dollars (US $29)! I just looked up what a Balloon safari costs now and it's $450! Should have broken the bank and gone then!

Inbetween my work at Hotel Secretaries, I got a two month stint working at Newsweek which was just down the road also on Kenyatta Avenue, closer to 680 Hotel. It was a local bureau office and I worked for the the bureau chief, Ray Wilkinson (I looked up the office and Ray is still the bureau chief 30 years later!) It was a fun job. The first thing I did when I got to work was to go through the evening before's newswire... reams and reams of paper coming out of this machine with news and I'd have to highlight any interesting news for the bureau chief!

I then decided I should take up accounting and so got a job as a bookkeeper at a company called C.G. Punjani on Kijabe Street. In the evening I'd go for accounting classes to Strathmore College (the sister school to my high school, Kianda). Don't know what possessed me to do accounting, I didn't like it! The office was great fun to work at though. We had Tito and Christopher who were cricket players on the Aga Khan team, Mr. and Mrs. Manji a husband and wife team, Rahim, who had recently moved to Nairobi from India and was a hoot!, Sherali, the main accountant and our boss, Janice, one of the main accountants (went to her wedding), Sangita (the receptionist), Kamalu, the salesman boss and Tajdin Nanji, of the Nanji family that owned the company. We'd get Indian tea twice a day and we'd order the most delicious pastries from a bakery down the road close to Norfolk Hotel. Often at lunch time, I'd walk to our 'Khoja' mosque that was in the centre of town and hang out at the library reading 'Woman' and 'Woman's Own'! I learned to thread the hair from my face in those Khoja mosque bathrooms!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The 80s - Music Doesn't Get Any Better Than This For Me!

Oh how good it was to grow up in the 80s! And especially when Madonna came along... here was this new superstar who dressed sassy with her floppy hair bows, low hanging belts, stacked bracelets, off-shouldered tops and we wanted to look just like her! And these songs from the 80s were all amazing, they still bring back such good memories and make me want to get up and dance; Lucky Star, Holiday, True Blue, Borderline, Like a Virgin, Material Girl, Dress You Up, Papa Don't Preach, Live to Tell, La Isla Bonita, Open Your Heart, Crazy For You, Who's That Girl, Into the Groove, Like a Prayer, Express Yourself and Cherish.

In Kenya we were exposed to more English music than we were American and we loved the English bands including Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Human League, New Order, Culture Club, Tears for Fears, The Police, Bananarama, Dire Straits, Pet Shop Boys (saw them in concert in the 90s - they were amazing!), Wham, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Spandau Ballet, Eurythmics, Kajagoogoo, Rod Stewart, Paul Young, Morrissey, Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley, Adam Ant, Sheena Easton, Nik Kershaw!

Then there was Band Aid in 1984. The group of 40 singers who came together to sing for famine relief in Ethiopia to sing "Do They Know It's Christmas?". Living in Kenya, we were neighbours of Ethiopia and I have to say that we were pretty ignorant. I don't know if we were kids and didn't know about the famine, but till Band Aid created the awareness, we had no idea about the plight of the people in Ethiopia!

One of the ways we got to see and hear American music was through Solid Gold, a show with hits of the week, musical performances by singers and a regular appearance with 'Madame', a very witty, fun, sharp-tongued puppet who dressed in evening gowns, furs and dripping in jewellery! These are some of the performances on Solid Gold that I still remember; Billy Ocean (Carribbean Queen), Kool and the Gang (Get Down On It), Smokey Robinson (I don't care), Laura Branigan (Gloria), Jennifer Rush (Power of Love), Anne Murray (Could I have this Dance?), Tiffany (I Think We're Alone Now), Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine (Conga), Stevie Wonder (Part Time Lover), The Bangles (Manic Monday), Whitney Houston (How Will I know?), Janet Jackson (What Have You Done for me lately?), The Commodores (Nightshift), De Barge (Rythm of the Night), Bryan Adams (Straight for the Heart) and so many more!!

You can't talk about the 80s and not talk about Break Dance. I watch break dance now and still don't know how all the break dancers did all those contortions without hurting themselves. This clip is from the Breakin' and is filled with break dancing;  There's No Stopping Us - Ollie & Jerry

In the 80s, we were listening to music on tapes and walkmans were the in-thing. A friend of ours, Amyn Sidi came from Canada and brought a gold walkman that he gave us and we were on Cloud 9! We'd also have terrible recordings because we'd either record from the radio or record between tape recorders!

The main Dance Clubs in Nairobi we went to in the 80s were Carnivore, Bubbles and Sailing Club, all great and all very different from each other.

I tried to keep this list to 50, but couldn't, so here are ABOUT 50 of my favourite 80s songs;

It might be you – Steven Bishop
Everytime you go away – Paul Young
Total Eclipse of the Heart / Holding out for a Hero –  Bonnie Tyler
Hotel California - Eagles
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
I would do anything for Love - Meatloaf
If I could turn back time – Cher
Dreams / Little Lies / Seven Wonders - Fleetwood Mac
Best that you can do (Arthur Theme) - Christopher Cross
If you leave me now / Everybody needs a little time away – Chicago
Final Countdown - Europe
Buffalo Soldier - Bob Marley
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper
Every Breath You Take - The Police
Billie Jean / Beat It - Michael Jackson
Sweet Dreams / Here Comes the Rain Again - Eurythmics
Take On Me - A-Ha
Come On Eileen - Too Rye Ay
Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go / Careless Whispers - Wham
Don't Stop Believin - Journey
I Wanna Dance with Somebody - Whitney Houston
Lady in Red - Chris De Burgh
Power of Love - Jennifer Rush
Walk Like An Egyptian - The Bangles
Bizarre Love Triangle (Everytime I see you falling) - New Order
Eye of the Tiger - Survivor
Let's Dance - David Bowie
Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams
Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
Jack and Diane - John Mellencamp
Karma Chameleon - Culture Club
All Night Long / Hello - Lionel Richie
Tainted Love - Soft Cell
Like a Virgin / Holiday / Into the Groove - Madonna
Do That To Me One more time - Captain and Tenille
The Tide is High - Blondie
Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes
Don't You Want Me - Human League
Who Can it Be Now - Men At Work
We Are the World - USA for Africa
Money for Nothing - Dire Straits
All Night Long - Lionel Richie
Part Time Lover - Stevie Wonder
West End Girls - Pet Shop Boys
Red Red Wine - UB40
Lean on Me - Club Nouveau
Never Gonna Give you Up / Together Forever - Rick Astley
She Drive Me Crazy - Fine Young Cannibals
Wind Beneath My Wings - Bette Midler
Everything by Air Supply!!! (I saw them in a small concert venue a couple of years ago. I was disappointed with their cheesy images, but their songs were still great!) 
All Out Of Love / Lost In Love / Making Love out of Nothing At All / Here I Am / Even The Night are Better / Every Woman in the World - Air Supply

Believe in The Beat - Carol Lynn Townes (Song in movie Electric Bugaloo) - The video is so 80s 

Billboard's #1 Hits of the 80s

We had a little old fashioned radio in Nairobi and it was always on on Voice of Kenya (VOK) radio. They played a lot of country songs and these are those country songs I grew up with and love;

Rose Garden – Lynn Anderson
Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree
Those Were The Days My Friend
Rhinestone Cowboy – Glenn Campbell
Coward of the County – Kenny Rogers
River Road - Crystal Gayle
Sweet Caroline / Song Song Blue – Neil Diamond
Hello Marylou
Top of the World – Carpenters
Country Roads – John Denvor
You’re so vain – Carly Simon
Just when I needed you most – Randy Vanwarmer

And Finally here a Kool and the Gang from the 80s 'Celebrating'

Thank you sharing Day 19 of 50 with me!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Outward Bound and NOLS - The Most Challenging Outdoor experiences ever!

Outward Bound - 1983

When I was 17 and had just completed my '0' levels in Nairobi, my friend, Pauline, told us about Outward Bound. Not really knowing what we were getting into, we signed up. It seemed like an Outdoor Leadership school was a great way for Pauline, Scola, Lorna and I to celebrate graduating Form 4. We were all city girls who had no experience of the outdoors, we didn't go camping or hiking or do any kind of nature exploration. Deep down inside each of us though, there probably was a craving for outdoor life and pushing ourselves to the limits!

"Outward Bound is an international non-profit organization founded by Kurt Hahn that serves people of all ages and backgrounds through challenging learning expeditions that inspire strength of character, leadership and service to others." Its motto is;

"To Serve, to Strive and not to Yield"

Outward Bound in Kenya is located in a place called Loitokitok, at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, on the Kenyan side of the border between Kenya and Tanzania. It is a 3-week (17 days to be precise) outdoor leadership course for young people aged 17 - 30. In Kenya at the time we went in 1983, it was also used as a training facility for the army.

The entire group was divided into four smaller groups named after four famous peaks in East Africa; Elgon, Nelion, Kenya and Kibo.

A Day at Outward Bound

  • Woke up at dawn 
  • Run and Dip - Did some warm up exercises in the dark and then ran half a mile up and down a bumpy road as dawn was breaking and just as the sun was beginning to rise, jumped into a two foot-filled pool where the water came straight down from the snow-capped Kilimanjaro - in other words freezing! 
  • Breakfast
  • Morning meeting
  • Ropes Course - a challenge course of ropes that start with simple challenges and the final challenge was getting up a tree and ziplining down the entire course.  It would have been fun, but I never did get to that. Though from where I started to where I got to was quite the achievement for me!
  • Lunch 
  • Team competitions for obstacle hike courses - The winners got army biscuits!  These were so terrible that you'd want to not win so you didn't get any!
  • High wall - learning basic rock climbing techniques
  • Dinner

There were other things that we did that I have forgotten over the years.

Some expeditions we did;
  • Rock climbing at Rhino Rocks - a sheer vertical rock at least 100 feet high and you're dangling by a mere rope! (crazy for anyone, but especially for someone petrified of heights!) - a leader stood at the top and one at the bottom and that was your life line! I think I screamed all the way up!
  • A long hike which entailed crossing over a river on a log and ended with us jumping from a cliff into a pool of water below!
  • Another beautiful long hike through the savanna with graceful giraffes walking beside us - if you reached out you could touch these beautiful reticulated creatures!
  • Solo Night or more like two solo nights - You get in a big truck and people get dropped off one by one in the bush! They give you the bare mininum - a panga (machetti) to cut away brush to make space for a shelter, a piece of tarp and rope to build up a shelter and cover yourself, your sleeping bag to keep you warm, and a couple of matches to help start a fire and cook some food. I tried to do all those things, but it poured that night so the matches got wet, the key on the corn beef can broke and I tried to machete my way into the can, but that didn't work, the shelter fell apart and I was soaked to the bone, floating in my sleeping bag all night wondering why on earth I ever thought Outward Bound was a good idea! I also found out that I was right next to a farmer's field after I saw some cows grazing beyond the bush. I wasn't sure if I should be scared of the fact that there was no one around or if there was a farmer around! The instructors came by the next morning and had a fire going in seconds, opened up my cans and probably had a good chuckle! That afternoon, some other friends found each other and then came and found me. Our solo night was over! The second night was happily communal! 
One of the disappointments for us at Outward Bound that year was that we never got to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. They hadn't done the climb in a few years because the border between the two countries, Kenya and Tanzania, had been closed, but it was just opening up and we were hopeful that it would happen for us, but unfortunately it didn't, so we never did get to climb Kili!

You couldn't really buy hiking shoes in Kenya at the time, so my mum had bought me some second-hand purple shoes that looked like hiking shoes, but weren't. I had terrible blisters on my feet. Fortunately I left for Mombasa right after Outward Bound for a Sports Festival and the waters of the Indian Ocean made those blisters disappear like magic!

While we were waiting for the bus to take us back to Nairobi after the course, I had an itch in my eye.  One of the instructors came over and discovered I had a dead tick stuck in the bottom of my eyelid! (remember that farmer's field?). They managed to dig it out with an unstearalized safety pin!

There were so many other things we did over those 17 days, but these are the ones that are etched in my memory. It is probably the most intensive program I have ever done in my life, but it was so completely worth it. It tested my limits and made me go further than I ever thought possible! 

NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) - 1984

At the end of Form 6 (Grade 13), Pauline found out about this new American program called The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). They were doing a pilot in Kenya and were looking for some youth to participate. So the girls from Kianda who had gone to Outward Bound a year earlier, joined in. NOLS provided everything from the equipment to the leaders to the food. The cost was nominal.

NOLS was a wilderness leadership training program that took us on a three-week climb of Mt. Kenya, the highest mountain in Kenya. You could do this climb in two days if you took the shorter route, but we took the longer route.

Our starting point was Nanyuki.

Our first part of the hike took us through the foot of the mountain, the forested, lush, green part of the mountain. We could hear monkeys howling at night and we bathed for the first and last time in the icy waters of Mt. Kenya!

As we climbed higher up the mountain, the more sparse, less green and the more arid the vegetation became . On one of the hikes, the trail was right along the edge of a steep cliff. One morning we were quite high up and in tents and when we opened our tents, we were shocked to see the mountain covered in snow! We had never seen snow before. It was so beautiful!

As there are no toilets on the mountain, you had to dig holes and couldn't use any toilet paper on the mountain either (it doesn't decompose at that altitude), so you have to use the leaves of the Giant Lobelia!

The two top peaks of Mt. Kenya, Batian and Nelion are rock peaks that only rock climbers can climb. The third peak, Point Lenana stands at 4,985 metres (16,355 ft). The night before the ascent to Mt. Kenya's third highest peak, we camped at the foot of Lenana in bunk beds in Top Hut. It was freezing! When we woke up at 4 am to start the climb, our boots were frozen! Only Pauline and I out of the group of 17 made that final climb to the top. It was beautiful and although it looked like it was right there, it was a tough climb. The feeling when we got to the top was unbelievable! The sun was just rising and you could see for miles around! Pauline and I felt like we were at the top of the world!

The majestic Mt. Kenya!

Unfortunately, I lost my photos!
Thank You for sharing Day 18 of 50 with me!

Kahzmir's Turning 10!

Thank you for sharing Kahzmir's Day 5 of 10! 

Monday, 7 March 2016

Kianda - My All Girls Catholic High School

Kianda's Class of 1983 (missing me because I was taking the picture)

In January 1980, I started high school in Nairobi, the high school was Kianda. I would be there for six years of my life from 1980 to 1985, doing both my 'O' levels (Form 4/Grade 11) and 'A' levels (Form 6/Grade 13). The name Kianda was better known in those days as a secretarial college. Our grade was the fourth batch of students going through this new school. 

The school was run by Opus Dei, a faith-based Roman Catholic institution run by very religious lay people. This is the history of Opus Dei in Kenya;
Monsignor Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the Roman Catholic Priest who started Opus Dei.
All our teachers were women and most who were of the Opus Dei order were not married and had a deep conviction that God wanted them to do more with their life for Him. This is a lovely article about how Kianda was founded;

My first memory of Kianda is going to sit for the entrance exam. I remember the English test being so difficult and I have no idea how I got into the school but I did!

The school was located on Waiyaki Way past Aga Khan High School and just a little while after Nairobi school next to Kabarsiran Avenue. It was one building with two floors, forms 1 and 2 and one floor and forms 3 and 4 on the second floor and balconies that overlooked the front of the school. Labs were on the sides of the building.

The Uniform

From Form 1 to 4 our uniforms were a kind of dog-tooth checkered skirt and tie, a white shirt, a grey sweater, white socks and black shoes. We also had a navy blue blazer with a crest of the school on the pocket for special occassions. For Form 5 and 6, the tie changed to a burgundy with the school crest on it and a navy blue sweater. The rest stayed the same.

This is when I went back to see Kianda in 2010 - 25 years later! This was our uniform in Forms 5 & 6 (no scarves then though! Can't believe they need scarves in Nairobi - this was June though! The winter of Kenya)

We had blue lapcoats that tied in the back and oh boy we had bloomers! I can't remember what those were for - may be for PE? We had to be well covered up, it was a Catholic school after all!

'O' Levels - 1980 - 1983

The subjects I did for my O Levels were;

English Language
English Literature

Religion was extra

These were our labs for Chemistry, Physics and Biology
During Physics I just looked out the windows at the people playing tennis on the tennis courts

1980 - Form 1

  • Miss Narbon was Spanish with shoulder length hair and a spanish accent. She taught us Mathematics (or maths as we say in Kenya).
  • We hadn't been as school very long when we did dissections in Biology with Mrs. Kagunda, the German teacher who never combed her hair but was a good teacher so what did it matter any way?! We dissected a cow's eye and a frog!! No wonder I didn't think of going into medicine!
  • The art class was close to the Secretarial college. The Art Teacher, Mrs. Paxton gave us this really interesting art project to do once - she cut out half a page of a face from a magazine and we had to draw the other side. My drawing didn't turn out very good at all, but Rosemin Merali's was great!
  • We had a great PE instructor and she wanted to enter me in a swimming competition and I said no! I'm not sure why and she was very disappointed.
  • We were in Chemistry class and Lorna touched my calf with a spatula of a bunson burner. I was so shocked, I cried and cried and cried. I cried a lot in those days for little things. I was a sensitive kid!
  • In 1980, Pope John Paul II came to Kenya. I never got to see him, but Kianda sang for him.

1981 - Form 2

  • I can't remember who my teacher was, but I remember Mrs. Bogonko who was our Geography teacher. I will not tell you why I remember her, but the reason for remembering her are Lorna and Scola who were the cheeky monkeys of the class! 
  • Makenna Nyambo left to go to Loreto Convent Msongari. 
  • Amrit Sohanpaul entertained all us good Catholic-going-school girls with her boyfriend Shane's stories.
  • During Form 2, we moved to Parklands and Rosemin Merali used to give me a ride to school. I remember hearing on their radio on the way to school that Bob Marley had died. Rosemin left for Canada the end of Form 2.
  • Our French teacher who's name I have also forgotten was very good. She brought in a felt board once with felt characters to tell a story in French.
  • In Needlework class (is that what it was called?) we made an apron and a skirt.
  • I also loved the cookery class where I learned to make upside down pineapple cake.

We made lots of yummy things in Cookery class,
Pineapple Upside Down Cake which I had never heard of before was one of them.

During one of the holidays in Form 2, I think it was Miss Roche who sent us home with homework to write a book. I was so excited about the project and probably wrote one chapter, but never finished it!

1982 - Form 3

  • This wasn't at school, but it was with school friends. I remember going out partying with the girls. I can't remember where we went, how we got there and how we got home, but I remember getting ready at Scola's house once and at Elizabeth Weya's house another time. I remember wearing a gold headband - you know those things you wore across your forehead to look cool in the 80s?!!
Kianda's Class of 1983 (missing me because I was taking the picture)
Front Row from L-R: Rosalind Wamwere, Betty Manguriu, Patricia Njiithi, Elizabeth Weya, Scolastica Wankya, Lorna Dias, Doris Njoroge, Margaret
Second Row: Pauline Muriuki and Regina Mathenge  (half hidden) (RIP)
Back Row: Ellah Beauttah, Mercy Njagi, ?, Anjna Rughani, Anne Marandu, Miss De Souza, MaryAnne Kariuki (RIP), Frances Pires, ?, Anne Wainaina, Leah Kagumba, Sabina Gathendu, Lucy Otieno.

Others not in this photo (and may have been in other the other streams, and may have left or not arrived yet but in the same year at some point): Jackie Mugalo, Bettina Ngweno, Makenna Nyambo, Amrit Sohanpaul, Asmi Parmar, Gemini Parmar, Sima Patel (?), Sophie Damji (?), Farzana Datoo, Rosemin Merali (let me know of others if you're reading this.

My friend Pauline Muriuki put this picture up on Facebook on June 25, 2010 and there were a lot of conversation threads, but these ones between Pauline Muriuki and Lucy Otieno talk about where the girls are now!

Hey Lucy, actually I’ve had this pic. in my album for years! I love it! Yeah, I often wonder where some of the girls are too. At least I know where you, Scola, Betty, Anne Wainaina, Lorna and Minaz (not in pic) are. I heard that Leah is in Rwanda, I bumped into Mercy Njagi in coast last year and she looks great, Doris is on FB As you know, MaryAnne Kariuki and Regina passed, God rest their precious souls in peace, heard from Minaz that Elizabeth Weya is a doctor in the UK. Don’t know about the res. What about you, do you know where some of them could be?? Hope you’re well. Take care hon.

The only person, other than the ones you’ve mentioned that I still maintain contact with is Jacqui Mugalo. She’s not on FB though. The girl kneeling right in front of me is also on FB, Margaret, she’s under the name “Shukran Maisha”. I think we reconnected through Betty. Otherwise I’m clueless as to where the others are. My gosh, I recognize the name but don’t have a face. Btw, didn’t know Maryanne passed. Otherwise hope UG is treating you right, ttys…..xoxo

The rest are AnneRose, Ellah Beuttah, Patricia, Sabina Gathendu, Rosalind, Anju and Sea louse (girl on right side Mrs. D’souza that was my nickname for her, can’t remember her real name for the life of me!) and Anne Marandu. UG is treating me very well but I’m kinda homesick, so I think I’ll take a little holiday soon. Hope you’re well there in the US of A!

1983 - Form 4

  • This may have been the year I got my ears pierced! I had pierced ears (by a dentist!) when I was younger, but they had got blocked, so I decided to let Scola pierce my ears, she was a doctor's daughter after all!  She had me sit on the toilet seat and pulled out a needle, black thread and some spirit and got to work. It wasn't the needle going through my ears that was painful, but the pulling of the thread through the hole every day! 
  • For everyone's birthday's we'd collect 1 shilling from everyone and buy every girl a present and a card on her birthday. I still have the earrings that I got! 
  • We did our 'O' lefts in November. Towards the end of school, some of us planned we wanted to go to Outward Bound. Pauline was the one that pulled it all together for us. The office where we registered was across from the Norfolk. 

'A' Levels - 1984 - 1985

For A Levels you had to pick three subjects to do and I picked English Literature, Geography and Economics. Miss Roche taught us part of Literature, don't know who else did. Geography was taught by this English expat no-nonsense teacher with short hair who had just had a baby and I can't remember the name of the teacher that taught Economics, but she was short and wore glasses.

This is when I went back to see Kianda in 2010 - 25 years later! This was our uniform in Forms 5 & 6 (no scarves then though! Can't believe they need scarves in Nairobi - this was June though! The winter of Kenya). These two girls were daughters of former girls who had been to Kianda, one of them is MaryAnne's niece and the other is Anne Thairu's daughter.

1984 - Form 5

I can't remember if it was Form 5 or 6, but Farzana Datoo and I used to go for tuition for Economics. Her mum would pick us up, feed us dinner and the tuition guy would come to her house.  

Ghanian Dance - Interhouse talent show.
The girls I remember: Josephine Mulinge, Benedicta Musembi, Alison Muiyiro, Grace Kibe, Me, Anne Gichuru, Jane Mathenge, Catherine Kamau, Florence

My Facebook Conversation with Alison when she put up this picture on Sept 17, 2015 for Throw Back Thursday (TBT):

OMG, Alison, you have a photo of it! You are an absolute darling! I think about our awesome Ghanian dance often! Can't believe Ciru Robbins' (Pauline Muriuki's) mum had all those outfits to loan us! And we made those funky necklaces out of the silver foil paper from cigarette packs! I still remember bits of that song "Oto fonyo bi, Oto fonyo bi, Oto fonyo bi jyoba nyoba joto fo... Eh bajo, bajo, bajo... Bajo, bajo, bajo, Oto fonyo bi jyoba nyoba joto fo" AWESOME #TBT... Thanks for digging it out 30 years later!

Aww crokoots you haven't changed either, it's like time stood still. About the gals, I'm in touch with Gladys karanja- Kinyanjui as we have a group with some of our old classmates. Mercy, Janette, the two Winnies, (Kiarie & Wine-home), Ellah, Jackie, Elizabeth, Catherine, yellow line, Anne Gichuru ..... I'll slot you in too! 

It is exactly 30years ago! Wow,Minaz Asani-Kanji you have an impeccable memory , totally forgot about the necklaces. You haven't changed a single bit yourself girl ! And yes Pauline's mum loaned us the outfits! I too do remember some of the words of the song though ' Kanowa aaah aye, kanowa aaah aye, kanowa x2 .Kanowa beku pimpim, pimpim beku asante oh kanowa !! Now, I wonder what the lyrics mean

1985 - Form 6

In the last year of school, we planned a trip to Mombasa and Tsavo. I touched an elephant in the Tsavo (these elephants had 24 hour protection) and got chased by a pelican (I invaded its space for a photo!) in Mombasa.  


Kianda wasn't a very big school. There was the secretarial college on the side and our building only had Form 1 - 4. When Form 5 and 6 started, they used the secretarial residences building. We didn't have much space for sports and no swimming pool, so head over to the nearby Nairobi school for PE (Physical Exercise). There was a van that was used to shuttle us back and forth. I particularly remember cross county and swimming.  We'd come back and dash out of the van to race down the corridors of the secretarial residences to get first dibs in the showers!


Lunch was great at Kianda. They had a catering school where they taught women how to cook and get jobs in the field. The entire school had sit down lunches every day in the large dining room. We'd avoid the headmistress' eye otherwise you'd have to sit at the head table. We got a meal and dessert. I remember the Spanish omelette!

After lunch, I remember hanging out with the girls on the benches on the beautiful grounds of Kianda. We'd just hang out in sun and talk till the bell rang! When the song Careless Whispers by George Michael came out, we were all in love with it and one of the girls recorded just that one song over and over and over again on both sides! and we still didn't get sick of it!

Transportation to School - Matatus

The school was just before Kangemi, about a half an hour drive from Westlands (I didn't think it was that far, but that's what Google says). I used to take the matatu to school from Westlands. Matatus were mini-vans used for public transportation. They filled them to the brim and drove like maniacs - always trying to get there before the next one and pick up as many passengers as possible. There were the run down matatus and then the newer ones and of course we always wanted waited for the newer ones with the best of the 80s music! The ticket fare collecter or the 'tout' who would pester people to get into their matatus and would usually be swinging out of the matatu with one hand!
Just in case you're enthralled by them, you can read all about matatus here;

Matatu or Ma3 as they are affectionately called with the tout half hanging out calling out for passengers!

The Books We Read

The books I remember reading in Literature were Ngugi wa Thiongo's 'The River Between' and Shakespeare's 'King Lear'. You couldn't get two more diverse books. I think we also did Chinua Achebe's 'Things fall apart'. 

School Trips

There are two trips that I recall and both have to do with food! The first was the Cadbury's factory! Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate! I remember a pot as big as a room churning chocolate! And then we went to a little crisps (chips in North America) factory. Of course when you went to school in Kenya, there were always the trips to the Bomas of Kenya and the Animal orphanage.


Miss Sequera - Religion. I went to Kianda in 2010 when we were visiting Nairobi and walked into the office to see if there was anyone I knew. Lo and behold Miss Sequera who hadn't changed one bit was the prinicipal and I didn't have to introduce myself after 25 years! She said my name as I walked in. How lovely it was to meet her!
Miss Sequera

Miss Roche - She was the Principal and also taught English Literature. I have connected with her on Facebook and you would think after going through all the girls she has taught over all those years, she would have a hard time remembering, but she didn't, she remembered me and it was so nice reconnecting.

Miss Roche

Miss Njogu - Chemistry - I found this photo on Facebook. I had forgotten Miss Njogu till I saw this! She could be strict in class, but outside of class, she was so nice!  That was the nice thing about the lunches at Kianda, you got to know the teachers outside of the classroom setting.

Miss Njogu

Mrs. Kagunda - Biology (the German teacher, good natured with uncombed hair)
Miss Khamisi - Religion (she was short and petite)
Miss De Souza
Mrs. Pires (Frances' mum) - Music

These faces I remember, but can't remember the names;

PE (in Form 1)

So many others I don't remember. If you're reading this, please let me know if you remember other teachers.


Every Wednesday for the entire time I was at Kianda our class had to go to chapel for mass. After mass, Father John would talk to us about living a good Catholic life. The girls would line up for the Eucharist. I always wanted to see what it tasted like but never did. There was then confessional and girls would line up to go to confess.

We used to have weekend retreats at a place in Limuru call Kimlea. It was a beautiful house and those retreats were so much fun.  Lorna, the trouble maker once went into the confessional pretending to be the priest and Scola went to confess her sins to her.  We laughed a lot that day!


I was very shocked and saddened a few years ago to find out that a couple of girls in class with me had died, Mary Anne Kariuki and Regina Mathenge. I still can't believe they're gone! May their souls rest in eternal peace.

Social Media

What I love most about Social Media and particularly about Facebook is that it has made the world smaller and people who I may never had contact with again, are Facebook friends and I can catch up or reminesce every so often when someone puts up a Throw Back Thursday (#TBT photo!).  I am on Whats App with a Kianda '85 group that Alison Muiyiro set up. When our family visited Africa in 2010, I was able to connect with a lot of my friends and tried to meet up (missed Pauline in Kampala by a boda boda ride, missed Betty in Nairobi due to missed messages and Scola in Johannesberg as she had to go back to Uganda for her dad's funeral). The only person I did meet up with was Farzana Datoo and it was lovely meeting her and catching up.

Meeting Farzana in Nairobi in 2010.
Trying to cram six years of memories into this one blog is a lot of cramming! I'm sure I've missed so much and many people, but if you're reading this and went to Kianda, I'd love for you to share your memories and let me know who I've missed. It was a great time in my life. I'm so happy to have met all the girls I did and sometimes I have to scratch my head to try and remember which Ann they're talking about on Whats App, but when I see an old picture, I remember instantly! Unfortunately all my Kianda pictures got lost in transit between Kenya and Canada, so if you have any, please share them.

Thank you for sharing Day 17 of 50 with me!

My son Kahzmir's turns 10 on March 13, 2016.
This is his 10 in 10 days Video Blog
Day 4 of 10

Day 4 (2009) - Day Out With Thomas

Thank You for sharing Kahzmir's Day 4 of of 10 in 10 days with him!