Teachers coming from U.S. to Nairobi

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Teachers coming from U.S. to Nairobi

Post  nikki on Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:04 pm

Hi, my husband and I are both teachers and we are considering moving to Nairobi(I hope I am spelling it correctly, especially being a teacher!) so that my husband can teach at the International School. I would most likely take another year off to stay home with our 3 yr old son. I want to know what the major concerns are to living there. We are from New Jersey, U.S.
Would my son and I have enough to do and would it be "safe" for us to travel around on our own(day trips, going to playgrounds, etc). I am part of a MOMS Club here and I am wondering how I can contact a MOMS Club there, if there even is one. I don't want to get there and feel all alone. That's my main concern. Also, is it true that electricity and phone usage can be unreliable? The International School states that they will put us up in a furnished home, so I would assume it would be very close to the school. Is the school in a nice area? Thanks so much for any and all help. Nikki

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Teachers moving from States to Nairobi

Post  Admin on Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:53 am

Hi Nikki,

I would say - put away your fears and go for it! It will be great a really broadening experience for your whole family.

The International School (ISK) has a good reputation - but best of all, your husband being on the teaching staff will give you access to a good, solid support network and a big friendship group. You are bound not to be lonely.

There are tons of toddler groups, they are mainly informal (set up by the mums themselves) and local to whichever residential area you end up in. I guess you'll be in Kitisuru/Kabete area - the International School is slightly out on one edge of Nairobi - so just beyond the residential areas I'm mentioning - but still easily accessible and convenient. If you start your son on a morning or two at a little nursery near where you live, then you will then also meet lots of other mums that way (ISK can guide you on local nurseries etc). I think that arriving in a new country with a small child of (nearly) school age, is a passport to a huge friendship base.

Re safety - you will be find to visit play centres etc. A lot of them are located in secure shopping centres. Security concerns generally are exaggerated - there are problems in every major city in the world - Nairobi always gets a particularly bad wrap. Not sure if it's because it's such a major tourist destination. When you've settled in, you will see lots of expats cycling, walking etc.

The weather is great. You will have help at home with cleaning the house and childcare if you choose to have it.

I have 3 kids who have all grown up in East Africa since birth and they have had an idyllic experience. I have always been based at home so there for them, but we trust the people who work in and around our house (they have been with us solidly for the past 8 years since we arrived) and the kids have loved every moment. More importantly - I haven't been tearing my hair out with the usual drudgery of it all! I consider us all very lucky.

There are tons a good hospitals with pediatricians based there, also a very good childrens hospital. Dig around on this forum and you will find out more.

Good luck. If you can, get the email address of somebody on the ISK staff who can give you more insight and local knowledge.

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Re: Teachers coming from U.S. to Nairobi

Post  berkeleyanita on Sun Nov 06, 2011 3:19 pm

Greetings from Nairobi. I am an American, and moved to Nairobi 3 months ago. The first few weeks were the “honeymoon” phase when everything was fun and new. Then came the disgruntled phase, when the fun wore off, and it was frustrating not knowing the routines; never being “alone” (housestaff) but being lonely; trying to find activities to fill my days. I am thankful that that phase is passing, and I’m finding things to do and making true friends. As with all transitions, there are good days and bad, but overall I feel very fortunate to be able to experience living here.

A couple of pointers:

It is possible to live your life in Nairobi very similarly to suburban USA. You could hang out at the malls at Village Market, Westgate, Junction and Karen; shop only at Nakumatt and ToyWorld; and barely recognize you were in Africa. For me, I am trying to break out of the expat bubble, and find local activities, markets and restaurants that I enjoy; as well a meaningful, community-based internship since most likely we’ll be here longer than the typical 2-year stint. Some expats live very similarly to locals. There is a wide range of expats (and locals)- in terms of economic resources, job perks, length of stays, personalities, outlooks, blindspots and attitudes, etc. It may take some time, but chances are you will make a community. And, depending on what you value, that community may be made up of people who are similar, complimentary, or opposite of you.

There is an American Women’s Association. I was initially hesitant to join (my thinking was that if I wanted to be surrounded by Americans I would have stayed in America); but I finally did- and the women are truly wonderful and welcoming. AWA has a lot of activities, including a playgroup, I think. Anyone can join (unlike two of the other organizations I enquired about, where you had to have a member “sponsor” you.) There is also a helpful Facebook group called Nairobi Expat Social that you can join. A document called “Nairobi for Newbies” is posted on the site. And, I highly recommend that you participate in the yearly Know Kenya More course at the National Museum.

Is the International School you are referring to the International School of Kenya? If so, my children are there and enjoying it. In most ways (philosophy, curriculum, library, campus), it is similar to the US public schools my children have attended. The PTO runs a couple of “bus tours” early in the year to show new folk around town. The campus is beautiful, and you can use it afterschool and on weekends. Regarding playgrounds, besides campus, numerous higher-end restaurants (Cedars, Le Rustique, Amani Ya Ju, Zen Gardens, River Cafe) around town have jungle gyms, trampolines, etc. Buy the KenyaBuzz Kids directory for a list. Also “Bush-Friendly Tips for Girls” by Lisa Christoffersen is a good adjunct to the usual Lonely Plant/ Rough Guide tourbooks most people have.

RE: power, water and safety. We don’t have a generator, and do fine. Last weekend our children got to eat icecream at 10am on Saturday because the power had been off all night. We have freezer blocks that we transfer to the fridge to keep things cool if the power has been off for awhile, and keep D.Light solar lanterns around the house to use for light when necessary. Last week our water was off for a few hours, and that was a pain. But we remind ourselves where and how truly fortunate we are. I haven’t yet built up the nerve to drive, but hope to soon. I feel comfortable walking around; and am glad that our house is in a central location.

Having staff seems quite glamorous, but for me it is extremely hard to confront the power and economic disparities. Our housekeeper is my age; we pay her a decent wage- but I still feel very guilty that I “can’t” work, and yet have economic resources. Her son, who lives on our compound, is of similar age to my children. It feels awkward that my children have so much (toys, books, food, etc.). Fortunately, the children all play together well, but I can’t even begin to imagine how confusing it is for her child to see what my children have, to be able to play with them regularly (but only when we are home, my children are in the mood, and not doing homework, etc.), but then to go home to the staff quarters. It is uncomfortable to realize that our “lot in life” is really just a coincidence. We are no better, nor worthy than our housekeeper and her children; and yet when and where my family was born, our resources/education/job opportunities mean that although we inhabit the same world (and indeed the same compound), we truly live in very different worlds. So, yes, having staff is a luxury, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility.

Apologies for taking so long to write this; still so much to say, but I am going to send this off in hopes that you see in time to help with your decision.

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