Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I had to pinch myself: We lived in Karen!

Last week I told you that when we moved out of the capital city, Nairobi, and into a rural area, we needed to hire an askari, a guard.

Let me back up a bit to tell you about that move.

Dave and I hoped to find a house near the new school he opened for missionary kids, West Nairobi School. And we did! We found a three-bedroom house right across the road, in the gracious colonial suburb of Karen, in close proximity to the home of Karen Blixen of Out of Africa fame.

I thought back to all those times in previous years when we escaped from Nairobi to Karen on a weekend afternoon and found much-needed refreshment and reinvigoration—and then...I just had to pinch myself. We lived in Karen!

"This is a very old  house!"
We no longer listened to the noise of cars, trucks, buses, and matatus (small buses) all day and all night, nor did we breathe their exhaust. Instead we listened to the quiet, we breathed clean air.

Moving from the city to the country, we felt much like Karen Blixen did about living in the very same place. She wrote, “. . . it might altogether be described as the existence of a person who had come from a rushed and noisy world, into a still country.” 

It was a place of unpretentious, worn estates, a place of long lanes and shade trees and rolling, park-like lawns; a place of horse pastures and tall groomed hedges and manicured English-style gardens teeming with flowers. Karen was a place of open skies and clean air and a life still enough to hear birdsong and the faint rustle of the breeze stirring sun-baked grasses.

Our Kenyan friends laughed when they saw our house. They said, “This is a very old house!” And it was a humble house, for sure, but we were happy in our peaceful, rural setting surrounded by lush tropical flowers and trees.

Both poverty and a high unemployment rate had resulted lots of crime, especially in Nairobi, but it spilled over into the whole nation, even in the Karen region.

In Nairobi we had lived in apartment compounds surrounded by tall fences and protected by guards day and night, but when we moved into a house, we had legitimate concerns about—and responsibility for—our safety. The house sat on a large piece of land, maybe three-fourths of an acre, with a tall fence around it and a locked gate across the driveway.

We knew, everybody knew, that we needed more than that fence, so we hired an askari (guard), Martin, we hired a security company, and bought two German Shepherd pups which Dave named Hawkeye and B.J., after the “M.A.S.H.” stars.
To be continued….


  1. Having spent time in Nairobi, I can really understand why you were so delighted and blessed to move to Karen, even to an old house. What a relief that must have been. Blessings. xx

  2. "Relief." Yes, Penny, it was a relief. I LOVED the quiet, and the fresh air. I could feel my muscles relax in significant ways. What a huge blessing that was! Thanks for stopping by, dear friend. :)