Food, glorious food was indeed the heart and soul of the celebrations and preparations for this began several days before hand with the setting up of Mama Mongui’s Christmas Market! After several hours spent trawling through the expansive but rainy Nakuru fruit and veg stalls, we finally returned to the compound soaked to the bone but happily dragging two 90 kilo sacks full of brightly coloured and gorgeously fresh vegetables.
Day One – Christmas Eve
Our three-day bonanza began early with a last minute dash around the shops for the finishing touches – eight kilos of meat, 60 eggs and everything else that couldn’t be bought in advance. The supermarket was jam packed but everyone was in the festive spirit and the dancing Santa in 25 degree heat was enough to make even the grumpiest Christmas Grinch chuckle whilst standing in the hour long queue.
With military precision, at 5pm our team of little helpers descended upon the Director’s block to begin the preparation of the food. Slicing, dicing and laughter were the only noises that could be heard from the building. If people outside hadn’t known that there was a colossal cooking station in operation inside, I’m sure there would have been some very concerned
Despite all the preparations that needed to be made, the children still had to go to their dormitories at 9pm as we needed them to be fully rested for the impending day of merriment that was to follow. Of course, for us amateur Santa Clause’s, the night was far from over and we had a heap of surprises left to organise. Late into the night, if anyone had come to visit the directors, they would have found us buttering 12 loaves of sliced bread, wrapping up presents in newspaper and trying desperately to resist the urge to munch all the sweets in the process.
Day Two – Christmas Day
It began with an early start to ensure our extra-special breakfast would be ready in time for the kids. Bread and butter, boiled eggs and a Kenyan speciality – hot milk and sugar, so pale you would never have believed that there was extremely strong tea mixed in until you tried it. The look on the children’s faces when they woke up to find what they had for breakfast was one of the best Christmas presents we could ever have had!
Nevertheless, as soon as breakfast was over it was straight on to the day’s main priority – the Christmas feast! Our Director-cum-Master Chef didn’t have a moments rest as she headed straight back to the kitchen to begin cooking the beef stew, bean stew, rice, potatoes other and vegetables. Even when a kind local butcher turned up with a donation of three cow heads and six hooves for us to have Mongui took it in her stride and threw the meaty tongues straight into the pot!
Meanwhile, those of us not so gifted in the kitchen (ie. everyone else) were assigned to snacks and entertainment duty. The pressure to deliver a day of activities to suit the occasion was high but with the team of willing volunteers that turned up on the day, we couldn’t have had it any better! Our volunteer heroes, Caroline and Sven, came along with their daughter Chelsea to join in the festivities and hand out Christmas parcels to every child (and director, woo!!). With some rented speakers, the kids blared out the Christmas music, shaming us directors with their impressive dance moves and even with the tenth repeat of Boney M’s ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ these kids still had new moves to pull out. We made Christmas crowns and played Pass the Parcel, which the children had never played before so they were especially excited once they discovered that there was a treat after every layer! One of the children at the centre also regularly attends a local church and it was a real treat for everyone when the pastor and his group turned up with sweets galore, ready to entertain us with lots of Kenyan singing.
Several mouth-watering hours later and the Christmas feast was finally ready! We all rushed in to pile our plates high with mini-mountains of delicious, homemade food. It wasn’t the traditional turkey with all the trimmings but if I had to choose between the two, I’d pick Mongui’s masterpiece for Christmas every time. Just trying to imagine it now again is making my stomach rumble!
After the meal, everyone was so stuffed most went and sat down somewhere comfortable to enjoy the satisfactory Christmas belly feeling. However, in an attempt to resist the alluring Christmas slump, Director Dave and I began playing a boys vs girls mini rugby game instead. I’d love to say that the girls won but that would be a lie, so I’m going to say that the game was a neutral draw! After more snacking and a few more games everyone finally went to bed exhausted and happy.
Day Three – Boxing Day
We woke up to find out that one of the younger boys had been so full that he hadn’t had the energy to climb up to his top bunk bed, so instead of asking one of his friends to help him up, he spent the night sleeping in the bunk below his – awwwww!
The children still had sweets and treats left over from the day before and plenty of balloons to play with – a few even discovered the art of water balloon making. Still the highlight of the day was definitely the serving of the cow heads and hooves for lunch. Having burned the heads on the fire to clear the skin of all the hair, I had the privilege of being served half a cow’s nostril for lunch! Having tried my best, I have to honestly say that cow face is not my favourite!
We ended a long but very fun three day celebration with a nice family Christmas film – ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’ – everyone snuggled up, nice and cosy, just like Christmas should be.
We hope you had a Christmas as good as ours!