29 December 2009

How to write about poor people

From aid watch blog:

Use a precise definition of poverty: living on less than $1.25 a day, adjusted for purchasing power. Give the precise number who fit that definition.
Ignore the recent revision of this number by 42%.
Do not excessively analyze geographic or ethnographic distinctions amongst poor people.
Discuss the following: poverty traps, vicious circles, aid financing gaps.
There probably won’t be time left to discuss the following concepts: initiative, savings, inventiveness, resourcefulness, adaptation to local conditions, or local knowledge.
Discuss only income, health, access to clean water, and literacy. Leave it to anthropologists to cover areas like happiness, traditions, ceremonies, festivals, friendships, kinship, love between men and women, or love between parents and children.
Display pictures of poor children (alternatively women).
Don’t show pictures of poor men, who make your audience think of drunkards, wife-beaters, or janjaweed.
These topics are only for Marxists: power, class, discrimination, oppression, or history.
Your knowledge about poor people should come from other writers who observe these rules.

25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Updates to come tomorrow with pictures and various other things about vacation and returning home.

24 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Peter Singer of Princeton and Bill Easterly of NYU discuss below their ideas on aid and giving.  Perfect timing as the year comes to an end and people consider what to do when it comes to giving.


20 December 2009


Back in New Jersey.  No delays and plenty of cold.

Blue Nation

Safely sitting in London, home of England’s best football team.  Looks like they will have the opportunity to extend their lead with a win today.  I would even take a draw to move 4 clear, but 6 is a much nicer number.

Made it to London in perfect timing.  Next flight is at 10:30 GMT (i think it is GMT, but London time) and it is on time so far.  Hopefully I will be in the air when all of you are waking up and on my way to Newark Liberty International Airport.

It is about 3 C right now and far too cold. 

13 December 2009

I Said I Wouldn’t

post on vacation, but I had to share:

Tiger Woods thoughtfully explodes “Halo Effect” myth in development

by William Easterly

I am sure all of you had the same reaction I did as Tiger Woods slid into taudry tabloid hell: “thanks, Tiger, for creating a teachable moment for development economics!”

Our expectation that celebrities will be model citizens, contrary to vast evidence, is based on the Halo Effect. The Halo Effect is the idea that someone that is really, really good at one thing will also be really good at other things. We thought because Tiger was so good at being a golfer, he also must be very good at to have and to hold, forsaking all others, keeping thee only unto her as long as you both shall live…

What Tiger considerately did for our education was to show how the Halo Effect is a myth. This blog has a undying affection for those psychological foibles that cause us to strongly believe in mythical things, and the Halo Effect is a prime example (and the subject of a whole book on its destructive effects in business.) Why would marital fidelity and skillful putting have any correlation?

What the Vegas Cocktail Waitress does this have to do with development? The Halo Effect was discussed in a previous blog, but when assaulting psychological biases, you can never repeat the attack enough. Not to mention that we all remember the psychology literature more easily when illustrated by a guy with 10 mistresses.

So if we observe a country is good at say, technological innovation, we assume that this country is also good at other good things like, say, visionary leadership, freedom from corruption, and a culture of trust. Since the latter three are imprecise to measure (and the measures themselves may be contaminated by the Halo Effect), we lazily assume they are all good. But actually, there are plenty of examples of successful innovators with mediocre leaders, corruption, and distrustful populations. The US assumed world technological leadership in the late 19th century with presidents named Chester Arthur and Rutherford B. Hayes, amidst legendary post-Civil War graft. Innovators include both trusting Danes and suspicious Frenchmen.

The false Halo Effect makes us think we understand development more than we really do, when we think all good things go together in the “good” outcomes. It leaves out the more complicated, more interesting cases: why is New York City the world’s premier city, when we can’t even manage decent airports (with 3 separate failed tries)?

The true Tiger Woods Effect tells us something else more interesting: that if you are very, very good at hitting a 1.68 inch ball into a 4.25 inch hole, then you can get away with everything else for a long time. But usually not forever.

Going to Mombasa in a few hours.

09 December 2009

With Thanks to Chuck

Chuck has helped me out and has provided the unlock code for my American phone.  That means that will be able to continue to use my Kenyan cell phone number until I get home on the 21st. 

Disregard my previous post about using my American number.  I will stick with the Kenyan one until I get home.


Kiirsten and Kate made it to Malava safely.  We did have some troubles with our car, but we made it back in time to get things ready for the SJC staff party.


I just watched The Great Dictator. It might be a Chaplin favorite.  The final speech always gets me and so I decide so share a part of it becuase every time I hear it I think that Chaplin wrote it for today.

In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge as made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.

Sorry, but I had to.

08 December 2009


Tonight Kate (Sue’s sister) and Kiirsten (my girlfriend) arrive in Nairobi.  They will stay tonight in Nairobi together and fly out to Kisumu tomorrow morning.  We will pick them up and bring them back to see Michael before having our end of the year staff party.  Then Thursday we are off and I leave Malava.  Kiirsten and I will take a vacation for a bit over a week to see Masai Mara and the coast.

I might throw up a few more posts before I leave, but I will take a hiatus over the vacation. 

If you need to contact me please use my email or you can call me at my American phone number.  I sold my Obama phone to Neto.

RED is Not Transparent, Who Knew?

Over at Aid Watch, there is a post about the lack of transparency in Project RED.  That thing where you buy a shirt from the Gap, or a special Dell laptop or a cup of coffee from Starbucks and some of the money goes to the Global Fund without costing you anything extra.

Bill Gates uses this as the perfect model for creative capitalism.  What is striking, is the fact that the company that takes in the money from RED does not release anything about its finances.  Aid Watch finds that the money does in fact go to the Global Fund, but there is no way of knowing what overhead costs and salaries.

It is striking that such a large campaign does not disclose all of its finances.  Too many charities seem to take and dole out money without complete transparency.

Here is just a part of the post, but what I think better illustrates what it is saying.  The Persuaders LLC is the company that was founded by Bono and controls the money from the RED campaign.

The Red website says that the finances are like this:


But Dadush shows they are actually like this:


Only 2 Days Left

How did it get to the end so quickly?

06 December 2009

The Rest of the AFI

We finished the remainder of the AFI top 100 this weekend.  It took a bit of dedication, but we are now done with the list.  Like I did for the bottom fifty, I have taken the time to make my own rankings.  Basically my criteria are: acting, direction, plot, and cinematography (in that order).  I will admit, that my top choice might be determined by outside influence (aka sentimentality), but I had to make it my number one. 

I have combined the two Godfather movies because I do not think that they should be taken as a separate film.  I also like the second slightly better than the first, but one is incomplete without the other.  Since they must be seen together, they have to be considered as one film (in my mind).

1. It's a Wonderful Life – As far as I am concerned, this movie is perfect.  I will again admit my prejudice, but there is nothing better.

2. Casablanca – Endearing love story set just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It has a rushed naivety that seems to have capture the time period.

3. The Godfather Part I and II – The Vito flashbacks are what I enjoy the most.

4. Dr. Strangelove – Peter Sellers.

5. Sunset Boulevard – I knew nothing going in and I was glad after.  The plot structure is the best part.

6. The Philadelphia Story – Grant, Steward and Hepburn.  I just wish that they made every movie together.

7. Vertigo – There is not one word that you can ignore the whole time.  Having seen it a few times, it is impossible to remember every detail enough to not pay attention.

8. Singin' in the Rain – Had high expectations that were easily exceeded.

9. Chinatown

10. On the Waterfront – Brando (this will be a theme) either plays himself really well or is the best male actor of all time.  I like to think the latter.

11. The Wizard of Oz – Who does not cheer when the Wicked Witch of the West melts?

12. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Visually, the best film ever made.  I would say Barry Lyndon in some ways exceeds this.  It is an imaginative trip that I still am trying to understand and grasp.

13. Citizen Kane – Wells made this movie when he was basically my age.  I feel like I have done nothing.

14. Schindler's List – It could have been higher if it was not for the overly sentimental ending.  I know it is not fair to allow it for some and not others, but it just tries too hard.

15. City Lights – Chaplin with a happy ending.  Just the ending separates it from the rest of his movies.

16. Some Like It Hot – I thought this would be terrible because of Monroe.  She is barely in it and the paring of Curtis and Lemon is the point.  I would recommend this movie to anyone.

17. Double Indemnity – Two despicable characters lead and somehow make you wish that they can get away.

18. Lawrence of Arabia – Epic in every way.  Exactly how I like movies.

19. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – Sentimentality triumphs.  I am against just about everything Sen. Smith believes, but I cheered him on as he filibustered.

20. It Happened One Night – Colbert and Gable on the run.  What a romantic comedy should be.

21. The Searchers – John Wayne is ruthless and unyielding in Ford’s epic.  I can’t really explain why I love it, but I do.

22. Raging Bull – Black and white?  Why?  I think a bit of a strange choice, but everything else is so well done that I cannot move it any lower.

23. Gone with the Wind – Maybe I would get it more if I thought of the old south as glorious and perfect.  The grandness is almost too much, but Gable reels it all in.

24. The Maltese Falcon – There is no way to predict the ending.  I challenge anybody.

25. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – Searching for gold in a semi-western that keeps all the good (ruggedness) and gets rid of the bad (disconnected male characters).

26. Rear Window – It tenses me up every time when Stewart is flashing his camera in defense.

27. King Kong – I really wish Peter Jackson did not remake this film.  The original is far better.

28. High Noon – Cooper is a little too old, but you forget that quickly.  So little happens throughout but the pacing is perfect.

29. The Graduate – I hated this the first time I saw it.  The second time warmed on me, this time I loved it.  However, terrible use of Simon and Garfunkel for the soundtrack.  Scarborough Fair once was fine, twice ok, but the fifth time was just too much.

30. The General – Buster Keton was as good as Chaplin at physical comedy.  The scenes on the trains had me rolling.

31. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Perfection for animation.

32. All About Eve – I wanted Eve to be good the whole time, it is exactly why I liked it.

33. Psycho – Hitchcock pulls of a switch from a caper to a murder without the audience knowing.

34. The Bridge on the River Kwai – Stubbornness reigns supreme whilst blowing the bridge in a dying lunge.

35. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest – I love a movie where the World Series can cause a conflict.  I have also never hated nurses so much.

36. Bonnie and Clyde – Great Depression?  Why not rob banks?

37. The Best Years of Our Lives – Life after WWII must have been tough.  A simple narrative that nears the line but is never heavy handed.

38. The Grapes of Wrath – Disappointing adaptation of a masterpiece.  I would have liked to have the ending kept the way it is in the book.

39. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – When the kids fly over the police might be in the top ten chill inducing moments in film.

40. To Kill a Mockingbird – For the courtroom scene alone.

41. Apocalypse Now – Again, Brando.  He is terrifying.

42. Annie Hall – Woody Allen’s does what he does best: neurotic guy meets quirky girl and intellectual humor ensues.

43. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope – I had to resist putting this too high because of my personal love for the series, but alone it has to sit here in comparison to the rest.  My only complaint is not enough Alec Guinness.

44. The Sound of Music – The music alone is reason enough to get it into the top fifty.  Throw in Julie Andrews to sing it and some Nazis and you have an enjoyable family film.

45. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – A good movie that I think was rewarded for the effort by Jackson.  Can’t really complain but I think should be in the bottom fifty.

46. A Streetcar Named Desire – Marlon Brando makes the film.

47. Midnight Cowboy – Well done in every aspect minus the plot.  Really could have been a much better film.

48. Shane – I just do not see why this is on the list at all.  Shane is an undeveloped character and the boy who played Joey made me want to stop watching film.

49. Intolerance – As a theme, the idea of intolerance is compelling.  I am sure there are innovations that I missed, but it was a hard movie to watch and it was just too long to withstand ( 197 min).

03 December 2009

World Disabled Day Celebration

Today was a busy one.  I managed to take a few pictures in-between helping out doing manual labor and handing out sodas.  It did not go perfectly, but I think that it went well and was a resounding success.

02 December 2009

More Troops?

I thought of letting this one pass, but I have to say something.  The announcement to add more troops to Afghanistan is disappointing.  I wish I was not disappointed.  I got caught on the Obama wave.  I have not been surfing along the whole time, but the fact that I thought he would make the right decision proves that it was pulling me along. 

I thought that a unwinnable war where civilian casualties continue to rise would give reason to a dramatic change in tactics.  Not an increase in troops to continue doing the same things with more people.  At this point, I expect even more predator drones to bomb the mountains and kill people hiding from the war. 

I think the picture above just about sums up American foreign policy.  It was appropriate in 1898 (when it was made), 2003 when we invaded Iraq and still remains true with Obama increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. 

Maybe this is a better picture:

SJC Photos

I took these pictures for the sake of the website. Since I took so many I wanted to share them. 

I feel a bit wrong sharing the pictures. However, I did what I could to show what it is that we do and focus on the therapy side of things. Since I took them, I feel it would be a waste to hold on to them for myself.

Despite my reservations, sharing seems to be what is right. Because of that, I have the slideshow but not the album. Many are throw-aways, but I always like to take too many before going through to pick and choose which are the best. These are the ones that passed the first look.

I hope you enjoy and start to get a better idea of what I have been working for this year. Many aspects I am unable to contribute towards directly, but I think that I have provided support to our therapists by doing simple things such as; pushing the babies in the tire swing and holding superman (aka Dick) when he getting his therapy.

Tomorrow is World Disabled Day and basically the end of the year.  The celebration will take up a good part of the day and hopefully yield more happiness that the many pictures I will be taking.

30 November 2009

End of Year Celebration

The year is nearly over and the SND’s were kind enough to have a celebration in our honor.  We ate a filling meal, relaxed and danced.  Here are pictures to prove it all.

28 November 2009

Sharing Susan’s Shots

Sue just put an album from today, parents meeting last week and the staff outing to Kitale.  She includes some pictures where you can actually see me (yes I know it is a shock) and different shots from today.  Thanks to Sue in advance.  As a bonus, some pictures of our dogs from today.


A Fresh Thanksgiving Day Feast

Awake at 6AM, I began the preparations for the turkey.  With pots borrowed from father, I boiled water to be poured on the freshly killed turkey.  It helps get the feathers off.  Ready to get going by 7, I waited until 8:30 for Neto and his friend to come.

As I said a few days ago, the rumor was that there needed to be a specific way that a turkey is to be slaughtered.  Michael and I had our doubts that there was truth to the claim, but with no knowledge we decided to bring in help.  Unfortunately (but really fortunately), it was as easy as we thought.  He slaughtered it the same way that a chicken is done; by pinning the wings down underneath a foot then slitting the neck.  Being a larger bird, it put up a much greater fight after the neck was cut.  The man did fine by himself and I know that with one cutting and the other holding, we could have done it with no problems.

After the slaughter, the hot water was poured over the bird and it was de-feathered.  A searing completed the process to get off all feathers and then it was time to cut it up.  Neto, the man and I worked together to cut, gut and clean the turkey.  After they were done and left, I boiled it for two hours and the finished it with a quick fry.

All the while, Michael whipped up his mashed potatoes.  Three different kinds to be exact.  With stuffing and green bean casserole from Sue we had a Thanksgiving feast.  Our guests arrived, we ate and enjoyed.

To finish, we had ice cream, Jell-O made by yours truly, rice krispy treats by me as well, apple and peach cobbler by sue, and pumpkin pie by Sue.  All in all it was a nice meal and an easy day.  The work proved to be much easier than I expected.  The whole Turkey work took about five hours from alive to human stomach.  We had no injuries or any mishaps. 

A great Thanksgiving was had by all.  There was something more enjoyable about making the meal from the very beginning.  Sue’s stuffing did not come from a box, the turkey at our house the night before I was able to handle it through the entire process, and Michael used fresh cows milk and vegetables make mashed potatoes that he finally mashed with his hands and a wooden stick.  It was not the easiest Thanksgiving meal, but it was right up there at the top in my mind.

The pictures include most of the turkey process.  There are also pictures after the turkey from the meal itself.  Sorry if it is a bit gory, but I do not think they are all that bad. I turned off auto-play so nobody has to see anything they do not want to.

26 November 2009

Live From New York…

it’s Thanksgiving.

Thanks Dad.


Happy Thanksgiving

Ours will be on Saturday, so my wishes extend to the United States but will not be put to use for two more days.  A bit of a snag has arisen concerning our turkey.  Neto and Angela have informed me that the slaughter of it will not be as simple as I thought.  I never thought it would be easy, but they claim that if it is threatened it will seize up and render the meat tough.

I have my doubts, but they say it must be slaughtered by surprise.  My research on the internet has shown them to be wrong, but any search for turkey slaughter ends up with mostly videos and articles about the Palin press conference from last year. 

I feel confident in our abilities, but the plan now looks like it will be a surprise attack with our machete.  I do not like this idea and I hope to avoid it.  More to come as I try to learn about it.  Anyone with experience, any help is more than welcome.  I want to do it in the most humane manner possible (yes killing is killing, but it is nice being at the top of the food chain).

The turkey arrives tomorrow and the preparations begin immediately.

23 November 2009

24 Days Old

I Wish I Thought of This

From Bill Easterly over at Aid Watch.  It is not even worth putting a simple link.  The whole thing is worth posting here.  So here is his reversal of Bono and Africa:

African leaders advise Bono on reform of U2

By William Easterly | Published November 23, 2009

An expert commission of African leaders today announced their plan for comprehensive reform of music band U2. Saying that U2’s rock had lost touch with its African roots, the commission called for urgent measures to halt U2’s slide towards impending crisis.

“Our youth today are imperiled by low quality music,” said Commission chairman Nelson Mandela. “We will be lending African musicians to U2 to try to refurbish their sound to satisfy the urgent and growing needs for diversionary entertainment at a time of crisis in the global music and financial sectors.”

Concerns about U2 have been growing in Africa for a while. One Western aid blogger testified to the Commission that his teenage kids found U2’s music “cheesy.” The Mandela Commission proposed that U2 follow a series of steps to recover its Edge:

1) Hire African consultants to analyze U2’s “poverty of music trap”

2) Prepare a Band-owned and Commission-approved Comprehensive U2 Reform Strategy Design (CURSD)

3) Undertake a rehabilitation tour of African capitals to field-test and ground-truth proposed reforms

4) Subject all songs to randomized experiments in which the effect on wellbeing of control and treatment groups is rigorously assessed.

Mandela expressed optimism that the Commission’s report and proposed reforms had come in time to stave off terminal crisis in U2, and restore its effectiveness in the 80s arena rock field.

You can see it on his blog here.

22 November 2009

Turkey Day Prep

Yesterday, Neto was kind enough to give me a chicken slaughtering and preparing lesson.  He took me through the process and pointed out what each part was.  Alas, it was not a simple biology lesson.  With Thanksgiving arriving this weekend (Saturday for us in Kenya), I will have to prepare a Turkey for the meal.  It has been ordered through Angela, but the work will be left to Michael and I to get it ready. 

Having only killed a chicken once, I needed to hone my skills and learn what to do after killing it.  I thought of taking some pictures as I worked, but I did not want to spoil all the fun that the pictures from Saturday will provide.

This week we continue to prepare for World Day for Disabled and wind down the last three weeks of the year for the SJC and my time in Malava.  The end is now under twenty days and I still do not feel like I am going home quite yet.  Maybe it will change over the next few days, but I think it is going to take a plane to make it a reality for me.

20 November 2009

Parents’ Day of Play

We had our last parent meeting of the year today.  The parents had the chance to play some games after the meeting before buying toys at a dramatically reduced price.  I had to guide a bit in using some of the toys.  In between giving instructions, I took some pictures.


19 November 2009

Famine Determinants

Bill Easterly’ Aid Watch blog featured a post about determining famines.  There have been cases where they have been over and under stated when there is a gain for the government (under) or a NGO (over).

Here is an excerpt:

In his classic book “Famine Crimes” Alex De Waal observes that NGOs make “habitual inflation of estimates of expected deaths.” De Waal notes that during the pre-Christmas prime fundraising season, ‘One million dead by Christmas’… has been heard every year since 1968 and has never been remotely close to the truth.”

Put into the current mix a credulous Western media that is happy to check the box “Ethiopia = famine,” and is unable to handle subtleties like chronic food insecurity and chronic malnutrition vs. emergency famine. Between unreliable media, NGOs, and government, it is tragically difficult to know when tragedy is happening.

Read the whole post here.

18 November 2009


I have had ever intention to write and have continued to neglect my goals.  Tonight I will catch up a bit with some quick hitters:

  • It has rained for two days straight.  El Nino was supposed to come and it seems that this may be it.  I cannot say for sure, but there have been three rainy days since I have been in Malava and two were the Tuesday and today.  It looks like we will have plenty of rain for awhile, but the weather here is all over the place.
  • World Day for Disabled is on December 3 and we have begun preparations.  These next few weeks are going to be very hectic trying to get everything in order.
  • Neto and Sue were both out today doing various work.  That left me to deal with the children as they waited for therapy.  It could not have been a better day.  When there are a lot of us, it can be hard to have the chance to work/play with the kids.  Today I was free to spend the day out of the back office and with the kids as long as I wanted.  Time has been kind and my rapport with the kids has improved immensely.  This means that they are far more receptive to not only me being around, but working with them.
  • School is out for most kids as exams have begun.  I thought of being stuck in the Twilight Zone as the town has shifted from adult to child oriented.  There seem to be almost no people over the age of fifteen.  For some reason this was not as striking during the April or August breaks.  Now, I feel as if the kids have taken over town.  If I had a Child Greeting Index, it would be at its highest point of the year right now with a strong upward trend
  • To practice and prepare for our Thanksgiving feast next Saturday, I will slaughter and cook a chicken on Friday.  Neto is going to help me out.  The goal is to get a bit of practice on the smaller bird before doing it on the turkey.  There is a good chance that a video will be made for the turkey and maybe even for the chicken.

No Surprises

Transparency International released their annual corruption perceptions index.  Not quite the worst of the worst, Kenya does a good job at ranking towards the bottom of the world when it comes to corruption.  The graphic is interesting and a bit fun to play around with.

As a new constitution draft is on the table, maybe Kenya can reverse their status and move out of corruption.

16 November 2009

Goodbye Katie!

Katie is on her way back home to rest up before heading back to Nigeria in January.

14 November 2009

SJC Staff Outing 2009

Kitale Disabled Animal Orphanage

For our annual staff outing, the SJC staff went to an orphanage for disabled animals just outside of Kitale.  Yes it was fitting and not really a day off when working with the disabled, but it was a nice day walking around with everyone.  Since Kenyans love pictures, there were a lot taken.  Being behind the camera, none involve me.  However, there is a group picture on Sr. Judi’s camera that I will steal and post ASAP.

Most of all, it was nice to spend time with everyone outside of the center.  We have had some gatherings, but this trip was a good experience.  Everyone seemed to be happy and enjoy their time at the animal center.  Lunch at the Kitale Golf Club finished the day with a small hitch in the delivery of my meal, but in Kenya all things must come in time.

Pictures are uploading this minute and will be posted shortly.

13 November 2009

Because He is My Favorite Footballer

…and he sets an example for most athletes.  Chelsea’s Didier Drogba has decided to take his £3m bonus from Pepsi and build a hospital in his home country, the Ivory Coast.  Despite being a bit of a hothead (see UEFA Champions League ‘loss’ to Barca in May), he is a UN ambassador. 

Maybe a few more athletes can reach down their deep pockets and come up with a little bit to lend a hand to a cause like the Didier Drogba Foundation.

12 November 2009

Forgot the Article

Here is the link to the article about the Archdiocese of Washington DC.

DC Archdiocese To Pull Programs So It Can Continue to Discriminate

With DC working towards same-sex marriage rights, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has said that it will no longer be able to provide its social service programs.  Basically, it does not want to be told that it cannot discriminate based upon sexual orientation.  Therefore, the only way to not comply is to pull out.  How is that at all in the spirit of Catholic service? 

I can understand on principle why the stand has to be made, but members of the archdiocese should be ashamed that people have to suffer for it.  Is it justifiable to remove programs that reach many people who need them in the city in order to maintain a policy of discrimination?  If same-sex marriages are allowed throughout the US, will the entire church have to pull its social programs?

Rwanda (the log)

I intended on a great piece of visual literature that would transform my prose into some sort of grand picture that manifested itself as the reader continued.  Unfortunately, my grand ideas remained as such and I will just transcribe my notes as I went along the trip.  Not quite as lyrical at all, but maybe more honest to what I noticed/thought as we went along in Rwanda.


  • K’LA to KIG
  • Leave 9 AM
  • Uganda = bananas
  • Boarder 4:30 PM
  • No dark plastic bags allowed into Rwanda – Border inspector “won’t like it”  *note* Rwandans fear black plastic bags
  • Inspector confused by neck pillow, had to demonstrate to prove its reason for being in my bad and show that it is not a black bag
  • Nearly no whites entering Rwanda (there were a lot going into Uganda from Kenya)
  • Valley of Tea
  • Double Dubbed Jackie Chan Film (English then dubbed again in Swahili)
  • Valley turns like once great bobsled course cut by a grand glacier
  • Mist hangs in valley like schoolgirl’s mobile presentation
  • Kid A (album) written with Rwandan bus ride in mind


  • Day bus only out of Rwanda due to daytime border hours
  • BHS basketball hoodie in red with Johnson on back – Bernardsville?
  • Great bank search (no ATM’s work)
  • Access bank gives cash advance so I can stay another night and actually leave
  • Bonjour – exit hotel and man greets me as such – gave lost look and believed that I was French for a moment
  • Motorcycle taxis with men in green uniforms, matching helmets, and helmets for the passenger!  A first in East Africa!  Safety!
  • Kigali Memorial Centre
    • Fire lit 100 days each year to coincide with genocide
    • Fire=death
    • Water=life
    • Elephants=Memory
    • Mass Graves
      • over 300,000 people
      • giant slabs of stones like Egyptian king’s tomb
    • 1932
      • Tutsi = 10+ cows
      • Hutu= 9 or less cows
    • Catholic church spread ideas of group superiority
    • Delineation based upon socio-economic status not clan/tribe
    • By 1957 almost all Tutsi leadership
    • Gov’t jobs and Edu spots determined by percentage of groups (T-H 14-86)
    • Decent to Genocide
      • world choose not to go up path
    • 70 yr old woman hides 15 by playing up town belief that she housed evil spirits
    • 500,000 women raped – most by men HIV+
    • Children and women targeted to end line of Tutsis
    • Children’s section most upsetting part
      • Forced self to read information blow wall size portraits of murdered children

With history of genocides (ie. Germany, Rwanda, Namibia, Serbia, Turkey, etc.) how do we ignore Darfur?

11 November 2009

Sad News

For anyone (like myself) news of the execution of the DC sniper is sad news.  In a modern society that prides itself on rights, the execution of prisoners continues (with strong support).  To me, there is no way to justify the murder of another person no matter how grave his or her crime.  We can call it an execution, but it is government condoned murder.

08 November 2009


I have a lot to say about Rwanda and the travel there, but will wait for tomorrow to do it.  I am far too tired to put in a legitimate effort and one that is reasonable for the city.  For now, pictures will do.  I fooled around with my camera a bit at the end on the last night and they are more for the fun of it.



  • Left Malava at about 9:30AM
  • Dropped off in Kakamega to take matatu to Mumias then Busia.
  • Arrive Busia at 12:30PM and wait for 2:30PM Akamba bus
  • Lunch
  • Watch Nigerian films in office until bus arrived at 4PM
  • Depart border at 4:15PM
  • Jinja at 6:15PM to pass over the source of the Nile River (yup, its where it all begins)
  • 8:30PM arrive in Kampala take taxi to Backpackers hostel for the night.


  • Awake at 6:45AM for quick shower and foray into Kampala.
  • Shot around the city on motorcycle taxis, check on bus tickets to Kigali for Thursday, have breakfast at 1000 Cups Coffee House.
  • Noon shoot over to Entebee to have lunch and see Lake Victoria from a different point.
  • Back to Kampala for the afternoon to buy tickets and return to the hostel to relax before taking the bus the next morning to Rwanda.


  • Awake at 7AM for shower and getting ready.
  • Tea for breakfast
  • Bus at 9AM
  • Arrive Rwanda border at 3PM (Rwanda to be continued in the Rwanda post to follow)


  • Cross boarder at 1PM
  • Arrive in Kampala at 6:30PM
  • Motorcycle taxi to Backpackers Hostel
  • Dinner and conversation with Union College fellows before early bed time


  • Awake 5:45AM
  • Bus 7:15AM
  • Arrive in Kabale Noon
  • Malaba before 1PM then cross back into Kenya
  • Hitch a ride with an Austrian man and a Slovokian woman to Webuye
  • Matatu Webuye to Malava
  • Home at 3:30


Alive and back in Malava

06 November 2009


The most beautiful city I have ever been to. Sadly only here a day because the border is closed at night. Pictures all the whole story to come soon.
In short, Kigali is best taken in from the back of a motorcycle. I did it all day.

04 November 2009

Kampala -> Kigali

Kampala is a beautiful city but not enough time. Off to Kigali this morning for two days then back to Malava via Kampala.

02 November 2009

Power/Internet Out

Last night, we had no power or internet.  Power is out due to what I can only guess is a spent fuse and the internet was out for reasons I do not know. 

More importantly, Sue and I are traveling around starting today through Sunday/Monday.  A lot depends on visas, but it looks as if we will be in Kampala, Uganda for tonight and tomorrow then off to Kigali, Rwanda for two nights.  If we have to pay to re-enter Uganda, we will shoot around the southern half of Lake Victoria through Tanzania.  If we do not, then it is back home through Uganda.

I will have no computer, but will try to toss out an “I am safe” update along the way.  Most likely, I will be back in action next Monday with tales of rapid travels and volcanoes.

01 November 2009

You Move Back, We Keep the Course

November begins and the rest of the world observes daylight savings.  We have not.  So now the time difference between Nairobi and New York is back to eight (8) hours.

31 October 2009

Happy Halloween!

With a meal of pumpkin soup used from the left overs after carving our pumpkins and lots of candy, we enjoyed Halloween in low-key manner. Thanks to everyone who sent the candy and treats for the kids. They were pumped and had to be chased away becuause they liked the bouncy balls, rings and candy so much.

Thanks again.


30 October 2009



Some of the pictures may be graphic.  Most are alright, but feel free to go to the album page if you fell that you may not be able to handle the wonders of birth.

You can go the web album by clicking HERE.


Birth is Beautiful

This may not be good for those of you who are squeamish, but I do not think it is all that bad. Plus it is too dark to really tell what is going on.



Dog just gave birth to five puppies.  Pictures taken and to be posted soon.

29 October 2009

The End of Mungiki

The same group that massacred over twenty people in the spring has announced that it is disbanded.  It is now moving to be a political party only and will no longer butcher people.  I remain skeptical.

Last Quick Addition

Booked a ticket today to go to Kampala on Tuesday.  David and Angela are going to a convention next week and we close two days early.  That means a five day weekend and the chance to explore.  Looks as if I am going to Kampala and who knows.  Might try to run around Lake Victoria and dip into Rwanda before passing through Tanzania.  I will be without my computer for the trip in the hope of traveling light, so don’t expect anything for most of next week.

Ready to Blow

Also, our dog is obscenely pregnant and ready to give birth at any moment.

A Reflection of Thoughts

  • Education:  Why does the idea of social promotion persist?  Is there anything that proves how or why it may still be used to pass a child from one grade to the next? Or to hold back a child’s advancements because the rest of the class is not ready?  It struck me today as strange when seeing kids of a wide range of ages walking home from school for lunch.  The age in primary school in Kenya ranges from (on what I can best estimate from my observations) six to sixteen.  Age does matter and dictates most children’s class level, but due to many factors related to poverty some take a bit longer to finish or even start.  The situation is far from ideal, but there seems to be little issue when it comes to social interaction.  In fact, children here have no problem playing with each other despite age.  Often, I see kids ages six and twelve playing together.  Families stay together and all ages spend time with each other.  Far from scientific evidence or true testing, but couldn’t the ideas behind social promotion be a constructed idea?
  • Unacceptable: The following is about a client at the SJC – First born to a sixteen year old mother and a young father who is still in secondary school.  Brought into the center late last year and a home visit was conducted in January of this year.  In the visit it was determined that food and transport assistance should be given for the health of the child.  He came consistently for a few months and began to improve with his disability and health.  Suddenly, mom stops bringing him.  The CBRW visits each month and notes the decline in the boy as he has stopped coming to the SJC.  By August he was too sick for the CBRW to do anything with the child.  It persisted with a visit at the beginning of the month.  No report was made about his condition until the CBRW meeting a few weeks ago.  It happened to be after he died from malnutrition.  Was everything done to prevent the death of this child?  I would say no and admit to feeling a heavy amount of guilt but it is mostly due to the feeling of helplessness I felt when I realized what had happened.
  • Plague: Hawks and Hornbills have made their presence very well known in Malava.  The Hornbills like to perch in the trees.  When they land their weight causes the entire tree to sway.  As a general rule, they like to share trees.  Causing the trees to sag to whatever side they choose to sit.  When in need of a new branch, they take flight with their helicopter wings that beat so heavily that it sounds as if they are engaged in a fight with the sky.  The Hawks just circle around.  Checking out a matatu as it drives up the road or making sure that I am at work.  When I went to Kisumu last week, I saw them entire way down and back.  The most sensible conclusion is that they followed me all the way down and waited to follow me back.  I admit to being a little scared.

26 October 2009

CSM on Kibera Tours

The Christian Science Monitory blog features a small article about slum tourism in Kibera slum.  As a reminder it is the largest slum in Africa and popular destination for NGOs, volunteers and now poverty tourism.  The post is brief and says nothing really new, but it is the first comment that I want to share.

A woman writes:

I live near Kibera, and most of my friends who live there would find one of these tours repulsive. One of them commented bitterly the other day “we are not the animals of the Maasai(sic) Mara for tourists to come take pitcures(sic) of.”

This is something that I have thought for awhile.  Why would people feel the need to go into the homes of the poor to gawk?  Are they willing to open up their homes so people can see how rich they are?  There is a lack of respect on the most basic level when doing this. 

I was a part of a similar thing when attending a Maasai village with my family in September, but the difference was that we were invited.  To me it was a bit strange, but we were welcomed in by the village and were charged a fee to enter by them.  I wish that was not a way for them to make money, but it is a choice that they made.  Nothing was forced upon them.  The Maasai own Masai Mara.  They collect the park fees and care for it. 

Kibera is full of unwelcome guests.  Some people are happy to see the white people walking around because some will dole out money or goods because they feel bad after seeing abject poverty firsthand.  It is important to understand how a large portion of the world lives, but it crosses the line when it is done in a less than dignified manner and the actions of the individuals in the tour creates a culture of reliance. 

Would you give money to your alcoholic friend if he needed to borrow some?  or to your cousin with a gambling addiction?  Then why do it in Kenya?  I think that the golden rule tends to be a good standard to follow.  Do you want pictures taken of you at your worse?  Do you want people to walk around you unkempt bedroom?  Do you want people to point and stare at you?

As far as I am concerned the answers should all be no and thus should be why poverty tourism should no longer exist.  It is growing at a rate that I cannot quote, but it is growing and that in of itself is a problem.

23 October 2009

Brotherhood Gospel Church School

Sue and I were invited to spend more time with Pastor Jairus and his school.  He is pictured with us at the end of the album.  Just before him, in the orange dress, is his daughter Jememiah.  She has been going to the center for over a year now to help work on her walking due to contractures.  She now runs around all over the place when she could barely stand six months ago.

Pastor Jairus asked that we take some pictures of the school to share with our friend in the United States. So, now I am sharing.  Check Sue’s blog for even more pictures.


From about a week ago.

22 October 2009

Long Day Slow To Update

I have been neglecting all of this and I am fully willing to admit it.  Today we were at the centre until 6pm meeting with the consultants.  I will discuss it all tomorrow, but it is late and I am just too tired to try to make sense of anything.

19 October 2009

The End for Liverpool FC?

A deflection off a beach ball led to a goal and the fourth loss for 2008/9's runners up. FIFA says it should have not counted, but it did and the loss remains. Four losses this early is tough to overcome and this just seems to have been the icing on the cake. Shouldn't it be ruled an own goal since it was a ball from a Liverpool fan?

18 October 2009

The Mead Saga

15 days ago, Michael and I set out upon our most ambitious endeavor in Kenya thus far: to make mead.  Drawing inspiration from watching the film version of Beowulf, we decided to learn about and brew our own mead.  All we knew that it involved honey and with 4L of ‘friendship’ honey, we thought it was worth a bit of research.
Thanks to the internet, we found out a few options.  We settled on brewing a few different brews to best determine what flavor we like best.  The first batch was a semi-traditional one with what we had available.  I do not remember exactly what I put in it but the flavor was meant to be subtle.  Batch number two was tea and number three was fruit. 
Filtering out all the junk, we bottled it into 1L Coke bottles and then added bread yeast.  From our research, it was the suggested type.  The yeast reacted with the boiled honey mixture and almost immediately began to bubble over.  I made the mistake of using bottles slightly too small and adding far too much yeast. 
Hoping to control the overflow, I capped the bottles.  With it stinking like cooked honey and stickiness all over the kitchen, everything was in order.   We strayed from the directions due to the volcanic eruptions and decided to allow them to sit over night.  Then open them the next morning to ferment before rebottling.  Over night, the fermentation process continued and pressure built up.
In the morning, I woke earlier than usual.  I wandered out and opened the kitchen.  The door opened to the sound of air rushing out in a relentless insistence.  The culprit bubbled as I gave a closer look.  Taking it in my hands, I attempted to tighten the cap.  Improvement was found, but not a solution.  Wanting to keep the kitchen clean, I took it outside.  With a towel used for better grip, I used all of my strength to close it further.  I accomplished my goal.  Only for a moment.  Then the bubbles, in need of air like a junkie wanting a fix after two days dry, lost control.  The cap blew open and the mead shot all over me.
Frustrated, I cursed a bit to myself and stood in the I-can’t-believe-this-just-happened-to-me-pose.  I thought of how I was going to clean my clothes right away just two days after they had been washed.  I then thought if I would be able to get the smell and stain out.  I then thought…
The explosion was so loud that I though I had discovered a new bomb recipe.  Carefully, I approached the kitchen to see what really happened.  Glass littered the floor as a muddy brown liquid stained the walls.  Dripping still around the glass that implanted itself into the near wall.  The back two bottles exploded and the four in front remained.  Glass bombs sat at the level of my face waiting to detonate.
Using the rag, I ferried the out individually and placed them behind a protective sheet metal shield.  All safely removed and protected.  I cleaned up the kitchen.  It took over one hour to finish cleaning the glass and liquid I could get.  I found glass all over the kitchen for over a week.  Everything that was in the open had to be either thrown away or washed anew.  Being that it was Sunday brunch and I was cooking, my cooking options dropped dramatically.  Fortunately, I planned on split pea soup and had the peas soaking covered overnight.  No worry in regards to the glass. 
I even found glass in front of our house door.  That means it had to take Seinfeld-spit-esque flight to go straight out the door at a nearly impossible angle across twenty feet to the stoop.  It confirms the magnitude of the explosion.  It is possible that the glass was carried across by a shoe, but I found at least three pieces that were far too big to have been stuck on the bottom of a shoe.
Michael was brave enough to diffuse the mead bombs and we allowed them to ferment overnight.  Rebottled the next evening, we put them in the fridge and prayed that the bombs were reactivated.  Luckily they were rendered inert.
Yesterday was the two week minimum before trying it out and we cracked open one of the tea bottles and one of the fruit ones.  The tea bottle was a dark black that looked like a stout beer and had a taste that started off like a sweet wine and ended like Guinness.  It was not quite as good as that sounded, but it was enjoyable.  The fruit bottle was sweet but much stronger.  I did not like it all too much, but the high level of carbonation was a nice change.
We still have a few more bottles to be opened later, but the process proved to be successful.  We learned not to use glass and to allow the fermentation to take place in a larger container.  It is possible we will attempt again to make a new batch this weekend to have for Thanksgiving.  If we do, the recipe will be better documented in terms of photos and specifics. 

16 October 2009

I Hope Kenya Does Not Follow Suit

The MDC in Zimbabwe has boycotted the coalition government.  It looks as if they are not happy with the Mugabe ZANU party and the lack of power sharing.  Kenya has made it nearly two years now, much longer than the fractured Zimbabwe government.  I just hope that the ODM does not follow the leader and make trouble again.

15 October 2009

Titi the Great

Climbing with Mike

Pictures take over the past week.  First few from Sunday and the group of kids together from yesterday as I walked to the SND compound.  That group comprised my personal escort from town.  My two hands were shared amongst the group as they fought for finger real estate.  The last, and majority, is from this afternoon.  Mike joined the kids on a climbing expedition.  I took pictures of it. Two of the moon are taken mid day. Most days we can see the moon and I figured I would take an attempt at photographing the moon.

It Piles On

Ok, this ends my issue with the Nobel Prize.  I will just include an article that highlights dissent amongst the voting ranks prior to the vote for the prize.  I am sure that dissent is not new, but it does not help things out.  Thus ends my issue with Obama and the Nobel Prize.

Also, the USA Today Faith and Reason blog had a thought provoking piece on gay marriage.  I included the link but I can sum it up by saying that there has yet to be any reasonable argument proving that a ‘non traditional’ relationship has negative affects upon children.  The lawyer working for Prop 8 was asked to address this issue and was unable to provide any sort of proof.  This continues to be a main point in the debate over gay marriage and one which is put forth again and again without any thought.  The article mentions bible literalism, but that is not the case when a literal reading of the bible also forbids the eating of shrimp. 

It is more like bible buffet.  Check out the whole spread.  Listen to suggestions from people around.  Pick what you want.  Eat as much of what you like.  Try out a little bit of something new.  Go back and have more of what you like.

14 October 2009

Spot On

I hate email forwards most often, but this one is just to funny not to share:


ESPN is reporting that President Obama watched 2 quarters of a football game and is being nominated for a Heisman Trophy.


Thanks to my mother for the email.

13 October 2009

Health Care and Human Rights

Prof Bill Easterly has written an article for the Financial Times that discusses the harm that can be done by viewing health care as a human rights issue.  He gives the example of the disproportionate money devoted to AIDS in Africa.  While a major issue, it is only one of the many diseases that kill millions on the continent.  However, it gets all the attention and all the money.  While AIDS rates have fallen and treatment has improved, deaths caused by diarrhea and malaria stagnate. 

The connection to the growth in universal health care in the US is not entirely direct, but it does highlight how coordinated efforts can be harmful.  Done incorrectly, money can be directed towards grander scale problems that only affect a minority while solvable issues are marginalized.

12 October 2009

Also, as a note, our night watchman, Samuel, passed away on Saturday morning.  We went to the funeral today immediately after work.  Sitting listening to introductions, songs and preaching in Swahili, it was like a church service in a park.  We gave a small amount of money to his wives (he had two) as a pole (sorry), a traditional gesture at a funeral.

To balance out the post about death, I am happy to report that our dog is very pregnant.  Conception is estimated around 20 Aug or so (prior to going on vacation) and the dog looks ready to give birth at any moment.  It lies around all day, eats and ton, is really fat, and unable to sit with its two feet underneath.  It has to fashion its belly outwards is it sits or lays on its stomach.  So puppies are on their way!

Funny People

I read this NYT article today and wavered between amusement and laughter.  Finally I settled on amusement.

There are groups banning clotheslines.  Yes, you read that sentence correctly.  In fact, it has gone to the legislative action.  My favorite part of it all is the fact that the defenders of such rules are concerned that the government would be meddling too much in their personal decisions by allowing people to choose if they want to have a clothesline on their property.  Maybe I am confused, but is it not the same people who are concerning themselves with the private property of their neighbors?

How can you make claims about the preservation of private property when you are violating it.  It is like arguing for free markets and an interventionist foreign policy because you don’t like what other countries are doing.

Equally absurd is the argument that by hanging ones clothes properties in the neighborhood become less desirable.  If someone has a problem with seeing their neighbors underwear hanging on a line they might need to rethink their priorities.

11 October 2009

Something to look forward to

Power was out for something like 30 hours and came back this afternoon.  It will be nice to have consistent power again.  Add running water and fast/unlimited internet to that list as well.  It is not the end of the world when the power goes out, there is always plenty of reading to be done.  As of today I have been here for 280 days and only 59 remain.  The short distance to December continues to rush closer.  Halloween is just a few weeks away and then November brings the real decline.

The proximity of the end has caused me to be more reflective of the year as a whole.  Before now I have thought in more immediate terms, but that has shifted.  It began with our meeting on Wednesday.  Angela spoke of how people here will automatically assume that white means money.  Because of that, people are less willing to help the St. Julie Centre and its clients.

Thinking that the white nuns and volunteers will provide the money to cover all needs, the community has given less support due to this perception.  It is not at all true, our budget is as tight as any other non-for-profit in the world, but the general idea remains. 

Her comments made me think more upon the idea that my presence here can have an immensely negative affect on the people whom I am meant to ‘serve.’  I do not like that word, ‘serve,’ so I do not use it often.  It is a word that I think speaks to a wrong relationship idea, but becomes further trivialized when considering that it may not be accomplished at all.

Not only have I taken a job that could possibly exist for a Kenyan, my presence alone has driven away local support for the SJC.  All blame does not rest upon me and I do not mean to take it onto myself.  Although, I cannot help but feel that I may have caused more harm than good in this respect.

It speaks to the greater issue when considering foreign aid and support.  There is an idea held that those who come in any sort of aid capacity are able to provide financial backing.  There is no thought or regard for a persons job or age.  Here, white people bring money and spend it in various capacities throughout the country.  They are the ones who help with health services, schooling and so on.  Other races and nations help, but the European presence is the strongest by far.

It explains why I am constantly asked to support things such as upper education fees and simple food needs.  To be more specific, I have been asked to help people pay for the following (if I list everything it will take too long but this will give the general idea): bread, shoes, malaria drugs, soda, University fees/tuition, travel expenses, support for a musical career, support to be a cook, candy, sponsorship of a women’s soccer team, sponsorship of a choir and pain killers.

People have provided these services before and still do it.  That is the only way I can explain being asked constantly to give out money.  Some likely comes from private pockets while most comes in the form of aid.  This leaves me with something I have considered before, what is the role of aid in the third world?  Should it continue its present course?

The second question is easiest to answer.  No.  The first is a bit more involved.  In sort, I think that aid should be a service to provide the basic needs which people are denied due to poverty.  What would make more sense is for it to come via the country itself or at least appear to.  Loans can be given to help develop a country in need with a lower interest rate and full transparency asked in return.  Governments must remain responsive to the needs of the state and good governance must be encouraged.

The current structure does nothing to push nations towards improved governance.  In my hack unsupported opinion, I think NGO’s to be a main part of the problem.  When they take on the tasks that the government is unable to accomplishing due to lack of funds, war, or corruption, the will of the people is never really met.  Really, their will is not actualized because it is quelled by the minimum of needs provided by NGO’s.

At this point, I feel that I may be doing more harm than good here.  I will continue to do my best, but right now it is hard to see how I have been able to do more good than bad.  I did not set out thinking that I was saving anyone or anything, but I at least hoped not to make a negative impact.  It is possible that I may not have even accomplished that.

09 October 2009

The Nobel Prize For Ideas

I am going to start recording every peaceful idea that I can think of and make a collection on my medal and money.  Maybe in twenty years he could be a part of the discussion, but I adamantly believe that Barrack Obama in no way deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  His victory puts him in the same class as Tutu and Mandela.  Not even close.

08 October 2009

“I have a meeting with the Bobs”

This will give a bit of a recap of the work week.  I procrastinated and also decided to relax rather than write being that it has involved some long days.  It got a kick start Monday morning when Judi told us that two consultants were coming on Tuesday to meet with the staff.  She knew little about them other than their job title and that they would meet us at 2:30 the following afternoon.

Tuesday also happened to be an eye clinic day and Angela was to go to get her eyes checked.  With David manning the therapy alone and Neto on his week of vacation, we were in store for a slow and disorganized day.  Finishing early enough to take a small break, we all ran home to relax, except for David who napped on the therapy table.  Back before 2:30 we anticipated the meeting with the hope that the two consultants would be on time.  The meeting started at 3:30.

As every meeting in Kenya has gone that I have had the pleasure of attending, it dragged.  With three hours of talking in circles I came away with this: the SND’s decided to hire consultants to consult the program.  Meetings were arranged and I was scheduled last with Sue, Grace and Angela on the following day.

Being responsible to open the center, I was early and the two consultants still beat me there.  Because they were conducting interviews, the office was occupied.  Again, we were short staffed because David had a 2 hour interview in the middle of the therapy hours, Neto was still on vacation, and Sue and I were moved out of our office into the play therapy area to do our usual duties.  The hope was to finish the interviews at the same time the therapy ended. 

The therapy ended at 1:30.  Our interview was at 3:30.  1.5 hours later and we were done.  This morning, wanting to be opened before the consultants arrived, I went in even earlier to open up.  We saw them quickly before they finished their interviews with the rest of the staff and ventured out to meetings with Joy.

It was not all so bad to have the two consultants come, but it was a bit sudden.  Tomorrow there will be focus groups with various parts of the program.  I will be making a trip into Kakamega in the morning.  I wish I could say that my Swahili now allows me to take part in Swahili language meetings, but I can’t.  At best I can understand every eighth word in spoken Swahili.  My goal is to finish knowing ever sixth.

This weekend will be uneventful, but next will be our staff outing.  So that means fun and pictures with the St Julie staff as we go out and have fun on the town.

07 October 2009

Not Really News

BBC reports that Kenya is getting ready for the 2012 elections.  Violence seems to be eminent.  It makes news, but being here it is nothing new.  The indications have been abundant, but a poll gives the BBC the chance to say that people are ‘rearming for the 2012 poll.’

The Best Years of Our Lives?

Watching the above titled movie has given me the feeling that I will return home much like the characters in the film.  I will not have the demons that haunt a man who lost friends in battle, but readjusting will be tough at first.  I just hope that my first night does not end up like Fred’s, too drunk to get home and awake the following morning in a strange house and a bed with pink sheets and frilly drapes.

06 October 2009

Some Overlap

Katie just posted about things she has noticed at her orphanage that would not fly back home.  I think that I have mentioned all or most of her points in a previous post or two, but it is always interesting to see what someone notices.  In this case it is good for a laugh and a bit of concern.

Read her post here.

05 October 2009

Good Story, Good Guy, Great School

There was a story in the NY Times about Holy Cross QB Dominic Randolph.  It is a nice piece about a good guy.  Had a class with him and he seemed to be as good of a person as the article makes him out to be.  Since we have some sports recognition and the team is undefeated with a top QB and ranked in the top 25, it makes it all the better.


04 October 2009

03 October 2009

As Requested

I did not realize that I was spending so focused on news stories and was neglecting what I have been doing.  Mostly it is due to the fact that I do not think I have done anything worth mention, but the point of this was to also keep a record of what I do that is both mundane and exciting.  More of my thoughts have been outward driven and I think posts have reflected that change.  I am sure that the first half of the year on this, in comparison to the second half is filled with thoughts about my time here, healthcare, and various Kenyan news.

Yesterday, we had our first parent prayer day.  The idea cam on the suggestion of the parents and an idea by Judi.  Essentially, the hope was to provide a time where the parents could gather together and share with each other their faith in terms of their struggle as being parents of children with disabilities.  Faith is a major part of the lives of Kenyas, but disability is often thought of or taught to be a curse. 

We invited one of our parents, Pastor Jairus, to oversee the day.  He gave a teaching and then the parents were given time to pray on their own.  After, they returned to share their experiences and David used their thoughts to sum up with an encouragement.  Finally, it ended with small prayer groups where they could join together in prayer for themselves and each other.

I was there for the whole thing (3 hrs or so), but did not do much in terms of participation.  My Swahili has improved, but I am still a long way from fluency.  When it comes to preaching, the speech is quick and punctuated.  When a response is required the final syllable is either stressed with a rise to gain praise or dropped for a completion.  The alternation between two makes it harder to understand what proceeds.  However, based upon the responses it seems that the parents enjoyed it.

I have come to understand that better preaching involves the participation of the people involved.  Fr. Alfred is widely considered to be a poor preacher because he just preaches.  He does not do much to involve the people of St. Theresa's church.  Since Jairus was getting a lot of chatter and praise, I assume that he did a good job. 

Song was not neglected, my favorite part, as two or three were scattered amongst the day.

The rest of the work week has, as all have, been uneventful.  I have become more busy as time has progressed solely because of the fact that more of the kids are no longer scared of me.  I am not more able to go out and assist with the play therapy in a more meaningful way.  Some will even seek me out to play with them and a specific toy.  This transition has seemed to come suddenly, but has made my working days at the center more rewarding and enjoyable. 

30 September 2009

ICC is In

Ocampo has announced that he (aka the ICC) will be working with Kenya to find and bring to trial those leaders who helped in the post-election violence.  To me, it is the best way to deal with the issue.  With an outside organization keeping a watch over Kenya, the trials can proceed with transparency.  The next issue is the speed of the process.  It must be done as quickly as possible.  The 2012 elections already loom as leaders are moving to gain support.  Those who are looking to become the next president and had a hand in the violence must be exposed before the start of campaigns.

29 September 2009

Oxfam Delivers the Doom

More bad news comes out concerning East Africa from Oxfam.  The drought that has ravaged much of Northern Kenya, Southern Sudan and Somalia for what they claim to be five years continues.  There seems to be little hope as these areas depend upon rain for crops and there has not been nearly enough. 

The rains that the article claims to be coming next month are here, at least in Western Kenya.  It mentions concerns with flooding.  From what I have read and been told, the last time El Nino made an appearance flooding ensued.  Being that we are situated in a mountainous region, the stakes are much higher for basin areas.  With the mudslide that ripped through the escarpment just a few miles to our East in 2007, the excessive rain could be a problem.  In addition, with little sanitation water-borne illness will spread at a rapid rate.  A cholera outbreak is a possibility.  Plus water means mosquitoes.  So the fun of itching and all the disease that they carry will become a nightly event.

While the article mentions the issues that will come out of the lack/deluge of rain, it does nothing to highlight the fact that the weather problems highlight existing issues.  An overly agrarian will suffer when it is too dry or too wet.  It is confounded when infrastructure is next to non-existent and the care for the plants is entirely determined on the weather.  So farmers starve and cows die because it does not rain.  The lack of rain is problematic, but somehow Vegas can flourish when surrounded by sand and no water.

Vegas is hard to compare to Wajir, but it highlights the way that proper infrastructure can overcome natures shortcomings.  Kenya is a long way from coming close to providing the necessary infrastructure.  Although I know little on the subject, I will posit that the pressure by and help from groups like Oxfam can be harmful.  When the drought comes, money is raised and food is distributed.  When the normal rain patterns return the are is forgotten.  The pressure that existed to provide food is removed and people are left alone.  This then leaves the causes for the initial need for aid neglected.

To me, it is another example of how a strong and cohesive central government can be immensely beneficial.  It took legislation and government spending to get the American infrastructure to its current point.  Here, there is little pressure to do so.  Roads are improved when needed because of trade.  Growth is not seen as an achievement linked to the improvement of sewage, water, power and roads in Kenya.  By limiting resources spent on these vital components, the society of sustenance farming remains.

Corruption prevails and the status quo remains as the elite work to retain their positions within their stratosphere.  Throwing a few projects into the are of your constituents is not even necessary.  MP’s will just give away money and promises.  A fatter pocket leads to temporary amnesia and the re-election campaign succeeds with ease.  The MP gets to return to Nairobi where he gets his comfortable salary and is exempt from paying taxes.  When it comes time to make any sort of discussion in regards to the government, he shuffles about and makes friends within his party and the opposition. 

So what do they do?  They pass bills to change the marriage laws when they have promised a new constitution for five years, have yet to implement any of the reforms agreed upon in the coalition government, and people starve in the North.

28 September 2009

Heatin’ Up

As the autumn descends upon the the United States and the leaves no longer match the deep green of the grass, it just gets hotter in Kenya.  The temperature reads in the upper eighties, but the direct sun at one in the afternoon feels much hotter than it is.  Maybe it is the equator and the intensity of the sun, but I am convinced that temperature lies when here. 

I believe it is made more significant for two reasons.  The first is shade.  The shade provides an instant and dramatic drop in temperature.  The sun will make your skin feel as if it is literally burning off when exposed, the shade provides instant relief.  The change between the two may make the sun seem hotter, or it could just be the fact that the sun is in fact so hot.  The second reason is the rain.  With consistent rain each afternoon, the dark clouds bring a reduction in temperature and cooling winds the precede the rain. 

Of course, we are in plenty good shape in terms of water.  So, when I get home I can drink a lot of water to stay hydrated.  It is this change that brings a greater appreciation for real seasonal change.  Some may hate the winter for its cold, but constant summer loses its appeal quickly when it is as unyielding as it is here.  Four distinct changes gives forth unique character that makes each worth their three month existence.

Although I am sure that I will not be happy to go home in the winter.

First Iran, Now Venezuela

Kenya is now dealing with Venezuela to do some oil exploration.  Now it seems a bit hard to be attempting to warm relations with the US when you buddy up with Iran and Venezuela.  On the bright side, it is possible that the oil industry could expand.  Sadly, it seems to cause more problems than it solves in most of the oil rich third world.

26 September 2009

It Started Well

What began as a good article became little more than any other about Kibera slum.  Since it is short and highlights the growth of ‘poverty tourism, it is worth the mention.  What is frustrating is that the journalist had the opportunity to explore the role of the tourism growth in Kibera.  Instead, he (I am assuming that the name Xan is a male name but could be wrong) waste words describing the slum.  For some reason it seems to be a favorite of Kibera writers.  Take as many as words as possible to describe the slum, the people, do not forget the flying toilets and smell, give a quote from a child and then fill the rest with some substance and you have a newsworthy story for any printed news source.

25 September 2009

Halloween Help

Personal requests first.  We have hyped Halloween so much that Sr. Joy has marked it in her calendar.  By ‘hype’ I really mean that we talked about how great it is on the Fourth of July and promised to have another party.  Since she enjoyed the coke floats so much, Joy made sure she would not miss our next event.  Now comes the request.  Everyone and anyone now has just over a month to send any Halloween related item.  Of course candy is best.  We will be hosting a large group and will have no regard for health as we aim to make a simple meal and provide plenty of sweets.  Decorations never hurt.

Thanks in advance.


A constant reflection and thought this year has been my relationship to the town of Malava.  Sometimes it has extended into a more general sense, but most often is in reference to where I stand in Malava.  I have said how I am an outsider who has had the privilege of being a member of the town.

Lately, I have found that my self-imposed status has had a greater impact on my perception of Malava and has little bearing on the reality.  In other words, I have allowed myself to create the false idea that I can never really be an accepted part of Malava.  It remains true that I cannot be in a complete sense because I am not from here, but the same is for people who are not Kabras.  The Kikuyu live together and are somewhat separated from the Kabras majority.  It does not mean that they cannot and do not get along.

The whole time I viewed the two as mutually exclusive.  Being an outsider prevented me from having any real relationships.  That is just not true.  It wasn’t until Mercy, the girl who sells us our vegetables, asked about our dog that I saw my error.  A silly feeling of ‘she actually cares’ came over me and I realized that she actually was listening to what I was saying each time we chatted as I bought my daily vegetables.  I assumed it to be empty conversation for no reason other than that is what I thought she thought it was.

The understanding of this made much more sense than it seems to do now, but I wanted to attempt to re-explain a topic I explored earlier.  What I thought to be true was incorrect.  I was not entirely wrong, but off just enough that it produced a negative impact.  Had I known better, I could have been working towards nurturing meaningful friendships.

24 September 2009

Good Read

I skip thorough to the main points, but this hits on the ways that statistics can be used harmfully in the aid world.  Read the full article on Aid Watch to really understand the points, but this will get the main gist of the post (the title is great and I do not want to skip on mentioning it: We Must Know How Many are Suffering, So Let’s Make Up Numbers).

As major world leaders jet from the UN General Assembly yesterday to the Pittsburgh G-20 today, the UN and World Bank have bombarded them with messages and statistics about the effect of the crisis on the global poor:

(1) We need to know how many are suffering where, so that help can be targeted to those in most need,
(2) Here are our precise numbers of how many additional poor have been created by the crisis,
(3) Since we based the numbers in (2) on thin evidence or no evidence whatsoever, you should also give us more money to expand our abuse of statistics.

They continue…

There is an obscure piece of theoretical statistics called “garbage in, garbage out.” Calculating “additional poor in poverty due to crisis” requires knowing (a) what growth would have been in absence of crisis in every country, (b) what growth will actually turn out to be in 2009 or 2010 in every country, not to mention in 2008, since the World Bank’s World Development Indicators do not yet have estimates for that year, (c) having good data on the current level of world poverty, (d) knowing the effect of growth on poverty, (e) projecting the effect of food and fuel prices on poverty, not to mention projecting food and fuel prices.

The reality is: (a) is impossible, (b) is almost impossible, (c) Voices of the Vulnerable says last real global poverty numbers were in 2005, which themselves reflected an upward revision of 40% (d) is unreliable and volatile, and (e) is impossible.

Economists can do useful projections sometimes, but the castles in the air implied by (a) through (e) should have caused a responsible analyst to NOT invent such a number.