30 April 2009



Pretty much my day...in pictures (of course)


I Love Kenya

Kenyan women ban sex over political reform

By Faith Karimi

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- The fight for political reform in Kenya has moved into an unlikely venue -- the nation's bedrooms.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, left, is all smiles with PM Raila Odinga during last year's swearing-in ceremony but since then  relations have soured.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, left, is all smiles with PM Raila Odinga during last year's swearing-in ceremony but since then relations have soured.

Activists in the East African nation are urging women to withhold sex for a week to protest the growing divide in Kenya's coalition government.

"We are asking even sex workers to join the cause, even if we have to pay them ourselves," said Patricia Nyaundi, executive director of the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya.

The campaign was organized by G-10, an umbrella group for women's organizations. It called on the wives of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to join the cause.

Odinga's wife, Ida, told CNN on Thursday that she supports the campaign "100 percent."

"I will not get into what my husband thinks," she said, chuckling, "but I will say leaders need to focus on the things that affect our people, and I hope the publicity from this campaign will raise awareness on those issues. "

The campaign has sparked debate in a conservative nation where discussing sex in public is typically taboo.

"This will accomplish nothing other than embarrass us," said Martin Kamau, a resident of Nakuru, a major city northwest of the capital. "We are being punished, and yet we are not the ones causing the problems."

Kamau plans to plead his case with his wife. "Seven days is just too much," he said.

Others were not so worried. "Seven days is nothing," one man told KTN, a Nairobi television station. "I can wait a year."

People in Kenya have become increasingly frustrated by a shaky coalition government formed in the wake of the post-election violence that killed more than 1,000 people in 2008. Relations between Kibaki and Odinga have become frosty, sparking fears of more violence.

"We cannot allow our leaders to argue over non-issues while relegating the issues that affect this country to the back burner. When this happens, women suffer the most," said Ann Njogu, director of Centers for Rights Education and Awareness, which describes itself as a non-partisan organization that "seeks to empower the society on women's human rights."

A government official decried the campaign, saying Kibaki has always been committed to reform.

"We are trying, coalitions all over the world have issues and so do we," said Francis Mwaka, head of the government's communications office. "We have always been focused on addressing problems even before this boycott."

In addition to targeting politicians, activists say, the campaign aims to draw spouses into the conversation and nudge them into demanding change.

"Major decisions are made during pillow talk," Nyaundi said. "We have to make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of this country

29 April 2009


Two hours of near heart attack ended last night with a draw.  Not a well played by my blues, but they travel home for the second leg next week.  Sadly, that other blue team from New York blew a 3-1 advantage.  Is this becoming a trend for NYC sports?

Two days of average work.  I was tired this morning because I made the decision to stay up to midnight to watch some soccer.  I wore my Chelsea jersey and was given a hard time by everyone.  Fellow fans are hard to find around here, but that makes it all a little more fun.  However, one guy insisted on yelling “Eto’o” any time Barca had the ball.  He persisted for the first half and was just starting to get on my nerves when he learned that his yelling was not going to help Barca score a goal.   Tonight is the Man U match and I will have to see how I feel when game time rolls around.  At work I got plenty of grief from Neto and David.  Since I watched the match with Neto, he was a bit reserved.  David was not forgiving.  It may not be my favorite sport, but soccer has helped with integrating in work and around town.  Even Angela got in on the discussion to give me some support against the terrible Man U fans.

I want to make an effort to become as much a part of ‘regular’ life in Malava.  I cannot do everything and will never be a regular part of the town, but I think that I can be seen as more than a mzungu.  So far, soccer and bars are the places to be.  If you can talk about soccer, you can talk to anyone.  Since everyone likes to drink and chat, the bar is the place to accomplish both.  Toss in conversations about soccer and you are in good shape.  There is little need for language fluency when talking sport.  I plan to continue to insert myself into Malava.  I waited for it to come to me and found that it was not going anywhere.  The distance that I allow becomes the reality.  This weekend we will be making visits to the homes of some people that we have just met and already know.  Many people want to befriend us to sell us whatever good they are hawking, but there has to be a starting point.  Fortunately, you can decline and the person will not be upset.  That does not mean that later on he or she will not proposition you to buy the same good or maybe something different.

I would say that I am back into my routine now.  The mornings are done without thought and work has become more rewarding.  The kids are slowly becoming more friendly and accepting of my presence.  Part of me fears that by December everything will finally be going well for me at the SJC and then it will be time to leave.  Now 1/3 done this thing, I still have a long way to go in terms of winning over the kids and parents at the SJC.

Not too sure what to make of this

I guess it can be a positive thing if it gets people to pay a little closer attention.

Fasting for change
Inviting Mia Farrow to join a hunger strike may suggest a certain irony, but it's a deadly serious matter of conscience for the organizers of a 21-day fast to draw attention to widespread starvation in Darfur.
The actress has joined the Darfur Fast for Life, a three-week protest to draw attention to the world's continuing inaction on the crisis in western Sudan.
Farrow will consume only water for 21 days as part of a group that includes John Prendergast, co-founder of the anti-genocide organization Enough, and Save Darfur President Jerry Fowler. The group also plans acts of civil disobedience at the Sudanese embassy in Washington.
The activists want the Khartoum government, whose president is under indictment for war crimes in Darfur, to immediately restore all aid services in the region and to give aid workers free access to the 4.7 million refugees there.
"I hope human rights advocates and citizens of conscience around the world will join me in some form of fasting, even if for one day," Farrow said in a statement. "And when I can no longer continue, I pray another will take my place, and another, until finally there is justice and peace for Darfur's people."
Sudan cut off all international assistance to Darfur after its president, Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Farrow said she is undertaking her fast in the "hope that world leaders who know what is just and right will act immediately to end the suffering in Darfur and Sudan."
Other participants in the protest include Gloria White-Hammond, chairwoman of the Save Darfur Coalition; Pam Omidyar, founder of Humanity United; Shannon Sedgwick Davis of Bridgeway Foundation; Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service; Tzivia Schwartz Getzug of Jewish World Watch; Ellen Kennedy of Genocide Intervention Network-Minnesota; andGabriel Stauring, director of Stop Genocide Now.
You can get video and blog updates on the protest by going to www.fastdarfur.org.

April 29, 2009



28 April 2009

Ralia vs. Kalonzo…

and the winner is….


Kenya Speaker takes up crucial House job


NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 28 - Parliament Speaker Kenneth Marende has taken up the chairmanship of the House Business Committee (HBC) until President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga resolve the dispute.
The Speaker ruled on Thursday that he would await a unanimous communication from the government nominating the Leader of Government Business who will chair the crucial committee.

He said extra-ordinary situations called for extra-ordinary measures and pointed out that he was determined to unlock the business of Parliament which had been held hostage by the row pitting the Prime Minister and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.
"I therefore direct that the Clerk shall publish and circulate the business of the House as approved by the House Business Committee," he said.
Mr Marende reiterated his earlier statement that the Office of the Speaker could not unilaterally dictate to the Executive arm of government how it would conduct its parliamentary affairs.
The impasse was compounded when both principals snubbed the Speaker's invitation for dialogue to unlock the deadlock.
He said Speaker's office "would therefore await the name of one Minister consensually designated by the government as the Leader of Government Business."
"It is the expectation of this House that the designation will be made in good faith through consultation and willingness to compromise within a reasonable time," said Mr Marende.
In his ruling, the Speaker said Kenya now had a hybrid system of governance and traditions had to change due to the existence of a coalition government that required the spirit of the National Accord to be implemented and recognised by the Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
He further clarified that no law supersedes the Constitution contrary to opinion expressed by Lands Minister James Orengo who on Wednesday said provisions of the Accord were superior in the event of a conflict with the Constitution.
Mr Marende said the National Accord and Reconciliation Act was read as part of the Constitution since an amendment was made to constitutionalise it.
"No side can govern this country without the other, there must be real power sharing to move the country forward, to lead the country into recognition.  The Accord shall while in force be read as part of the constitution, the dichotomy between the constitution and the National Accord is not real, the two are read as one, indeed we have only one constitution of the republic of Kenya,"  Mr Marende ruled
He said also according to the Standing Orders, nomination of the Leader of Government Business remained the prerogative of the Executive and not Parliament.
But, he opined that Parliament could only express its opinion of the nominee.
Following the ruling, Parliament proceeded to adopt an amended list of nominees to the House Business Committee.
In the new list tabled by Co-Chief Whip George Thuo, five Cabinet Ministers were removed and substituted with fresh individuals.
Those replaced were Kiraitu Murungi, Shakila Abdalla, Esther Murugi, Moses Wetangula, Prof Anyang' Nyong'o and Henry Kosgey.
They were replaced by Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Beth Mugo, Martha Karua, Dr. Bonny Khalwale, Musikari Kombo and Dr Joyce Laboso.
The Motion was unanimously supported by MPs who also praised Mr Marende for his unbiased ruling.
Agriculture Minister William Ruto said the HBC should speedily come up with the agenda for Parliament in view of the Supplementary Budget that would enable the government secure money to pay for fertilizer and maize that it had purchased.
Internal Security Minister Prof George Saitoti also said the country had pressing issues such as famine, insecurity and reforms and asked the HBC to hasten a new agenda for the third session of Parliament.
Water Minister Charity Ngilu appealed to Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga to work out their mistrust since it was frustrating the country's development agenda.
Immediately after the early adjournment on Tuesday, members of the HBC including the Prime Minister and the Vice President met to work on Parliament's agenda.

It just keeps getting better

Key ruling in Kenya coalition row

Raila Odinga in Nairobi on 11 January 2008

Raila Odinga has said fresh elections may be needed

The Kenyan parliament's speaker is to rule on who will chair a key committee at the heart of the latest dispute to hit the fragile coalition government.

Both Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka say they must lead the House Business Committee.

It is the latest stand-off between the prime minister's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and President Mwai Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU).

The two parties agreed a power-sharing deal last year to end poll violence.

But relations have soured and crisis talks have failed to improve relations.


The president's allies say he has the power to decide who should hold the crucial position of leading government business in the house, but the prime minister's party disagrees.

The BBC's Josphat Makori in Nairobi says it is difficult to guess in whose favour the speaker could rule because such a dispute is unprecedented in the history of the country.


Dec 2007: Disputed elections spark ethnic violence

Feb 2008: Mediators broker power-sharing government pact

April: Unity cabinet naming delayed amid last-minute dispute

5 Jan 2009: Odinga holds crisis talks; says ODM being sidelined

13 Jan: Inquiry amid claims of agriculture ministry maize cartels

4 April: Kilanguni retreat collapses in disarray

6 April: Odinga labels Kibaki's governing style "primitive"

15 April: Odinga tells Kibaki ODM will boycott cabinet meetings

26 April: Odinga says fresh elections may be needed

Does Kenya need new elections?

He says the ODM wants to bring the contest to parliament in order to use its majority to try to have its way.

Our correspondent says this row matters because it has virtually paralysed the business of parliament.

Mr Musyoka used to be a senior ODM official but split to form his own party - ODM-Kenya - and is now seen as close to the president.

The prime minister recently complained that the vice-president should not be getting paid more than him.

Mr Odinga - who has claimed he is being sidelined in the unity government - has said fresh elections may be needed if the rift cannot be solved.

Over the weekend, President Kibaki's party accused the ODM of "fomenting a coup".

Earlier this month, Mr Odinga's party said it would boycott cabinet meetings, leading to inconclusive crisis talks.

The prime minister recently complained at a public rally that no red carpet or toilet were provided for him during an official visit.

About 1,500 people were killed and 300,000 forced from their homes after Mr Odinga's supporters said he had been cheated of victory in the December 2007 presidential election.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan managed to broker a power-sharing deal in February 2008, which ended the violence.

27 April 2009

“My name is Rembe…”

is what she said, but what I heard was, “my name is Rainbow.”  Therefore the adorable girl who is no older than five that lives behind us is now called Rainbow.  Michael finally made her spell it and she said, “R-E-M-B-E, Rainbow (in her super r-rolling accent).”   Pictures to come soon.

As seen in the article I posted earlier, the government does not seem to be improving.  There are mass killings in the middle of the country and a failed coalition government.  Keep an eye out for Kenya news, things do not seem to be improving.  Fresh elections are nearly impossible, but the peace accord that formed the new government and stopped the post-election violence is coming apart in every direction.

Tonight I rest up so that I can make it a little later to watch some football with Neto tomorrow night.

News of the Day from VOA

Kenyan Prime Minister Ready For New Elections

By Derek Kilner
27 April 2009

Raila Odinga (file photo)

Raila Odinga (file photo)

A dispute between the partners in Kenya's coalition government over who should hold a key position in parliament continues to grow. Prime Minister Raila Odinga has now said he is ready for new elections if the dispute is not resolved.
Ever since Kenya's coalition government was formed last year, in the aftermath of disputed presidential elections, tensions between the country's two main parties have been high.
But for the first time, Prime Minister Raila Odinga has raised the possibility of holding early elections, an option that both he and President Mwai Kibaki have quickly dismissed on previous occasions.
The latest dispute concerns who should head the parliament's government business committee, which sets the legislative agenda. President Kibaki has appointed Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, but Odinga maintains that he should have the job, since his Orange Democratic Movement holds a majority in parliament.
Odinga stands firm
On Sunday, Odinga addressed supporters in Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum, which Odinga represents in parliament.
"We have been pushed enough already," he said. "We cannot retreat any further. We will stand firm. If the other side does not give in, we will go back to the ballot."
The Orange Democratic Movement has long complained that it has been sidelined in making key decisions and appointments by the president's Party of National Unity.
Civilian coup?
Musyoka, meanwhile, has called Odinga's efforts "illegal" and "unconstitutional." The Party of National Unity has released a statement accusing the Orange Democratic Movement of plotting a "civilian coup."
Meanwhile, cabinet meetings were canceled for the third consecutive week, and discussion of legislation in parliament has come to a standstill.
House speaker Kenneth Marende is set to rule on the issue on Tuesday.

Is Kenya ready for elections?
PLO Lumumba, a lecturer in law at the University of Nairobi, says Kenya is far from prepared to hold new elections.
"The country is definitely not ready for elections. We must have a new electoral commission, a new electoral register. You need a census you need to punish those who perpetrated the post-election violence," Lumumba said.
Ethnic and political violence following the last election in December, 2007 left over 1200 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. Many observers say there is concern the government has, so far, done little to avoid the possibility of more violence when elections are held again.

26 April 2009


Not much to say for today.  Played soccer with the boys again and am now thoroughly tired.  The newspapers do not paint a positive picture about the state of the coalition government.  With gang violence in the center of the country and the inability to agree on anything, the stability of Kenya does not look strong.  In Nairobi, I overheard two university students discuss the fact that people are buying up gun so as to be prepared for the worst.  One was saying that machetes would not be the weapon of choice this time around.  The violence was terrible a year ago, but it seems that nobody wants to be caught off guard.

I do not fear for my safety in any way, but I am sure that things are not well in Kenya.  Maybe I will be lucky enough to make it through the year with no problems, but I do not see any sort of sustainable solution when it comes to this government.  I am not well versed in this subject, but a civil war will eventually happen.  It may take a decade, but with all of this youth and dissatisfied public long term stability is an impossibility.

It is strange to live in a place where everything is set upon a weak foundation.  There is nothing that makes me feel confident about the politicians, the constitution, the police, or the economy.  All sleep in the same bed as corruption, greed and self-interest.  The people of this nation are left to fend for themselves.  What is worse is the fact that Kenya is one of the more stable nations of the third world.  DR Congo, Sudan, Somolia, etc. are all much worse off.  Madagascar is being run by a DJ who took over in a bloodless coup.  The financial crisis that has wrecked the lives of many people does not compare to what the post-election violence has done to this country.  All is relative, I understand, but I lose pity each day.  All I read about from the Economist or the New Yorker is about the financial situation of the west.  Companies on the brink of failure and so called ‘socialist’ measures being taken to solve the problem.  There are no bailouts in Malava or for the majority of this continent.  I have lost sympathy for multi millionaires who have taken major losses.  Their quality of life is still at the top.  I have been struck by living in a place where entitlement does not exist.  Basic rights are withheld here, and people go on with a great smile.  It is not indifference or lack of education, but joy of living.  As I said yesterday, problems abound and alcohol is the the main culprit.  However, time away from home has put American life into perspective.  I am still unsure of what this all means, but a profound shift is taking place.  As I live with less concern about material wealth, I have found much more in what I cannot buy.  I have become more perceptive, more aware of the people I meet and the dirt upon which I walk.  I think the change of lifestyle has made it so I can do this.  I wake up and put on clean clothes, that is all that matters.  My choices of style are limited and I do not care much about what I am going to wear.  How I decorate myself does not alter who I am.  If I let it matter than I am the cause for the change.  I can only describe it in terms of being rather than doing.  The change is in that.  I am less concerned with what I do and more concerned with being.  In Mexico, I met a group of priests who lived in a slum and one of them said that his goal was simply to ”be with the people.”  I thought it was a wonderful statement and only now do I actually get it.  The most I can ever do in my time in Kenya is be.  It has been a struggle to accept this, but I am doing my best to embrace it.  So far, it has produced rewards that I will not begin to understand until I am back home.

25 April 2009

Old Malava Bridge

This will be all out of order, but bare with me.  This evening was the opening night of “Old Malava Bridge.”  Where football dreams are built and played out in a courtyard with shirts a clothesline, a chicken coup in the northwest corner, wall to the north, poles to the east, and a half wall in the south west corner.  The players range from five to twelve for the Kenyans and a giant twenty-four year old American.  The game is not traditional in any sense.  A much smaller ball is used to make things more chaotic with only one rule: kick the ball when it comes near.  Possession is key, but a strong slam off the wall is equally as productive.  Keep the ball from each other and do not provide any help.  If you are bigger , use your strength to get by the smaller player.  Beware of clotheslines, poles, walls and planks.  Do not forget that the ground is concrete, not grass.  Footwear is either flip flops or sandals.  If your shoes are a problem, kick them off anywhere and continue playing.  Opening night went off with a bang.  By the way, Chelsea won 1-0 and Man U is down 0-2 at the half.

For dinner/lunch, we went to the petrol station for chicken and chapatti.  Then it was off to the Frisa Bar to meet with Ben who made our custom made ottomans.  We relaxed at the bar and met some more of the town’s characters.  We chatted with the man who is the driver/bodyguard for the local MP and heard my favorite quote so far in Kenya: “You should not worry about that man.  He is very drunk.  You know, drinking makes you mad.  After a few drinks any person becomes mad.”  There was a study that came out recently saying that Western province has the most significant problem concerning drinking amongst young people (35 an below).  We just beat out Nairobi which has the world’s largest slum.  I now understand after seeing some of the people at the bar today.  There are many bars in Malava, too many for such a small town.  Drunkards are seen all over, but today the problem played out in front of me in such a way that no longer allowed me to act as if it did not have a grip on this town.  Drinking is as much a part of the day for men (and some women) in Malava as is eating ugali for a meal (“[A meal] does not count if there is no ugali with it” – Sr. Joy).  The statement by the man at the bar was right on in terms of what alcohol does to people here.  Madness grows out of the abuse of the substance that can grip a person in such a way that he will spend his day around the matatu stand looking to make a quick shilling to spend on a drink in the afternoon (or morning for some).  Poverty only makes this cycle more attainable when there are little or no job options for young people.  I read today that over 3/4 of Kenya’s population is under the age of 35.  Despite that, the retirement age has been pushed back five years.  More youth graduate college and are without jobs.  Imagine the current US job market, here that would be a God-send.  Jobs do not exist, specifically ones that can utilize twentysomethings with a college degree.  Highly motivated people are left to associate with the very people they worked so hard to create distance from.

In the morning we watched the Matrix movies and then the Sixth Sense.  Tomorrow looks to be more playing with the boys in the courtyard.  We still are getting new faces each day.  It was nice to run around and play a sport for once.  In August I may have the chance to play on a local team with Neto.  He says he will try to organize one with his friends from around town and then we can have a St. Julie’s team.  I do miss competitive activity and look to playing here.

24 April 2009

Rest Day

With the recovery from vacation still not completed, I gladly enjoyed the day off.  I sat and read my New Yorkers in the morning and then went on to Kakamega with Sue for her birthday lunch.  Then a little shopping and back home to watch a little of the Matrix before Sue’s birthday dinner with the nuns.  I can’t get enough of free birthday meals when it is somebody’s birthday.


On the matatu ride home I saw a brilliant thunderhead to the west.  Thunderheads have become more prevalent as the rains have arrived and somehow form into individual monstrosities.  It stood alone from the rest, untouched, like a great plume from an erupting volcano frozen with the coldness of the atmosphere.  It grew upwards in levels that resembled a cheap ice cream cone that you can get at Dairy Queen.  Each level grows out of the previous with distinct lines delineating where one begins and the next ends.  At the top an explosiveness that comes from the built up growth below.  It moved in a way, growing, like an atomic bomb in hyper slow motion. 

I have found that I now enjoy waiting for things.  I like having unplanned time to wait and be left with my own thoughts.  I see it as some sort of forced meditation that I have no choice in entering due to circumstance.  Life here is all about waiting.  Everything moves slowly and there is no expectation for someone to drop whatever he may be doing to help you out.  This is not a service country with entitlement to attention.  You will be helped in due time, you will be checked out in due time, you will get home in due time.  There is nothing that drives people to feel the need to fulfill this unnecessary and unnatural action.  There is more community and less I.  Often it is thought that the people of Africa and Kenya must learn what we do because it is right, but maybe we do not have it completely right.  Maybe by having a service industry we have created the server and the customer.  How can people have a relationship when one believes that the other is meant to serve his or her whims.  A waiter is not below anyone and should not be treated as such.  However, it becomes striking to see people hound a waiter on the coast because he has not been to their table within five minutes of their sitting down.  The expectation of the immediacy of service is a burden, speed an impediment.  Polepole things will get done in due time.  I have only begun to learn the extent of this in my few months, but it has given me a new perspective.  I have accepted everything to be right, in terms of lifestyle, when the fact is that I know nothing.  My understanding now, as I write this remains diminutive.

I swear that it all makes sense in my head…

Well, now time passed and now it seems
Everybody's having them dreams.
Everybody sees themselves walkin' around with no one else.
Half of the people can be part right all of the time,
Some of the people can be all right part of the time.
But all the people can't be all right all the time
I think Abraham Lincoln said that.
"I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours,"
I said that.

-Bob Dylan “Talkin’ World War III Blues”

Happy Birthday Zoo!

23 April 2009

Language Barrier

Swahili lessons picked back up and I still have a long way to go with this language.  I felt semi-confident in Mombasa with the little I knew, but today set me straight.  As I learn more verbs I have come to understand more, but every time I think I am getting far it only takes a small conversation to prove that I know nothing.

The work week has come to an end via a slow but steady day at the SJC.  Sue had to pick up lab results in Kakamega, so I was left to my own devices in the office.  Doing both of our stuff kept me generally busy until it was time for chai and chapatti.  I am encouraged by the fact that the kids have grown to not only recognize me, but smile upon arriving and seeing me.  It has taken awhile and nothing more than time has been my greatest aid.  Being away for vacation did not set me back in any sense in terms of the centre.  I would like to get better with my Swahili so that I can better communicate with them.  Play is one thing, but that can only go so far.  The more verbal ones will try to say things to me and I can only smile and nod.  I will get a little bit here and there, but have no clue what they are telling me.  It is a bit of game at this point where we converse in different languages with each not understanding the other.

Upon arrival from work kids arrived just as I was unlocking the front door.  I had to send them away because of our lesson, but Michael has now dubbed afternoons as “T Murphy’s Malava Youth Centre.”  We will see how far this goes and if more and more keep showing up.  For awhile a group of girls sat in the courtyard and watched as Michael shaved.  We have had an audience for a lot of things, but I think that was a first.


  • Tons of new birds pour in what seems like every day.  I plan on going to the rainforest to see some of the ones that have migrated here for the rains and that I have yet to see.  There are numerous sunbirds and Yellow Wagtails (look them up, the yellow and black is stunning).
  • Packages can be expensive to receive.  I have been lucky so far, the same cannot be said for others who have had to pay as much as $40 in customs fees.  Do what my grandfather advised, stay vague.
  • Bought a Rose Muhando video cd in Kisumu, favorite purchase in Kenya, hands down.
  • Saw Obama cell phones at the Nakumatt in Kisumu, still open for orders.  Will work if your phone company uses SIM cards.
  • I got a haircut and it was done by a man who I am convinced thought himself to be the Da Vinci of hair.  He was precise and terrified.  I was his masterpiece that deserved the finest care.  The whole cut was done by a single set of hair clippers.  Do not worry, he took care of my beard and shaved it by rubbing baby powder on my face and then slowly shaving.  After that was a nice edge up, you know to make me have an official Kenyan hair cut with no widows peak.   An alcohol rub where the fine cutting too place. To finish up, a heated bowl of water, towel dipped in and rubbed on my head and face to clean the finished product.  All this for $1.25.


22 April 2009

Happy Earth Day!

It took me thousands of miles to gain a real appreciation for what surrounds me.  Take the day to see what has always been there.

An appropriate quote thanks to my mom:

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere..

-Vincent VanGogh

Mungiki Madness

Based on earlier posts, the morning did not start on an up beat.  The Mungiki related killings around Nairobi have been felt all the way up here in Western.  There is no real concern in this area.  We are away from the gang and since it is tribal based (kikuyu) there is even less concern.  I believe that things are only going to get worse concerning the killings by both villagers and gang members.  We talked about it a bit at work and the newspaper was just as disturbing to staff members and parents.  Here we are able to see the outcome of such killings in the news.  Tasteful shots are not taken as bodies are shown bloodied in a large picture blow giant print reading “Mungiki Massacre” with more pictures inside.  The reality of the deaths is inescapable.  There were lamentations about the government and police that I have come to notice as more of a part of every day discourse rather than isolated frustrations.  There is absolutely no confidence in any sort of organized authority from any person I speak with or listen to.  I do not fear for compete instability, but I am not sure if we have seen the worst of this ordeal.  I can only hope that  a peaceful solution can be found.  However, after being harassed by gang members for years, people seem to be more willing to take the law into their own hands.  I often feel as if I am living out some sort of western movie out in Kenya and there is no shortage of bad gangs and towns willing to put their foot down.  We need the man with no name, that would solve all of the problems.

After work I went over to do the accounts at the compound and arrived home to see a full blown kids center in our courtyard.  I got some new toys for the boys and it seems like a whole gang of kids were playing with them.  What was once a small group of three or so regulars has now expanded to a flow of twenty with as many as 15 in our courtyard at once.  Some draw, others kick around a small soccer ball, some throw a tennis ball and most hang around.  We have discussed working on expanding this to meet the needs of the kids and give them a little bit more.  Since they are on break from school, they have a ton of free time that is spent roaming town.  It might be a good thing for them to not only have a place to go, but a place where they can play and be children.  Often many are working on the farms or caring for younger siblings and seem to have little time for play.  Maybe we can help provide a small outlet for a few kids around Malava.  There is no intention to give anything away, but maybe just provide a few things and a place to be.  I will be on top of it with pictures on Friday, when I imagine that they will spending the whole day playing in our courtyard.

Mungiki kill villagers in night raid

Wananchi in Gathaithi village in Nyeri East, Central Province, Kenya view the bodies of some of the 28 people who were killed by Mungiki sect members on April 21, 2009. Photo/ JOSEPH KANYI

Wananchi in Gathaithi village in Nyeri East, Central Province, Kenya view the bodies of some of the 28 people who were killed by Mungiki sect members on April 21, 2009. Photo/ JOSEPH KANYI 

By PATRICK NZIOKA and JOHN NJAGIPosted Tuesday, April 21 2009 at 21:31


  • The Mungiki are believed to have regrouped in Karatina after villagers, fed up with the sect’s tyranny and extortion, had smoked them out.
  • Youths from Gathaithi village armed with pangas and rungus, on learning of the attack, started patrols of the area even before the provincial security team left.
  • Police say that 62 suspects, who had been arrested, would be charged with the killings.

They crept out of the night like ghouls, dozens of Mungiki followers, the axes, pangas and rungus in their hands betraying their intentions: to kill.

In their wake, they left devastated families, mutilated bodies and a despairing sense that the spreading pools of blood could well cover the whole land.

The sect had regrouped to retaliate the killing of 14 of its members by vigilantes. They selected Gathaithi village in Nyeri East District in Kenya's Central Province and planned mass murder with cold blooded precision.

Central provincial police boss John M’Mbijjiwe said: “The attackers burnt a house to attract as many villagers as possible and then lay in wait for them and butchered them.”

At 2.30am, they set the house on fire, burning to death two of the occupants, and lay in wait for villagers to respond to the cries of distress.

When the villagers and vigilantes came out to help, the Mungiki set on them, one after the other as they arrived at the burning house, hacking 18 to death on the spot with axes and machetes and abducting seven others. Seven were also killed at Kiaruhiu trading centre.

In the cold light of the mountain morning, the village was a scene from hell: there were bodies strewn all over, with cuts in every part, some with throats slit. And the soil was spotted with blood.

The Mungiki are believed to have regrouped in Karatina after villagers, fed up with the sect’s tyranny and extortion, had smoked them out. The attack came barely an hour after a police patrol had passed through the village.

There had been rumours that the sect was regrouping to avenge the killing of its members by villagers and the police had stepped up patrols.

Extreme violence

The village had a well-organised group of youths to guard it from the Mungiki. The vigilantes even had a code name – Bantu – which they used to identify each other in the dark. The sect had investigated all that and used the same code to confuse the vigilantes.

Distraught villagers, numb with fear and horror, watched silently as Central provincial commissioner Japhter Rugut and the entire security team viewed the bodies of the victims where they lay, before they were transferred to Karatina Hospital Mortuary.

Villagers said they were shocked by the brutality and extreme violence with which the Mungiki massacred locals. Bodies had many deep cuts and some bodies had limbs completely severed. The body parts littered footpaths and the surrounding area.

In the burnt house was a body that was completely consumed by the flames. Another was partially burnt and deep cuts on the head were clearly discernible. Detectives thought the victim was killed as he tried to escape the fire.

The owner of the house, 70-year-old Esther Wangui Mathenge, said the two were her farmhands. The two, she said, were from the neighbouring Kirinyaga District, where some Mungiki members have in the recent past been lynched.

At Kiaruhiu trading centre, the Nation counted seven bodies, all male, while at Gathaithi, scene of the massacre, there were 18 bodies, some of them hidden in tea bushes.

The killings took place on both sides of River Wamuthambi, which divides Nyeri East and Kirinyaga West. Here the Mungiki has been extorting a toll on households, traders and matatu owners.

Central provincial police officer John M’Mbijjiwe said 62 suspects, who had been arrested, would be charged with the killings.

In an ominous sign that this is far from over, local youths armed with pangas and rungus, on learning of the attack, started patrols of the area even before the provincial security team left.

They swore they would kill all Mungiki members in their midst, but were warned by Mr Rugut against taking the law in their hands.

Tension was so high that a man who was injured in the attack and hid in a tea plantation in Mathaithi village was nearly hacked to death by the villagers when he came out of hiding. He was later taken to hospital.

The PC condemned the killings and asked Mungiki members to abandon their life of crime and surrender to the authorities.

The attackers started their mission at Ms Mathenge’s house, where they smashed windows and roughed up the elderly woman, accusing her of sympathising with villagers who are out to finish Mungiki.

At the timber house where her workers slept, they killed one worker and set it on fire with two inside. On Tuesday, Ms Mathenge was still in shock and could not even remember the names of her workers.

Twenty two-year-old Jemimah Wanjira was in the house that was burnt. Her husband, who was in the house with her, is missing and is yet to be found.

“They started throwing stones at the house but when my husband came out, they started hitting him up with pangas. They later flushed me out together with my two children and ordered me to sit on the grass as they torched the house,” she said.

Ms Mathenge said the man who was burnt beyond recognition was Ms Wanjira’s husband.


Kenyan Town Strikes Back Against Its Tormenters


Published: April 21, 2009

KARATINA, Kenya — Just after dusk on Monday, the residents gathered, armed with clubs, machetes and traditional spears.

They said they were sick of paying extortion taxes, sick of fearing for their girls and sick of living under the thumb of the Mungiki, an intensely secretive Kenyan group that is part street gang, part Mafia, with an added touch of the occult.

And so the people of Karatina decided to strike back. Under the cover of darkness, a mob of hundreds of young men who were paid by elders, according to several residents, swept across this lush green tea-growing area that seems more like a slice of Eden than a killing field and rounded up dozens of men suspected of being Mungiki members.

The mob pummeled the men suspected of being thugs, and this normally tranquil spot exploded into a melee of killings and counterkillings that left nearly 30 people dead. Witnesses said some victims were beaten beyond recognition.

The evidence was on display on Tuesday. The mud roads were still sticky with blood, and children carefully tiptoed around the broken sticks tipped in red.

“You know how it is,” said Joseph Wambui, a gasoline vendor in Karatina. “When a mob gathers, there is no stopping them.”

The violence on Monday was one of the first times that a community in Kenya had risen up in such an organized way to drive out the Mungiki, which seems to thrive in rural areas and overcrowded slums where the Kenyan government does not quite reach.

Mob justice is often the people’s answer to law enforcement, but this episode seemed to mark a new level of vigilantism, and the authorities are worried that things may spin out of control.

“We don’t want anybody to take revenge,” said Eric Kiraithe, a Kenyan police spokesman. “We’re just asking for people to tell us who the criminals are and we will arrest them.”

The Mungiki seems to be protected by a wall of silence. Few in this town, about 70 miles north of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, wanted to say anything about the gang. The Mungiki is part of the community’s fabric. Several residents said in hushed tones that they did not know who was a member and who was not. It is not like the Mungiki’s members wear uniforms, they said.

The Mungiki started in the 1980s as a self-defense force for the Kikuyu ethnic group, Kenya’s largest. Gang members modeled themselves after the Mau Mau, Kenya’s independence fighters who wore dreadlocks, took secret oaths and waged a hit-and-run guerrilla war against British colonizers.

By the late 1990s, the Mungiki went urban, taking over Nairobi’s minibus trade. Then it diversified into garbage collection, building materials and eventually the protection racket.

In Karatina, a predominantly Kikuyu area, the Mungiki extorted a dollar a day from bicycle taxi drivers, police officials said. The gang made women who sell freshly squeezed milk by the roadside hand over 20 percent of their profits. Anyone who wanted to build a stone house, a luxury here, had to pay the gang $15.

“If you didn’t pay, they killed you,” said Wachira Muthiga, an electrician.

The Mungiki is blamed for dozens of beheadings, and its members are widely believed to drink blood as part of their initiation rituals.

On Tuesday, many Karatina residents were bracing for revenge.

One boy was even sleeping with his friends in the forest, scared that the Mungiki would come and pluck him out of bed.

“We’re in grave danger,” he said.

The police were sending in reinforcements, and on Tuesday evening, a truckload of heavily armed officers rumbled into town. A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed. But few people seemed willing to test the darkness. This time, when the sun set, the mud roads were clear.


21 April 2009

Finding my swing

Two weeks away from here has thrown me a bit off kilter.  I was really hitting my stride when we packed up for the coast.  Now, back to Malava, I have to re-discover my routine.  This morning I went to the Honey Drop for mandazi and chai with Sue and reported to work.  I had new toys in tow from my trip to Kisumu and Nairobi and also additional stuff from my packages.  I was glad to be back at the centre where I could make fun of Neto and David for being Man U fans and kid around with Angela about anything.  I was semi-busy catching up on the past weeks registration.  The centre was busy but with babies.  We did not finish until 2pm.

I am also still recovering from vacation.  I woke up tired and need to catch up on rest.  We stayed in nice hotels in Mombasa and a beautiful retreat centre in Nairobi, but my best sleep was last night back in my room without a television, or bathroom, or air conditioning, or nice mattress, or pillow without lumps.  I found myself more at ease as I moved to a reclined position with the rain pounding the roof in a manner that used to keep me awake.  Malava is very much my home in Kenya and I am now certain after last night.  I had felt a disconnection due to my nationality, race, and language, but last night and today changed that feeling.  The boys rushed to see us when we arrived and asked about our trip.  In town people came up and welcomed us back.  Some even said that they missed us.  I do not take these statements as a personal attachment to the people who said it, but it is significant in terms of my place in Malava.  I was surprised to see that people were actually happy to have us back.  Some may have thought we were not going to return.  It is easy to recognize the tall white guy in Kenya and notice when he is missing, but I really do think that we are beginning to become a part of the community.  Shop owners asked how my trip went and thanked me for coming back to Malava and the shop.  I hope that if and when people come to visit they will get a chance to see this town and meet some of the people.  Michael and I laugh at the fact that we could cast a film around the characters in town, but it is part of the charm.

I longed to be in a city again for vacation and I wanted to go back home when I got there.  There is something about a small space with a large population that has always bothered me.  To me, a city is like a club/bar.  It is far too crowded, you get no sense of space nor population.  People bump into each other, tension runs high, violence is prevalent, superficial fleeting relationships are formed.  There is no time to talk let alone think.  The noise is relentless and nausea-inducing.  Yes, you can have a quick thrill here and there, but it is not a place to frequent or spend an extended period.  Some will swear by both, but you can give me the mountains, birds, homes, green and people of the countryside.

Thank You

Poppy, Rose, Kiirsten and Carrie, for all of your packages that I got today.

20 April 2009

Back to Malava

and back to my daily routine of posting.

We flew back this morning on a 7:15am flight from Nairobi to Kisumu.  Getting up early was not terribly fun, but the quick arrival in Kisumu made the early start more bearable.  We shot over to the Mega City Nakumatt to pick up anything that we knew we could not get in Kakamega or Malava.  Michael and I stayed to do some serious shopping because we had nothing in our house and a few needs.  In the end, we were able to buy some good cooking items that we had been unable to find anywhere (asian sauces, large size Heinz and French’s, knives that do not break, etc.).  With a large toy section, I loaded up on toys and games to bring to the SJC tomorrow.  We need to improve our toy lending library desperately and I had yet to see any viable toy options in the area.  Nakumatt took care of that problem.  Now the children will have new toy cars and Barbies that are not white.  We contemplated seeing a movie, but decided to get and rug and Michael made the great leap into laptop ownership.  With two important items which could not be left unattended, we set off for home (finally).  Of course, before disembarking, we had our last ‘western’ meal for awhile: pizza.

We took a tuk tuk over to the matatu stand and were attacked the moment we arrived.  There were literally fights taking place as the men pulled and grabbed at our bags (really anything attached or on use that could be held) to take us to their matatu.  Michael was unfortunate enough to be the first one out and the one who had to deal with most of this.  He eyed up the one he wanted and moved as quickly as he could considering the resistance in all directions.  I had to politely decline a few and boarded the full matatu.  Since it was going to Kitale we knew that Malava was likely to be the first stop.  The nice thing about being a mzungu in Kenya is that the matatu drivers will do just about anything to have you ride in theirs.  Kitale is a good 4 hours from Kisumu, a little more than half way between is Malava.  Knowing that they would stop for us, we went for a more direct matatu rather than the ones that service Kakamega. 

Michael and I squeezed into the back with bags on our laps and long legs pushing against the seats in front.  The trip was tight but I think my nostalgia for matatu’s allowed for me to enjoy the majority.  Next to me was a mother and her young son.  As she slept, he bobbed up and down to look outside and see the big white dude sitting next to him.  I will try to highlight his reactions to everything that took place once we hit Kakamega, because I think he summed up my frustrations.

Just short of Kakamega we pulled over because the car was making a strange noise.  The conductor checked quickly and then we went on.  The young boy who was happy the entire time began to grow restless.  He moved around more and was no longer able to stay in a single position for much longer than five minutes.  A few kilometers later the sound was much louder and troublesome.  We pulled over again and this time the driver joined the conductor to have a look.  All I could see was that the conductor was laying down under the car and making some attempt to repair the problem.  They boy began to whine to his mother and beg for something to drink.  I did not help the situation by having a large Pepsi on the side of my bag (that I am currently drinking) (Pepsi is super rare and costs more than Coke, so it is my small splurge considering that I like it better anyways).  His whines turn to cries as he begs and pleads with his mother.  She relents by giving him something to eat.  Happiness is fleeting when given something other than what you really want.  He turned to sobs complaining of heat.  The solution: he stipped down to only his socks.  So next to me is a naked 3 year old crying and eating a piece of bread.  Matatu fixed, driver and conductor back, we pull out and smash.  The quick fix was indeed quick, but not at all a fix.  I came to the assumption that it must be the muffler or something underneath that has come unattached and is dragging on the tarmac below.  The boy cries, naked.  After 5 minutes we pull over.  The doors are opened and a few get out to stretch their legs.  I contemplate putting my bag in my seat, stepping over my bag in the aisle and standing outside.  My lack of decisiveness turned out to be a curse as the door was soon slammed and the car was jacked up.  For some reason it is smart to do this in a semi-full van.  Now more serious repairs can take place and I am stuck in the matatu until they are done.  The boy has not stopped crying as he sits on his mothers lap with only heather grey socks that have three strips: royal blue, white, royal blue.  With a thud the car drops, doors back open, everyone in and onwards to Malava.  The boy stopped his cries and just looked plain cranky. 

Finally back home, Michael and I brought our bags to the house.  As I chatted with the boys, Michael went to collect our house key from Fr. Alfred.  He was asleep but had to be somewhere by 5pm (it was just before 4), so we could get our key then.  We got a few toys for the boys, so I took them out and let them play as we waited.  I showed them how to use the wind up cars by pulling them back on the ground and letting go.  Then we kicked around a new mini-soccer ball that I got for them.  I explained that they toys were meant to stay here and could be used whenever they visit but had to be returned.  I will see how well this all works out.  At around five, Michael went back to the house to see Father.  He came back at 6 with no keys.  It was not until 6:45 that we gained entry into our home.  I have yet to unpack anything and do not intend to do so until tomorrow.

Congrats to Betsy, Katie and all the runners at the Boston marathon.  Looks like USA had a strong showing in both the men’s and women’s races (Kenya did manage to do better).

Good Luck Katie and Betsy!

Marathon Monday in Boston and I want to send luck across the Atlantic to all the runners.

19 April 2009


Retreat has ended and tomorrow we return to Malava.  We are catching a ride to the airport at 5:45 for a 7:15 flight that will arrive in Kisumu at 8am.  A little bit of shopping to resupply ourselves and the 2+ hr ride home to Malava.


18 April 2009

Kenyan man bites python in epic battle of survival

By Jackson Mvunganyi
Washington D.C
17 April 2009

DSC00321 The phone call came in the early morning hours. Daniel Nyassy a local reporter in Malinda District in Kenya's Coast province was summoned by the local police chief. The story; a local farmer bites python in an hour long battle of survival. The victim of the snake attack is local farmer Ben Nyaumbe.
He was preparing dinner when the python attacked him and coiled itself around him in a death grip.
The farmer who according to Nyassy was visibly shaken and bruised recounted the hallowing details of the attack. The area farmers are used the pythons. They usually come looking for goats and chicken. This time the farmer was the victim of the attack.
Farm manager Ben Nyaumbe recounted that he was dragged up the tree as he struggled to free himself. He then got the idea to bite the snake. He told Nyassy that the python "waggled its tail on my mouth. I had to bite it as I struggled, one hand incapacitated,"

He was able to free his hand to make a phone call to his boss, who responded with two police officers. The snake was then taken to the police station whereupon it was transferred to a local snake farm. Kenya wildlife authority prohibits the killing of the snakes "unless it bites someone" Nyassy says.

"Malindi has multiple snake farms where the snakes are reared for commercial purposes" says Nyassy.

By the time he went to visit the snake farm, the python had escaped. "Surprising enough the snake was nowhere to be seen"   He says. According to rumor around the area, it is very likely that the snake was earlier in the day sold on the burgeoning black market in python skin. "It is likely that it had escaped from its owner." He adds

"I am surprised at the amount of attention the story has received…given that here in Kenya,snake attacks are a common thing" He says. Still the story has taken on a life of its own,with lots of interest by internet readers touting the courage of the farmer.

Retreat in Pictures

I walked around a bit today on our retreat. Nothing to report or write about, but there are many beautiful flowers and cool birds. So with Beethoven's 9th I walked about snapping photos as I walked the grounds.

Playing Around


Moonscape at Tiwi Beach

17 April 2009

Some Catch-up (List Form)

  • Writing from Nairobi.  Arrived at 10:30 via train from Mombasa.  We departed last night at 7pm.  For about $40 you can take an overnight train in either direction with a bed, bedding, dinner and breakfast.  It was worth every dollar.  The walkway is extremely narrow (the width of my shoulders) and makes for an interesting battle of ground when faced with a person in your path.  The windows slid down so I could stick my head out like a dog and enjoy the breeze.  I got a solid six hours of uninterrupted sleep but woke at the break of dawn.  The nice thing about a train is it is a place to sleep and that you can walk around.  The fun part is traveling longer distances as your body is thrown from side to side against the windows and doors.  I imagined it to be a fun house where I had to race from one point to the next.  This made the passageway from one car to another (where it seems to be held together by accordion paper) a treat.  I saw the sun rise over the hills as we climbed up to Nairobi and took in the wild zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, and impalas.  And now I am here, at Racecourse, hanging out before our retreat.
  • Due to a conflict, we were unable to go to the Aberdares.  That meant we were forced to stay in a nice hotel in Mombasa.  Michael and I wandered about the city more. 
  • I did a solo trip one day to get into the heart of old town.  I find it more rewarding to forge a path that is unplanned.  I wandered through alleys and took the time to soak in what I would consider to be the real Mombasa.  The tourist spots are nice, but I felt like I was missing something after our first leg in the city.  Walking about gave me a better sense of daily life.  In particular, daily Muslim life.  I walked for a few hours and then walked into a place for lunch that looked to be crowded with natives.  My choice turned out to be great for my stomach and my wallet.  I had fresh fried fish and chapatti for $4.
  • I was introduced to shwarma by Michael, I am hooked.  We found a great place that makes it and frequented it during our stay.
  • Castle Royal hotel has great service, wonderful rooms, air conditioning, a big breakfast and SuperSport 3 (explained next).  All for a great price.
  • SuperSport 3 was on the tv in my room.  That meant the ability to watch my Chelsea blues take down Liverpool.  I also got to see Barca, Man U and Arsenal win their matches.  I will have to watch the UEFA semis with Neto at the Imax in Malava.  Soccer is now one of my favorite sports and my allegiance lies with Chelsea (and USA in next year’s world cup which I guarantee to be a quarters showing).
  • The coast was a perfect vacation, but I am ready to get home to Malava.  I also got my passport stamped to help prove my residency for the remainder of my time in Kenya. 
  • Our retreat is this weekend.  It will be nice to have a real period for reflection. 
  • Save a motorcycle, I have taken every form of transportation available in this country.
  • 3G internet is amazingly fast compared to what I am used to in Malava.  I do not even know what I will do when I return to the states and have super-speed internet and not worry about MB usage.
  • Went to a crocodile farm in Nayali yesterday.  They farm the crocs for food and skin products to be made in Italy.  The guide told us that there were 10,000 crocs at the farm.  By the way, they come from the Nile River and get up towards 5m long.  We then got the chance to see some of the babies (pictured in the post below pictures of me are not included because Sue took them on her camera).  Afterword, we saw some snakes and spiders.  The guide offered to see the python and I jumped at the chance.  You can see my doing my best Britney Spears impression amongst the pictures.  Then we finished up eating crocodile.  Tastes like a lobster/chicken blend.
  • The stars last night were like nothing else.  I am sure that there was more white than black in the sky.
  • Found blue cheese and brie to be eaten with Carr crackers and loved every bite of them.

Nile Nile Crocodile

A View from the Train

13 April 2009

Fast & Furious: Mombasa Nights

Back in Mombasa before heading out.  We have hit a bit of a snag in our plans due to the fact that everything is closed today.  Easter Monday is a national holiday in Kenya and all businesses are closed.  This means that tomorrow we will run about to find out what will be next.  It seems that things tend to go as such and I have become used to it.

Saw Fast and Furious at the movie theatre tonight.  Was a nice taste of home.  The place was nice and it was a good escape for a few hours.  Then it was back to the hotel for the night.  I shall report about what will take place next as soon as we make a decision.


Tiwi and Mombasa in Pictures

12 April 2009

In List Form

  • Staying at the Twiga Lodge in Tiwi Beach.  Accommodations are basic but not a problem when paying about $12 a night.  We have beach front, a bar and decent food to eat.  Vacation is not cheap in Malava terms, but dirt cheap when compared to any other vacation I have been on.
  • Ate at Ali Barbour’s Cave restaurant.  Went big and got some sort of seafood platter.  Lobster is still good on this side of the world.  Eating inside of a cave was a nice experience but a bit fancy for my taste.
  • Speaking of caves, we did a bit of exploring yesterday and found a few pools in the coral near the beach.  The water retreats a couple hundred meters at low tide exposing the coral below (killer on the feet but thanks to my mother I have the perfect water shoes).  There are large holes that are as much as 6ft deep where the water remains.  We swam around in one and then came across one with caves.  Without any light source we did not go in too far.  However, we were able to enjoy some new birds a colony of bats.  It was living the dream Man vs Wild style.
  • Drank my first coconut ever yesterday.  I found it on the beach below a tree and cracked it open.  Then drank.  Nothing to really be jealous of, but tasted alright.
  • Mombasa is a miserably hot town and the beach here is just a hot with a relentless breeze.
  • Nairobi for a couple of days and then Aberdare National Park to stay at the Treetops Lodge (where Queen Elizabeth became Queen).

10 April 2009

A Day in Mombasa

Sights from our walk about Mombasa.  We got lost around Old Town and I did not use my camera too much around there.  The mosques are beautifully constructed and on every street corner.






DSC00042Castle Royal Hotel

DSC00051A real bathroom!DSC00049 Our RoomDSC00041 

 DSC00034 Hotel Lobby DSC00050Yes YOU Can…buy one of these unlocked Obama phones from me for only $100!  Orders can be arranged

09 April 2009

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

is the feeling that I have had since we arrived in Kisumu yesterday afternoon.  Living in Malava has altered the way I have come to see things and I was not even aware of it until yesterday.  Kisumu is the closest city to us (2.5 hrs away) and is where Michael and I were going to catch our plane.  Any time that I needed something specific, I have gone to Kakamega to go shopping.  It is bigger that Malava and has many things that we cannot get.  I just assumed Kisumu to be the same.

The difference did not strike me until we went to Tuskys, which is a large store much like Target.  Upon entering, I was knocked off balance by the size and cleanliness of the store.  Aisles were clean and wide, I did not have to squeeze past a person to find whatever good I may have been looking for.  There were offerings that I had forgotten existed.  Rows of pasta in different shapes, sizes, quality and brand.  The rice?  An entire asile of every brand available in the country. 

Then it was time for lunch, where we sat at an actual restaurant.  Not a building that has tables and is poorly lit with familiar towns people and people working every day.  As far as I would have been concerned before my arrival here, the place was average.  It was a Kenyan attempt at a TGI Friday’s type eating place.  Yesterday, I was shocked at the atmosphere, tables, chairs, menus with leather and multiple pages.  The prices were steep (300-500KSH = $4-$8) for meals.  I knew that I could not be too cheap, at least in the way I had been for the past three months, while traveling amongst Kenya’s three largest cities.  However, I was bothered.

All of this kicked my dormant mind into full motion.  Things I have seen before were presenting themselves in entirely new ways.  It was literally as if I was seeing all of this for the first time.  A day later and I am having trouble attempting to explain all that went on yesterday.  This was all before we even boarded onto a plane.

The airport itself was what I had imagined an airport in Kenya to be.  The ‘terminal’ is a single building where you enter by going through security.  Then you go to the desk for the airlines you will be traveling on.  You show your reservation and then are given a handwritten boarding pass.  The person points to a piece of paper and asks what seat you want.  You pick the seat, it is checked off with a pen and written onto your boarding pass.  Then it is off to the waiting room, indoors or out, to wait for the plane as it lands.  The plane lands, people get off down a set of stairs and walk to the side to wait for luggage.  At the gate a person checks your ticket, you walk out onto the tarmac and up onto the plane.  Bags are removed and new ones are added.  The doors are then closed and the plane moves to take off.  There are no great waits. 

Our plane was running late and was to arrive at 7pm.  With a flight out of Nairobi an hour later, I was a bit worried.  Fortunately, the people from JetLink were kind enough to move us to another airlines to ensure that we get out early enough to make the second leg.  As it turns out that flight was running late and did not land at the airport until just before 7pm.  We boarded quickly and at 7:10 we took off from Kisumu.  In-flight service began once the plan was flat.  By the time everyone had something to drink, the pilot announced it was time to prepare for landing and we began our decent.  at 7:40 we landed in Nairobi.  The absurdity of this was not lost on Michael and I who were spread out in the emergency exit rows.  When we took the bus from Nairobi to Malava it took almost nine hours in total.  We covered that space in 30 minutes.  In the end, it took longer for us to take a matatu from Malava to Kisumu than to fly from Kisumu to Mombasa with a stop in Nairobi. 

We pulled into what I can only call an airplane parking lot.  Planes are lined up in a staggered manner with stairs leading into each.  We got off our plane and before making into the airport, were stopped and given our boarding passes for the next flight.  We turned around and boarded one of the planes parked near the one we just got off.  The girl assured us that she would check our bags and we got on.  The stewardess welcomed us and said we can sit anywhere.  Take off at 8:15, landing at 9.  At the airport in Mombasa we collected our bags and walked out to find a man holding a sign saying, “Tom Murphy.”  We got in his taxi and arrived at the hotel.  Check in, bags to the room and then a dinner at a Malaysian restaurant behind the hotel.

Then it was time to sit in the lobby with a Tusker and watch Chelsea beat up on Torres and Gerrard (3-1 with goals from Drogba and Ivanovic (2)).  Back in our air-conditioned room, we watched some strange movie and then went to sleep.  Yesterday I lived like an MP and felt out of place the entire time.  I already miss Malava and look forward to going back.  Vacation will be fun, but I miss the small things from there.

07 April 2009

Mombasa Here We Come

Tomorrow we will be setting off from Mombasa.  So tomorrow’s post will be hitting you from the coast of Kenya.  Michael and I will take a matatu at noon and fly from Kisumu at 6pm to arrive at the coast at 9pm.

Work was the usual.  Then we had our monthly meeting.  I was the secretary and found the meeting much more enjoyable because I was so busy the whole time.  Maybe I will offer to be secretary for all meetings because it makes two plus hours of talking in circles fly by.

My finger from the bee sting has swelled up a bit.  This morning I could make a fist and now I can’t.  I took some more medicine and will see how it looks tomorrow.  Right now it is just itchy and large.  Do not worry the swelling will be documented and shared in due time.

Now it is time to pack and rest.


06 April 2009

Forgive me

Tonight's entry comes to you heavily medicated.  I am fine, do not worry.  I felt something in my shorts, reached down and pulled out the bothersome bug.  This is a usual occurrence.  Bugs are everywhere and seem to always find tough places to hide.  I wish I could say that I do not notice them anymore, but they are ever present and annoying.  I am amazed by the fact that a fly can land on someone here and they will not even bother to swat it.  

Unfortunately for me, the bug was a bee and it stung me right on the pinke.  Not wanting to take any chances, I took some medicine to make sure that no problems would result.  My finger swelled up a bit (now it is back to normal), but I am extremely drowsy because of the medication.  It has been a long time since I have been stung by a bee and now I remember how much it can hurt.  Do not worry, the cat sealed the fate of the bee by consuming it after I threw it to the ground.

At work, I played a bit with some of the children, but mostly spent time going over my finance records and chatting with Sue.  We were done a little after noon and then came here to hang out.  As it turns out, Michael arrived shortly after and joined in on our discussions.  Sue left, we had Swahili lessons and then made dinner.  Since vacation is rapidly approaching, we are trying to eat whatever we have that may go bad.

Nothing worth reporting and frankly my brain is about to shut off for the night very soon.

05 April 2009

The UN is doing something right for once...This program, if successful, can expand the already successful micro-lending that has found roots in the poorest parts of the world.

Palm Sunday
I got my Jesus fix yesterday after our evangalization and marriage, so I checked out the outdoor start to today's mass and then retreated home for the actual mass.  Everyone, with palms, gathered behind our house as Fr. Alfred processed in.  Palms waving and songs sung to greet him.  He said a short prayer and blessed the palms that lay next to him.  A bucked of holy water completed the blessing and people rushed to get a blessed palm.  He then did his blessing of the people with a palm not the silver magic wand (yes there is probably a technical term, but I do not know it).  Then it was time for mass.  Everyone walked in and I went home.  Sunday morning continues to be my favorite time and today was no different.

After mass we had lunch at the Honey Drop.  I had my now favorite sakuma wiki (spinach with beef broth) and chapatti.  Not a big meal but always filling.  I would say that it is by far my favorite 'Kenyan' dish so far.

At home we kicked back and took in all the relaxation that Sunday has to offer.  The girls were back to see us, but this time quietly colored with the crayons in the courtyard.  Both the boys and girls have loved coloring.  So anyone wanting to send something can send crayons and coloring books.  We have kids that would go crazy for some.  I do not know what this will lead to, but we seem to be slowly becoming the neighborhood place to come and play.  As long as they will do it in the courtyard I have no complaints.

Short work week, Wednesday we fly to Mombasa.  We will be there until Monday and then off to Nairobi for the rest of the week, back home the next Monday.  Specific plans are sparse:
  1. Go to Giraffe park in Nairobi
  2. Swim in the Indian Ocean
  3. See the Coral Mosques
  4. Eat out at every moment possible
  5. Take as many hot showers as humanly possible
  6. Revel in running water and all that it has to offer
Outside of that the activities will be open.  Do not worry, the computer will be in tow.  Entries may be less frequent, but I will do my best.  The internet in Mombasa is much better (3G) than here.  So I plan on taking advantage of that.

04 April 2009

Happy Birthday Uncle Larry!

Thanks for your support by reading!

Little to write (joy and beauty)

I do not want to say much about the wedding other than that I had a lot of fun.  The pictures and video should give you all a good idea of what it was like.  I would like to just point out that too often images are seen of this country with children starving and people rioting.  Much of that does happen and it is a reality, but celebrations are almost always neglected.  Life for the people here is not easy by any respect, but joy needs to be shown.  Every moment is not pain, that is not even the case for the majority of the day.

I want to do my best to show that there is as much happiness here as there is strife.  The landscape is romanticized for reasons obvious to anyone who visits.  The animals seem to have more fun than people in Kenya.  We see pictures of jumping Maasai and laugh at the differences.  In the end, in the soul, there is no difference.  Our pains may be frustration with a coworker while here it is lack of water.  However, the weight of each is felt in relative terms.  Joy is not the same.  Joy, not happiness, is the purest form of positive emotion.  The transcendent feeling that removes person from place and time.  I see in daily in the smile of a child as I shake her hand or today at the union of two people.  I have had trouble trying to describe it, but for every time I have spent talking about the beauty that surrounds me, I leave out the most beautiful part: the Kenyans.

I still struggle to grasp what I see every day, but a quarter of the way into the year I am more able than every to spot it.  This is a subject of a future reflection as I observe more and more.

Goodnight and thank you so much for reading.

"A Family that Prays Together, Stays Together"

DSCF0016Cutting wood in a suit.

DSCF0030 Slaughtering chickens for meal.

DSCF0033DSCF0037The bride arrives and women circle around in song.

DSCF0041A flower girl patiently awaits for it to start.

 DSCF0042 Mayham (aka singing)!DSCF0046 And it begins...DSCF0053Bridesmaids dance in...


 DSCF0063    Train duty


DSCF0019  Water collected.

DSCF0026   Malava, Kenya.DSCF0079Is a caption necessary?

DSCF0025Michael turns off wasted water.

Now This Is What I'm Talking About!

Now this is something I can get behind. Money will be making it to the Western Province in pavement. The terrible roads will be fixed that are littered with potholes. This will make my life better when traveling in any car along the tarmac, but will more importantly give a rest to the cars that take a beating. There are some vital farms in this area that can be helped by improved road conditions.

World Bank approves $333 million for Kenya projects

Fri Apr 3, 2009 10:18am GMT
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By Daniel Wallis

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The World Bank approved $253 million in funding on Friday to help Kenya upgrade a crucial but pot-holed highway connecting its capital with neighbouring Uganda and much of central Africa.

The move increases the Bank's support for the Northern Corridor Transport Improvement Project (NCTIP) to $460 million. Initial financing of $207 million for the scheme was agreed by the Bank's Executive Board in June 2004.

"These extra resources will enable Kenya to rehabilitate key sections of the northern road corridor between Nairobi and the Ugandan border," Johannes Zutt, the Bank's country director for Kenya, said in a statement.

"This road is not just important for western Kenya, but is also a vital trade link for neighbouring landlocked countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Sudan."

Kenya is east Africa's biggest economy and an important business and transport hub for a big chunk of the continent.

But the country's rapid economic growth over the last five years has caused traffic congestion in cities and severe bottlenecks along the northern corridor that have delayed goods and raised the cost of doing business across the whole region.

Destruction of parts of the transport system during last year's Kenyan post-election crisis worsened these problems.

The whole project will cost $960 million, to be funded by Kenya's government and the Bank. Other donors including the European Investment Bank, the Nordic Development Fund and the French Development Agency are also providing co-financing.