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.