29 May 2009

A Day off

A day off was more needed than I thought and as a result I will not waste much time going over how I did a whole lot of nothing.  I still have to admit feeling a bit strange writing about what I do each day, however I persist and thank everyone who reads.

Tomorrow I will be in Kisumu and plan on staying there for the night to watch Chelsea in the FA cup and enjoy running water.

Had to share thanks to Carrie and CNN -

A man "angered" by Manchester United's defeat to Barcelona in the final of the Champions League killed four people when he drove a minibus into a crowd celebrating the Spanish side's victory, police in Nigeria have told CNN.

Barcelona fans celebrate in the city's Las Ramblas thoroughfare early Thursday morning.

Ten people were also injured in the incident in the town of Ogbo, where the driver was subsequently arrested, a Port Harcourt Police spokesperson said.

"He was displaying his anger at his team losing the match. The driver had passed the crowd then made a U-turn and ran into them," spokesperson Rita Inomey-Abbey said.

28 May 2009

Four Day Weekend

Since Monday is Kenyan independence day part 1 (yes they get two, one for leadership and one for freedom), I will get to enjoy a longer weekend than usual.  Outside of the general depression felt by Neto and David, there was not much to today.  We got a new shelf for out kitchen to free up some space for our spices and attempt to deal with the flies.  Flies are always around and cannot seem to be entirely defeated.  I have tried sprays with minimal success.  Bugs are all not that big of a problem but they can be an annoyance from time to time. 

It is nice that people are starting to recognize me as the Chelsea man.  I get a laugh because people will yell “Chels” at me in the market.  It continues to provide a way to talk to anyone, pretty much men, in town.  I think that going to the games has helped put me in a place that makes me seem to be more of a part of the men here in Malava.  It is one of those ‘one of us’ type deals and I think that it is working out well so far.  I think it helps to be seen and I will do my best to continue to put myself into Malava.  As it turns out, this weekend will have a bullfight in Kakamega.  I am thinking that I may try to go and check it out.  From what I gather, the bullfight is an actual fight between two bulls.  If I go I will be sure to photograph it and explain it to the best of my understanding.

More For Kenya to Ignore…

UN prober wants Kenya AG powers clipped

BY BERNARD MOMANYI

Capital News

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 28 - A comprehensive report released by the Special UN Rapporteur on Extra-judicial killings Prof Philip Alston has recommended that the Attorney General’s (AG) Office be stripped of its prosecutorial powers.
Prof Alston said the AG’s office is vested with immense control over prosecutorial powers, which needs to be transferred to an independent department under the Public Prosecutions office.
He also maintains the need to have AG Amos Wako resign to pave way for both institutional reforms in his office.
“The Attorney-General should resign. This is necessary to restore public trust in the office, and to end its role in promoting impunity,” he said in an advance report dated May 26.
“Political control over prosecutions should be eliminated and the prosecutorial powers currently held by the Attorney-General should be vested in an independent Department of Public Prosecutions,” the report sent by Prof Alston’s Senior Advisor Sarah Knuckey states.
In future, the report adds, prosecutions should be undertaken by a constitutionally entrenched and independent Department of Public Prosecutions.
“The powers to prosecute and to intervene in prosecutions should not be held by a political office-holder,” Prof Alston concludes.
Kenya’s current AG is the longest-serving Constitutional office holder having been in office since 1991.
In his report, Prof Alston said that the AG had failed to institute reforms in his department yet he “has overseen, for nearly two decades, a system that clearly does not work.”
While the AG has the constitutional power to ‘require’ the Police Commissioner to investigate any matter relating to an alleged offence, Prof Alston said, he has resorted to engaging in blame games.
“He is all too aware of the grave deficiencies in police investigations. But instead of using his constitutional powers to force individual investigations and to promote essential institutional reforms, letters simply go back and forth for years, with cases neither investigated sufficiently, nor prosecuted,” Prof Alston states.

Post Election Violence

He particularly accuses the AG for what he terms ‘repeated failure to prosecute any senior officials for their role in large-scale election violence over a period of many years’.
“This has led to a complete loss of faith in the commitment of his office to prosecute those in Government with responsibility for crimes,” the report adds.
In fact, the report reads, his unrelenting failure to prosecute any senior officials implicated in extra-judicial executions renders him not just complicit in, but absolutely indispensable to, a system which has institutionalised impunity in Kenya.

The Judiciary

Prof Alston has also taken issue with Kenya’s Judiciary system whose Judges he thinks should be replaced.
“The judiciary in Kenya is an obstacle in the path to a well-functioning criminal justice system. Its central problems are crony opaque appointments, and extraordinary levels of corruption,” he states.
His report calls for a radical surgery in the Judiciary to rid the department of most of the existing judges and replace them with competent and non-corrupt appointees.
As outlined in his initial preliminary report released in Kenya in February, Prof Alston called on President Mwai Kibaki to sack Police Commissioner Major General Mohammed Hussein Ali for “overseeing a police force that operates with impunity and regularly engages in widespread extra-judicial killings.”

27 May 2009

Outage (yea I stole the title)

Power was down again for roughly twenty-four hours starting yesterday afternoon and returning today at about five.  I can handle the inability to use my computer, but the food thawing in the fridge is a bit of a bummer.  That just means that we will have to eat leftovers sooner than expected.  I kept busy at the SJC while Sue was on the mend yesterday.  As I worked, I listened to my iPod since I was alone for most of the time.  I had shown it to Neto one time before when I was using it, so he came in and asked to see it again.  He listened to whatever I had on my playlist, switching from song to song.  Soon, David joined us and Neto started to show him what he was listening to.  He kept turning up and down the volume to show how loud and soft it can get.  Then, David took over and began to flip through songs.  He would pause for a few seconds on each one and then move on.  That was until he met Mr. Smokey Robinson as he sings Second That Emotion.  It was the only song he listened to in its entirety, but he was dancing along with arms pumping in a semi-march (a uniquely Kenyan dance move that I often see Neto doing) and head bobbed up and down to the beat all while mumbling “I will second that emotion.”  I fought bursting out laughing and was successful in repressing the outburst.  I would say that David’s introduction to Motown can be characterized as ‘love at first sound.’  

At home, sans power, I read and did crosswords before some Swahili lessons.  Then the night was left to more reading, now by candlelight, with me retiring to bed at around 8:30.  I took it as a good time to rest up before the big match tonight.

All week, Neto and David have been chattering about the all but wrapped up UEFA cup.  It has been funny to see Neto get so excited for the match.  With the match day upon us, I noticed the town was a bit different today.  People were wearing their team colors, flags were hung from stalls and everyone seemed to have a little something in their step.  I fear what may happen if Man U was to lose tonight, but I am sure that it will be a fun time watching it with Neto.

This afternoon, Sue and I met up with Pastor Jairus.  He is one of our CBRW’s as well as a father to Jamima who is a client at the SJC.  He took us over to a school that he founded for local children.  It is private and currently only goes up to class 4 (out of 8 for primary school), but the kids were very excited to see the two wazungu.  We met the teachers including his wife who seems to run the show at the school wile Jairus gets his pastor on.  We were treated to Cokes, spoke about the school and took pictures.  Sue took a bunch of the kids and then showed them the image on her camera.  As always, the kids lost it and fell into fits of uncontrollable laughter.  It is always a riot when kids see themselves on a digital camera.  They crowd around and yell as they see themselves and friends looking back from an image that was just captured a few moments ago.

Jairus is looking to expand the school and I am encouraged to find more people who are devoted to developing the communities in which they live.  He spoke of his desire to provide education for children and to give them opportunities to grow and in turn grow the community itself.  For a man with so few connections when it comes to finance, he has done a wonderful job.  Sue and I are going to return so that we can spend a full day at the school.  It might not be enough, but a passion for educating children will do much to help Jairus as he endeavors to provide a place where his children and neighbors can get the education that they deserve.

After, he brought us to his home where we had some corn.  It is not quite Jersey corn, but it was nice to have a different form of starch.  We all chatted more and then came back home. 

Football tonight and maybe an introduction to our cat tomorrow… 

And He Wants to be the Next Pres…

Blunders or sabotage? Uhuru's new headache

By OLIVER MATHENGEPosted Monday, May 25 2009 at 21:40

IN SUMMARY

  • Lobby group claims budget passed by MPs last Thursday also has a Sh10 billion hole

The government was on Monday headed for more embarrassment after a lobby group wrote to Parliament pointing out fresh errors in the supplementary budget approved by MPs only last week.

The group is demanding thorough investigations into the budget before the main Budget is read next month.

Last month, Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta had to withdraw the supplementary budget after the same NGO, Mars Group, pointed out mistakes amounting to Sh10 billion.

Typing errors

The minister said they were typing errors, an explanation accepted by the House.

Now Mars Group is questioning the new figures and has asked Parliament to apply pressure on the government to audit the new supplementary budget.

The group on Monday accused the Treasury of “cooking” the figures and prepared a memorandum outlining its allegations.

Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua later said the government had “noted” and was “studying” the Mars Group claims.

Mr Kenyatta and Finance permanent secretary Joseph Kinyua could not be reached the whole day and were said to be going over the figures afresh.

Mars Group claimed an analysis of the new supplementary budget raised serious concerns, which require further investigation as part of a forensic audit.

The group claims that the Treasury changed portions of the government book to balance the figures while leaving the total amount it was requesting intact.

“The Independent Forensic Audit as recommended by the Joint Committee Report should be formed to commence its work immediately and should complete its report ahead of the National Budget 2009-10, in order to restore public confidence in the budget books of the Ministry of Finance,” Mars Group director Mwalimu Mati said on Monday.

The chairman of the parliamentary budget committee, Mr Martin Ogindo, who was present said he had noted the concerns and would forward them to his team.

Earlier revelations of a Sh10 billion discrepancy in the budget in April are being investigated by the CID.

Mr Mati and his team say that the Treasury adjusted the estimates as directed by Parliaments but failed to amend the Supplementary Appropriations Bill, 2009. This, Mr Mati said, could mean MPs approved the wrong sums.

He also accused the Treasury of shifting money from one vote to another to cover up the Sh10.7 billion problem identified in the earlier estimates.

By doing its own calculations and going over the details of the budget line by line, Mars Group said the total of Sh26,087,512,713 which the Treasury says the country needs to run until June is overstated by Sh163,799,077.

Read On

25 May 2009

I Like Bullet Points

  • This morning, I went to put on my sweatshirt.  As I picked it up, I noticed that it was a bit heaver than usual.  With a thud, the cat dropped out and on to the couch.  It buried itself into the hoodie to sleep last night.  Score another point for a great cat.
  • I had a strange ‘nightmare’ of sorts last night.  Basically, it was October and I was back home from Kenya and extremely upset that I was no longer here.  I am taking that to be a good sign when that is the only nightmare I have had under the influence of meflaquaine (spelled terribly wrong) and that it means I like it here.
  • While sitting outside chatting with Neto, I saw a man riding in town on his motorcycle.  Seated in front of him was his son, no older than the age of two.  Both without helmets.  Both enjoying the ride.
  • People here fear that epilepsy can be spread like a cold and believe that they may inhale it and become epileptic.
  • I had to explain to David, Angela and Neto that there are no dowries in America.  They thought for sure that there were and were shocked to learn that two people can get married without involving the parents and the exchange of money.  They informed me that the price for a bride can be steep.  The family of an educated girl will calculate the total for her school fees and charge the groom the price in addition to cows and other money.  A female doctor could cost a man hundreds of thousands of shillings.  As David put it, “A man has to go broke in order to have a wife.  They must start again with nothing.”
  • This then led to a conversation between Angela and I involving allowing children to run about town without supervision.  I told her how it would be considered neglect if a parent allowed his or her child to walk to school when he or she was only three or four.  Here it is common place, kids are everywhere.  Older siblings will take care of the younger ones as they roam Malava.  It was interesting to learn about it and how she thought that it made children more independent so that whey they go off to board for secondary school, the children are not too attached to their parents.  I would say that there is something to be said for easing off and letting kids be what they are: kids.
  • We will have an addition to our three in a month.  Katie O’Dea is currently serving in Nigeria but has a visa that lasts through June.  So, she will be moving to Malava to work at an orphanage in Kakamega and give Sue some company with all the nuns.  Michael has determined that June 22nd will be known as ‘O Day.’
  • The bishop will be here Friday, so that should be a big event.  The choir is practicing daily now to prepare and it sounds like some newer songs for once.  The bonus will be the fact that there is guaranteed to be a good meal.

24 May 2009

Food and Guests

Today, we played host to multiple guests who came at different times for brunch.  I made everyone my version of pizza with sausage and my work-in-progress tomato sauce.  We had Sue, who happens to be again fighting malaria.  It seems that the drugs she took did not get rid of the whole thing.  Now she is on a much stronger treatment to take care of the problem.  I think I should be alright, despite Katie and Sue both having reoccurring malaria, because I took a strong a newer medication when I had it back in March.  In addition, we had two new guests, Randall and Ryan.  Both are Americans doing some short term volunteering at Tumiani with Michael.  We had a drop in by Sr. Phyllis, Neto and Angela.  All were fed and all seemed to enjoy the food.  It was nice for us to have a flow of guests throughout the afternoon.  We were able to talk to new Americans and then learn about Kenyan corruption from Neto.  I did not realize it, but I needed a day to be around some friendly people.  Often times it is just Michael and I, which has worked out quite well, but new people to converse with can be reenergizing.

Also, we were treated to a rain free afternoon.  So, with guests and sun today was a perfect Sunday.  Oh, and we have a new cat.  Name and pictures to be presented soon, but it is tiny and already has won our affection.

22 May 2009

Today

  • Found good tea, non-bland tea that was not made in Kenya.  For some reason, the tea that is sold here is not too good.  The country manages to export plenty and I have drank tea from Kenya at home, but here it is no good.  I think that is due to the fact that people here do everything they can to kill the flavor of tea by drowning it in milk and dropping spoons full of sugar (even too much to make the medicine go down) for a swim.  Some English Breakfast and Earl Grey are a treat when it cools down and rains.
  • Also got new varieties of peanut butter.  Crunchy and chocolate now sit in our pantry.
  • Standing on the corner of the road in Kakamega, was an elderly man waiting to catch a matatu.  What stood out about him was what he was wearing.  Upon his head was a colonial era safari hat, tan, in perfect condition.  It looked as if he had kept it in a bag, out of dust and light, for decades since the independence of Kenya and just now donned it on a walk through town.  His jacket matched, including pants with black shoes.  I swear that he woke up this morning wanting to give an ‘F You’ to the Brits.
  • A man walked by who was likely one of the most muscular people I have ever seen.  He was beyond jacked and looked like he was LT walking amongst pre-school children.  Needless to say, he found probably the only gym in the country or has come up with the worlds best at home gym and workout system.
  • Two children came by today and hung out at the house.  One of them is pictured in the earlier post from today.  They stopped by to say hello and then ran off to play in the back of Judi’s car which was parked behind my house while she was at the board meeting.  When she gave them the boot, they came by to play with me.  The little girl (pictured) enjoyed dancing and the boy just liked to be a boy.  They hung out and continued to follow Sue and I as we walked around the Market.  The boy held my hand for awhile, but I thought it to be strange to walk around town holding the hand of someone else's child.  It is hard to see children who are clearly malnourished.  I wish I could cook them some food, give them some bread, let them stay here, pay for their school, buy them new clothes,  give them a bath, and so on.  That is the challenge.  All the work, all the slowness, all the water, that is easy.  That stuff does not matter.  I get to go home in a year, I make more money per month than almost everyone in town.  I can treat myself to chicken tonight and drink a beer in the afternoon with no affect on my wallet.  I get a great currency exchange.  I am living easy and will continue to do so compared to what people here deal with.  It is the kids that gets to me.  It is seeing children who have nothing but somehow manage to smile when I shake their hand.  Seeing these children is heartbreaking in the shattered beyond existence sense.  Caring is one thing, but it causes no change.  It does not put food on a table or money into the the pocket of a girl trying to support a family with a sister in school and a mother with leukemia.  That is my struggle while here.  To cope with the fact that by luck, I was born into the right family, the right race, the right country, the right economic status, the right sex, and the right sexuality.  I guess I can say that my burden is living without any burden.
  • Tonight for dinner will be fried chicken with BBQ sauce or Hot Sauce or both.
  • Bought a the newest Newsweek.  I am sure nobody has noticed or reads it regularly, but they have just changed their format.  I assume that it is the same in the US and if so, go and buy one as soon as possible.  It has improved significantly by removing news that was already known and using more space to do investigative work and opinion pieces.  It also includes a new section called InternationaList that seems to be derived from the quick news section in The Economist.
  • I cant pass on this opportunity to say that I am thankful that Dick Cheney no longer has anything to do with American foreign policy and national security.  Reading his speech has confirmed that it was bad enough that he once had a say in how policy was once determined but thankfully no more.

Some Random Pictures From the Past Week

From 22 May 2009

From 22 May 2009


From 22 May 2009

From 22 May 2009

21 May 2009

Rain Controls my Life

In many ways the title is entirely accurate.  Without it, we were with a dry rain tank and muddy well water.  The roads were dry, cars kicked up dust at any speed and an orange tint covered clothes and skin.  With rain the days are shortened to 5 hours of daylight, slick mud is the way to work, cold showers end each day, clothes sit on the line for days never really dry and water is plentiful with a full rain tank and plenty to go around.  The flowers are in bloom with the rain here, new birds populate the town and crops are flourishing.  A more recent negative aspect of the rain has come in the form of inconsistent power.

I thought of rain most of the time when we were without it.  Now, there is no way to ignore it when it rains off and on from 3pm through the rest of the night.  Living here has been a challenge because I am without any of the comforts that can make constant rain or sun easier.  There is no great source of water that is pumped into my home at a cheap price.  There is no infrastructure of paved roads that wind in every which way.  Simplicity dominates my very existence and there is no way around it.

I have found that I am more rested now that it is cooler at nights, but more restless during the day.  When it rains everything stops here.  People flee like they were kin of the Wicked Witch of the West.  I can understand this because the downpour is so strong that there is no way to stay dry unless you are covered from head to toe or decide to stay in one place.  The latter is always the choice here because that is the only real option.

The SJC has become slower and slower as the rain has come.  More children come at a slower pace that before, making the days go by even slower.  However, with this change, I have found that I am able to better handle the languid hours.  I continue to wonder how I will be able to get back into a quicker lifestyle.  I am sure it will not be a long transition, but I do not imagine it to be easy.  Here for almost five months now and I know that I will continue to adjust to life.

News News News

Memorial Service Boycott Underscores Fragility of Kenya's Peace

By Stephanie McCrummen

Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NAIROBI More than a year after ethnic gangs burned to death 28 people hiding inside a church during Kenya's post-election violence, a memorial service was held for the victims at the church's compound in the country's western Rift Valley region on a chilly day last week.

Hundreds of residents came on foot, by bike and by the busload to the old Assemblies of God Church grounds in the village of Kiambaa. President Mwai Kibaki, who comes from the same ethnic group as most of the victims, showed up to watch 28 coffins containing charred remains of victims being lowered into the ground.

The gangs that carried out the massacre had come marching in a military formation, locked the church doors and shoved gasoline-soaked mattresses against the outside walls, hacking to death people who tried to escape the flames through windows.

But what newspapers and angry letters to the editors have focused on in the days since the memorial service is who did not attend the ceremony, billed by hopeful organizers as one of "healing, forgiveness and reconciliation."

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the former opposition leader in whose name the violence was carried out -- some of the gangs called themselves "Raila's Army" -- didn't show up. Not a single leader from the local Kalenjin community, whose members made up those machete-wielding, torch-bearing gangs, came to the ceremony, a deliberate boycott. Instead, some local Kalenjin residents said that if a monument to the victims were built, as has been proposed, they would destroy it.

"Burial opens up old wounds," read the headline Saturday in the Standard, a paper associated with Odinga's cause. "Kiambaa revealed unity still a mirage," read another. Odinga's absence "lifted the lid on the pretense our leaders are working in one accord and spirit," read an editorial in the Standard.

Kenyan newspapers are full these days of stories chronicling the slow death of the power-sharing deal that ended a wave of violence set off by Odinga's accusations -- backed up by international observers -- that Kibaki stole the 2007 presidential elections. In the weeks that followed, gangs of Odinga supporters went on a spree of house burnings and killings targeting members of Kibaki's ethnic group, the Kikuyu. Police and Kikuyu gangs also killed dozens of opposition supporters in retaliation. In all, more than 1,500 people died.

Then came the power-sharing deal and a speck of hope that perhaps the two leaders and their respective ministers could put aside their bitterness and ethnic politics and govern together. It has not happened.

Instead, the prospect that Kenya will sink once again into ethnic bloodshed seems so likely these days that some diplomats have advised embassy workers to stockpile food and water in their homes.

Odinga has constantly accused Kibaki's Party of National Unity of undermining authority granted to him in the deal. The argument has played out in feuds over appointments and protocol issues such as who should stand where and who should speak first at government events.

And it played out in Kiambaa last week, with opposition members accusing Kibaki of trying to co-opt the ceremony to cast his ethnic group as victims and the opposition as the perpetrators.

"We are asking why the president chose to go to Kiambaa, Eldoret, but not attend the burials of victims at Karatina," complained one Odinga supporter in parliament, referring to places where people were slaughtered by Kikuyu gangs.

Another said it was "insulting and inhuman for the government to spend resources on one community, but leave the rest to carry their own cross."

For many Kenyans, though, the failure of Odinga and Kibaki to come together to remember the people who were killed in the political fighting symbolizes the depths to which the country has sunk.

"The manner in which our leaders behave after purporting to bury the hatchet is mystifying," one reader wrote. "Peace is far from being achieved."

According to one newspaper report, a relative of one of the church victims spoke directly to Kibaki at the memorial service. "When I look at those coffins, I do not see members of your family or those of the Prime Minister," the man reportedly said.

Somali civilians flee fighting, crowd squalid camps

May 18, 2009 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)

(CNN) -- Some of the worst fighting to hit Somalia's capital city in recent months uprooted nearly 34,000 people in less than a week, according to a United Nations report released Monday.

Relief workers said the fighting between the Somali government and rebels over Islamic law has left Somali civilians with the choice of facing bloody battles or fleeing to squalid camps.

The displaced people have found shelter in already overcrowded camps in and around Mogadishu, while others have fled into neighboring Kenya, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA said that an estimated 34,000 people were displaced by the fighting between insurgents and Somalia's government from May 8-14.

Although Somalia's border with Kenya is officially closed, an estimated 5,000 displaced Somalis arrive every month in the U.N. refugee camps in the Kenyan border town of Dadaab, according to Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF.

"The situation is simply scandalous," said Joke Van Peteghem, who heads the MSF mission in Kenya. "These refugees have risked everything to escape the fighting in Somalia. Now some are telling us they would rather take their chances in Mogadishu than die slowly here."

One nurse called the refugee camps in Kenya "public health time bombs."

"The refugees, many of whom are already suffering from serious war-related injuries or illnesses, are packed together without the bare minimum to survive," said Donna Canali, who worked for MSF at Dagahaley Camp.

"After all these people have endured, how can their most basic needs continue to be so woefully neglected?"

Nearly a quarter of the more than 90,000 refugees at Dagahaley suffer from acute malnutrition, according to MSF.

MSF is calling on the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Kenya's government, and international donors to help alleviate the "dire living conditions" at the camps in Kenya which house more than 270,000 Somali refugees.

More than 100 people have died in the latest fighting in Somalia, and hundreds more have been wounded in the bloody insurgency, government officials said last week.

The violence stems from an interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law. Somalia's new president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, recently approved implementing sharia, but the al-Shabab rebel group wants the country to institute a stricter form.

On Sunday, al-Shabab seized control of Jowhar, the president's hometown about 55 miles (88 km) north of Mogadishu, according to a local journalist.

The violence is exacerbating the already precarious humanitarian situation in Somalia, where an estimated 40 percent of the country's population -- more than 3 million people -- need humanitarian support, according to the U.N.

The fighting erupted days after a mortar attack on Somalia's parliament that killed six people and wounded more than a dozen others on April 25. The fatalities included a soldier and three children who were killed when the rounds struck a nearby school, a police spokesman said.

Members of parliament were meeting when the attack occurred, but none of them was injured, an official said.

Power is Back

We lost power for the past twenty four hours and it is back and running.  All this rain is having fun with our electricity and I expect it to continue for awhile.

19 May 2009

Much Rain

Well it continues to rain in the afternoon.  Today, I was treated to a thunder storm with hail and rain that seemed to do its best to compete with the hail for loudest sound made on my roof.  My day has been compacted to the hours between 7am and 3pm.  All other time is spent within the general confines of my home.  Whatever I am doing, it has to involve a seated state.  I cannot say that I am restless yet, but I am starting to see how the Kenyans can hate the rain.  Fortunately, I have plenty of books and movies.

18 May 2009

This is a must read…

The story in the NY Times this weekend is sadly too typical for this region.  Just a little money can go a long way for healthcare.  I have seen how money can affect the health of a person.  Our laundry girl is now burdened with the stress of a mother who has just been diagnosed with lukemia.  She is the sole provider for her family and we are her employer.  We will do as much as we can to help within reason, but the situation is still dire.  There are some good hospitals, but money will always be the issue.

This Mom Didn’t Have to Die

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Published: May 16, 2009

BO, Sierra Leone

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

On the Ground

Nicholas Kristof addresses reader feedback and posts short takes from his travels.

Go to Blog »Go to Columnist Page »

On this trip through West Africa with my “win-a-trip” contest winner, I was reminded of one of the grimmest risks to human life here. Despite threats from warlords and exotic disease, it’s something even deadlier: motherhood.

One of the most dangerous things an African woman can do is become pregnant. So, along with the winner of my contest for college students, Paul Bowers, I have been visiting the forlorn hospitals here in West Africa. According to the World Health Organization, Sierra Leone has thehighest maternal mortality in the world, and in several African countries, 1 woman in 10 ends up dying in childbirth.

It’s pretty clear that if men were dying at these rates, the United Nations Security Council would be holding urgent consultations, and a country such as this would appoint a minister of paternal mortality. Yet half-a-million women die annually from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth without attracting much interest because the victims are typically among the most voiceless people in the world: impoverished, rural, uneducated and female.

Take Mariama, a 21-year-old pregnant woman with a 3-year-old child living in a village here in southern Sierra Leone. Mariama started bleeding one afternoon before we arrived, but her family had no money and was reluctant to seek medical care. When she was already half-dead, she was finally taken into the government hospital in Bo.

She was off-the-charts anemic, but there was no blood available for a transfusion. In that situation, the woman’s relatives are checked to see if they are of the same type and can give, but Mariama was accompanied only by her mother, who was too fragile to donate blood.

The only obstetrician, serving an area with two million people, was away, so nurses suggested that in the absence of a transfusion, Mariama receive a plasma expander for her blood. But that would have cost $4, and Mariama and her mother had no money at all.

So Mariama continued to hemorrhage right there in the maternity ward. At 1 a.m. the next morning, she died.

“We did our best to save her,” said Regina Horton, a nurse-midwife at the hospital. “But we had no blood.”

I’ve seen women dying like this in many countries — on the first win-a-trip journey in 2006, a student and I watched a mother of three dying in front of us in Cameroon — and it’s not only shattering but also infuriating. It’s no mystery how to save the lives of pregnant women; what’s lacking is the will and resources.

Indeed, Sierra Leone is now making progress with the help of the United Nations Population Fund, which is renovating hospital wards, providing free medicines and trying to ensure that poor women don’t die because they can’t pay $100 for a Caesarian section. The Bush administration cut off all American funds for the U.N. Population Fund, hobbling it, but this year President Obama has moved to restore the money. Other organizations that are focused on this issue include the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, CARE and Averting Maternal Death and Disability.

A bill introduced in Congress in March — the Newborn, Child, and Mother Survival Act — would establish American leadership in this area. But it has attracted pathetically little attention.

If the lives of women like Mariama were a priority, there would be many simple ways to keep them alive. For example, they could routinely be given anti-malarials and deworming medicine during pregnancy to flush out parasites. They should also receive daily iron tablets to overcome anemia, and a bed net. All this would cost just a few dollars and would leave pregnant women far less likely to die of hemorrhages.

Caesarian sections are necessary for perhaps 1 in 10 births worldwide, but village women put their trust in traditional birth attendants (partly because the attendants also perform genital cutting on girls, creating a bond). Doctors and nurses often are harsh and contemptuous toward uneducated women so that patients stay away until it is too late. If doctors and nurses had as good a bedside manner as the birth attendants, hospitals would be better used and lives saved.

Still, one sees the — limited — progress in Mabinti Kamara, who is 25 and went into labor in her village. When an arm came out, it was apparent that the fetus was sideways, so the birth attendant pushed hard on Mabinti’s abdomen to complete the process.

On Mabinti’s fourth day of labor, she was finally taken to a hospital in the city of Makeni, where a surgeon found that she had a ruptured uterus. The surgeon removed the dead fetus and repaired the uterus. Mabinti then lay on her bed in pain, disconsolate at losing her child. Still, the maternity ward was filled with women like her. Just a few years ago, they all would have died. They are reminders that women can be saved in childbirth — but only if their lives become a priority.

A Lot of Nothing

Stuff from the past week or so that is now coming to mind:

  • The boys asked me if we sang traditional songs for my circumcision ceremony.  When I explained that everyone in USA gets ‘cut’ after birth they were astounded.  For some reason, they enjoy giving each other a hard time about getting ‘cut’ in general, and feel the need to notify me that one of them is in need of help.  Sadly, odd numbered years are off years for the ceremony.  Next year a batch of Malava boys will become men and I will sadly miss it.
  • I went to church yesterday at the request of the young girls because they wanted me to see them dance.  Since I cannot say no, I went.
    • I forgot that church is really “Catholic Mass: The Musical”
    • One of the new priests has a hard name to remember and say, plus he looks like 1964 early electric Bob Dylan (minus the whole skin tone deal).  Therefore, I call him Fr. Bob Dylan.
    • An ant was climbing around on the shirt of a man in front of me.  The usher walked over and kindly swiped the ant off his shirt.  Of course the man was confused as to why someone would brush him on the back, but when the usher pointed to the ant on the ground the man knew.  Upon seeing the ant, he slowly walked over and in a deliberate motion, squashed the ant.  He did not stray from singing and rejoined the ranks in his pew to continue in song.
    • I still do not understand much of what is said in mass, but a break from attendance has proved the difference lessons are making.  I was able to pick up a bunch of phrases during Fr. Bob Dylan’s homily.
  • Yesterday Sue made chili.  It was very good.  Neto joined us for the second week in a row.  Hopefully he will become a regular part of our Sunday brunch.
  • I have been putting two things off that are sad and I keep forgetting to mention them:
    • At the retreat a month ago, Jean made the tough decision to go back home to Florida.  I did not mention it earlier because I did not feel it was appropriate to say anything and risk beating her to notifying family and friends.  I feel compelled to make mention because it would seem odd when I make references to the three of us and never mention her.
    • Upon return from vacation, Meowmar was missing.  We hoped that he would return, but learned from the boys that a man named Victor who lives in the houses behind ours beat the cat while we were away and it ran away into the woods.  Now, over a month later, we have seen no sign of our beloved cat.  On the bright side, Lady Gray at the compound just had a batch of kittens who are in need of a home.  We will have a new cat soon, but I am doubtful that it can be as good as Meowmar al-Catdafi.
  • I watched Revolutionary Road last night and it is the cinematic version of my worst nightmare.  I wish the script was a bit stronger, but it is a good watch thanks to director Sam Mendes.
  • I learned that shorts were a required part of the uniform for young boys in all of their schooling here in Kenya.  It was a colonial mandate that was upturned shortly after independence.  Now, only a few secondary schools have shorts in the uniform.  All are pants.  The younger kids still wear shorts, but almost nobody over the age of 16 will wear shorts in any situation.
  • One of the children, Luka, is very sick and they can not figure out why.  I have been saying it is due to malnutrition and the fact that he lives in such a dirty home.  He is negative, but David explained that people in villages will diagnose a child with HIV when he or she does not thrive, as in the case of Luka.  The parents will think that the doctors are hiding something when they are informed that the tests are negative.  As a result, the child is outcast and mistreated because it is believe that he or she will die soon anyways.  This seems to be what is going on with Luka.  His mother is not the sharpest tool in the shed and it is easy for people to tell her about such things.  I have said before that I fear for his life and this only gives cause for more concern.
  • The thunder right now is nothing like I have ever heard.  It sounds like a great explosion over town that rumbles as an earthquake.  There is no distinct crack, like you may here at home, just a burst of sound that follows a sharp drop of lightning.
  • Sadly, the first child to pass away this year from the SJC died on Saturday.  She was a regular, but was far too young and handicapped for me to have ever formed a bond with.  I knew she was not doing terribly well, but I had no idea that she was so sick.  She was here last Monday and looked to be the same as she has always been.  Sue and I found out when Neto asked for the picture of a girl named Valentine to show one of the other parents.  He said that we would find it amongst the pile of deceased clients.  Sue and I both did not make mention of anything because we assumed that the Neto was talking about a former client.  When Sue asked why she wanted to see the picture, Neto said it was because Valentine would come the same day but later than the mother.  I thought it was strange, but still did not think much of it.  Finally, Neto said the full name and I immediately knew it was the Valentine who came on Mondays at noon.  I think the strangest part is the way that it is treated by the staff.  Her death was just a passing mention in conversation that never took place.  The outlook on death here is radically different than home.  The immediate passing is mourned with great wails and then treated as if it is like the rising sun.
  • I want to finish on an upswing.  I adopted a banana tree yesterday.  It had been neglected for over a month, so I walked over and gave it a trim and fixed its fallen top.  When it grows and has some bananas, I am going to harvest them and enjoy them thoroughly.  If the people around here are going to ignore it, I am going to make it mine.  So I am now a banana farmer.  How about that?
  • New birds spotted and identified:
    • Blue Monarch
    • Orange Ground-Thrush
    • African Pied Wagtail
    • Red Cheeked Cordon-Bleu
    • Red-Billed Firefinch

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Graffiti on our walls (chalk provided by Michael).

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Happy Birthday Chuck!

15 May 2009

Happy Birthday Neal BIddick!

Just Made it!

Epilepsy Clinic: May Edition

I sat outside under a banana tree with Neto for a few hours and collected money off of delinquent parents.  I shot off early on to get the news paper and later to get us some sodas.  We sat back amongst the shrubs and used a table that was too short.  Neto’s solution was to take a child’s chair, but I opted for the big boy brand.  I did my best to communicate in broken Swahili, but was far more successful at saying ‘sawa sawa’ (ok ok) and then waiting for Neto to help.  I bothered some of the kids because they are the easiest to get along with because their ability to speak Swahili is not too much better than mine.  Playing is a simple language, based on thousands of years of well thought research and I am proud be a master linguist.  Fortunately, we cleaned up right as the downpour began.  Had we been slower, we would have had to attempt to the leaves from the banana tree to keep all the important papers dry.  It was not to be.

While inside, I played with Gracious.  He would throw the soccer ball and I would kick it back.  He tossed it over to Neto and I stole it away but managed to kick the ball outside while attempting my best Ronaldo impression.  Neto told Gracious to run out and get it before it got too wet.  Gracious ran to the edge of the doorway, just before the stone ramp extends out to the grass and the rain.  He looked up and saw the water dripping quickly from the roof and took a few kid running steps, you know where a kid runs and his legs move as fast as humanly possible and he does not even achieve what one would call a jog compared to his walking speed, and retreated once one of them hit him on the head.  With more reassurance from Neto, Gracious ventured out in a hesitant run.  To keep himself from getting wet, he clasped his two tiny hands on the top of his head.  With a few adjustments on the way to keep his big head dry, he made it to the ball with a major dilemma.  If he picked it up, his head would get wet due to the fact that he would require a pair of hands to hold it.  Neto saw the hesitation and told him to pick it up.  Despair fell over him as he reached down to get the ball and droplets pelted his once dry head.  He rushed in with unhappy cries until making it inside where the cries turned into laughter.

People here are terrified of the rain.  All stops when it rains.  I will give them the fact that when it rains it does not kid around.  Yes, there are normal showers, but once a day we get a heavy pounding.  I am talking about the pull over the car to the side of the road rain.  You do not want to be outside when this happens, and you do not want to be in need of a place to be.  However, people here are terrified even of a light rain.  Rain can stop this town faster than any sort of natural occurance in the US.  The rain comes quickly and life stops.  They hate the rain when it is here and lament for its passing when it is not.  The rain rules a love-hate relationship with the people of Kenya and it is amusing to watch.

14 May 2009

A Light Sentence for Manslaughter

Thomas Cholmondeley given 'light' sentence for poacher's killing

A Kenyan judge has sentenced the aristocrat Thomas Cholmondeley to a 'light' eight months in prison for killing a black poacher.

London Telegraph

By Mike Pflanz in Nairobi
Last Updated: 11:29AM BST 14 May 2009

Thomas Cholmondeley has been sentenced to a 'light' eight months in prison for killing a black poacher Photo: AFP

The Eton-educated white Kenyan aristocrat had faced a life sentence for manslaughter in the May 2006 shooting after his conviction last week, but Mr Justice Muga Apondi instead opted for what he called "a light sentence".

"He had no malice aforethought in killing the accused, he bore him no grudge and the shooting was not pre-mediated," Mr Justice Apondi told a packed Nairobi High Court.

"I will enforce a light sentence to give the accused person some time to reflect upon his life. The upshot of this is I hereby sentence him to eight months in prison."

Cholmondeley, 40, showed no emotion as the judge made his ruling. His family and friends smiled with relief but made no comment as they left the courtroom.

Keriako Tobiko, the director of public prosecutions, said after the hearing that he would appeal against the sentence.

"We have no complaint with the verdict, but as regards sentencing, with great respect to the judge, we regard it as too lenient in the circumstances," he said.

"It is not commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, for which the maximum sentence is life. Let us not forget that a life has been lost here."

The judge said that he would make no decision on whether Cholmondeley would pay compensation to the widow of the dead man, Robert Njoya.

"That is a matter for a civil court," he said.

Cholmondeley found Mr Njoya poaching impala on Soysambu, the family's 48,000-acre ancestral ranch close to Naivasha, 55 miles north of Nairobi, late on May 10, 2006.

He fired his Winchester rifle, he said, at Mr Njoya's dogs, but a bullet hit the 37-year-old father of four young sons. He died soon after.

Mr Justice Apondi told the court that he had taken into account the fact that Cholmondeley immediately called the police, gave Mr Njoya first aid and arranged for him to be taken to the nearest hospital.

Cholmondeley is now likely to be home before Christmas, legal sources said, under a Kenyan system where two-thirds of a sentence are usually served.

A group of Masai tribespeople in bright coloured robes began shouting in protest and waving placards reading "The Butcher of Naivasha" in the courtroom after the sentencing.

Cholmondeley had earlier been arrested for shooting an undercover Masai game warden, also on Soysambu, in May 2005. That case was dropped for lack of evidence.

A spokesman for the group, Martin Ole Kamwaro, said: "It is clear that the life of a Masai is worth less than the life of other Kenyans."

Mr Njoya was a Kikuyu, Kenya's largest tribe.

There are fears amog the white community that there may be protests close to Soysambu. In the past they have threatened to invade the ranch if they felt justice was not served on Cholmondeley.

13 May 2009

Some Sun

and more rain.  The morning was rather normal and the sun was out for the most of the day, but rains came at about one and brought in the cool air and plenty of hail.  My clothes did dry off enough to get them off the line and I had a semi-warm shower.

Two kids that I want to mention from the center today:

  1. Robin – He is a little ball of unbridled movement who is on the go from the moment he arrives at the center.  He now knows that I kid around with him whenever he comes and he has taken to a playful relationship.  Now, whenever he sees me he gives me the hardest hand slap possible because he knows that it will cause me great pain.  I always react as if he has hurt me and blow on my hand to relieve the pain.  Today, as he was leaving, he called me over and told me to ‘bring my hand’ over to him in Swahili.  I waked over and he wound up with a great slap.  He roared as I pretended that I was in pain.
  2. Shiyonga’s brother – His brother made his first visit to the center.  He has no disability but is sadly HIV positive.  While his brother was getting treatment he sat alone.  I brought over a car and began to roll it back and forth with him.  He kept pushing it back but had no expression as he gave each light push.  Finally, after a bit of effort I was able to find a smile.  He slowly opened up and showed off his endearing smile.  I was glad to see him happy but dismayed by his appearance.  His teeth looked to be rotten at the age of no more than three and he was looking sickly in general.  I do not see how a child looking as he does, with HIV, can live for very long.  I have no experience with this so I am not sure what may or may not happen, but his health is in serious jeopardy and I do not see things progressing well for him.  He is cared for by his grandmother because his mother is dead and father has fled.

12 May 2009

U.S. "deeply concerned" by Kenyan coalition wrangles

Tue May 12, 2009 4:20pm BST

By Daniel Wallis

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Growing political tensions in Kenya must not be allowed to turn into a crisis that could lead to a return of last year's devastating post-election violence, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa said on Tuesday.

Kenya's unity government was formed last April to end turmoil that killed at least 1,300 people. But its members have done little but squabble since then while a raft of new corruption allegations surfaced, dismaying donors and voters.

Johnnie Carson said it was significant that his first substantive visit after his confirmation as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs was to Nairobi.

"We have seen and have felt, as far away as Washington, concerns about the stability of the coalition ... we are deeply concerned and worried whether the events of the last several weeks were again a prelude to a round of instability," he said.

Carson met President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the former opposition leader, as well as Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and other senior officials.

"The political tensions must not be allowed to turn into a political crisis, and a political crisis must not be allowed to turn into political violence," he told reporters.

POLITICAL INSTABILITY

Carson said rifts between their parties over issues like who would be the leader of government business in parliament probably just reflected "the tip of the political iceberg."

Other tensions likely existed below the surface, he added, which could threaten a disastrous return to unrest.

Business leaders say political instability is a bigger threat to Kenya's prospects than the global financial crisis.

Growth in the previously booming economy slowed to around 2.0-2.5 percent last year, largely due to the violence. The government sees the figure at between 2.0-3.0 percent in 2009.

"The United States regards Kenya as the most important country in east Africa and the most important country in the greater Horn region," Carson said. "We look at it as the keystone state, economically, commercially and financially."

He said all his discussions with Kenya's top politicians had been candid, forthright and cordial.

"We came here not to threaten but to warn a friend about a deep concern, and to express that concern in very clear and precise ways," the U.S. official said.

(Editing by Jack Kimball)

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved.

Randomness

  • Watched a male bird a courtin’ a female amongst the trees at the center.  He shouted to get her attention but she did not even begin to turn around to see what he was up to.  In order to get things going, he began to puff out his chest, hop around and flap his stubby wings as quickly as they could go without achieving flight.  She would fly to another branch and he would follow with a little more effort after each move.  This went on for a good twenty minutes as I watched from my seat on the broken wall.
  • I spotted Coolio’s sister walking along in Malava this morning.  She had five or so braids leaping in different directions as if competing strands looking to convince the rest to follow.  However, they were all far too stubborn to agree, let alone follow the rules of  gravity.  I attempted to convince Angela to style her hair in the same manner and she told me no.
  • We were at the center until 2:00 and only saw five children.  A second rainy day meant super duper slow.
  • After work, I sat in on the staff meeting that was conducted entirely in Swahili.  I wish I could say that I got what was going on because of all my lessons, but I was pretty lost.  On the bright side, I had the newest Economist and was treated to an orange Fanta.
  • Michelle came back with the boys and she is without a doubt the worlds cutest kid.  She also insists on talking to Michael and I as much as possible.  Since she knows a little English, she opts for Swahili.  Michael has just returned English and I pretend as if I have an idea when I cannot understand a single word she says.
  • At tuna fish for dinner, canned of course, and it was as good as I remembered.

I feel bad for the guy but he needs to go to jail

Thomas Cholmondeley offers compensation for his freedom

Thomas Cholmondeley, the white Kenyan aristocrat convicted of killing a black poacher on his father's ranch, has offered to pay compensation to his victim's widow in return for his freedom.

By Mike Pflanz in Nairobi
Last Updated: 1:11PM BST 12 May 2009

 

Thomas Cholmondeley was found guilty last week of the manslaughter of Robert Njoya, 37, in May 2006 Photo: AP

This would be enough to allow the interests of justice to be served even though the maximum penalty is life imprisonment, his lawyer told a packed sentencing hearing at Nairobi High Court.

Cholmondeley, the Eton-educated sole heir to the 5th Baron Delamere, was found guilty last week of the manslaughter of Robert Njoya, 37, in May 2006.

Fred Ojiambo, Cholmondeley's barrister, told Mr Justice Muga Apondi: "My client, his parents Lord and Lady Delamere and the entire family feel and share the anguish of the Njoya family."

"They entertain the hope and the confidence that it will be possible, to the extent humanly possible, to assuage the pain and suffering by both sides by meeting whatever material and spiritual needs which may arise," he said.

"Our humble submission is that a sentence which intends and allows for the accused person to participate in [the Njoyas'] welfare would best meet the ends of justice in this matter."

Njoya's 31-year-old widow, Serah, has struggled to raise their four sons on her meagre earnings selling vegetables.

She said after the hearing that she would be happy with a ruling which guaranteed her financial security and allowed Cholmondeley to walk free after 1,097 days on remand.

But Keriako Tobiko, the chief prosecutor, said sentencing should note the seriousness of the offence, the nature of the victim's injuries, and the fact that he had died from a bullet fired by Cholmondeley's high-velocity rifle.

While he did not call for a specific punishment, Mr Tobiko reminded the court that "manslaughter is an offence which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment".

Mr Justice Apondi will hand down the sentence on Thursday.

Mr Ojiambo's statement has opened the door to Cholmondeley being released after "time served", which may lead to protests over its apparent leniency.

The end of the three-year trial has provoked widespread debate among ordinary Kenyans and the country's small community of whites descended from the original British settler families.

Nairobi's colonial-era High Court was packed with television crews, Cholmondeley's family and friends, Mr Njoya's relatives and dozens of onlookers for the hearing.

Cholmondeley, 40, wearing handcuffs, stumbled and fell amid jostling by a scrum of media as a phalanx of police officers led him into the courtroom.

He was originally charged with the murder of Mr Njoya, but Mr Justice Apondi commuted that to manslaughter.

The trial has touched on many of Kenya's long-running neuroses relating to land ownership, relations between whites and blacks, and between the country's tiny rich minority and its vast majority of poor.

It has also drawn comparisons with the 1941 White Mischief trial.

The lover of Cholmondeley's step-grandmother was shot dead on the outskirts of Nairobi but his murderer has to this day never been found.

That trial caused a sensation in wartime Britain.

It lifted the lid on the hedonistic lifestyle of a notorious band of European aristocrats and playboys who swapped wives, took drugs and drank themselves into oblivion in what became known as Happy Valley.

BUGS!

I cleaned my room today for the first time in a few weeks and gave it a good sweep.  The treasures below are what populate my floor.  Yes, that mass is the wings of bugs with their dead bodies amongst the pile.  Below that, a beetle the size of my thumb.  All a day in the life.  It only took about a week for all of these bugs to meet their death on the floor of my room.  Enjoy.

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DSC00940

11 May 2009

Before I forget…

The girls discovered yesterday and today that mzungu hair is extremely soft.  One was daring enough to rub my head while we were watching a movie yesterday and I was not paying attention.  She laughed in delight and gasped at the same time at the softness.  Immediately, she informed the rest and they all have to come and see.  In no time, a gaggle of girls were feeling my hair.  Of course Michael being next to me was also examined.  It was like the part in Hook when the kid rubs Robin Williams face to determine if he really is Peter Pan and he exclaims, “It’s really you!”

Mud

It poured late last night and did the same this evening into tonight.  On the bring side we have some more rain for the crops on our rain tank.  It also means that the town is a mud bowl.  Fortunately, I have come to understand that it will only get worse and that the road near the SJC gets to be quite bad when it rains like it has for the past twenty four hours.  Since I have already had malaria, the next major watch will be for my first mud spill.  I am sure that I will have a glorious wipe out while walking to work one morning.  It will have to happen in the morning because then I will have to go home and take a cold shower to clean off.  The afternoon would be far too convenient. 

Since we decided to venture our in-between the two downpours this evening, I was treated to my second rain shower.  The water pressure is the best that Malava has to offer and I can get over the frigid water when I have been thoroughly soaked and wrinkled after a five minute walk.  Do not worry, Michael and I were the only people in the streets at this time.  Everyone else was under cover, we were walking in the rain.  At home I cleaned myself and my clothes.

Esther Mulupi finally came back after a three month absence, bigger and with long hair.  However, she did not lose her dancing form.  With Bob Marley boping, she broke into dance that incorporated a contagious smile.  She is a character and I love to see her dance.  In addition, Ruth was back to playing pseudo dodge ball with Nancy.  This girl did not smile once until last week when she and Nancy ran about the center throwing soft balls at each other.  Needless to say, seeing her laughing made the sitting around a forgotten experience.

DSC00837At home, the kids came by and the world’s most adorable girl, Michelle, hung out with us.  Since the kids loving telling us about Obama, we determined that it would be best to call her Michelle Obama (pictured to the left).  Do not worry, we also have made friends with Bill Clinton (R).  Yes, the Bill Clinton in the flesh right here in Kenya.  It turns out that presidential names are not unique here in Kenya.  His name is Bill Clinton, but it sounds as if DSC00884he is called Clinton.  Regardless, he will be called by his full presidential name as long as I am around.   It turns out that he  happens to have a brother named Sam (L) whose overall cuteness rivals that of Michelle Obama.  Their mother sells vegetables behind our house and made sure to thank me for allowing the boys to play at our house.  Michelle hung around while we had our Swahili lesson and then grabbed Sam to play some soccer in our courtyard while we were finishing up on our class work.

Never Much Good News

Millions Threatened With Hunger and Disease in Horn of Africa

By Lisa Schlein
Geneva
10 May 2009

Voice of America

The U.N. Children's Fund says the lives of a growing number of children in the Horn of Africa are threatened by chronic food insecurity, conflict and political instability.

Children and their parents pick up single corn kernels spilled on the road side by trucks ferrying maize corn imported from South Africa in Masvingo, south of Harare (File)

The U.N. Children's Fund says an all too familiar tragedy is unfolding in the Horn of Africa. It warns an already bad situation for children will only get worse unless the world acts with much greater urgency to provide food and other assistance.
It says countries in the region are reeling from a combination of erratic weather patterns, the global economic crisis and intensifying conflict and insecurity. It says piracy and the hijacking of ships off the Somali coast also is adding to the emergency.
UNICEF spokeswoman, Miranda Eeles, says 19.8-million people, including four-million children under the age of five, are in need of emergency relief assistance.
"This is a substantial increase over the September 2008 figure of 14 million people requiring assistance," said Eeles. "Over the last few months, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of children suffering from acute malnutrition. Data collected from nutrition surveillance and feeding centers indicate growing numbers of children are suffering from acute malnutrition, a condition which if not treated quickly can lead to death."   
To illustrate the gravity of the situation, UNICEF notes the rates of acute malnutrition in two provinces in Eritrea were above the World Health Organization emergency threshold of 15 percent.  
In Ethiopia, it says poor food security and nutrition conditions in some parts of the country may get worse because of the late start of the rains and the approaching hunger gap.
In Eastern Kenya, it says a major cholera outbreak caused by poor water and sanitation also is contributing to acute malnutrition and mortality. It says acute rates of malnutrition in both Somalia and Djibouti are beyond the emergency threshold.
It says lack of safe water and sanitation is putting millions of people at risk from waterborne disease. And, cholera and diarrheal disease outbreaks have been reported throughout the Horn of Africa.  
UNICEF says aid agencies urgently need funds from International donors to carry out their aid programs.  The children's agency says it has received less than 10 percent of the $178 million emergency appeal it launched earlier this year.
It warns it will be unable to carry out its humanitarian operations for millions of vulnerable children and women this year if it does not receive this money.

10 May 2009

Why I am happy...

Pictures from the past two weeks

Kakamega Rainforest, our day with Joshua, and various spring photos taken around town





This is priceless

Foxnews and CNN both reported it…

Man Sues Over 'Anguish, Stress' Experienced During Sex Boycott

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A Kenyan man is suing for damages over a week-long sex boycott called by national women's organizations in Kenya who were trying to make political leaders put aside rivalries and work together, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Since the women called for the sex boycott, my wife has denied me my conjugal rights. This has caused me anxiety and sleepless nights," said James Kimondo, who is suing the leaders of G10, a coalition of women's groups.

"I have been suffering mental anguish, stress, backaches, lack of concentration," he said, according to a report from the AFP.

The strike ended Wednesday but Kimondo is still pushing his claim in Nairobi's High Court.

Sex-starved Kenyan sues over boycott

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- A Kenyan man has sued activists who called on women to boycott sex to protest the growing divide in the nation's coalition government.

James Kimondo said the seven-day sex ban, which ended this week, resulted in stress, mental anguish, backaches and lack of sleep, his lawyer told the state-run Kenya Broadcasting Corp.

The lawsuit filed Friday claims lack of conjugal rights affected Kimondo's marriage and seeks undisclosed damages from the G-10, an umbrella group for women's activists, KBC said.

The women's caucus caused a national debate when it urged women to withhold sex to protest increasingly frosty relations between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Citizens of the east African nation are frustrated by a shaky coalition government, which was formed after post-election violence killed more than 1,000 people in 2008. The wrangling between Kibaki and Odinga has sparked fears of more violence.

Gender activists say they are not worried about the lawsuit.

"I have not been served with the papers, but I was told they are coming and I am eagerly waiting," said Ann Njogu, executive, director of Centers for Rights Education and Awareness. "It will be interesting to see the face of a man who is not willing to abstain for the sake of his country."

Despite the lawsuit, Njogu said, the boycott was successful.

"The principal leaders met as a result of the boycott, and I understand that they are setting up reforms to look into the country's internal security," she said.

Plans are under way for women activists to meet with Kibaki and Odinga, according to Njogu.

09 May 2009

Slow Day

US set to give Kenya Sh3bn

By KEVIN J KELLEY in New YorkPosted Saturday, May 9 2009 at 18:45

Daily Nation

The United States Congress is moving toward approval of President Barack Obama’s request for $38 million (Sh3.04 billion) in supplemental aid to Kenya.

The money is intended to promote peace and reconciliation, good governance and economic development with programmes specifically targeted at the youth.

The President asked Congress last month for the additional funding for the current US fiscal year, which runs through the end of September.

A key budget committee of the House of Representatives on Thursday approved the Kenya provisions, which are part of a much larger set of proposed supplemental spending initiatives.

“The political accord following the post-election violence in 2008 has presented an unparalleled opportunity for Kenyans to address long-standing unresolved issues,” says a report accompanying Mr Obama’s proposals.

“To address the root causes of the post-election violence requires additional resources to bolster prospects for success and sustainability of the political accord, which is critical to the future stability of Kenya and, therefore, to US interests.”

The biggest part of the new package – $21.5 million (Sh1.72 billion) would support programmes targeted at the 75 per cent of young Kenyans who are unemployed or under-employed.

“Robust support will be provided to address the multiple factors that impede the ability of Kenyan youth to develop viable entrepreneurial skills, engage as citizens in local and national issues that affect them and act as positive forces for change in their communities,” observes a report to Congress by the US Agency for International Development.

The second-largest share of the funds – $13 million (Sh1.04 billion) – would be provided under the heading “Governing Justly and Democratically.” This money would be used to help implement reforms stemming from the National Accord.

Another $1.5 million (Sh120 million) is set aside for community-based and faith-based organisations as well as the National Steering Committee on Conflict Management and Peace Building. This money is intended to assist peace and reconciliation efforts

The remaining $2 million (Sh160 million) would be used to hire additional staff to facilitate the Obama Administration’s objectives.

Angela’s Son Gracious

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All photos taken by Michael.

08 May 2009

Epilepsy Lessons

We had an utterly useless session today on epilepsy at the SJC.  Sue was lucky and got to skip, but I had to suffer through.  However, three things were gained from my time at the center.  First, I learned about stigmas associated with epilepsy in the area.  Learned today:

  • You are not allowed to marry a person with epilepsy, they have evil spirits and are essentially cursed.
  • Do not cross the threshold of a house with an epileptic.  If you do you can get it as well.
  • Epileptic people who are burned during a seizure cannot be treated at a hospital.  This was not fully explained, but it is believed that nothing can be done and there was a hint that it was a punishment of sorts.
  • If you touch a person during a seizure you can can catch epilepsy from him or her.
  • People with epilepsy are curt, mean, moody, and not all the way right in the head.
  • My favorite is for last.  A CBRW announced that she knew a family that had been involved in a series of murders.  They lived on the same plot after the murders and had children.  As a punishment for the murders, evil spirits have taken to the children in the form of epilepsy.  She was adament about this story and did not seem to be convinced that the children were sick for reasons other than the parents evil deeds.

Second, I played with Angela’s son Gracious.  He is always terrified when he sees a mzungu, but comes around after a few minutes.  I pushed him around the center on the small tricycle after the meeting was over.  Finally, Nancy came by to make us some chai and picked up mandazi for everyone.  Despite the pointless experience, it was nice to have free food and a chance to play with Gracious.

Back at home the kids gathered to hang out.  Being that it is Friday, we screened The Incredibles.  They sat quietly, enjoying the movie on my laptop.  Sue came by, Michael came home and lunch was had at the Honey Drop.  Chicken and Sakuma washed down by a Fanta was a nice treat.  Then it was a quick stop for a beer at the Frisa bar and guesthouse.

This weekend we will complete Wedlock of the Gods when Ken brings it over.  Now that the kids are back to school and it is a weekend, I expect that they will be around for the majority of the day to watch the rest of the movie and do some coloring.

07 May 2009

Rafiki Yangu

I had to write an essay titled that (my friend) for my lesson today and it was the only title I could think of for today.  A record slow day at the SJC after a packed one yesterday.  We were done at 1pm both days, yesterday we saw 21 clients with today a mere 5.  Slow would be a nice way of describing the day.  I returned home and the kids followed.  It is nice now that they are back in school.  Now our courtyard is populated by the 8 and unders in the afternoon.  They are the best behaved and by far the cutest.  With some crayons and paper they happily draw for the afternoon.  I taught them how to play tic-tac-toe and they caught on rather quickly.  I will walk about every so often to see how they are doing, but allow them to play independently for the most part.  Then it was time for a little Swahili and darkness brought an end to the day.

I am still running on fumes after two ‘late’ nights watching football with Neto.  I knew that it was going to catch me quickly.

Last thing, I have become aware that I have developed some Kenyan speech patterns and communication tactics.  I use the eyebrow-raise to say yes like everyone does here.  The two hand wave is now as natural as walking.  I cannot wave with one hand, it has to be two hands raised at chest level with palms perpendicular to the ground to be returned quickly to my side.  I also use “eh” or “je” to ask a child or person to repeat something.  Lastly, I do a sort of “tisk tisk” sound when disappointed that sounds like the same thing only sucking in rather than blowing out.  I am sure that I have latched onto other things that I am not aware of, but these things are the most distinct.

The Strike is Over!

Kenya women end sex fast

BY JUDIE KABERIA
Update 21 hours and 28 minutes ago

 

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 6 - Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation (MYWO) said on Wednesday that the seven-day sex boycott by women had been successful.

MYWO Chairperson Rukia Subow cited a meeting held on Tuesday by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, as proof that their agitation for political leadership had borne fruit.
“It has worked! Though we are calling it off today (Wednesday) the message is heard. The issue was putting pressure, it is confirmed that the two Principlas are working together and we will get reforms,” she said.
Mrs Subow said though the boycott had been trivalised by many critics, the point was not about sex but pressure on the government to speed up the reform process.
She promised that women will use their ‘strength’ to push for change in the country should the political class continue delaying the development agenda.
Her remarks came after Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi revealed that Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga met with top government Ministers and vowed to ensure that reforms would be prioritised.
He said the government seriously considered the move by women to deny their men sex saying it was urgent to respond to their plea.
“Our political class did meet and we decided to accelerate Constitutional reforms, Judicial and police reforms. I hope there will be no course for women of Kenya to go back to that boycott again,” he said.
Mr Murungi further said he was also weary of the many wrangles in the coalition government.
He said a lot of time was being wasted to resolve political differences at the expense of dealing with development issues and challenges facing Kenyans.
His wish was to see the two Principals working and consulting regularly to ensure political stability.
The two spoke during a tree planting launch by MYWO which targets to raise six million tree seedlings in its Tree Nurseries Development Project.
Mrs Subow said through women groups, the organisation would ensure the project covers 45 districts during the implementation period and cover the rest of the country afterwards.
She said besides conserving the environment and energy, the project will also be an income generating plan, adding that the campaign would take place countrywide to encourage people to plant more trees.
In its efforts to support local tree farmers, Mr Murungi said the Energy Ministry would ban importation of electricity poles from South Africa, Tanzania, Latin America, China and Finland by 2012.
He said the government had set aside Sh6 billion for the purchase electricity poles, saying with the ban the entire amount would be channeled to local tree farmers.
The Minister also noted that there was need for more trees since most of the rural populations still depend on wood even after providing electricity to about 400,000 households in the last two years.
“Firewood is still the dominant source of energy for the majority of households in Kenya, even after extending electiricity people are only using electricity only for lighting, but when it comes to cooking people are still relying on firewood,” he said.
Gender Minister Esther Murugi said the government should not fix prices for the electricity poles, but instead give women a chance to negotiate the prices.
She also appealed to the women to increase their target of six million trees to a billion trees since the country was highly damaged by de-forestation.
She further urged them to plant trees in Mau forest after the government resolves the current issue of relocating its occupants

Police worried for ref Ovrebo

May 7, 2009  ESPN

Controversial referee Tom Henning Ovrebo was understood to have been smuggled out of the country by police after receiving a number of death threats.

Ovrebo has become the target of a hate campaign after failing to award Chelsea a penalty during their Champions League semi-final against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.

The Norwegian official turned down four penalty appeals - two for clear handball - and Chelsea crashed out of the competition when Andres Iniesta scored a 93rd-minute away goal.

Chelsea had been minutes away from a repeat of last year's final against Manchester United when Iniesta struck.

But his strike cancelled out Michael Essien's ninth-minute opener and wrecked Chelsea's dreams of appearing in the final in Rome at the end of May.

After the game, Ovrebo was barracked by the Chelsea players, including Didier Drogba andMichael Ballack and he was escorted to the tunnel by Chelsea stewards.

Police were said to be so concerned about his safety that they changed his hotel before organising his secret exit from Britain.

Police in Ovrebo's home city of Oslo said they were investigating threats made on the internet.

An Oslo police spokesman said: ''We are watching closely what is being posted on the internet. Anything we believe would threaten his personal safety will be taken seriously.''

Former international referee Graham Poll said: ''This morning he's being smuggled out of our country under police escort - this is a referee of a football match. That is a disgrace.

''When he booked in a hotel they had to change the hotel he was staying at because of the fear that maybe fans would find him.''

The campaign against Ovrebo has echoes of the case of Anders Frisk. He faced a hate campaign after refereeing another game between the two clubs.

Chelsea's coach at the time, Jose Mourinho, accused the official of ''adulterating'' the outcome of a match. Frisk eventually quit the game.

Ovrebo, 42, works as a psychologist outside football. In Euro 2008 the Italian Football Federation demanded an apology from UEFA after he incorrectly ruled out a goal by Luca Toniin Italy's match against Romania Afterwards, Ovrebo admitted he had made a mistake and was not assigned any more tournament matches.

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