Tuesday, October 30, 2012


October 29,2012

Here in Kenya there is a huge ex-patriot population. Most are from England, Ireland, and the United States. The question of why people chose to leave their culture, country, and family to live in a foriegn land has always interested me. Most immigrants leave for economic reasons or for safety. They often have dreams of someday returning to the familiar

Ex-patriots I find leave for different reasons, freedom being a main one. It is not a freedom to leave behind their previous comforts, lifestyle, or mores, for these seem to be little changed. It is not the desire to someday return to their native land, although they periodly return to visit left behind family. The freedom is of being released from the pressure of their native cultural norms.

It is like being a bird, but without the pressures to fly. It is the challenge to live your life on the ground with the full knowledge you have the ability to be in the air, but never do.

 Ex-Patriots from South Africa, Edina, MN, and Ireland
on a tea plantation walk

Friday, October 26, 2012

Today is "Furahi Day"

October 26, 2012

Furahi Day in Swahili means "Happy Day".
The day begins when you wake up and  this state of mind continues throughout the workday.
In my office, there are cakes, treats, and friendship to help you make it till quiting time.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Working with Africans

October 25, 2012

I am beginning to appreciate working with East Africans. The ones I have met are open in their discussions and feelings. There seems to be a mutual respect in the exchange of ideas. Most of the ones I meet daily are educated, but even the uneducated seem to have these qualities.

If there is a mistrust, it is with their own government and politicians. If there is a trust, it is in their religion. If there is bigotry, it is with other ethnic African groups. There is a curiosity about the outside world, but I haven't detected an envy. They are generally quiet and reserved.

My travels to other countries in the region haven't started yet and my opinions could change.
So far, so good.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kenyan Grand Auto Theft

October 23, 2012

A woman in our office has had four side view mirrors ripped off her Toyota Rav 4 in three incidents while driving on the streets of Nairobi.
This is what she and others are doing to protect their property.
Note: all glass and plastic rain guards are etched and coded.

Photos listed of parts in order of marketabilty on street with prices (USD).

Toyota front grill emblem: $24
Note: screws
Model Hardware: $24
Side mirror complete: $80-$120
Note: chain between mirror and door frame
Mirror motor only: $32
Mirror glass (unetched):$16-$24
Note: guard to protect mirror glass
 Fender Blind Spot Mirror: $16
Antenna: $16
Side Running Light: $8
Rain Guards: $4 each
Mercedes Hood Emblem: $0
Toyota is the car here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Jones House

October 20, 2012
Since being here I have lived in at two different places and slept in five different beds, due to either volunteers before me claiming seniority when returning from trips or only three available beds for four people.
My latest house belongs to the supervisor of my program who is gone this next week with his wife on vacation to Cape Town, South Africa. He has kindly let me stay in his house.
This is where I now live on Thigiri Ridge Road, Nairobi.
Sure beats regular Peace Corps accommodations.
Entrance to house, complete with occupied guard house.
 Driveway looking back to entrance gate.

Front lawn
Front porch 



 Living room


 Servant's quarter
Live-in housekeeper who cooks and does laundry
"Pela", the guard dog 

"Cat", the cat


October 17-19, 2012
My firist trip outside of Nairobi is to the northeastern area of Uganda, a journey of about 320 miles. You have to imagine what the roads are like, that is if you want to call them roads. It takes 1 1/2 days to travel the distance. The roads we travelled are used by large trucks hauling goods and petroleum to landlocked Uganda and the new country of South Sudan. 
Kenyan Sights
Most people associate Kenya with big game and indeed they exist, but they are mostly confined to game reserves. The rest of Kenya is made up of small, poverty-ridden, subsistence farms, intensely cultivated, interspersed with larger commercial farms. If any game existed, it has long been eaten. Most of western Kenya is at a high elevation, so the climate is very mild, even cool.
Just outside of Nairobi is the 1,200 mile Rift Valley, truly spectacular with escarpments and volcanoes. For our trip we descend into and across the valley to the highlands of Western Kenya.The landscape continues to amaze me as we are on the equator.
Looking across a section of the Rift Valley with an extinct volcano to the left,
 behind which is the famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve
Upland scene with a Flame Tree on right
Forested area
Tea Plantation, a major Kenyan export
  Police, police in-training, and future young police cadets parade.
Kagamega, Kenya
  Street scene in Kagamega.
Bicycles are the main form of transportation, often carrying very heavy loads and pushed along the side of major highways.
Low powered motorbikes, called Boda Boda, are the main taxi's with some carrying two passengers. They are everywhere.

 Convoy of United Nations trucks heading for South Sudan.
Sign at a restaurant.
Owner says he goes through 12 rolls of toilet paper a day.
You really don't want to see the toilet.
Buyobo, Uganda
Crossing into Uganda at Busia, Kenya is a wild and frightening experience. There is lots of red tape, idling trucks lined up, money changers, push carts, uniformed people with AK-47s, everything you expect at a frontier border. In a way it is like crossing from the U.S. into Tijuana, Mexico, going from a rich place to a poor one with people always on the hustle. The only difference is Kenya is poor and Uganda even more so. To add to the backdrop is the memory of Idi Amin. Our car has red license plates, indicating we are either U.N. or someone important which makes the crossing that much easier. Photographs are those who like their cameras confiscated.
Sometimes "Failures to Communicate" happen, directions are scant, and cell phone reception poor. Such is the case when we are in Nambale, Kenya calling a person who says she will meet us at the famous "Chat and Chino" restaurant. Two problems exist: one is no one has ever heard of this restaurant and second no one has ever heard of Buyobo, Uganda, including Google, our destination. I luckily guessed Buyobo is near a town called, Mbale, Uganda which is in the opposite direction of our travels and not in Kenya.
Eureka! Upon arriving in Mbale, Uganda we locate "Chat and Chino", only to see it is a coffee shop unknown to all residents of Mbale, except a few Westerners. There are American lady sits, patiently waiting our arrival who after living there for nine months is not exactly sure how to get from Mbale to where she lives in Buyobo. We are to learn about the nine year program conducted by the U.S. based Women Microfinace Organization.
The famous "Chit and Chino" Coffee Shop, shared with Gatsby Microfinace, Ltd. 
Mbale, Uganda
Buyobo, Uganda Scenes
 Main Street, Buyobo
Toyota Land Cruiser is ours. Cattle theirs.
 An upscale Buyobo house
 Mt. Elgon
A 14,000 ft+ volcano which dominates the landscape between Kenya and Uganda.
Buyobo is along side it.
 Cheki, our driver, with Buyobo children
Samoan thoughts.
In many ways Buyobo reminds me of some parts of Savaii, Samoa with the rain, humidity, and misted mountain back drop.
Business Opportunities
One reason I am in East Africa is to identify business opportunities. So far, I have found three:
-Fried Banana Chips
     The microfinance women in Buyobo, Uganda harvest and sell bananas to earn extra money, but they never heard of slicing the bananas, frying and bagging them as a snack food. Banana chips are their next enterprise.
-Unique Baskets
     The microfinance women of Kagamega, Kenya basically sell the same food stuffs as hundreds of other people scraping a living. Upon a little thought, bull fighting (two bulls fight each other) and the crying rock are two very unique things about this area. Why not paint pictures of bulls fighting, the Crying Stone, and the name of Kagamega on baskets to sell?
 Crying Stone
-Bicycle Paths
     Why not rip up and sell the unused rails of Uganda for scrape and use the money to convert the roadbeds to bicycle paths? Why stop there when the bike trails can be dotted with coffee shops, boutique inns, and padded bike pant shops?
Picture yourself biking across Uganda.
Goats R'Us
I love goat meat and sometimes serve it at home to unsuspecting guests. Usually the goat I buy is chopped up into little bony pieces. When our driver learned about my love, and also his love for chomo (Swahili for goat), we just had to stop at a road "Chomo Eden".

 Kind of like "Fuddruckers", only the meat is fresher,
 being killed that day and unrefrigerated.
 Charcoal cooking, with fat dripping onto the coals.
Can't be beat.
As any carnivore knows, the most nutritious part of any animal is not the meat, but the innards.
These innards are dripping with fat and "Delicious!"

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kissing a Giraffe

October 14, 2012

Went to "Giraffe Manor" outside of Nairobi today. It is a private park established to protect and educate people about giraffes.

It also has a luxurious Manor House and Estate where giraffe lovers can stay for up to $1,000/night and where you can feed giraffes from you bedroom window (no discounts for multi-night stays).

A group of ex-Peace Corps Volunteers went to learn about and kiss giraffes, as well as, eating a sumptuous meal while relating the pros and con of our Peace Corps experiences.
The approach
 The warm-up
The kiss
Saliva is anti-septic

 Dining in the Manor House
Julie (Swaziland), Steve (Swaziland) , Nick (Samoa), Dan (Kenya), Jim (Mongolia)



Property "Not For Sale"

October 14, 2012

To understand a little about Kenya, you have to understand this sign which states this property IS NOT FOR SALE.

It seems that a big problem is that people sell things which are not theirs. You make a down payment on a piece of property or a car only to find out much later that the property  is not owned by the person selling it, but also it is not for sale at all.

The great thing about this sign is that it states "Beware of con men" amd a phone number to call to verify that this piece of land is not for sale.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nairobi Safari

October 13, 2012
Just a few miles from downtown Nairobi is the huge Nairobi National Park where in just a few hours you can see the same animals in their natural setting as you could see on a regular safari.
 Downtown Nairobi in background
Animals seen

Cape Buffalo


Too boring to photgraph. Look like blobs in a pond


Seen but too far away to photograph


Wart Hog




Sorry, no elephants in the park. Can't be contained