Archive for the ‘African Experiences’ Category

Weeping Rock and Barasa

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

June 11th
Today Richard, Valerie, and Kathy Lambert had a rather long breakfast with a member of the Kenyan parliament.  In the meantime, Heather, myself, Teresa, Mesh and Garrison went to go see what’s called the “Weeping Rock”.  Which you can see below from the road, and that is generally the only view I’ve ever had of it.  It’s called the weeping rock because I was told that there is a constant stream of water coming out of the rock from the top.  From the road I’ve always been able to see what appears to be water falling out of it, and you can see it in the below picture. 

Weeping Rock, as seen from the Road

However, once we got close we were informed that it really only weeps during August.  So we weren’t able to see it weep.  Either way, that’s still pretty cool.  The rock must be porous or have a thin crack running to the ground so that when the water level gets high enough surface tension draws it up.  You can see a close up picture below and one can easily see the erosion and staining that the water has done over the years.  So now, it always looks like there is a little water coming down.  Overall it cost us about $7 to go see it, as Mesh had to pay the local ladies in the area to be allowed passage through their lands to get to the Rock.  Not a bad fee to allow strangers to pass through, plus I think Weeping Rock Tourism is one of their main sources of income.  

Weeping Rock

 After the weeping rock, we picked up everyone else at the hotel and headed to the Kakamega PEFA church.  It was great fun as I got to see Simon and Grace Barasa and their family again.  I stayed with them previously during the whole election thing in 2008.  More about that Election stuff can be read here, and a little about Simon’s house and Kakamega can be read here.  Pictured below are 2 members of Simon’s family, Barbara, who is their eldest daughter and Gloria, their new daughter.  I say new, but obviously she’s been around for awhile; just new to me.  Belated Congratulations Simon and Grace!  Heather and I took a visit to Simon’s house to see Benjamin (only son) and Kristen (niece or cousin?) as well as the new improvements to his digs.  He’s added a house for rental, and is working on another one.  Having 3 houses on his property is a great investment in Kenya and should secure his finances over the next few years. 

Valerie with Barbara and Gloria Barasa

 On a side bar, we finally met and talked to some English ladies who we had seen numerous times at the hotel.  They were very sweet and took us to go see some recent puppies next door.  They were quite friendly and adorable.

English ladies, who’s names I sadly have forgotten.


Shikusa Boys Detention Center

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

June 8th
Wow, today was an amazing day.  Baptisms, Singing, Dirty Rivers, Small Hikes, Bacon for brekky, cashews at night.  Shoot, even a “white girl” was baptized, but I will get to that in a minute.  Right now the focus is on the Shikusa Boys.

Today is the day where we get to be a part of the baptism of ~50 boys at the Shikusa Boys Detention Center.  Now, I have been to Shikusa a couple times in the past, once for an introduction and once for a Christmas Party that the Kakamega PEFA Church Youth gave them.  The status there is at present a good one, at least while recognizing that those kids are in jail and unable to leave.  In prior years, before I ever visited, it was not such a pleasant place.  Horrid living conditions, kids were always sick, bad food, … Actually, it was probably as bad as what most westerners would envision an African detention camp.  Like most jails throughout the world it generally encourages the youth to continue committing infractions because they know nothing else and don’t learn anything while in jail –  and yes, that is a very general yet condemning statement that I shan’t attempt to prove.  Dr. George Matimbai (I’m not sure on the spelling of his last name) came across Shikusa through his own dealings with some of the boys there in a story that I shall not relate here as it may be private and I haven’t asked permission.  Anyways, Dr. George visited the compound, saw the dismal conditions and decided that he needed to help them.  He is now a member of their board and has been instrumental in revitalizing the compound into more of a Juvenile Re-Education Center.  By Re-education I mean that most of those boys have learned few good things in their lives and while they are forced to spend 1-2 years in this compound they now have the opportunity to learn a variety of skills such as construction, sewing, upholstery, carpentry, …  Something to at least make it worthwhile to earn an honest living.  In addition to the physical help they receive there, many of the staff are Christians and the boys receive spiritual assistance there as well, as such many of the boys have chosen to follow the Lord.  They even pick spiritual leaders amongst themselves to lead small groups and such.  It is that reason that we are here today, to baptize many of those who have committed to follow the Lord.

But first, a few pictures!

 Here we are meeting one Shikusa head, I believe his name was Joseph.  A real nice, friendly gent.

The boys depicted here are constructing a house, for school as well as for use obviously.

This was great.  Right next to the house that the boys were building lay a large pile of rocks that will be used at some point in the building process I assume.  But crawling all over the rocks were baby goats, enjoyed the themselves quite thoroughly.  As my wife would say, “Adorable!”
The above boys are working on there schooling.  Essentially their goal is to be able to pass the High School / SAT equivalent tests with good scores which may allow them to enter college.

One of their sleeping houses.  The boys lay out their mats at night, and clean them up in the morning.  This makes for a clean sleeping arrangement, no places for rats, or bugs or whatever to hide, bite, and make the boys sick.

Here is another house that has some beds for the boys.  I do not recall if they were made on the compound or offsite.  I seem to remember them saying that they were welded onsite, but I don’t recall seeing a welder around.

 Carpentry Class!

During the pre-baptism ceremony, where Richard and Simeon were preaching – talking really – to the boys about baptism and their own experiences (both having been converted while confined in a Jail!) I felt a tap on my knee and looked over to see Heather with tears in her eyes, and she told me – to my utter astonishment due to the surroundings – that she wanted to get baptized.  “Today?” I whispered.  With her affirmation I turned to Richard next to me (Simeon was talking) and asked if they would baptize Heather.  I believe his response was “Sure, if she wants too” and then both he and Valerie looked at Heather and their faces turned from a quizzical look to an “oh, wow, umm, okay, great!” look.  Not a facial expression you could fake.  😉  So after a pre-baptism talk and some worship, we all walked about 1 mile on a trail down to the river that I shall call the Shikusa river.  Though in reality I guess the river didn’t have a name, no one knew what to call it.  I guess the locals just call it the river cause there is only one and they don’t go elsewhere. 

Here is worship time with the boys, pre-baptism.  
They were rocking and a jiving!  
Walking down to the river

Beautiful countryside.  We are carrying towels and shirts for the boys.

At the baptism site the water looks utterly delightful, and by delightful I mean completely dirty.  They weren’t sure if they wanted Heather to get baptized here or not due to the possible contamination in the water, like cow feces. 

Some of the boys were really scared about going underwater, many of them don’t know how to swim.

Long line of boys to enter the water with us wazungu looking on.  We would towel them, anoint them and pray for them as they came out.

Praying and anointing post-baptism.
And last but not least, out of the water came the white girl!  
My lovely wife Heather, or as the kenyan’s say: Heatha’. 

After all the baptism stuff was done, we hiked back to the compound and met Bishop Simeon on the way there.  We gave a post-baptism service where we each presented some gifts to the boys, Heather and I presented socks to the counseling department.  We then proceeded to eat a late lunch with the guards, which was quite delicious!  An excellent lunch, ugali, meat, fruit, japati (fresh tortillas); very standard fare but always excellent and we were all quite pleased to see it. 

On the way home we dropped by Nakumatt for some minor dinner fixings, I bought some yogurt and cashews.  We brought all our goods together into Kathy and Cindi’s room for a hodgepodge of a dinner.  Mango slices, someone made noodle soup on the stove, avocado, nuts, yogurt, … like I said, a hodgepodge.
And that was a good, long day!

Leaving Miwani & Nancy Odwaro

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

June 7th
Oh my goodness.  This morning I woke up around 6:30am to an amazingly large noise of birds chirping.  There was so many of them it sounded akin to a heavy rainfall on a tin roof.  The chirping and fluttering and more chirping.  Crazy loud.  Anyways, it was a good time to get up, everyone else stayed asleep or in their rooms until 7-8 so I got some nice quiet time in the front room overlooking the farm.  Very pleasant, very relaxing. 

Later in the morning we walked over to Karunga School, which was, in essence, personal project for some of the original farm members.  They diligently worked on enhancing their library, studies, and buildings.  Valerie just wanted to show us the school and the kids. 

Then we packed up and headed out from Miwani.  A couple years ago I spent 3 months there, this time, just a night.  Next we headed back into the Kisumu “suburbs” – I’m not really sure what you’d call the non-downtown areas of a large city – towards Nancy Odwaro’s House for the Olive Branch Documentary.  She put together a thanksgiving feast for us!  I wish I had pictures.  Rice, a few meat sauces, pineapple, mango, homemade juice, bread, the table was packed!!  And it was all mightily delicious.

During the documentary us boys, who didn’t have a part to play at this particular time, hung around outside talking, and keeping quiet as our voices could carry.  I checked out Nancy’s house and plot of land.  She is quite the efficient woman!  It isn’t a big plot of land but she had a couple cows, goats, chickens & mango trees.  A worker was working on her water flow system while we were there.  Most Kenyan residents who can afford it generally seem to install a series of concrete gutters to take in the heavy rains that come and dump it where they want to dump it, and take it away from the house.

I talked quite a bit with Mesh during this interlude, about his business ideas and the local response to the Chinese presence.  As figured, most didn’t mind the investment and all the workers.  They generally kept to themselves and didn’t want to socialize with the Kenyans, and so the Kenyan’s let them be.  Anywhoo, we talked and at one point Mesh stood to move away but as he stood I had some serious deja vu.  At that moment I stopped talking and asked if we had talked about this before.  The image of him in front of the van and me sitting down at Nancy’s place was stuck in my mind from a prior time.  I must have dreamed that conversation at some point in the past.  Strongest deja vu feeling of my life and I am dead serious on that.  Based on that deja vu I made a few decisions later on and we shall see where that will lead later on in life.

Anyways, we were at Nancy’s for a decent number of hours.  When we were done we headed to our next hotel, the Sheywe House, dumped all our goods and went to have a late dinner at the hotel restaurant.  We had a great view of some amazing lighting storms in the background.  The power kept going out putting us in total darkness, which while it gave good darkness for watching lighting, when you are hungry and the cooks need electricity to cook you food; well, let’s just say it was about 1.5-2 hours before we were all served.  Many dishes were served cold because they wouldn’t bring them out as they were done.  They waited until all dishes were ready.  Poor Valerie, she always seemed to get the brunt of food issues on this trip.  Either being served last, or served cold food, or both.  Both happened to her this time, cold and served last. 


Safari, Nairobi Game Park

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Game Park Day!  Boo Yah!  You can see all 44 good pictures here.  Below are a few with comments and/or stories.

A side note on breakfast: they had gizzards available.  However, I don’t know if that is what gizzards normally taste like or not but they were incredibly tough.  Like eating cartilage or rubber.  No way could I chew or digest those things.  I left them alone on my plate after unsuccessfully attempting to eat one.

I thought the above picture was adorable.  Heather was pretending to be another baby Rhino next to the Mama rhino.  See the pose of the baby rhino behind me and compare to Heather.

Virtually right away upon entering the park we had giraffes come great us.  It was spectacular.  They came within 30 feet of the Church Van (which had all Kenyan friends) and probably about within 40 feet of our Van – mostly mzungu’s (whites) and Haron.

The van we used was a classic “safari van” with a pop top.  So about 4 people could easily stand inside the van with their heads poking out the top.  After a few minutes of roaming around the park I decided to keep my head up consistently to keep watch!  and boy am I glad I did, we turned left and one point but I looked over to the right and saw a ton of zebras only a few minutes drive away.  So we turned around and drove towards them and just as we were approaching the zebra leader – would you call that zeader? 😉 – crossed the road about 150 ft in front of us.  So we carefully coasted up to about 30ft from where he crossed and all the other obedient zebras crossed right where he crossed, which was right in front of us!  It was fantastic!

Ostriches sure are odd birds.  These were one of the few animals that I could easily spot from 2 miles away, most other animals were at least some what difficult to see.  Zebra’s, despite their black as well, blend in much better into the background.  Ostriches, no blending what so ever!  Good thing they are fast enough to run away from most predators.  Wikipedia says they have a max running speed of 60 miles an hour!  That’s faster than my little diesel rabbit truck, which starts to shake a little bit at 60mph.

These little guys were scattered throughout the plains, and some of them had beautiful horns like this gentleman.  Often they would be near the road but leap and run away as soon as we got close.  Was it my body odor?!  😉

This picture was taken just as the baboon was going in for the attack!  Before arriving to this “picnic area” – which has a sign posted warning you of baboons in the area – Valerie told us stories about how last time they were down here the baboons were vicious little critters.  The baboons I guess were all over the picnic area and were not very friendly to anyone attempting to have lunch.  Anyways, after we all got out of the vans at the picnic area – which is generally the only place one should get out of the van while in the Nairobi reserves – Heather and I walked over to the far side of the picnic area which overlooked a cliff/rift area.  Heather saw the baboon first coming up the roadway and wanted to get a picture of it.  Once I finally saw it and watched it get closer we noticed that the large baboon had a young one with it as well.  At this point we nonchalantly yelled back to the vans “The baboons are coming!”; which being that there was only two this time we thought it was funny that “the baboons” were coming.  Heather did get quite close to them at which point I stated “don’t get too close!” as I’ve heard stories about how vicious baboons can be.  Paranoid?  Maybe.  Either way, the Baboons kept walking up the roadway and then veered off the roadway going away from the group.  Which I thought was a good thing, but they were just angling for a better attack position.  Suddenly they broke their casual walking pace and booked it towards the picnic table where everyone else was.  They ran between the vans, and I guess the group at the picnic table with all the food saw the young baboon first while the larger baboon jumped and perched on the picnic table bench for a second.  Startled everyone there, but especially the 2-4 year old Kenyan girl who was sitting on the bench right below this large baboon.  At this point we had packed a lot of food in a cardboard box, and seeing this the baboon grabbed it and made as if to dash.  Nash (I believe) also grabbed the box and a hilarious (in retrospect) tug of war took place for 3-5 seconds.  The box eventually tore down it’s corners and the contents spilled out.  I missed what happened next, but from the stories I think Valerie had picked up a box of cookies that had spilled out of the larger cardboard box during the scuffle.  The baboon, seeing that she obviously valued that box of cookies huffed and puffed at Valerie and grabbed those cookies right out of her arms!  Nash at this point then proceeded to imitate Rocky IV and punched the baboon straight in the chest.  Which I’m sure hurt at least a little but, but it startled the baboon more than anything because well, if it was a human it would have needed a diaper, but being an animal well, let’s just say that Number 2 ended up on the table he was so startled.  He than ran off with the cookies, and Osborn ran off the younger baboon who was still lurking nearby looking for something tasty to grab.  Overall, quite the story! Below is a picture of the younger baboon enjoying someone else’s lunch or garbage.

Seeing the warthogs was a fun event.  We were driving along and suddenly you see something large moving about in the bushes!  There was a whole family of these guys and after we pulled up they decided to leave the bushes and head elsewhere so we got a decent view of them.  Though the tall grass hid them well so the above is one of the better pictures.

Later one we approached a “nature walk” area.  Which was staffed by two soldiers with mid to large caliber rifles.  One of them took us on the nature walk where we saw three crocodiles, some turtles, a hippo, some birds and monkeys, and I think that’s everything.  The armed escort was even able to get the monkeys up close!

This is the famed Rhino which unfortunately (or luckily) didn’t get very close.  There you can just see his gray scaly back between the Ostrich and Gazelles.

Definitely one of the highlights of the trip was that we got to see Lions up close and personal.  Apparently Valerie and Richard, despite their many trips to the game park, have never seen a lion here.  Excepting one time where it was far away and “I think that’s a lion, but it could be something else”, but that doesn’t really count.  In the above lion picture you see how they are up high on a mound, well we drove right up to base of that mound and hung out there for 10 minutes.  They would look at us but luckily they weren’t very hungry! 😉

Near the end of the trip we finally got to see a Wildebeast!  They look just like the ones in the Lion King 😉

Beautiful shot huh?  You can thank my wife for that one.

Overall it was a spectacular day, fun, hot and tiring.  We all went back home and ordered meat at the Roasters Restaurant which was loosely attached to our Hotel.  Valerie had warned us that this restaraunt takes forever so we ordered food and then went back into the hotel to change, shower and prepare for the evening.  We spent about 45min doing this but still waited an additional 75 minutes for food.  This place doesn’t have a menu, you just tell them what kind of meat you want and they cook it.  Heather and I ordered Goat, to which the waitress asked “Arm, Leg, Ribs, …” so we got an arm to share between the two of us.  That meat was the among the toughest meat I’ve ever eaten.  My jaw was so tired after we were done.  My oh my!


Kibera Slums

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

June 1st – Kibera Slums
We visited the Kibera Slums today.  Kibera is the 2nd largest urban slum in Africa.  It is crowded, dirty, smelly, unsanitary and would be unfortunate for anyone to live there, yet 1/2 to 2 million people are that unfortunate.  It has a 100 year history that can be found easily on the web so I won’t go into that.  I don’t have any pictures from our time here because it was recommended not to take any pictures.  Some might take offense at it, others might try to steal the camera.  So for safety concerns, no cameras.

We had two soldier escorts with us to ensure safety.  We drove all in one van down one of the main strips of Kibera which was littered trash and shops.  Shops selling anything from cell phones/credit, to tailoring, furniture, water, vegetables, meat, welders, grinders, hair salons, and even photocopying/computer services.  Any and all of the normal shops you’ll see in any Kenyan city.  This blog post here has a great descriptoin and some pictures of such shops.  Oh, and I would not suggest the meat, they don’t refrigerate.  My western stomach would hurl mightily if it attempted to ingest such food I’m sure.  Eventually we got as far as we could with the van, so we parked and walked 1/5 to 1/10th of a mile for a few home visits of people in the community that could use prayer.  On the way, we walked past a man who was peeing into the rain trench (which is generally filled with rubbish and feces).  I’m sure we surprised him more than we us, how often does he have a bunch of white westerns walk behind him in the middle of the slums?

Home Visits:

  • Young boy (under 3 yrs old) with deformed feet.  He had a metal brace attached to his shoes that will force his limbs into a proper placement as he grows.
  • Young girl (under 5 yrs old) who had been raped by a grown man.  This was hands down the hardest part of the trip.  Justice is the Lord’s was something I had to consider.
  • Family of 3 girls where the oldest girl (13 yrs old?) is taking care her sisters, one of whom doesn’t talk or is deaf (couldn’t quite get that figured out), and one who had a huge goiter on her throat.
  • Happier visit to some kids that a gal from Westside sponsers.  Checking on how they are doing and such, they are in school and seem happy.

Kara Kibera School
WorldComp Kenya supports a school in the middle of Kibera and feeds the kids who attend one meal a day (beans and corn mainly with a banana) to help keep them in school and somewhat healthy.  The kids were delightful, and gave us some poems, songs and other such “presentations”.  At the end some of the ladies associated with the school (moms?  teachers?) produced some of their bead work of which we brought home a bunch in order to sell at the garage sale and on Etsy.  Overall their going rate is about $1 to $1.50 per day of work.  So a bowl that takes 2 weeks may cost 12$-15$ bucks, but a pair of earrings may go for $2.  Which, surprisingly is enough to sustain their lives there (1 meal + rent basically; I doubt much if any is left over).


The Ol’ Kenyan Boot

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Sorry about the delay in this blog, I wanted to surprise a number of people first. But in essense, this blog states that I am now back in the ol’ Seattle area. That’s right, Kenya decided they didn’t want me, or rather, that it was best if I wasn’t around in case things got worse. Surprise!

Arrived back home last Sunday to be exact, Feb 2nd I do believe. Surprised my parents and brother rather well as they didn’t know I was coming back. Dan and Dad just stared at me for a couple seconds with a good look on their faces, Mom naturally had some tears and complained about how skinny I was (I think that was the first thing she said!)

Jan 31st
So, this may seem a bit sudden, and it seems that way because it is. From my being notified that we were leaving to arriving back home was a span of about 100 hours. Jan 31st started out as a normal day, and I was in the orchard with some of the boys working with a hoe around the trees. We were working some cow manure into the ground for fertilizer. Steve, a German gent, came by and picked me up in the Tractor saying “we’re leaving this weekend”, which was news to me. Within a couple hours “we’re leaving this weekend” turned into “volunteers leaving tomorrow” to “all Westerners leaving tomorrow” to “get ready tonight, you got 1/2 hour”. What we ended up doing was riding to a ministry (DOM: Disciples of Mercy) in Kisumu with a military guard. Not armored vehicles or anything, just a couple guys in camo with rifles; rifles meaning guns with 2inch bullets. Just on the outskirts of Kisumu we switched vehicles to a DOM van with no guard and entered Kisumu. We switched as a road block was set up and I guess the DOM van was allowed to pass back and forth. The primary reason for the fast exodus was because a 2nd Member of Parliament was killed within 36 hours of the first one. The Farm manager was in Kisumu when the news hit and the people in Kisumu weren’t too fond of hearing that a second MP of theirs was killed. Kisumu wasn’t the best place to be. I guess within 5 minutes of the news hitting, Kisumu had road blocks everywhere and more burning. Given that there’s a decent chance that the MPs were killed for political reasons, and that it was unknown if more were going to be killed; it was decided that we should leave while we can. Thankfully, it appears that things haven’t gotten much worse, and no more opposition MPs have been killed, but Kenya is still in turmoil.

Feb 1st:
So we stayed the night at the DOM compound and the next morning around 5:45, under cover of darkness, bogarted it over to the Kisumu airport. From Kisumu, we took a half hour flight to Nairobi where the others got flights out. Unfortunately, as Seattle is asleep when I’m awake, and awake when I’m asleep, I wasn’t able to get a ticket for that same day and ticket changing was somewhat difficult (send an email one day, get reply back next day kinda thing). The travel agency was thankfully very flexible and got me a ticket for Feb 2nd, in the evening. I got a ride to a 20dollar a night hotel in the city center and spent a couple hours before dark in the city center. I had a rough night though. I went to bed around 9:30, a little early, but not to abnormal of a bed time for me while in Kenya, but only slept till 12:30 and was awake till 5 when I fell asleep again till 7. Those 4.5 hours my mind was awake and racing I couldn’t fall asleep again no matter what. Not like I had anything else to do either so I was bored out of my mind as well. Sucked hardcore.

Feb 2nd:
Spent the morning in the city as well, enjoyed some good city food, talked to some of the local shop owners about politics and all that jazz. Funny, people always wanna know how America does democracy and how come we aren’t ours isn’t corrupt like their government is. I think my response to that was “American democracy is corrupt as well, and we rig elections too, but we do with with style so the people don’t care so much”. Which is true and sad, but I still thought it was ironically humorous. I got a ride back to the airport around 11 and confirmed that my tickets existed, then had to sit around till the 6:10pm flight. I got their so early, because I wasn’t sure at this point of I was actually ‘on’ the 6:10 flight, and if I wasn’t, I wanted time to get on it.

So, only a short 2 hour flight to Ethiopia with a 2hour layover and I was on my way back to the states. Granted, from Feb 2nd, 6:10pm Nairobi time to Feb 3rd, 3:45pm Seattle time is 32.5 hours, which is a lot of time on an airplane. A LOT! Sucky flight, bored out of my mind most of the time and as I couldn’t sleep (can’t sleep much on an airplane) I was also sleep deprived which meant mentally unstable. Thank God for movies. But still, on a 32.5 hour flight, the 3 movies I watched only account for 15% of the time, which is too small. Anywhoo, I’m relieved to be home and no longer crammed on a plane.

Now Back Home:
Since this will get read by a decent (I think) number of people, I’ll take this chance to also throw out that I will shortly be looking for a place to stay again. If anyone knows of a place that has a garage or workspace that I could also rent, let me know. I’m very keen on finding a place that allows me to work on little pet projects. Everything else is pretty much negotiable (room size, roommates type, blah blah), heck, I don’t even care if I gotta sleep in the garage/workshop. While that’s probably not legal, but I won’t tell if you won’t tell! 🙂 As for me as a roommate, I can be a hermit a majority of the time, quiet, clean, and all that. If you need a reference, with my ex-roommates permission, I will give out his contact info to those that ask.

Also, I got my old phone back up and running. Same number and all.

Oh, and yes, it’s friggin’ cold here. but now after about a week I’m starting to re-adapt to it. but those first few days were pretty harsh, I thought I couldn’t get warm. In fact, I was only really warm after a scalding shower, in which, like a snake, I would absorb heat energy with which I would stay warm for about an hour after words and then freeze again.


Goose Assassination

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

So the other day I got to see a pretty sweet Goose Assassination. Can’t really say too much here, else I might be next….. but check out the pictures eh? and just in case, dont’ be eating while you look. It’s for your own safety, and that of your keyboard incase you have a weak stomach. 🙂


Election Fun Times!

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Voting Day!
On December 27th, 2 days after Christmas, 1 day after Boxing Day (I didn’t get to box anyone unfortunately) Kenyans turned out in record numbers to vote. All the weeks prior to this people have been going nuts about the elections. Signs are everywhere. Hats and clothing depicting their candidates are commonly seen. People in trucks often drive by yelling and screaming. It quickly become ‘part of the ordinary’. The primary candidates are/were

Mwai Kibaki (Incumbent)

Party of National Unity (PNU)

Raila Odinga (Primary opposition)
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)

Note that both of these parties are new and their histories are complicated. If anyone is interested in knowing more specifics on the history behind these candidates and their parties, post a comment and I’ll write a blog about it. Otherwise I’m not gonna spend time on something that no one but me cares about. What can I say, I love politics. Well, actually I despise politics. I love political theory I guess, not politics.

Short History
Anywhoo, so the main driving force behind each Party was as follows. The Party of National Unity, PNU, was for the status quo. The Orange Democratic Movement, ODM (note that ODM is a different party then ODM-Kenya, incase you see ODM-K in an article, it is NOT ODM), represents a desire for Change. Thus, essentially those that liked the way the current administration did things, voted for Kibaki. Those who wanted ‘Change’ voted Raila. There is a long history for both Kibaki and Raila, but the basics are that Kibaki helped draft the original constitution of Kenya was drafted after Independence and Raila has been in prison multiple times for being a ‘revolutionary’. His first prison stay was for being suspected of collaborating with the plotters of a failed coup attempt against President Moi. At the time, Kibaki was Vice President.

Lots of history as you can see, but again, essentially a vote for Raila was a ‘vote for change’ (Offical slogan of ODM) and a vote for Kibaki was a ‘vote for staus quo’ (NOT the offical slogan. Offical slogan was Tano Tena, which literally means Five Again, but in context is Five More Years of Kibaki as a presidential term is 5 years). Kenyan politics has been rife with corruption from the start (but then again, aren’t all democracies?) with the presidents usually pandering to their Tribal base (Western democracies pander to their Party base, but pretty close). Kibaki is of the tribe Kikuyu (largest tribe in Kenya) which are commonly business people but are known as theives and cheats. If this has any basis, I dunno, but I guess a majority of the tax monies go to areas where Kikuyu’s are the majority. Raila’s tribe is Luo (third largest), which is one of the largest tribes in Kenya, and they are known for their zeal, passion, and sometimes violence. Interestingly enough, Barack Obama is of Luo descent as was born in the same provice as Raila. Kenyan’s are rather excited about Obama’s run for the White House. I try not to dissuade them too much even though Obama ain’t my type. Give me a Statesman anyday, those politicians can stick with their slimy crowd.

Voting Day
December 27th, 2007, Thursday
As all the Kenyan’s went to the polls with “Change” or “I like it the way it is” on their mind, I decided to join in the fun. Going to the polling station to stand in line for awhile with some people I knew, I was asked by a guard (guard in Camo, holding a hunting rifle) if I was an observer.

ME: “uhhh, yah I’m just observing, not voting
Guard: “Come with me“.

He brings me to the front and lets me into the voting room. I stand their for a bit looking suave I’m sure, just acting like an EU Observer would act I’m sure. Standing by the door with beady eyes looking over everything. One gent came up to me, introduced himself as the PO and asked who I was,

“I’m John Jolly, good to meet you”
Apparently that wasn’t quite what he was looking for
(he shoulda been more specific) as he tried again.
“Where are you from?”
“America, the United States
“Do you have a letter?”
“uuuh, no, no letter, sorry”
…. *pause* as he stares at me ….
“It’s okay, you can stay”
“Thank you, I’ll be done shortly

So I then proceed to observe for a full cycle as one guy is let in, gets his papers, ID record all that jazz, votes then leaves. Overall I was there maybe 10 minutes. Then I left and stood back in line for awhile, then left off to the town to go find a cyber cafe if one was open. Passing the guard by the exit (same guard who let me in to the voters booths) he asked if I was done with ‘this’ polling station. I said I was and proceeded on my merry way.

December 28th, Friday
The next day was a slow day as we watched the TV most of the time for election updates. On a side note, I took a shower that afternoon, (african shower, which means you have one bucket of water that you use your hands to splash yourself with. See an earlier blog for a more graphic explanation) but after I had soaped myself up I accidently knocked the water over. Not a position I wanted to be in. Knocking the water over involved hurredly trying to get as much water off of the ground and into the bucket as I could. Not always the cleanest water. Using this I rinsed off as best as I could then had to suck down the ol’ pride, put on a towel over my soapy body and go get more water. Luckily for me everyone was entranced by the TV and no one seemed to notice my painfully white body sneaking more water from the big ol’ water tubs.

December 29th, Saturday
2 days after initial voting is when the violence started. People started getting irrated with some fairly obvious delaying and rigging of votes. Two were shot this day in Kakamega (town I was in at the time). These were police killings. Only Police and bandits have guns as owning a gun is basically illegal in Kenya. Overall the violence wasn’t too horrible anywhere but was very tense.

December 30th, Sunday
We had a small church service today. Most people stayed home for safety and the police wanted us to end early to ensure that everyone went home and didn’t stick around. The Police aren’t too fond of crowds. Peaceful or not, they don’t care. Later that day, Kibaki was declared president. This is when hell started to break loose. It wasn’t just because he was declared president, but because Raila when from a 300,000 vote lead to 300,000 votes behind with some very shady circumstances. Here’s an example of shady.

Shady Breakdown
At each polling stations, Political Parties where allowed to have an ‘agent’ there to make sure nothing shady happens. At end of the day after they observe the counting, they all sign a form (Form 16 and 16A) stating the number of votes for all candidates from that polling station. The Kikuyu tribe are primarily in 2 provices, Central and Eastern; and thus those provinces are primarily for Kibaki. A number of stations in Central and Eastern were 2 days late in turning in their vote records and often without form 16 and 16A. The where significant differences between the numbers reported on the ground and the numberes reported by the ECK, Election Commision of Kenya. In one example, Molo station gave Kibaki 60 thousand votes on the ground, but the number delivered, the “official” number was 95 thousand. A 35 thousand vote increase. Note that there were also 35 thousand people who only voted for the President and not for any of the other positions like Parlimentry seats or local officials. Shady. Anyways, a bunch of other things that were blatantly obvious.

So on the evening of December 30th Kibaki was declared president and half of Kenya exploded. Kibaki was declared president in a press conference with only the KBC media allowed (KBC is government owned). Only KBC was there because everyone else was escorted out by the GSU, (think Marines, special forces) after the Election Commission exploded into yelling due to modified voting numbers where actual proof was availabe that something had changed. At this point the road outside had a number of people on it, putting rocks on the road to act as blockaids, a big ol’ rusty trailor was dragged onto the road, some tires burned, all kinds of good stuff. But overall most people were just standing.

New Years Eve
December 31st
I saw my first soldiers/police today. I don’t know what they were but all the police I’d ever seen in Kenya wore blue. These guys were in camouflage gear with what looked like typical military hats and heavy hunting rifles. Officially the ‘army has not been deployed’ but I’d wager that was a lie. Where else did the get the troops to cover the entire country in police? The army guys searched a neighbors house but luckily did nothing. Another neighbor got his roof shot off with a ‘warning shot’. Most gunshots I heard were far enough away to just sound like fireworks that were somewhat close. I was actually surprised by how little of a natural reaction I had to the sound. No automatic ducking, and sometimes I didn’t notice the shots. But one shot was close, I didn’t see any soldiers or anything but a close rifle shot got me to duck quickly and get behind something. Which was nice to know that I do have some kind of defensive instinct. I’m guessing that shot I heard was the neighbors roof getting shot off. Neighbor as in less then a 10 second walk. Things quieted down by the evening, and for the last 5 minutes of 2007 I simply stood outside and listened. Quietest New Years I have ever experienced. In the far far distance I heard a lone drum beating. Other than that, nothing. Not even the crickets celebrated. I guess normally people are all over the streets yelling and beating drums, and generally a happy, noisy time. Not this year.

New Years
Jan 1st
Things are returning to some semblence of normalcy. Police are just guarding in the town no, no longer enforcing a “dont’ enter the town” policy. Very Very few shops are open, but people are now venturing out to see how save it is.

Jan. 2nd.
Some shops are starting to re-open. The local supermarkets are clogged with people. No bread on the shelves, no fruit, rice and flour will disappear soon. Ate cow intestine and stomach for dinner. See prior post for a more pleasant description.

Jan. 3rd
Decided that today was the best day to attempt a trek back to the Miwani Farm. Best day today because tomorrow a rally held by ODM was supposed to happen in the Capital City. Rumors are that Raila was going to be declared president. I figured the police/government wouldn’t let that happen and wanted to get out during the ‘quiet before the storm’. I took a Matatu (see prior post for description) from Kakamega to Kisumu. Overall not to eventful here. Though about a mile before Kisumu the Van pulled over and collecte a bunch of green plants that it shoved under the windshield wipers. This was to signify that they were Pro-ODM. Without those greens the Matatu would probably be mobbed, destroyed and the driver harmed or killed. The Matatu wisely didn’t enter Kisumu but stopped at the outskirts, which is luckily where I wanted to be anyways. That junction is where the Miwani road intersects. I immediatly started walking down the road and after about 1/2 a mile caught a bicycle rider and he took me the next 5-10 miles, to the farm. He wanted 400 shillings, which was twice what the Matatu was, but I ended up giving him 300 and a bottle of water. Still way to expensive, but whatever, I’m white so they always charge more.

Primary issues are continued violence throughout Kenya, between tribes and within tribes. People are starting to get exceedinly hungry as food is become very scarce in sections. Some of the villages nearby had a midday meal consisting of sugarcane taken from the sugarcane fields and water.

Not sure what to do about this yet. American Embassy has heard about me and wants me to register with them. Which I will do, but hope and don’t think it will come to where they attempt extractions. I don’t think this will turn into a Rwanda or Darfur, it could, but I doubt it. It would have continued to escalate but instead has seemed to maintain a painful simmer. A deadly simmer for some. If the government doesn’t screw this up anymore that it already has things could begin healing and fixing within a week or two. Stupid government. Necessary evil my ass. Evil is never necessary.


In Kakamega for Christmas

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Travel to Kakamega
On the morning of the 21st I caught a ride with the “milk run” which works it’s way to town selling the prior days milk. From Kisumu I got the experience of catching a ‘Matatu’ to Kakamega. A Matatu is essentially a van that they cram as many people and as much luggage into as possible. If everyone is seating in his own seat then consider yourself luckly. I’d say ‘full’ was 16-18 people. A space for 3 people normally had 4, one guy on the floor, maybe 2 hanging off the door. (hanging off the door is normally just if you going a short distance and don’t want to walk.) The matatu stops a number of times every mile to pick up and drop off various people. Once in Kakamega (at least I hoped, I wasn’t really sure where I was) I got a “BodaBoda” which is a bicycle taxi, to take me to my friends pharmacy. Bicycle taxi is just a fixed gear bicycle with a seat small cushion above the rear tire. These bicycles are all over Kenya. One of the main methods of transporation. Human, furniture, animals, whatever. It all gets strapped to the back of the bike on a 6in x 12in ‘platform’. It was common enough to see someone riding a bike with what must have been 40 pounds of corn seed strapped to the back. Or someone caring balancing a couch on the bike (not riding, but using the bike to carry it while he balanced and pushed). During the election madness there was a news clip on the TV showing a guy trying to hurriedly strap what must have been at least a 21″ tv to his bike that he stole from a store. It didn’t work so well.

Anyways, I eventually got to the pharmacy alright with only a little difficulty since neither I nor my driver knew where the Pharmacy was. See the link in the title above for the map relating Kisumu to Kakamega.

Youth Bash
The church had a Youth Bash 2007 today. Being a guest, and being white, I got to sit off to the side in the nicer, plastic chairs and was initially by myself. Somewhat odd and embarrising for me. After they started doing their talks or whatever the ‘leader guy’ sent one of the girls over to sit next to me to translate. So rather than sitting off to the side by myself only understanding a couple words a minute, I got to have the accompaniment of a pleasant female whispering English in my ear, with only a couple giggles from her friends. Maybe I’m just to easily embarrassed. I did get to be in one of the plays though, so that was a bonus. Simple part with only a couple Swahili words to memorize. But the audience seemed to enjoy it.

Gabriel seems like a nice guy
I ended the evening talking with some crazy guy outside the pharmacy for a fair while. Initially he was talking to me in the pharmacy but I led him outside so as not to detract from business, that and I didn’t want George (owner of pharmacy) to get annoyed with whatever this guy was talking about.

Met one of the pharmacy’s suppliers and he took me, George and his daughter to Mumias (east about 10 miles) for roast lamb. Oh man, that was some fine tasting meat. Fire roasted meat is always so good. Roast lamb and Ugali for lunch. fabulous.

That evening we had Plantens (pronounced Plantains) which is boiled bananas. Go here for picture and description.

Christmas Service
For Christmas we had a nice Christmas service of typical length (3.5 hours in length. A church with services like that wouldn’t survive long with the American attention span! 🙂 ) Followed by a pleasant meal prepared by the ladies of the church.

Chicken Fight
Back at Simon’s house I found that a chicken was in my room and had apparently been in there awhile as he left little Christmas presents all over the floor. And not the good kinda presents that chickens give, but he did leave an egg on my pillow. I guess the wind blew the door shut after the chicken had entered my room. I don’t like that chicken. Chicken’s in the house are common enough but usually only in the kitchen and dining room. They don’t usually venture far back enough to the bedrooms but this guy did. Later that night I went to go grab my telephone charger and found that the chicken also attacked my backpack with his butt. Luckily for me I decided not to turn the light on and found out with my fingers instead of my eyesight. Yuck. Nothing a little water and soap can’t fix!! darn you no running water! 🙂 Nah, it was fine. It’s just more fun to complain.

As always, look for links on the titles above for pictures.


Pre-Holiday/Election Catchup

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Primarily due to the fact that I’m horribly anal when it comes to doing things in ‘sequence’ here’s a couple events that preceded me leaving the Miwani Farm and going to Kakamega.

Armed Robbers nearby
My first case of violence in Kenya, little did I know it was just a touch of what was going to happen later. But anyways, some armed bandits robbed a Motorcycle driver going by the road that runs along the Miwani Farm. Then proceeded to escape through our compound after villagers from around the area started running everywhere (all the talking was in Swahili so I had a hard time following what was going on). Initially I had heard some shots but didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t loud where I was figured it was something else. But then I heard all the kids running and yelling as they were going to the gated entrance to the compound. Being one to follow the crowd, I joined in to see what was going on. After a few minutes they jumped the fence and ran through the middle of the compound at out the other side. No one was hurt or anything. Guess they had a bag of money.

Egg Lovin’
This was also the same day that the main leaders of the compound had gone for the weekend. The CEO’s parents came in a couple days prior to stay for Christmas and they went off for the weekend to show them some bit of Kenya. Thus, with it being just me and the three boys, I wanted eggs for lunch. So made eggs with stuff in them for the four of us. As I normally make plenty of mistakes, I didn’t want to exclude this cooking event so I broke 8 eggs in the process, all over the floor. My excuse lies in that my hands had some oil on them and the egg holder wasn’t very good and the refrigerator hit my hand and and and and. Whatever. I hate cleaning up broken eggs. Pain in the arse to get up off the floor.

Ugali is a one way dish
As this day was proving so eventful, for dinner we had Ugali (african dish) and that night I got the pleasure of regurgitating it for the sewer animals. It wasn’t the Ugali that got me as the boys were fine, but maybe the water or something on my hand? I dunno. Nice case of Food poisoning that took me out the next day as well. Oh, and Ugali is a dry maize dough/bread that is eaten with something liquidy. You can’t really eat it plain, like trying to eat saltine crackers with a dry mouth. So imagine eating a fair amount of dry dough and having it come back out. Uber thick. Uber Green. Not cool. Not kosher. Don’t want that experience again. I like barfing up malted shakes like I did when I got my wisdom teeth out.

Monkey Love
I saw a pack of monkeys today! I was assisting with moving a toilet house from the workshop where it was built to Tobias’ house on the far side of the compound. We all cut our hands pretty good on the sheet metal. Nothing like putting blood into your work. But I was driving the transport truck from the workshop to his house on and the way about 8 monkeys had jumped over the fence and were chillin’ on the path. Unfortunately they were too fast so I didn’t get to run them over with my Toilet Truck. or is that fortunate? I forget. 🙂