Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Hampton House and Prepping to Leave

Monday, June 13th, 2011

June 13th
Sad day.  Today we really start to prep for leaving this country.  I woke up early at around 6am and ran a few errands with Mesh.  Got back at about 6:30 and at 7am we departed the Sheywe Hotel and headed for the Hampton Guest House.

We traveled for awhile to the Kakamega airport, which is the smallest airport I’ve had the pleasure of departing from.  Sadly I don’t have a good picture of it, but it is essentially one ~600sqr foot building adjoining a concrete runway.  Our plane was a small, ~20 person prop plane. See pictures below.

Kakamega Airport’s only building.
~20 person passenger prop plane. 
Heather and I are near the back.

The Hampton Guest House is a beautiful place to stay in Nairobi.  It has a wonderful feel to it, relatively modern construction, private, lots of beautiful landscaping.  Except, once again Heather and I had twin beds.  haha, oh well.  It’s only one night and it doesn’t bother us much.

Tourist time:  We dropped by the Nairobi deluxe mall.  I don’t remember what it’s actually called, but it is nice even when compared to US malls.  Excellent food, souvenir shops, and your typical mall variety.

Next we dropped by Karen to see Pastor Charles again.  We stayed at his church compound for awhile, doing I don’t know what.  I stayed in the van and had a great, lengthy conversation with Gerrison about education and homeschooling.  Homeschooling is starting to be a ‘thing’ in Kenya, but generally it is regarded as anti-social and not as good.  I attempted to explain my view that home-schoolers are seen as “weird” because generally the first people to do such a new thing are going to be fringe people anyways.  Meaning, those kids would have been “weird” whether homeschooled or public schooled.  Early adopters are by nature on the fringe; and again, as is often the case fringe people might be a bit ‘odd’ to some.  He disagreed in the end.

Lastly, we went and had dinner with Pastor Charles and the whole World Comp team for a closing board meeting.  It was a full table!  We all said some final words, I had some stuff prepared in my head but I got skipped, so I promptly became unprepared.  However, I was called to speak out of order a little later so my “speech” may have sounded a bit off, but I hope my points and desires came through.  I basically stated that the first time I came to Kenya I came expecting to see a destitute country full of people unable to do anything; but was generally pleased to find that there are huge amounts of very competent people.  In coming back, I simply just had to introduce my new wife to all my friends. 🙂

Posted in Kakamega, Nairobi, Travel |

Sheywe House

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

June 8th
So we arrived at the Sheywe House last night, but didn’t get to look around much besides dinner until today.  So check out some of these pictures.  The Sheywe House was one of the most reasonably priced hotels we stayed in.  The bang for the buck was excellent.  Check out these pictures.  Heather and I had our own little apartment with a living space, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.  Granted, the living space and kitchen are joined; oh, and the kitchen stove didn’t really work.  I think you had to supply your own propane or something, it was odd.  Richard and Valerie however had a working stove WITH propane so that was good.  That took care of our cooking situation.  We all had working fridges.  Below is a picture from the door into the apartment of the living space and kitchen.

Just outside our building, while still within the confines of the Sheywe were these Storks.  Now, I posted a little bit about these birds earlier, here.  But at this location, there was a large number of these birds at all times.  Just as before, these birds are HUGE!  It’s hard to tell the size in these pictures but when standing they have to be at least 3 feet tall.  Here is a Wikipedia entry on these birds, Marabou Storks apparantly.  I guess some of them can get up to 5 feet tall and weighing at 20 pounds!  I don’t know if we saw any that big but easily 3 to 4 feet tall on most of them.

I thought this was a funny picture.  Thanks to Heather for working on trying to get this shot.  A few earlier times when we saw the birds doing this she was unable to get a good picture.  Try and try again!  But these storks are the only birds I have ever seen to actually rock back and sit on their knees.  Usually birds stand, sit in a tree or sit on the ground; but sitting on their knees?  I don’t recall ever seeing that.  Feel free to correct me if a bird does that in the Pacific NW.  Maybe flamingos at the zoo, but I don’t recall seeing that.


The Sheywe, like many hotels, serves a breakfast every morning.  The Sheywe has one of the better breakfasts as well, with wheatabix availalbe for cereal, milk, pineapple, bananas, and they take your order for toast, eggs and bacon.  Boo yah!  Eggs and bacon every morning, my kind of place.  Often a local cat would be hanging around as well, hoping for some bacon scraps.  Some british ladies who were staying there for a couple months (One of them helps manage the Sheywe when she’s down there) fed the kitty much to her delight.  All cats are referred to as Puss Puss down there.  Which American’s find funny for various reasons.  If you want to call a cat over you do the general cat thing of rubbing your thumb and two fore fingers together, but you also call out “puss puss puss puss puss….”.   It’s a culture thing.  🙂

Posted in Food, Kakamega, Travel |

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. 


Kisumu and Miwani Farm

Monday, June 6th, 2011

June 6th
Waking up at 4:30am to catch a flight is always quite enjoyable!  Some of the breakfast foods weren’t so good at that time in the morning however.  They hadn’t been replaced from the night before so ants or some sort of bugs got into a few of the foods (samosas mainly I think).  Luckily the hard boiled eggs were still good, and the fruit was covered.  Still makes a good brekky!

Anyways, we flew out of Nairobi to Kisumu, which is a short 1.5ish hour flight across the country; to contrast to Washington state it’s like flying from Seattle to Spokane.  And check out the Prop Plane!  Awesome!  Heather even got a picture of the Plane stalling!  Oh wait, no it was just a high iso and it looks that way.  Silly Jolly.

While in Kisumu we dropped by the large grocery and other items store (Kenya’s Safeway) called Nakumatt to pick up a few food items for dinner.  I wish I got a picture of it but they were selling a Ham In A Box.  Hilarious, think Chicken in a Can but Ham; and Box.  Definitely a “Whoa!” item.  As in most places in the Kisumu area, lots of wonderful green growth everywhere.  This is in the center of the large shopping mall of which Nakumatt is part of, hence the Elephant I figure which is Nakumatt’s symbol.

We met up with a gal named Dinah while there, I guess she was quite close to achieving a Senate seat last election cycle but got terribly ill during the last bit of the campaign and either dropped out or stopped campaigning.  She’s definitely a strong woman though.  She gives me the impression of making an awesome friend, and a terrible enemy.  Luckily she likes almost everybody.

We drove the 20min to 1/2hr trip to the Farm.  It was a pleasant drive and one of the few things I strongly recognized in this trip so far.  Good to be back in an area that I remember well.  and I certainly remember these roads and the bony cow herds!

One new thing though was this nearby village got some new housing.  Now, keep in mind that the metal roofing is generally regarded as a better roof, for the wealthier of people, but I can’t see why they would want this over a thatch roof.  Granted, less maintenence, but my goodness, can you imagine the heat from a 80-95degree sunny day (practically every afternoon throughout the year) and the noise from the crazy hard rainstorms (3x a week average in “winter”, 2x a month in summer).  And I mean crazy hard rainstorms, not the piddle paddle of Seattle.  A good rainstorm here can dump the entire years worth of Seattle rain in a night.  I don’t think I could sleep on a night like that with a metal roof.  Granted, I’m not one to judge and I’m sure they have their reasons, but I think I explained my case well enough above.  😉

And lastly for this post: a picture of a lovely mango on a tree:

Posted in Kisumu, Miwani, Travel |

Luke Hotel

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

June 4th – June 6th Nairobi
Pictures for this posting are pictures 20 through 23.

After all the DANSO activities we traveled to our new hotel, the Luke Hotel.  The Luke is a wonderful place to stay.  The water in the shower works, the wood working is all hand done and everything is wood work.  Our door had an Owl carved into it, there were Maasai statues in the Lobby, our beds were handcarved wood, everything was quite beautiful. Here is a picture of our room at the Luke, note the wooden beds (the mosquito net frame wasn’t carved into anything special, but the desks and chairs were carved.

Even the parking lot lamp posts were carved out of wood, albeit some of them were a little odd or creepy.  But one can always make creepy into humorous with some well placed smiles.  🙂

The Luke is also where we saw the biggest bird I have laid eyes on.  A Stork.  Which I must admit, I figured it was a condor but Kenyans said they were storks.  We got better pictures of them in Kakamega when we were there, but these birds are literally 4ft tall minimum.  We didn’t get a picture of them hanging out with smaller crow-sized birds, but those crow-sized birds barely came up to the Stork’s knee.  Crazy!

EDIT: Added additional picture of Lamp Post wood carvings.

Posted in Nairobi, Travel |

Back in Kenya

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

May 31st
We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya today.  Long flight, something like 17 hours flight time, not even counting the layover and travel to/from the airport.  We piled all of our gear and people into two vans and headed off to the Methodist Guest House; but first a stop over for gas station Chicken and Chips.  Which Valerie claims is the best Chicken and Chips in Kenya.  In hindsight, it probably is, as the chicken tastes like it was a plump western chicken, not the scrawny free-ranged and starving Kenyan kind that we got most of the trip.  But I’ll take that over some of the other chickens I saw running around!  No disease please!  Other than that, it was great to get into Bed, which happened to be two twin beds for Heather and I.  Which worked out alright, it’s too warm to sleep next to that furnace of a wife, especially when we aren’t adapted to the heat.  A pleasant waking, but unpleasant sleeping ~70-75deg at night. 

Posted in Kenya, Nairobi, Travel |

Going Back!

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Well, it’s been a few years but it looks like I am going back to Kenya.  Except this time with a team of people and a wife!  That should yield some more interesting experiences at the minimum.  Below I have posted an itinerary and prayer list sent to me by Richard Vicknair, who has planned this whole trip.  For the most part rather than doing my own thing this time around my wife and I will be along for the ride.  Not saying that this will be 3 weeks of relaxing vacation, as we will be quite busy nearly every day, but I just don’t have to deal with the planning as much, so that will be a pleasant break.

I won’t go into many details now about what we will be doing on this trip as the itinerary below documents some of that pretty well.  I linked up some of the locations below with prior posts if you care to go back into the past and see what was done last time I was around.

May 30 Mon Depart Seattle

  • Prayer for safe travel and health. Our flight is 22 hours total
  • Pray for our team. That we will be sensitive to the Lord and His Promptings
  • That God will prepare the way before us and that we will have “eyes to see”

May 31 Tues Arrive Nairobi 8:15pm

  • Prayer for sleep so we can be prepared for the rigorous schedule ahead

June 1 Wed Visit Kibera Kids Center in the Kibera Slums

  • Prayer for our protection in the slums from criminal elements and disease
  • Pray for our Kibera Preschool Children. They are so vulnerable!

June 2 Thurs Visit Lenana School (Our School for Slum Children) Dargaretti Slums

  • Pray for these precious children who are being raise in the harshest of conditions
  • Pray for our 12 School teachers, that God will bless them for their sacrifices
  • Pray for the finances of the school. They struggle to survive.

June 3 Fri Visit with Danso AIDS Ministry (Dandora Aids Support Network Organization

  • Pray for the wonderful people who are members of Danso. They all have AIDS. 
  • They are looking to the Lord for His healing, Health and Provision

June 4 Sat A day at the Nairobi Game Park (Tough Duty Huh?)

  • Pray that we will see animals. That God will send them into our path.

June 5 Sun Kimbo Church – Launch of Kimbo Community Well Project

  • Pray that as we literally serve water to the poor people of the Kimbo community that their hearts will be open to the Lord
  • Pray for the Kimbo Church and the safekeeping of this well. That many will come to Christ as they see the love and generosity of his people

June 6 Mon Morning Flight to Kisumu – Straight to Miwani Farm

  • Pray for our safety as we travel
  • Pray for the Miwani Farm and its ministry
  • It is now totally being run by African Nationals. Prayer that God will give them wisdom and especially give them a unified heart and vision for the work

June 7 Tue Leave Miwani – Lunch at Nancy O’s (Visit Olive Branch Microfinance Project)

  • Pray for Nancy O and the leaders of the Olive Branch Microfinance Project, which ministers to more than 300 widows

June 8 Wed Visit Shikusa Boys Detention Center (Big Baptism Service for 100 or more boys)

  • Pray for the boys who are coming to be baptized. That their faith would grow strong and that they would learn to walk with God and hear his voice. That they will make an impact on the world – they have come from the ashes into the beauty of the Lord.

June 9 Thursday Meet with Women with Olive Tree

  • Pray for us as we make a video documentary of the amazing things that have been done through this microfinance fund. We need wisdom to do this right so that it will be useful as a model for other microfinance funds throughout Kenya
  • Pray for the 6 women that run this ministry and put so many hours into mentoring the women who have started businesses to support their families.

June 10 Fri Visit to a PATH project in Kakamega with Kathy L. and team

  • Please pray for this contact that the Lord has given us PATH is a global health organization funded by the Bill Gates Senior Foundation. They specialize in AIDS, Malaria, and women’s health.
  • We are asking God to give us this connection so that we can work with them in our medical camps.

June 11 Sat Rest Day

June 12 Sun Celebration with Kakamegatown PEFA Church

  • Pray for Cindy B. begins her journey home (she is leaving ahead of us)
  • Pray for Pastor Simeon O. and this wonderful church that has had such a powerful influence in the Western Province of Kenya.
  • Pray for the Western Bible College which is run from the church. Pray for the students, their finances and their future.

June 13 Mon Team Fly back to Nairobi from Kakamega

  • Pray for us as we connect on this day with leaders in the Kenya government. Several have responded and want to meet with us and Kathy L.. Having a relationship with members of the Kenyan Parliament will help us enormously in the future as we continue to work to relieve the suffering of the people of Kenya.

June 14 Tues Last Day – Possible meetings with Members of Government

  • Pray for us as we begin our journey home. 
  • Pray for our health and energy levels

June 15 Wed Arrive in Seattle

Posted in Kenya, Travel |

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.


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.