Sunday, September 27, 2015

Where you can find Paul Merrill

If you are looking for Paul Merrill, go over to Shiny Bits of Life, which is my main blog - or Greener Grass Media, which is my somewhat inactive business.* Thanks!

*I have a full time job these days elsewhere.

(I no longer live in Nairobi. But occasionally I do blog about life there at Shiny Bits of Life.)

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blog weirdness

I visited Google Analytics for this site recently. My "Glass!" entry from May 2006 scored an amazing number of hits. It brought my total hits for one day (for any of my sites) to a record level: 381!

I know of no reason for this.

Update: Gill the Bean from the UK let me know that my post was featured via Dooce! Wow, cool!!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Goodbye to This Glorious Chaos

It is time for me to say goodbye.

We leave Kenya tonight right before midnight. We have lived here for just over two years - and not left East Africa during that time.

So why do I refer to Kenya as "This Glorious Chaos"? Well, it's glorious here - and very chaotic.

I know that some of the readers out there might object to Kenya being called chaotic. Well, don't be. Nairobi, at least, has lots of chaos. Just get in a car and drive across town!

And the glory? Oh, it's all over the place. Smiles on so many faces. Laughter as I pass roadside shops. Beautiful amazing random artwork on ceramic pots for sale along Ngong Road. Flowers on almost every plant, year around.

So you should come to Africa. Not just to visit - but to live. Then you can really see what life is like. We tried - two years is not long enough. We were compelled to return to our home, America. Those of you who know us understand why. Those who don't - well, you'll just have to get to know us. (Move to Colorado.)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Didn't succeed

...But at least I got a still image.

I had been meaning to get a video of the Kenyan National Anthem - the version played before many movies at cinemas here. My final attempt did not succeed; I only got about 1 second.

It's interesting to watch that short film - it's the same edition that has been used for maybe 30 years. (Or it seems like that.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


As we will be returning to the States so soon, I have pondered some of the things I'll miss.

One is the international aspect of life in Nairobi. Most places we go are frequented by people from all over the world.

And the organization I work with is a picture of that also: at our weekly prayer meeting recently, I looked around the room. There were 10 Americans, 6 Kenyans, 5 Brits, 2 New Zealanders, 1 Swiss(er) and 1 Canadian.

Littleton, Colorado is not like that.

And yes, it's another photo that has nothing to do with the post. I just love cars. Even ones that have their body parts held on with straps.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

14 seats

Matatus are mini buses that travel all over Kenya. In early 2005, the government changed their policies on matatus. Before, if an operator wanted to cram 300 people into the minibus, that was alright. No longer. (A great change!) 14 passengers is the max - and seatbelts are required by law for all 14. Moms frequently carry their kids on their laps (beyond the 14 rule) - but that's another story.

The government will be phasing out the 14-seaters, but that's yet another story.

"Matatu" in Swahili means that you could travel for 30 cents, a standard fare wherever and whenever you went: three 10 cent coins. (Special thanks to my friend toneloc who gave me the truth on that!)

Monday, May 28, 2007


1. Absence makes the heart grow fonder

2. Deprivation breeds appreciation

These are two concepts that have been rattling around in my brain as I have contemplated leaving this Kenyan life and starting a new life in the States. Much of my old life is gone - I will not be returning to my old job. (Marti Smith, a former co-worker, is grieving this loss too.) But we are very thankful to be returning to some of our familiar friends and our beloved home.

Leaving here means saying goodbye to friends. A sad reality.

As you may have noticed, my photo does not illustrate all this.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Omo and time

A British friend told me of the time he served for one or two years in West Africa, shortly after graduation from university. He was teaching science in a rural school, as part of a voluntary program (like the USA's Peace Corps).

As his time was nearing completion, he said he measured time in any way possible. (He desperately wanted to return home to England.) One measuring stick was Omo laundry soap packets - each one lasted about two weeks. So he was able to say, "It's ten packets till I get onto the plane."

His wandering days are over. He married a Kenyan lady and is building a house in Karen, a nice suburb of Nairobi.

And for us, we're down to less than one Omo packet. On June 2nd, we board the out-bound plane, with no plans to return.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Death in Kenya

Common sights in Kenyan cities are roadside tombstone sellers. I finally got around to taking a few photos.

Death is a sensitive subject here. (Actually, where is it not that?) But death is treated differently here than in North America. I once sent out an email to my staff telling them to leave the passwords to their computers with a trusted colleague. I said something like, "In case you die, we need to access your work data." This did NOT go over well.

In contrast, grieving a death can be much more open here. In about 1992, I made a photography expedition to Mfangano Island, in Lake Victoria. As we walked around the island, I heard loud wailing - for more than an hour. Someone had died the night before. This grieving was much more open than it would be in North America. (How much more healthy it is to get the tears out, rather than bottle them up inside!)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The bouquet that can never be

The flame tree is a famous fixture in the world of Kenya lore. Beautiful red-orange blossoms sit at its top - maybe 40 to 60 feet from the ground. The only time you can see the flowers up close is when they fall to the ground. (The trunk is not good for climbing, as the lowest limbs are about 15 to 20 feet from the ground.) When the blossoms fall to the ground, their vitality is already gone.

Ephemera is one of my favorite words - the fleetingness of an experience.

I am sure that if I had time to think about it, there are analogies to life in this small tale. But today - I don't have that luxury.