Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Christmas!

I haven't been posting here, due to overwhelming tech diff's I mentioned before. But I did want to keep this baby alive, in case they ever get their problems worked out.

And feel free to visit my regular home: here.

May you feel God's blessings this Christmas season!

Monday, November 07, 2005

NEW my part of nairobi

Well, I did find a new home for this blog. Here's the link: YAY.

I went to another buggy blog host and did 3 entries there: click here. (this site)has had too many bugs.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Frustration will no longer let me upload photos. I am switching to another blog site, and I'll give you the link as soon as I have switched.

As life's problems go, this one is pretty minor.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Jacaranda Season is Fading

I miss the purple carpets. The blossoms are already fading. (Jacaranda trees produce purple blossoms and are all over Nairobi.) The trees seemed to be at their peak condition for about two weeks.

It's just another reminder of how quickly the time goes.

I had a great photo to go here, but blogger is having problems letting me upload images. Sigh. I even tried two days in a row.

Friday, October 28, 2005


For those of you who are from Kenya, "Trust" has another meaning.

For North Americans, "trust" can mean what you give to your friend. Or what you do when you sit in a chair. (You trust it will hold you up!)

I couldn't pass up the irony of this Trust. (It's used in the banking sense of the word.) The electric fence that surrounds this Trust implies a complete lack of trust in those outside the fence.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

How to Blog

For the two of you out there who have enjoyed reading and viewing my little observations, maybe one of you wants to do one of your own. This entry is for you.

It's easy and it's free. (How many times have you heard that before?)

I chose and seem to charge for doing a blog. And I don't know of any others out there. is part of Google's empire, so it is well put together and reliable.

If you want to begin, just go to that site and follow the instructions. If you click on the Blogger link just below "My Part of Nairobi", I might even get .05 cents from the referral.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Nairobi Marathon (and 10k)

Sunday was the annual Nairobi Marathon.

Another part of the race was a 10k, open to all. When we arrived at the sidelines, it appeared everyone was walking. THEN the Marathoners came. These men and women are the world's finest runners. Many win medals in the Olympics.

It was cool to see them zip past. And that was with less than a mile left. Incredible! I must say, the single biggest physical characteristic of each marathoner we saw was the complete lack of body fat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More Imports

As I visited the room of rest in a restaurant recently, I noticed that the hand dryer was from Italy and the faucet was from England.

Maybe the porcelain fixtures were from India? (I didn't check.)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Matatu Oil

For those of you regular readers out there in radio-land, matatus are mini-buses that roam the streets of Nairobi. Usually their drivers are among the most rude and selfish humans you can encounter on this planet. It is customary to stay in the middle of the lane when your passengers are loading and unloading. (Thus, traffic gets further snarled and drivers, such as myself, get further frustrated.)

But one thing is sure - they need good oil. Their engines face extreme stress dealing with stop-and-go traffic, dusty conditions, and probably long intervals between maintenance.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Kenyatta Day

I took Jay and his friend Micah to the Kenyatta Day events at the national stadium, very near to our apartment. We only stayed for about ten minutes. (We actually spent more time walking there and back.)

In the short time we were there, we saw a few marching bands, heard a Hindu prayer and the leader of the Salvation Army for Uganda and Tanzania pray. We left well before the President of Kenya gave a long and boring speech. (Well, I am just guessing about the long and boring part.)

I got a big buzz out of being one of the few imported people there. (I didn't see anyone else except for Jay and Micah.)

Friday, October 21, 2005


What is it about sunsets that we love so much?

I shot this one during our camping trip a couple of weekends ago.

The one thing that you can barely see is the candelabra tree on the right of the photo. They are amazing plants that are half cactus and half tree. Hopefully I'll remember to put a real photo of one up in a week or three.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Number 145

An international study was just done about the most corrupt countries in the world. Kenya made it to 145 out of 159. (159 is the lowest: Chad.) Funny enough, The Nation, one of Kenya’s largest newspapers, got it wrong and said Kenya was number 144.

What this means, I will leave up to you. I do know that when the Minister for Roads spends all his time campaigning for one side of the coming vote on Kenya's new constitution -- and the roads here are in terrible shape, something is not right.

The Short Rains

The second major rainy season has begun. Looking out our bathroom window this morning, I saw damp concrete. This brought joy to me, as it means the dust will be less than before. And of course the many Kenyans who depend on their crops for survival will be blessed!

By the way, today is a national holiday in Kenya: Kenyatta Day. I am enjoying that Nakumatt's internet cafe is open! (I am sorry for those who work today, allowing me the pleasure of being here when they should have the day off.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Benign Girl

It's great when English is a distant language, like it was in the shop of the toy designer in China who created this phone. (It's from my daughter Rachel's "cel phone.") Again, this is one of those thing you can't buy in the States!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


We got this wonderful carpet from a carpet shop in downtown Nairobi. It's the same place where we bought a carpet during our Kenya Life One: Turkoman Carpets.

Anyway, this one is from the Baluch area of Pakistan. I would like to visit there someday. Alas, travel is not cheap. We'll be doing well if we can save the chunk of change it will take to fly all of us back to the States when our Kenya Life Two is over.

I imagine a shop where some Baluchis (if that is how they refer to themselves) were weaving this very rug. There might have been a single bare bulb in the center of the ceiling. Windows with bars on them to keep out thieves. Dirt floors. (I doubt if they can use any of their own handicraft.) And a break for tea mid-morning.

All of that so we could enjoy some beauty in our living room.

Monday, October 17, 2005

On Saturday, we drove out to the formerly-fanciest shopping center in Nairobi. It's very close to several embassies, so it caters to the high-powered people who work at those places. (There is even a duty-free shop.)

The kids wanted to go into the toy store. I couldn't resist taking this shot.

Back to the shopping center... they have a water park, mini-golf, bowling and a fast food court that included Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches! Now you must remember that this is in Africa. (We were constantly having to remind ourselves of that.)

It was the first Philly Cheese Steak I had that was beef and chicken!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Jacaranda Trees

I love this time of the year. Purple blossoms carpet the ground. In spite of the dryness, Jacaranda trees somehow drink enough water to produce these beautiful blossoms.

That's our apartment building at the bottom of the picture. Also notice the tree with yellow bark. That's an acacia - the quintessential African tree.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Cooks

Yesterday I drove out to Ruiru. Our Kenyan Bible translation brothers and sisters run a conference facility out there. (It’s a forty-
minute drive from where I work, if the traffic is not bad. But it is always bad.)

I went out to take some photos for promotional use. (I used my trusty little Sony DSC.)

It was fun to try to get the staff to smile as I took their picture. “Imagine me telling a really funny joke.” That sort of worked. It would have worked better if I had been able to tell one!

The drive back was not much fun. It was hot, and the old car I drove had no air-conditioning. As I sat in a “jam” (traffic jam), I was dreaming of the cool weather in Colorado.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Off Brands

Here in the developing world, we have access to all number of items that never make it to the States or Europe.

"SQNNY" was too good to be missed. We saw this example in use. The sound quality was what you might expect.

Something I still kick myself for not buying was a wristwatch that had the date silk-screened on the face. The date was correct one day a month! A street vendor offered it for a price I could pass by. I think the brand was "SEIKKO."

This phenomenon must be even more remarkable in China, where all off-brand products must originate.

I hope to post more of these and other product oddities later.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

More About the Lake Nakuru Weekend

If you have never been on a safari, it is incredible to drive among animals in their natural habitat. This goes way beyond what you might experience at the World-O-Wildlife in Grand Prairie, Texas.

(This is our friends' car in front of us.)

It's not all fun and games. The roads are brutal. (I'm constantly amazed our lightweight Japanese passenger cars survived.) And the dry fine powdery dust from the roads is still in every nook and cranny of our car.

We had two flats. One tire was completely shredded, since I drove a few hundred feet too far before I realized we had a flat. The other was a tire facing so much stress that it popped off the rim. Thankfully I heard that flat quickly enough that there was minimal damage to the tire.

There is not a Discount Tire on every corner in eastern Africa. After the shredded tire, we drove to Naivasha. The guy who worked for a hole-in-the-wall tire shop found a used tire that was not the right size but close enough to work. He went down the street to another shop (or a back alley) to find that tire.

The used tire cost me about $50. The repair of the popped-off tire cost about $2. Labor costs less than parts here!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Lake Nakuru

This weekend provided my first opportunity to visit a game park during this Kenya Life 2. We joined the Cowmans, friends from Kenya Life 1, for a short visit. It was wonderful to get out of the noisy big city.

Heather loved having her own digital camera. She wasn't always asking to borrow mine. And she was able to take all the shots she wanted without telling me to take this or that. (Rachel's head is at the right, and Heather's hands are at the left.)

Lake Nakuru is famous for its pink flamingos. (Ben and I chased them.) We also saw a huge numbers of white rhinos. They are a protected species, apparently due to a Chinese appetite for their horns (an aphrodesiac??). We also saw a bunch of gazelles of all sizes and shapes, cape buffaloes and more.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Tropical Plants, Part 1

When there is no winter, plants thrive like they never do in North America or Europe. This tree grew against the wall that surrounds the compound where I work. And it actually became part of the wall.

I have no idea what kind of tree it is.

BY THE WAY, today is Heather's big 4-0! I am so blessed to be married to such a wonderful woman.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Nairobi Baptist Church

Nairobi Baptist opened the doors to their huge new sanctuary about a month ago. It is the largest evangelical church in Kenya now, from what I've heard.

We visited one Sunday when our regular church was so loud that we walked out the door. (Can you say hearing damage?!) In contrast, Nairobi Baptist is very subdued. Too subdued for our tastes.

It was obvious that Nairobi Baptist was still getting the kinks worked out; they spent about 10 minutes introducing every visitor that morning!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Eclipse

Monday gave us an amazing solar eclipse. It was the first one here in 22 years. Since I wasn't fond of the idea of burning my retinas, I enjoyed the bizarre shadows and weird visual effect on everything; it looked like I was wearing sunglasses.

As Levi, our boys' piano teacher observed, not too many years ago this would have had a big effect on people in Kenya. Before scientific knowledge that explains such things, it would have been seen as a spiritual cataclysm.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Braek Glass


If English were the third language you learned growing up, your spelling could be much worse than that.

As an American living overseas for the first time in the early 90s, I quickly learned that most people know more than one language. Most Kenyans living in Nairobi know at least three languages: their mother tongue, Kiswahili and English.

Things are changing in the big city. Kids do not know the mother tongue of their mothers. Or fathers. My co-worker Sam is from a different tribe than his wife. He wishes his daughter could learn some of both her mother's tongue and her father's tongue. But he knows this probably won't happen. She's doing great at Swahili, at just 15 months old.

Heather has been making some effort to learn Swahili. It would be really helpful for me to know more, in my job. Ironically, in light of my job responsibilities, I cannot take the time out of work to learn. I guess if I were highly motivated, I would find some time outside of work to learn. I have not yet found that motivation.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Empty Billboards

Very close to where I work is this giant billboard. I think it's the biggest billboard I have ever seen. It has been empty for years, from what my friend Omonge told me. There even may have never been an ad there!

My theory is that the advertising company who owns the billboard just doesn't have a clue on how to price the rental advertising space. Or they are not willing to pay a big enough bribe to the government official who is preventing them from putting an advertisement there.

Friday, September 30, 2005

What We Do Everyday

Walking up stairs is one for me. We live on the second floor of an apartment building. We're staying in the home of some missionaries who are back in the States for a year. It's a great arrangement for all of us. We don't have to set up house (expensive!), and they don't have to give up their lease.

Next year, we'll be staying in a different missionary family's home. At this point, we have two to choose from. We're still deciding, as well as working out the details.

And speaking of walking up, I climb a steep driveway every day on the way to work. That's about the only real exercise I get. (I miss my bicycle ride to work that was part of my life before coming to Kenya. But I am very thankful for my walk to work now!)

You were expecting a deeper comment on what we do everyday? Sorry. I'll let you fill in that blank.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

School Rules

Vyulya has a girls' secondary school. (For the Americans reading, that's the equivalent of a high school.)

And yes, the rules are important.

The classrooms are pretty bleak. Needless to say, there isn't the money to spend to put up lovely decorations or provide fancy DVD systems.

Heather and I came up with the idea of painting the walls with some maps. If you'd like to join us, that would make a great short-term mission project! Something to think about is that your airfare would probably pay for enough labor and supplies to paint the walls of every classroom three times over. Such is one of the dilemmas of short-term missions.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Part of the Kasiki Family

More on our up-country weekend...

Peter Kioko is the friend we visited. His dad is Simon Mbeke. The family name is Kasiki. We Americans always get confused about names in Kenya; last names are not necessarily the same from father to son.

Anyway, Kioko's family is doing pretty well in their neighborhood. His oldest brother is a wildlife biologist with a PhD from Kent University in England. Education takes a higher place in Kenya than in the States, as it is one of the few ways to get ahead in life.

The people are hard to see in this little photo. I love the decorations around the windows on the house in the foreground. Moses is the eldest son who lives there all the time. This is his home.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Sea of Giraffes

We just got back from an “up-country” weekend. Our friend Peter Kioko is from a rural area about two hours’ drive from Nairobi. We desired our kids to experience a little of what life is like for people outside the city of Nairobi. And we wanted to visit Kioko!

On Saturday afternoon, we visited the wood carvers’ workshop at Wamunyu. Lots of wood carvings sold at tourist shops come from there. Few tourists make it to Wamunyu, though! One amazing thing about the workshop is that there is not a power tool anywhere to be seen.

When we asked the kids what impressed them as we drove back to the big city they said, "We learned to be more grateful."

Friday, September 23, 2005

That Brief Moment of Fame

My letter to the editor got published in Newsweek... the September 26th issue. It may only be in the international edition, which is quite a bit different than the US edition.

It was fun to see my name in print! You ought to give it a shot; it's not that hard to get published, at least in the letters-to-the-editor arena.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


No major roads go through our neigh-
borhood. The driving schools love to use these roads to train beginning drivers, since the traffic is usually very light.

I love the names of the driving schools. I’m not sure where Consolata came from. Maybe she owns the firm? Another of my favorite names is “Heltz,” which is a take-off on “Hertz.” (In Kikuyu, one of the major languages in Nairobi, “R’s” are often mixed up with “L’s.”)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Why Blog?

I have enjoyed doing this website.

I’ve asked myself why I am doing it, as people rarely comment. I realize that doesn’t mean no one is out there reading this. However, part of the point of a blog is that it’s supposed to be some kind of an on-line community of people commenting on topics – and then people commenting on those comments. Having said that, a well-visited blog usually overwhelms the author, and like all of you, my life is busy enough already.
Another reason I enjoy writing here is to let people get small snapshots of what life is like here on the other side of the world.
So what’s the point of this photo? It’s another sight that is part of my daily walk to work. I don’t know what the marker post is for… maybe a marker for zoning or a pipeline? You might note the very rough-hewn fence in the background.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

What is it about TV?

Yes, there are two of our kids and two of their friends, sucked into the TV. It’s universal, the world over: the lure of the television is irresistible, for little people and big people. (The big people have different tastes in movies, however.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Big Issues

I have been dealing with the gap between the rich and the poor. This is actually part of my job, at least obliquely.

Here in my part of Nairobi, I am very rich. In my part of Colorado, I am middle class. In Proverbs 30:7-9, the writer talks about how it is better to be neither rich nor poor. So it’s tough to be at this extreme. Knowing many who struggle to make ends meet (or even to find enough food to feed their family), how can I justify taking my family to eat at a restaurant? Or buy a car magazine?

The short answer is that we try to make a difference in as many ways as we can – small or big.

And then there is the Hello Kitty Mastercard, for Hello Kitty completists. Get a life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


I love this sign. It’s in the “parkings” area of where I work. And actually, it does point to the bigger situation in Nairobi as a whole; parking is at a premium!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Peter Otieno

Every day I pass several eskaris – gate guards. Peter is the main guy for the Tamarind Group, whose offices I pass on my way to work.

Being an askari is not easy, in terms of the mind-numbing boredom that often is part of each day. But the position come with responsibility; one must determine who can enter the property and possibly fend off bad guys.

I hope to take photos of each of the “regulars” I see and greet every day. (I love the little hut that Peter has to stay in if it’s rainy. You can see a little of it in the right of the photo. If you look very close, you can see the newspaper in the lower right corner. That’s one way to fend off boredom!)

Friday, September 09, 2005

That Mosquito

At about 3am this morning, Ben woke us up because a mosquito was buzzing in his ear. (The funny part was he said it was a bee.) Heather graciously got up and slayed the dragon.

We have mosquito nets, but sometimes those pests sneak in uninvited. (We use the nets more to avoid midnight buzzings rather than malaria. Apparently few of them carry malaria in Nairobi.)

So I couldn't get back to sleep. My thoughts turned to world-wide events. A friend who lives near London sent a shocking picture of one of the buses that got blown apart. And we haven't even seen many images of Katrina's destruction. I was comforted to remember that God knows even when a sparrow falls to the ground.

Then I started praying. Some friends have been going through Katrina-of-the-marriage. May God have mercy on that family! And I always pray for Ken, who frequently gets hit with insomnia.

Tonight, may your sleep be mosquito-free!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Where We Work

Heather and I work at the BTL Centre. (For the Americans out there, Kenya follows British spelling conventions.) BTL stands for Bible Translation and Literacy. They are the Kenyan national Bible translation organization.

It was built maybe 50 years ago. There are three buildings, all made out of stone. On the left side of the photo you can see the lower part of a large palm tree. The grey dead leaves get trimmed off in the places most Americans live or visit. Behind the palm is an acacia tree, which is one of the most common trees in this part of Africa.

The Centre is in “Upper Hill,” a section of town that used to house the people who worked for Kenya Railways. Probably all of the buildings have been privately owned for at least 20 years. One thing that is puzzling is how some homes have high walls and electric fences, while others of similar size have flimsy fences and very minimal security.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Big Twelve!

Yes, today our son Jay turns twelve. It's an amazing thing that he has reached this mark of maturity. (Well, I guess millions do every day, so it's not that amazing.) But this also reveals once again to Heather and me how quickly time does fly.

We are proud of him and how he has been growing in lots of ways. As the first-born, he carries the standard for his brother and sister. (He also bears the brunt of our trial-and-error parenting. We learn on him and hopefully do better with Ben and Rachel.)

May God bless him with many more years!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

And then there’s the Jazz

On Saturday, my son Jay and I went to the Nairobi Car Show. It was amazing that such a show was here. We were shocked at the prices of vehicles. (Most vehicles cost about twice as much as a similar one in the States.)

The star of the show to us was the Honda Jazz. It’s a great small car that America doesn’t have the taste to want. Sigh. (The closest thing might be the Chevrolet Aveo, which is smaller and very low quality in comparison.) It has won all kinds of awards around the world.

Another highlight was the wild colors and fabrics used in the buses and matatus. (Those are minibuses: 14-28 passengers.)

So sign me up for the Jazz - maybe in ten years when they are available in the U.S., I can afford one used!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina and More

It is hard to think of how difficult it must be for so many in Louisiana right now, since they are on the other side of the world. And since our TV's reception is so bad, we haven't been able to see or hear much of the disaster.

But life is difficult here all the time for many. AIDS has left countless thousands of children with no parents. Our friend Kioko is giving part of his life to help them in Ukambani, Kenya. A new paradigm is orphans being integrated into their communities rather than separated in orphanages. So some improvements have been introduced!

This rainbow came the other evening. Rainbows must come with rain close by. Even though I don't know what rainbow is coming for Katrina victims, God has a plan. His plans are beyond my comprehension, but I do take comfort in knowing that I don't have to know why things happen.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Nairobi in National Geographic!

Yes, the September issue of National Geographic features only Africa, and there is an article on Nairobi. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the accompanying photos via my limited on-line capabilities here. Maybe you know a friend who subscribes.

It made me want to go take some photos of matatus. (I wanted to do that last time we lived here. I even want to do a book of matatu pix! But alas, I am not a good enough photographer - nor do I know where I could find a publisher.)

Nairobi is an exciting and challenging place to live. Come visit!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Fire! Fire!

A normal part of life in Nairobi is smoke. This may be huge quantities of diesel, belching from any number of vehicles -- or in this case, burning branches and leaves. I prefer the latter!

It’s a lot cheaper to burn that stuff than pay for someone to haul it off.

And yes, this was on my walk home from work, yesterday. Once again, it’s odd that there are just those two ladies in the shot. (Maybe everyone gets shy when I whip out the camera.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Deep Space Mary

The Don Bosco Church is just up the hill from where we live. Every morning as I walk to work, I see Mary, holding Baby Jesus, at the pinnacle.

Barb, a friend here, called the church “Deep Space Mary” when it was being built about 12 years ago. So that stuck with me! (The name came from the church’s spaceship-like architecture.)

Apparently, it’s a vibrant alive church. Annemieke, another local friend, has attended several times. Some day we must visit.

On Sunday mornings, the very European church bells contrast with the call to prayer from the local mosque, in another direction – or a yelling evangelist from the national stadium, in yet another direction.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Java House

A favorite hangout for expats in Nairobi is the Java House Restaurant. It's a chain, but we have only been at one. They offer great coffee drinks and sort-of Mexican food. It's a pleasant place to hang out and enjoy food and friends.

Rachel loves the play area. (In the pic, she is running around the play sculpture. Alas, the light was fading as I took the shot.)

I must say that the cup of decaf Heather and I enjoyed last night was the best I have ever had.

Friday, August 26, 2005

What a strange world we live in

Last night I had some peanut-flavored cheetos from Isreal. It’s totally random what stuff is available at stores here in Nairobi. (They were a little too sweet. Maybe they are just right to someone in Jerusalem.)

And then there’s the “west” – Amazon advertises a Braun shaver that features: “20 different hair-capturing opportunities compared with just 1 from a regular foil.”

The Walk to Work

These ditches were made about 40 years ago, during the British colonial era. I hate to think of the incredibly hard labor it took just to chisel out those stones.

The white stones were more recently placed. (The white paint came a few days ago. They were taxicab-orange before that.)

In the foreground, you can see a few exotic tropical flowers. It seems that flowers are on every plant. The flowers are on the grounds of The Tamarind, a Kenyan restaurant company that offices on that corner. The only thing that is unusual is that there are so few people in the shot; pedestrians are part of every road in Nairobi, whether there is a sidewalk or not. When there is none, a makeshift sidewalk usually gets carved out of the grass or undergrowth by thousands of feet walking to work and back home.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Mac User Caught in an XP World

Yes, with this new Nairobi life comes an XP desktop. I must say that my love of Macs has gone ever deeper. Yes, you have all heard a million times about the human aspects of the Mac interface. They are real. And the BMW vs Chevrolet quality issues.

Until you have fully lived on both sides, it’s hard to understand how deeply your love of one can be. (And I am not suggesting a “Switch” for Mac people to live in a Windows environment for a while.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

And so we start!

Yes, this is the very first entry in this blog. I don't plan to change the world with this blog... but maybe it will give you a small glimpse into life here in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa.

Seen today, on the side of a truck: “Bio – Leaders in Functional Dairy Food”. (Bio is a company name. They make yogurt.)

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...