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!

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...