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.

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...