Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Rain = relief

Yesterday afternoon the rain came! I had great joy at hearing the sound of the rain falling. (My poor photo here is out my window at work. You can see the rain drops' streaks on the concrete wall. You can also see what used to be green grass near the tree stump at the left.)

Kenya has been in the midst of the worst drought since 2000. In the States drought means not watering your lawn. In Kenya it means people dying.

Those of us who are more insulated from its ravages are still affected. My colleagues in Entebbe, Uganda (neighboring country) have had power cuts alternating each 24 hours.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Strange parasites

During our trip to Eldama Ravine not long ago, we walked down to a small waterfall in a micro-rain forest.

I was fascinated to see these parasitic plants growing out of a moss-covered tree trunk. The leaves looked more like oak than something that would normally be growing in a rain forest.

I'm not sure how this leaf losts its main green bits and kept the structural veins. Maybe another parasite had a meal!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

No longer empty

Several months ago, I wrote of how lots of billboards around Kenya are empty of advertising. This gigantic one near my office finally got an ad – it’s for a $300 mobile phone.

I wonder what Motorola is thinking… mobile phones are very popular in Kenya (since land-lines are so unreliable and often unavailable), but the Razr model is way out of range of most of their potential customers here (including me).

By the way, the ad itself is made of porous fabric. It’s so large that if it were solid, the billboard would blow over in a strong wind. (One disadvantage is that at the wrong time of day, you can’t see the ad.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Spot the typo

Yes, I love that game.

This one was an honest mistake. The ad is for Kenya's national lottery. "...bust for my business" is meant to be "...boost for my business". You see, the "u" sound in Swahili is equivalent to the "oo" sound in English.

The ad appeared in Kenya's largest newpaper, The Nation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Video coach?

Many Kenyans travel to their country home over the weekend. Some get to travel in style in a "video coach." Yes, videos play during the sometimes arduous journey.

As you can see, some minibus owners are not afraid of sharing their spiritual thoughts with all who may pass them. (Note the mudflap at the bottom of the photo.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

What to do with your butts

On our way back home on Sunday, we stopped at a restaurant that served nyama choma (roasted meat). Kenya is not big on the vegetarian thing.

The chicken was great. The lamb? Well, you can't win them all.

As I ventured to use the facilities, I saw this impromptu ashtray - a gazelle's skull.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mandatory tourist photos

Yes, when one crosses the equator, one must stop for photos. (Dunno if you noticed that the kids have one arm on each side of the equator. Rachel didn't quite get the idea.)

This past weekend, we visited Eldama Ravine, a retreat place run by retired AIM missionaries. It's in a beautiful spot. We went with another family and had a great time relaxing away from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi.

One really fun thing is that the hosts make ice cream and jam and have fresh milk and eggs. The ice cream had the highest fat content I can remember tasting. Ooooh, goood.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


If you look close at the trunk of the tree, you'll see the brown dirt on the bark. Nearly every tree in Nairobi has termites eating away at them. I'm no bug scientist, but I do know they make these dirt trails up the bark.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Our alternative library

Not far from where we live is a great library. It's part of the British Council. Besides a large selection of management books, they have lots of computers with a fast connection to the internet. Since our home connection is very slow, Heather joined.

They also offer lots of short courses on career direction and training. It's wonderful how they cater to the real needs of Nairobi!

I benefited by getting to read a recent novel without having to buy it. (The Nairobi Public Library has a limited selection, and it's farther away from our home here. Heather went there many months ago and said every book was really worn out. There may be no replacement policy, due to limited funds - or due to those funds going to public officials' Mercedes Benzes.)

Monday, February 13, 2006

The wedding

James and Anne got married on Saturday the 11th.

It was a beautiful wedding and they are indeed a lovely couple. We pray the best for their future together!

Heather and I were really sad that Anne's sister, Barbara, couldn't be there. Barbara is how we met Anne's family - great people.

It was strange that Barbara was in our homeland (Denver) on that day and we were in hers.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Where do they get these?

On the main highway running through downtown Nairobi, sales people peddle their wares, running alongside vehicles waiting for the light to change.

This imitation of a $5000 Swiss watch goes for about $30. The quality's not there, but it looks pretty close.

The most hilarious thing about this particular fake is that the Breitling logo is backwards on the second hand! And on closer examination, you can see that the logo is a few degrees slanted off the word "BREITLING".

Another feature of these watches is that they can be models never produced by the real manufacturer. Sometimes they are a completely different style than what the manfacturer produces. (An analogy would be a Rolls Royce SUV. Or Coca Cola brand beer.)

Besides watches they also sell sunglasses, Like RayBans. Those may be the real thing, but factory rejects. Other goods offered are oranges, tv antennas, Swahili folktale books, apples, padlocks and bootleg DVDs. And much more. In one section of town, the guys even sell (very cute!) puppies.

So where do the watches come from? China, of course.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More of the Panari

This coffee table was too over the top for me. The Panari Sky Hotel has a lot of that particular taste reflected in its interior and exterior design. Origins? India? Middle east? Early Liberace? (Any opinions out there?)

By the way, that's Rachel looking at her reflection in the mirror base. And the Panari is the same hotel with the skating rink (see below).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Miss Internet

Kenya loves the "Miss Whatever" titles. I guess the States do too. But here there are a wider variety of "Miss Whatevers" than anywhere else I have lived.

I was highly amused to see this young lady gracing the cover of Sunday's youth newspaper supplement. I think she deserves some kind of a "Miss Something" title, but I thought they were reaching a bit to create that particular title.

You are wondering what Miss Internet does. She's supposed to be an ambassador for the internet. (Maybe only in Kenya?)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Skating in Africa

Yes, Saturday we broke down and visited the skating rink. It has been open for about two months and is billed as "the only ice skating rink in east & central Africa". I'm sure that's true. West Africa too, I'd guess.

Their schedule is kinda strange... it's one hour of skating and then the rink is closed for an hour for ice maintenance. So if you arrive expecting to skate right away (like we did), you may have to wait more than an hour. Oh well. We got to tour the hotel. It's very modern and fancy. The prices are a bit out of our league.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Mighty tasty

This lovely snack was imported from Egypt. (I have to let you know that I didn't try it; my kids gladly did the honors.)

By the way, I am back at this address after being away for a long time (3+ months). The other site was no longer free. And this host (part of the Google empire) is working again for me. Apologies for the confusion I keep causing to those of you loyal readers out there - all two of you.

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...