Friday, March 31, 2006

Another sign

This was in one of the villages we visited. A rough translation:

"Good Town Farm
Mr. Recent Happenings"

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Closed, protests

Most of the shops in Nairobi were closed today.

Merchants and others are protesting the government's decision to require them to use new cash registers that record sales tax (VAT). Thus they will be held accountable to pay it. The rate of VAT is 16%. That's crippling for anyone to pay, particularly those at lower income levels. And then of course there's the issue of "Where is that tax going? We don't see any benefit!" Many of my local friends expressed that line of thinking.

And of course I had to add a little humor. Seal Honey is the local equivalent of Office Depot. That chain is run by an Indian or Pakistani family.

I never have asked where they got the name. Or what it means.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tanzania signs, part two

Along the road there were several signs for the nearby local schools. Peter explained to me that Tanzania was a socialist country for several years under President Nyerere. That had several effects, not all of which were bad. (Apparently he apologized to his people near the end of his life for the mistakes he had made.)

Anyway, the socialist background allowed schools to be opened in many rural parts of the country.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bad TV

In my motel room in Tanga was a small TV that got two stations. One night, there was a really bad kung fu movie with English overdubbed...

and a Tanzanian soap opera.

- - -

By the way, sorry about the weirdness of the way the type and photos interact in this post and "The shoe store" post. It's user interface problems... I am a novice at coding and am too lazy and too busy to figure out a work-around.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Moshi signs, part one

I couldn't resist stopping to capture this sign. (What does a supermarket taste like?)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The shoe store

Yes, this median is a shoe store. The shop manager was hanging out across the road. I assume that the shoes being on the median allows them to be viewed from both lanes of traffic.

I encountered this in Moshi, Tanzania. (Moshi is the town trekkers go to before their climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro.)

Friday, March 24, 2006


Much of our journey was through sisal plantations. Sisal is used for ropes, mats and baskets. Apparently during the colonial days, Swiss and other European people managed the plantations.

My traveling companions and I could not imagine how that much sisal could be used in the whole world.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


On the way down, I got deeply mired in a giant mud puddle. First an SUV with two German ladies tried to pull me out. Then they got stuck! Finally, a truck that had 8-wheel drive (the back two axles) pulled the SUV out and then the SUV got on firmer ground and pulled me out succesfully.

The whole time, about twenty Maasai kids were "helping". The savior of the day was the truck driver. He even lay in the mud under my car to tie up the winch cable. What an amazing guy! (I did pay him for his trouble.)

Sad but true

Another reflection from the Tanga, Tanzania trip... one evening we played a game of ultimate frisbee at a sports ground at the town's second best school. Many gather for that diversion every Friday evening. The teams had players from England, Scotland, India, Tanzania, the USA and Kenya. It was kind of strange to be playing there.

After the game, a German doctor who was in town for a three month-long project, complained how the deaths among new-borns at the local hospital was greater than that of babies born in nearby villages. He was justifiably irate.

What do you do about that? I have no idea.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

An education

The whole reason for our visit to Tanzania was to learn about digging wells using the percussion method - for our water project* in Vyulya, Kenya. Mike, our teacher, generously gave two full days to both show and tell us how to do it.

Part of our second day was spent in learning the tools involved. (Ropes are critical.)

Mike's father-in-law, Smitty, was visiting from the Oklahoma Panhandle. He lent his wisdom to the discussions.

*If you are interested in giving to help this, here's the link. Scroll down to "Kenya Water Project" - the last item on the pull-down list.

5 of my favorite drummers

1. Janet Weiss (Sleater Kinney and Quasi)
2. Carla Azar (Autolux)
3. Meg White (The White Stripes)
4. Jerry MacDonell (The Wrens)
5. Paul Wertico (Pat Metheny, First Circle)

ps I threw in that last one just to confuse you. But that is a great album!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

God's promise

It's a beautiful drive from Namanga, Kenya to Tanga, Tanzania. On the day we went down, we spent about an hour in the presence of one rainbow after another. Part of the reason for them was the road following several mountain ranges. Rain comes off the mountains and hits the sun. (God's promise? See the book of Genesis, in the Bible.)

In the lower part of the photo is a goat herder. (If I had time and better internet access, I'd post a larger version of the picture, but alas, I am challenged in those areas.)

Mt. Meru is one of the first significant peaks we passed - around 15,000'. It had snow on the trip down. It was shrouded in clouds during our return journey.

The "we" is Simon, peter, and me. Simon and Peter are from the village in Kenya that our water project will benefit. Peter, the manager, is an agronomist by training. Simon, the technician, is a mason by profession. (You'll get to see them in another post that is coming.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Please wait

Patience is a virtue in any country. This sign was in the restaurant of the hotel where we stayed during our Tanzania trip. It proved to be true. On the advice of the people we were visiting, they said, "Order your food first. Then take a shower and relax. Come back later for your dinner."

The little red lightbulb was a remnant of a system for waiters to see the progress of their orders (or something like that). I suspect it hadn't been used in years.

The dinner was good. I ate fish curry. Tanga is on the coast, so the fish was fresh.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Back from Tanzania

We made it back safely. 1,500 kilometers on the road.

It was a very productive trip. I'll give you details later, along with some pix.

Thanks to those of you who prayed!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The hornbill

I'm always apologizing for the low quality of my photos in this blog. I hope you'll forgive my repetition. In this case, my 3x zoom just wasn't able to capture this bird well enough.

This hornbill is a bird you might see in a zoo in North America or Europe. But as we were talking with Dickson, it was happily flying from tree to tree. Also you might notice the tree it was perched in - another of those Dr. Suess varieties.

For those of you who visit this site regularly and/or use its RSS, I will be out of blogging range until Monday, March 20th. If you're of the praying variety, I'd appreciate your prayers as I drive a long way down into Tanzania with two friends. We'll be visiting a water project near Tanga, to see how ours can be furthered.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Remnants of a colonial past

Last week I went down to a rural area near the Tanzania border. An American friend is doing a drip-farming project with a Maasai friend. We're hoping to change the paradigm of cow herding to farming. There is not enough water to support cattle. Most herds are skinny and dying. There are some plants which require little water and can yield enough food to make it worth the investment of planting and harvesting.

So on the way in to Dickson's farm, we pass this bridge that has been unused for at least 20 or 30 years. It was built maybe 60-80 years ago. The road deteriorated long before the bridge. I'm sure there are a bunch of analogies to life there, but at the moment they escape me.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

No credit, no problem!

My photograph was published in Nairobi's main newspaper, The Nation, over the weekend. They ran a story on the Nairobi Orchestra in the entertainment section. I didn't mind the lack of credit, since the reproduction was so poor quality.

Heather, who plays first oboe in the orchestra, noted that the article was very inaccurate. Apparently the writer highlighted much of last week's program, saying it was this weekend's. This was probably a reflection of the general level of journalism in that paper.

The kids were thrilled that their mom's picture was in the paper.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Visibility and self-expression

I couldn't resist the opportunity to take a pic of this car. Its owner felt the need to express him or herself, in site of how all those bumper stickers make it difficult to see other cars, the road and pedestrians.

I guess we all feel the need for people to know that we're not just another face in the crowd.

In southern California (a long way from this car!), where there are endless numbers of cars, self-expression is pushed to new limits. I think they have the highest per-capita number of vanity license plates than anywhere in the world. In the UK, people pay hugely for that kind of self-expression. To have the plate: "5 ROB" costs £25,000, or about $45,000.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A rural drinking hole

We didn't enter this venue. Having spent some years in Texas, it was fun to see how very far from Texas this particular bar is.

Monday, March 06, 2006

It's still raining

We're so happy that the rain is still coming down!

This strange shot was in the walkway in a neighboring apartment complex. (It's hard to get enough light when sunlight is fading and all I have is my tiny digital camera's tinier flash.)

In the Nairobi paper last week an article mentioned that experts say the rains aren't going to be as long as they need to be. But what do weather people ever know anyhow? Global warming and record low temps in Russia this winter?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

xB? Naaah.

Yes, you saw it here first. Nissan came out with the "Cube" model in Japan a while back. They're supposed to sell them in the States too, maybe sometime in the next year or so.

Yes, it's very much like the Scion xB. It's about the same size and obviously the same shape.

I've only seen this one in Nairobi, and only once.

It's quite random which Japanese imports make their way here. There is a fair amount of vehicles here that will never make their way to the States. One reason is the stringent importation rules in the States. Another reason is that cars in Japan are right-hand drive. Ha-ha-ha! (I know you're saying, "But you can't get a Hummer in Kenya." You're right. Sigh.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More Eldama Ravine

Another post relating to our weekend trip about 2 weeks ago...

It was refreshing when we finally arrived at the small waterfall. (It was a very warm day!) Of course the kids loved playing in the stream.

We adults were a little discouraged at how opaque the water was. Stewart said it might have been due to people washing their cars upstream from where we were.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mr. Stauffer

Yesterday, Mr. Stauffer died.

He was my boys' p.e. teacher. It was a sudden heart attack with no recovery. He was only in his early 60s.

This was my boys' first brush with how tenuous our lives truly are.

It is quite sad, since his wife will be left in mourning for some time. They were set to return to the States in just a few months to retire and spend some time with the grandkids, etc.

The joy of it all is that he is in the presence of the God he loves. And his struggle with all that this life brings is over.

Wow, a new toaster!

This is NOT in my part of Nairobi, but being such an Apple fan, I had to share this with you. (It may be 6 months till any of these make it their way across the waves to Kenya.)

Yes, Apple came out with a new “iPod Stereo.” It looks like a toaster to me. And it’s way over priced.

I would highly recommend that you look elsewhere. There are lots of great products that do about the same thing for less. Shoot, you could get a smaller portable with not as good sound and a home unit with much better sound for about the same price.

I hope this is just a small negative blip from their norm of making great products.

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...