Monday, July 31, 2006

Guilty feeling

There's this widget for Macs* that counts down the days till a date you set. In this case, I'm counting the days till we get on the big plane to return to our homeland.

So why is it a guilty feeling? I do believe the concept of enjoying the present. But sometimes ideals are hard to live out.

*It's called if you want to find it at the Apple site.

Footnotes: a) Notice the bad spelling of "untill" and b) In the few times I've restarted my Mac since loading the widget, it does not seem to be able to remember the date I gave it. But that's just as well! Then I won't be obsessing over how many days are left.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Back to the beach

Our family vacation at the beach is a distant memory now. However, I wanted to resurrect a few memories to help me feel better in this cold grey Nairobi winter's day. (Yes, July and August are "winter" here, and it's colder than you'd expect.)

As I walked along the beach, I noticed a huge amount of orphaned sandals. One morning I collected a few to build this collage. After I took the shot, I disposed of them properly. (Aaah, that was a good feeling!)

You'd be surprised at how many sandals are washed up on the beach.

One local art company (Kitengela) has made bead curtains from beach-wash-sandals. I shot this from their store display window.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

New 1968 model, available today

This Nissan B140 pickup is sold in Nairobi, brand-new. I think it was originally released to the Japanese market in the late 60s. This model has some improvements (like a more modern engine, though I'm not even sure this one comes with emissions controls). But essentially it's the same truck.

Part of the appeal is the price: about $9,500. And I think the appeal to Nissan is using the molding for that model without having to scrap it. And to be honest, it's a basic vehicle and must be easier to work on compared to more modern vehicles. But this could be another case of the developing world getting the cast-offs from the rest of the world.

I just noticed the ad's headline; it could be interpreted, "This Nissan Model will be Sold Forever!"

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Australian honey

I'm always looking at the pavement as I walk to and from work. One day I came across this. It is incredible to me that this came all the way from Australia to Kenya when perfectly good honey is made here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Wire art

There are some great artists in Kenya. (Well, I admit, most every country has some great artists.) Since Nairobi has many tourists that come through, as well as lots of global aid agencies having bases here, there is a ready market for their art. I'm a prime consumer, at times.

These wire artists are quite resourceful. The "rubber" is electrical tape. The hubcaps on the VW are ends of D-cell batteries.

The wheels turn and the hoods (bonnets, for the English-speakers out there) open.

This post is dedicated to The Lone Beader, who creates art of her own. She had asked to see the some art, many moons ago.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A new resource

The Africa Bible Commentary was released in early July. This is a significant resource for pastors and Biblical scholars across the continent.

Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo, the editor, commented on the work: […it is important to the African Christian church because…] "how else would you explain so much corruption in the African continent?" [referring to a lack of understanding of the Bible]. Also he said of its importance, [It will help combat…] "shallow and superficial understanding of Biblical principles by Africans."

I was amused to see it as the cover story in Kenya's largest newspaper's equivalent to Parade magazine.

A footnote is that owing to a kind gift by some friends, we were able to give a copy to our pastor here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

My house in Kenya

I bought this house from a street vendor. I'm not sure if he was the artist or just the seller. I thought it was just art, though it may have been an architectural model.

Anyhow, it is totally hand-made. The roof is corrugated cardboard. The white trim is from a plastic cooking fat container. The bricks and mortar are banana leaves. Detail includes a 2-car garage and a staircase inside. The architectural style is very normal for homes of the 6-bedroom size in Kenya. (Well, most homes are larger than a barrel of apples!)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ever stood next to a known criminal?

A few weeks ago, a colleague asked me if I would stand in a police line-up. This friend had his identity stolen here in Kenya. A South African white guy stole his credit card info (along with others') and had made tens of thousands of dollars of purchases.

The police officer said he didn’t know enough white guys to fill out a line-up for witnesses to have a bunch of different men to choose from. So he asked my colleague if he could find some white men. (Thus, me, along with about eight other colleagues.) My first reaction was, "What if the witnesses think I look more like the criminal than the criminal does? I don’t want to go to prison!" Then he assured me the officer said there was no chance any of us non-criminals would be convicted. Mostly I said yes, because my other colleagues did. I figured if they thought it was safe, it probably was safe.

In the end, we didn't stand in a line, as the criminal chose the option of not standing in a witness recognition line. (Sorry, I dunno the correct term for that; I haven’t watched enough CSI.)

While we were waiting for things to get sorted out, the police officer basically said, "We trust you (white) people." (And then he implied something like, "This guy really ruined our perceptions!")

The photo? The police officer gladly gave me the opportunity to take that shot. (You should always carry your camera!) Of note: he had a South African "Temporary Passport" (whatever that is!) and a fake California driver's license (with the address on the card being, "Queen Rd TX" (Yes, that's supposed to be "Texas".) On the back of the "license" it said "Property of the US Government".

The whole incident really gave me a good feeling about the Kenyan police. They did a great job apprehending the criminal. Admittedly, he did some pretty stupid things, like going to the same shop three times. (The third strike was his out.)

And another thing he didn't do was consider the consequences of his actions. In the Nairobi newspaper on the same day as our line-up experience was this story, "Conditions in [Kenyan] Prisons Worst in the World, says Official".

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More hard-to-believe art

I saw this matatu (public van) yesterday. I couldn't figure out the pairing of "help them lord" with all the marijuana leaves.

The guy crouching down has a t-shirt that says, "slumware".

Also, if you look closely, you can see the ghost of the previous art on the window. (I couldn't quite make out the words.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


One of the hardest aspects of living as a missionary is saying goodbye. Recently our good friends the Johnsons left for a year in England. (This photo is the back of the van that took them to the airport, as it left our apartment complex.)

They will return to Kenya after we have left for the States. I'm not sure when we will see them again. I know we will, but it might be a while! Rachel and Charis (best friends) will no longer be 5 years old.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Colubus

One of the most bizarre monkies I have ever seen is the Colobus. Several of them hang out around Mrs. Mitchell's Tea Farm. (That's another place we visited with our friends.)

This guy and his buddy were playing around on the roof of the main house, while we were enjoying tea.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

An amazing guy

Simon has been the engineer for our water project. He lives way off the beaten path near Machakos, Kenya. He has been very involved with the widows and orphans of AIDS victims in his village - with no pay.

AND he's an incredible craftsman. He built this guitar and drums by hand! Jay got to try out the drums, and they sound pretty good.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Star Trek plant

While we were at Maasai Mara, I saw this incredible plant. It reminded me of something one would see in an old episode of the original Star Trek series.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The flour-bag shirt

One of the things Heather has done to help Kenyans is working with a ministry called "Beacon of Hope". Their focus is helping people "infected or affected by AIDS". AIDS-awareness is a large area of education, as well as teaching many how to provide for themselves through a useful skill. Tailoring (sewing) is one.

As a cost-saving measure, people are taught to sew using heavy paper, rather than cloth. Thus the flour-bag shirt.

We visited the training center this week with our visiting friends.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Traffic jam in the wilderness

We finally went to Maasai Mara. Our friends visiting from the States gave us the excuse to go.

We all discovered that sections of the road between Nairobi and the park are brutal. I was thrilled to not be driving, for a change.

So on our last expedition to find animals, we came across this pride of lions. All the safari vans have two-way radios to talk with each other. So when someone finds some lions, for example, they all know where to go.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The keycase

Well, I managed to come by the office this Sunday afternoon and add an entry here before I really return to work on Wednesday morning.

One of my jobs at work is being the keeper of the keys. It takes four layers of keys to get into the keybox.

Security is a big deal. But as one friend noted, a crowbar is a pretty universal key. However, our work compound is protected by an electric fence with generator backup, a security guard and locked bar-doors in front of the locked doors.

Once you get into my office corridor, it takes only a skeleton key (or in England, it's called a mortice key) to enter my office. There are few varieties of those, so my actual office door is not very secure.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

New eats

There's a new restaurant in our part of Nairobi. It's actually right next door to our apartment complex. Heather, Rachel and I had lunch there recently. The price was reasonable. The dishes were not "exotic". And as is often the case, few items on the menu were actually available.

We didn't have the opportunity to sample the "fresh hot bread ... direct from oven".

As you might guess, the sign was totally painted by hand. I found the black shadow on the "R" of "Restaurant" curious.

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...