Thursday, September 28, 2006

So here is some of the wildlife

The deer-like creature is a water buck (I think), and the bird is a marabou stork. Flamingos lined the shore. We saw these creatures last weekend at Lake Naivasha.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hippo prints

One of the greatest things about being in Africa is that there are no fences when you're experiencing wildlife. Naivasha has lots of hippos. As we hiked along the shore, we crossed several paths that hippos, gazelles and giraffes used. (The lake is a watering hole for all manner of animals.)

Rachel's feet show the scale.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Out of rocks

This hearty plant was growing out of the rocks along the crater's rim. I'm always amazed at how plants can grow with so little available soil.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Another adventure

We went to Lake Naivasha for the weekend. We stayed at a place called Hedada - a wonderful cottage on the shore of the lake. A retired couple runs it - next to their home.

The adventure came during our excursion to visit nearby Crater Lake. The dirt road to the lake is not one of Kenya's better "parkways". Several places had giant puddles all the way across the road. In most of those places, there was a dirt path going up one side to let non-4WD vehicles continue. Finally, we hit a small lake in the road with no alternate path.

Some people were walking along and said the park entrance was not much farther. We believed them. Then an old British lady driving a safari vehicle gave us a ride to the park entrance.

We had a wonderful hike. I took this shot of Ben at the top of the rim. Just off his shoulder is an exclusive resort, along the lake shore - appropriately named Crater Lake Tented Camp. (These are not your average tents - they have bathrooms inside.) We hiked down to the resort for some cold sodas.

So what was the adventure?

I decided to avoid the long hike back to the car and hired a boda-boda. That's a bicycle taxi. (I took this lower shot while bouncing around on the back of the bike. That's me in the sunglasses.) There was a parking lot outside the tented camp, but getting there was not easy! Thankfully the bike rider let me follow him back there.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The wicker store

On our way to church, we passed this road-side open-air store. There is only one problem with the merchandise - we can't take it with us. (When we return to the States in June 2007, all we're taking with us is what we'll carry on the plane. However, our visiting friends blessed us this June by taking back a lot of stuff for us.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Short and tall

One of my joys here is spotting weird Japanese cars that never made it to the States. This one is the Mitsubishi Topo. You'll notice the old BMW 3-series in front that provides a sense of scale. The Topo is about twice as tall and two-thirds the BMW's width and height.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Where do I live?

On the other side of the tracks.

A railroad line runs past our complex. So we hear the train coming and going many times each day.

We're in the left-most multi-story building.

Our complex is commercially-owned (not a "missionary compound"), so our neighbors are a good cross-section of one economic strata of Kenya. However, Wycliffe people are in three of the sixteen units, as it's so close to our main offices.

We are sub-letting from a Wycliffe family who are in their native England until after we return to the US. Great for them and us.

What do I do?

One blogging friend asked what my job is. So I thought I'd share that with all of you out in the blog-o-
sphere. Maybe when you're done reading this, you can comment and tell me what you do.

I manage people.

Wycliffe Bible Translators, the group I work with, has its Africa headquarters in Nairobi. There must be something like a hundred people working full-time here and across Kenya. Our offices also support the work in eastern Congo. The staff I manage, about 14 people, do accounting, IT and immigration support, typesetting and general work to keep things going. I don't really count the accounting staff, since that section has a very competent manager.

Wycliffe exists to see that all people around the world have a Bible in a language they understand. (Imagine, Americans, if the only Bible available was in Spanish - you wouldn't be motivated to read it for yourself.) Also a large section of the work involves literacy - teaching people to read. So not only are there spiritual benefits, people groups are able to cope better in the world they live through knowing how to read.

So management - it's a challenge to herd cats, as that one Superbowl commercial so creatively described it a few years ago. Personality conflicts are difficult to solve. Staff often have unrealistic expectations. And laid on top of this is that none of my staff are American - so I'm groping in the dark sometimes in knowing what to do.

My original expectation was that I'd be at the helm for six months. The guy I'm standing in for and his wife are adopting a child - so six months has turned into two years.

My real job is graphic design. This has been a stretching "break."

So what do hands on a keyboard have to do with management? Not much. But I do spend a fair amount of time each working day doing email - to keep the wheels moving.

And the eagle-eyed out there will remember that my work computer is a Windows machine. But I do my blogging at home, and thankfully MY computer is a Mac. My son Ben took the photo, over my shoulder.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Kenya has coral reefs

I bought a very cheap underwater digital camera, which we brought it to the coast with us. Snorkeling at Watamu Reef is an amazing experience, if your equipment works. We went out with some local guys whose snorkels and masks had seen better days. So we spent a lot more time in the boat than underwater. I managed to take a few shots - all random.

(Our family vacation was in late May, which seems like a million years ago. But seeing this again and writing about it reminds me to savor the memories.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Amazing craftsman

A new building is in the process of being built at the compound where I work. Several very large trees sacrificed themselves. I was sad - at least one produced large orchid-like flowers... at 60 feet above the ground!

One day I noticed workmen carving up the trees with a chainsaw. Upon closer inspection, I saw they were making lumber! The guy with the chainsaw was incredible; he was creating straight boards without any guides!

Yes, here was another example of Kenyan resourcefulness. When a sawmill is not available, all that's needed is a chainsaw - and someone skilled enough to use it properly.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A tale of two sugars

While we were at the Intercontinental (see Creativity #279), Heather and I treated ourselves to coffee. As with many places that serve coffee or tea in Kenya, the sugar is normally a lovely brown color. Not brown as in the US "brown sugar" - but brown as in the "trubinado" variety in the States. It's wonderful stuff - and way more healthy than the bleached-out white substance most places have in the US. (Yes, I know most Starbucks have the healthy stuff too.)

And the Intercontinental is one of the few places in Kenya that offers that dreadful white stuff too. You know which one I chose.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Creativity #279

(It feels to me like I have featured Africans' creativity about 279 times in this blog, but I know that's not true. I do feel that creativity is worth my featuring, however!)

Jay, our first-born, turned 13 last week. To celebrate, we took him to a heated pool with a few friends - actually the only one I know of - at The Hotel Intercontinental, downtown. (We have never stayed there, but they have a nice pool!)

So where does the creativity come in? And what's the photo?

Parking is at a huge premium in downtown Nairobi. The Hotel Intercontinental's parking garage was totally full. So the parking attendant kindly let us park in the elevator lobby for one of the parking levels. That's creative!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

What happens in Turkey

The juxtaposition of The DaVinci Code and The Bible videos on one collection was so hilarious that I had to buy it, from a street vendor here in Nairobi. (I don't normally buy bootlegs.)

I think the DVD was authored in Turkey. Obviously enforcement of copyright laws isn't a high priority there - or in Kenya - compared to some countries.

ps I think I may have posted this before, but I couldn't find it! I'm getting old...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More downtown

I went downtown not long ago for some reason or other. I took a few snapshots. The Prudential and Equatorial are obviously colonial remnants. Primed Fast Food isn't.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Turkoman Carpets

The best place to buy a hand-woven carpet is in downtown Nairobi. We have bought two wonderful carpets there - one in about 1992 and the second just last year. The rugs are expensive, but they're about half what they would cost in the States.

Tukoman employs several guys who hand-repair damaged or worn carpets. (During our first Kenya life, we had a cat. Just before returning to the States, with carpet in our luggage, we had them fix the damage kitty caused. Good as new!)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Inside a matatu

A fews Sundays back, we took a matatu (public minibus) to church, as an adventure. It was fun, though it cost a bit more than taking our car would have cost us.

This Liverpool Football Club sticker was just above my head. (English football teams are really big in Kenya.) Many matatus sport huge logos of Arsenal, Manchester United, or Chelsea. Less common are non-English european teams.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bought one

I finally was able to buy a new van for the office. (Well, it is for one of the offices - in this case, the group focused on the work in eastern Congo.)

We got a fully-loaded 1999 Toyota HiAce van. In fact, it's so cool that it has a DVD-based navigation system. Problem: it works great in Tokyo but not in Nairobi. And between the time I first looked at the van and when we signed the final papers, someone decided they wanted the DVD. So no cool map of Tokyo to show you. Sigh.

But if you can read Japanese, there is still a lot of fascinating information to digest. I'm guessing these are the bass and treble controls.

Besides the amazing navigation system, the stereo will play the now-defunct mini-discs. (Sony created them as a different audio format to compete with the CD - or at least to give an alternative. Their small portable players provided recording capabilities.)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Dress making (part 2?)

We visited the Red Cross offices in Machakos. Our friend who managed the well project works there on two large aid projects for total communities in remote parts of that district.

One of the training facilities at the office is a tailoring school. This hand-made chart was on the wall (detail shown). All of the sewing machines are manually run (foot-treadle).

It's amazing what can be done when resources are limited.

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...