Thursday, November 30, 2006

18-wheeler alternative

Human-powered carts are found all the time on just about every road in Nairobi. They cause a lot of pollution in the traffic they hold up. But hey, they cost way less than a truck!

When Heather and I saw this one, I had to whip out the camera. (Heather even requested I do that, which is highly unusual.) We both said, "Wow!" The cart is loaded with used plastic bottles that held cooking oil. I'm not sure what he was going to do with them. I guess in some parts of town, they are sold used. Or are recycled.

This is another of those cases when it would have been a far better photo if I got the guy at the front of the cart in the shot - but people sometimes get offended if they are photographed.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Right now

Overnight, the Kenyan government made a new rule (or decided to start enforcing an existing rule) - all vehicles must travel with two warning triangles, a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit. All good stuff to have - but the fact that you could get a ticket the same day the rule was announced, for not having any of them, was a bit annoying.

All those items instantly doubled in price.

And it was not really announced in any good way - the main distribution method was word-of-mouth.

On the back of our new triangle (we had one already) is the text of the government act about needing triangles. I was amused at that - why tell the owners of a new triangle that the government requires it? (The text is not displayed on a shelf at a store or something where people could actually be persuaded by it.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Feeling no pain

One of the joys of living in a country in the developing world is the lack of dependable or consistent electrical power and water. Huge water tanks are the way around the water shortages. Power? At work there is no pain - we have a huge diesel-powered generator that kicks in automatically when the power cuts out. (UPS boxes keep computers going for that minute it takes the generator to kick in.) Yes, the photo is of that beloved generator.

At home? We use candles.

All of my friends in Tanzania have been without power for 12 hours of every day for at least a year now.

And it will be alright

Bob Marley sings that line, at the end of the phrase, "Give thanks and praise to the Lord..."

I'm not sure of his faith (Rastafarianism), but there is a bit of truth to that refrain. We may not see the all-right-ness of things after giving thanks and praise, but at the end of it all, things will be all right! (We may not even live to see that.)

And that brings to mind the reason why those words hit my brain - Bob Marley is big in Kenya, even though he died some time ago. His hit tunes play over and over on the radio here. The only time I listen to the radio is in the car, when I'm alone. That's not very often (one hour a week?).

I'm not too big on repetition. (I get too easily bored.) Sometimes it serves its purpose, though.

Monday, November 27, 2006

How do you define fulfillment?

(Well, first, I spell it differently.)

This roadside butchery is maybe different than the one in your town (if indeed, your town even has one). You might also note that the butchery is combined with a cafe.

It's a little hard to tell from this shot, but a new wooden bed is crossing the ditch in front of the shop. A furniture maker sells his stuff there too.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Horse races in Nairobi

Nairobi has a racecourse. We went as a family on Sunday afternoon. It was a nicely overcast day.

We didn't stay long, as it was pretty boring. I guess if you were betting it could have been exciting.

The camel race was interesting! That wasn't something we could have seen at a race in the Hamptons or Buckinghamshire (not that we ever go to races at either place).

We all felt that the horse races went by too quickly. Just as we were leaving, we saw one of Nairobi's millionaires up close - the guy who heads the most profitable of the two cell phone providers (Safari-

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Nairobi Orchestra

Last weekend, the Nairobi Orchestra played two concerts. (Heather is the beautiful oboe player.)

Typically, various embassies or airlines pay for players to be flown from Europe to perform. That was true this time - the cellist is Gemma, a young lady from England. Maya, a lady from Italy was a soprano soloist. The conductor was flown from Austria.

Kenyans represent about 15% of the orchestra (when this post was written).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's a great day to remember all the ways we are blessed.

I am very thankful to God for so many things that I can't even begin.

I hope you are able to celebrate today with thanksgiving, whether you are American or Zimbabwean.

Production values

Now what other blog can you visit that has a post about toilet paper next to a post about a restaurant?

The cheapest brands of toilet paper made in Kenya does not have the same quality as that of the cheapest brands in some other countries. I laughed when I opened this roll. The second ply is so weak that it's barely there. And it was that way through the entire roll.

To put things into perspective, the largest country in Africa, Congo, does not have any toilet paper manufacturers. So I am very thankful that Kenya is forward-thinking enough to have its own large and robust manufacturing sector. However, cheaper labor elsewhere is causing many plants to shut down. Colgate shut their plant in Nairobi just a week or two ago.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

My fave

Those in Nairobi who really know me are aware that Sierra is my favorite restaurant. There's actually original art on the walls. This shot shows a little of the "plant" and offices on the second floor (or for Kenyans and Brits, the first floor). The name Sierra? I guess it sounds nice. (Nothing at the restaurant relates to that chain of mountains in California.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Some more strange products for you

"Alpinella" is made in Poland. Obviously they are trying to go after the premium Swiss chocolate bar market - but it sells for about a third of the Swiss brands. And the taste is about a third as good. It's way too sweet and sugary - not much chocolate flavor.

"Babol" gum is from Turkey. I was particularly amused that it is "multi vitaminli". Also worthy of mention is that it is "no sticking". (My kids thankfully haven't done the field test on that aspect.)

I bought both at my neighborhood Nakumatt, a branch store of the largest supermarket chain in Kenya.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Motorola goes for your gold

I had to share this billboard with you. I think it's an amazingly striking image.

I was amazed to zoom in and read this tiny fine print in the upper right corner "Impress for less" and "Tune in to FM radio". What were they thinking? I guess they were advertising to people like me who take digital photos and zoom in to read the fine print!

Ironically, I bought a new Motorola phone the day before this billboard went up - my old Alcatel (from France) was dying a slow death. And no, I didn't but the fancy model the billboard advertised; I bought almost the cheapest model they sell here.

The phone works great, by the way.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Puddle or lake?

I went with a colleague yesterday to sort out some business in the industrial area of Nairobi. The road facing the business we visited is currently a lake. The puddle stretches across the entire width of the road. A good thing is that the bottom of the puddle is fairly rocky, so if you have enough ground clearance, you're fine if you drive through slowly.

We have had a lot of rain lately, and it affects some people more than others!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The first ever give-away

For the first person who can tell me what the real car company behind this new-to-me brand name, I will actually send a gift. Put your answer in the comments, as well as some way for me to contact you.

(I do know the answer.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

When there is no picante sauce

For many years now, my Sunday night meal has been tortilla chips and picante sauce. The latter is not available in Kenya - or on the rare occasions it is at the supermarket, the price is way more than what I can afford.

One evening we had dinner at my favorite restaurant in Nairobi - Sierra. The chef used to be a white guy from Zimbabwe. (He has since gone elsewhere.) Anyhow, whatever we ordered came with some delicious salsa. He graciously gave us the recipe*. Ever since then I have been able to enjoy chips and picante - until recently.

Red peppers, a vital part of the recipe, were not available at any vegetable store for the last couple of months. Over the weekend, I finally found some! (This batch cost about 40c.)

*As a joke, he skewed the amount of sugar in the recipe - way more than what was necessary. After all, he couldn't give us the recipe outright! So after a few tweaks, we got it right. The latest batch is the best yet!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bad photo, good experience

Last week, our ten-year old Ben (red arrow) took part in the fall band concert. He played the french horn. Heather and I both enjoyed the show.

Wendy, his band teacher, is an ethno-musicologist who teaches band in her "spare" time. We appreciate both jobs!

Her use of ethnomusicology is helping Africans to use their own music to worship God, rather than their using some non-natural (western) music form.

Rain rain!

It has been pelting down a lot lately.

Driving Sunday was another of those times when I felt my blessings - being in a warm dry car and not having to fight with water splashing at me from a passing car. (I try to be sensitive when I pass people with my car!)

Weekdays find me walking to work. But again, I am blessed - the road I walk along has very little traffic.

Two hundred

...but who's counting?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Yes, more copyright violations

This restaurant is in downtown Nairobi. I haven't have the opportunity to eat there. I'd wager that it's not the same as that famous chain in the US of A.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Random highway sighting

We were caught in a traffic jam the other day. This meat truck was in the other lane, and I couldn't help but notice the contrast between live meat and the non-live meat that was inside the box. (These red-striped white boxes are a common site in areas where the Maasai live. Since their main livelihood is cattle, meat is the natural by-product.)

Not to antagonize the vegetarians reading, but I had to mention that if you look really close at the rear panel near the tail-light, you can see blood drips. Yes, that happens in the process of making meat.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Creative railing

This railing was made out of local wood. One artist took a little liberty in how he sculpted the end of the rail.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Waiting on the internet

One of the projects on my plate is to facilitate a faster connection to the internet for our offices.

We applied for a government license to get a VSAT, several months ago. The wheels of bureaucracy turn v-e-r-y slowly here. Unless you are willing to pay a bribe. We're not.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A visit

On Saturday morning, we visited Anitah in her home in Kibera. That's one of the largest neighborhoods in Nairobi - and in Africa, for that matter. (I don't like to use negative terms that often are used in describing lower-income housing areas.)

I took the pic in front of the entrance to her apartment complex: 4 one-room apartments, each with no running water - but they do have electricity.

She's a friend we see nearly every day. She sees us on our turf, so it was great to see her on hers.

Anitah has one daughter, who we had just missed - she was off to take some exams. (I think it's inhumane for kids to have to attend school on Saturdays, but it's fairly common in Kenya. They didn't ask me.)

Nothing very remarkable about the visit, but I did want to show you one of the normal events of our lives.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A tale of two coffees

On weekend mornings, I brew enough for Heather and me. On weekday mornings, I only brew enough for me. (Heather gets her caffeine via tea, during the week.)

I find the flavor of cafetiere (coffee-press) brewed coffee to be vastly superior to that of drip-filter brewed. Heather prefers the milder flavor the drip method yields.

I'm such a hard-core coffee drinker that I like as much of the flavor as can get thrown at me. I am lazy, though; I buy ground coffee rather than beans. I gave up grinding beans long ago; my life is too busy for that. And I can't afford one of those machines that grinds the beans and then brews the coffee too.

For those into details, the two coffee makers are not to scale with each other. The coffee press is significantly smaller than the drip pot.

For those of you in Kenya, my coffee of choice is Dorman's Continental Medium Grind Dark Roast. (It's a much better deal than Java House's similar offering.)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Where you come from

I joined Google Analytics, for finding out more about who visits this site.

I thought you might find this interesting, as I do!

Date Range: 10/26/2006 - 11/1/2006

New Visitors: 84
Returning Visitor: 77

Nairobi: 16
Earlville: 8
Riverside: 7
Littleton: 7
Boston: 5
Denver: 5
Harpsden: 4
Amman: 3
Canberra: 3
London: 3
Reading: 3
Alva: 3
Dubai: 3
Seven Kings: 2
Austin: 2
State University: 2
Pearl Beach: 2
Ploiesti: 2
Manning: 2
Richmond: 2
Sunnyvale: 2
Herndon: 2
Oxford: 2
Colorado Springs: 2
Turku: 1
Kristiansand: 1
New York: 1
Yellowknife: 1
Trombay: 1
Whittier: 1
Hannöver: 1
Trenton: 1
Sofia: 1
Rotterdam: 1
Rochester: 1
Campbell: 1
Sacramento: 1
Houston: 1
Mortlake: 1
Cheltenham: 1
Lower Norwood: 1
Kenyon: 1
Old Westbury: 1
Red Deer: 1
Pueblo: 1
San Diego: 1
Lille: 1
Butler: 1
Brampton: 1
Roswell: 1
Tegucigalpa: 1
Pretoria: 1
Indianapolis: 1
Tampere: 1
Webster: 1
Minneapolis: 1
Briar Hill: 1
Farmington: 1
Davidson: 1
Washington: 1
Nicosia: 1
Alexandria: 1
Baton Rouge: 1
Bristol: 1
Columbus: 1
Jiddah: 1
Lem: 1
Washington: 1
Rhodelia: 1
Meriden: 1
San Francisco: 1
Lynn: 1
Göteborg: 1
Seattle: 1
Pleasanton: 1
Hengelo: 1
Los Angeles: 1
Normal: 1
Hortolândia: 1
Bangalore: 1

What's Bamboocha?

This has to be my favorite billboard around Nairobi these days.

I think Bamboocha is a word like Haagen Daz - it sounds fun but has no real meaning. (Correct me if I'm wrong on that, Swahili speakers!)

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...