Monthly Archive for December, 2008

Loitokitok Photos

As much as you love my lengthy prose, I figure I owe you a few photos with simple captions.  Also, I’m avoiding having to study for tomorrow’s exam, so reviewing photos seemed really appealing.  So without further ado…

This is where I sit at home in the evening and respond to blog comments on my phone.  I took this photo today.  There is always hot milk for me in that thermos.

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This is a very accurate drawing of me.  I received this during the Secret Santa gift exchange.

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And here is the gift I gave to my Secret Santa.  Businesses and homes in Loitokitok usually have at least one positive-message baby sign.

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This is my homestay brother.  He is five years old and he is holding the electric Christmas Tree that I received in a care package on Christmas Eve (great timing!).  This picture was taken in the kitchen.  In the background: my homestay sister and auntie (the house helper).

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On the left is the front gate of my home.  In the distance is Mount Kilimanjaro.

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And here are all the Deaf Education trainees. The guy on the bottom right is always asking too many questions in class.

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3 Responses to “Loitokitok Photos”


  • Nice photos Paul. We enjoy reading your blog. You mentioned that you ate goat meat in a previous entry, I’ve eaten goat (Mexican style) several times and find it quite tasty. I’ll have to try termites some day. Take care and Happy New Year!
    Uncle Joe

  • O no !!!!!!!!!!!!!! No high definition pictures on your blog, what are you going to do that is sooooooo terrible! Even worse than the slaughterd goat which I could not help but to read about.,,,Hmmm lets see i had alot of comments while reading but I have probably forgotten most of them by now. But I do remember that I really want those green couches!!!!!!!! They are awesome! Mount Kilimanjaro looks really pretty, and your brother is really cute with the Christmas tree :) I also like the picture of you!!! Its almost as good as the one you drew for mom and I. I cant believe you got our package on New Years Eve as well. Could not have been more perfect! Well love you! O and your second project can always be learning that magic trick!!!

    • Elise the magic tricks might have saved me today if only I had learned them in time– I need to find some way to keep the kids’ attention!

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Read more even when im lazy

I just added some links at the bottom of the right column. If you are ever feeling information-deprived you can easily read what my peers are up to. In other news tomorrow is the big language test and regardless of how it goes the deaf ed group will be together in a cottage to celebrate new years. Wish me luck on both counts.

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The Challenges Ahead

What am I worried about these days?  Well, let’s see:

  • Language: I am likely to test as "Intermediate" in KSL on the 31st.  I am regularly dreaming in sign language, but because training is in Loitokitok, where there is one deaf man in the whole town, our entire group is lagging compared to previous years.  I hope that when I go to my final site sometime around Jan 6, there will be a supportive deaf community to help me out.  I also know zero Swahili… basically only what’s on the inside cover of the Lonely Planet quick reference book.
  • Secondary project: The Peace Corps recommends that in my down time, rather than sitting around doing nothing, I should pursue a "Secondary Project."  Before coming here I anticipated that this might involve further development of the Adobe Flash sign language tutorials that I saw online, but…
    I do not yet have access to original source files.
    I am not sure what else might have been done already on this front.
    …so when I go to Nairobi for the swearing-in, I am going to scour the Peace Corps office to see what I can find.  There is an overall sense here that things got lost when everything shut down during the election violence, but there is another, most systemic, problem with "memory loss," that is, the lack of a structured year-by-year progress tracking for the overall deaf education project.  I worry that any progress I make might be forgotten in a few years— how can I help this organization to make sure my own work builds effectively on progress already made?  "Sustainability" is a key part of the Peace Corps’ mission!  Ken, the Country Director, seems keenly aware of the problem and has already taken some steps in organizing some of what’s out there, and he also mentioned some initiatives that I hope I can be a part of.
  • Connectivity: I’m getting pretty good at surfing the Internet on my phone, but I’m still seeking a better solution.  The fact that I got Skype Video to work with ErinRose makes me want a better laptop solution, because the pay-by-the-megabyte model would be painful for video chatting (and it’s also the reason you never see high-res photos on my blog).  There are now four mobile operators in Kenya and their data plans are shrouded in mystery and hearsay.  Ultimately I will wait until I move to my site to determine which carrier(s) are even viable, but it’s nonetheless frustrating to try to do research in advance.

Here is your reward for reading this post, a picture I took when walking home today from town, thinking about all this stuff.  You can see it raining on my home in the distance.

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And here is a picture I took in Ohio not long before I left for Kenya, at the 102nd Annual Circleville Pumpkin Show.  The goal is to grow the biggest pumpkin, but clearly this farmer had a secondary project of his own.  Perhaps there is a lesson for me here somewhere?

pumpkin heads

5 Responses to “The Challenges Ahead”


  • Hello PAUL!!! Merry Xmas a little late – sorry! But I am thinking of you and so honored to know you. This is Joelle BTW – Erinrose’s girrrrrl and I am giving you a shot out here from Hollywood CA! I love that necklace you got her- so pretty. I can also see you in her eyes when we talk about you and she smiles. It’s like I get to see you when I see her. – I don’t know you very well but I think you are doing something really special.

  • Some choices for connectivity:

    1. BGAN is by far the most powerful SAT solution with highest reliability, and likely highest cost, but you get up to 240/384kbps (send/receive) and telephone. Connections are USB, Bluetooth, Ethernet so it’s supper cool, esp for those real outback moments.

    2. Wikipedia in English only shows:
    Kenya having 12.75 million subscribers in total, or a 34% penetration rate as of December 2007
    A. Safaricom [74] GSM
    B. Zain – Part of One Network GSM
    C. Telkom Wireless CdmaOne
    Could not find a fourth.

    Also very interesting from wikipedia.com is:

    Flashback service

    As a result of the limited income of most of Safaricom’s customers, network congestion emerges from a practice called ‘flashing’. Flashing is the practice of calling another mobile user, but disconnecting before the connected call is answered. It provides a method for mobile users to alert someone that they wish to be called, but either can’t, or won’t, pay for the call. The method is cost-free for the users; but costly in network bandwidth.

    That is why Safaricom sometime ago introduced a flashback service that gave every subscriber 5 free SMS messages with a single pre-defined message stating “Please call me. Thank you”. Although the messages can be annoying when sent just for fun they are very useful when one is in trouble and has no airtime. It also gives parents more of a reason to get mobile phone for their children without the real need for getting them airtime. Unfortanately, at this time, the flashbacks can only be sent to Safaricom subscribers due to some feuds with Zain, Safaricom’s main competitor.

    Electronic cash service

    Safaricom has developed and launched nationwide an mobile banking service called M-PESA, that allows Kenyans to transfer money via SMS.[1] The service does not require users to have bank accounts, an important aspect in a country like Kenya, where many people do not have bank accounts. With M-PESA, the user can buy digital funds at any M-PESA agent and send that electric cash to any other mobile phone user in Kenya, who can then redeem it for conventional cash at any agent. This system is remotely comparable to hawala banking or services like Western Union. An M-PESA enabled mobile phone can also function as an electronic wallet and can hold up to 50,000 Kenyan shilling.[2] Safaricom stakeholder Vodafone, which partnered in the development of M-PESA, has announced that it intends to roll out M-PESA internationally as well.

    One of the more interesting problems is non-necessary traffic, and “noise” from just connecting your laptop to the internet. You need finer control over this issue, your going to need some kind of outbound IP traffic filter.

    How is the shortwave radio working out?

  • Thanks joelle. Very kind words. I like your descriptions.

  • Josh the sat upload speeds are enticing but the fact that i need to contact sales for pricing is not a good omen for my wallet. Safaricom and Zain are currently the two nationwide carriers. Orange and Yu are the newcomers but theyll probably have no coverage where ill be going, at least for another year. Safaricom has 3G in Nairobi and Mombasa and EDGE elsewhere. Supposedly Zain is all EDGE but here in Loitokitok with Zain i get a terrible sub-EDGE connection, which is too bad because Zain is the only one that offers an unlimited data plan. Hopefully Zain will be EDGE at my site. Anyhow i didnt know about the special flash sms so thanks for the tip. Ill pass it on. I havent used MPESA yet but it seems cool. The govt here has recently started debating how to regulate it because its got the same bank-but-not-really problem that Paypal has. In nairobi I plan on downloading zonealarm and Mozillas mobile browser for windows to help control the laptop bandwidth usage. I havent turned on the shortwave yet because my family always has the tv on. Tv here is terribly novel, which is weird to me because its finally starting to die in america. . . . .Wow i think ill eventually need to dedicate a post to all this internet stuff for the non technical people.

  • woo. pretty picture =D

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