Leaving Soon

It’s all happening so fast now that I’m so close to the end!  I’ve moved out of my house, and I’ve left Mombasa for good.  It was a sad moment looking back from the bus as it crossed the bridge from the island.  The past month has been full of “Well, this may be the last time I ever…” moments, and with each passing day, that statement ends up being correct more and more often.

The volunteers from my group had a “blow out party” not long ago, and after that I packed my bags and headed to Nairobi.  I helped a bit with training the new group, some of whom will be replacing people from my group, and now I’m taking one last vacation before the official Close of Service paperwork begins and I fly out on the seventeenth.

I’m in Lodwar now, and over the next few days I’ll be boating around Lake Turkana.  It’s interesting to finally be in the opposite corner of the country from Mombasa, and to see which things are different, and which things are the same.  Supposedly the island we’re going to has the highest concentration of crocodiles in all of Africa, so if this ends up being my last blog post, you’ll know what happened to me.

My spare moments, when I have them, are more and more often preoccupied with thoughts of returning home: the anxiety of getting my life its post-Peace Corps track, and also the excitement over that very same prospect.  I’ve also done a lot of reflection on my time here, but because I’m traveling so much, I hasn’t been so apparently from the blog.  Hopefully some more time magically appears at least once before I leave Kenya.

Oh, and because I haven’t included a photo in this post, here’s a blog entry at dogmeetsworld.com that features some photos that I took of my students.

3 Responses to “Leaving Soon”

  • See you stateside, Paul Blair! All your stuff awaits in our backyard shed…

  • Paul, you did so much for the kids there. We are all very proud of you. Have a safe trip home and we hope to see you soon. Love, Aunt Joyce and family

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Floppy Disk Updated (for the last time?)

A few days ago I updated FUZOMA on this site to version 1.6, which makes it the seventh release!  This will likely be the last version, since there’s not much time left before I leave here.

For the uninitiated, this is a project where I squeeze as many awesome educational games and programs into a single floppy boot disk as I can, to make the old computers at my school useful.  It can run off a floppy, a CD, a USB stick, or can be installed in Windows, Mac, or Linux computers.



This is a version that I spent a lot of time on, and received an unprecedented amount of help with.  The kids have been using version 1.6 (or some beta form of it) for months, but it’s finally reached the point where it’s good enough to share with the general public.

One of the biggest highlights of this version has been the further help of Loren Blaney, a programmer whose previous jobs include writing software for the Viking Mars Lander!  His career hit a new all-time high, of course, when he started helping me with my floppy disk.  Loren modified a few of his own old games just for my students, and for this version of FUZOMA he also wrote a few new ones from scratch.  His XPL0 programming language also exposes curious kids to Computer Science from a young age.


In the course of looking for better educational games for my kids, I also stumbled onto a few non-free programs, but I wanted to use them anyway.  As always, people have been quite willing to grant permission to use them.  Marcia Burrows (author of Math Mileage) and Richard from Flat Rock Software, publisher of Pixel Puzzler, were prompt and accommodating.  (Pixel Puzzler, by the way, was co-created by John Romero, who co-created some other games you might have heard of—Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake!

Tony McSherry from Microcraft also granted me permission to use an old program of his, WordWorm, but unfortunately the game (from 1983) was just a little too old to work properly on my school’s computers.  I also got some help from Paul Toth in customizing his Commodore 64 emulator, but like WordWorm, it just didn’t work out.

A big “thank you” to everyone who contributed in some way!  Here’ one of my students signing “Thank you.” in KSL:


Of course, working on FUZOMA is a mostly thankless, lonely time in which I stay up until 4AM trying to squeeze additional kilobytes out of a floppy disk that’s basically already full.  I thought I’d go ahead and pat myself on the back a bit, so here’s a short list of cool things in this version of FUZOMA:

  • A Commodore 64 emulator!  (I played C64 games when I was a kid, so it all comes full circle to see students of my own playing Commodore games that are still fun and educational for them, even to this day.
  • A more thorough Journal feature, taking inspiration from the One Laptop Per Child.  It’s a CSV-formated log that makes it easy for me to use Excel to look at what the kids are actually doing on the computer.
  • Running FUZOMA from the C drive of a Windows 95 machine now works much better.  This is handy for me, since I need to do this to get really big log files from the Journal.
  • Y2K compatible!  Seriously.

Here’ the FUZOMA page with more info, if you aren’t inclined to click the link at the top of the site.


4 Responses to “Floppy Disk Updated (for the last time?)”

  • What an amazing project. Makes me want to play old games. Looks great! Hope to see you soon.

  • Wonderfully satisfying when something I created over 25 years ago gets put to good use today!
    Thank you so much for all your work, Paul AND the delightful pictures.

  • We’ll miss you too, Paul!

    Thanks for breathing new life into these old programs. It’s been fun!!

  • Really great Paul! Thanks so much for this. So many people are going to enjoy and appreciate this!

My Last Day Teaching the Little Kids

There it went.  Two years of teaching “Creative Arts” has officially come to a close.  It’s a melancholy feeling, and it’s only amplified by the circumstances.

The way my schedule works, I teach both Classes 2 and 3 on Thursday, one after the other, before lunch.  Today, the Class 3 classroom was being painted courtesy of a local bank, so all the students from both classes were crammed into the Class 2 classroom.  I walked in, ready to teach Class 2 for the last time, and there were all my students from both classes, thrilled to be stuck together, in a room that had just been painted the day before, just glowing white from all sides!  They shrieked and hollered and we all played vocabulary bingo together… a common event for each class, but never before together as one big group.  We played to the end: that is, until every last student had “won,” so that everyone got a prize.  This was easy to do, since class length was doubled due to the painting.  It was quite a ruckus, and normally I would have done some hushing, but since this was my last formal “class” with them, I tired to just revel in it: the hooting and whooping and laughing, and the pride that I feel in their ability to fingerspell, something that I have focused on for quite some time with bingo.  I didn’t want to take pictures throughout the class, which would just be distracting, so I just focused on individual moments and told myself, remember this.

The kids using rocks as bingo markers.  The same rocks they threw at each other on my first day in the classroom.

The ridiculous dances they do when they get a point.

The howls I hear when I trick them into thinking I’m doing the sign for scissors (similar to a peace sign), but then I twist it around at the last minute and so the sign for fork (using the peace peace sign to stab food on a plate, and eat it).

These are things I don’t want to forget, so I tried to stretch them out today, make them last just a little longer by focusing on their details.

And then I took an actual picture at the end, of course.

We finished a bit earlier than usual, with not enough time left for another full game, so I set up a few kids with cards to play slapjack, and just milled around with the other kids, fixing the pirate-themed party hats that I had given away as prizes, and which promptly broke in their destructive little hands.  The kids asked if I would be back in class on Monday, but I had to explain that this was the last week of classes, so no, although I’d still be around and still be around until their parents come to pick them up.  I saw some sad faces, especially on my favorite students.  A sad face due to my absence is flattering, but mostly, just sad.

Tomorrow will be my last formal day of teaching in the vocational school, and it will likely just be business as usual; we’ll just read books for an hour and ten minutes, as we’ve been doing this entire term.  Next week I’ll be out of town for the Nairobi Project, which is scheduled to come to a close, at which point I will write about it in greater detail.  The week after, I’ll be back in Mombasa to give a final exam to my vocational students, and then that’s it.  Finished.

I won’t be saying goodbye to my students for another few weeks, when their parents will come to the school to pick them up, so it’s a bit early to get all caught up in the emotions of the whole thing, but I think there’s something about the formality of classes ending that brings it out.  Also, the fact that it was raining, unusual for this season, probably only served to exacerbate the whole thing.

Well, perhaps I make it sound like it was a room full of sad faces, which is not the case, since it was really just me, so here’s a picture to show the kids in the class last time:


1 Response to “My Last Day Teaching the Little Kids”

  • Paul

    I really enjoyed reading your blog entry.

    Sounds like it was a good way to end classes.

    Hope last few weeks are enjoyable.