Tag Archive for 'video'

The Unbloggable: My International Vacation

Well, I’m back, but I’ve been slow in posting because so much happened on vacation that I was overwhelmed by the idea of writing about it.  Now that a little time has passed, though, I feel more comfortable skipping a lot of the details, so it’s a bit easier.  So here we go!

The vacation started with a trip through Nairobi to the Kakamega Rain Forest:


A flower in the forest just after the rain.  “Good morning, morning glory!” as some would say.


Playing cards after our hike (and drying clothes by the fireplace):


From Kakamega we headed across the border to Uganda, which is basically like Kenya except with more BBQ’d meat, to the town of Jinja where we slept along the Nile River.  Here’s a view of the sunset as seen from where I was eating a pizza.


Of course we didn’t go to the Nile just to eat pizza… a bunch of us went rafting the next day, and a few of us even stayed along the river and continued rafting for the day after that as well!  Here’s a clip from the DVD we bought of our adventure.  It looks like a generic promotional video, but I am in fact in quite a few of the clips.  In my raft I sat in the front row… try to find me!

From Jinja we headed to the capital of Uganda, Kampala:


And from there we went to small lake where we stayed a couple nights on a picturesque island.  I hiked to the other side of it and took this picture looking back at the hostel:


From there we headed to Rwanda and the capital city of Kigali.  Rwanda is quite different from the other countries on the trip because it was not a British colony; it was Belgian.  As a result, the language is French, the food is better, and the vibe is just generally different.  Kigali’s downtown is in the background here, and in the foreground is the entrance to the Kigali Genocide museum:


Outside of Rwanda, most people know little of the country other than its genocide.  I was no exception, and in addition to the Kigali Genocide museum, we also headed out of town to the site of a church where, during the genocide, 10,000 people stood in cramped quarters hoping that the church or the priest would help them.  The priest ratted them out and they were all killed over the course of a few days, and although a site has been set up behind the church for the bodies, the curators have left all the clothes in the church itself, and they also left behind everything else like the shrapnel holes in the roof and the blood on the altar.

In the back they have graves for the bodies what could be identified, but for everyone else they just had the bones on shelves:


Something like this is difficult to write about, and I think I’ll favor brevity here on my blog.  I think the hard part is that, as a student of the West, I thought my understanding of the Holocaust would help me grasp a situation like Rwanda’s, but I had a hard time applying what I knew about human psychology to this tragedy.  About 10% of the country’s population was killed in a short span of time, but it wasn’t the case that brainwashed military goons were given orders after they’ve already been in the army for a while; rather, a small militia was able with some pathetic propaganda to mobilize much of the general public to not just rat out their neighbors, but to outright kill them with machetes.  It’s hard to come to terms with such a thing, and it hung heavily on my mind as I enjoyed this otherwise pleasant country.

Well, in any case, our group of four travelers split up while we were in Rwanda.  Two people flew back to Kenya, but I and one other continued on.  We headed to Tanzania and crossed over this waterfall at the border:


The main thing we did in Tanzania was to take the biggest remaining ferry that is still running across Lake Victoria.  It’s an overnight from the town of Bukoba to the bigger city of Mwanza.  Getting to Bukoba from the Rusumo Falls was a hassle, mostly because we were at the whim of people to help us figure out transportation, and those people were liars and cheats.  We made it, though.


From Mwanza we decided we were done with Tanzania, so we headed up to Kenya, specifically toward Mfangano Island, where supposedly they have some ancient cave paintings.  From the small motor boat that goes to Mfangano I took this picture of the neighboring boat, “The Unbwogable,” which was the inspiration for the title of this blog post.


On the island we were discovered by a gang of small children who followed us everywhere.  I would pick them up by the arms and swing them around a bit as we’d walk, which was good fun, until one of them slipped, fell, and cried ceaselessly, making me worried that the islanders were going to think I was trying to kill all their children.  My friend (pictured below) ended up getting sick on the island (which had a ton of Tsetse Flies, although that’s not what made him sick), and that combined with the general hostility I encountered was enough motivation for us to head back to the mainland the next morning.


From the mainland we hitched a ride on the Zain-marketing-mobile to a small ferry that crossed the lake (yet again) where we met a bus that took us to Kisumu, which is the third-largest city in Kenya behind Mombasa, my home here.  In Kisumu my friend stayed in the hospital while I stayed in a nearby hotel.  Here’s a view from my room with Lake Victoria in the background.  Not so glamorous:


The next day I enjoyed a premium lunch at the nearby sailing club, where I overheard an Indian lady complain about the number of non-members (which was a reference to me I think,but hey, I paid the daily membership rate, so buzz off!):


After lunch I walked over to an animal park of some sort.  It was pleasant, although not generally noteworthy other than this beautiful lakeside walk along some old railroad tracks:


One of the animals in the park was this bee:


From Kisumu I took the train back to Nairobi.  Here by the Kisumu train station waiting room is the kind of sign that reminds me that I’m not in America:


The train is much like the Mombasa-Nairobi train.  I think there were fewer passenger cars, and fewer options in the dining car,  but otherwise it’s pretty similar.  The train even goes through similar-looking slums just outside Nairobi.

In Nairobi, I found Dr. Pepper in stock at the health food store (“Doctor” – remember?) so I bought one and brought it to a nearby sushi restaurant, where they refrigerated it and served it with my sushi boat.  Talk about a hard life!


I then had a few days of official Peace Corps business in Nairobi, and then I took the bus back to Mombasa.  Whew!

8 Responses to “The Unbloggable: My International Vacation”

  • Gloria & Patrick

    Wishing you a wonderful day and may the rest of your PC experience be filled with much joy.


    Patrick & Gloria

    P.S. Thank you for sharing your travel experience and photos – the “morning glory” and the sunset by the Nile photos are beautiful. Well, it looks like birthday dinner arrived early while in Nairobi – “sushi & Dr. Pepper dinner” – very nice!

  • Wonderful photos! Happy Belated Birthday! We were thinking of you on your day. It was so nice to meet Erin Rose!

  • Joyce, was so nice to meet you and your family also! Was a wonderful weekend! 🙂

  • Paul, this is a great travelogue with some awesome pictures. What I like best about it is that it shows both snapshots of real-life, on-the-ground living of the citizens, together with the privileged luxuries those same every’men will never get to experience.

    That sushi place…in Westlands?

    Your comments about the Rwandan genocide are curious, as I’m sure you know that it was a much more complicated affair caused by more than “a small militia” using “some pathetic propaganda”. Were the L.A. riots of ’92 due to a guy getting being beat up by police?

    As a PCV you’re expected to be better informed about world events, especially those in your current backyard. You have all the time in the world to read about the true facts of Rwanda’s history. I hope you do.

    You didn’t name the lake in Uganda. Where is it, and how best to get there? I wanted to take my girlfriend and her daughters to one of the Ugandan lakes this past Christmas, I heard they’re a great alternative to the hectic and expensive Kenya Coast scene during the major holidays. I asked my Ugandan roommate for advice but (not-)surprisingly he was less than useless. Any other Ugandan lake areas that have been recommended?

  • Hi, Paul. I think I have motion sickness from watching the rafting video. Amazing pictures. Aunt Janet

  • Hey bro, Im an ex-pcv from Namibia, I got your blog info from Ginnie in Kenya. I am going to Kenya in Sept or October from Uganda side. So I will be travelling from west to the coast and then down to Tanz. So I wil be staying in the south if Kenya. Can you give me some info on what to do, see, where to stay, eat… Cheers.

  • Eating pizza on the banks of the Nile, Paul? Unbweabable! But really, this is a great peek into your vacation. I’ve gotta see this with my own eyes.

  • Wendy Turkington

    Hi Paul,
    I’m Greg Sinnott’s mom and I just wanted to say it was a pleasure to meet you in person during our visit to Mombasa. As you know I’ve enjoyed your blog and appreciated the information you’ve shared – it’s brought the Peace Corps experience closer to me since Greg does not have the same computer access in Wundanyi. I know your time there is winding down and I hope it all goes smoothly! Greg is sending me an address so we can get those toothbrushes to you.
    Take care,

Too Much Information

Since I lost my phone a while back, I finally bought a new one—a Nokia 5230, called the “Nuron” by T-Mobile in America.  It has some goofy features that I’ve been playing with.

One program that runs on the phone is called Qik and it streams video directly from my phone’s camera.  I’ve used it a couple times and the videos I’ve taken (all in Mombasa, despite the fact that Qik seems to think I’m in Ethiopia sometimes).  Feel free to check on my page on the Qik website.


I also have been playing with the GPS, which is kind of fun.  The other day I turned the tracking feature on, put the phone in my pocket, and went to lunch.  You can see my journey on Google maps below, or you can check out my page on Nokia SportsTracker site to see all sorts of info, like the top speed of the matatu I took.

We’ll see if I continue using these features, but I thought I’d share what I’ve done so far.  I do have a plan to perhaps make a map of matatu routes in Mombasa, since no such map exists and all I’d have to do is sit in matatus with my phone in my pocket.  Anyway, enjoy!

AN UPDATE FROM THE FUTURE: On August 30, 2014, Qik shut down. I managed to grab my video files before that happened. They’re not that exciting, but in the interest of preservation, here they are.
Students in library
In the hands of children
All you can eat Indian food
A water park to ourselves
A second in the classroom

0 Responses to “Too Much Information”

ErinRose Back in Kenya, Part 2

Well, my girlfriend left on Sunday, so it’s back to the usual routine for the rest of the term.  It was a fun two weeks while she was here.  In my previous blog post I uploaded some pictures from her first weekend here, so now here are some pictures from the second and third weekends, with a few weekday pictures thrown in for good measure.

Second Weekend (Watamu and Malindi):

After some good snorkeling in Watamu, we took the glass-bottomed boat back to our hotel, Hemingway’s.


In Malindi, we dropped by Vasco de Gama’s Pillar (made from Lisbon limestone… none of that unacceptable Porto granite, even if if does hold together better in earthquakes):


In Watamu, one of the few butterflies in the Butterfly House:


Next door, the mysterious Gede Ruins (and me sitting upon them, ruining them further):


View of the ruins from a nearby staircased Baobab tree, which was an enjoyable climb:


Second week:

Upon our return to my home in Mombasa, we went to the Eid (end of Ramadan) festival/carnival.  To get in we needed tickets, and there were two lines to buy them: one for men and one for women.  The men actually made up more of a mob than a line, so it was handy that ErinRose could get tickets for us pretty quickly.

The carnival itself was like an African version of Something Wicked This Way Comes-meets-Dr. Lao.  The whole thing was old-fashioned in a charming but unsettling way: many of the rides were manual, with men spinning children around or pushing giant swings, and we had the opportunity to see the world’s shortest women, twice (there were two of them), as well as the Nigerian rat monster.  There was also supposed to be a severed head but it hadn’t shown up yet.

Here’s a clip of the carnival, with a man pushing one of the most popular rides, of which there were at least a dozen.

Here’s a professional photo taken in one of a half-dozen similar carnival booths.  Because Eid is a Muslim celebration, and other people were taking rather conservative photos, we settled on this pose:


Here I am debating the merits of paying to see the severed head (which is depicted on the sign on the left).


The head wasn’t ready, so we went into another tent.  Ahead of us, children climb over each other to see the world’s shortest woman:


Here she is, in a tiny little corner of the tent, just standing there with some extra clothes and some snacks at her feet.  Because each shortest woman had competition from the other, we were encouraged to ask how old she was, to which each would reply “65” or “75” or something similarly impressive.


After much anticipation (there was a dramatic countdown), we were allowed to go into another tent to see the Rat Monster from Nigeria.  The flash photo makes it a little less scary, but even with minimal lighting, it wasn’t much more terrifying:


Later that week, ErinRose’s birthday dinner at the Tamarind restaurant, which you may remember as being the swanky place with a fish tank as part of its flushing system:


In her last class with the younger kids, ErinRose taught them how to make paper puppets (I don’t actually know what these things are called—it was more of a girl thing in school).  Here’s a clip:

Third weekend (Diani Beach):

For our last weekend we went to the Shaanti Holistic Health Retreat, which was a cool little new-agey yoga resort.  We only did the yoga once (my first time ever), but we enjoyed the overall peaceful vibe regardless.  Here’s a view from the restaurant:


This place was a full board experience, so we only ate out once, at Ali Barbour’s Cave restaurant, which was pretty cool, just like it sounds… a restaurant in a cave.

On our last evening at Shaanti, we took advantage of the outdoor bathtubs with a view of the stars and the ocean.  They are next to communal area where people do yoga, so they are keep-the-swimsuits-on kinds of baths, but especially with the sparkling grape juice, it made for a romantic final evening.


So as of Monday, I’m back to teaching my classes without a helper, which means the blog posts will look much less like I’m on a luxurious vacation and much more like I’m busy teaching.  I hope you enjoyed all the pictures!

1 Response to “ErinRose Back in Kenya, Part 2”

  • i enjoyed this posting. so much to say about each of them. First of all with the carnival viewing i didnt even think it was weird that the man was pushing the ride until u pointed it out, at which point i realized how weird it really was. Second im really glad it was not a real severed head. thats always good news. I also really like that there were camels walking on the beach, and am glad u took a video of the art project. I also love the picture u took professionaly, its so silly, in such a seriouse way 🙂