Tag Archive for 'volunteer'

You have no friends in Kenya.

This is what Facebook said to me as I was setting up my account.  A presumptuous statement, but perhaps correct.

Anyhow, I set up the account a while back, but today I actually approved all my outstanding friend requests and officially stepped into the Facebook world, probably five minutes before MyFacester 2 will come along and replace it, negating all the work I put into setting up all my privacy rules.  Oh well.

I’m also now Linked In, although I didn’t put quite as much time into that.

I suppose I spent my day off doing all this online networking because this weekend left me Internet deprived, as my home became the unofficial Mombasa WiFi hotspot for visiting volunteers.  As much as I complain about my Internet connection, I heard “this is the fastest Internet I’ve used in Kenya!” on more than one occasion.  One volunteer uploaded pictures for the first time for his family to see.

From left to right, you can see three simultaneous uses for the Internet: updating the One Laptop Per Child XO-PC to support a Safaricom modem, uploading pictures to Picassa, and doing research for work:

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As usual, spending time with volunteers means eating nicer food than usual.  Most significantly, we discovered a sushi bar not far from Mombasa (it took me about 45 minutes on a matatu).  I was very happy, and the experience also made more room in wallet, in case I want to use it to hold things besides money.

The restaurant is also a club, and we were there the night before for some dancing.  I can’t say for sure who he was, but there appeared to be some sort of Indian prince there, and he sat with impeccable posture in the corner, surrounded by his jesters, who all danced around him and acted ridiculous while he looked around stoically, motionless except for his bejeweled feet tapping to the music.  I wish I had my camera at the time.

We also made a trip to the beach, because we have to live up to our “Beach Corps” nickname.  I wanted to swim, but unfortunately the tide was so low that I walked toward the water for half an hour before I gave up and came back to the shore.

Others continued further, and were met with even more resistance: two volunteers stepped on sea urchins, and one reacted by falling over and landed on even more sea urchins.  We called the Peace Corps Medical hotline and were informed that papaya should be rubbed all over the wounds.  So, we got some papaya and yes, it did seem to look better the next day.

Before we called Peace Corps, though, someone suggested using some combination of tweezers and a lighter to remove the stingers, and here are they are attempting to make that work (wide angle lens used to protect the identities of the potentially embarrassed):

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Photo chronology: Loitokitok, Nairobi, Mombasa

Tonight brings to a close my first whole day in my new home in Mombasa.  I arrived last night via bus from Nairobi and had two dinners: one with my counterpart, a deaf teacher at the school, and one with my supervisor, the headmaster of the school.  Mombasa food is much more flavorful than it is in Loitokitok (no judgment passed— I speak solely of flavor quantity), but in any case I was more than happy to eat twice.  Today a fellow volunteer visited and showed me around Mombasa, and I purchased a few items for my home.  Tonight I made my first dinner here: penne pasta with soy sauce.

So without further ado, let’s catch up on photos!

From right to left: My Kenyan momma, brother, and the motorcycle man who will take them away forever.

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Last night in Loitokitok: sing-and-sign-along! (The deaf ed group attempted to translate lyrics into sign, resulting in hilarity but little actual understanding, especially when I tried.)

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Dessert in Nairobi at Carnivore, a restaurant with great ostrich meat and more tackiness than I was expecting (waiters wear funny hats, etc).  Giraffe meat is seasonal so I may have to go back on my birthday to try.  I had tawny port with my dessert, and that made me very happy.

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A completely staged photo taken after the swearing-in in Nairobi.  I didn’t actually give a speech, but if I had, it would have looked like this.  A serious looking man came over right after this and switched off the microphone.  Elise, notice I’m wearing your bracelet— I haven’t taken it off yet.

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Baobab tree somewhere between Nairobi and Mombasa.  The bus ride is long and uncomfortable but these trees are amazing.

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My new home, filled with modern amenities like a mini-fridge and a paper Christmas tree:

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View of the other side of the room… the paint needs a little work. On the ground is all two years worth of my luggage.

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My bedroom, from which I am now writing as I cower under the net to avoid Malaria:

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My kitchen.  The water doesn’t work as of now but apparently sometimes it does, although it doesn’t help much because the well water is brackish (too close to the ocean).

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My first attempt at cooking in Kenya.  This was taken before I realized I forgot to buy pasta sauce.

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And that brings you up to date.  Deaf schools open on Monday, so tomorrow (Sunday), I will hopefully find out what I will be doing for the first day of school.  If dinner was indication, I probably don’t yet have my act together to accomplish much, but I’ll remain optimistic.

10 Responses to “Photo chronology: Loitokitok, Nairobi, Mombasa”


  • looks like you’re trying to get an early head start on your presidential campaign with that “publicity photo”, although it does also sort of look like you’re about to throw a game of craps. i guess you may as well get a head start on a vice or two while you’re at it, before you get elected.

    • It was no coincidence that I wore a red tie, white slacks, and a blue shirt to the ceremony. The Peace Corps oath is actually identical to the Presidential oath— good practice. I was hoping that Barack would make a surprise return to Kenya for the ceremony, but no such luck.

  • Paul, what does the rather ominous phrase,”My Kenyan momma, brother, and the motorcycle man who will take them away forever” really mean? Your probably right about the need for a little paint in your new apartment. I have taken the liberty to edit a few of you pictures. Check them out at, http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveblair48/sets/72157612404140089/

    • i was wondering this as well…take them where..and which family is this ur first one in africa or ur second one in africa?

      • The “ominous phrase” refers to the fact that that was the last time I saw my Kenyan momma and brother– the pickie-pickie driver drove off with them. I don’t have a second African family— that was the only one.

    • The pictures look a lot better brightened… the Scud and Carnivore shots in particular. Now I feel guilty that you only had my tiny little JPGs to work with.

  • hmm that was all alot to take in..but one thing is for sure…..You would be a very good psychologist…I never would have thought this, but as I read your mental notes on the problems in class, I realized you could be the next Freud. Think about it.

  • What do you say to swapping weekends and painting our places? My place definitely needs it! I bought a fridge today!!! I feel like a little kid – keep wanting to go over and see if it’s cold yet!

Details on my assignment

Today the curtain was lifted: I’m going to Mombasa!  In fact, I’m going to the deaf school that we visited during our first week of training, which is where (as you may recall) I was given my sign name by the children there.  So it’s a full circle, which is nice.  Also nice is that Mombasa has great food and, if I recall correctly from the tour we received of my then-unknown future home, I will have a refrigerator, which means I can eat a lot of cheese.

This is a picture of one of the school buildings that I took during the first week of training.  Note the hand signs painted above the letters.

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And here is the nearby Indian Ocean view:

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Just outside Mombasa, the Tembo Disco and Beer Garden makes me think of my job back in the US.

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And here is a view from the Deaf VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing for HIV/AIDS):

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Suffice to say that there is not a lot of mystery surrounding WHERE I’m going, since I’ve already been there.  My placement is unique in this way, as the rest of the trainees are a) unsure of exactly what their place will look like and b) going to less urban places.  My placement in Mombasa, I believe, is the most urban in all of Peace Corps Kenya.  Of course I knew this would happen when I bought all my solar panel equipment… oh well, a backup plan never hurt anyone.

I am still in Nairobi for the next couple days and I haven’t seen much of it.  The Peace Corps office here has a lot of books on deaf education, which I was happy to see, and I am also happy that the curtain has also been lifted on a lot of other things, like long-term project goals.  I kept waiting for such things, and was beginning to fear that the Peace Corps was just a wandering organization, but it seems that they just keep things away from us during training.  Tomorrow is the swear-in, at which point I “officially” become a volunteer (not like they’ve been paying me a big salary so far), but that will entitle me, hopefully, to access all the secret information that I still don’t know is out there.

On a more sad note, one of the deaf ed trainees went home yesterday, so we’re down to eight trainees in the group.  Most of us will be going out tonight to a swanky restaurant (Carnivore, voted one of the top 50 restaurants in the world on more than one occasion) as a treat before we go our separate ways.  Three of us will be on the coast, but the rest are peppered inland with varying degrees of inconvenient travel distance.  I am especially sad that one of the trainees really wanted my assignment and she is just about the farthest from it, at least geographically.  I threw out the idea of a teaching exchange program but we’ll see if it’s really feasible.

I have also been speaking with some of the contract staff who will soon be free from Peace Corps (for the time being) and there is a genuine interest in staying in touch for collaboration on video/interactive/etc, so really things are going as well as they can be.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, I no longer have giardia.

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