Tag Archive for 'walking'

Crossing the Road in Loitokitok

So there can be no confusion about just how muddy it gets here when it rains, here’s a clip of some trainees on their way to my session on “technology in the classroom:”  Forget “uphill both ways,” this is walking to school at its most dangerous.  We even saw a giant tree branch fly by!

And here are the two volunteers who joined me for a Christmas dinner of goat meat (here served on Christmas Day, after church is out).  And yes, I did go to church.


Here’s a rare photo of me, as I ponder the profound meaning of family, peace, and goat slaughtering:


Just like the above, here’s another pic my “little brother” took. This one’s of his sister.  Does this boy have a knack for natural lighting or what?


Speaking of brothers and sisters, here’s the newest addition to the family since I left here a year ago  And yes, she was always this happy to see me.


What’s a Loitokitok photo collection without Kilimanjaro?


Lastly, here’s the Christmas present my Loitokitok family gave to their neighbors:  Who’s not a sucker for puppy pictures?


I’m leaving Loitokitok tomorrow for Mombasa, where the next day I’ll be picking up (or just “picking,” as is the custom to say here) my mom and sister from the airport!

7 Responses to “Crossing the Road in Loitokitok”

  • Hi Paul,
    A belated Merry Christmas to you, but wishing you a Happy New Year too.
    Was there really a video on your 12.28.09 entry? I couldn`t get it to play

    Best Wishes,


    • The video is there and plays for me in Opera and Firefox. Maybe try a different browser?

  • Paul,
    Thanks for the reply. I do not use either of those formats which is why. Thanks anyway.

    Happy New Year! ******


  • All that goat makes my eyes do that…I’ve started drinking Krest…yet it is so elusive here..gahh Paul! I had a good time catching up with you hope to see you in Nairobi more soon!

  • Hey! I just COSed from Namibia and am traveling through Kenya at the end of February with another RPCV. We would really like to visit some PCV sites so if you or another current volunteer can host us that would be amazing! Please email me at heather.e.reese@gmail.com if you can help us out. Thanks!

  • Hi Paul,
    Have you been in Kenya for a whole year yet? The reason for my asking, is that I would like to visit the Mt Kenya area of Kenya and I thought with you being there, you could provide first hand knowledge of how the weather is there at various times of the year. Any info you can give is appreciated. I hope this isn`t an imposition for you.



    • Haven’t been to the mountain yet. The only weather I now is coastal weather, which is hot and humid, REALLY hot and humid, and occasionally hot and humid and raining.

Fightin’ words

The strike is on and we shall not relent until the Government gives us our demands 100 per cent. The Government must prepare for the mother of all strikes. Learning will be paralysed everywhere in the country.
-Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Chairman George Wesonga

As always, the boldface emphasis is mine.
Source: http://www.eastandard.net/InsidePage.php?id=1144004398&cid=4

So tomorrow it looks like, instead of teaching, I’ll be using my brand new iron and ironing board to smooth out wrinkles!  Hm, it’s hard to get too excited about it.  Well, on a related note, I promised some pictures, and since today was laundry day, you get to see some wet clothes. (They’re still drying outside.)

First, the setting: my courtyard.  The entry gate on the right, choo/bathroom doorway in the center, and the door to my home is on the left.  The green bucket on the ground is my bathtub.  Yes, it’s a glamorous life here in Kenya.


Three hours worth of laundry: enough to make nudism seem tempting.


This spider was not very happy that I took over his courtyard.  Cool yellow spots though.


The weekend was nice in that I took a break from education theory.  I can get pretty worked up when I’m in research mode, so I made it a point to walk around town to do some shopping for the new home.  Tomorrow I’ll be playing it by ear (a regretful idiom) but will hopefully still get a chance to talk with the headmaster about plans for my teaching role.

Lastly, in my attempts to save even more bandwidth (and money), I changed a lot of things in my own setup, so I updated the Phone Tricks page accordingly, this time with a lot more detail in the laptop software section.  (I even wrote a custom Javascript plugin for Firefox, which you can download.)

1 Response to “Fightin’ words”

  • I’m just catching up on your adventure, I had not read it since the first days. It sounds exciting and the pictures are great. We love your KSL name (especially Maria’s friend Rachel with curly hair!) Love you- Aunt Joyce

A Typical School Day Morning in Loitokitok

I wake up to a knock on my door. Either “Wake up Paul!” or “Paul go to sleep!” is shouted at me by my five-year old “brother” whose English is good for his age, but who occasionally mixes up the two phrases. “OK” I say back, not moving from underneath my pea-green mosquito net. It’s 6:30. I usually spend my emerging-from-REM time staring at my Bugs Bunny fitted sheets, trying to figure out where the fabric pattern repeats itself. After five or so minutes of this I emerge in my pajamas to see the house in full swing: the TV blasting “Baby’s Day Out” in its PAL VHS glory, children scattered around, and my breakfast waiting for me. That has to wait, though, as I step outside and slip into my pink choo slippers (sandals) and head to the outdoor toilet. The word “toilet” is indeed used here, and the deaf children often shake around the handshaped letter “t” to indicate it, but it bears no resemblance to toilets as I knew them in America. Usually the hut has a lock on the inside and the outside. “Locked on the outside” means “vacant,” unless the victim of a cruel trick is stuck in there. I unlock and enter, swinging the makeshift wooden structure’s door closed behind me. Inside, a roughly 8”x8” square hole, cut into the cement, awaits me. A nail sticks out from the wall precariously, with newspaper hanging from it. It’s a “short call” in the morning, so no need to use the headlines.

Back inside I grab my toothbrush from my room and get to work on my teeth. Like all trips to my room, this involves unlocking the door upon entry and locking upon exit, to prevent my brother from finding and turning on all my torches (my flashlights, headlamps, and booklight). Toothbrush in mouth, I walk into the indoor bathroom, a luxury for most in the town, and I spit into the drain. The bathroom has the same dimensions as the choo. The only difference is that there is no square hole– just a drain for water in the corner. I go back into my room and trade my toothbrush for my soap and towel (unlock, lock) and then I head back to take my bath. The baths here are of the “bucket” variety, although it’s not truly a bucket… more of a wide, shallow, plastic basin. It’s not so bad— if I really wanted to, I could contort my body to sit in it, feet and all, although I worry about getting stuck when I try. The water has already been heated, but because I’m usually running late I don’t need to dilute it with cold water, kept in a yellow bucket in the corner. Five minutes of splashing later, I wash my pants (underwear) in the basin, dump the leftover water on my head, dry off, wrap my towel around my waste, don my PJ t-shirt, and head back to my room (unlock, lock) where I change into my clothes for the day. I favor my lightweight camping trousers because the walk is so muddy and I hate having to get the dirt out of the heavier materials. I wear a collared shirt every weekday but I don’t shave— I save that for Sundays.

Breakfast is quite possibly my favorite meal of the deal, especially if it’s pancakes. “Pancakes” here are more like crepes, really, and that’s to their benefit. Pancakes are usually served with bananas, which I cut up with a spoon and lay on the pancake, which I fold in half. Other mornings I might have two fried eggs with sliced tomato and cucumber, or an omelet. On those mornings I also have a slice of untoasted bread with margarine and plum jam. I also have “chai,” which in my home here is a general term reserved for any hot milk-based drink as well as its corresponding food. I usually take my milk with powdered Cadburry chocolate and sugar, although sometimes I put in instant coffee.

I eat quickly because I’m late, step outside, and slip on either my brown hiking shoes or boots, depending on how cloudy it looks. I check my pockets for all the necessary items for the day: notebook, pen, wallet, camera, umbrella, keys. OK, safe to proceed.

It’s about thirty paces to the front gate of the yard. The gates here are solid steel and high enough to be used in prisons. For a culture that has no concept of alone time, they take their fences very seriously. I wonder whether the giant gates keep the elephants out during the dry season. As soon as I step out of the gate, I see green and brown everywhere. Rows of low crops pepper the ground and the rolling hills in every direction for miles (kilometers, to be more locally correct). Mt. Kilamanjaro watches me from my left. I check to see how much snow has appeared due to yesterday’s rains and I turn right to head to my first stop: my friendly neighborhood Peace Corps trainee. She is already outside, of course, because I am late, and I don’t even stop as I walk by… she simply joins me as we try to make good time. The first fifteen minutes take us through a narrow path that cuts through people’s yards and shambas (farms).

We are terribly novel. The shouts of “How are YOU?” (said more quickly than normal) reach us from the distant shambas, where the inquisitive children can be seen only as small dots, if at all. Children we pass on the path ask us this question at the same volume, and it is not so much that they are curious about our well being, but more that it is the only English phrase they know, and it is taught instead of “Hello,” I think, because it more closely matches the Swahili greeting, “Habari” (Ha-BODD-ie), which cannot be repeated in response; rather, “nzuri” (Nuh (or Muh)-ZOO-dee) must be responded. It’s a one-way greeting, unlike “Hi,” and it can be tiring because nearly all adults will greet us as we walk, and if they beat me to the first greeting, I have to change gears and remember the second phrase. Keep in mind that I’m not learning Swahili so far– only sign language.

The children do seem to know at least one other English phrase here, although I don’t hear it nearly as often– it’s normally spoken quietly and at close range… “Give me your money.” It’s disquieting to hear, and it represents so much more than the children intend, and because it’s usually not pursued further I’m not sure how well the children understand the meaning of the words. Suffice to say that we do not give them our money, and a suitable response is yet to be crafted.

In the first part of the walk we only have to dodge one or two motorbikes, which share the narrow paths with us, often rolling down hills with the engine off to save petrol, moving at deadly speeds but making no sound as they whiz by. There are private motorbike owners, but usually what we see are the “pickie-pickies,” or bike taxis, which take people to and from town. Peace Corps volunteers are not allowed to ride motorbikes, which in Loitokitok are the only form of public transport. Hence the walking. After we cross a small bridge at the most picturesque junction of the walk, we reach a car-accessible road. The roads here, I must emphasize, are not paved. They are clay dirt with the occasional giant man-eating puddle.

It is here that we meet the other trainee that will join us for the walk. We pass an orphanage and a tall sign that tells us that OPEC is sponsoring the road-paving project here. We quickly reach customs, at which point the road is paved just long enough for a few cars to be parked on it while they wait for the police to ask them questions. Remember, we are near the Tanzania border here. People and motorbikes do not stop at customs, and people carry machetes through with no trouble. We single-file our way through the opening to the side of the gate and follow the road for quite a while before we approach Loitokitok’s downtown. The closer we get to town, the smaller the shambas get. The next road is particularly trecherous, with narrow, slippery strips of mud serving as the only alternative to swimming in many cases. Jacaranda trees shed their wilted purple flowers as we walk, creating soft violet shadows underneath themselves. They look peaceful and I want to sleep under them.

We merge with the main road at the top of a hill from which we can see town. The sound of spinning sawblades here is loud as entire furniture sets are constructed and upholstered from scratch over the course of the day. We will see what today’s project is when we return in the afternoon. We walk downhill past the resident beggar and we wind through town, dodging motorbikes and the occasional car. Car, trucks, and vans here often have names emblazoned on them, much like one expects of seafaring vessels, except instead of having reminiscently feminine titles, they have names like “Secret Admirer” or “Why Poison?” Diesel smokes belches out of them in gag-inducing quantities, even as the machines idle, albeit roughly. On the other side of town we pass the local loon who tries to “show us his papers,” and who shouts obscenities when we refuse. We head uphill to our destination, the local primary school, where we will be spending the day for training.

14 Responses to “A Typical School Day Morning in Loitokitok”

  • Merry Christmas! I hope you didn’t put a stocking over the fireplace! See, the tradition in Kenya is not to leave M&M’s or candy canes. No, it’s termites. Lots of ’em.

    Have a happy one and have a wassail!

  • Have a Merry Christmas Paul! Love the stories… it’s like we’re right there with you!

  • It finally happened, Paul: the futon gave out. I wedged two packages of printer paper underneath the left side of the cross bar to hold it up, but I get the feeling that’s not going to cut it in the long run. I’m going to have to hit up the Home Depot when I get back from Sac. Not even duct tape can save this thing now (trust me, I tried).

    Anyway, I hope you have a great Christmas in your Kenyan home away from home…everyone keeps asking me how you’re doing and I keep having to tell them to look at this blog. I’ve been checking in daily and am constantly amazed, amused, and/or horrified by the posts you’ve been putting up. Hope you’re doing well, we all miss you…

    Merry Christmas (and a happy new year),

  • Yo, Happy, Merry friggin Christ-Mas. How is it over dere? I read yer blog. Good times. Merry X-mas to you and yurs. I will visit next month so save a spot on your Bugs Bunny sheets. I need my rest. You can sleep on the floor with your bunny slippers. I need my rest young man. Have fun. Merry Christmas.


  • Merry Christmas!! I love you. I love you. love you

  • is it sad i know exactly what you’re talking about trying to figure out where the pattern repeates. and the same sheets too! what a coincidence!

    oh wait right, we shared a bed. what a night!

    merry christmas!


  • My gosh, don’t eat anything that is still moving and make sure it’s really cooked. Maybe Santa will bring you some extra socks, and a combination lock, so you don’t have to carry those keys everywhere. Keep up the stories, they are great. Can’t wait to see what happens next. How is the solar panel working out? Have you thought about tethering the cellphone?

    Happy Holidays.


  • Merry Christmas, sweetheart!! Wishing you were here but since you’re not, I’m happy you’re at least celebrating with your little Kenyan family. 🙂

    Much love,
    xo er

  • Dear Paul,

    Buon Natale!! ¡Feliz Navidad!

    Wishing you a blessed Christmas and hope that you are enjoying this unique experience in Kenya during the holidays!


    Familia Widner

  • Merry Christmas Paul—I hope you have a great day! Adam and I are disappointed we don’t have the opportunity to crush you and sister in board games this holiday season. 😉

    xo, Alejandra
    Ps. I forgot to post before that I enjoyed this blog entry. 🙂

  • Thanks all for the holiday wishes. Mark i am saddened by the futon news. Give it a proper burial. Josh the solar works great but no need for it yet because i have power at least during training. For my first peer teaching exercise i taught about solar and ac dc conversion. A little heavy. . . The others mostly taught shapes and nouns. I tether the phone occasionally but the privacy factor is a problem so the laptop doesnt get much use. Any gadget here draws a crowd and when i type in my bedroom the noise makes my family think there is a rodent in the house. I can use the nokia though and no one acts an eye. I an considering a blackberry. Alejandra for the record i am kicking butt at travel scrabble here so ill only be more formidable at board games when i return.

  • Bring it, yo. 😉

  • Can you use a Jenga game? It sounds African! I got one for practically nothing at Barnes and Noble for buying lots of stuff. 🙂

    • If Jenga was African it would probably be called Mjenga. Perhaps I’ll use the wood shop here to invent it…