Trash Burning

Something I’ve been meaning to mention for quite some time is the act of burning trash.  It’s common place among Kenyans, as there is very little infrastructure regarding waste management.  I have not had to do this myself…I just leave my garbage on my backdoor step and it magically disappears…but numerous other volunteers have mentioned it’s what they do.  At work we have a large pile out back that has clearly been burned many times.

First African Injury

Scrap
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Scraped my ankle this morning when getting out of the matatu. No worries…I won’t be bleeding to death and no rusty metal touched my skin. What hurts more right now is the singing coming from the kitchen at work.

Launch Day for UN Day for Persons with Disabilities

UN Launch Day
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Worked this weekend on Saturday and attended the launch event for the UN Day for Persons with Disabilities. It was a busy event with booths of organizations, speeches, entertainment provided by persons with disabilities, even a marching band showed up. This was the first year that Kenya has had such an event and was a great way to get persons with disabilities together and inform them of the various forms of help they can receive from local organizations as well as understand what the day is for.

It was when the bus full of deaf persons showed up that my day got really interesting. Two gentlemen talked to me about sign language…I thought it’d be great if I could learn. Well, one guy grabs me and puts me in front of about 50 of the kids and proceeds to have them ask me questions…quick way to learn some sign language I guess. Starts off with the usual…where are you from?…what are your skills?…etc. Then I got a great one…where’s your wife? Ha…yep. I don’t have one yet was my response. So it then goes into him asking the girls if they are interested and embarrassing each of them. It was pretty funny and good fun.

I felt that the event was a success except for one minor hiccup. It would have been great if my organization, UDPK, had a booth at the event considering we’re the umbrella organization for over 200 disability organizations around the country…there’s always next year I guess.

Nose Picking

You might find this a funny post, but it really is something that can’t be ignored.  People just pick their nose here.  Security guards, waiters, people at the bus stop…everyone just does it…well, I should say the guys do it.  I believe I have found the reason though…there’s just so much dirt and pollution in the air that you can’t avoid it.  Your nose truly becomes a booger factory operating at the highest capacity.  Good times.

Volunteers in Kenya

I recently had a discussion with a local regarding his feelings of foreign volunteers in Kenya.  He had an interesting perspective to offer.  He said that there have historically been a lot of international NGOs with a strategy in mind to approach African nations…this however is an incorrect assumption.  Even having a strategic approach for one African nation is incorrect.  Why?  The answer is simple really.  There are thousands of tribes even within Kenya and each has their own customs, practices and ideals by which they live their lives.  To have a single approach for such a large number of inherently different groups is foolhardy.  Additionally, the approach is often to impose the will of the donor upon the recipients instead of listening to their needs.  Example being I am a donor and want to spend $10,000 on a bunch of computers, however, the recipients can’t even pay for their electricity or it is only on for an hour a day.

Now, I cannot make the generalization that all international NGOs behave in this manner, but it does bring to light some of the issues that we are facing.

One last comment.  There is a definitely lack of nationalism among the people here.  There are no “Kenyan” customs because of the tribal variations I have discussed.  In America we often vote along party lines, here the voting is tribally determined.

Refrigerator = Cold Tusker

Refrigeration is mine at last!!!!  Wahahahaha.  A cold beer has never tasted so good.  I can have leftovers.  Dairy products are back in my life.  Ice will soon chill my water.

Tusker

Tusker bottle
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If you’re looking to have a little taste of Kenya, but won’t be making the trip to join me. Head to your local specialty beer mart and pick yourself up some Tusker. It’s about $2 a bottle (500ml) and it’s tasty.

McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Ice Cubes

I have not yet seen a McDonald’s in Nairobi. I can’t say that I’m sad, but I can say that I’m surprised…Especially with how much meat they eat here.

Coke…they don’t use corn syrup here so it’s got a different taste, but it is better.

Ice cubes…I can’t wait to get my fridge with an ice box…can’t wait.

Nyamachoma

Got some more meat today. Thought I’d share the experience with you all. Forgot to get a shot of the butchers, but I’m sure I’ll be going back soon.

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Nyamachoma = Roasted Meat

Mailing Address

If you care to send me anything, please send to the following address:

P.O. Box 13488 – 00800
Nairobi, Kenya

Take care when sending packages. Things of value will most likely be taken at customs. I have heard that DHL is a good service to use.

Walking Everywhere

One thing that has astounded me time and again is the number of people in Nairobi that make their commute by foot.  Everywhere, all day, you can see hundreds of people on any given street moving to and from work or running errands.  Sidewalks are nearly non-existant and most are just dirt/mud with some grass in the area.  Rains don’t help.  One thing you never see…people running for exercise…unless they’re training for the Olympics.  I got some weird looks as I went out for a quick run yesterday to do some shopping.

New Video Added

A new video has been added to my site: http://www.jbwoodruff.com/videos.php

Black Beans and Rice

Anyone know how to effectively cook black beans? I soaked them for 10 minutes but it still took 40 minutes to cook me some black beans yesterday…and when I say cooked, I mean barely done and just edible.

Political Impressions

I was riding around yesterday in a Matatu and in front of us was a crowd of young men going down the street ripping off political posters. At first I thought it was just some school boys cleaning up the walls outside their school. I was mistaken. They were tearing down any poster that was not for their party, ODM. Now…a little rivalry is good and all, but I can see how things like this could get out of hand. There were no police around…there are really never any police around…so this sort of activity goes unchecked and people often wonder why riots occur here.

On a related note, as a result of the national elections this year the number of street hawkers (2nd hand goods sellers) in the city center has ballooned and congestion is at a high. No police enforcement, no restrictions. It’s pretty amazing to witness actually and I hope to get a video or pics of it to share.

In the meantime, I’m going to go buy a mirror for my apartment. Try going without a mirror for a week…it’s interesting.

JB Gets a Home

Kitchen
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I got a place to live! I moved into my place this past weekend. I spent the entire weekend buying furniture, buying household items and cleaning. I forgot how much stuff is required when you start living in a new place…simple things like cleaning supplies, window shades (which I forgot), bathroom mirrors (also forgot) and other related items. Now I get to have the fun task of figuring out how to buy anything I forgot…could be doing some serious walking.

The day guard, Peter, has already asked if I would like his wife to clean my place and do my laundry…1600/- (roughly $23 a month)…probably more than I should pay, but sounds like a deal to me. Going to do some negotiating with him this afternoon…everything is negotiable here.

The ‘A’ Team Lives On

Dudos mingi sana = So many bugs

So i’m sitting at work and can’t escape the gnats…that’s the last time I leave a banana sitting around.

Matatu
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I finally have a place of which I will be able to call home for the next year. Sure, it doesn’t have any furniture, no stove, no fridge, no shower (only a tub) and no lights, but those are just minor speed bumps. I have a nice front and back yard and some neighbors who I will be able to practice my Swahili with. Best yet, it’s within walking distance to work so I can minimize my involvement with the matatus (ma-ta-toos). After seeing one in a ditch off the road yesterday I’ll be more than happy to avoid that daily commute.

Lunchtime Experience…possible quality toilet time

We decided to try something different for lunch today…no gas station food. We went down the road to a place that serves roasted meat. They have a list of 4 different cuts of beef to choose from and you get it by the kilo. The actual cow is sitting behind some glass. They grab a huge hunk of meat, butcher it, weigh it and carry by hand to a grill outside. Mark (another volunteer) and I let my colleague Carol order for us. We wait for about 45 minutes and we get a large cutting board of meat that a guy cuts up for us right there…dirty hands and all. We get a plate full of cooked cabbage and some ugali. Tons of fat and tendons with very little meat. The cabbage is suspect due to how long and hot they cooked it. The ugali is ugali so it’s plain and hopefully harmless. So as far as the meal was…about a 3 or so. Regardless, it was certainly an experience that I hope to not be reliving over the next couple of days.

First Day of Work

So about work. The office I’m working in is right along a very busy highway and surrounded by some farm land. It’s a very small building that is one floor and one hallway. UDPK is on one side and the National Council for Disabled People (something like that) is on the other. I’ll be working in a small closet piled high with papers and some old computer equipment precariously perched on the top shelf. I get to cross a 4 lane highway to get to the nearest convenience mart…nothing like putting your life on the line for a twinkie…I don’t really eat twinkies. Everyone seems quite nice and look forward to learning more about the braille machine that Sitoti promised to show me. Sitoti is a blind colleague of mine. He was writing letters today on the computer and it spoke to him with every action he made…pretty cool. We have an office assistant, Lois, who brings us hot tea throughout the day. Benedict works in the closet with me as a finance individual.

Sorry about the lack of pictures, but I’m limited on internet right now, should have it remedied within a couple of weeks. For now, you’ll just have to make due with my eloquent descriptions.

JB Buys a Watch

CasioI ventured out into Nairobi this weekend…took a leap into the deep end. One thing I did do was purchase a cheaper watch that isn’t so desirable. I settled upon the beauty in the picture…a 1980’s Casio…nice. Talked him down from 3000/- to 500/-…which apparenlty was still a rip off. I can’t wait to show it off to all my friends. Work starts tomorrow so I’m gonna get a good nights sleep and catch up with you soon.