Monday, April 14, 2014

Nairobi


Camille is kind of a big deal.  She had an appointment with the FBI on Friday.  I am not authorized to go into the details, but she now walks around wearing this t-shirt.

The FBI headquarters are in the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.  We decided to pack up the baby and have a Nairobi weekend.  First stop, the Embassy!  Whoa, did they have some security at the U.S. Embassy.  They literally had to make a few phone calls to allow Eric in the building, since he wasn’t on their approved list.  He received his own I.D. badge.  He wore it proudly.  After Camille finished her conference call with Obam…um, I mean finished her mundane work, we jetted into the city.  

Afterwards, a soldier with a large gun nicely told us we were not allowed to take this picture. 
Highlights of the trip:

The Baby Elephant Orphanage.  The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust created a haven for baby elephants just outside Nairobi.  90% of the orphans are due to poaching.  Elephants rely on their mother’s milk for two years or they will die.  Visit this link to see a moving video on the plight of elephants.  I wrote previously about the desecration of rhinos in Africa and the lavish rhino tusk trade in Vietnam.  The bottom line is that the ivory trade should be outlawed.  As this New York Times editorial states, America is the second largest market for ivory in the world.  President Obama proposed legislation in February banning all elephant ivory trade in the U.S., and legislators in New York support banning all ivory sales in New York State.  Elephants feel grief, they cry, and they bury their dead.  Please find a substitute to ivory. 
    
We watched and petted baby elephants!  They played soccer, nuzzled with each other, and seemed to have specific friendships within the group.   

Eric was really jealous of those bottles
According to Camille, elephants feel "warm and squishy."

Soccer!
See the tiny hidden baby?

Eric, of course, seemed more interested with playing with the rope by the area surrounding zero elephants.  Also, if he had a choice between the real elephants and the elephant statue outside of the grocery store, Nakumat, he would choose the statue.  He loves the statue.

Eric, the elephants are the other way!
Sigh
Dad, you should try playing with this rope.
LOVED this statue.
The Giraffe Center. BUT, Eric would first choose the giraffe center.  The highpoint of our weekend was Eric feeding the giraffe and shrieking in delight.  Just awesome.    

This was fun.

Giraffes have hard horns and rough, drooly tongues
Wait, come back!



At first Camille was really scared of the giraffes.  She was like:


But then she was like:



She warms up fast.  

Nairobi National Park.  Baboons are fond of Eric. 


They made each other yawn.

Rhino!

Hi, Mommy
One of my favorites.

Some shelter pics from last week.


He somehow tied this huge beetle to a string.  With help, he eventually let it go.

Some of my 4th graders

Some 2nd graders.

I'm just trying to get some work done.  Typical.


  Some randomness:


Eric, catching up on his reading on the ride home from Nairobi.
This enormous bug jumped on a resident's head during dinner.  She wasn't thrilled. 

Flop.


A tired little guy after a day of playing with elephants and giraffes.
Our journey continues.  Thank you for reading!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Kenya! Mailbag




Welcome to the first Kenya! The Blog mailbag!  All of the questions are from actual fake readers. 

Hallo Dan!  Enough with the “everything is rainbows and butterflies” stuff.  Have you faced any challenges?  Danke!  - Finn, Berlin, Germany (I have a strong German following).

Camille and I have had wonderful experiences in Kenya, but many challenges too, and lots of reality.  For example, I am lucky to have many Kenyan friends.  I have learned from them, had fun with them, and I respect them greatly.  However, being American, I have access to more resources and opportunities than many of them.  This frequently creates a gap in our friendship, no matter how close we become.  Sometimes, it becomes clear that a friend (understandably) hopes that I can give him something (money, a new job, a scholarship, etc), which frequently I can't.  When I can, it's hard to know when to say no and when to say yes.  How can you say no to one and yes to another?  Where do you draw the line?  What are the limits?

“Gulotts,” in the grand scheme of things, what impact can foreigners hope to have in Naivasha?  Also, does it bother you that your son is already a better writer than you?  - Stuart, Boston, Massachusetts

Ouch.  The snow must be making Stu cranky, but thank you for the perfect follow-up question.   You're right, it can be naive (or worse, arrogant) of outsiders to think they can "fix" things.  Both Camille and I have seen firsthand examples, at the shelter and hospital, of outsiders basically shouting, “You're doing everything wrong!  Our way is better!  This is how we do it in our [western country].  We won't trouble you Kenyans by including you in the decision making process.  It's quicker and easier if you just listen to us."   Usually these people really do want to help, but their cultural arrogance defeats them.  Collaboration is key.  While we can offer our resources, time, training, and expertise, we must work with those we seek to help, and respect their experience and expertise.  For example, the teachers are talented, smart people who care deeply about the boys, and their jobs.  If they are not given a voice, are not included in the decision making process, the opportunity to take advantage of their expertise and experience will be lost, as will their trust and faith in your leadership.  

Leadership is not unilateral implementation of one's own ideas, but empowering others, developing ideas together, and inspiring change from within.  People must believe in the ideas to ignite change. 

 Hi Dan, love the blog Let me know if you need a job someday.  What is something you have learned teaching in Kenya as compared to teaching in America?  Also, I may have a cousin in Naivasha.  – Barack, Washington, DC.  

That kids are kids!  Kids are kids, no matter the location, environment, race, economic status, etc.  My 7th graders, all former street boys between 13-16 years old, are a bunch of goofballs who just want to be engaged in class.  I’m having a blast. 

A couple of my 4th graders.  I told them to smile for the picture.
My 7th graders.  My instructions were, "Let's group together for a nice class picture."
"Now get back to work!  No more smiling for the rest of class."
A few pictures of the shelter




You can see Lake Naivasha in the background


What are kids in Naivasha listening to these days?  - Justin, Ontario, Canada

Summer Time by Vybz Kartel.  Sorry, “Justin,” from Canada.

Eric is so cute!  You should have a blog of nothing but Eric pictures.  How’s Eric doing at school?  -Nana, Sheffield, Massachusetts

Eric is such a stud.

I bring Eric to an outdoor preschool three days a week.  It took some adjusting, but now he loves his school.  We have a very set routine which we must follow.  As we pull into school, Eric starts shouting, “Woof woof!  Woof woof!” until I open his door.  Three huge St. Bernard dogs live next to school, whom he adores.  The other kids are scared of them, but not Eric.  I pick him up and we walk over to the fence.  The dogs all stand on their hind legs to see and sniff and lick Eric.  Eric smiles, laughs, touches their noses, and says bye, and we turn to enter school.  Eric arrives a little later than the other kids, who are waiting for him when we arrive.  As soon as we reach the entrance, Eric runs towards the electric keyboard.  Usually, this is when I say a quick goodbye and run off.  If I linger, Eric realizes I’m still there, and then it's “Daddy must hold me and never put me down” time.  Eric clings to me with all limbs like the baby aliens in the movie, well,  Aliens.

The other day, I decided to hide and peek at Eric for a while.  What I saw was adorable.  As soon as Eric ran to the keyboard, Eric’s two four-year-old girlfriends, Zara and Medja, ran up to Eric.  Eric extended his little arms to Zara and gave her a big hug.  Zara looked at me and smiled.  Eric then did the same to Medja. 

I need to install a hidden camera at school to catch these moments.  It made me reflect on how teachers share so many wonderful moments with kids that parents never get to see.  Having a kid is some of the best professional development I will ever have.

Eric's woof-woofs
Running into school


Giving a hug.  He, uh, changed clothes real fast after that last shot. 
We had Eric's teacher (left) and nanny and  her son (right, middle) over for dinner.


Eric didn't have any fun.  We're very lucky.


Eric discovered bubbles
BUBBLES!


Eric is also learning Kiswahili.


Camille, what was your reaction to finding a cockroach 30 seconds ago?   
- Dan, Naivasha Kenya




(Editor's comment:  I didn't actually freak out and wedge myself on the ceiling.  I think I just told you to kill it.  But not the grasshopper.  Don't kill the 6-inch grasshopper.  Just put it outside.)




  
 Responding to all these questions is tiring!  Please send me questions in the comment section below.  Thanks for reading!
 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lamu





 No blog last week!  Don’t leave me, loyal readers!  Busy week last week, highlighted by:

1. A new group of medical residents 
2. Eric swimming in his third ocean     
3. Another mommy spider attack with 2,000 baby spiders darting all over the bathroom.  Camille, once again…


4. I found a job :).  I am joining the Bullis Upper School to teach 9th and 10th grade social studies.  This means I will have taught 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th grade.  Kindergarten through 3rd grade, you’re nex…nope, nope, so many nopes.  


We went on our grand family vacation this weekend to lovely Manda island in the Lamu archipelago, and…wait, what’s that Eric?  You want to write this week’s blog?  Go for it!  Stop, hold on, ack, don’t step on my face, wait, what’s that smell…

Thanks, Dada.  We can take care of that later.  To begin, I remember back when I was six months old, my parents warned me that if I ate any more rocks (I still eat rocks), they would send me to Africa.  Man, I should have believed them.  Ball ball ball ball ball ball ball ball ball ball ball ball.  I love saying ball.  But my new word is Bubbles. Make sure you stress the first syllable.  BUBbles.  BUBbles.  BUBbles.  BUBbles.  BUBbles.  Mostly, I’m not talking until they give me my crayons back.  Crayons taste DELICIOUS. 


Before we left for Lamu, teacher Dada made me take a geography test about it.  Lamu is on the northern coast of Kenya, in the Indian Ocean.  There are no cars in Lamu!  Just many, many donkeys.  To get there, we had a 90-minute driv to Nairobi, a 90-minute flight aboard a miniature twelve-passenger plane, and then a 45-minute boat ride over the largest bathtub I’ve ever seen.  Our small wooden boat was full of big red fish.  Mommy wouldn’t let me eat, kiss, or even hug the fish.  When we reached Manda Island, Dada had to carry me through the water to get to shore.  You know the best thing about Manda?  It’s covered in sand!  You can scoop sand, dig sand, throw sand, pee on sand, eat sand (preferably not where you peed), and fall in sand without getting hurt!  Yay!  


We stayed at emerald, no no, sapphire, no that’s wrong too…Diamond Beach Village, in a banda made out of "woven palms with a thatched roof" (thanks for the help, Mommy), right on the beach.  My crib is made out of gummy bears and dancing Elmos.  It’s REALLY HOT in Lamu!  Why do I have to wear any clothes?!  And what's so wrong with eating rocks?!  The giant bathtub felt so nice. I swam and swam with Mama and Dada DOGGY! DOGGY!  WOOF WOOF!  WOOF WOOF!  WOOF woof….

Ok, I’m back.  Eric just ran after our neighbor’s dog.  Lamu was a wonderful trip.  We were in for one surprise, though.  This weekend was the end of the annual Lamu Yoga Festival, which culminated in a party, hosted by Diamond Beach Village, on Saturday night. We were worried when we saw them hauling four gigantic speakers up the beach, but Eric rocked it!  He slept through a mixture of Swahili reggae, rap, house, and R&B music.  He also mastered downward facing dog. 

I’m going to let the pictures and captions take it from here.  

Eric was really excited when we reached the airport.
I HAVE TO PLAY TOZZLE ON YOUR PHONE RIGHT NOW!  AAAAHHHH!!!
 
Asleep on the plane.
Awake!  I have a Gulotta mustache too.

On a boat!

Camille and Eric maintained identical expressions for the entire ride.
Diamond Beach Village



This is a wonderful memory for me.  Eric and I loved playing in the water.
The dhow sailboats leaving on their sunset sails. 
Eric was pretty relaxed at dinner.

The next morning, we took a boat to Lamu town.  No motorized vehicles on the island.
The streets were very narrow as a result.


The antique doors were exquisitely hand carved.  Camille had told me I wasn't smiling big enough.

We visited the old British fort/prison.  Eric was hot.


He was much happier in the water.

Eric's beached boat by our chairs.  Don't eat the sand, Eric!

Eric befriended the kind beach dogs.
We had the entire beach to ourselves.

Well, except for the goats. 
And a conch.  This little guy was not pleased.  He kept swiping at me.
Eric was dancing to "zoomba" yoga.
On our ride home.  Goodbye, Lamu!

Thanks for reading!