Saturday, September 7, 2013

Arriving in Kenya

August 27, 2013

Introduction:  Muzungu, Why?

Kenya!  Yay!  Here’s a story that summarizes my first four days.

On the afternoon of our first day in Nairobi, I left the hotel by myself to pick up some food.  Camille and I used a map to, well, map out my way to the restaurant so we could feel 100% confident I wouldn’t get lost.  Ten minutes later I was lost in Nairobi, walking along the side of the road checking out the city.  In Kenya, white people are called “Muzungu’s”, which appropriately means “person who wanders around aimlessly.”  A few young guys were walking toward me, and one of them was loudly singing a song that went, “why oh whyyyyyyyy?”  Upon reaching me, he shouted, “Oh Muzungu, WHHHHYYYYYYY??” We all grinned, and I said to myself, “Man, I don’t know.”  

Lake Naivasha.  The flamingos are much closer than they appear
This story perfectly expresses  how I have felt during these first four days.  This experience has already been life changing, but I have also pole vaulted outside my comfort zone.  My inner monologue: Everything is so new!   I want to teach at OWS, run at Greenlake and watch 10:00 am football!  This change is hard, and our little Eric does make it significantly harder…but significantly more rewarding as well.  Muzungu, Why?  I hope my singing friend sings me that question again in few months, and I’m sure I’ll have all…maybe most of the answers.  I am certainly lucky to share this experience with Camille, since it will bring us closer as a family.  Our Kenyan adventure has begun.   
The Plane Ride: … was intense.  Eric was his typical active, awesome, alert self, but he wouldn’t sleep…which meant it was a lonnnnnnnngggg18 hours for Mommy and Daddy.  He just ran up and down the aisles trying to wake everyone up.  The highlights:
  • Eric befriended a sweet two year old girl named Zahara on the flight to Nairobi.  He would run away, hide, then run up to her, squeal, and give her a big hug.  Always the flirt.
  •  Running around the Amsterdam airport at 9:00 in the morning (about 3:00 am my time) before finding a Starbucks and ordering two venti whole milks.  The sweet Dutch women really wanted to steam them for me, but baby prefers his milk cold. 
  •    KLM airlines allowed Eric to climb up and down the airplane stairs during flight.  He loved it.  But, I’m not sure what goes on on the upper deck of KLM airlines…
The Nairobi airport had suffered a major fire about three weeks ago, and thus after we landed we took buses to a massive tent.  Of course, Eric fell asleep as soon as we landed, which amused many on the flight…but then he woke up in the middle of the huge customs tent surrounded by people.  Wasn’t the happiest.  The temporary facilities at the Nairobi airport were actually very well organized, just a little slow.  After gathering our luggage, we were greeted by the current chief resident, Aliza, whom Camille is taking over for, and Paul, her driver.  *Aliza and her fiance, Mike, have served as our hosts, guides, chauffeurs, Swahili teachers, friends…thank you, Aliza and Mike!  They leave in less than a week, and we will miss them.* Paul is the man- a wonderful example of how nice and helpful people seem to be in Kenya.  Paul worked his magic and fit all of our luggage in into his little Toyota, and we were off to Nairobi!....for 30 seconds, before we were stopped in traffic.  Nairobi traffic earned its own section.  

With Aliza, Mike, Hannah, and Eric at the lake.
Traffic:… in Nairobi, is out of control.  It feels a like a real life version of MarioKart, minus the lightening, but definitely with the accelerating mushrooms.  People pass whenever they want, there is no right of way, crosswalks are ignored, there seems to be a rotary every quarter mile, Matatu’s or taxi vans zip in and out of oncoming traffic on the highway….Nairobi actually installed counters on the traffic lights to make it safer and easier to follow traffic laws.  But they obviously are ignored, as are the lights themselves.  *Today is our third day in Naivasha, and I drove for the first time.  Why the British made everyone drive on the wrong side of the road, with the wheel also on the wrong side, I don’t understand. Driving was actually pretty thrilling, and much easier in Naivasha than in Nairobi.*  Luckily, we had two fantastic drivers, Paul and Isaac, to escort us during our two days in Nairobi. 

NAIROBI!  Highlights and observations:
  • I really like Kenyan people.  It’s amazing how having a child changes your perspectives, for I now base my initial impression of people on how they react to seeing Eric.  Almost all of the Kenyan people smile, say hi, or somehow acknowledge his existence.  Eric is now saying “Hi” to everyone he passes.  People at the hotel were also completely wonderful and accommodating, much more so then I usually experience in the states.   Helping carry our bags, answering questions…. We missed breakfast one morning because Eric was having trouble adjusting to the time change (as anyone around our room was probably aware).  The hotel surprised us with a room service breakfast, even though they don’t have room service.  Eric would also run down the driveway to say hi and the hand the rocks he wasn’t eating to the security guard or “askari.”  Speaking of which….
  • SECURITY!  There is security everywhere in Kenya.  Most restaurants, building, hotels, etc. have security gates and armed guards.  Our little hotel had two security guards at the gate at all times.  Malls and markets have people at each door with metal detectors.  Driving by the Israeli embassy was shocking.  Everyone was stopped by men carrying machine guns, who asked about your business and checked the trunk.  I certainly felt safe at our hotel.
Nairobi is crowded, busy and polluted, but I enjoyed each of our stops.  Eric ran around a Kenyan mall admiring large elephant statues while Mommy bought internet, and he kept running into a Kenyan bank to say hi to the askari.  Napping right now is never an option.  After a couple of days, I was looking forward to getting out of the city and reaching Naivasha.

August 31, 2013

Naivasha!  Naivasha is over 6,000 feet up.  We came over a hill on the warped highway, and there in the background was the expansive Great Rift Valley, dotted with yellow fever trees, with Lake Naivasha glimmering in the center.  It was beautiful.  Naivasha is a town now dependent on the surrounding flower plantations.  Greenhouses cover the landscape, and each plantation offers the similar low cost poor row housing for its workers.  Many have their own schools and sometimes a hospital.  Kiosks line the road in front of the housing where people sell produce, meats, textiles, and cell phone minutes.  In the center of town lies the hospital, where Camille works, surrounded by the typical town stores.  There is Naivas, or the Kenyan version of Wall-mart.  There are multiple banks, hotels, drug stores, liquor stores, phone/internet stores, and small restaurants.   Some of my favorites:
  • After almost three years as a vegetarian, I lasted about 2 hours in Naivasha.  I doubt this goat was factory farmed.  We have a small market near our house called Delamere.  We went to visit a delightful produce stand, but our friend Aliza pointed out an outdoor restaurant with men roasting large chunks of various meats, with monkeys and large, hideous 5-foot storks running around in the background.  Um, let’s go there.  Throughout Kenya, there are Nyama Choma houses that basically serve huge cuts of roasted meat that are carved in front of you.  This particular Choma house also had its own clean-up crew of marabou storks.  Marabou storks look like zombie flamingos.  They are huge, grayish, decrepit looking birds with balding hair, splotchy pink faces, huge gullets and large red tumors on the back of their necks.  They run around the Choma stand picking up sometimes massive bones and the scraps of meat.  Eric just sat and stared at these storks, before finally trying to get down and pet one.  Camille said no.  When the waiter came over to get our order, I told him to just bring everything, but Aliza said to bring what’s ready. He came back with an entire leg of goat, which I mostly ate all of, before throwing the bones and scraps to the zombie flamingos.  I think I liked this Choma house more than Camille.  You could actually see the outline of the huge bone in a stork’s gullet.  The monkeys kept their distance...but they were up to something.
  If you’re going off the vegetarian wagon, this Choma house is place to start. 
  • We also ate at an authentic Kenyan restaurant called Mothers.  Curries, mixed stewed vegetables, delicious.
Our house is really nice.  We are spoiled.  
Eric found the house!

Time to explore

Here's our garden

What's over there?

Rocks.  Yum.

Bath time!

On the outskirts of town, down by the lake, are the tourist resorts.  Naivasha is one large contradiction.  You have a poor community of flower plantation workers, many living in slums, surrounded by tourist resorts.    There was a fancy music festival along the lake this weekend that, ironically, none of the locals knew about.  The festival didn’t even bother advertising around town because they didn’t think anyone would pay the cover charge.  Most people came from Nairobi or further away.

We certainly have enjoyed the resorts though as well, especially Carnelly's, which has terrific food in an outsized covered patio.  Last night, Eric ran around and was mobbed by a group of three year old girls.  He was thrilled at first, but then he just wanted to play with some dogs. 
It will never get old seeing giraffes
Oh, and two days ago, we drove by a family of giraffes, a herd of zebras and gazelles, two warthogs, and one solo hyena (strange) on our way to a lake full of flamingos.  Wow.  No hippos yet.  One drawback about the lake...Eric came home with ants in his pants. 

More wildlife and better pictures to come.

Here are some random happy baby pictures. 
Guitar with Mom

Swimming with Dad at the local pool


September 6, 2013

Baby slept through our safari.  I went on a little mini safari today at the animal reserve in Naivasha.  At first, Eric and I were just wandering around, until a park ranger said he should arrest us for trespassing.  I guess we were supposed to register first.  Eric ended up falling asleep, so I left him with some of the vervets monkeys and went exploring.   Below are some of the highlights.
They watched Eric.


This guy surprised me.

Herd of water buffalo and zebras.  Zebras are everywhere, and the water buffalo are enormous
Little giraffe.

September 7, 2013
We traveled with our friend, Jody, to Hell's Gate National Park.  Pretty stunning.  
Heading off in our "new" Toyota Duet

Incredible rock faces throughout

Watering hole with warthogs
Zebra's!  We also saw impalas, spring bucks, water buffalo, giraffes, gazelles, eagles, monkeys, baboons and two other large types of deer.

Hiking at the gorge.

With our guide, Steven

Eric was dancing

The water in the falls and springs is very hot.  The source- Mt. Longonot, a volcano
We thought this was funny.

Camille and Jody. Jody will take over for Camille after we leave

Made it.

Eric is also extremely popular.



  1. This is great Dan. What an experience. Have fun and find out why, mozinga, why?

  2. Just wonderful. Great narrative of your journey. But please, no more ants in the pants!
    Eric's Nana

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  4. D -

    Thanks for sharing all of this. A Polar Bear in Africa is an awesome concept!

    I love the visual of you wandering around, half lost, in Nairobi . . . I do the same thing in NYC, but Reno just calls me a "country rube" . . . nothing as fancy as “Muzungu!" The countryside is amazing, and it is naturally in the background of all your photos - no forced tourist shots - just part of what is. The idea of hot water cascading down that waterfall was startling. Your home looks comfortable and safe.

    You are off on a terrific adventure and clearly doing so with the right mindset. All our best . . .


  5. So wonderful Dan! I feel like I'm there with you. :) Keep the posts coming -- miss you three tons!

  6. Thank you for sharing, Dan!It's great hearing from you; it's even better to hear that you and your family are enjoying every moment of this new adventure! Eric is absolutely adorable; no surprise that he is now "the most popular guy" in the Kenyan community!Can't wait to hear more from you!

    School has started for a week and OWS certainly is not the same without you!

    Best wishes,

  7. my class just saw your blog-----they think it is COOOOLLLL!

  8. the next class says this blog looks funnnnnnnnn

    so nice

  9. Thanks for the comments! We miss all of you.

  10. What a wonderful blog Dan! Keep up the great posts!

    Love you!

  11. Max thinks your blog is very interesting . Dan keep up the good work.

  12. Jambo Mzungus! I just saw a patient recently immigrated from Zanzabar and thought of you guys! Good to see you are settling in. We are gonna come to Kenya for poker night one of these weekends!

    1. I'm all in for poker night. Best wishes in Seattle!

  13. rewarding

    I was thinking about the great moments that I have had as a teacher at Berkshire. Many times schools write articles about sports accomplishments and often it seems that is how one will be remembered. I have coached several championship teams, but I am sure that I have had better moments in the history classroom. Remembering and documenting those moments is harder, but from time to time former students let us know that we made a difference. Thank you to every student that has taken the time to tell a former teacher that their class was helpful, for it is the educators true reward. I wrote that on my facebook page Dan. Think of the difference you are making by just being where you are. You are a great man.

  14. new blog entry is very good. keep this up and your masters thesis will be in these pages--education in Kenya compared to education at a private school in USA