Monday, September 30, 2013

Rhinos, Jobs, and Make Sure to Brush Your Teeth


We had an incredible experience this weekend.  I promise new animals and unique encounters. Eric, what was your experience like?

But first, I think I found a job! One problem in Naivasha, and all of Kenya, are the “street boys.”  Street boys are orphaned or impoverished boys forced to beg on the streets to survive.  Their ages range from as young as four to teenage years.  Many purposely become addicted to snorting glue because it numbs their sense of hunger.  Most end up in gangs run by pimps who seize their pound of flesh if the boys fail to “earn’ their keep.  For the boys, at least the gangs offer some sense of community and acceptance.  

Although living on the street is an accepted way for Kenyan boys to cope with family poverty, girls are expected to remain at home.  Mental health issues and family breakdowns have resorted in some girls moving to the street.

In 1999, Naivasha launched the Naivasha Children Shelter for street or orphaned boys, which is completely funded by donors.  Below is description from their website:

NCS was founded to help with the growing problem of street kids in Naivasha. Initially launched as a feeding and teaching day-care program in 1999, we now have our own residential site with fifty boys between the ages of four and seventeen. The shelter is their home, their school and their career agency. Our aim is to rehabilitate the boys and enable them to integrate fully into the local community. We measure our success by the number of boys that we get into jobs, by minimal return to the streets and by the sense of belonging that the boys feel, not just while they are at the shelter but even after they have left and gone on to become independent. The shelter is and will always be their family.

I start my orientation process on Thursday, and if all goes well, I should start volunteering and teaching at the shelter next week.  I think I’m going to be teaching English and social studies to the secondary or older children, but they said I can teach whatever I want.  I better avoid the welding and carpentry classes, but maybe debate….   

For more information, visit their website at  The individual stories of each of the boys are especially moving.  

Camille!  I spent some time listening to Camille this week, and this is what I learned:

  • Floss daily!  So, the Kenyan government loads the water with fluoride to counter poor dental hygiene.  The only problem is too much fluoride demineralizes bones and can cause rickets in children.  There is a higher rate of rickets among children in Kenya, which Camille says causes “floppy bones.”  On the flip side, poor teeth can make people feel rundown because they're constantly fighting dental infections, and can lead to ailments like heart disease.   Keep the fluoride?
          I’m going to go brush my teeth.

  •  Kenyan parents bundle their babies!  Blanketed from head to toe, they are buried and attached to their mothers.  There are always large, covered, presumably cute lumps on mother’s backs.  There is a theory that such bundling is also connected to rickets.  Bundled babies avoid the sun, the sun activates vitamin D, and darker skin already might not absorb sunlight as well, thus leading to a higher rate of rickets.  Woah.  
How about a cute Eric pic. He's growing up.

 Other notes:
  • I have been regularly running around where we live.  Our house is on top of a mountain, over 7,000 feet high.  These are not long runs.  I run down, and then I run up.  Today, I was puffing along when a posse of guys started clapping and sarcastically cheering me on.  It is very important to try to out-impress each other when you’re in a posse of guys.  I jokingly responded that the Olympics were approaching. They immediately stopped clapping and said, “Oh wow, okay.”  Rio, here I come. 

Animals!  We traveled to the Oserian Wildlife Reserve on Sunday.  Conservationists purchased thousands of acres of land to protect the wildlife in the Rift Valley.  One of the most famous and largest reserves is Oserian.  It was an awesome experience.  

The short 45 minute drive there was almost as thrilling as the actual safari.  Check how close these animals are to the road.

The two impala males on the right started fighting.

Hi zebra
Eric found the fish pond at the Oserian clubhouse.

Bird nests!
 This was our first time in a safari truck.  Eric only slept for about half the ride.

Notice there is only one male in this harem of impala.  This lucky, or maybe unlucky, male is the only mate for around twenty females.  He fights off all combatants for as long a he can.  And no, I'm not talking about the warthog. 



We saw rhinos for the first time.  A record number of rhinos have been killed by poachers this year in Africa.  633 rhinos have died, leaving them highly endangered and only living in animal reserves.  Poachers saw off the horns and sell them mostly to Asian countries, especially Vietnam.  A  rhino horn can be worth $250,000 dollars.  Many in Vietnam believe rhino can be a cure for hangovers and even cancer.  It is also a sign of affluence and a status symbol. 

Rhino horn is ground and put into tea after dinner.  Rhino horn is made of keratin, or the same material as our finger nails.  If chewing on keratin is a cure all, then I should be the healthiest person alive.  Instead, I somehow managed to catch Brown Tailed Moth disease twice in one year.

It is an atrocious act, but I empathize with the temptation in Kenya for people living in such poverty.  Blame the purchaser or the provider?

Unfortunately, five rhinos have been shot in Oserian alone in the past two months.  Oserian is trying a novel remedy as a result: removing the horns themselves.  They are the first reserve to take this step.

Topi deer

Cape buffalo leading their babies

A young Grevy zebra! An endangered  species that was unsustainably eaten during African wars.

Our guide described wildebeests the following way:  "God created most animals, but a committee created wildebeests."  Meaning only a group of minds could create such a weird looking animal.
Mother and daughter
An eland, Africa's largest deer.  He can jump over seven feet!

Ostrich with his gray baby to his left

 This giraffe wants to thank you for reading my blog.  Have a great week!


  1. I think the job will be challenging, but keeping one child safe through education, will make your effort worth. Yoda would say, "wonderful man your are"

    Pictures of animals and Eric have made me smile: with the exception of the Rhino pics.
    I am really enjoying your blog: I am very interested in the teaching you are about to do, and hope you are able to communicate your thoughts on that endeavor.
    Thanks Dan-----Dad

    1. Nice Yoda reference. Or I guess I should say, reference Yoda nice, you made.

  2. D -

    The following link is to a story that CBS Sunday Morning ended their broadcast with . . . their usual nature moment that day was from Kenya . . . and two days later you posted your blog about the flamingos that you saw. So, I thought you might enjoy seeing this . . .

    I continue to struggle with some of the lifestyle that you write about . . . cutting off rhino horns in order for them not to be killed . . . boys sniffing glue to cut down on their hunger pains . . . the disease that you are encountering. This post is not the place to have a larger conversation about all of this, but I have reflected on the parallel between what you are encountering and what happened to the native Americans in this country when the Europeans arrived here. Is it not possible for white people to explore/expand without respecting the lifestyle, culture, values that are in place when they arrive?

    We continue to hope that you, Camille and Eric are safe . . . we think of you often . . . be well . . .


    1. Thanks for the comments. The citizens certainly expect but do no want mizungus coming and telling them how o live "better" or differently.

      I look forward to the conversation.

      Also, thanks for the link! That lake is just like Lake Oleidon where we saw the thousands of flamingos! Remarkable.


  3. And . . . PS: I keep looking at the pics of you in tee shirts and flip flops and wonder just how difficult it will be for you to get back into jacket, tie and big boy shoes!!


    1. Yes, I still haven't made it to the tie, but I'm "getting used" to wearing shoes again.