Monday, November 4, 2013

“We are just learning. We are just growing up.”

I know I know.  Another week without wild animals.  Where are the giraffes, Gulotta!  This is now our second week in a row without exploring for animals, but next weekend might be our most sublime trip yet.  

We often hear about negative attributes about Kenya, and I’ve written about some throughout the blog. Government corruption, an enormous income gap, growing slums, street rioting, lack of administrative accountability, chaos on the road, poor infrastructure, sexism and unequal treatment of women, tribal racism/violence, street boys, all of this paints a picture of Kenya as unmanageable and destined for sustained third world status.  

But Kenya is still in its self-governing, democratic infancy.  In 1963, Kenya gained its independence from Britain and enacted their first ever constitution.  Kenya has been a free, sovereign nation for only 50 years.  Hmmm…where was America 50 years after implementing the constitution in 1789?  Woman had no rights, we were murdering Native Americans, and black people were 3/5th’s of a human being.  At least we weren’t in a civil war….oh wait, that started 12 years later.  

Kenya’s original constitution also was not very democratic. A single party system allowed presidents to rule as dictators, as “President” Moi did from 1978-2002, rigging elections and ruling through propaganda and often fear.  After the Cold War, Kenya’s people began pushing for more freedom and more democratic elections.  The single party system was abolished in 1992, and Kenya hosted their first competitive presidential election, which, unfortunately Moi rigged and won easily.  In the elections of 2007, the loser allegedly responded by transforming youths into mercenaries and murdering competing clans (he is now the current president). Finally, in 2010, only three years ago, Kenya enacted a new constitution that includes term limits and three branches of government.

One could say that Kenyan democracy is only three years old!  Kenya is an adolescent nation with an infant democracy, and they still are one of the most stable and prosperous nations in Africa.  Remember this when considering the negatives above.  America is still battling similar problems.   As Kenyans often say to us, “We are just learning.  We are just growing up.”  I agree, and I have high hopes for the future.    

Notes from the week:

Camille visited my school!  

One factor missing from the shelter is women.  There are no female teachers or volunteers.  The teachers recognize this as a problem.  The boys would benefit from learning from a woman’s perspective, learn how to respect woman, and some of the little boys are especially craving a mother figure.  Thus, the boys do not have a lot of experience around women. 
It was really cute how the boys responded to Camille.   During my first couple days, the boys were polite, but also not hesitant to shake my hand and talk.  They joked around, asked me questions, and I told them about my best friend, Rhianna.  

The boys were super shy around Camille.  It was adorable.  I don’t think any of them said two words to her. My cool, tough, teenage boys just looked at her with a sheepish smiles.  It was great, and I can’t wait to joke with them about it tomorrow.  Camille is pretty intimidating.  And pretty!

The boys recently made this sign

One of my classrooms.  I am terrible about breaking chalk.  David, who sits in the front row, made an incredible lunging dive to save a piece of chalk last week.  I asked him if he used The Force.  He didn't know what that meant.
I allow no decorations in my classroom.  No smiling or eye contact either.  Legalism at its best.
My classroom dogs.
Where the boys sleep.  They built the blue lockers. 


Our rabbits.  They, um, are not pets, but serve another purpose (protein).

Gardening.  Mostly growing cabbage

Yay school!
“Oh my goodness!” is a favorite expression of Kenyan women.  I had an extreme “oh my goodness” moment this weekend.  Last Friday night, the three residents, Dan, Alyce, Jill, and I were rocking the Naivasha seen, hitting all the clubs.  Actually, we drove to a restaurant with huge couch cushions, lounged and ate chicken curry.  We were having a nice, uneventful drive home, talking about differences between the east and west coast… ladeedaadeedaa… HIPPO!  A massive, shadowy mass arose from the curb and engulfed the road.  I slammed on my brakes, and we stopped 10 feet shy of being face-to-face with a hippo.  Below is a picture.  

Just kidding, we didn’t have time to take a picture.  I had to jump out the car with my nun chucks to beat it away.  I will never forget that hippo.  

  • And now for the answer to last week’s trivia quiz:  it took us three hours to get our Visas.  Congratulations to Bill Gulotta for guessing the closest time!  Serena Gilani was a near second.  Bill Gulotta, expect your prize in one month.  Thank you to my 8 guessers!

Eric just told me he’s quite perturbed by his lack of blog involvement.  Better post a barrage of Eric pics. 

Eric loves playing music at school.  What's that, a request?

No problem.

Already impressing the ladies

So smooth
Back to Delemere to chase marabou storks

Wait, is Mommy a stork?

There was an eclipse!
Check out the small dot in the shadow.  Science.

I see you reading the blog!  Daddy is very thankful.  See you next week!


  1. The Kenya info is perfect--keep thinking and learning--your insights are insightful. I expect my prize to be having a beer with my son while we watch my grandson play.

  2. Very thoughtful blog...... seems like Kenya will continue to make strides forward towards a growing democracy and yes, this will be "messy" at times! Eric is super cute in his car seat!

  3. Awww... Eric is always so adorable! I enjoyed the Star Wars reference...and the OWS Legalism reference...and the zombie birds reference...I only wish there was a vampire cow reference! The OWS Graduating Class of 2014 misses you, Mr. Gu!

    1. Ha, thanks, Rachel! Awesome post. I think about the OWS 2014 class every day, and I wish all of you well. Keep reading, for I promise to sneak "vampire cows" into a post sometime this year.

  4. D,

    Just in case you missed the coverage, Bowdoin's Hail Mary pass with no time on the clock to beat Colby on Saturday made the Sports Center Top 10 this morning!! And you thought the only sports news in New England revolved around the Red Sox!!

    I think it is completely awesome that Camille came to see you work at your school!!

    I agree with your Mom, the pic of Eric in the car seat is wonderful. Why, in one of the later pics (the one with Camille being a stork), are all the chairs in the background tipped up at tables?

    The photos of the desks in your school look almost exactly like the desks at which I sat when I was in elementary school and junior high in NYC. We used to hide our lunches in the desk, eat bites of the sandwiches when the teachers were not looking, and then run straight to the playground at lunch time to "claim" a handball court. What a long time ago!!

    Continued best wishes,


    1. WOAH! Bowdoin beating Colby did not make the news out here in Kenya. I'll alert the local papers. When are they going to feature the Bowdoin cross country team on ESPN?!

      The chairs are tipped over because they are getting close to closing time and it was supposed to rain. Or, to keep the monkeys from sitting and throwing feces on them.

      I think these might be the desks from the your old school. I thought I saw "Les" sketched into one of the sides....

      Thank you for your fantastic posts!