Monday, January 27, 2014

A Week of Discoveries

What does the inside of this fruit look like? 

 Does it look like:
A: Cantaloupe 
B: Honeydew 
C: Tomato 
D: Papaya 
E: Cucumber 
F: Passion fruit 
G: Apple
H: You don’t care 
I: You are not allowed to select H 

Find the answer later in the blog!  Also, take a deep breath, for this is a monster blog.  Camille warned me I might receive “TL, DR” comments.  (Too Long, Didn’t Read).

You know what this week was?  This was a week of discoveries.  So since you and me ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s blog this like they do on the Discovery Channel. 

All of the residents came over for dinner.
First, my most important and life changing discovery.  I discovered how to dance like an African.  On Saturday night, four of the awesome medical residents this month, Rebekah, Anshu, Katie, Florentius, and I, went 0ut for an evening of live music.  We enjoyed the music and the band was fantastically entertaining, but Florentius, a Kenyan citizen, said that they were only playing Kenyan oldies, similar to a Simon and Garfunkel cover band in the U.S.  Apparently, we needed something “fresher.”  Word.  There is a notorious night club in Naivasha called Thrills which I think you can see from space, with all its flashing lights.  We decided we needed to go there.

Thrills!  We enter, and there was the typical bar and booths surrounding the dance floor, flashing lights, TV’s with music videos and a DJ blasting hip hop hits from the early 2000’s.  To the left, to the left, everything I own in a box to the left….I suggested to the DJ that he  play Thriller, but he was not impressed with my wit, and mumbled something like “crazy mzungu.”  Anyway, despite many people present, the dance floor was empty (!), except for one woman who was rebuked by the bouncer for too much twerking. No joke.  (Mom and Dad, do not google twerking.)  I have to hand it to Katie and Anshu, for they immediately dove in and dominated the dance floor.  Eventually, I made it up there as well, but I was less dominating.
One unique feature on the dance floor was an enormous mirror on the wall.  There were three guys just tearing it up in front of the mirror, so I joined them.  One of them kept dancing closer and closer to me, which I thought was fine.  Then he grabbed my arm and said to me, “Hey Man, you need to learn to dance like an African!” “Yes I do,” I thought to myself, and we proceeded to dance together for the next fifteen minutes. 

To conclude, I am now a temporary member of The Thrills Place. 

Second, my educational discovery.  I learned that playing charades with 7th graders is just as much fun in Kenya as it is in America.  This term, I am teaching 4th and 7th grade English and social studies at the shelter.  My former OWS students might find it funny that I am supposed to focus on British grammar while the other teacher focuses on reading and writing.  On Thursday, we were learning about abstract nouns, or nouns about feelings without any physical form.  I started the lesson by tripping over a chair to demonstrate an abstract noun (pain, embarrassment).  The next thing I knew, we were playing abstract noun charades.  I’m starting to enjoy teaching grammar.  

Third, my delicious discoveries.  It is mango season, and they are AMAZING.  Everyone is selling mangos on the street.  I ate four mangos today.  I could mango on and on...

I also discovered my favorite Kenyan meal:  Stewed beef with githeri (beans and maize) and sukamawiki.  Eric likes it as well.  

This meal cost me $2.00
I discovered my favorite soda!  Stoney Tangawizi.  Drinking an ST is like getting blitzkrieged  by ginger.  Yum.

The spiky fruit is a horned cucumber!  I love them.

Forth, my serious discovery.  In 2010, Kenya modeled their new constitution off of the U.S. model; an executive, legislative and judicial branch with terms limits and separation of powers.  They call it “Devolution.”  The country is now separated into forty seven counties (largely clustered by tribes) each with a governor.  The implementation of this change is only inching along, but what might be worrisome is that Kenya is also trying to decentralize health care, modeling after the pre-Obamacare system..  The federal government would no longer provide healthcare, and each county will be responsible for their own.  It is a nice idea to empower county and local government, but where are the impoverished counties going to get the money?  For example, federal supply lines and infrastructure that bought supplies to Naivaha District Hospital are no longer there.  District is running out of some supplies, and they haven’t positioned themselves properly to attain them.

There was a similar response to the Free Public Education Act in 2003 (FPE) which provides free primary schooling to all kids.  It is a wonderful idea, but the implementation would need planning that often is overlooked.  Let me steal an example from a grad school project.  Sheba Ochiri conducted a study in 2013 of the implication of FPE on educational opportunities for girls.  She learned that although everyone was thankful for the free education, classrooms were now bloated, schools had insufficient bathrooms, and teachers struggled to attend to all the kids.  For example, the Josh School had 598 students, but only 11 teachers and three toilets.  The average class size was 70 students.  The principal, Mr. Joe, laments that “although FPE was a good thing, poor planning spoiled it."  Joe was thankful that FPE provided a pen, a textbook, and some workbooks to students.  However, this is not enough to sustain impoverished students at schools.  At Josh, most teachers require supplemental books, which many students cannot afford, and students are not provided lunch.  Joe explains his frustrations:   

”With a large number of students, we don’t have enough classrooms and parents are not able to support us because of poverty. Most of the time, we have children who go home for lunch and they don’t have any food to eat. Such children most of the time don’t turn up and even when they are in class, they don’t concentrate. You really don’t expect much from such cases. Many of them actually end up dropping out.”  

Ochiri discovered that the dropout is especially high for poorer girls.  Cultural stigmas around teen pregnancy is one main problem, but another deterrence is the lack of bathrooms and sanitary pads in schools.  As a result, girls miss valuable days of school every month, fall behind in their work, and struggle to recover.  Poor implementation of FPE resulted in a huge increase in the number of students at schools without first thinking about hiring more teachers, securing sufficient supplies and constructing more facilities.  Factors such as class congestion, staff shortage and dropout may outweigh the gains made by FPE.

Remember the Kenyan saying, “We are just learning.  We are just growing up.”  The ideas are there, and the implementation will come. 

If you give me chips, I will be happy.
Fifth, my cute discovery.  Eric now loves to run over to people in a group and give them all hugs.  Ok, everyone on one, two, three...AAAAAAWWWWWWWWW.

There are now no more flowers in our garden.

You know, this beer could use more stick.
Where's Eric?
There he is!
 Animals!  Irene's been hanging out, and we discovered a camel.

Bye, Camel.

Next weekend, we're going adventuring, like Bert and Ernie.  "Every time the bed starts tapping..." (all we watch is Sesame Street).   Thanks for following my blog!


  1. I read the whole thing!!! Tell Camille she was wrong ;)

    1. Alright Zhao Hui! I knew I could count on you. Thanks for commenting!

  2. question! why did the monkey get named irene?

    1. Just so I could yell, "Come on!" at the monkey, and then turn the saying into a song.

  3. the feeling for the education and government system of Kenya that you are getting will help you throughout your whole career in education. comparing makes one understand the positive and the negative of the school system they teach in. Keep giving us the Eric pics, for they always are ahhhhhhhsome. Dad

    1. Thanks, Dad! I am certainly learning a lot.

  4. Googled twerking !#?! And I am also the proud parent of a member of The Thrills Place. Stick beer? - I need a glass of wine...... Glad you are experiencing so much of the local culture. Not sure about Irene - hope she spends all of her time outdoors. Love you all, Mom

    1. Mom, I don't want to know see any pictures of you twerking on facebook.

  5. Loved this entry Dan! Eric is adorable! My students all said, "Aaaawwwww."

    1. Thanks, Brian! I think Monday night's homework should always be to read Danny's blog ;).