Tag Archives: africa

Apache training ending

Today’s the last day of Apache training. It’s been a pretty good week, with most of the usual annoyances, and a few more, but overall a good class.

Unfortunately, most of the students were not actually released from their work duties when they were sent to training, so they wandered in and out all week, missing an hour here, a half day there, and, in several cases, an entire day or two. Employers, don’t do this. You’re wasting your money, and your productivity, when you send a student to training and then don’t actually allow them to attend it. In several cases, folks missed the things that they were most interested in hearing about. because the were called to a meeting at just that moment.

I tried to go geocaching a few times, and I actually found one cache, but for the most part I just didn’t seem to have the passion for it. I went to one cache which looked kinda interesting, but when I got there, it turned out to be a multi, and I just couldn’t work up the interest to do the whole thing. Kinda pathetic, I suppose.

I’ve been driving a Pontiac Sunfire, and I really miss my Jeep. The first morning when I pulled into the parking garage, it took me a moment to figure out how to open the window. I reached back for the zipper, and there wasn’t one! Also, the car doesn’t have a clutch, which is a bit disconcerting.

I’m *so* ready to go home.

Oh, yeah, and last night I went to the party on Clematis street. Every Thursday evening they block off a few streets and have live music and food stalls, and vendors. It was kinda nice. One of the vendors was from Kenya, and had a bunch of Kenya art and carvings. It was nice to talk to them, although they didn’t really want to talk for some reason. Oh, well.


The last several days I’ve been tying the new kikoi my brother and sis-in-law brought me from Kenya. I really enjoy tying them. It’s somehow relaxing. And it always reminds me of tying my kikoi in my O-levels.

The O-level exams ran for two weeks, and it turned out that the weekend in between was the only time that we could go down to Mombasa. So, I took a week of exams, then we hopped on the Good Ol’ EAR&H and went down to Mombasa. It was wonderful – one of the best vacations that I can remember. Walking up and down the beach, haggling with the vendors, and *wonderful* food.

One of the things I bought on that trip – probably traded a tshirt for it, or something like that – was an orange kikoi which I still have. Kikois usually come with the ends unraveled, and the first thing you have to do is to tie off the ends into little bunches so that the thing doesn’t come all the way undone.

We left Mombasa on the train on Sunday night, and headed back up to Nairobi. During the night, there was some kind of trouble, and we sat still on the tracks for several hours, not arriving in Nairobi until just a short time before my first exam. We called ahead to the school, and got approval for me to come to my exam in what I was wearing, since there wasn’t time for me to go home and change into my uniform.

So, I arrived for my math O-level wearing shorts, a dirty t-shirt, and my new kikoi, while everyone else was in their crisp clean uniforms. Of course, that got me the delighted stares of my peers. 😉

Then, to make things worse (for them, not for me) I *totally* aced the exam, and finished it in about half the allotted time. However, I wasn’t permitted to leave until the time as over, so I just had to sit there. I sat for about an hour, tying off the ends of my new kikoi, while my peers glared at me from their desks. When they let us out, I had finished tying, and went home to change into my school uniform.

Sarah has asked if she can have my old kikoi now that I have a new one. I think I’ll probably hang onto it for a while. Good memories. But she’s welcome to share. 🙂

Kenyan ecologist wins Nobel prize

It’s a proud day for Kenya, with Wangari Maathai winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

If you’ve never heard of her, you can find out quite a bit about her on About.com, as well as lots of other places.

Important facts, other than the very cool one that she was the first East African woman to hold a PhD, include her work in the field of sustainable ecologies in Africa, including the Green Belt movement in Kenya, which taught people to farm without destroying the land.

One hopes, as one always hopes when folks like this are briefly in the limelight, that this will draw attention to the plight of Africa, and encourage funding of efforts like Ms. Maathai’s.

Just for a teensy bit of perspective, consider this. For the price of a single US military missile, an average-sized school in africa could provide a hot meal for all of its students, once a day, for 5 years.

Safari Rally

In 1988, I think it was, we went out past Ngong to watch the Marlboro Safari Rally. We waited at the checkpoint, where the cars had to stop and register.

I can hear the cars long before you see them, since they always remove their mufflers. It’s part of the tradition. I can hear the roar miles and miles away. Then, suddenly, they appear over the top of the hill, and around the corner, moving faster than I’ve ever seen cars move. They’re driving around 180 Mph, on unpaved dusty roads. Speed limits, such as they are, are suspended for the Rally.

In a mere few seconds, the car arrives at the checkpoint where we’re standing. The noise is deafening. As the car slows for the checkpoint, the people waiting there realize who it is. While most of the drivers these days are foreigners, this is is one of the few Kenyan drivers, and actually favored to do very well this year. The people crush around the car so that it has to come to a complete stop for fear of running over someone. The driver leans out the window, happy at the adulation, and irritated at the delay. He wants to move on, but wants to soak in the cheers of his fans.

The codriver hops out, quickly signs the log book, and gets back in. The driver screams at the people that he must be going, and revs the engine. People scatter, and he can move on. And, as quickly as he arrived, he’s disappeared into a cloud of dust.

The Rally used to be called the East African Safari Rally, and stretch over all three nations of British East Africa – Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Idi Amin’s reign of terror ended that practice. Then, later on, corporate sponsorship gradually changed the nature of the race. But it’s still one of the most untamed road races in the world.

I remember watching at the Mercedes service stop just outside of Kericho, and watching the cars roar in, have all four tires changed, and a full tank of gas, and roar back out, all under a minute. I remember seeing the famous Joginder Singh drive through there, and feeling that I was in the presence of greatness.

I remember when Suki Drews’ dad brought his race car to Turi, and let us look at it up close, and even get in it to see how stuff worked. I particularly remember the water straw that came down overhead so that the driver could drink while driving. And I remember wondering if he could pee while driving too, and how hysterically funny that seemed.

Every year around the same time as the Safari Rally, we would have the Dinky Safari Rally at Turi. But, of course, that’s a story for another time.

Mother Africa

I wrote this a long time ago, and recently rediscovered it. I’ll resist the urge to edit, as well as the urge to add commentary, and just reproduce it as I found it, written on yellow notebook paper from long ago.


I want to tell you about my mother. Her name is Africa. Perhaps I don’t look like her; indeed I have many brothers who do not resemble me. And there are many who claim to be her children who never met her. Many who claim to be her lovers who never slept with her. Many who write her love songs, but have never heard her sing.

She used to sing to me, as I fell towards sleep. Sometimes in the deep voice of the bullfrog, while the owl sang tenor. Sometimes the throb of the KR train on the tracks down the hill. And I remember that night, high on mount Kenya, when she sang to me – a beautiful sound. A sound that millions will live and die, having never once heard. The sound of total, uninterrupted, silence.

To the world, her name is Africa, and her face is black. To her children, she has many names, and many faces.

Her name is Congo, with the richest soil on earth, but where the people starve, because tilling the soil is not a noble profession. She is also called Sahara, where nothing grows, but the sheikhs can live like kings because of oil.

Her name is Cairo, an ancient city which has prospered for thousands of years, and produced great thinkers, rulers, and artists. Her name is Soweto, created in prejudice, governed by opression, but producing men who changed their world.

She is called Dar es Salam – the city of peace – and Bulowayo – the place of killing.

Some remember her as Shimoni, where her children became property, some as Liberia, where those same people became rulers again.

Her children are as diverse as her names: Haille Selasse. Shaka Zulu. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Idi Amin. Steven Biko. David Livingston. Tut Ankh Amon. Myself. And perhaps you … perhaps not.

She cannot be trusted, or predicted. She is always a mystery, even to those who know her. But though we have been apart for many years, I am still her child, and I will always love her.

Exotic and strange

As I’m reading “Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight”, I find myself thinking, hey, maybe I could write something about my Time In Africa, since these books seem to do fairly well. And, since I’ve been struggling to write a novel for an inordinately long time here, with no apparent progress, maybe that would get things moving in my brane.

But, then, this is followed by the obvious observation that my life was hardly as exotic and strange as the ones depicted in the latest bunch of “growing up in Africa” books that I’ve read. (Although *someone* should write about the body that those guys found in the woods.)

And, of course, this observation is immediately followed by …

If their lives were exotic and strange
they would likely have gladly exchanged them
for something a little more plain
maybe something a little more sane.
We each pay a fabulous price for our visions of paradise.
(Rush – Mission – The Spirit of Radio – 1980)

There’s also the problem that my memory isn’t the keenest. I tend to have a foggy impression of some of the events of my time in Kenya, with Turi probably being the sharpest memory, or perhaps Nairobi. I suppose I should write some of this stuff before it blows away completely.

Don’t let’s go to the dogs tonight

I’ve been reading (listening to) Don’t let’s go to the dogs tonight by Alexandra Fuller. It’s an account of a childhood in Africa. Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, to be more specific.

Fans of politically correct speech will find the book abhorrent. She makes no effort to hide the way that they viewed their African neighbors in the Bad Old Days.

I find the book oddly nostalgic. While her life was utterly different from mine (Zimbabwe is much more African than Kenya, particularly in the 70s and 80s) there’s a lot that’s very common. Particularly her descriptions of school. And the language that she uses is the same language that we spoke at Turi.

Also, I’d say that it’s a good read if you’d like to understand why Mr. Mugabe is acting the way that he is. At least, a little bit. Yes, clearly he’s a dangerous lunatic. But there’s a certain amount of historical reason behind his lunacy.