Monday, September 28, 2009

Oh man...

Ok, we have a nine year old Siamese Cat named “Neela”. Neela, is Hindi for “blue” due to her deep blue eyes. I have pretty much had a Siamese my whole life and although most folks would not take me for a cat person, I love my cat. For all the cats I have had growing up, this is the first one that is “my” cat. Siamese seem to gravitate towards one person in the family and all my life it seemed it was my Mom they always gravitated to. Might have been due to me trying to shove them in the toilet when I was very young, or the fact that my Mom was the one that always fed them, or any other heinous things I probably may or may not have done with them…but I sleep good at night knowing it was the food.

Sidetracking here, but bear with me; when we arrived to our temporary housing here in DFW we found that the air-conditioning was not working! That sucks when it is 100 degrees and 99.9% humidity and is not much better when it is 95 degrees with 90% humidity. Standard procedure, we have to keep a bunch of windows open day and night so as not to wake up half-baked in a not-so-good way. Back to the main story…I also have a dog that I have written about before, the German Shepherd Dog we have. She is a bit aggressive at times, which I really like, and we really enjoy having her too. We have had issues peeling ourselves off the ceiling when one of the neighbors here are walking their chew-toys (poor excuse for dogs) along the sidewalks that are in full-view of the windows out of the breakfast nook. I have been worried that she would knock the screen out trying to get at these dogs but fortunately it had held…until today.

As I came home early this evening, I pulled in and noticed that the screen to the previously mentioned window is laying on the bush directly outside the window…aw crap. As I drove up the driveway past it, I was relieved to see Naomi quizzically stick her head out the window to greet me as I drove by. Ok, mental note, gotta get that screen back in. However, there are more important things at hand. First, I GOTTA get the DVR going as the Cowboys game is going to start within seconds. Second, I need to get my daughter changed and ready for bed, and third I gotta start eating on the pizza that my wife was bringing home!

All three issues are handled successfully for the most part, except my daughter was still running around a bit while we started dinner. We put the pizza aside as she got cranky and decided to fill ‘er up with milk and put her to bed. Standard procedure while my wife is feeding her is for me to get her a clean plug, make sure the crib is setup right, and get the cat out of her bedroom because as soon as we get the door closed (if she is in there) she starts yowling and wakes up the baby. I get everything done and cannot find the cat. I look under the bed, behind the dressers, in the closet, in the bathroom…nowhere. Now I start calling her as she will always come when I call her name…nothing. Ok, a little frantic now, I start combing the rest of the house looking for her…still nothing. Back to the bedroom as she is a sneaky little fart and is probably still in there…still nothing. Things went kinda cold for a second as I remembered the open screen window in the breakfast nook. Crap! I think the cold feeling was mostly due to knowing the cat got out but also partially that I have to explain to my wife that her cat has gotten out, is lost, and I forgot to put the screen back on the window. Now, in my defense, there is the distinct possibility that this screen had been missing for HOURS before I got home but am relatively certain she will have some proof that the cat escaped only after I got back home and I am a jerk. AND, I have to wait to watch the Cowboys game…

I casually approach my wife and ask her in a very even tone, “…you haven’t seen Neela…have you?” Well, come to find out she hadn’t…so I came clean on the window screen. Ok, now we both look through the house, each of us calling her name and there is no cat in the house. Ok, this is starting to get bad as my wife is starting to freak. “Yes, I know she is only and indoor cat.” “Yes, I know she does not have front claws.” “I have no idea if she is in the yard.” “Yeah, I’m sure she will come back…” Ok, that last one was a bit of a stretch, but I could always hope, right?

So, I get the flashlight and walk around like a hood through the subdivision flashing every house, bush, fence…everything calling out he cats name…the entire time praying I do not see a white pile of fur in the road. Nothing. The wife wants me to go knocking on neighbors houses to see if anyone has her, but here we are; new to the neighborhood, have not met any of the neighbors, and I am beating on their doors at 9:30 at night asking if they have seen my cat. The wife gets the phone number of a neighbor (I’m a butthole for not going and knocking on doors) , introduces herself briefly and then asks if there is any intel on an AWOL kitty…nothing. Ok, so I get in my truck and cruise the neighborhood looking for our fleeing feline and drive the entire neighborhood with flashlight out the window…just sure the Keller cops are going to pull me over for God knows what…nothing.

I walk back in the house and my wife is really freaked…she has just lost her cat and will never get it back. I spend some time assuring her Neela will be waiting for us outside in the morning…with little success. So, we break out the paperwork and advertise on Craigslist with the Avid chip number and description, call the animal control folks (they have great jobs, they don’t work at 10:15 at night), and she calls her parents (of course I am not qualified to offer comfort as I am the butthole that lost the cat). All the while, I’m thinking about the friend I have lost (I know she won’t be outside in the morning), the thousands of dollars spent shipping her back and forth to Kenya, and whether or not I should plan on getting another one this week?

Then the stupid cat walks out of my daughter’s bedroom…

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Small Town Texas...

Since arriving back in Texas from Kenya, we have been busily trying to get our ducks in a row…without total success for sure. After getting our living quarters in check, vehicles up and running, and all the small stuff, we now are starting to look for jobs. My wife was real fortunate in that she found a locums job which started a few days after our return. Unfortunately, it is by no means a long-term solution as it requires her to travel overnight to various places throughout Texas among other things. Our daughter likes to have her Mommy around; nothing to make you feel bad like your child wandering around the house aimlessly, from room to room, shouting out “Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?”

I have been doing my due-diligence without any luck whatsoever. Seems this “unemployment” and “economy” thing that Mr. Obama is supposedly fixing has gotten worse since my departure. The proof of the pudding is going to a Home Depot, talk to the folks working there, and hearing their backgrounds. “Yeah, I’ve got a Masters in Business Admin.” “I was a plant manager for a Fortune 500 company.” “I’ve got two advanced degrees but cannot find work in my field.” Or, start looking for even entry-level engineering jobs, crap like validation engineers, test engineers…stuff that is for folks right out of college and they are asking for 10 years experience, advanced degrees, and are paying crap like $30K to $40K a year! I have been secretly rehearsing “Would you like fries with that?” while taking a shower…

One thing is for sure in my household; my wife can out-earn me with her eyes closed. Being a medical doctor affords some options that having a normal, albeit worthless four-year degree does not afford. So, we have been looking around for her jobs too and are really fortunate to have quite a few options. When one looks into the Health Care debate, one will hear that there is a shortage of physicians…especially general medicine doctors. My wife is not a general practice/family practice physician but is fully trained to work as one. Also while looking at jobs, the really attractive areas to live do not recruit as persuasively as the rural or underserved areas. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area there are definitely jobs available. These jobs pay well but when one looks at some of the underserved areas…Holy Crap! They have some VERY attractive offers…some paying triple what a physician would earn in a metro area if not more. Plus, add to that the lower cost of living….well crap, it looks like we are going to look into Podunk ville…

Let me preface this by saying that I am very familiar with Podunk Ville. I grew up there and didn’t really leave until I graduated from College. The politics of living in very small town U.S.A. is way different than living in DFW for obvious reasons. If someone went to a grocery store, say Central Market, here in DFW and told the cashier to “…put it on my tab” they would be met with either a dropped-jaw or quite possibly a phone call to the Southlake Police Department! For sure one would not know over half the people standing in line behind them and would not have messages on their answering machine at home waiting on them asking why they were arrested at Central Market! As a younger person, I used to despise certain people who felt it their life-duty to inform my parents what I was doing at any given moment. Not being able to be an individual without 50% of the town knowing my every waking moment. Literally, having pissed someone off and they would call my Father to narc me out. The anonymity of living in a large metro area has its upsides.

Having access to niceties is a huge plus too. Growing up in my hometown, if you wanted something to eat after, say 8:00pm, one would either drive to Sonic or maybe McDonalds. That was it. Period. Realize there is no milk in the fridge…until a Casey’s General Store showed up, you were out of luck. I also remember fondly, looking forward a week or so in advance about the “BIG TRIP TO TULSA!!!” We got to go to a MALL! Eat at real restaurants! Shop at a store other than Wal Mart! Nairobi blew away the town I grew up in regarding options, places to go, see and do.

There are some real advantages to living in Small Town U.S.A. too. The small-town hospitality can really be appreciated when one gets a bit older. It seems that neighbors are closer, the community is closer, and people are more involved in your day-to-day lives. I think raising children in a smaller town also (with appropriate supervision) allows for a safer environment too. Not so many “bright lights” to attract them down different paths. Of note, that crap all but goes away once teen-age years arrive as it is hard to keep one’s self entertained during those years in a small town without getting into trouble…. I think a small town promotes stronger family values too. It is not so easy to get lost in the forest for the trees. I also think it is easier to not spend tons of money in a small town…just because there I not so much to buy! Eating at home is much easier when there are not so many tasty options to hit. Having ten gourmet burger joints within ten minutes of ones house makes it really hard not to travel for food! Not having a pizza place in ones towns has pluses and minuses too…

My wife has never lived anywhere other than a large metro area. I think I almost lost her the first time I took her to my hometown to meet my Father. I do not know if she thought it was a joke as we drove in from the East side of Coffeyville or not…probably wondering if it was some sort of refugee camp? Being exposed to the previously mentioned shortcomings was a shock to her system. I think she needed something like contact lens solution and realized this at about 9:00pm. Whoops. Obviously, it was not appropriate to mention that one should not leave their stuff behind when the statement is equally obvious that at any time of the day or night one should be able to pick it up. I have not spent any amount of time in Coffeyville in the past 10 years or so, but at that time I am pretty sure NOTHING was open 24 hours other than the Coffeyville Police Department. I have had the opportunity, the past 15 years, to live in metro areas of around 4 Million or more and have grown fond of the conveniences too…so don’t think this is just about my wife. The concept of having to plan-out shopping trips precisely is not a strong suit and neither is the idea of not being able to stop off at the Mall on the way home (or other boutique type stores…let alone Bed Bath and Beyond or Super Target or similar). Planning to pick up these items a week in advance (or more) and having to travel an hour plus to get these items is as foreign as Jupiter.

So, what do we do? Yesterday we traveled to Small Town Texas to interview for jobs! And we are not talking about Coffeyville here…think Dearing (think town of probably 1000 folks). It is about an hour and twenty minutes from what is considered to be “civilization” and does not even have a Wal Mart or any other store other than a very small grocery. There is a Burger King at the exit of the freeway that was recently built…and it appears to be Zagat rated in the community and quite the fine dining experience! And you can get gas there too!

Upon arriving there, seeing the town and hospital somewhat reminded me of our first trip to Coffeyville. I think she was more comfortable in Kenya than she was here…at least there she had proper mental preparation. This was a bit of a stunner. All in all, I think after the initial shock wore off she started to enjoy it and took it all in objectively. One of the benefits of the job is “corporate housing” which consists of a rental house across the street from the hospital. This will be the proverbial deal-breaker. The real estate market here; it is not even fair to call it a market. There are zero properties available as there does not tend to be a large influx of people moving in/out. Within 20 miles of this town, zero rentals exist so this place is it if we choose to go. Cat piss in carpets is a deal breaker….for both of us and it exists in this house. Other than replacing the carpets in the entire house, the place screams early 70’s…almost expecting Eric and Red to be sitting in the living room. Probably the final analysis will be based on what they can do to clean up this shack.

The population is predominately Hispanic, towards the lower-end of the income bracket, but seems to be very nice…the ones we met anyhow. They do have a somewhat capable hospital that serves an area of four small towns that also each have a clinic…all would be serviced by my wife if she were to accept the position. This could be a hurdle to overcome too. Her experiences since leaving residency are mostly centered around Hospitalist work. Trust me, you didn’t want her to be your doctor because that meant you were REALLY sick…hospitalized sick. She has mainly worked in world-class hospitals with a supportive staff that is not only huge but also trained in world-class institutions. In these smaller towns, she is it. Not much support structure or other specialists to turn to. However, I think she is very excited about this part of the opportunity…and she is capable. It will really immerse her in all things medicine and give her the challenge she thrives on. Add to that the communities here are more geared towards appreciation and relationships, it should be right up; her alley. The compensation package being more than most any twenty people living there earn yearly is a nice plus too.

The other big plus is that there is work for me there too. Funny that employment could be found in a town like this compared to a metro area but it is there. It would be working in the health industry (something I know very little about) but would rely heavily on my ability to sell services and myself…things that I am adept at. Creating relationships and marketing the programs of the services provided is something I can do and would be a nice addition to skill sets should we make this a short-term option?

The next week or so are going to be interesting as we try to figure out what we are going to do. I never dreamed in my wildest dreams that I would live in Kenya. As I drove away from Coffeyville I never thought I would come back to a small town ever again…almost promised myself I never would. Amazing what folks can do when situations and times change. I guess I can still dig out my straw hat, bib overalls, and learn how to walk barefoot again….


Thursday, September 17, 2009

So, Texan Mzungu is a Racist...

As I had said previously, I type this thing about my own perceptions and experiences…and try to have fun with it. I appreciate the many, many responses I have gotten supporting this blog that I play with. I also appreciate all of those who I have asked if they felt I was being overly racist in my rants. The reason I had asked this, is because there have been a couple of replies by Kenyans, mostly living in the U.S., who have angrily accused me of being a racist.

Personally, I don’t give a crap. Tiny-minded people like these make the world go around. However, I am going to have fun with the latest letter that was sent and include some “responses” to the accusations. I am not upset at all, rather I want to have fun at this idiots expense. I just love when self-entitled mental giants try to respond thinking they can “tear down the man”. This may get a tad offensive, so if you are not interested in reading stuff like that, stop here. Otherwise, the gloves come off now.

I will separate my comments by triple-asterisks (***) and spacing from the content of this dumbasses letter…

Guess who's back ..
Its the 'dipshit' ..

***I can see that! What wonderful words of wisdom do you have for me today?***

I understand you awould like to defend yourself as a victim and point out all the ugliness of both American and African societies but if you would take a minute to figure out WHAT people read in your blog, it would occur to you that you unfortunately have a very racist slant to your comments.

***I have never said I was a victim of anything, dipshit. I did point out some of the ugliness you mentioned in this post, but the very next post I only mentioned the things I loved. Your pinheaded narrow-mindedness only allows you to see what you want; therefore you are a victim of the very thing that pisses you off. Take off the rose-colored glasses…***

It appears that you single out black politicians as terrorists and idiots.

***Uh, I didn’t see all that many white politicians in Kenya, dipshit.***

I have no problem with you being a racist, you will get yours eventually, I write as a Kenyan who thinks that the sort of crap you write and put on the internet about MY country is onesided and tinged with the typical angry mzungu lenses.

***Excellent! Glad you have no problem yet you stuff my mailbox full of crap that says otherwise. You actually write as an angry black man that cannot take another’s point of view. It seems to me that you have Mzungu issues…what, were your forefathers not treated appropriately by British colonialism? Take that up with the Brits, it was not my doing. If you want to look at a map, globe,, whatever, you may find that Texas is not the same thing as England. However, I do not think that will do any good, it seems your are just pissed off at all white folks.***

Your only reason to go to kenya is because you thought youd live like king lording over some KYM's and having your undersized knob polished by some underaged negro girls.

***Actually, believe it or not, that is not the reason we went to Kenya. We went so that we could provide access to water by installing low-cost bore holes in rural Kenya. Additonally, we went there to provide either free or low-cost health care to those that cannot afford it. You are just an angry idiot for suggesting otherwise.***

You only speak highly of fellow wazungus, indians and the "US styled" malls where you can pretend to be at the local starbucks.

***That is not true. If your incessant ramblings were not just angry diatribe, I might tell you of the Kenyans I hung out with, the ones we shared dinners with, etc… Actually, I do not think I ever spent any time with another white person the entire time I was there. Where do you get your information? Also, if you had ever heard me rant against Starbucks, you would know just how incredibly foolish you sound…but it sounds like you have been to one and know what they are all about.***

If you had the cojones of a real man, you'd stand by your REAL thoughts and be the redneck youare, but instead youpretend to be the globetrotting negro loving, socially conscious jesus.

***If you had any “cojones” at all, you would find another hobby other than ranting like an angry black man! I take you calling me a “redneck” as a compliment. Thank you. The only thing I pretend to be is tolerant of ignorant assholes like you…but something tells me I am failing at that.***

How dare you say " I love kenyan culture" ..what a crock..! Show me any part og your blog where you actually do so ...

***I don’t want to go back and read my 30+ blogs to try and find something to appease you. I also did not document every single day and every single event of my living in Kenya. I love it, you are pissed that I enjoyed it, get over it.***

You are who you are and as i said, I think Kenya is better off without your negative, racist and bogus self.

***Maybe you are right? Maybe not. Only time will tell. However there is no question Kenya is better off without you, where you can blend in with the rest of the assholes here in the States. One observation I have never put into print, but need to do so now as you are part of this group. African Americans kind of give Africans a bad name. You are doing this in spades.***

If you don’t want to hear from people like me, then stop writing nonsense on the web about a country of proud, intelligent and BLACK people.

***Actually, it is pretty easy to ignore you if I feel like it. Maybe you should do the same thing and ignore my blogs? I will admit, they are well written and a good read so I can see why you cannot just tear yourself away. You can go to sleep tonight knowing I am laughing my ass off at you as I think you are just like the baboons I saw on the side of the road in Kenya. You don’t bother me…obviously I bother you! I win!!! ***



Friday, September 11, 2009

Yet another Top Ten list...

Well, aside from the delusional Kenyan that responded to my last list, it seemed the last one was well received. It seems, after reading the past few blogs; it may have taken a tone that I absolutely do not want to convey about our last home in Kenya. Sure, there were a lot of things that we did not completely enjoy…for that matter there are TONS of things that suck about living in the States. (Look to a Top Ten List of things that SUCK about living in the States compared to Kenya.)

I post this blog on two different locations on the Internet. One is on my Facebook page, the other is on my permanent blog page. This gives me a lot of different readers, for sure. Most all the folks that read my blog on Facebook are already friends of mine, therefore they know that I am an abrasive kind of guy and probably take my statements either with a grain of salt or, maybe…actually enjoy my sick sense of humor. Unfortunately, anyone with access to the Internet can read my actual blog.

Because of this, I get some real gems in regards to responses. Most all of them are from “Anonymous”. A ton of them, I do not post. Mostly dumbasses that take offense to something that I have said. I must admit that some of them, I actually enjoy smacking them down like the ill-informed mental giants they are. I have been called a racist recently because my blogs are aimed at black folks portraying them as lazy, stupid, un-motivated, people. Personally, I have never said anything but very nice things about Kenyan people…see the point in my list below and previous posts to verify. I have also been accused of lumping all blacks in together, being the white devil in downplaying their abilities. Nothing could be farther from the truth in my mind. I would welcome “civil” discussions on this topic. If someone can convince me that I have been a racist bastard I will delete all my blogs so as not to offend douchebags that cannot comprehend simple writings. Better yet, I guess, would be that if my writings offend you, just do not read my freaking ramblings…simpleton. And to Anonymous assholes everywhere…if you have something to say, write your name to it or do not waste my time. Sissies…

Now, back to the main point of this writing; there are tons of things that I miss about Kenya already and I am sure that there will be a lot more that come to mind as time goes by. My host country was a wonderful, sometimes magical place. Not just things being new, but soaking in things that sometimes would be passed by if one were living the “American Dream”. This will capture the highlights…and maybe let folks know that I didn’t hate Kenya…it’s just different. To quote Vincent from Pulp Fiction, “…it’s the little things.”

10: Unparalleled Beauty

Nowhere else in the world have I experienced such natural beauty as in Kenya. Not in botanical gardens, not in national parks, not in folks’ backyards…nowhere. Simply driving down the road I lived off of (Bogani Road) one would experience botanical beauty unparalleled anywhere. Vivid flowers, plants that can only be grown in truly tropical climates (bird of paradise, for example)…all grown along the side of the road. Drive anywhere outside of Nairobi and the varying beauty…from the Western side along the Great Rift Valley to the far Eastern side of the Coast. Pictures, TV shows, magazines…none do it justice. Until you have stood at the precipice of the Rift Valley and gazed down upon it…pictures and words will never describe it. The white sand beaches of the coast with palms, flowers, and unspoiled beaches…it is easy to get lost in the serenity. North of Mombasa there is still a lot of beaches that do not have hotels, resorts, and the like screwing up Gods work…absolutely breathtaking.

9: Food!

In the past I have criticized the beef in Kenya and that still stands…especially after eating but a single hamburger here. American fast-food burgers kick a Kenyan gourmet burgers butt 10 times out of 10. Period. However, compare most anything else and Kenya wins hands down. The fresh produce that is actually available “fresh” is hard not to miss. The fruit that is grown locally; passion fruit, guava, mangos, bananas, pineapples, kiwis and the like will never be found on the shelves at an American grocery store. All of these are available as fresh juices at most any decent restaurants and will make one never drink juice again in the States. The vegetables are just as good, albeit a bit varying. Potatoes, as mentioned earlier, are smaller and seem to be less “starchy” for lack of a better word. Avocados, peppers, carrots, corn, zucchini, squashes, etc…are all freaking incredible, tasting almost different than their American cousins. Part of this can be attributed to the excellent soil here, also the growing season, lack of pesticides and fertilizers. Everything is “organic” to a fault…can’t really find anything “un-organic”. It makes me a true believer and I will miss it.

Kenyan food is also very, very good. The spices are much different than what is used here. In Kenya, there is a lot of Cumin, Peppers, Mustard Seed, Coriander, Cilantro, and Pepper Corn used. In America, the all-time favorite is SALT! I had forgotten just how salty food is here…nothing like turning to beef jerky after our first Tex-Mex meal here…and just about anything else prepared “out”. Foods in Kenya are much simpler, very tasty, and very well prepared. Traditional meals consist of a starch (usually Ugali, a mixture of maize and water that turns to a doughy bread-like paste), a protein (either lamb, goat, fish, or especially chicken) cooked in something of a stew. Nyama Choma (Swahili for barbequed meat) is usually goat cooked a long time over charcoal and is really, really good too. The fresh fish the coast offers along with world-class chefs provided me some of the best meals I have eaten in my life.

The chicken is very fresh and very small…not pumped with growth hormones, steroids, or any other crap. We do not eat much chicken here in the States because…wait for it…”it tastes like chicken!” Kenyan chicken does not taste like chicken, is not stringy at all and very, very good. The fish is fresh from the coast or from Lake Victoria and is unparalleled with exception to coastal states here in America. Shrimp (prawns) the size of my daughters forearm are available cheap and cooked to perfection.

Kenya has crap food too, one just has to look very hard to find it…

8: Freaky Cars and Trucks

Let me preface this by saying that I have probably forgotten more about cars than most people will ever know in their life. That being said, cars and trucks in Kenya might very well have been from another planet. Other than Landcruisers, Range Rovers, and Mercedes, everything else would never be found on the streets of the states. TONS of Toyotas that would appear to be weird to Americans like the “Vitz”, “Noah”, ”FunCargo”, and various other tin-cans that double as coffins were everywhere. I call them coffins as they are incredibly small and one accident with a Matatu and it would be just as easy to be buried in it. Lots of small station wagons by Toyota, Nissan, and Subaru…seem to be the “Camry” of Kenya. Also of interest, it seems that a 1.5 Liter motor is considered a large motor in a vehicle. When I told locals that my truck back home had a 5.3 Liter engine…they stared in disbelief! Motorcycles, by an overwhelming majority, are powered by 125 cc engines…nothing like the 1340 cc Harley Davidson motors found everywhere on the roads here. The Mitsubishi I drove here was powered by a 1.3 liter engine and, by American standards, would be considered a sissy vehicle (by me too). Even large trucks were powered by 2.4 liter diesels…something no self-respecting Texan would ever allow on anything other than a lawnmower… Also, the PRICE of these things! Nothing on the road sells for less than $5000…even pieces of crap. Used vehicles that would sell for $12,000 in the States sell for $36,000+ in Kenya. Over-the-road trucks…not a Peterbuilt, Kenworth, or Mack to be seen. “Tata’s” (ok, I admit, I love that name and still giggle), Mercedes, and Nissan trucks rule the road and belch black smoke like a volcano. Where I was starting to take zero notice of cars here in the States…maybe outgrowing my infatuation with the automobile…Kenya brought interest and novelty that had been lost for some time.

7: Diamond Plaza

I say “Diamond Plaza” as a prelude to an entire community…the Indian Community. There is a huge East Indian community in Kenya. So large that they even have their own shopping center named Diamond Plaza. Here, like many other places in Kenya one can find EXCELLENT Indian food, DVD’s (maybe pirated?) for $4 that includes 10 different movies on it, and almost anything else possibly “shady” or imported from India. Kenyan Indians have their own identity and seem to be more accommodating to “outsiders”…or better said, “white’s”. Maybe it is a Sikh thing? A Hindu thing? Not for sure, but even the elders of the community seem to be more open to new things and accepting of others cultures. Not all of them are Engineers or Doctors either! Now, I can already hear members of my family chiming in about this and all I can say is….refer to the second paragraph please…

6: The Coast

White sand beaches, fresh seafood, and a slow pace of life; what is not to like? Where Nairobi has everyone walking around in Dockers, long-sleeve button-up shirts, dress shoes, coats and ties…Watamu has cutoff jean shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops! MY KIND OF LIVING! It just does not get any better than this…except for the German and Italian expats that live there and tend to be buttholes…

5: Kenya Wildlife Service and its Parks

The Masai Mara, Nairobi National Park, Tsavo East/West National Parks, Amboseli National Park, and on and on and on; Kenya has done a fantastic job of protecting not only its national beauty but its flora and fauna too. Growing up watching “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and later NatGeo, Discovery, Animal Planet makes it totally kick-butt to see these things live and in person. Preserving the area for the “Great Migration” with over a million wildebeest…awesome; and watching the crocodiles feast on them is even cooler. The Kenyans love their natural resources (other than the MP’s, but that is another story) and it rocks that they preserve it in such pristine splendor.

4: Wildlife in General

Driving home and seeing a “tribe” of Baboons on the side of the road really sticks with a guy from the States. Driving home from Watamu and seeing Giraffe and Zebra grazing along the highway really brings the scope home. This is the last wilderness, the last frontier where natural beasts roam wild most anywhere they want to. The birds are all different, the bugs are wicked-cool (even caterpillars after the fact), and having monkeys visit a picnic has its pluses too. Probably no matter where one travels to, around the globe, things are probably different. On reflection, having lions, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, baboons, hyenas, crocodiles, and tons of others…that is just pretty darn cool.

3: Hakuna Matata

As soon as we landed in DFW…we knew we were home in more ways than one. Sour attitudes, folks brushing by with scowls on their faces, and service folks who feel they are entitled to be buttholes because they are paid to assist folks. Everyone here is in a rush. Rushing to get to work, rushing to get through work, rushing home, eating dinner fast, maybe getting some net time in just prior to going to bed then repeat the process four more days. During that time, folks probably look at their watch/clock 200 times, have reminders on Outlook for meetings, Blackberry’s flashing messages and meeting notices, cell phones ringing non-stop, all the while life is flashing by at light-speed…all the while we are missing LIFE! Repeat four more days, then go to the weekend and run kids ragged to sporting events, make it to the shopping stores, be pious and go to church on Sunday, then who knows what…catch up on weekend homework missed, mow the lawn, kick the cat then repeat previous steps for Monday morning.

If the Lion King did nothing else, it brought us “”Hakuna Matata”…or better stated in English, “No Worries”. Life goes by at a much slower pace and folks don’t stress out. If there is a meeting for 2:00pm and something comes up, Hakuna Matata…it can start later. Or, can be postponed until tomorrow. It is almost a Kenyan mantra, “…why do today what one can do tomorrow?” Nothing happens fast and nobody expects anything to happen fast. Stress does not exist, folks do not get pissed off at the slightest thing…matter of fact, I never saw a meltdown the entire time I was there (except for an American at a restaurant, go figure)…took only about 20 minutes of being in DFW before experiencing a wicked one! Folks in Kenya don’t let things bother them…I admire that.

2: General Cool Factor

There is something to be said about telling folks you live/lived in Africa. Period.

1: The People

What makes it all tick; all come together is the people of Kenya. Taking all the points listed previously adds up to a cool population. Walk anywhere and talk to anybody and they are quick to offer a smile and a “jambo” (hello). Does not matter if they are dirt poor or the wealthy elite; it was very easy to make raifikis (friends) in Kenya. From the gardner to the Askaris (security guards) to the landlords to the guy who owns the huge industry, they all responded in kindness and generosity. Everywhere we went, folks would talk to us, our daughter, ask us how we were doing…it was nice. Even the folks at restaurants, ice cream parlors, gas stations, etc…would remember our names and address us as such. People of the world could learn from Kenyans…from their general population. Not so much their elected officials…but ours suck too.


Full Service Gas Stations:

Never get out of your car and they always ask, “Clean your windscreen and check your bonnet sir?”

Cadbury Chocolate Bars:

Enough said…


Excellent Italian food…better than most I have tried in the States.

FM 105.5:

Heavy Metal late nights…Classic Rock Weekends…

Grilled Corn:

A tasty Kenyan treat

The Mehta Family:

No one could ask for a better, all-world family; a model for all.

“Flexible Pricing”:

EVERYTHING is negotiable pretty much. Put on your “little bastard” hat and get HUGE discounts.
If someone were to ask me, I would recommend that anyone interested in Africa visit Kenya for an amazing experience. This is my second time visiting and would/will go back in a heartbeat…all the bitching and complaining aside (and that can be done just about anywhere one goes) it is truly paradise.



Early Reflections and Ramblings....

Well, it is definitely nice to be back in familiar surroundings. Houses with carpet, hot and cold running water, etc, etc… Jet lag is definitely a pain, especially on infants…which in turn makes it harder on 40 year old parents too. We have been back for one weekend, albeit a very busy weekend, and still are trying to get our hands around the changes. The family appears to be happy their grandbaby is back…probably us too. It has been a whirlwind of activity, so I am going to try and document it so that our daughter will have it for prosperities sake.

After about 26 hours of travel from Nairobi to Dallas, we finally arrived, a bit haggard, relieved to finally be home. Flying with an infant is a bit of a challenge, no way around it. We have been really blessed with a happy baby and all things considered it was not that bad. This time around, British Airways was not that bad and actually helped quite a bit. We never had a problem with the on-plane staff and, as usual, they were awesome. My wife had a business class ticket due to spending our points…me, I was back in cargo, er “World Traveler” class. Without asking, the staff upgraded me to Business…man, I could and cannot thank them enough. We had a cabin to ourselves with a basinet so it made things really easy. Also, the five hour layover in Heathrow is definitely bearable when one can take advantage of the BA Executive club. Aside from one episode, it was a very uneventful flight home. Captain Dumbass (that would be me), left his laptop on the airplane upon arrival at DFW. Now, in all fairness, getting off a plane with all ones crap, their wifes crap, and their daughters crap (including stroller) is a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, the dudes cleaning out the airplane were honest, found my laptop and returned it to baggage claim and we were off!

Because we had planned on being in Kenya a bit longer than we ended up staying…we had a TON of baggage. Showing up at the airport in Nairobi with nine overweight bags and trying to get them all shipped out was a real challenge. Normally, in Nairobi, one can flash a few bills and get a lot of things done. It is pretty much like that everywhere there. One can actually get used to it after awhile. Can’t get a seat at a restaurant? Flash some cash. Don’t want a speeding ticket? Flash some cash. Got too many bags and don’t want to pay the fees…seems they want a LOT of cash. Fortunately we were able to get it all on but we did draw some suspicious glares upon arriving at DFW. Loading up three luggage carts, all over stacked and over loaded…hey, we made it home, right? That is what I was thinking…

Because the in-laws brought two vehicles (they had to because of our luggage), I got to drive home from the airport. It was a bit unnerving after so many months driving on the left side of the road. Also being used to just pulling out in front of someone when you want to go or want to change lanes makes for a bit of a challenge too. It works freaking great on the freeway driving my Avalanche. Some butthole doesn’t want to let me in? I still remember 9th grade geometry stating that no two points can exist in the exact same place at the exact same time. That seems to apply to vehicles on the freeway too!!! Just move like you don’t care and they will make room for you. I have learned to ignore “hooting” (honking ones horn) and can just smile as I drive along. So, if you are driving in DFW, you see a silver Avalanche with its turn signal on…don’t be a butthole. I’m coming over one way or another and I’m willing to test that point/time/place theory.

After arriving at my in-laws house, the chaos started. We have three; very cool nephews aged 11, 7, and 4 that were really happy to see their cousin return. We were completely shot after traveling and unloading the luggage yet again and struggled to hang out and be sociable. Our time clocks were still telling us it was around 3:00am…our faces looked like it was nest week. Our poor daughter had circles the size of hockey pucks showing but she was a real trooper. By the time we got all our ducks in a row, visiting done, and ready for bed, it was pretty much 8:00am for me and there was no sleep in the immediate future for me.

FRIDAY! No “Thank God its Friday” here…Friday sucked! Seeing how we sold our house to move to Kenya we were officially homeless for the first time in our lives. Fortunately, we have a great friend that offered us his home to “squat” in until we find our new home. He is currently working on a military assignment in California (Engineer) so it worked out really, really well. Moving our crap…that is another story. While my wife worked diligently to get our daughters first birthday party ready, I was moving previously mentioned luggage back and forth to the new pad. Add to that we had no food, toilet paper, soap, nothing. Running on vapors, we managed to get all of our stuff done and moved into our new temporary home…just one thing. THE FREAKING AIRCONDITIONING BROKE! Ok, we have been living for the past four months without air conditioning…shouldn’t be that big a deal, right? September in Texas…someone did not get the message that summer is over! It has averaged 95+ degrees with God knows how high of humidity… Constant sweat running down ones butt crack is pretty special as is sleeping in a pool of liquid-like sheets. Add to this that we do not have television service or Internet service installed yet and I begin to wonder if I am back in a really, really hot and uncomfortable Nairobi? We did get a window unit for the bedroom finally, but the rest of the house just plain sucks right now.

Saturday was the BIG DAY! Our daughter’s first birthday party, being held at my wives friends house, was to start at 1:00pm. We had grandparents in town, 20+ friends and family showing up, cakes ordered while still in Kenya to pick up, a big honking bounce house to coordinate and we are walking around like “Night of the Living Dead”… All things considered, it was a smashing success. The cake, that my wife obsessed over for about three weeks slaving online, hours of international phone calls to bakeries, and thousands of pictures compared…ended up being very, very nice. The bounce house, which I initially scoffed, was a big success with all the kids…who woulda thunk it? I took the easy way out and manned the grill, cooking hamburgers and hotdogs…that was definitely the safest place for me. It was great catching up with friends and family, seeing familiar faces made being home all the more special. Sunday, we had a second birthday party for some other family members that were not able to make it Saturday and an opportunity for us to be able to catch up a bit too. That was an evening party, got started a bit late and ended up getting home around midnight that night…sleepy baby in tow. Needless to say, Monday we did not get a whole lot accomplished

Tuesday was the BIG DAY! My wife started her new job. The upside is having a job setup to come back to so quickly, the downside is having a job you have to go back to so quickly. Considering the jet lag, long weekend, no air conditioning, and the baby she was going to have a tough go of it. With her having to get up at 3:30 in the morning to make a 6:00am flight sucks as does getting home at 7:00pm that night. I don’t know which was harder, her having to go to work or her having to live with me taking care of our daughter all by myself. I don’t know if she was expecting to come home to a wrecked house, Rayna walking around with a day-old diaper hanging precariously by a single strap and covered in food and dirt… She probably had good reason to be concerned all things considered. However, I think she was pleasantly surprised arriving to a house that looked pretty much the same as when she left and a baby that was clean and happy to see Mommy home. The next big step will be Mommy being gone for two days starting Thursday morning…overnight and can Daddy bathe, feed, keep up…again, she probably has reason for concerns but this author feels it can be handled.

All in all, we have not had a lot of time to reflect on being back…and that is good. Being busy helps get on with our lives and assimilate back to the hectic pace that is living in the U.S.A. Where we were going bananas in Kenya not having anything to do, not knowing many people, and wondering what to do with our time; now we are having time blaze by and not able to keep up with the things we want to do, need to do, and even expectations of others...what they want us to do. Looking back, I do not think I necessarily miss living the “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle in Kenya…yet. I am, however, very glad that I had an opportunity to do it and just may look forward to reliving it in the future. Maybe the 2nd birthday? Time shall tell…

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Returning to the a Top 10 List?

Ok, I cannot tell you how nice it is to be sitting the club lounge here at Heathrow…back in “civilization” again. Food I recognize, climate control (forgot what air conditioning felt like), and generally feeling like we are back in the 21st century again. What a treat it is to have TRUE high-speed internet again…wow. I am happy with it, even thought I HATE London Heathrow Airport. Security SUCKS, there are LONG walks everywhere…definitely not kid friendly…and I am still pissed about how the treated my wife a few months back. I can overlook that for the conveniences for the time being….

With us leaving and I am sure that I am forgetting a lot, I wanted to include a “Top Ten List” of things I will NOT miss about living in Kenya…..


Sure, there are mosquito’s everywhere…especially in Texas! Matter of fact, there are some times I would think it was the State Bird, not a pesky insect that itches. Here, they are really tiny but pack a big punch! The guidebooks and medical folks will all tell you that one needs not to worry about mosquito’s in Nairobi, mostly because the elevation is between 5500-6000 feet. Talk to any Niarobian and you will find they have ALL had malaraia at least once…usually a few times more. Folks we know have had family members die from malaria…and these folks got it HERE IN NAIROBI! So, maybe the guidebooks are full of crap? I don’t know, but especially when you have an infant in your care, you really have to step-up the care. Every night…come hell or high water…we plug in the VAPE’s and install the chips. VAPE’s are very small appliances that have heated elements on top and a slot that allows a wooden chip to be slid directly on to the element. These wooden chips are soaked in some kind of mosquito killer and they appear to work decently enough. We have two of them, one for our daughter’s room and one for our bedroom. It works great in our daughter’s bedroom as the door remains shut…our room, not so much.

Invariable one hears the “buzzzzzzzzzzwheeezzzzzzz” at around 3:30am and gets up. It SUCKS not having proper screens here…really ANY screens for that matter. Our daughter has a mosquito net that she sleeps under, which is a must for an infant…in my humble opinion. The wife and I have learned to sleep in long-sleeve shirts, long pants…and DO NOT LET ONE’S FEET HANG OUT FROM UNDERNEATH THE COVERS!!! My toes are chewed beyond recognition…one day I will learn this. Additionally, I have started a new form of “artwork” in our small rental home. Trying to see exactly how many different splat-marks I can get on any one surface…ceilings, walls, you name it. On average, I probably kill 10 mosquito’s a day in our home. There is a virtual cloud outside…I am very proud that our daughter has yet to be bitten.

The final thing to add to the list…I will not miss the smell of DOOM. Doom is the local bug-killer spray and it smells like a combination of Raid and inner-tubes. Supposedly it is something you can spray inside and not bother ya, but in an almost 500 sq/ft house…a mouse could fart and it would stop your breath…much less Doom.


We have our house cleaned six days a week. Each day, our house is swept, dusted, furniture wiped, counters and walls wiped, then the floors wet-mopped…and there is still dust every freaking where. The dirt in this part of Kenya is very, very fine…makes sand seem like boulders. Add to that the windows do not seal properly and if one wants any kind of air-movement, the windows have to be opened sans-screens. Tennis shoes need to be washed weekly to remotely resemble anything other than reddish-brown hues, our daughter’s pajamas are almost permanently brown at the knees and feet, and when you wear sandals your feet turn a funny color almost immediately. Socks are stained reddish-brown around the ankles and one can almost taste it. Go to any restaurant, anywhere in the city and take a wet-wipe to the table and I guarantee it will come away brown…makes you wonder?
Of real concern, electrical components suck the crap in like no tomorrow. The netbook I am using for this blog REALLY needs the dirt unloaded out of it soon lest corn start growing out the vents. It definitely shortens the lifespan of anything electronic, especially anything that has a cooling fan cycling air through it.


Kenya is one of the most well connected countries on the continent…other than South Africa. Seems like that is a mantra here…”We are almost as good as South Africa!” Most anywhere you go, you can get internet access. They have wireless networks that span the city (for a fee). Most every mall, coffee shop, cyber cafĂ©, etc… has “high-speed” internet access available either for free assuming you buy something from them or for a small fee. Funny that they call it “High Speed”! IF this is high-speed, then I assume the regular-speed internet is a bunch of monkeys pushing zero and one buttons, sending them one at a time, back and forth between ones computer and the outside world…
The best I have been able to find is a 3G dongle available from one of the local cell phone service providers, SafariCom. 3G is blazingly fast in the States and I was excited to have it available here prior to my arrival…then I got here. It is somewhat expensive…but what convenience isn’t in Kenya? If one wants to actually “Use” the net, it is VERY expensive. Sticking to mostly just emails (assuming folks would quit sending 1MB + files), a few low-res websites, and an occasional web search…one can get by at “close” to the cost in the States…but service is spotty, speed is really variable, and there does not seem to be a way to network the modem. That is the part that REALLY SUCKS! Only one person can use it at a time which means that our only means of entertainment and contact with the outside world has to be shared. If my wife and I had not watched Sesame Street growing up, I am sure there would have been a blood-bath by now.

Finally, I bought a new netbook, purchased an upgraded version of Skype with local number, a VPN (a tunnel that makes it look like my internet connection is in the United States) all so that we could communicate with Grandma’s and others back in the States utilizing the really-cool video conferencing feature and also unlimited local calls to the States. Both sets of Grandparents got new netbooks so that they could also easily utilize the features and we spent considerable amount of time getting it all setup prior to our departure. What a kick in the butt to find out speeds are not fast enough here to really use it and it is too costly, regardless…at least the phone works well…


When I first arrived in Kenya, I had a hard time learning how to deal with the power outages that were almost common where I was initially staying. Coming from the States, it was a shock to learn how to operate without it. Imagine at around 4:00pm the power goes out and probably does not come back on until 2:00 or 3:00am…just try to imagine it. Not just the entertainment…how do you cook? You can’t go out after dark to get food…you have to be careful about the refrigerator being opened too much… It gets dark at around 6:30pm every night, so you are operating by candles and flash lights…there would be looting and rioting in the streets of the U.S.A. if this were to happen. Now imagine your car is out of gas…and the gas station can’t pump gas because of no electricity. The “Pain in the Ass” list is endless…yet the locals here take it all in stride. Electricity is a luxury, not a necessity…something I will NEVER get used to. Hearing the neighbor’s high-dollar electrical generator kick on each night gave me serious bad-thoughts…

Then, shortly after my wife arrives here in Kenya amidst all the adversity…the government decides to start “Power Rationing” the next morning after their arrival! THAT was special! Not only did they start it, but the screwed up our area and had our electricity shut down 6 days a week instead of the prescribed 3 days a week for the first two weeks. Finally getting past that, our power is now shut off at 6:00am every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. It usually turns back on around 6:00pm. I am sure that does not sound like it is much of a big deal…and it wouldn’t be if we were working…or had something to freaking do. Because we don’t, we sit around the house and stare at each other (it seems) until the power comes back on. It gets really expensive as each “dark ages” day we have, we try to go to a mall, eat out, and generally keep ourselves from going mad. Again, electricity is a luxury…but this writer believes it is one luxury that is borderline necessity. Think no electric coffee maker, no microwave, no hair dryer, no radio, no tv, no light, no internet, no charging cell phone, no refrigerator, no water, no electric stove, no electric oven, wiping your butt in pitch blackness…sure that is a sweet picture for ya.

The really sad thing is the rationing could have probably been prevented if not for the corruption and stupidity of the Kenyan government. They have allowed…almost encouraged the destructing of a huge forest that acts as the single largest watershed in Kenya. This is large enough that it also affects rain patterns too. It is truly sad that it seems Northern Kenya (and maybe the entire country) may slowly become part of the Sahara Desert if they are not careful


Surviving on Monopoly Money for almost four months is tough. I know it does not make sense, but it seems that Kenyan Shillings (KES) do not really have any intrinsic value. Actually, 77.53 KES seem to be worth about a dollar…kinda like Rain Man, “..what’s that worth? Oh…about a dollar.” Now, go to the grocery store and buy things that range between 20 KES and 3450 KES, or 300 KES per 100 Grams… Go to the Foreign Exchange Bureau (Forex) located at any mall, change in $100 USD and feel RICH getting 7530 KES in exchange… An average dinner costs between KES1300-2200, and a coffee is approximately KES280, 40 diapers are KES 1680, jar of baby food is KES 195, a liter of fuel is KES 80, liter of water is KES 120, and 500 ml of soda is KES 70. A 32” LCD TV is KES 47,995 and butt paste for our daughter is KES 1070 for 500ml. Cell phone time comes in increments of between KES 100 to KES 1000, and variable how long it lasts depending on text messages vs. phone calls and which network they are made to. All of this adds up to a humongous pain in the ass to keep track of how many U.S. Dollars one still has in the account. Sure, the locals probably are reading this and thinking, “…what? Oh, and KES 1000 is about $13…


I am really, really looking forward to being able to go about anywhere, at anytime, and not worry about either being mugged, carjacked, or even screwed because I am white. Sounds kind of selfish, I know…but I am comfortable with making that statement.

Never before in my life have I worried about going out at night. Of course, I also did not go to less-than-desirable neighborhoods. Too bad all of “Nairobbery” is a pretty crappy area once night falls. Knowing certain areas and certain roads are really prone to carjacking is one thing…but there is a percentage chance anywhere that it might happen after 8:00pm or so sucks. In some areas one has to really worry about pick pockets, thieves on the roads breaking into your car as you drive in traffic and most importantly…ONLY THE BAD GUYS CARRY GUNS!!!! I like the fact that, in Texas, if someone tries to rob my house or myself, I can blow their F’ing head off. I like the deterrent of having a gun I can use in case of emergency. Kenya is a PERFECT example of why our 2nd Amendment rights are so very important. When only the criminals carry guns and can act with impunity as there is no fear of retribution…your city gets called “Nairobbery” instead of “Nairobi”. Can you tree-hugging pansy’s get this through your pointy little heads? Seriously?

I am also looking forward to “one price” at all stores. When a white guy/Mzungu/Cracker/Whatever walks into some places…even National Parks…they can expect to immediately pay a higher price. Walk into any pharmacy and all prices are negotiable…they will charge whitey much more than local Kenyan. I can understand why they treat Mzungu poorly and prefer to provide service to locals prior to Mzungu…I can deal with it. However, having to figure out what the Cracker Price List is prior to buying anything or going anywhere sucks ass. Can you imagine if, in the United States, someone charged an African American person more…because they were black and they could? Dear God…I cannot even imagine…Jesse Jackass and his merry henchmen would be crawling out of the woodwork.


Montezuma’s revenge is not just in Mexico anymore…when there is water due to shortages. Cattle dying in the streets, nasty diseases… But most of all, DEAD RATS IN THE WATER SUPPLY!!!!!!! Enough said.


As has been documented, many times, on this blog…I will not miss the crap they use as an excuse for beef. The Texas Cattle Growers Association would sue if they knew they were calling it “beef”. All the rest of the food is pretty good and some of it WAY better than in the states… Potatoes are really different…a big one is the size of a golf ball…baked potatoes have a bit of a different effect here. Chicken, better; Indian food, better; Italian food, better; Hamburgers, taste like ass…


I lived in Los Angeles during the Summer of 1994. While sitting on the 405 freeway in Long Beach, I thought I had experienced pollution at its finest. Actually, it was like fresh-air compared to parts of Nairobi! Big trucks belching black smoke…small trucks and cars belching black smoke too; it is amazing to see what no emissions standards can do. I am in no way, shape, or form giving the tree-hugging sissies in the States any credit…but I have a growing appreciation for the changes made in 1974. Just like L.A., there are mountains VERY close that one never really sees (or used to be that way in L.A.), eyes burn on the freeways, and we slowly got used to the fact that we had to address BBS (Black Booger Syndrome) upon reaching home each afternoon. Headaches and sinus problems have been paramount…and we thought that leaving the allergie-ridden middle of the United States would solve them? Nope. Pollution headaches are worse. Sure, a mediocre health care system, abject poverty, and lack of education probably are the key indicators of the shorter lifespan of a Kenyan compared to an American…but breathing in all this black crap cannot be helping…


At last, the thing I will miss the least…FREAKING MATATUS! All things that suck about driving in Kenya (almost) can be attributed to these stupid things. Kenyans all seem to accept that these buses-of-death have an unalienable right to drive like buttholes. They can cut anyone off, regardless if they are clipping along at 100 Km per hour or if traffic has been standing still. They can drive on the sidewalks, swerve any direction without notice…I guarantee if one let loose about 20 of them in the States…they would all be shot dead within the hour.

Traffic, albeit chaotic, seems to work for Kenyans though. Slowly, I have learned that if I want to cross a busy street, I just plow right ahead and know that the oncoming cars “should” stop. With no rules and folks can still get to/from their destinations without thousands of deaths is beyond me. Add to this the worst roads on planet Earth…seriously, I think one could see some of these potholes from space…it is truly amazing in retrospect. Regardless, I am ready for the driving experience that is only available in the States…smooth roads, rules, and order. In a big-ass truck driving on the “Right” side of the road..A la Americana….



Sunday, August 30, 2009

Last Weekend in Kenya

Well, we are starting to pack our bags, get used to our surroundings, and still having some unique, truly “Kenyan” experiences! As said before, our departure is bittersweet at best. I cannot help but feel angry, at times, for the reason we have to leave. Supposedly, from many angles, people have told us that there must be a higher/bigger plan for us. I am prone to believe that as I follow those lines. Still doesn’t take the bad taste out of my mouth. Regardless, there have been a ton of “experiences” that will not only make us better, more rounded people but also more tolerant too.

This weekend, we got up and took a bit of a trip to the Langata Giraffe Center which is about a kilometer or so from our house. Was really cool to see the Giraffe’s up close, feed them. It is a private conservation center that has a few different species of Giraffe’s and it is quite cool to hear them called by name as well as hear about their individual personalities. Our daughter had a great time and was really geeked about them. I got some decent pictures of her feeding them and some of the wife too. They had a turtle exhibit with turtles the size of a large suitcase…seriously, I think you could put a saddle on these things and s…l…o…w…l…y ride off into the sunset.

We have rediscovered “DP” or Diamond Plaza. When we came here a couple of years ago, it was our favorite place in Nairobi. Because I was learning how to drive and just learning how to navigate the city…and DP is quite a bit away from Karen…it had presented some challenges. I had perfected the long drive to Westgate Mall, which is the small slice of Americana we indulge in about once a week, and finally realized a couple of weeks ago it is actually quite close to DP. So, took an adventure, drove for 10 minutes when I could have actually driven two, and figured out how to get there and back!

DP has the best Indian food I have ever eaten. My in-laws are first generation Indians that immigrated here in the early 1960’s, my wife was born in the States. Because of the in-laws status, they eat a ton of Indian food…they prefer it to American food (and I kind of agree with them on some of it). I hate to say it, but this food is better than what we eat out in the States (and some home cooked meals). Period. The food has almost zero grease, really fresh ingredients (their Palak is to die for). The best dosas I have ever seen/eaten in my life (thank you Chowpatys). They take service to a whole new level too. Imagine walking up to a table in an outside food-court. Then imagine 15 Africans mauling you, almost literally, shoving menus in your face…all talking at once…all reading the menu to you, trying to be louder than their compadres… That is the one thing that sucks. To the un-initiated, it would be an experience that would make you never go back. I sat there and took it all in for a minute or so and then noticed my wife was about to blow a gasket as they had taken to touching my daughter and her toys…that is a huge no-no in my wife’s book. So, I yelled out loudly, “…either back the hell off or we are leaving!” Mzungu are easy prey…they are not supposed to talk back like this…they just shell out money, right? Finally, this Mzungu is starting to get used to being Kenyan…just in time to leave. Funny, we knew who we were going to eat from prior to sitting down. This happens every time and it starts to become humorous after awhile…I cannot imagine how my family would react if I brought them here…the waiters would probably be bleeding if I brought Grandma and Auntie Paula….*snicker*

DP is not just a food place, it also has a ton of different stores that are all oriented towards the Indian Community. The Indian community is quite large here in Nairobi. In the late 1800’s, the British brought over a TON of Indians from India to build the railroad from Mombasa to Uganda (the lunatic line). Seems they brought a bunch of Punjabi’s as there seems to be a ton more of them than the other Indians. Punjabi’s tend to be a bit bigger, the “warriors” of India and probably much better suited to build a railway than the pencil-neck geeks that are from farther North or South. ****Side note, I am not an expert on Injuns, I am just married to one, have many Injun friends and make observations…no offense meant, so get over it**** Because of this mass-migration, once the railway was built the Indians that were still here saw a great opportunity to open convenience stores, clothing stores, restaurants, and electronics stores (sound familiar US and UK?) DP is the Mecca that is all Indian, for sure complete with Indian Grocery store, liquor store, numerous clothing stores, jewelry stores, electronic stores, banks, computer services, and bakeries. We mainly go for the food but in the past have bought some great clothing for a decent price and awhile back picked up a great getup for my daughter to wear on her first “Indian” birthday party…she is going to look really great! As I type this, I am getting hungry and would just about give up my left arm for Pani Puri, Masala Pappadaum, and Mysore Masala Dosa….I’m really hungry.

With just three days left, we thought we were going to be really boring…mostly packing our stuff up, arranging the shipping of our animals back home…generally just getting our affairs in order. Things had been going really smoothly until a couple of days ago, my wife made a comment that there seemed to be a strange odor in the water. I sniffed it real good and it seemed fine. My wife is pretty paranoid about things like this and it was easy to dismiss it. Considering that water is held in a tank in the attic, it is not uncommon for the water to be a bit “tainted”…if you know what I mean. It is actually well water that is pumped up once a day into a 30 gallon tank that feeds the whole house. A day later, we were bathing my daughter and it appeared that she had gone #2 in the water…it smelled, according to my wife. I smelled nothing and did a VERY close inspection…I kinda wanted her to apologize to our 11 month old daughter for such a horrible accusation! Geeze…make our kid grow up with some kinda #2 complex or something…

This morning (Sunday), we got up and she again complained about the water. This time I smelled it and though “…oh my God, somebody crapped in our water tank!” It stunk…dear God it stunk. I was immediately on the phone, texting our landlord about the feces-infused odiferous present coming out of our water taps. I kept thinking; ok, there is a huge drought, the water table has fallen really low and somehow the sewer has drained into our drinking water well (bore hole). We have great landlords and they had a plumber over here within 15 minutes of sending them a text message stating “Uh, there is the strong smell of feces/sewage coming from our water faucets, can you please help?” When the plumber came over, I started to give him my theory and just like in the States, he was not really interested in it. He had to verify that the water actually stunk…and this guy was pretty gamey himself almost smelling worse than the water. I gave him a glass of it and he stuck his nose in it and almost started to take a drink of it (I thought). Moments before the water touched his lips, he jerked back, looked at us and said “your water smells no good”. No shit…

After working on the problem for a about an hour, we are to the point where we need to get leaving…so I went outside to find both the plumbers outside playing with some steel mesh and a long stick. I asked them if they found the problem…and they said yes…dead rat…we need to get out. I brushed my freaking teeth with this water!!!! GAG! What the hell…how does a dead rat get in our water tank? And just how long does the rat have to be in there before it stinks up the whole house? Dear God!!! STOP THE MADNESS… Come to find out, the critter chewed its way through the lid of the tank to get a drink, fell in and drowned…as they removed it from the tank and walked it through the house the unmistakable smell of road-kill/dead animal permeated the whole house like only something dead can. We spend hundreds of dollars a year on candles, potpourri, glade thingys…and none have come up with the ability to smell up a large area so quickly and efficiently as a dead animal. And this thing was big. If it were spread out it would be about 10” nose to tail.

This has been the final straw in the Kenya Experiment for my wife…she is officially done with it. There have been so many challenges, so many hurdles…and we have pretty much taken them all in stride. However, having dead rat in ones mouth and bathing ones infant in dead rat somehow ices the cake. We are now packing quite happily, looking forward to a real bed, a real shower, and water that does not come pre-soaked in dead rodent…gives eau de toilette a whole new meaning.

We land at DFW on Thursday afternoon after spending about 24 hours traveling and although we will have severe jet lag, sleep deprivation that traveling with an infant can only bring…expectations of family for us to be happy, spend time catching up, going out to eat, and all that crap…we truly look forward to it…and finally watching Fox News after a four month plus deprivation…