Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Lake Menyare

And again it's been awhile. Not because of sickness this time just because of time and lack of internet. My last night in nairobi was spent with the team and Judy venturing to a restaurant called Carnivore. Guess what they serve?  It took 2'hours to travel the 8km to the restaurant but it was a great evening once we finally arrived. The restaurant was founded by serving all the animals hunted on games drives: elephant, lion, giraffe, zebra.... U get the idea. Now however they just serve exotic meat. I had ostrich and crocodile which was about all I could choke down - especially after being sick. Judy was also sick at the time didn't eat much. We figure that I was recovered from my illness but was still having issues (as was she) due to bottled water which we think was regular water put in a bottle and sealed. It tasted swampy.

Anyway after my last night with a group of people I'm never likely to see again we made it to the airport and caught our flight to tanzania. Our guide David met us there and we were off to Lake menyara. Our accommodation was out of this world. One of those luxury tent things on the top of the great Rift Valley. On the way to the hotel we stopped at a lookout where David asked what the name of our god was. And I'm not lying:  is it Carl or Jesus ?  Can't make that up :-)

The next day we had a full day game drive in Lake Menyara. It was a very empty park so we were lucky enough to spend an hour with a group of elephants. We were within 5 ft of them while they ate and drank and did other elephant type stuff. Saw hippos, baboons, zebra, giraffe and buffalo too but the elephants were the awesomest. Which is Swahili for really cool.

Pictures when I get them downloaded.

Friday, 30 May 2014

My favourite all time sign - like ever

On the way home from Lake Nakuru:

Bob's Funeral Home
Best Refrigeration in the area.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Still didn't answer where have I been...

A regular Monday was spent sitting in taxis and traffic trying to get nowhere fast.  Went to bed around 9:30 and read a book called The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.  The true story of two gigantic lions who feasted on workers as they built the Uganda railroad through Kenya at the turn of the century.  I remember dreaming quite heavily that the lion was causing me great pain in my stomach - literally tearing into me when I awoke with such pain.  6 days later I managed to get on my feet again.  Sicker than I've ever been with what I thought was food poisoning but was likely a stomach bacteria.  After still not being well on Friday I asked to see a doctor.  I was promptly taken to Nairobi hospital for a meeting with Prof. Lule. 

Not knowing what to expect, I was shown into his office where I sat down across from him.  After 15 seconds in uncomfortable silence, he said 'What'?  Just like that.  What?

That was my cue to explain why I was there.  So I gave him my spiel and asked if there was anything that I could take.  Not without an endoscopy was the answer.  And that was that. 

So where have I been?

At least 1 of you has missed me. 

Last weekend (May 17, 18) we went on safari again - this time to Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru.  Known for birds, rhino's, buffalo, zebra and various other kinds of African like animals.  The day started cool at 6am especially since we were climbing up onto the edge of The Great Rift Valley.

Entering the Great Rift Valley
Anyway, it certainly warmed up as I got completely sunburned later in day as we climbed a volcano called Mt. Longonot.  At 2,776m high it is, I'm sure it is the tallest mountain on the planet. 

My knees were certainly telling me that as both were swollen for 2 days after that adventure.  But how many times can you say you climbed a volcano? In Africa.

From there we drove to Lake Nakuru and went on another game drive.  Looking for the ever elusive cats, we saw monkeys, rhinos' buffalo, zebra, flamingos but no cats.  I tried to get a refund but they weren't budging.  We stayed at the Lion Hill Game Lodge which was just fabulous, thank you very nice.  Food was great and the views over the lake were amazing.  I managed to stay away to have a glass of wine in my jammies with the ladies and then crashed - only to be kept awake with my knees. 

More of the same the next day except I skipped a game drive and slept on a lounge chair by the pool until the group came back from lunch.  Stopped to do a bit of shopping on the way back to Nairobi and then played cat and mouse with a very large, fast aggressive bus on the way into the city.  Nasty bus driving man.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Sad fact of life

It is a sad fact of life that the people of Nairobi live with a fairly constant threat of terrorism.  Today the city has again been ripped by explosions - this time in a busy market area not far from the city center.  10 people are dead and 70 injured. 

Never ever take living in the relative safety of Canada for granted.  Nuff said.

Jacaranda Special School

Today we went to the Jacaranda Special School.  This is a school for kids with everything from mild to severe Autism, Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, etc... The school has been around since 1946 and is the only one in Nairobi like it.  They are funded by the government but rely heavily on donations.  Which is where many of you come in.  I took the suitcase of clothes and school supplies that I brought from Canada into the school.  It was added to by many of my teammates who had also brought donations from their countries. 

Prior to our team arriving today, I had gone to the school to meet with Betty who was helping us set up the activities.  We had a long chat about how the school functions and what they need.  It is amazing what they can do with so few resources.  The principle behind the school is to teach each child according to his or her ability.  The basics for some include just looking after their own hygiene but for others they have the opportunity to learn a skill such as cooking, making beds, etc... They are also taught a skill which may help them earn a living.  They learn to knit, do beading and make tapestries.  The work they turn out is so high quality it really is cool to see what they can do.  And since each of these skills requires materials, this is where the money that was donated came in.  Between what I brought from Canada and what my team mates donated here, we had approximately 40,000 Kenyan Shillings to spend.  And spend we did.  Through everyone's generosity we were able to outfit the beading classes for at least this school year.  We were also able to provide enough wool and tapestry materials for several projects.  And finally, we were able to provide a set of pots, knives, sieves, plates, serving utensils, etc... to outfit a kitchen.  THANK YOU TO ALL WHO DONATED.

Now back to the fun.  We had some outdoor activities including sack races, volleyball and ever popular 'hurry and get on your inside out coat and do up the buttons' game.  I WON!  Apparently we suck at volleyball and filling water bottles because the kids beat us at those games.  Once we were done outdoors we went indoors where we were treated to some of the students singing for us.  As well, we witnessed a fashion show where they showed off their finest dress, listened to the school choir and got a history of the school from the headmistress. We were also required to do a presentation and our group chose to sing the Jambo! song - check it out on Youtube - the professional version is quite catchy, ours - not so much.   From there, we handed out about 3 kgs of candy for prizes - not that any of the kids liked that at all!

I am not doing the school justice really in its work and in its mission.  The teachers are really in it for the love of the children because there is no glamour and not many thank yous to this job.  They are trying to expand and help as many kids as possible even as resources become scarcer.  Anyway, enough of that.  It was a great day and I've attached some pictures below.

The youngest member - Gloria and her friend
Alex and her desperate attempt to win

Losing at volleyball

Anne in the fashion show

Some of your donations

Some of the beadwork

Monday, 12 May 2014

Amazing Amboseli

So we had our first of 2 safari weekends outside of Nairobi.  We were picked up at 6am - which I just loved - on a Saturday, but we all had to sacrifice.  We had a boy bus and a girl bus based on who wanted to shop and who wanted to sit in car while the others shopped.  It was an eye opening drive south from Nairobi, especially through the industrial area of town where so many people work and live.  Even at 6:30 in the morning it was teeming with people going to work.  Shifts start at 7am and it is not unusual for people to walk the 15km to work before their shift even starts. 

About an hour outside the city you can find giraffes wandering the fields.  How cool is that?  Not dogs or cats or deer or cows, but giraffes.  Right by the highway!  I still am having trouble digesting it.  As we continued south you can tell the population was thinning out and that we were heading into more rural areas. 
Kenyan drivers
About 3 hours and 28 heart attacks later, we arrived at Amboseli National Park.  Why heart attacks?  Check out this picture. I have to say though that our driver was very safe.  It was just the others :-)


Amboseli lived up to all its expectations.  It is located in Masai country and we were fascinated to learn about the Masai culture and how they still live within their own traditions.  They are a nomadic tribe who travel to where the pastures are. 

Kilimanjaro showed itself as did the animals.  I know I'm missing some here in the list but I remember elephants, giraffes, gazelles, baboons, hyenas, hippos, cheetahs, birds, birds, birds and oh, birds.  Wildebeest, zebras, more elephants and ostriches (which I guess are birds)...it really was spectacular and as I said in the jeep its hard to not think you are looking at a zoo.  It is them in their natural habitat. 

The lodge was very nice and we woke up to find a hippo and and elephant just grazing outside while we had our pre-game drive snack - again at 6am.  I wish the animals would sleep in a little. 

 The view from the lodge on Sunday morning. 

I must say that some of the inhabitants were very rude and just walked into your room unannounced. 
Baboons at the lodge

Seriously, a baboon had the door open and was half way in to our room before I could chase him away.

All in all it was a fantastic weekend and after a little shopping and more animal sightings we arrived back in Nairobi for about 5pm.  Exhausted and dusty but happy :-)

The sounds of Nairobi

traffic..cars honking, revving, driving
drivers yelling
hawkers selling..while in the honking, revving, driving traffic
people talking
traffic..cars honking, revving, driving
people wanting to know about Canada

Thats it.  Short and sweet

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Labda Kesho

Day 2 of meeting clients and watching our teams present. We were last up presenting to the Federation of Kenya employers. A busy, stressful and rewarding day. FKE liked what we had to say and we are off to the races.

We again sat in traffic.  And then sat some more because of the rain. It was our first real downpour of the rainy season and we looked like drowned rats - which really isn't good when trying to make a good first impression .   But we made it through the day and then went for a traditional Kenyan meal at a restaurant that we'll call 'Kenyan meal restaurant' cause I really have no idea where we were.  I do know it was close and that we only sat in traffic for 20 mins which is a current world record.

A traditional Kenyon meal is comprised of many shared dishes which you eat with your hands.   It is rude to reach for your food and to eat with your left hand so when I say you eat with your hands I really just mean your right hand.  Dinner was chicken and goat meat on several trays along with ugali which is a dish of cornmeal and water mixed to a porridge. You then pick apart a bit of the porridge and roll it into a bite size ball which is eaten with the meat and veg together as one large bite. The veg is a either a  salad and/or steamed kale.

There were a few Tusker beers thrown into the mix as we waited for our dinner. And then waited a bit more and then some more until we were 1.5 hours into the evening.  I was beginning to think we had hit on a classic Kenyon opportunity for labda kesho.  We would eat 'maybe tomorrow'.  Total cost:  $13

Sunday, 4 May 2014


Where to start?  How 'bout some 'stats:

24 hours of plane time
3 hours in a taxi to get to hotel
20 km:  distance traveled from airport to hotel
20+ nice, smart, funny people
1+ hours to go ANYWHERE
150 orphaned elephants

1:  number of matatu buses who have hit us


It's been a 48 hour whirlwind since my arrival in Nairobi.  I spent most of the first evening either in line or in a taxi.  Mostly a taxi though with traffic being incredibly bad.   Beijing and Mumbai streets look empty compared to Nairobi.  

My arrival was a whirlwind of introductions and unpacking with a little sleep thrown in.  Saturday was spent at the Sheldrick Trust Orphans Project which is dedicated to the rescue and re-introduction of elephants (mostly) and rhinos (kinda) to the wild after their mothers have died (usually by poacher).  It was eye opening, understanding what it takes to raise an elephant.  It was also sun-burning :-) despite the cloud cover.  We then moved on the the Nairobi National Park for a guided safari walk - certainly a good introduction to the animals of Africa. 

Throw in some grocery shopping and more time sitting in traffic and we arrive at dinner.  A welcome dinner housed at another hotel where we enjoyed some Tusker beer and good discussion around our projects.  About a 16 hour day. 

Sunday was a bit more relaxed with a combination of work and play - this time visiting the BOMAS Cultural Center to see some traditional dances and villages.  Its now almost 10pm and I need to get up and get an early start to the day.  More to come - including photos as soon as I find a card reader since I forgot mine at home.

Thursday, 1 May 2014


After about a hundred hours of pre-work and pre-assignment research, I am finally leaving for Kenya today.  Its been a bit of journey getting here but I'm sure it will be worth it.  I'm flying via Zurich this evening - about 24 full hours of travel.  In coach.  Hooray.  I love coach.  MMM...not. 

I arrived at Pearson to find that Air Canada gave my confirmed seat away. That's always nice. And now I have a middle seat at the back of the bus.  

1 suitcase for the Jacaranda school. 52 lbs. 1 suitcase for me. 65 lbs. several dollars lighter but it will be worth getting the clothes and school supplies to the school.   Thank you to everyone who donated.


Wednesday, 16 April 2014


Here is my challenge. How do I get 41 days worth of clothes into 1 suitcase?  This closet needs to fit in one suitcase. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd be happy to listen.  Anyone????  So far I figure half of what I want to bring will end staying home.

In the meantime, I'm pretty excited to finally receive our team's mission:

The challenge is to develop a sustainable workforce internship model that will expose young people to practical employment experience and skill sets required for productive employment.  We will provide the research and recommendations to put such a program together.  I have been lucky enough to meet with The Canadian Association of Canadian Employers  http://cacee.com/. They are an organization dedicated to bringing employers, educators and students together.  I can't wait to really get going!! 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Corporate Service Corp - Kenya 8

IBM's Corporate Service Corp - Kenya 8

On May 1st, I will leave for Nairobi, Kenya as part of IBM's Corporate Service Corp (CSC).  The CSC is IBMs largest philanthropic program and one of the largest ones in the corporate world.  The Corporate Service Corps was launched in 2008 to help provide IBMers with high quality leadership development while delivering high quality problem solving for communities and organizations in emerging markets. The program empowers IBM employees as global citizens by sending groups of 10 - 15 individuals from different countries with a range of skills to an emerging market for four week community-based assignments. During the assignment, participants perform community-driven economic development projects working at the intersection of business, technology, and society.

#csc kenya