Saturday, December 31, 2011

Meru National Park

On Wednesday morning I set off with my friends Dave and Caroline out of Nairobi northeast towards Meru National Park. I was really excited to get out of Nairobi for a few days and see some more of Kenya and some of the magnificent wildlife this country boasts. After finally getting through the urban sprawl of the city we began to travel through lush green country side dotted everywhere with small homes and corn fields. The terrain was hilly for the most part but there were patches of flatter land which was used for growing rice. We passed through many smaller towns which meant speed bumps galore. Being in other countries has made me appreciate the lack of speed bumps in the States. Between the park and my place (approx. 355 km.) there are 259 speed bumps give or take a few. The countryside was very beautiful as we continued to make our way towards Meru with the terrain becoming more mountainous. After a couple of stops we arrived at the park after about 6 hours of being on the road. Shortly after entering the park we stopped at the education center where the main attractions were a display case with a couple dozen samplings of poop from different animals and a collection of "naked mole rats". The poop samplings were actually quite fascinating and helpful later on when we were driving through the park. The naked mole rats were quite ugly to say the least but still pretty cool to look at and watch. After we were finished looking at rats and poop we made our way towards our campsite to get set up and on the way we saw water buck, antelope, zebra, giraffe, and elephants. It is one thing to see some of these animals in a zoo, but to see them in their natural habitat is amazing. After getting our tents and the rest of camp organized we went back out for an evening drive which didn't yield as much game as we hoped but we still saw hippos, dik-diks, and some more of what we had seen earlier. We weren't able to find any maps anywhere so traveling in the park got kind of confusing sometimes and on our way back to camp that night we got slightly turned around, but Dave got us home. When we got back to camp we had a delicious supper of hot dogs, potato salad, and salad and then retired for the night.

Camping in the middle of the African wilderness is just a little bit different than campin in Central PA. In PA you don't really have to wonder if maybe hippos will come out of the nearby stream during the night and trample your tent or any other number of wildlife strolling through and snooping around your camp. Our camp sight had an abundance of baboons and monkeys nearby and they certainly made their presence known during the night. There were multiple times where they seemed to be a little upset with each other and there was a chorus of screams and shouts which didn't exactly make for great sleeping.

We got an early start on Thursday, 5 am, with hopes of catching some lions and other night time critters before they disappeared for the day, but we were largely unsuccessful. Since we just came through the rainy season the vegetation was quite tall which made it very difficult to see very far or spot smaller animals. There could have been lions 10 yards from our vehicle and we had no chance of seeing them. We drove to the Tana River but got there a little to early to see crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks of the river. We returned to camp and had breakfast and then relaxed for the afternoon. We headed back out around 4 and made our way to the rhino sanctuary with high hopes of seeing rhino but ended up not seeing any. We continued to drive around and we still got to see a number of animals including water buffalo, wart hogs, and many more elephants, zebra, antelope, giraffe, and other animals but once again no lions. After polishing another wonderful supper we went to bed early again in order to be well rested for an early start. Thankfully it seemed as if the baboons and monkeys had resolved their dispute from the night before because it was a fairly quiet night. The campsite host said that he had heard lions roaring near the camp during the night, but I must have been sleeping too soundly to hear anything.

Friday morning was another early start and we ventured out for one last chance at seeing lions and once again they eluded us and we didn't see one. Thankfully there were still other animals including our first ostrich sighting. We arrived back at camp, ate breakfast and broke camp and made our way out of the park back towards Nairobi. It felt so good to get out of the city for a few days and see God's amazing creation, but as we got closer to Nairobi I actually got excited to be back in this crazy city. For the first time it felt like I was going "home" and it was nice to get back to the friendly confines of the guest house.

I'm off on another safari trip on Tuesday, this time with my brother Chad. He arrives on Monday morning and then we are off to Kenya's most famous park, the Masai Mara. I have great hopes of seeing many more animals including lions for sure.

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope you all have a safe and joyous start to 2012!

Of course you have to take a sign with the Equator sign when you pass by it.

Naked Mole Rat

Water Buck

What an amazing creature to see in the wild.

There were about 6 hippos here at this pool, but it was hard to get good pictures of them in the water.

Baobab tree


The crocodile infested Tana River.

Leopard tortoise

Beautiful African sunset.

Our campsite.

My friends Dave and Caroline.

Our safari vehicle, Dave's Toyota Hillux.

On our way out of the park we ran into a family of Ostrich.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

A very big Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone and since I'm in a former British colony, Happy Boxing Day. I really didn't know how I would feel on Christmas. You see, Christmas is the time of the year that I love the most. I love the music, the food, the cold weather, the giving and receiving, the time with family and friends, all of it is wonderful. Well, a lot of what I love about Christmas I don't have here which is why I wasn't sure how I would feel. It made me realize though that maybe I've put too much emphasis on these other aspects of Christmas and not enough on Jesus himself. How easy it can be to forget that when you live in the States where Christmas has become so commercialized and the true meaning of Christmas seems to have been diluted somewhat. The story of Christmas is so amazing and so out of the ordinary and it was really good to reflect on that more this year.

My Christmas day wasn't extremely eventful and I did miss being with my family, but I really did end up having a good day. I spent most of it here with my friends here at the guest house. I got to skype with my family and with another good friend, I tossed some frisbee around, and then enjoyed a very good meal at the guest house for supper. All in all I can say that my first Kenyan Christmas was a very good one.

The center closed last Tuesday so I've been on my Christmas vacation since last Wednesday. On Tuesday the one group of English students had a little party which was quite fun. We played some games and had a bunch of snacks. On Thursday I went with my friends to a water park. I was just as surprised as you that there would be a water park here, but sure enough we rolled in and there it was. It wasn't exactly the best park I've ever been to, but it was still fun. They had probably about a half-a-dozen slides, some of which were decently fast. Saturday I went to a Christmas Eve brunch at some other friends' house. They had quite the spread of great breakfast foods and since breakfast is my most favorite meal of the day I put away my fair share of calories. Today is Boxing Day and I enjoyed a nice lunch with my neighbors and then played some more frisbee.

This week I'm going to Meru National Park to do some camping, hiking, and check out the wildlife. I'm very excited to get out and see more of Kenya and hopefully next week I'll have some pictures to put up from my trip.

Random thoughts for the week:
- It was great to see the Giants knock off the Jets and their big mouth coach.
- Also really great to see Jimmy Rollins resign with the Phils. It would have been hard to see him go somewhere else.
- My brother Chad arrives next week and I can't wait.
- Skype really is a great invention.

Have a blessed week and a safe and happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Living Out the Hope That We Have

I was challenged this past week to take a look at hope and how the hope that I have affects how I live my daily life. We discussed hope at the home group that I attend on Wednesdays and it was a really good discussion. We talked about what exactly hope is and what it means for each of us and how it does/should affect how we live. Those of us who are followers of Christ have the hope of salvation and an eternity spent with Jesus in heaven. There is certainly nothing better than having that hope in our lives. Does that hope change how I live my life on a daily basis? Sadly, I'll admit that it doesn't as much as it should. I want that hope to permeate every every aspect of my life, from how I interact with the students I teach, the basketball players that I coach, my friends here and at home, to the random people I meet on the streets or on matatus.

Happy Jamhuri Day to everyone! Jamhuri Day is one of the most important holidays celebrated here in Kenya. It marks the date of Kenya's establishment as a republic on December 12, 1964. Jamhuri, in Swahili, means "republic". So I'm at home today "celebrating", actually I can't say that I'm doing anything special to celebrate besides playing ultimate frisbee later on this afternoon.

On Saturday, our season ending softball tournament was held and I am proud to report that my team, the X-pats, took home the championship in dominating fashion. This was the first time in nine years that the X-pats took home the crown. We garnered the number one seed for the tournament and took out the fourth seeded Rosslyn Academy team by a final score of 18-3 in the semi-finals. We advanced to the championship game against the American team and sparked by an eighteen run third inning, rolled to a 30-12 win. I even had two homeruns in that game, mind you they were of the inside-the-park variety, but when there is no fence that is the only way to get them. Which is nice because I can't hit the ball over any fence anyway. The spring season will kick off in late January or early February and we'll be primed to repeat.

Random thoughts for the week:
- The rainy season seems to have finally ended. It has been a week since we last had rain and the weather has turned absolutely beautiful, with daytime highs in the mid to upper 70s with plenty of sunshine and a nice breeze.
- This is the last week for intramurals at Rosslyn. Wednesday we'll have the championship game and then take a break for the holidays and return to action in January. We had to make final decisions on who to put on the two teams for next season, which was harder than I thought it would be. We had to cut about twelve players, most of whom I had become fond of and would have liked to keep around.
- Stella is still running good and there are no accidents to report yet, let's hope it stays that way.
- I'll admit that right now I'm listening to the John Tesh Radio Show on 100.9 The Valley. I'm not really listening for his "intelligence for your life", but more for the Christmas music. I have yet to hear a radio station that plays Christmas music here, which is completely different than back home. There you can't get away from it, here you have to look hard to find anything that reminds you that Christmas is only thirteen days away.
- Huge win by my Giants last night against the Cowboys. I'm liking there chances to ride this big win all the way to the the NFC East title.
- I'm really, really hoping that J-Rol resigns with the Phils. I can't imagine him playing in any other uniform. He needs to retire in those red pinstripes.
- Friday was UW's annual "Pride on Nine" day. This is the day in which all current and past Udub'ers are to wear their UW gear and show their pride. I didn't really have much gear to wear, but I did get a couple of pictures taken in Eastleigh, which I've posted below along with a couple of other random pictures.

I hope everyone has a blessed week and let's all live out the hope that we have in Christ.

With one of my students and friends, Yahyah.

Another student and friend, Fieyssa.

UW pride in Eastleigh.

I was trying to get them to put up a "UW" with their fingers.

Locking down third base, gold glove style.

That's me down at first base, coaching away.

More coaching, helping out the elder statesman on our team, Peter.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I have decided to name my newly acquired motorcycle, Stella, in honor of one of my all time favorite Seinfeld clips. The clip presents Elaine, a little loopy from pain medication, meeting Jerry's Aunt Stella. Upon meeting Aunt Stella, Elaine begins to immediately yell out "Stella" in a deep throated voice. I just watched the clip and it makes me laugh every time. Random, I know, but that is what I came up with. I rode Stella for the first time on Tuesday and was instantly reminded of how much fun it is to ride motorcycles. I feel bad for those of you who don't ride, because you are missing out on one of the greatest joys in life. Riding here in Nairobi is definitely different than back in the States. When I hit a line of traffic, I just ride right by it instead of waiting in line. Why wait when it is perfectly acceptable to go to the front of the line? Stella isn't exactly like my Wee-Strom but she gets the job done. She actually has more power than I expected, seeing is how she is only a 185cc. With a little roll on the throttle she can easily pass any slow poke drivers. I look forward to many more adventures and quality time spent with Stella. (pictures of Stella below)

Happy December to everyone. It is hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner. It is even more hard to believe when I am sitting here in shorts and a t-shirt on this 75 degree day. There also aren't as many decorations plastered everywhere reminding you what time of year it is. I'm listening to Christmas music as I type hoping that it will help induce more excitement within me for the upcoming holiday.

Random thoughts for the week:
- I'm happy to see that the NBA will indeed have a season this year. The league is way too popular right now for them to forgo an entire season.
- A torrential downpour last night caused flooding all around my apartment. There was a good foot of water in the driveway and in the back yard. The neighbor children certainly enjoyed the newly developed "pond" in the backyard. Once again an example of the poor drainage system here.
- For whatever reason, I've been more dedicated to jogging since I got here and I actually am enjoying it somewhat.
- I'm also reading and journaling, two things that before were nearly non-existent, especially the journaling. Who would have thought that reading books could be so enlightening?
- We only had one basketball practice this week. We got rained out on Thursday. (pictures of the boys below)
- The managers of the Guest House returned from their time in the States on Thursday night and I'm looking forward to hanging out with them and getting to know them better.
- I randomly started driving on the right side of the road the other night and was quickly reminded that that was the wrong side as I saw headlights coming directly at me. I quickly corrected the problem and returned to the left lane where I belonged.

With my new friend.


The Snow Leopards

The Panthers

The Spicy Wings

Team Aqua

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Kenyan Thanksgiving.

For the second year in a row I was able to experience Thanksgiving in another country. Last year we were on our motorcycle trip and spent Thanksgiving day touring the Mayan ruins at Tikal in Guatemala. It is obviously very different being in a country where Thanksgiving is not celebrated, but at the same time knowing that all of your friends and family are celebrating one of the truly greatest holidays ever established. My Thanksgiving day wasn't really any different than any other day. I went to the Center as usual, although I did come home a little bit earlier just for the sake of having somewhat of a day to celebrate. While at the Center I led a discussion on Thanksgiving with one of the groups of students. I told them all about the holiday and why we celebrate it and then I had each of them share what it is they are thankful for. It was really neat to hear what each of them had to share. That evening I was able to skype with my family, grandparents, and some of my cousins who were all at my parent's place to celebrate. It was really good to see all of their faces and hear there voices again. Unfortunately there was no big meal, for lunch I had to settle for grilled cheese....haha. On Monday night I did get to have a nice big Thanksgiving meal with my neighbors and some other friends. I really enjoyed the time to be together and share with each other what we are thankful for and how God has blessed us over the past year.

On Wednesday I started coaching at Rosslyn. I thought overall the first day went pretty well, but there is certainly a lot of work to be done. I'm coaching with another girl who is a little younger than me and her mom. We have about 35 boys that we are working with, which can be a challenge in itself let alone trying to help them improve their game. I'm looking forward to the challenge though and being able to get to know each of them. I know this blog is lacking in pictures so I'll try to get some taken at practice this week, so you can see what I'm doing there.

Random thoughts:
 - I bought Kellog's "Frosties" yesterday, which are the U.K.'s version of Frosted Flakes. They were super expensive, but I didn't care, I just wanted to eat some Kellog's cereal. I had some this morning and the first bite brought me instant happiness and I thought to myself, "this is how cereal is supposed to taste".
 - My shout out to Liberty last week obviously didn't help and once again our season ended in disappointment. Oh well, we'll try again next year.
 - I'm learning to not take for granted electricity. It usually goes out a handful of times a week and last weekend it went out for a good 24 hours. It seems that every time it rains hard, it knocks out the power and lately it has been raining a lot.
 - Speaking of rain, when it starts to pour here the roads have water rushing all over them within minutes. The whole drainage system here isn't exactly what it needs to be.
 - I'm starting to play a lot of sudoku again. There is just something really addicting about that game
 - Last Sunday there was a fundraiser lunch at the Thai embassy for the flood victims in Thailand. I've never eaten much Thai food, but after eating a considerable amount of food there I'm now in love with Thai food. I now want to go to Thailand if nothing else just to eat the food.

That's enough for random thoughts. I hope everyone had a a blessed Thanksgiving and has a great week.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I've got to start off by voicing my support for my Flames as they go up against Stony Brook for the Big South Championship tomorrow night. I plan on staying up for the 11:30 pm kickoff and will be praying for a good internet stream so I can watch the game. Now for my video post for the week:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Crazy Baboons!

On Monday, I travelled to an animal orphanage with some of the students from the center. The orphanage is located at the entrance to Nairobi National Park, and is a place of safety for, you guessed it, orphaned animals. The orphanage doesn't boast a large number of animals like zoos that I have been to in the past but what they had was good. I have found that when you visit a zoo in the states it almost always seems that the animals that you most want to see (lions, tigers, bears, etc.) are always hidden. Here they had cheetahs, lions, hyenas, and a leopard, all of which were in clear view. One of the more interesting aspects of the orphanage was the baboons that freely scampered around the grounds. Now if you've ever seen a baboon or know anything about them you know that they can be aggressive and somewhat dangerous. One look at their teeth and you can tell that if they got a hold of you they could dice you up pretty good.  Because of this, I did my best to steer clear of any them that began to approach me. There was a group of young school children there as well and at one point the baboons began to get a little feisty towards them. Naturally, this had a fairly traumatic affect on some of the youngsters. Cries of fear and terror could be heard as the kids scrambled away from the unfriendly beasts. Thankfully no one was hurt. The best part of the whole day was the opportunity to interact with the students outside of class. They are a great group, who really like to joke around and have a good time. After getting our fill of the animals we had a picnic lunch and then headed home.

The rest of the week was normal as far as my daily routine was concerned. I found out that I will not be getting "my" bike until the end of the month, which is later than I had hoped but I guess I can be patient. I accepted the middle school boys basketball coaching job at Rosslyn Academy and will begin there the week after next.

Switching gears, this week was probably my most difficult since arriving here. This doesn't mean that I have been super depressed or desperately wishing that I wasn't here. I just seemed to find myself missing my family more and realizing that I won't be able to see them for another six months. I realize that this isn't an extremely long amount of time, but at times it feels that way. I miss wrestling, playing ball, and just spending time with my nieces and nephews. I miss hearing little Kaci Dawn exclaim, "Uncle D" with a great big smile every time she sees me. It is during these times that I am reminded of how great a family I have and I thank God every day for them. It is really nice to have a family that I can indeed miss spending time with. I've also found myself missing my home area in general and the openness and freedoms that are available there. The open spaces and the freedom to simply go out whenever and wherever I want is something not as readily available here. The tragic events that have transpired at Penn State over the last week have also been extremely hard to swallow even though I am thousands of miles away from there. It has been hard not to think about what is happening there and how dramatically it is affecting so many peoples lives. It is stunning to think that this has happened at an institution and to a coach that I have always held in such high regard.

Despite having somewhat of a down week, I will not allow the emotions that I'm feeling to overshadow what I know to be true. And what is true is that God is good and faithful beyond comprehension. I am very thankful that I am here and for what God is teaching me. I know that God still has many things that He wants to teach me and do through me and for that all I can simply do is praise His name.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Motorcycling in Kenya!

Big news this week, at least for me it is....I've gained access to a motorcycle! I haven't exactly ridden or even seen the bike yet, but it seems pretty certain that I'll be cruising the Nairobi streets on two wheels very soon. I've certainly missed riding my bike, and while this bike won't be like mine, it will serve my need to ride just fine.

Now that I've filled you in on the big news, let me recap what else has happened recently. Thankfully things have remained calm here since the two grenade attacks last week. However, I don't think this means that the danger of a major terrorist attack has passed. On Wednesday, I met with the athletic director at Rosslyn Academy, which is an international school here, to discuss the possibility of coaching one of their middle school basketball teams. They are very much in need of coaches, so it looks like I'll get my first opportunity to do some coaching. I will start later this month and go there two days a week to start and beginning in January I'll be going three days a week. I'm excited for the opportunity to get connected at the school and be able to connect with the boys and hopefully be able to have an impact on their lives. I will still be going to Eastleigh, but on the days I go to Rosslyn I will have to leave a little bit early from the center.

As what usually happens when you spend more and more time with people, my relationships at the center continue to get better. I think this was my favorite week of working with the English students. Yesterday one of the girls brought me some Somali anjera and some stew. Anjera, at least Somali anjera, looks like a thin, porous pancake. I had told her that I wanted to try some so I could compare it to Ethiopian anjera, and to my delight she obliged. Both are good, but I think I like the Somali version a little bit more. On Monday, one of the English groups is going to an animal orphanage for a little field trip. I'm excited to go along with them and be able to interact in a setting that is different than the classroom. I'll be sure to take pictures and post them next week.

Now for those of you in cold weather locations and have already been hit with snow, let me offer my condolences. I've been having to deal with temperatures that occasionally dip into the upper 50s at night and if it gets really hot will reach 83 or 84 during the day. It has been raining more lately, so it isn't quite perfect all the time. So while most of you are putting on more layers, I'm putting on more sunblock to avoid getting burnt.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Into the Bush.

As some of you might be aware, there has been some unrest here over the past week. Kenya's military has taken action against the Somali militant group, al-Shabaab, within Somalia's borders. Al-Shabaab is responsible for a number of kidnappings of foreigners within Kenya's borders. They have threatened to retaliate for the actions of Kenya's military and last weekend the US Embassy issued a warning of an imminent terrorist attack in Nairobi. The main targets are believed to be nightclubs and malls that are frequented by foreigners. On Monday, there were two separate grenade attacks, which killed one person and injured close to thirty more.

So how have these developments affected my life? Well, on Tuesday, I stayed home from going to Eastleigh after receiving strong encouragement from people who are more experienced than I to do so. Wednesday I wasn't planning on going to Eastleigh anyway, so that worked out in a way. Instead, I went with my neighbors, Quincy and Joanne, to a remote Masai village in the Rift Valley (see pictures below). Quincy was going to do some beekeeping education with some of the locals. This trip offered my first glimpse of life outside of Nairobi, and what a different life it is indeed. After passing through the outskirts of Nairobi, we began to descend down into the valley and entered an area that I would describe as semi desert. It reminded me a lot of parts of Nevada and Arizona, with its scrub trees and bushes. The road that we traveled on wasn't exactly a road. I've been on farm lanes and ATV trails that were better. The car we were in, a Toyota Corolla station wagon, wasn't exactly built for the terrain, but somehow it got us there and back. There were only a few times when we had to get out of the car to lighten the load, so it wouldn't bottom out on the large rocks that were very prevalent in some spots. The trip took us about three hours total.

After arriving we were greeted with cups of piping hot tea and bread. I'm not really sure why they drink such a hot beverage when it is 90 degrees out, but never the less I accepted their hospitality and proceeded to burn my tongue on the tea. After more locals showed up, Quincy and a Masai man named Joel donned beekeeping suits and began to check the hives. As they worked, Quincy explained what they were doing and why. After several hours of being educated on the ins and outs of beekeeping, we were served a delicious lunch of rice and stew. We eagerly ate the meal and then loaded up the car and began our trek back to Nairobi. On the way back we took a slightly different route, which was a little better, but certainly wasn't going to be mistaken for Interstate 80. I was really hoping to see some interesting wildlife such as giraffes or lions, but came up unsuccessful.  We did however see a couple of dik-diks, which are miniature antelope about the size of a small dog. We also saw a handful of normal sized antelope. We returned home without incident and after a very long, dusty, and bumpy ride taking a nice, warm shower and laying on my soft bed felt so good.

On Thursday and Friday I returned to the center. It was good to be back after being gone a couple of days and work with the students and basketball players again. There was no softball today due to a league bye for all teams. Next week we'll be back and better than ever just like Mike and Mike.

I was challenged this week as I was reading through Matthew 25 and read the parable of the talents. It challenged me to really think about which servant I am. Am I using the talents that God has given me and multiplying them or am I keeping them to myself?

Finally I would like to wish a very big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two of the cutest kids in the whole world, my niece and nephew Kaci and Roman. Kaci turns two tomorrow and Roman turns three.

A view of the valley as we descended into it.

As usual, pictures don't do justice to how bad the road was in some spots.

We passed quite a number of herds of cows and goats.

A view of the compound that we visited.
Me with some of the locals.

Quincy (right) and Joel explaining what is going on.

Some of the local ladies had brought out jewelery and had it on display for us.