Friday, May 30, 2008


Here are three pictures from yesterday. Amanda is in the back of a cab...driving to a location outside of Nairobi for a meeting. You'll notice that she is checking her email through our new wireless internet connection! The third picture is a view of the countryside.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kenyans love John Mayer?

I don't know if they actually do or don't. Every store or restaurant we seem to go into will have John Mayer blasting over their store speakers.

Another epiphany we've had is that Kenya has a large variety of wonderful meat. Amanda has fallen hard for the lamb.

We had another hugely productive day...including a trip to the Snake Park at the Nairobi National Museum. Following are some of our pictures from the last few days.

It is a bit funny...that the driver's ed students must drive around in this type of vehicle. You see these all over Nairobi. They even have large 5 ton trucks marked up similar to this one.

Here is a shot of the Masai Market in downtown Nairobi.

Here is a picture of a Rock Python from the Nairobi Snake Park. There were several this size in that cage. Apparently, they are not venomous...yet because of their large size, they can take down a crocodile.

Here is Amanda bonding with an American Alligator that they had at the Snake Park.

This was one of the best parts of the Snake Park. You can't really see it very well in this picture but there were a bunch of upside down catfish swimming around. These little critters swim....upside down. When they go to the bottom of the tank they then flip over like a normal fish. -

A few turtles and snakes in one of the park enclosures. The two turtles next to the wall were busy butting heads and pushing each other around the enclosure.

The Snake Park is part of the Nairobi National Museum. It was quite an experience getting to see all the venomous snakes that Kenya has to offer....from behind glass. They had puff adders, spitting cobras, black mambas, green mambas, boomslangs and other really interesting snakes. The puff adder was probably the most beautiful, with its very distinctive markings. Interestingly enough, the puff adder is considered the most dangerous snake in Africa.

Kwa Heri!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Off Topic But Near And Dear

In honor of Memorial Day....For those of you that know this:

Of note: When Jeff returned from Iraq in 2005 from his first deployment, he told his father about a gun battle in Samarra between his men and insurgents. When it was over, two children lay dead, caught in the crossfire. He told his dad he would never forget the sound of the mothers' wailing.

Samarra is a pivotal so many people and for so many diferent reasons. Someday, everybody will realize its importance.

Love, honor and support all our military men and women.

Conservation Indoors: Meetings in Nairobi

Hello there! Thanks to everyone for visiting our blog. In just our first week in Kenya, we have already had so many experiences we want to share with our friends and families, and we look forward to keeping you all updated...

So, Chris already gave you all a great update on our first days in Kenya. Today was the first day of real meetings, and I'm pleased to report that everything went very well. Again, the politeness and kindness of the Kenyan people really made the difference. We started the day by visiting the offices of one our main NGO counterparts in the region. What a fantastic group of people! They were eager to share data, knowledge and publications with us, and they easily conveyed their enthusiasm for community-driven conservation.

This afternoon, as Chris was driving around Nairobi searching for research equipment and learning about the culture, I was meeting with a colleague of ours at one of the National Ministries. He was an incredibly enthusiastic and animated fellow, and afforded me a half day of his time explaining the details of Kenyan water laws, his research in the Mara and helpful ideas for my work in the Basin. He also graciously introduced me to one of the Directors of the Ministry, although I didn't know it right away. I just thought we were headed to the copy machine, but suddenly I was being led into a corner office with a view, and a large desk presided over by a very impressive-looking gentleman. He was clearly busy, and it was already after 5 pm, so I was a bit taken aback when he offered me a seat and looked at me expectantly. I introduced myself and, slowly gaining confidence, explained who I was and why I was here. He asked me several questions, looking somewhat skeptical, paused thoughtfully (as I pondered what else I could possibly do for a career) and suddenly agreed to help! As we talked about the path forward, our colleague brought me a Coke in a bottle and a straw, and I sat there sipping it, looking quite ladylike, thank you very much, as we discussed the ongoing conservation crisis in the headwaters of the Mara. Illegal settlement has led to the deforestation of more than 25% of the river's headwater forests, leading to erosion, high sediment load, more extreme floods and droughts, and altered climates, among other concerns.

There's much work to be done here in the Basin, but Kenya certainly has the progressive laws and dedicated folks to address it. I just hope to be able to contribute to the effort. As I told folks several times today, I have been learning about the Mara since I was a child, although I didn't know it then. Every National Geographic and Discovery episode you see has some clip of this amazing river and the abundance of wildlife for which it provides...getting to work on this river is really a dream come true.

I miss being in the field, getting my hands dirty, catching critters, working until you're exhausted and then breathing in the clean outdoor air with satisfaction... but I am both excited and challenged by this new job, and I feel very grateful for all the opportunities it is affording me already, especially opportunities to meet new and inspiring folks. With more meetings and more research-supply-hunting in front of us, I look forward to what tomorrow brings...!

Racing Through Bureaucracy

Well, Mandy had tons of meetings today with tons of different folks. Everything is going much smoother than we had anticipated. Everybody she is meeting with are completely supportive and helpful.

I spent most the day hanging out with our driver. Quite the interesting fella. Learned a bunch about the area and the history of Kenya. Here is a glimpse:
  • There are tons of security guards everywhere. I asked him why none of them had guns and he stated that the gun laws in Kenya are quite strict. Only the police have guns...and a very select group of private citizens that have applied for gun permits. Gun permits are extremely difficult to get as the applicants are severely scrutinized. He then commented and asked me to imagine what would have happened after the disputed December election if every Kenyan had a firearm or access to one. He stated that there would have been all out civil war and tons of Kenyans would have died. He said that instead of civil war, all the upset parties took to the streets with the weapons of past wars (machetes, bows and arrows, spears, etc.). This reality is what kept the casualty count down.
  • The price of living has raised close to 30% since the disputed election and the violence that followed it. A loaf of bread used to cost 25 shillings and now it costs around 35 shillings. The price of gas has also risen from 70 shillings to almost 100 shillings now. This increase in the price of living has really hurt local families. He then commented about how we all know that when a cost never falls again regardless of the circumstances. (I think the exchange rate is currently about 1 US dollar to 60 Kenyan Shillings).

For the record, Mandy and I are watching "Tusker Project Fame" at this very moment on the local channel....some kind of American Idol spin-off. (LEAH - SMS 8 immediately to 3263 to Save Jacob!!!) -


I got some good pics of downtown Nairobi so I'll try and upload them soon.

Kwa Hera! (good bye)

Monday, May 26, 2008

We made it.

Great. Finally. We made it to Nairobi. We've been here a few days now and finally found a nice internet signal and some time, so here we go with the blog. Here are some highlights from the last few days in Nairobi:
  • - Folks say crime is bad here but we haven't experienced anything but wonderfully, helpful Kenyans. However, there is a good bit of poverty here and a rising cost of living....
  • - We had dinner at the Carnivore. The Carnivore is a wonderful restaurant on the outskirts of Nairobi. During dinner, we the title suggests....tons of meat, including crocodile, ostrich, lamb, beef, and pork. The Carnivore was once rated as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.
  • - We had a local meal with two of Amanda's colleagues at the Annie Oakley saloon. Nyama Choma is Swahili for a dining experience in which you choose your piece of meat from the butcher up front and then have it roasted for you in the back. Our piece happened to be 2 kilos of a leg of goat that we shared while eating Ugali - a type of cornmeal that tastes like a cross between grits and sticky rice.
  • - We stayed at the very lovely Gracia Gardens the first couple of nights, but it was a bit too expensive for our budget. I think it was around 70 bucks a night. We made some arrangements and are now renting a room in a four bedroom apartment. That took the cost down to about 16 bucks a night. We'll be in Nairobi a couple more nights and then head to Narok. The apartment is nice because we are staying with local Kenyans and able to cook our own meals...also reducing the cost.
  • - Most meals cost about the same as the states. The prices here in Nairobi are very similar to the states.
  • - We both got two cell phone services. We have a safaricom and celtel sim card for each of our phones. This is just in case one service doesn't work in an area....we can always maintain connectivity. The cell service is quite nice and robust. You can even get a blackberry and have instant email for a price.
  • - We visited the Nairobi National Museum a few days ago. They have a wonderful exhibit on the origin of humans and some very informative displays on different animals.
  • - On Saturday we visited the Mamba Village! Mamba is Swahili for crocodile, and this friendly, family-oriented park had plenty of them, including a big male that the guide harassed repeatedly with a long stick. They also had a few ostrich and a camel at the park. We saw a little green snake swimming across this big man made pond at the park....the snake (nyoka) was just wandering by and not part of the exhibits! The guide even told us that some leopards from a national park nearby were getting into their park and attacking the ostrich.
  • - They have a few movie theatres within walking distance of our apartment. I think we'll hit the Indiana Jones movie in the next few days if we have the time.
  • - English is the official language over here. It is quite easy to get around just speaking English although we are feverishly working on our Swahili.
  • - Things are going amazingly well setting up meetings with contacts here in town. We currently have 6 meetings set up over the next 4 days. The friendliness and politeness of people over here is really very welcoming.
Here are a bunch of pics from our first few days:

An angry crocodile. They make the most amazing hissing/growling sound when upset.
Chris feeding the Ostrich some collard greens.

Mandy and the crocs.

Wall art depicting the man eating lions of Tsavo.
The entrance to Mamba village.

A bunch of crocs hanging out.

Wall art depicting the traditional Masaai circumcision ritual.

Hadada Ibis feeding in the grass outside of our apartment window.

Mandy nestled in her bed under the mosquito net in our rented apartment.

Until next time.....Kwa heri! (Goodbye!).