Wednesday, January 16, 2008

… And What You Can Do To Help

These are the charities I visited on my trip. Please go to your bank to wire money to help. As little as $20 will go a long way. Thanks!!

The Likoni AIDS Orphanage
Contact: Rev. Ernest Omeva (Director)
Likoni AIDS Orphanage
PO Box 96333
Mombasa, Kenya

Email: laop_2001 at yahoo dot com

Mobile: 254 – 722694619

Bank Account: Barclays Bank of Kenya
PO Box 90184
Mombasa, Kenya

Swift Code Barckeny
For the credit of Laop Anzameo
Sponsorship Africa
A/C No. 16-8339658 Digo Road

Likoni YWCA
I will add this information as soon as I get it

Enlightened Support Group
Equity Bank
The Account name is Enlightened Support Group
Account number 0460191704375
Swiftcode EQBLKENA
The signatories are, Chairlady-Emma Rodgers, Secretary-Leah Kusah Anzani and Treasurer-Jackline Ananda.

They find it easier and safer to collect money through Western Union. Pay to: Leah Kusah Anzani

Friends Church
Community of Matuga Self Reliant Christians
PO Box 96583
Mombasa, Kenya
Bank Account: Likoni Friends Church-Galana Project
A/C No. 1101147600, Bank of India Mombasa Branch

The Water Project

No money? Do this for free.

Election Violence In Kenya…

Over the past few weeks, I have been paying close attention to the post-election violence in Kenya. I’ve also been thinking a great deal about things I didn’t write about earlier, because I didn’t pick up on their importance at the time.

Joyce, who guided us on our humanitarian trips for the YWCA, did often mention the elections with noticeable anxiety. I assumed it was due to the constant visits by ambassadors and other officials, who were always accompanied by about a dozen armed guards.

Also, when were out in the city in Mombasa and especially in Nairobi, I was occasionally asked if I was a Kikuyu or a Somali before my American accent gave me away. Since I was not paying close attention to the elections at the time, I wasn’t aware that parts of the election tensions were due to ethnic tensions between the Kikuyu tribe (Kenya’s largest ethnic group) and the Luo Tribe (Kenya’s largest ethnic minority1.) So the real question they were asking me was “Are you [not] one of my people who is heavily invested in this election or are you a foreigner from a neighboring country who only kind of cares?” I thought they were asking “Are you a Kenyan or a tourist/immigrant?”

Immediately after the violence broke out, I sent this email to Leah:

I am praying for your safety. When you get this, please let me know how to send funds to you. I want to make sure you are safe.

She normally gets back to me in 2-3 days (when she gets money to go to the internet café), but it took her eight days to reply to me with this – (sic throughout)

My friend the situation in KEenya is pathetic.I have been indoors for 8 days.We are confused imagine i read your message and could not understand it so i replied the name of the bank of our group.Later I read it again and you are requesting for my account .Mine is with co-operative bank of Kenya-Digo road.Account name is Leah Kusah Anzani, [redacted].

One of the women of the enlithtened Support Group lost her 10months old baby boy on 31 December for all hospitals were closed and was burried without us attending for violence kept everybody indoors.

Pray and Pray for us.

Yours forever,

Leah Kusah

Also, this is an email from Jennifer – (sic throughout)

Hi Victoria,

We have been very concerned about the people; i did get a text messge from Paul and Richard they are not well but alive. Both said the communication is so bad, I will get back with you later this week. [redacted]



These are just some of my thoughts for now, no real analysis. Maybe later.

1 Coincidentally, America has a presidential candidate who is part of America’s largest ethnic minority group. Barack Obama’s father was a Luo.

Monday, December 3, 2007

November 2, 2007

I arrived in Amsterdam at 6:00 am local time, and stopped in an airport café for breakfast. I sat in the non-smoking section, and relaxed there for the first half of my six-hour layover. I looked up at one point and realized that there were about five people on my side of the café, while the smoking half was standing room only. While the Europeans were blithely smoking their cigarettes and drinking their espressos, the Americans seized the opportunity to make a spectacle of themselves – “Omigod! We can smoke – INDOORS! Can you believe it?” Seriously, is it that big of a deal? Worse, the flight directly to Seattle was packed, but my scheduled flight to Detroit has 136 empty seats. I was scared this was a bad sign. What’s going on in Detroit? I was wrong – I had a whole row to myself to sleep in.

I was delayed out of Detroit, getting to Seattle an hour late. No problem – home sweet home.

*There is an art museum in Amsterdam’s airport. It’s a great way to enjoy a layover.

November 1, 2007

The horror – check out time = 10:00 am. Flight = 11:00 pm. BJ, Mama E and I went to the British Airways travel agent to finalize their tickets, which lead to another fun adventure. The large building across from the hotel that was covered in British Airways banners had a British Airways office – that was not open to the public. We had to go to the agent down the street, who rolled her eyes at me when I asked her why she was still displaying a British Airways ad with the Twin Towers on it. Classy. The rest of the day I spent walking around the area or waiting in the lobby. While in the Hilton Hotel Shopping Arcade, I actually had someone try to pull the Nigerian email scam on me in person. Yes, he really asked for my account info, so he could send me...blah, blah, blah. For about five hours Jean, Keith and I chatted in the lobby and waited for BJ and Mama E. At 7:00 pm, the driver took us to the airport. We said our goodbyes at the curb of the airport, even though I assumed I’d see Mama E and BJ in Customs. I was wrong – I’m glad I got my hugs in while I could. Off to Amsterdam!

* A few matauts, in order to charge higher rates, had TVs in them (I never saw that in Mombasa)
* What I did see a lot of in both cities were matatus covered in (faux) Nike logos or other popular American brands, and athletic teams (college and pro) – these were status symbols more so than decorations.
*On the way back I watched A Mighty Heart, Hairspray and Dodgeball. A Mighty Heart is a very good movie, but so disturbing and depressing I had to watch two ridiculous comedies in order to sleep.


Jean and Mama E

Mama E and Jean

Wait! Don't take the picture yet!

Wait! Let me take off my sweatshirt!

A gift from Jean

A gift from Jean

BJ, Keith and Jean

BJ, Keith and Jean

Keith, jean, BJ and Mama E

Keth & BJ

BJ with her “Samburu son”

Me & Keith.

I have no idea what I’m doing with my hand in that photo

Parking Cops

The Revenue Generators are the same worldwide.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

October 31, 2007

The day started with an unpleasant awakening – the hotel thought we were checking out that day. According to our itineraries, Mama E and BJ were supposed to be going home, but I was staying the night. In a couple hours, we fixed everything – the hotel didn’t give us the boot, and Mama E and BJ extended their stays one extra day.
I was excited about just using the day to relax. That didn’t happen. I paid Star Travel & Tours $79 for a driver plus $500 KSH admission to spend my day at the Giraffe Center. It turns out my driver had a gig on the side. On my way to the Giraffe Center, he made several drop offs and pick ups – even attempting to leave me at a minimall while he made a drop. Once I paid to get into the Center, not five minutes after walking in, he was nagging me to leave. I finally ditched him.
After getting away from him I had (a little) fun. My tour guide, Becky Wanjau, started my visit by helping me feed the giraffes treats. The giraffes have huge tongues and drool everywhere. This surprised me so much that on my first attempt, I dropped most of the treats. She gave me a second chance, this time feeding two at once, and I was successful. Once I finished the feeding, we started the tour of the Center. The Giraffe Center was built to protect the endangered reticulated giraffe, and they are released into the wild when they are three years old. The giraffes I was feeding were older – mother giraffes used for breeding. There was a “multimedia room” (a theater with a TV) that displayed pictures on the wall drawn by local school children. They were on sale for $1000KSH each – the money goes toward sponsoring visits and environmental education.
On the Center grounds there is also an area protecting leopard tortoises, most of which were brought in by people by the side of roads. The tortoises have become vulnerable due to shell poaching and the pet trade. I left soon after, my driver made more deliveries (of course), and dropped me off at the travel agency, where I made it clear how pissed I was that I shelled out a total of about $85 USD for that nightmarish experience. After a blithe, “yeah, he shouldn’t do that” I returned to the hotel unsatisfied, but determined not to blow a fuse.
I thought it would be a good idea to take out my frustrations at the gym. Since the trainers did not seem to understand the phrase “go away,” that was almost a waste of time. I decided to end the gym excursion in the steam room. However I didn’t bring a swimsuit with me, so I hoped I wouldn’t stand out too much in my tank top and underwear. I was wrong – I was the only one not nude (this was a single-sex steam room, by the way.) But after my crazy day, I wasn’t fazed at all. I just relaxed until dinner.
Since Mama E and BJ had already eaten and were tired after a long day, I ate dinner alone. I just watched TV – CNN International was on in the dining room. Top stories included Barack Obama’s questionable dancing skills on Ellen, the cheerleader in Auburn who was run over by the football team, and Britney Spears’ custody battle. Also, both CNN International and BBC World News referred to Luke Walton’s infamous own basket as “a type of ‘own goal,’” since I suppose a soccer reference would be more familiar with the global crowd. (Now I kind of sympathize with those international journalists who, during the World Cup, got testy with American journalists trying to explain soccer by using other sports as references.) Somehow, I thought international news would be above all this.
Near the end of dinner a woman barged into the restaurant screaming in Swahili, pushing her way past hotel staff and shoving money in customers’ faces. Since I couldn’t understand what she was saying, I couldn’t assess if she was armed and/or making threats.
After about 10-15 minutes of ranting, enough police arrived to escort her out. My waitress didn’t come back until a few minutes after the commotion, and I paid and left quickly in case the woman came back.
I watched TV for about an hour, and then went to bed.

* In Mombasa, many of the local restaurants and hotels were advertising Halloween parties. Nothing of the sort in Nairobi.
* On the drive to the Giraffe Center, we passed through a neighborhood of Nairobi called Karen, named after Karen Blixen. The area was once coffee farms, as the Out of Africa author was a coffee farmer. The area is now being turned into country clubs and luxury subdivisions.
*The Giraffe Center was fun; I wanted to do a real safari but they were $120USD+
*There were greenbelts and “how to preserve the environment” signs all over Nairobi.


A reticulated giraffe

A reticulated giraffe

"Gently on the tongue"

Feeding the giraffe

Time to feed the giraffes!

Becky helps me try to feed them again.

Becky shows me how to feed the giraffes

I dropped most of the giraffe treats

The little boy didn't drop a single giraffe treat

They sure can drool!

Feeding two giraffes 3

Two hands!

Feeding two giraffes 2

Feeding two giraffes

The view from the upper deck

The multimedia center

The multimedia center

Tourguide Becky Wanjau

Tourguide Becky Wanjau

Students' artwork

Drawings by local students

The Giraffe Centre grounds

Giraffe Center grounds

The entryway of the Giraffe Centre

The entryway. Notice the three photos on the wooden beam in the back? The bottom one is of Barbara Bush’s visit.

Students' project
Students’ project

A warthog.

Warthogs aren’t endangered, but they normally associated with giraffes in the wild

A giraffe and warthog

In the upper deck

A leopard tortoise

A leopard tortoise

Leopard tortoises

I opted against going into the tortoise enclosure, even though it was allowed

Mealtime for the tortoises


Thursday, November 29, 2007

October 30, 2007

Today was our last day in Mombasa. We left for Nairobi, where we checked into the The Stanley Hotel. The first hour or so was hectic. Jennifer, Mama E and BJ had already been through Nairobi on the way to Mombasa, and most of their luggage was at the travel agency, which was just around the corner from the hotel. They had to leave it there because domestic flights in Kenya has maximum allowed baggage weight of 20kg (45 lbs). While they got luggage, I went to the room. It’s a good thing that we arrived at the Stanley during the daylight hours, I spent the five or so minutes I was in the room alone flipping the switches up and down, too embarrassed to call the front desk to ask how to turn on the light. BJ finally arrived and told me how it worked – there was a slot next to the light switches for the room key – that’s what powered the electricity in the room. As I mentioned earlier, Kenya is very eco-conscious. Not only does the key operated light prevent hotel patrons from leaving the lights on when out of the room, but the Stanley, like the hotel where BJ, Mama E and Jennifer stayed in the Mara was solar powered. Therefore, between midnight-4am, the electricity was turned off – key activation or no. Anyway, once we settled in the room, we went back to the lobby.
Mama E has been coming to Kenya since 1985, and Jennifer and BJ almost as long. In one of their early visits they met then small children Serah, Keith and Jean, who are now all in their late twenties. After an excited reunion, Serah and Keith took BJ and me down to the Maasai market, a weekly outdoor market about four blocks from the hotel. The market was absolutely insane – packed with tourists, no walkway, and people coming from all directions trying to sell any and everything. We probably walked a total of one city block in about an hour, but were completely worn out at the end. After sitting to relax for a few minutes, Mama E joined us at the market. I then did a second tour – walking with Mama E in a failed attempt to find anklets to take back home as gifts. We spent most of the rest of the day chatting in the lobby; Jean talked about her three children, Keith taught me a few phrases in Samburu. October 30th is my sister’s birthday, so I took minute to call her (left a message – school wasn’t out yet). Later, Jennifer, who was out visiting a friend, joined us in the lobby so we could all say goodbye. She flew back to Houston that evening.
Even though the Stanley is part of the same chain as the Whitesands, dinner wasn’t included with the price of the room. The buffet was $23USD! Ouch!

* In Mombasa, we were way out in the sticks. The resorts are safe but the city is not. Nairobi is a large city (the capitol) and easy to walk around. Obviously you have to exercise caution, but there is no need to be completely reliant on a driver.
*Improve your vocabulary, change the world.


Mama E and Said say goodbye

Mama E and Said say goodbye

Leaving Mombasa

Leaving Mombasa

On the way from the Nairobi airport into town

On the way from the Nairobi airport into down. Just a random building.

Hello Moto


Downtown Nairobi

Downtown Nairobi

Keith, BJ and Serah

Keith, BJ and Serah resting after braving the market

Keith and Serah near Maasai Market

Monday, November 26, 2007

October 29, 2007

Said, Mama E and I spent about three hours cruising around Mombasa trying to find a converter. We worked our way from one end of downtown to the others, and most store owners told us to go to Top Time Electronics. When we finally arrived there, I showed the store clerk the broken converter, and asked if he had one that converted American electronics to Kenyan ones. He barely looked at me, rolled his eyes and said no.
I returned to the hotel, with serious trepidation about telling Jennifer that I had come up empty; she had a paper due the next day. When I got back to the room, she was about to call Top Time, but I told her not to waste her minutes; I was just there and they didn’t have one. She insisted on calling the store, and after about five minutes, explaining what she needed, the owner said they had a one. I interrupted her and said I showed them the converter in person – there wasn’t one there. She double checked with the owner, who put her on hold to talk to the clerk. The owner told her the clerk told me that he told me the converter was there, and that he thought I was “confused.” I was livid. Jennifer insisted on going with Said to pick up the converter herself – I wanted to go to cuss out talk to the clerk myself.
Anyway, I relaxed on the balcony while Jennifer was gone, and, after seeing “Do not feed the monkeys” signs all over the hotel grounds, I finally saw a troop of monkeys jumping from tree to tree right outside of my room. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera out.

That’s it. We otherwise didn’t do anything that day.

*Aforementioned clerk at Top Time was behind security bars with his back turned to the door. All merchandise was behind the bars as well. In short, he would have to get the converter himself. Since the boss wasn’t around, he had no intention of working. Fine, but don’t go lying on me.


Throughout our stay in Mombasa, no matter the ragged/desolate/"Christian Children's Fund" condition of the villages we drove past, they all had spas.