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Jeremy in Kenya

Jeremy in Kenya

I’m very excited that after roughly one month, today the Clean Water For All blog went over the 1,000 views mark.  I’ve received a lot of very positive feedback about the posts, the pictures, and the work I’m doing here in Kenya.  I’m really quite flattered that so many people are following along and are engaged in the project.

While I had another great day in the field conducting interviews in the slums outside of Kitale, I’m going to hold off on the write-up until tomorrow.  Instead, I thought I’d celebrate the 1,000 views by posting a bunch of new pictures.  If you go to the “more photos” link under the Flickr section on the right, you can find the 20+ new pictures or catch up if you haven’t seen the full 134 picture album.

Caleb on motorcycle

Caleb on motorcycle

Here are a few of my favorites from the past few days.  Enjoy, and thanks again for following along.

-Jeremy

3 sheep on a motorcycle

3 sheep on a motorcycle

Kenyan landscape picture

Kenyan landscape picture

Kenyan kids

Kenyan kids

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I like to take at least one weekend day to write about something non-work related.  Today, I thought I’d teach you how to respond to 80% of the questions you’ll be asked if you ever visit Kenya.  What’s more, I can do that with just one word, Mzuri.

Random Kenyan boy

Random Kenyan boy

You see, at some point in every Kenyan child’s life, somewhere around the age of 3 or 4, they’re apparently taught what to say if they ever see a Mzungu.  That phrase, which must be yelled with tremendous enthusiasm is, “How are you?”

After you answer with Mzuri, which means good, the next question will always be, “How are you?”   The following question will usually also be, “How are you?”   In fact, it’s pretty common for a group of children to repeatedly yell that over and over, regardless of what you answer, until you’re out of sight.  Of course, they may also decide to join you and wander a mile down the road while holding both your hands.  One kid who was maybe 5 years old saw me from a good 50-75 yards away and after shouting, “MZUNGU!”,  went into a dead sprint until he caught up with me.  At which point he asked, “How are you?”

Of course, if you really want to freak them out, you could respond back with something like, “Mzuri.  Habari asabuhi?” (Good.  How are you this morning?).  At that point, some will answer you with “Mzuri”, but others will burst out laughing and start yelling that there’s a Mzungu speaking Kiswahili.  By the way, if a Kenyan is laughing at you and you ask what they’re laughing at in Kiswahili (Unachecka nini?), they won’t answer you and will instead just laugh more.

Kenyan children

Kenyan children

Tomorrow is Market Day in Kiminini, when there are live performances to promote products.  I’ve seen these in passing, but have never gone to check them out up close.  Weather permitting, I’ll head over tomorrow and take some pictures.  I also hope to show some of the marketing mock ups for the water filters, so make sure to come back and see them.  In the meantime, enjoy your weekend.

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As promised, I thought I’d take the weekend to upload my backlog of photos.  I’ve been privileged to meet some wonderful Kenyans and volunteers since I’ve been here.  I’ve also enjoyed all the animals that wander around the streets or come to visit me in my hut.  I’ve posted well over 30 pictures in Flickr (link to the right), but here are a few of my favorites.  I’ll continue to upload pictures and posts every day or two, so don’t forget to check back regularly.

Alastair and Steve

Alastair (KCP Volunteer) and Steve (Kenyan college student)

Paka Mweosi

Paka Mweosi - my adopted pet (Black Cat in Kiswahili - clever, huh?)

The gang

Josie, Esta, and Emmanuel - Friends and Kiswahili tudor

Kenyan baby sheep

Random baby sheep on the side of the road

Kiki and Caleb

Kiki and Caleb - Kids in the extended family

House guests

House guests

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I thought I’d take a break from the serious stuff and share some random observations I’ve found interesting as well as some pictures of where I’m staying.  Keep in mind that these observations are based on my very limited time here so far.  If any Kenyans find mistakes in what I’ve written, please let me know.

  • I’ve been told that if someone gets caught stealing, the thief tries to run to the police station for safety.  If he’s caught by the people in the community, the consequences are far more dire.
  • Caucasians are called Mzungus.  Interestingly, some people I spoke with said Barack Obama is a Mzungu because he has “light skin” and talks like an American.
  • In Kiswahili, the primary language in Kenya, many words or phrases are different if you’re speaking about a living thing versus an inanimate object.  For example, “where is ____” is different if you’re asking where a person is versus a table.  There is no distinction based on the “gender” of the word like in many languages.
  • You don’t subscribe to a monthly/annual phone or internet plan here.  Most people prepay for minutes.  There are little shops everywhere that sell cards in many different amounts.  You can go by 30 minutes of cell phone service, text the code to the phone company, and off you go.  It’s actually a pretty efficient system.
  • Kenyans, especially less wealthy ones, by and large deal with expense management on a very short-term basis.  The same person drove me around in Nairobi for a few days and filled up the car with a couple gallons of gas ever day instead of just filling up for the week.  Similarly, I haven’t seen anyone buy more than a week’s worth of cell phone minutes.
  • There are very few leisure activities other than sitting with family and friends and talking.  Other than the lack of rock climbing gyms, it’s not too bad.  There is television, but it doesn’t seem to be a cornerstone of leisure activity like in the US.

Here are some pictures of where I’m staying.  There will be more on Flickr later today.

Common Ground for Africa

Common Ground for Africa

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Guest Hut

Guest Hut

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Inside my guest hut

Inside my guest hut

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Chickens taking cover in the rain

Chickens taking cover in the rain

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I’m happy to say that I’ve arrived safely in Nairobi after a very interesting (and very long) trip.  If I learn nothing else from this experience, I have a feeling that I’m going to realize that all the planning in the world isn’t as useful as being flexible and rolling with the punches (those of you who know me already know those aren’t exactly my biggest strengths).

As I mentioned in the last post, I decided that flying through Europe was too risky right now so I gave up my precious business class seats and took a more complex itinerary so I would be “sure” that the trip would go smoothly.  That lasted all of two hours until I landed in Phoenix and learned that my flight to JFK was delayed an hour due to an oil leak.  Once we finally got near the airport, we spent 20 minutes flying in circles and another 20 minutes waiting for a gate.  By the time I got off the plane, my flight to Cairo was about 20 minutes away from departing.

Carrying a 20 lb. backpack and my computer bag, I took off in a full sprint to get out of terminal 7, onto a train to get me to the international terminal, and then my gate in terminal 4.  When I got to the security checkpoint, literally drenched with sweat, I was told the flight was locked and I’d have to wait until the next day.  After about 5 minutes of begging and pleading, someone from the Egyptian embassy happened to overhear me and came to my rescue.  He somehow convinced them to let me through (I don’t know how, but I wasn’t going to question it).  So I made it on, but sadly my suitcase didn’t have the same luck.  I’m hoping it’s en route and we’ll be reunited tomorrow.

The last interesting piece I’ll mention for now is the layover in Cairo.  I had a 10 hour layover and assumed I was in for a long afternoon, when the Egypt Air transfer desk agent asked if I wanted to go to the hotel.  Confused, I kept trying to explain that my flight was that evening and I didn’t need a hotel.  As it turns out, in Cairo, if you have a long layover, they’ll put you on a shuttle bus to a regular hotel, give you a voucher for lunch and dinner at the hotel restaurant, and check you into a room for the afternoon so you can shower and relax… and it’s all free!  I will say I was disappointed to hear the Egyptian hotel pianist playing Celine Dion, but otherwise it was a pretty amazing experience.

I’m heading into Nairobi now, but I’ve put some other pictures up on Flickr.  So far the internet access is good, but we’ll see how it is when I get to the village.  I’m happy that despite a few bumps, I’ve made it to Kenya without any major problems.  I can’t wait to get to Kiminini so I can get to work.

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As good a planner as I am, I somehow failed to calculate in the odds of the Yjafjallajokull volcano erupting and causing a massive disruption to global travel when booking my flights several weeks ago… silly me.  So now instead of flying in comfy business class from Seattle to Cairo via Frankfurt before heading to Nairobi, I have the following itinerary (all coach):

April 21:
5:15 am – 8:03 am; Seattle – Phoenix (2.8 hour flight)
8:50 am – 4:59 pm; Phoenix – JFK (5.15 hour flight)
6:30 pm – 11:15 am; JFK – Cairo (10.75 hour flight)
April 22:
9:45 pm – 3:45 am; Cairo – Nairobi (5 hour flight)

After 23.7 hours of actual flight time, it’s only an 8 hour bus ride or 1 hour plane ride from Nairobi to Kitale, where I’ll take a short bus ride to Kiminini.

I’m still extremely excited about this trip, but now I’m really looking forward to day 3!  Stupid volcano.

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With only about 3 weeks left until departure, the to-do list is fortunately starting to look manageable.  My passport and visa are both ready to go, and I’ve gotten so many vaccinations that I think I’m now immune to bullets and bear attacks (hopefully lion attacks too).  The list of vaccinations includes:

  1. Rabies (3 shot series)
  2. Hepatitis A (2 shot series)
  3. Hepatitis B (3 shot series)
  4. MMR
  5. Typhoid
  6. Yellow Fever
  7. Meningitis
  8. Polio
  9. Tetanus
  10. Flu (regular and H1N1)

In addition to the shots, I also have pills for everything from Malaria to insomnia to Anthrax.

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My name is Jeremy Farkas and I will be traveling to Kiminini, Kenya from April 21 – June 2 to work on an initiative  promoting broad access to clean water.  I’ll be working with a local organization called Common Ground for Africa.  CGA has developed a plant to create ceramic point-of-use water filters dipped in colloidal silver that removes ~99.9% of harmful bacteria and viruses.  I was introduced to CGA through a fantastic seattle-based non-profit called Village Volunteers.

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