Friday, December 9, 2011


“How to survive in Kenya” come in snippets of writings and advice followed closely by real life testimonials, usually colorful as stories should be in an effort to drive home examples, but always highly unlikely to happen to the individual regaling in the stories.
For example: “If you are stuck in traffic and talking on your cell phone either make sure you aren’t holding the phone in your hand closest to the window or make sure your window is rolled up.  What they do is walk by and grab the phone right out of your hand and run forcing you to make the decision to let the phone go or run away from your car in an effort to get it back, (followed closely by) My friend was on Ngongo Road yesterday and it happened to him.”..This did not happen to me.

True to the form of any warning coming to fruition, and practicing the very American philosophy of “It could never happen to me”, one of these travel guide warnings came true for us the other night.

Stuck in the most hilatious traffic experienced to date, and in Nairobi that is saying a lot, it literally took us 2.5 hours to travel less than 5 miles. The only requirement for this jam of all jams was humor and the ability to use it to fend off any mounting stress from such an uncontrollable force of Africa. The only thing that WASN”T required was seat belts. In fact they were merely a nuisance, so away they went.

Seat belts were the last thing on our minds as we rolled slowly up to the 2 police officers on the side of the road. The very police officers that used their flashlights to summons us to the side of the road for inspection, no doubt because of the color of our skin (an eye opening side-note of this experience)
Here they did the universal “cop thing” and began to inspect the car and all of us with their flashlights and realized that the 2 of us in the back were not strapped in.
“Why don’t you have your belts on?” Seemed an obvious answer considering the traffic we were in, any impending accident would prevent the opportunity to just leave the car in advance, and based on their childlike smiles, we kind of thought they were kidding. They were not.

They informed us that we would have to be taken to jail and see the judge the next morning. Our local driver pleaded with them in Swahili to no avail. They were only interested in us in the back. We were asked to produce forms of ID and then harassed for merely having a semi light hearted beginning to this experience.
Unfortunately, at the time, my California Drivers License (I never daily travel with my passport) was comfortably wrapped up in 1250 Kenya shillings. However; they were asking for much more than the roughly $13.00 I had. They wanted 5000 Ksh to just make this go away.

As we explained that we did not have that money, they began to open my door and pull me out of the car. This was officially getting scary. I reproduced my meager holdings and offered it up to them which they grudgingly took, and sent us on our way.
We were stunned but UN-hurt and free to go home, and somehow, like we do, we found the humor of what could have been. I thought I should have given him the old California treatment and asked if there was something we could work out besides money, and is that another gun in your pocket? Steve thought we should have just gone to jail for the experience, and Ben was wondering out loud “what just happened?”. If nothing else, I foretold exactly how this story is going to progress as I tell it at Thanksgiving dinner in the year 2056. Rest assured it will involve illegal drugs, gunfire, and prison breaks, because in reality, the whole thing was rather foolish.
But I was reminded, lest I forget that I am in a foreign land with foreign practices.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Glass Half Full of Heartache

The very foundation of philanthropic work is a stark contrast of internal emotion out of necessity. Therefore the ability to act on right intentions requires a previously unforeseen balance and resolve that at times seems impossible.

Ok-the "over-worded" introduction has been tossed on the page with as little thought as peeling the blanket off your legs for a bathroom trip in the dead of winter only to return to the couch momentarily, drawing the blanket back up, and returning to your Sex In The City marathon and popcorn.

This is what I am driving at.
For me, wanting to help humans access the very basic of human rights such as health, food, dryness, comfort, etc. came from being exposed to the very need for these items by people all over the globe. "Heartache". On a rudimentary level, you have to weep when exposed to how much we have by birthright in our American nation that is deprived from so many more. "Heartache". You have to feel the appropriate "weight of words" when visual conformation is given to what you have only read about in the past. "Heartache". You have to see muddy feet with no shoes in 35 degree weather.
This heartache becomes the driving force to not just perpetuate the tales, but stop talking about it and start to do something.
Here is the conundrum.
You cannot begin to do something by travelling into these places with a furrowed brow, tears in your eyes, and a dented spirit and expect to have a positive effect.
More often than not you will be politely excused as anybody should that holds the moniker "party-pooper".
They don't need you pity, they don't need your empathy, they have their own.

What you need is a cocktail of desire with an optimism mixer. A true belief that things will get better one act at a time. An understanding that it may not have the dramatic affect you desire but that you are merely putting a very important brick in the foundation of rebuilding, perhaps even a cornerstone.
If you board a plane armed with vigor and arrive in an area that can benefit from your selflessness, you are not going to be eradicating medical issues and hunger, but in your visit you may be positively effecting one person enough to change their lives, and I can tell you this-you won't affect anybody positively with pity, but you can affect thousands through a smile and open hand.

"Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat forever"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kenyans Give!

I suppose that I fell into a category by many who have their hearts geared to the right intention, but armed only with my preconceived notions.
Conversely to many international travelers on a good will mission, I have been blessed with the gift of time. Time to become ingrained in the social fabric that is Africa, time to observe silently the realities of a place so far from home, and time to draw some conclusions that would never be privy to me if I were staying here merely a week or two (not to mention impossible to digest from the comfort of America).

The aforementioned preconceived category that I came armed with, and spent the first month enveloped in was the constant analyzing of how we as a people can bring a bit of our America here to Africa in the effort of global assistance. This was the wrong angle.

While it is most certainly true that we as Americans have many more luxuries at our disposal, and take for granted said luxuries, I have come to realize that it is all relative. Allow me to interject that this is by no means a call down of arms, and that merely by having so many luxuries at home we should all feel compelled as humans to do what we can to help our fellow men and women that need the help anywhere on the planet. Africa still needs help from those that can give it, but choose wisely how you decide to give it.
If you are thinking for one moment that any individual can come here in the effort of being an ambassador and be viewed as having a big American flag as a cape, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. Studies even show that people that want to send money are often thwarted from doing so by locals because of the devalue to their own currency that it brings as well as the red tape it gets caught up in. Very seldom does financial donations find their way to their intended recipient. However; what they lack in money and luxury they more than make up for in fundamentals.

I refer to their possessions as fundamentals, because they are the very lessons that we are taught as children in the USA, but so frequently forget as we acquire assets. It has become my understanding that when possessions are hard to come by, the fundamentals remain. What am I blathering about?

Kenyans give tirelessly. Too each other, to foreigners, to organizations, to everybody but themselves. I have seen a person that has had 20 shillings in their pocket be asked by a person in need for 40. Being short of their request, they gave the 20 in money and their time to make up the difference. This person was no exception. The rule of thumb seems to be "if I have it and my brother needs it, I give it!" no questions, no strings.
This has been a hard transformation for me. I was sitting in the park one day and a gentlemen sat down (rather closely) to me and introduced himself. My first impression was "what does this guy want" and "am in danger". How American of me! After more than an hour of talking I came to find that this man only wanted to meet an outsider and offer any services that I may be in need of from his local knowledge. No angle, No danger...just a brotherly hand.

Before I go any further, allow me to recognize that of course there are those grifters out there that do have an angle and are desperate for some "American" wealth, but it has been my experience that as long as you allow caution to be with you but not allow it to dictate the outcome of a potentially soul fed experience, you can remain safe and open to reprogramming.

My long winded point is this....where the population may lack in money and simple luxuries, they make up for in a deeply rooted foundation of humanity.

In a place where traffic is as bad as anywhere in the world (save for India I'm told) and where there is no such thing as traffic lanes, there is no road rage. NEVER!
In America I get pissed if the guy behind me on the freeway comes within 2 car lengths of my bumper, and I lay on the horn if I even perceive the guy next me might be thinking of merging. Not here. They use their horn to acknowledge the other driver in a "come on over, have a good day" type of way.
I have yet to hear anybody swear here, and I have never seen anybody grimace in disgust at another human beings actions. I have been force fed at a place where they struggle to feed their own residents, people have taken valuable hours out of their day to come hold my hand in an effort to make sure I travel safely from place to place, and I have been introduced on stage to 1000 strangers of the Pentecostal church by their Bishop.

Does Africa need our help? YES, in many ways. But if you are ever given the gift to come and help in some way, let them repay you with the re-lessons that our parents and teachers taught us in our single digit years. You will be getting much more than you can ever give!

Friday, October 28, 2011

KPT- A Blessing and a Curse

I am not sure if I should jump right in to a definition or directly into my defense, so I suppose I will start with a defensive appetizer followed by a definitive main course.

KPT is not derogative!

KPT stands for Kenya People Time, and it is very real. The guide books write about it, and everybody acknowledges it, but it does not really exist until you experience it.
American rap groups, most of whom have never set foot in Africa, coined the very derogative term CPT (colored people time) as yet another acronym that white people are supposed to stray from at all cost of being politically correct, but black entertainers can use at the Appolo to make other black people stomp their feet. Here it is a universally understood, "sink or swim" fact.

The Blessings-There really are no schedules, work or otherwise. With all of the traffic that plagues Nairobi it is understood that somebody may show up for a 930am meeting at noon, and that is alright. The bus does not leave at 11, 1130, and noon. The bus leaves when it is full, which some days takes much longer to fill.
The challenge as an American is to check the American tendencies at the door. Its more than patience that is needed. To survive here for even a week (let alone 2 months) and leave without an ulcer, you have to jump in and swim. Note please that this is a "blessing". Without knowing that an actual remedy existed, I have been preaching for months, nay years, that we (as Americans) need to learn how to slow down, and now we are immersed in the land of solution, but a mighty large pill it is to swallow. Simply put, it is very difficult to un-learn traits, and living by another persons circumstances is nearly impossible. This is a prelude to the curses.

The Curses-I am convinced that Kenya's national food, Nayma Choma, is not all that particularly mind altering or delicious, especially to earn the title "national food". I do love it and look forward to the event every time it is coming but the fact is that no matter where you order it is going to take 1+ hours to make. Not because it is hard to roast meat and chop a few tomatoes mind you, it is only because the person making the delicacy is on KPT. Therefore, when you are slightly hungry  going into the hoop jumping that it takes to secure Choma, you are downright ready to snack on your own toes by the time it comes. This formula could make a national dish out of Ritz Crackers and Cheeze Whiz.

One needs to dig deeper into their psyche and tap the reservoir of patience that was probably last seen in your bassonet, and learn how to slow down. The answer to our pace epidemic is what I have been seeking for a long time now, but even I, in the face of an overdose of KPT at today's Choma marathon, was experiencing first hand anxieties. I didn't know if I wanted to cry, poop myself, punch the waitress in the face, or just take a shark size bite out of Kristen shoulder. All I knew was that I wanted to do something other than wait. All this and I really had nowhere else to be for the rest of the day.

I am fed now and in the comfort of our loaned apartment, eagerly awaiting the thunderstorm that is on the horizon, and very glad that I am not facing any Kenyan charges of disorderly conduct at a public facility, but I swear it was by no help of our waitress Sally, the queen of KPT-Screw that girl, cause somebody has to be at fault...I guess I haven't settled down yet.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We Have Found the Missing Piece

We have been here long enough to have settled into some sibilance of a routine. Long enough to know where we would like to go and how exactly to get there. Long enough to have spoken to our hosts, neighbors, co-workers and the like to find out what our options were for dining, shopping, errands and transport...yet something always seemed to be missing.

In the face of "down time", which there is plenty of, we find ourselves staring and missing our DVR terribly. So much so that we have recently discovered that does not have international rights. So we stare, and do the whole "I don't know...what do you want to do?" conversation back and forth until inevitably we turn on our trusty "go-to"...FLN-The Fine Living Network and hope that we haven't seen this episode of House Hunters yet. Until today....

The "out of the blue" relentless heat put a ca-bash on our walk down the street to the public/free arboretum (so excited that the option still awaits us), realizing that our budget does not allow for such pleasantries as a taxi every time we wish to voyage, and knowing that our small town of Kileleshwa is sleepy at best and offers nothing more than the occasional fruit stand as commerce, a voice resurfaced in the depths of my fading brain....Liza-"I think there's a bar on the next street"......Now wait..don't go getting any panties in a worry bundle...I'm not so bored that I'm going to start drinking. I have taken kindly to a non-alcoholic beverage called Stoney Ginger Beer, and all bars carry that and the possibility of a European Football match on television. So I was off to find out.

First I tested the house phone to let Kristen know that if I did stumble upon an oasis with cheap food, full bar, good people, or even open, I would call her and tell her to get her butt down there, but she could go ahead and stay parked on the couch, because reality is that like being able to catch up on Modern Family, it is just a wonderful dream and not going to happen.

So I set out, took a right (think about that) and ventured to the next street over (100 feet or so) and took a left into the unknown. walked about a mile and found a place to get my hair cut for $2.00 (awesome) and started to head home to the Sunday house of snoozes....BUT WAIT...WHATS THAT? Down the side street closest to our apartment and well on my way back home there were cars parked in front of an un-assuming sign and building, so I went.

Welcome to the Nibs Kileleshwa Hotel Bar and Grill! Truly every bit the oasis I was joking about finding. A shady open courtyard with table and umbrellas lie centered between open air walls on 3 sides and a full (very American looking) bar at the far end, specializing in Naya Choma and breakfast, and 4 different areas with 5 flat screen TVs (as well as a huge movie screen outside for night games. Professional uniformed girls lined the walkway welcoming me to sit down "karibu, karibu" (welcome, welcome). I was too excited to call Kristen so I ran home like Charlie with the last golden ticket.

We walked back the 1/4 mile to the establishment, secured a table and feasted on roasted chicken and goat, irio (see section on choma), kachumbari (Kristen's favorite), spicy chips (fries), beer, and Stoneys. The Manchester United vs. Manchester City game was just getting started and the place was filling up so we pushed our plates aside, reached for a tooth pick and ordered a full roasted chicken to take home and work into meals for the next week (the cooking time is 45 minutes which was perfect since the second half of the game was just starting). We made friends over sporting event camaraderie, were invited back soon and walked home a few hours later a mere $27.00 lighter and set for a few days with our boxed food firmly in hand.

The joy of finding this oasis in a desert couldn't even be undone by getting stung in the lip by an angry bee on the way home...the swelling will go down, but Nibs will still be there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Master of the Bus, but Still Slightly Nauseous

Not willing to be a burden on anybodys schedule or overwhelming sense of hospitality while simultaneously keeping more than a close eye on our precious funds for our very long trip left only one option for transport around and outside this fair city. And a daunting option it was.

I have read, ad-nauseum,about the Matatus here in Nairobi in preparation for this adventure. These are public buses that upon first glance put to rest any Norman Rockwell-esque sense of imagination that these wonderfully tidy vans would slowly cruise down cobblestone streets and a smartly dressed man with a captains hat would punch your ticket, welcome you aboard and toot his whistle indicating the time has come for departure. Rude awakening in regards to Matatus to follow in a few short sentences.

First of all, nothing here is on a grid like we are used to at home. Even flying over the continent on our arrival showed that where I was accustomed to seeing tightly lined boxes of brown and green intersected by 90 degree streets gave way to no boxes, one color, and no streets ( paved streets). Simple skinny paths of dirt connect houses with corrugated roofs (if any roof at all) that are generally miles apart. The only difference between this and a major city like Nairobi is there is no space between anything here in the city. High walled apartment complexes, smoldering piles of burning garbage and huge frames of buildings that I honestly can't tell if they are being erected or methodically taken down.
This lack of grid gives drivers and passengers here the same feeling as if they were driving around Tilden Park in Oakland. Long sweeping streets that vary greatly in elevations, hardly wide enough for 2 cars, no lane determination, and unless well within city limits (where we go dramatically beyond daily) hardly an ounce pavement. Every street here either has pot holes that would swallow a mini cooper or speed bumps that require a lift kit to clear without scraping years off the bottom of the cars.

Our commute is probably the equivalent of 20+ miles and require the very small penance of merely one Matatu and one Commuter Bus; however it takes close to 2 hours each way and handfuls of Dramamine every 30 minutes.

And now the Matatu-These are all de-commissioned Nissan Mini-Vans rode hard and put away wet everyday. Commonly referred to as "derailed BART cars" in our youth, they provide the maximum amount of passengers and visual bumper clearance by putting the engine underneath. Driven by a man with nerves of steel and no guilt, and a "caller" who resides back with the passengers but is constantly hanging out of the sliding door wooing passer-bys to come in. When it's time to stop for somebody the caller simple slaps the roof of the van once with an open palm and when time to pull away he bangs the roof relentlessly with a closed fist; however it should be noted that the Matatu never fully comes to rest. Its like catching a stage coach in the old west that is currently being chased by Indians.

The Commuter Bus seats probably 60 people in a Greyhound tour bus setting. high back chairs and a much larger center isle, one can't help but imagine that these were probably luxurious 25 years ago when the were new. This particular company fleet is owned by a woman who dresses her staff in uniform, issue actual tickets with paid fare, and stay dedicated to their routes. (it is not uncommon on other bus lines to have buses pull over in the middle of nowhere and demand everybody get off for no reason) but not with Connections. Oh yeah-they are bright purple, so you always know your riding with the right company.

So we take the Matatu line 48 to downtown Nairobi, walk through the most exhaust and dusty city you will ever see amongst 1 million city dwellers for about 5 city blocks, then ride Connections line 19c to the outer city of Komarock which borders Kayole where the Livewell Clinic and the orphanage is. Again, the travel time is close to 2 hours (depending on how quickly they can fill the bus. There aren't schedules. The buses line up and won't leave until they are full, then the next one pulls up and repeats) but the cost cannot be beat.
The Matatu is 40ksh (40 cents) each person/each way and the bus is 60ksh (60 cents) each person/each way. $4 a day get us to the outer reaches of where we do our work and offer the most visceral experience a commuter can have.

The first day I left Kristen at home and set out with 2 employees (one per line) sent by the clinic to make sure I didn't get killed. I quickly memorized the routes via landmarks and told them that their services would no longer be needed. They were set to escort us the rest of the week but I only used them for one day. Gabriel, just another Livewell angel, called 3 times to make sure I knew what I was doing. ""I love this stuff! I will be fine".

So today was the end of day 3 on public transport (2 with Kristen) and I told myself I wouldn't write about it until I was confident enough to call myself comfortable. What I wasn't expecting is how natural Kristen is at it. Her sense of adventure never ceases to force me further into love with her.

Sure at the end of the day when we roll ourselves into the safety of the apartment we feel like we have been mining coal all day, even our eye boogers are black, and I don't even want a cigarette because I just spent 4 hours smoking buses and virtually inhaling the BO from half of the country, but this truly is the only way to feel alive!

Look Ma, I'm a local!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Stream of Consciousness Interlude

For months I have been percolating on this topic like a steaming cup of long coffee and feel that it is time to expel it on the page, if for no other reason that to take it off my mental docket. And while this topic preceded our trip here to the Ivory Continent, direct examples through experiences here have re-surfaced this thorn in my sub-conscious. Even by appearing here on this canvas reserved for African tales should be proof that it is in the right place, but forgive my temporary departure from tales of the open seas and (as my brother-in-law Eric so loves to refer to as) "mud-butt". We will be right back to our ooohs and aahhhhs of alternate world living right after this.

The weight of words:

As a writer, I am constantly challenged to give words their appropriate weight or sense of importance. Through clever combinations and previously invented punctuations I try to show just how affected we are by specific happenings and momentary decisions.
Example: Some things just need to be said and not taken with an air of significance like "take out the trash". That term implies nothing but a moment in time will be taken up by an act that nobody needs to hear anything further about. But take into consideration something like, "they truly have nothing". Same punctuation, same amount of capital letters, and read (probably) with the same weight as "taking out the trash". But here I ask us to look deeper-"THEY TRULY HAVE NOTHING"......This refers to people that we have seen here on this continent. People with no shoes, no homes (sufficed for the 5 foot mud structures with palm frond roofs), no experience outside a 5-10 mile radius, no reading skills, NOTHING, yet that sentiment does not get instilled with the passing comment "they truly have nothing".

Partly to blame is our rapidly spreading lack of attention. We are too busy to pay attention to the details. Just give me the gist.
We have all CAPS, but that just seems like I am yelling at you. We have punctuation like exclamation points, but by the time you see that at the end of a sentence you just wonder what you missed (you don't go back and just wonder), and my "go-to" has been the multiple periods (....). This works but I am afraid of using it to the point of devalue)

Yesterday Kristen and I decided to leave the apartment on foot and blindly. With no direction and no destination it truly was the definition of adventure.
This got me back into this mental dissertation of word weight.
Upon reaching the gate that guards our compound we posed the culprit question-"should we go left or right?"
This is a seemingly innocuous statement with little to no weight, but feel again.
Whatever direction chosen could (and very well might) lead to us being lost in a foreign world among people we don't know anything about while traveling (on foot) further from the only safe place we have here literally worlds away from anybody we know. Left or Right becomes nauseating and the instinct is to turn around an go the 20 feet back inside.
But we didn't. We went left-and we had a marvelous adventure that took us 5+ miles from our door, deep into the heart of Nairobi, through 3 foot wide alley ways of vendors selling everything from grilled meats to hair washing, across 4 intersections of traffic that LA would be jealous of with no cross walks-in a ongoing game with cars of "our turn or yours?", across man made foot bridges over sewer water, through the brightest red dirt you have ever seen, under trees that had only been seen in books and movies up untill now with the most marvelously purple flowers, past people grilling corn cobs over coals for sale, next to men with business suits on our left and children with no shoes on our right.
All of this because we went left.
Now how do I give that square one "start here" sentence it's appropriate weight in words? Short of asking you the reader to SLOW DOWN and really read, I can just try different word combos and hope.

Sufficed to say, that today.....we are going right. Now think about that for a moment.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Introducing Liza Kimbo

Greetings from Nairobi, our final and longest stay here on the beautiful continent of Africa.

Liza was our second introduction to "mainland hospitality". Our first was an infectiously happy driver named Jackson who retrieved us from the airport and single-handedly took care of executing every detail of our transition into the modern urban sprawl that is Nairobi, Kenya. With his genuine ear-to-ear smile and very hearty laugh (Kenyans LOVE to laugh from their souls) he answered every remaining question Kristen and I had about the last leg of our journey by just taking care of the details while setting the hospitality bar pretty high.

Liza came along by phone later that night and in person the next day and redefined that hospitality bar to new heights.

From Jackson's mobile phone and in the comfort of our new surroundings, Liza instructed us to make ourselves at home in her beautiful 3 bedroom, meticulously clean, and operationally decorated apartment and informed us she would be by at 11:30 am the next morning to scoop us up and show us a bit of the town.

Liza is the co-founder of Livewell and Carego Int. Along with our friend Steve their passion and drive is bringing a new level of health care to Africa on a business platform that has reaches into Africa, India, (and coming soon) Australia. Needless to say, she is a very busy woman and shouldn't be burdened with the dropping of a couple of ex-pat American tourists in her lap, but one would never guess that we were taking up any of her valuable time.

She took us to Ya Ya Centre and worked with the local merchants to secure us a phone, showed us how the currency exchange worked, brought us to a comforting "Americanized" lunch to baby step us into culture, and explained in detail the excitement and visions she has planned based on our time here.

The itinerary was clearly brought into focus detailing time to get acclimated, transfers to the clinic in a few days time, future community outreach programs that she wants Kristen to take place in "in country", ties to children organizations that Kristen can participate in, and of course my time helping to mold a physical operations manual to be used in current and future locations.

Our questions of "what will we be doing" were answered ten fold and our own imagination of our time here became defined on the foundation of excitement and self worth.

Upon dropping us off back at the apartment, she insisted that we join her for her families weekly Sunday Dinner following church in just a few days time. Talk about the cherry on top. Without knowing she was doing it, Liza gave us back the comfort of Sunday Dinner, and therefore a small taste of home.

Working with Liza is not only going to be easy, it will be a worldly delight.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Race is On...and it's Toby by a Butt

So we were told, pretty much under no insinuating circumstances, that we both WOULD be getting sick on our adventure. Not malaria sick or any other illness that is completely avoidable here with fore thought and planning, but the kind of sick that comes form introducing our patsy tummy's to a new cultures cuisine. (note: at no point in my writing will I ever subject you the reader to the "D" word. We know what it is and it is a legitimate illness, so quit snickering.) Well I'm not really worried about it. Never have been and won't start now, for 2 reasons. 1. We are prepared to tackle the inevitable and 2. I know my wife, and she will be getting it first, so I will just take care of her and see how bad its gonna be.

Accepting the fact that we WOULD be getting sick, we both naturally assumed it would be in Nairobi, but we were still trepedacious while eating at the resort. The kind of careful that has you eating only at the resorts 2 restaurants and monitoring the check list given so freely by our travel advisers (friends and family) before we left. You know the items...things like no exposed vegetables or fruit, nothing less than piping hot, nothing opened outside your line of sight, etc.

Day 5 (of 6) I couldn't be happier with the culinary adventures that we have had. The food is fantastic and fantastically prepared. Certainly worthy of any restaurant in the States, and not one iota of issue.

Time to up this anti a little. Lets go down the beach to Mangis! tsk tsk tsk

We got the fresh calamari salad (two words that should be red flags) and I got the "American Burger". Couldn't be safer than that..and delicious? My word these items were heavenly to taste. Sure I don't remember any burger I have had at home crunching ever 3-4 bites, and the graininess must just be residual sand, we are physically on the beach after all.

Next morning it came. Our last full day to spend at the resort and my stomach has a vice grip being squeezed by an angry midget...not nice. So there we are with the roles reversed as my lovely bride dotes on me with Imodium and Aleve, makes me tea, and goes to breakfast solo. To further expedite the misery, at some point the day before our TV began only broadcasting one channel...from China.

Thank God it is pouring rain outside eliminating any chance of leisure anyhow, and thank God for hot showers.

I am now across the property on the second floor open aired restaurant (where we can actually get an Internet signal) alternating sips between tomato juice and bottled water and watching nature unload sheets of rain on the Indian Ocean. It really could be worse.

I just can't believe I got it before her.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We Don't Want to be Sailors

Today we took the snorkeling trip of a lifetime!

We met Sebastian, who has become our local go-to for any and all needs, at the designated spot just down the beach from the hotel. You see, Sebastian and his friends are not able to give you "best friend price" inside the confines of the hotels property, but one step over the line and they will sell you the tires off their car.

After a brief fitting for masks, snorkels, and fins we walked the 25-30 feet into the white sand shallows towards the "boat" that would be taking us on this 9am-4:30pm excursion.

Our crew consisted of Sebastian and 4 others, three of which were in official looking blue Polo's that said "sailing crew" on the back giving us all the secure warm fuzzies that we weren't headed off into the wild blue yonder with possible pirates (still have that "I'm a confused foreigner" feeling). With the other dozen passengers we boarded while the crew floated out coolers and cases of water for our mid day beach lunch later.

Lets chat about the boat. The only way to describe it is if Noah's Arc had a dinghy. Outfitted with an outboard motor that couldn't have been more than 40 horses and a sail that I would later come to find out was salvaged from a "Ristorante" having to do somehow with buffalo's, it would be a daunting task imagining this vessel taking you to the other side of an Olympic pool, let alone the wide open Indian Ocean.

After a leisurely and exaggerated hour and half, we arrived at the small and private island of Mnembe. being private we were forced to gear up and pitch over the side from off shore with only two rules training-1. Don't go on the beach and 2. don't touch anything. We were off on a coral reef adventure which was exactly like the movies, in fact, I kept looking for Nemo but only managed to find Dori and Scar.

Halfway through this dream like swim the weather began to change. The wind picked up on the surface and made the turquoise water choppy as clouds started to roll in from the horizon.

After a breezy lunch of BBQ fish, rice and plantains we boarded our Boat BC for the journey back. We putt-putt motored out of the shallows then killed the engine and hoisted the sails.

for the first 45 minutes to an hour I was enamored by the fact that we were sailing in the Indian Ocean. Certainly not many people could say that. My fantasy of navigating by the current was cut into by the immense rolling of the ocean and the visual fact that we were probably moving at 4-5 mph. (keep in mind we were over an hour away from anything familiar). We were wet, sandy, salty, without a change of clothes and riding in a structure that was the grown up version of a child's toy carved by hand. There was one cover of approximately 15 square feet to the rest of the very open boat, and bench seats on the side. We were forced to understand that whatever position we were in at that moment is the very position we would be in for the next couple of hours in a rolling and pitching sea. Then the rains came.....

The crew scrambled to get some neon-orange tarp thrown over us and the boat with as much grace as 50mph wind will allow, while all of us on board that were not from Africa shared a quick glimpse as if to silently commiserate "you have got to be kidding". I imagine that it wasn't just myself that kept singing "a 3 hour tour....a 3 hour tour".

What seemed like 4 days later we arrived at our beach and reemerged from under the tarp only to be further pelted by fat rain on the way to the room, and I realized that for the first time since arriving in the tropics I was REALLY COLD. The only reason I didn't notice it before was for hours previous I couldn't take my mind off my itchy swimmer butt cheeks.

Long story longer, we took hot showers, grabbed a snack, and went to bed, for the night, at 5pm and slept uninterrupted until 6am the next morning. 

We are done sailing!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Two Things That Baffle Me

I have a beautiful wife and we are in Africa.

These are semi-mantra items that keep popping into my head in the moments of silent reflection, and let the record show that when on beach holiday, silent reflection is the time majority and rightfully so.

Its unbelievable. The beautiful wife part is enough to make a person do that cartoon shake of the head side-to-side as if to try and re-focus vision. It's amazing and its starting to set in...I have a wife and she is beautiful and mine.

And just in case that's not enough, WE ARE IN AFRICA! Now here is where the eyes get all stupid big and the jaw goes slack as one just marvels at the fact that we are the furthest from the house in Alamo on the planet as we could go (don't do the math, just go with it)

I keep finding similarities that bring a piece of home back, like the crows and the flies are abundant and look the exact same, but everything else...EVERYTHING is different. Things like language, smells, climate, tastes, and I have a beautiful wife-Everything is different here.

First Impression Not Worth Quitting Over

Save for all the illicit details of travel (I will assume here that most have been on a plane) I will just launch right into the tale to be spun. I do not mean to dismiss the epic journey that took 4 planes and 5 flights, just under 23 hours of actual butt in a plane seat time, and 5 different airports with 5 VERY different impressions. I just truly feel that my time is best spent here (on a questionable Internet connection at best) leaping right in, and the tales of physical travel will most likely be told to you over a cup of American coffee, on the golf course somewhere, or around the table at a later date.

The Z Hotel is exactly 1 hour and 10 minutes car ride from the airport on the island. This was the most surreal and out of body experience I have ever had without the help of a back alley bought drug.

One lane road (half pavement half something dusty) and driving on the wrong side. Zanzibar is still heavily operated on the British rule that came through here in the mid 1800's. The kind of rule that has the steering wheel on the other side of the Toyota Caravan.
 On this one lane road there is a series of horn tooting and passing around slower cars and cow pulled carts, not to mention the (literally) thousands of people crossing the roads at their leisure. I have been informed that there are 1 million people that inhabit this island that can be crossed in a car in less than 2 hours. This drive was more of a death race than ride. Operating I assume under the "get then there fast for good first impression" mentality, we were both whisked away to our honeymoon in a video game-esque manner.

Build adrenaline on the foundation of sleep deprivation with a large dose recycled airplane air and the sensation is confusing at best.

Call it jet lag or just sheer exhaustion from the aforementioned 23 hours flying but as we arrived at our hotel, down an improbable rocky dirt road that had to be navigated at under 10 mph, and finally began to breath, stretch and observe any area where we could finally be alone, and in the spec and inescapable truth that over 2 months faced us in the foreign land, the only thing I could think to do was turn around and go home.

It was system overload in a sleep deprived world and to label it as "too much" would be a great injustice.

I am writing this 6 days (Africa time) after we left California off of notes I took then, and I can report that things settled down to a wonderfully embraced crawl point were we both got fed and rested and began to embrace our new temporary lives and I am looking forward to posting more emotion on the real and positive side of the scope, but for one scary moment I was ready to cut bait and run, it's just too bad that was the very first moment.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Welcome! This is precisely where I will be documenting our adventure to assist in making the planet a little smaller and a little more united.

Beginning with initial reactions stepping off the plane, to the hospitality that we are sure to encounter in Zanzibar on the honeymoon aspect of our trip, then the culmination of all of our planning and inspiration while we get to know the good people of Nairobi in the medical clinics and schools. This is where I will continue to hone the writing fever that has consumed my mind and fingers.

Offered to those of you that made this trip possible through your selfless donations, we hope to bring you with us into our adventure into the wilds of Africa, one story at a time.