Monday, July 18, 2011

Sorry for the delay between posts it has been a crazy (in a good way) month. Diani Rules was awesome!! It would of definitely made my top five memories list. Like all Diani events it was well organized, taken seriously and drinking was a major part of it. Combining many of my favorite things including sports, the beach, drinking and being competitive it is definitely one of my biggest Kenyan highlights thus far. My team started of slow but performed well in what I would consider “the important” games. We were dominant in “waterball” a variation of water polo and also recorded victories in tug-of-war, the relay race and a beer drinking race. I am very proud of my team and look forward to next years competition. Lastly, I am equally as proud of the fact that over $4000 was raised during the weekends festivities. That money will be used to provide eye surgery for needy Kenyans.

For my birthday weekend Nick, his friend Jonah from America, Cara and I rented out Trixie’s beautiful beach house for the weekend. Cara and I have the same bday and Nick’s is the day after so as you can imagine it was a pretty crazy weekend. It was amazing to “live” in a real house for a few days and have access to its amenities. There was tons of day drinking very little sleep and thanks to Jonah we were able to introduce all my Kenyan friends to real tequila. No one here had ever tried any tequila better than Cuervo so as you can imagine they were quiet impressed with the Petron. My birthday itself was on Monday and I was incredibly hung over all day but did manage to go out and have a nice seafood lunch on the beach followed by delicious Italian ice cream. Thanks again everyone who helped make my birthday awesome!!

Last weekend was the Diani Beach Touch Rugby Tournament which is another big deal here in Diani with teams coming in from several different countries. I had no intention of playing as I have no rugby experience and didn’t even fully understand all the rules, but I was asked to play for a team that came in from the UK and was down a man. My first game was against the eventual champions and needless to say I was pretty embarrassed by the games end. The second day I got the hang of it and I feel played quite well. My team even finished runner up in the “B” tournament. As with all Diani events and rugby in general, drinking was a huge part and I was quite impressed with my ability to perform at a reasonably high athletic level at 9 in the morning with almost no sleep on an equatorial beach. All in all another great weekend and a great introduction to the sport of rugby I look forward to watching the World Cup in a few months.

As of late I have actually been fairly busy at work. I have made flyers to advertise our coco wood furniture project and hopefully the school will soon begin making money as a result. Also, I have designed a billboard for both the coco wood project and our schools auto body work project that will be put up in front of the school. All of which were recommendations from my marketing plan. I am especially proud of these billboards as they will be around long after I am gone. Instead of going to help train the new volunteers as I had mentioned in my last blog, it turns out they are coming to me. On Sunday I will receive a group of PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) that will shadow me at work and learn all about “real Peace Corps life”. While I definitely don’t live the “real Peace Corps life” I will definitely show them a good time as well as teach them some useful stuff. If nothing else its exciting to have guests and to be able to help some future volunteers.

That’s about it for now, plenty of exciting stuff to look forward to coming up. I hope everyone back home is having an awesome summer and has not forgot about me yet. Miss you all, this time next year I will be packing to go home!!


Friday, May 27, 2011

One year ago today I posted my first blog entry from Kenya. What stands out from that post is the blind optimism and naivety that all PCV’s share when they first set out to save the world. I in no way mean to be cynical, I truly love it here but a year later I am sitting here trying to figure out what has changed in the past year. Kenya is now my home and I am surprisingly comfortable here, so much so that sometimes I actually forget I am in Kenya. Regrettably seeing Kenya as a home and not just an exotic destination on the map has taken a lot of the excitement out of it. Don’t get me wrong there are still days when I feel the need to pinch myself and say “holly shit I’m in Kenyan!” but they are just getting farther in-between. Its quite weird. In many loves I truly love it here, Diani especially and feel that if I was paid sufficiently I could be very happy working here in the future. On the other hand I miss America. Of course I miss friends, family and surfing but what is surprising is how much I miss the little things. Like being able to wake up and drink cold orange juice while watching ESPN before I go to work or being able to hop in a car and drive myself where I need to go rather than pile into a van with 18 other Kenyans. Most of all maybe I miss being able to watch my Dolphins, eat wings and drink beer on a Sunday. All in all I do love it here. I am hands down the luckiest PCV in Kenya to be stationed here. I live in tropical paradise on the Indian Ocean, I have made an awesome group of friends from all over the world, there is always something fun to look forward to in the next couple weeks and on any given night there are beautiful girls from exotic countries at 40’s. Back in my village life is good too. I really do feel immersed into my community. It took about a year but I no longer get the “what is he doing here?” look when I walk around and rarely do I find people trying to rip me off. As is the case with all PCV’s during the week it does get lonely and boring but thank god for my laptop, my hard drive full of movies and fairly reliable electricity. Work wise, the past year has been somewhat of a disappointment with the failed water project. This is the norm in Peace Corps however and all I can do is keep trying to help people where I can and take pride in my small victories. Without further ado I present my top 5 memories of the past year….

5. Seeing Kilimanjaro on my walk to class everyday
4. Helping baby Hawksbill Sea Turtles find their way to the ocean
3. Super Bowl weekend at Malti and Adrian’s when we still had the whole crew together
2. Seeing the Indian Ocean/40 Thieves for the first time
1. Swimming with Whale Sharks

On to the present. Work has continued to be slow. Last week I drew up a marketing plan for my schools coco wood furniture project and presented it to the manager, but am currently waiting on the board to make a final decision on what they want to do before I move forward. Bureaucracy is alive and well in Kenya. On a positive note I have been selected to help train the new group of volunteers. I will be giving a lecture on marketing products in a Kenyan specific setting and hanging out with them for a week. I am excited about this because I get to leave Diani for a while and because I remember how helpful the PCV’s who came to my training were. Getting an unbiased opinion from an actual volunteer in the field versus a trainer was awesome.

Last but not least, it’s Diani Rules weekend! This is a real big deal here, Diani Rules is kind of like a drunken field day for adults. It becomes an endurance event as games consisting of rugby, soccer, cricket, tug-of-war etc. begin a 8am both Sat and Sunday and you drink the whole time. Expats from all over Kenya come for the event. I am proud to be the captain of my team and we picked up a sponsorship from a local business. (team entry is almost $600 so getting sponsored is a big deal) Wish us luck!

That’s it for now folks I will be seeing everyone in just over a year and can’t wait!!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Another month down. Time goes buy so fast here its hard to believe I have almost been in Kenya for a whole year. The month of April has I guess been the most emotional for me so far. I became home sick for the first time recently. This I suppose is pretty impressive, to be away from home in a very different country for almost a year before getting homesick. How I best describe my feelings is comparing it to a transatlantic voyage, stuck in the middle of the ocean and both home and my destination seem so far away. Stuck in the middle, thats how I feel one year down 15 months to go. This will soon pass though, as time moves on as it has been ever so rapidly. To make this even easier I have random parties and upcoming events in the not so distant future to look forward to. The month of April like past months was a blast for the most part. A good friend of mine Rich came to visit from the Western Province. Me him and Nick raged in Mombasa for a few nights. It was nice leaving Diani for the first time since before Christmas, I affectionately refer to Diani as the “blackhole” for this reason. Mombasa was a lot of fun, we went to the casino and all won money which was almost as nice as the Amaretto and Johnny Black I was drinking all night. The next day we raced go-karts and ate at the best sushi place in Kenya (still not good by American standards….god I miss real sushi!). The following day we went back to Diani and rented Malti and Adrian’s old house. It was nice to have a real house to call mine even if it was just for the weekend. We partied Friday night and had a pre-party Saturday. Rich got to experience real Diani life as we spent nearly the whole weekend at 40 Thieves. This past weekend was another crazy one. Friday night we went up to a place called Tiwi Beach where they were having a big Ultimate Frisbee tournament. Unfortunately the rainy season decided to begin on Friday night and our $15 tents did not hold up in the downpour. Saturday I played Frisbee all day despite not really sleeping. It was a lot of fun though, I forgot how much I miss competitive sports. Saturday night was forecasted to be a epic night in Diani so Nick and I sucked it up and went back for the nights festivities. We were not disappointed, it was definitely one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time. Tons of people were in town for the holiday, 40’s was crazy and we partied there until 3 then headed over to a new surprisingly nice western style club called Full Moon where we all danced our asses off till 6am. Having a new bar in a town with really only one is a huge deal. I hope they will do good things with it, it has potential.
Work has sucked as of late and has been the source of much of my stress and frustrations. I have been advised by Peace Corps to abandon my water project, meaning giving up on everything I have worked on thus far. I am pretty much starting Peace Corps over again now. I will be working on marketing my schools coco wood furniture and will try to have a marketing strategy drawn up in the next couple weeks. I am not particularly excited about doing this because rather then make money for an organization I am all but sure is corrupt, I would rather spend my time helping the students and the community. I have been trying to start a “Business Club” at the school. It would be a free business class for any interested students or staff members taught by myself. This would allow me to help people at a grassroots level and actually be able to see the difference I am making. Unfortunately the school board is against this idea as the put it today, I am there to be the Marketing Manager not to be a teacher. So yea, we will see how this all goes.
Once again such is life in Peace Corps. The difficulties and obstacles I am trying to overcome are not unique to me. And as for being homesick sometimes I just feel like a bitch for even thinking that way. I live in a amazing place and have amazing friends (although they are becoming fewer and fewer). While I do miss friends, family, American convenience and food; I have it much better than most and cant complain. Lastly a quick shout out to Trix and Cara. Trix is a 19 year old dive instructor / self proclaimed mayor of Diani and she can and will drink anyone under the table. Cara has been an asset to our dynasty of a quiz team with her extensive knowledge of British pop-culture and she is also the best dancer in Diani.
That’s it for now, miss everyone and that awesome country you are living in filled with delicious and diverse food that you are probably taking for granted as we speak. If anyone wants help my homesickness COME VISIT ME! I still have 15 months left. Love you all!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Its been an interesting and eventful month since I last posted. Filled with both good and bad. Lets start with the good though… For the last month I have been swimming with Whale Sharks several days a week. For anyone who knows me and my love for marine life you can imagine how big of a deal this has really been. After swimming with a shark for the first time, the closest thing I can compare it to is catching your first wave. I was just so stoked and about to explode with energy and excitement. The first several trips where just for research and documentation. Our crew consisted of world renown under water photographers and an award winning film maker. And then of course me for some reason… regardless of my undefined role at the time I quickly began to prove my self useful, with my general boatmanship and knowledge of marine life. During these first couple of trips a documentary was filmed about the tagging expeditions we were doing and I am very excited to say I will be featured in it. Truly a dream come true for me. Our recent whale shark expeditions have been paid tours for the general public. We take people out and if we are lucky enough to find a shark they get to swim with it. This helps finance future pure research expeditions. The person who founded The East African Whale Shark Trust and who heads all these expeditions had a child last week and I was have been entrusted with running these tours by myself while he is away. I was of course very happy to help and honored he had the confidence in me to do so. Socially I have been very busy it seems every weekend there is a party, unfortunately many of them have been goodbye parties….This brings me to the bad.

Recall the friends important enough in my life that I felt the need to mention them by name in my previous blog? Well Malti, Jack and Dash have left. Adrian, Ben and all the rest of the Navy guys will be gone by the end of April. So yea that leaves just me Bash and Nick. On a lighter note however, I have met someone new that I very much enjoy spending time with; but we will save that for another time. Malti leaving came as no surprise and we had plenty of goodbye parties for him. Jack and Dash however, received less than 24 hours notice that they had been reassigned and where to ship out. Unfortunately I was not even able to say goodbye to them in person. We assume they are on their way to Libya but obviously they could not disclose that. I wish all those boys all the best and a safe return. Moving on, remember my water project I was so proud of? Well its all but dead. The water is more seriously contaminated then I originally thought and my school is completely apathetic when it comes to trying to fix it. I have been telling them exactly what needs to be done for weeks now. Initially they planned on ignoring the problem and wanted me to continue to sell it. Obviously, I sternly told them I would not be involved in any distribution until the problem was fixed. My only small victory as of late has been that I have finally convinced them that the water is too contaminated to sell and they have ceased production. They tell me things like “be patient” and ‘we are waiting on some money to come in” but the truth is that I have clearly outlined for them the necessary steps needed to fix our issues and it really seems like they just don’t care. It’s a shame really, the project had so much potential but lack of proper planning and lack of motivation by the school have shut it down.

All right enough bitching. That is just life in Peace Corps, something I was well prepared for. A few months down the line I will begin a new project hopefully with better results. If nothing else I did learn a lot from the experience and that’s what life in the Peace Corps is all about; experiences. On that same note, I do and will continue to miss my friends. This will be an interesting first weekend without any roll dogs but I am sure it will be fine. The truth is I am incredibly happy and loving life right now! I live in a beautiful incredible place filled with beautiful incredible people. Oh yea, that reminds me…. with the assistance of my new friend I was able to REALLY surf yesterday. She has a 6’6” roundnose with a tri-fin setup. Pretty much a mini long board. It was really fun and the waist high waves were perfect for it. With surfing back in my life I literally could not be any happier right now. Miss and love everyone, start planning trips to see me!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Hey everyone. The last two weeks have been tons of fun. Super Bowl weekend was a mess, I saw the sunrise three consecutive nights. Saturday my friends had a house warming party. The party consisted of beer pong, flip cup (its amazing how I never lose my competitive drive when it come to drinking games, as you can imagine I was quite the spectacle for the Europeans), Jell-O shots and a blender making tasty cocktails all day and night. I even managed to meet myself a nice Kiwi girl. This all day house party obviously resulted in us being the last ones to leave bar, walking home with the sun up. Sunday (Super Bowl) involved me and a few others attempting to cook for 30 people while being incredibly hung over. We made hot dogs, Mexican dip, wings and burrito stuff. What more could you ask for to watch football? Super Bowl here started at 2:30am but we still had a loud and rowdy crew of American with a couple international observers who seemed more entertained by our cussing and drunken antics than the game itself. We watched the game at 40’s, our trusty beach bar. At about the start of the 4th quarter the sun began to rise and I was able to watch the game and simultaneously see the sunrise over the Indian Ocean without even moving my head. All in all and amazing night/weekend!! Work wise I am having major problems with the water project. What a difference a week can make, but such is life in Kenya. Theres a problem with the filters and the water is coming out benignly contaminated. We are unable to pinpoint the problem and as a result can not produce or sell. On the lighter side I actually did some very exciting work with the Whale Shark Trust. The sharks should be migrating through our area within the next month, therefore we are now going on expeditions to try and locate them. This past Tuesday I went up in a Micro Light (picture a hang glider with a fan attached to the back of it) to try and spot them. We went up to about 2000 ft and patrolled up and down the coast in search of the giant fish. Unfortunately we have yet to find any but I did see some dolphin, turtles and truly breathtaking views. It was kind of like parasailing but 10 times cooler. Once we finally spot some sharks will be when the real fun begins, as I am promised to get some water time with the giant creatures. Something that is likely to be the highlight of my time in Kenya. No plans yet for this weekend I guess it depends on if I get paid today or Monday. As much as I love it here not a day goes by that I don’t miss America and all of you! Talk to you soon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Um, yes I am aware its been 3 months since my last post and I apologize. Those of you who have not herd from me since should be happy to know I am still alive and doing fine. General recap of the last three months….. Work wise up until recently much to my dismay, I did next to nothing. All my projects dried up at pretty much the same time. This left me bored, agitated and feeling without purpose. However, this is a common occurrence in the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer and I am happy to say I have successfully mentally navigated these difficult times and am now working and accomplishing things. (more specifics to come) Socially, I love it here! I love Diani Beach! In all honesty if I found a well paying job here, I am pretty sure I could live here long term and be very happy (don’t worry folks as the chance of me finding a well paying job in Kenya outside of Nairobi is slim to none). In the past couple months I have made what I consider to be life long friendships with a small but amazing group and friends and have met countless other awesome and interesting people. Once again, as beautiful as it is here my favorite thing about Diani continues to be the people I meet. One last thing I want to touch on and that is the value of money. I assumed Peace Corps service would devalue money in my eyes, make me want it less, make it less significant to me. They say you never realize what you have until its gone, I guess that’s a big part of the problem. Living in a tourist environment on a volunteer budget SUCKS! I realize that I signed up for this, and I honestly never dreamed of having the social life I do and for that reason I’m not complaining as much as I’m trying to make a point. My Peace Corps service has made me want to go out into the real world, work my ass of and make money. Probably not a common side effect from Peace Corps service but I don’t live the “common” Peace Corps life and I’m not a “common” Peace Corps volunteer. I don’t consider myself materialistic but what I want is money to travel, explore and do fun things. I constantly meet people who have been traveling for months and sometimes years, and yea it sometimes makes me jealous. Here I am living half way around the world surrounded by amazing and exotic places but unfortunately travel is not in the budget of a volunteer. Those of you who might argue the value of money, yes I am aware that my pursuit of money is motivated by travel and fun but try telling my neighbors who can not afford to send their children to school that money isn’t everything. I realize those are polar opposite ends of the spectrum, but my point is that money has definite value to everyone and the pursuit of money is a good and natural thing. OK, sorry for that rant but it was something I needed to get off my chest. Now I will highlight the last couple months….


November is really when my work began to really slow down. I did however go to a couple different primary schools and give a Whale Shark Conservation lecture. As a side project, I do work for the East Africa Whale Shark Trust but there really has been very little work to do. November I guess was the month I met and formed lasting friendships with whom I consider to be my core group of friends. Nick has been my best friend since Peace Corps training but I just noticed I have not mentioned him so there’s that. He’s from Arizona, fun and the only person in Peace Corps almost as crazy as me. The first person I met in Diani was Ben. He’s a Kenyan raised Brit who works as a mercenary. He came to Diani for a month last year and has been here for almost a year now. This seems to happened a lot here. Ben goes out pretty much every night and is good fun (wow “good fun” yea apparently I speak and think in British slang now). Next there’s Malti, he’s on his gap year from Luxembourg. He’s only 19 but is hysterical and was one the first real friends I meet in Diani. Malti even came out to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. Then there’s Bash. Bash is Nick and I’s “big sister”, she’s amazing and does everything for us. She’s from South Africa but lives and works in Diani now. Bash knows everyone and has been integral in assimilating me into the Diani Beach community. Aunt Pam, I even found Bash to be a worthy recipient of your Care Bear and explained to her the story behind it. Towards the end of November I met a bunch of US Navy guys living here in Kenya they are awesome and a blast to hangout with. Specifically there’s Jack and Dash. Jack is from the same place in Arizona as Nick (small world). I spend a lot of time hanging out at their hotel and they have been great to me. Dash is a surfer from Hawaii so obviously we get along great. He even brought his SUP over from the states and lets me use is whenever. Both of them are great guys who would give you the shirt off your back. Lastly is Adrian. He’s from the UK. He’s awesome, smart as shit and the captain of our quiz team. Lately he has been great in helping me get my water project marketed in Diani. Like everywhere else I have lived, I am incredibly fortunate to have an amazing group of friends.

December was even slower work wise so I decided to start my holiday early. My last day of work was around the 18th and spent the rest of the month living it up in Diani. Christmas consisted aside from me being really hung over, of a beach BBQ at a beautiful secluded river mouth beach spot. It was an awesome truly Kenyan way to celebrate the holiday. On Boxing day (the 26th of December to us Americans) Forty Thieves had its annual camel races. People sign up to race camels on the beach and everyone else bets on them and drinks. We all participated in the races and I came in second to Malti. The week between xmas and new years was drunken mayhem. I was told Diani gets crazy for new years and that was an understatement. The entire bar and 200 yard area of beach in front of it was packed with people every night. During the week was the Kenya Cup, a big Kitesurfing completion with people coming in from all over the world. Even though I don’t particularly like or respect kitesurfing it was cool to watch. Forties Thieves’ New Year’s party dubbed The Psychedelic Seaside Circus was entirely organized by Bash and accurately named. A bunch of South Africa’s biggest DJ’s who were all good friends of hers came to perform. We got to hang out with them the week leading up the party. New Years itself was fuckin crazy!! From 9-12 Nick and I volunteered as bartenders. I missed being behind the bar and had fun doing it, and we were allowed to drink the whole time which was nice. We were a big hit as you can imagine and everyone especially the ladies remembered us for the rest of the night. After our shift was over we partied are asses off dancing to sick ass dubstep on the beach literally till 1 in the after noon the next day. I saw my first sunrise of the new year come up over the Indian Ocean out of my mind dancing to dubstep. Hell of a way to kick in the New Year!!

The first week in January aside from detox, was our advanced Kiswahili training. A trainer came in to Diani and taught us for a few hours a day. It was nice to expand my language a little and get back in a learning mode. After a week or so my water project finally got its license from the Kenya Revenue Authority to begin selling water. HOORAY!! Since then I am happy to say I have been busy. In review, my school is producing and selling purified bottles of water as an income generating activity. Me, myself am in charge of all marketing, selling, accounting and logistical aspects of the company. Right now most my time is devoted to trying to market and sell the water in both my village and in Diani. It is a slow process as Kenyans are very advert to change but we are beginning to see positive results and I am very optimistic. Digoland (the name of my water company) is even the sponsoring next months quiz night at forties. So that’s it, we are caught up now. Looking forward, I am very excited for this weekend Malti and Adrian just moved into a new really nice place and are having a house warming party. Being Super Bowl weekend they decided to make it a American themed party with a keg, beer pong, flip cup and jello shots. As for the game itself we rented out a bar with a big HD projector. They are going to keep the bar itself open for the game and I am going to make a bunch of classic football food for everyone. Happy Super Bowl weekend everyonce I miss and love ya!!

Oh yea, I have now been here 9 months now. No visitors yet, understandable…. However the only thing I have received via mail from any of you guys (family excluded) was Brendan’s xmas card, unacceptable!! Step it up folks I love getting mail. I live in Kenya and have minimal contact with the western world its all I have to look forward to. (Wardo, Alex I specifically talking to you two)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

OK so where to begin…. Last month I was in Nairobi for two weeks of training. It was the last time all the volunteers from my group will all be together again. In all honesty training was minimal while fun was in no short supply. Highlights included frequenting the casinos, visiting an animal orphanage and even a Peace Corps “prom” ( that’s what those ridiculous pictures of me dressed up and posing behind a cardboard limo are from). The animal orphanage was awesome. It was pretty much a zoo but with orphaned and rehabilitated animals. Unlike American zoo’s however the zookeepers are more than willing to let you into the cages of dangerous animals for a kitu kidogo (small bribe). I did just that and was able to pet and get licked by a full grown cheetah. Nairobi was a lot of fun and I was actually quite lonely for the first time when I arrived back at site. An emotion very common among Peace Corps volunteers I am quite lucky to just now be feeling it 5 months into my stay. After I arrived back I was very eager to begin work only to find that there had been major setbacks to my bottled water project during my absence. There have been financial as well as technical issues and I strongly suspect some “misallocation of finances” something unfortunately very common in Kenya. For now this project is on hold. As of late I have trying to find some new projects to work on and have begun designing a website for my school and in the process have been teaching my self how to build a website. I have also been in contact with several wildlife organizations and have a meeting set up with a whale shark conservation group for next week. I really hope that works out as it would be an absolutely perfect passion project for me. Socially my site is amazing I have literally met people from ALL over the world. Diani is full of tourists, backpackers, expats, locals and volunteers from just about everywhere. On the weekend I stay at a little backpackers retreat on the beach and consistently meet new people to party with. I have also made good friends with a pretty wild group of locals. Most of which are Europeans born and raised in Kenya or tourists that never left. They honestly remind me of the St Auggie crew back in the day. At times I get frustrated and wish I could hit the bars with them every night but its cool to have people to chill with when I have the time and money to do so. Last weekend was Diani Beach Music Festival and I totally forgot how much I missed live music. They had a big ass stage set up right on the beach overlooking the Indian Ocean with a couple 1000 people. Music was sick too mostly more traditional african music with some western influence, a lot of heavy drums and percussion. I cant wait to go again next year. Something definitely worth planning a trip around (hint hint). That’s really it for now. I can honestly say I feel pretty settled here. Kenya is my home for now and its pretty freaking sweet! If anyone has any specific questions about my day to day life or anything else let me know. Oh yea I recently discovered everything I miss from America begins with the letter “F” friends, family, football and food. Love you guys!!