Monday, December 2, 2013

Middle Men - 2nd Event

Middle Men was on again as we took our sons for a super camping weekend on the inner rim of Oldoinyo Nyukie (meaning The Red Mountain) or known modernly as Mount Suswa.  Oldoinyo Nyukie is in the Rift Valley between Nairobi and the Maasai Mara Preserve.  It is a special type of double crater volcano that provides an opportunity to explore an extensive network of caves derived from eons cooled lava tubes.

Cave Map
Mt. Suswa Sat View

Our first step was to connect with Jeremiah; our Maasai guide from the local clan.  The revenue from access to the area and camping goes partially to support works that benefit this community.

After our briefing we trekked to the cave entrances and descended into the "extinct" lava tubes.  The Rift Valley is still an active seismic area and there are tons of steam vents all over this region that indicate mother earth is not quite yet done changing topography here.

Fancying himself as a young Livingston on the verge of discovery
Baboon ladder
The caves wander and connect all over the place.  One of the things the Suswa caves is famous for is "The Baboon Parliament" where the baboons uniquely seek shelter inside a cave as opposed to trees as is normally found.  The BBC presented it in one of their documentaries a number of years ago that we had seen when still living in Rwanda. 
All the baboon poop you could possibly stand
Duncan enjoying one of the parliamentarian seats.  The rocks have been worn smooth by baboon booty...amazingly smooth.  A future in government?

We spent time sitting in the caves talking about light and dark. About how dark does not extinguish the light but rather light penetrates the darkness to reveal what exists before you.  Using your light you can travel in the direction you need to in order to reach the surface or descend deeper.  How you get to choose which way you go but without your light you are lost and can find neither easily.  We then thought about Psalm 119:105 and how God's Word is a light to our feet and a lamp to our path and what that means for us as individuals and as brothers in a journey together.  The boys brought up and discussed ways that the Bible and the Holy Spirit are available to us as lamps in our lives.
Locally made later from one level of cave down to the next

From the caves we journey to the crater rim to set camp before the rains that threatened arrived.
Duncan and Jacob eating some dust

We pulled up to our camping area and decided things looked just about perfect
Great work setting camp

Being the great host that he is Jeremiah helped us call in some dinner.  Don't think the boys expected it to arrive quite so fresh. 
"Are you serious?"
The goat was tremendous plus some sukuma wiki and potatoes
After dinner we had more time to bond, reflect and relax.  Duncan and I marveled at the beauty of creation and what a gift it was to enjoy this together.

The next morning we broke camp early with the clouds holding on in the valley, made coffee and breakfast then made a trek to the upper rim.  Again marveling at the beauty.  You just can't help but wonder at what the jurassic nature of this land was like.

I am so enjoying this frame of life with my boy.

As a bonus on the way back off the mountain we had the opportunity to investigate the local water
collection methods.  As mentioned earlier the area is covered in naturally occurring steam vents.  The area is incredibly arid and the Massai have devised ways to harvest this water in the form of steam.  They run pipes down the vents and then seal off around the base.  As the steam travels past the elbow and out the ends it cools and condensates.  The condensate is then channeled off to storage tanks for use in drinking and for watering livestock.  The water is highly mineralized and so not the greatest tasting but this is a great use of a ready resource.

As always I have to reflect on how incredibly blessed I and we are to be allowed to serve here.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

First Field Trip Of A New Era

I ended my time with Living Water on Friday and drove off Saturday morning with Drew Harding the new executive director of With Open Eyes to Namanga, Kenya to start the next chapter of our lives here.  With Open Eyes serves to accelerate the spread of the Gospel by empowering indigenous pastors with the physical tools they need to succeed.  

We met up with Pastor Simon and Pastor Daniel
Sharing a Coke and a Smile

and drove East to the gates of Amboseli National Park at the foot of Kiliminjaro for an outreach to the Maasai community there under an Acacia Tree.  
Drew representing three generations of missions
Simon bringing the Word

After sharing for a few hours under the tree we watched the sun set over the plains and reflect of off Kilimanjaro as animals grazed and just marveled at the beauty of creation in this part of the world.  At dark we moved further into the bush to set up for a Jesus Film showing.  Located with absolutely no one in site we fired up the generator and associated gear and people slowly tickled in from every direction.  The movie ran half way through as people arrived.  Once we had about 200 Maasai in attendance we started the movie over so everyone could follow along from the beginning.  This would never work in America but here those that had started from the beginning wanted late arrivals to see what they had missed.  We have nothing but time here.  The community wanted to feed us so food appeared around 10pm- great chapatti (tortilla style bread) and a goat and cabbage stew that was superb.  We wrapped up the evening around 11:30 with 40 people committed to joining a discipleship program and be ministered to by the WOE Mobile Messenger for the area.  As these 40 grow in understanding and number a church will be planted and full time pastor either selected and trained or moved in as a missionary.  

The ride back to Namanga was thrilling with all of the nocturnal activity at hand.  We nearly had a number of water bucks tied to the hood for billtong (jerky) processing.  And a family of giraffe cut it very very close.   

Local traffic conditions require defensive driving

The following day, Sunday, we rose early to circumvent the Namanga mountain range to the Tanzania line for fellowship and worship with a Mobile Messenger church plant that is progressing very well for for a different Maasai clan.  This group is growing in both knowledge of the Gospel and in activities.  They have a church building and a dormitory with thoughts of a school for the future. 

We each had the opportunity to share and teach on Bible passages we felt put on our hearts.  It was an absolutely wonderful time with our brothers and sisters here. 

Drew was in need of some new flip-flops so we stopped off at the boarder trading shops for some traditional locally made (recycled tire) sandals.

I will be supporting WOE in making an assessment of their programs in Africa to date: where they are, where they are going and how they can get there in a healthy way.  Looking into expansion of programming, appropriate ways to meet the physical as well as spiritual needs of the communities they are engaged with, etc.

Really a remarkable opportunity to serve the Kingdom and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to remain engaged in the region.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Abundant Bounty...veggie coop

These are the assorted organic vegetables that I received today from a weekly vegetable co-op that I belong to. ( kids have not been as excited as I have to try things outside of our routine...veggies like kohlrabi,skuma wilki, rhubarb, arrowroot, and tetragon.  Better put my chefs hat on, every week is a surprise and all for only about $10 usd. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Last Field Trip Of An Era

Tippy-Tap Hand Washing Station

My time with Living Water International is coming to an end this Friday.  It has been a wonderful time of service since joining in 2007 and moving to Rwanda in 2008.  I always love the opportunity to share the field work with new prospective partners and those that have invested in our work year after year.  So, it is fitting that my last big thing with LWI was to expose a new potential partner, Stephen, to our amazing program in Uganda.  

We traveled to both work areas in Ruhama and Nyabushori counties with our interim country director, Micheal Hornshaw, to experience the church engagement, appropriate water solution, hygiene and sanitation promotion programs.  

One of the highlights for me was meeting a school hygiene and sanitation club.  They had great pride in the work they had acomplished around their school and community.  The surrounding area was spotless, their latrines were well cared for and tidy, tippy-tap hand washing stations were prevalent and being used by the students and they had a number of skits prepared to teach oral learners in their community the lessons they have been learning.  These two dudes had a cute message to share with me that they use to sensitize the community to what LWI is partnering with them to do in the region.  (apologize in advance for the quality of my phone camera)

Hygiene club teaching each other sound practices

Stephen shooting some of the 16km spring fed pipeline

Dan, our drill team leader had the opportunity to teach Stephen a bit about the drilling process and equipment we utilize.  As well we took the opportunity to travel along our 16km long pipeline that is fed by a mountain spring.  This project option was an answer to prayer in an area where high iron is a problem found in borehole water.

Oh, and speaking of health, we think we discovered why is having so much trouble processing customers back in the USA:

The White House or data center in Ntungemo, Uganda?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Update: Ivory Poaching by Use of Cyanide

I posted a bit on this situation a couple of weeks ago and I have to say this update of  the numbers is astounding and terrible.  They have recently had two seizures of ivory in both Uganda and Kenya that value about $10,000,000 - that's TEN MILLION dollars worth on the East Asian market for use in magic potions and art.  The Rhino are also a major target right now and they are quickly reducing in number even in highly "protected" areas.  

Cyanide has been used to kill 300 elephants in Zimbabwe's biggest nature reserve - three times the original estimate

By , and Aislinn Laing, Johannesburg
Poachers in Zimbabwe have killed more than 300 elephants and countless other safari animals by cyanide poisoning, The Telegraph has learned.
The full extent of the devastation wreaked in Hwange, the country's largest national park, has been revealed by legitimate hunters who discovered what conservationists say is the worst single massacre in southern Africa for 25 years.
Pictures taken by the hunters, which have been obtained exclusively byThe Telegraph, reveal horrific scenes. Parts of the national park, whose more accessible areas are visited by thousands of tourists each year, can be seen from the air to be littered with the deflated corpses of elephants, often with their young calves dead beside them, as well as those of other animals.
There is now deep concern that the use of cyanide – first revealed in July, but on a scale that has only now emerged – represents a new and particularly damaging technique in the already soaring poaching trade.
Zimbabwean authorities said that 90 animals were killed this way. But the hunters who captured these photographs say they have conducted a wider aerial survey and counted the corpses of more than 300.
Poachers killed the elephants over the past three months by lacing waterholes and salt licks with cyanide. Animals are drawn to them during the dry season in the already arid and remote south-eastern section of the 5,660-square mile park.
After the elephants died, often collapsing just a few yards from the source, lions, hyenas and vultures which fed on their carcasses were also struck down, as were other animals such as kudu and buffalo that shared the same waterholes.
Zimbabwe's authorities say the cyanide has been planted by villagers who sell the elephants' tusks for around £300 each to cross-border traders. They can be resold in South Africa for up to £10,000 a pair, according to court papers relating one recent incident, sometimes re-emerging as carved artefacts such as bangles in Cape Town's craft markets.
Zimbabwe has one of Africa's biggest surviving elephant populations, since herds in neighbouring regions of Eastern and Central Africa have been severely damaged by poaching, and half of the country's estimated 80,000 elephants are thought to live in Hwange.
Conservationists say the African elephant is so much under threat from habitat loss, conflict with humans and illegal poaching and hunting that on present trends it could die out within 50 years.
In 2011, at least 17,000 African elephants were killed for their tusks according to Cites, the international body that focuses on endangered species. Ivory is highly prized as a "white gold" in Asian countries where a growing middle class is seeking safe investments, and United Nations wildlife experts say the trade in illegal ivory has more than doubled since 2007.
The poisoning was first uncovered by a European hunter and his Zimbabwean guides who spotted a dead cow and her calf as they flew over the park in a helicopter.
As they flew lower they saw scores more. The corpses of endangered white-backed vultures which had fed on the toxic carcasses were dotted near each dead elephant.
"We couldn't believe our eyes," one hunter, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals from poachers, told The Telegraph. "We thought at first that they must have been shot. There were too many to have died of thirst or hunger."
They flew back to camp and drove into the park after alerting government rangers as they went. "We found that elephants we saw from the air were not shot, but the tusks were gone," the hunter said.
His group spotted a man walking into the park carrying a four-gallon bucket and a packet. They watched him dig a hole for the bucket in the sand, lower it in and then mix powder from the packet into the water.
Zimbabwe's National Parks and Wildlife Authority sent investigators and police to the area, where there are normally few patrols. The water was discovered to contain cyanide – available cheaply for use in informal gold mining that is conducted locally.
After further investigation police arrested eight men from a village in the Tsholotsho district which borders the park, along with a number of fellow officers who were allegedly bribed to ignore the poachers, and a Harare-based cyanide distributor to whom more than 100lbs of the poison were traced. So far, 14 people have been arrested since the first poisoning was discovered.
As news of the killings spread, the Zimbabwean authorities took usually swift and harsh action – putting captured poachers before the courts where they were given sentences of up to 16 years in prison along with stiff fines.
When Saviour Kasukawere, Zimbabwe's environment minister, visited a village just outside the park two weeks ago she was told that the poachers had acted out of desperation as their crops had failed and tourism fees from hunters and safari operators had dried up.
Caroline Washaya-Moyo, a spokesman for Zimbabwe's National Parks, said 10 more poisoned elephants were found last week, none of which had been dead for more than three weeks, suggesting that the poisoning had not stopped.
She said she was "surprised" by the report that 300 elephants had died, but conceded that ZimParks only begun its own aerial survey last week. "We did find that (looking for carcasses) is more efficient from the air," she said.
Police have discovered tusks near a railway line which passes through Hwange and last week found more, hidden in a concealed compartment of a luxury bus on the way to South Africa.
Some of the carcasses have now been burned, Mrs Washaya-Moyo said, but others had been kept for further investigation.
Mrs Washaya-Moyo said they were struggling to persuade those in custody to identify the organisers. "It is a pity that they all seem so reluctant to identify the big people involved, as ivory, like the rhino horn, is not used in Zimbabwe. It is used by foreigners," she said.
Tom Milliken, programme leader for the Elephant and Rhino Traffic network, a conservation organisation, said he was "astounded" by the scale of the killings. "This is the largest massacre of elephant in this part of the world for the last 25 years," he said.
"This (use of buckets of water) is seductive for elephants at this dry time of year when they're looking hard for water. Cyanide is a new weapon against wildlife."
Tim Snow, a South African expert on wildlife poisoning, said the emergence of cyanide in poaching was "really scary".
"Quite apart from these elephants' deaths, what about all the other animals using that water source and scavenging from those corpses? The knock-on effect must be horrendous," he said.
Cyanide has not been used in poaching before because in most countries it is strictly controlled and its use in agriculture had been phased out, he said.
"In Zimbabwe, because of the challenges they are facing, I would imagine it's a free for all," he said. "If this is a gold mining area then that's where the investigators should be looking. If controls are not put in place, its use could become rife."
Conservationists say ZimParks needs 10 times the number of rangers it currently has to be able to prevent cyanide from being used again.
Thys de Vries, one of Zimbabwe's best known professional hunters and conservationists, said: "There are some very good people out there but they are short of resources and need help."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Online Grocery Shopping - - - In Kenya

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that the first time I ordered groceries online would be in Kenya.  Now I'm not talking about the occasional Amazon order of a specialty item that you can't find in the supermarket - I'm ordering bread, milk, eggs, etc.

1) Free delivery on orders over $20!  Considering I don't have to use expensive petrol to drive to the store and pay to park that is a bargain.
2) Safety! In light of the recent Westgate Mall terrorist attacks, anytime that I don't have to face a "high value target" supermarket or shopping mall is a good thing (our embassy is still advising precaution).
3) I want to be supportive of progressive Indian/Kenyan business who are trying harder to reach new customers.

The supermarket that is offering online ordering is not the Wal-mart wannabe Nakumatt, and it is not a store that I regularly visit if I'm shopping in person. (because it is further).

As hokey as the whole thing sounds - they deliver with accuracy and service.

Chandarana Supermarket online grocery shopping