Sunday, January 19, 2014

Out of Africa

On Friday we visited five borrower sites from another one of our partners. We saw shallow wells, like the one on the left, and bathrooms, like the structure to the right. The shallow well is hand dug twenty feet deep with a knotted rope tied to a 10L bucket. I tried my hand at pulling up a bucket and only made it halfway, the rope was digging into my hands. It's amazing to watch the women do it like it's nothing.
After our work was complete in Meru, we drove the five hours back to Nairobi. We headed out at 6am to watch Nairobi National Park wake up (this is also where the movie Out of Africa was filmed). Lucky for us, we had an awesome guide (our driver for all of our field visits this week) who knew exactly where to look for animals. We passed other drivers along the way who said they hadn't spotted anything yet. We saw baboons, rhino, giraffe, zebra, gazelle, antelope, crocodile, secretary bird, vulture, quail, warthog, rock herix and ostrich.

The elephants pictured above were at our second destination, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which is an orphanage for elephants who have lost their mothers to ivory poachers. The elephants stay there until they are three, usually, and they work on getting them stronger and releasing them back into the wild. It was quite humbling to see so many magnificent animals in the wild. The baby elephants playing the mud hole was probably the best, enjoy!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Middle of the World

This was taken today. I was so excited when we drove by that I asked the driver to turn around and go back. It just seemed like one of those moments you should capture.
Sorry it's been quiet this week online. Offline, I can assure you, has been anything but. However, it's probably not that interesting to write each day about meetings, car rides, missed meals and water tanks, so I thought I'd bring you a recap towards the end of my trip (and before my free day with my co-workers this weekend before my flight, bound to be more interesting for you at least). I spent my first few days here in Nairobi - first an all-day staff retreat with our local office and then in some meetings with potential collaborators and my U.S. co-workers (funny you have to leave the office to actually get time to talk sometimes).
Yesterday we headed to Nyeri to visit one of the branch offices of one of our microfinance partners to see how they were doing with lending for water and sanitation. After meeting with their staff, we headed to the field to visit four of their borrowers.Three of them had borrowed money to buy a water tank to store water, since the local water service in the rural areas only supplies two hours of service three days a week, and the other had borrowed to build a toilet behind her home. (The photo above was taken next to her house.) We complete a survey with each borrower to track how the program is doing and what their experience was like with the loan.
Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and then out to a hotel (which seems to be interchangeable for restaurant and sleeping place in Kenya and India) called the White Rhino. It was interesting - my salad that was to come with cheese had pineapple in it's place - and not really photo-worthy. It was, however, nice to have a meal together with all my colleagues (three from the U.S. and two from Kenya). After an evening of catching up on email, sleep and (finally for me) a hot shower, we woke up to head out to see a few more borrowers.
One of the borrowers had just purchased two plots of land to build a house, raise goats and cows, and build a home. The next loan she took out was to build this toilet (pictured above) which is under construction. A 25 foot pit was dug and then a concrete slab was poured over it, the little white cup in the far right corner is to keep a vent open so she can have a "VIP latrine." This type of latrine is a pit latrine with a pipe ventilating the inside (once the surrounding super structure is built); the pipe helps with the insects and smells inside the structure and is healthier and more pleasant for the user. The wood in the middle is forming the hole where the toilet itself is. Now you know! :)
The hillside of Nyeri, Kenya.
After our visits, which took awhile due to the windy, bumpy dirt roads, we headed to our next destination - Meru, Kenya. On our way, as you can see at the top of this post, we stopped on the equator. I was a total nerd and took a million pictures. Now, I am sitting in my hotel room, waiting for the other car of my colleagues to arrive and then we'll probably get some dinner. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Jambo from Kenya

First, a little blog housekeeping (in case you were on pins and needles from the last post). Twila chose option #4 for their lodging for the blog winner weekend. We're going in mid-March, so there will be more to come on that soon.

As for now, I am sending you Swahili greetings from Kenya! I arrived to my hotel this morning at 1am and crashed, despite the 6 hours of sleep I had on the flight here from Paris. I then proceeded to sleep until 1:15pm. Needless to say, I did not see or do much on my first day in Kenya outside of some work, a tepid shower and a nice breakfast/lunch/dinner with my colleague, Laura who had arrived from Ghana at 7am this morning. We were a bit punchy but managed a small walk to and from our meal.
On the recommendation of another colleague, we checked out Java House which was rumored to have great coffee and lots of foods that ex-pats love. Since we were both coming out of sleep comas, it seemed wise to not send stomachs into any foreign territory yet. I had a cheese, tomato and guacamole sandwich, some seasoned french fries and a lovely mocha.
I am now forcing myself to stay awake until 10pm in order to get myself on this new timezone, 9 hours ahead of home. The next week will hopefully bring you more exciting posts but I wanted to at least let those who worry (mom) know that I made it here safely. Thanks for checking in!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure - Part 2

So, it's been awhile since we had an update on the latest blog winner weekend. The winners have recently become parents (yay!) so we wanted to give them a little time to get settled in with that. We have the dates set and now the next choice that needs to be made, Twila, is where we'll stay.

Below are four Airbnb properties that are close to where we will be skiing/snowboarding in Tahoe. They have all been pre-screened (by me) to make sure they all include free wifi, hot tub, fireplace and at least two bedrooms/bathrooms. Beyond that, I have named them by their best attributes below. Have fun perusing and leave a comment with your choice!
Modern Ski Chalet
Hot Tub Overlooking Lake
Sweet Cabin with Game Room
Cozy, Romantic Spot with Lake Views