Saturday, 6 February 2010

Bucket List - Things To Do Before I Die

Earlier, I wrote that my proposed overland driving trip to Kenya was one of the things I want to do before I die, and I could not think of anything else that falls into this category.

But now I have thought of something else I would really like to do. I would love to see the Rio Carnival.

So, having started, I am going to try to make a list of ten things to go on my bucket list:

  1. Drive from the UK to Kenya (and back?)
  2. Visit the Maasai Mara/Serengeti
  3. Attend the annual Rhino Charge 4x4
  4. Go to  Rio for the Carnival
  5. Visit India
  6. Attend the Notting Hill Carnival - should be easy enough.

Well, it's a start! I will add things as they occur to me - I really must get a life.

What is your Bucket List?

Friday, 5 February 2010

Gentle Drive to Kenya

This blog is getting taken over by my dream/hope or whatever it will eventually turn out to be, so I have decided that all further posts relating to it will be on this new blog.

Even More musings - Gentle Drive to Kenya

Dreaming of (or maybe secretly planning) a 'gentle' drive from home in the UK, through Europe, Asia, and some of Africa to home in Kenya, a total of about 6,500 miles.

When I ... sorry, if I ever get my project going, I will be driving through the whole of Europe, through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and finally Kenya.

But then what? I will be in Kenya with a car I cannot sell, because I cannot import it as it is over 8 years old. So what to do with it?

Well, I was thinking (a painful process, especially on a Friday evening), what about driving it back to the UK? Now that sounds like a mad enough idea, but I wouldn't be the first, would I? No, of course not.

So, where would I go from Kenya? I have always fancied visiting Malawi. I don't know why, it is just somewhere that I have read about and it grabbed my imagination. So, do I go through Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, or go straight to and through Tanzania to Malawi. Difficult choice. I can decide that later.

But from Malawi, I will traverse Zambia and Angola, then follow the Atlantic coast north to Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Burkina Faso, bits of Mali, then into Mauritania and Morocco. Cross the Med at or near Gibraltar and then through Spain, France and the Channel Tunnel - to home. Simples.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Gentle Drive to Kenya - the Vehicle

Dreaming of (or maybe secretly planning) a 'gentle' drive from home in the UK, through Europe, Asia, and some of Africa to home in Kenya, a total of about 6,500 miles.

I have been thinking a lot, talking to lots of people, and reading accounts of others who have done the same trip, one way or the other.

One thing I have found is a suitable vehicle, a 1996 Isuzu Bighorn Irmscher (a grey import Isuzu Trooper). It has a 3.1 litre diesel engine, automatic gearbox, and lots of space. It has done a low mileage and is in excellent condition. More importantly, it is well within budget, leaving me a little to put new tyres on it and give it a good service.

I just hope it doesn't get sold before I can raise the money to buy it.

Update: Being quite old and therefore not all shiny and new-looking, it is less conspicuous to car-jackers, something that I have been told is not only a prolem on the african leg of the trip!

Only in Kenya

Update: Following on from a comment to this blog, there are a lot of Kenyans living abroad in Europe, USA and even Japan. You must have seen things in your host country  that strikes you as funny, peculiar or even downright mad - things that would fall into the "Only In ..." category. So, let's hear about them.


Oh! How many blogs have I read with this title? Most are humorous, one or two are disparaging.

This blog has not been written to criticise Kenya or Kenyans, but rather to point out the differences in points of view between Kenyans and "Westerners".

I was visiting a hotel in Kisii. It is not the most luxurious hotel in the town, but it is very cheap and  more importantly for the visitor, clean - spotlessly clean. It is set in beautiful gardens with many colourful plants and shrubs. Even the trees are colourful - and it is close to the town centre.

It is purported to be the oldest hotel in Kisii, having been built in the 1920s, and it shows. Some of the windows in the cloisters are rotting, even to the point that the lowest pane of glass has fallen out. But it doesn't matter, I was told. The windows are never closed, so why replace the glass. It is superfluous. Logical. If the window pane is replaced, eventually it will fall only out again when the frame rots.

Outside, there is a large covered patio where patrons can sit, eat their meal, sip Tusker (other lagers are available) or just enjoy the gardens. The patio is supported by rough-hewn poles, typical of Kenya. But either they were too short, or the roof has been raised, and, the gap between the top of the poles and the roof trusses is filled with bits of planed 3x2.

It rather detracts from the overall impression of the place. I asked why bits of off-cut wood were used to extend the poles and was told that it was practical. In other words, the bits of wood nailed to the tops of the poles did what was necessary, no more, no less. Of course, from a purely practical point of view, the solution is practical, and a lot cheaper than replacing the poles, or seamlessly adding more pole to the existing ones. Practical.

A couple of days later, I visited another hotel in the town, at the insistence of the Mayor. Now this was a different kettle of fish. If they had the star rating system, in Kenya, this hotel would have five. It was brand new and looked it. Again, it was set in grounds with manicured lawns, mature trees and clipped hedges.

The centre-piece is a bar and seating area. It is covered, but with open sides. It was magnificent. Quiet Kenyan music played in the background, not intrusive. The staff were attentive. This was truly a nice hotel. My associate and I sat in the bar area and sipped tea as we chatted to the manager. But, when she was  called away to deal with things that hotel managers deal with, I looked around - and up.

The roof of this bar area is part thatch and part corrugated steel sheet. And on some of the sheets of this roof in this excellent hotel were - black prints, not just faint smudges, but real full-on hand prints.

It really spoiled the effect of this hotel for about five seconds. Then I laughed quietly to myself. Only in Kenya. Don't get me wrong. I love this country, I love the people, and maybe this is part of the reason why. The roof is perfect, the hotel is perfect. And after all, what is a palm print on the inside of the roof? It can be cleaned off - later.

These little anecdotes are, to me, what makes Kenya Kenyan. Never mind what it looks like, if it works, don't fix it! Maybe we could learn something from this.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Education - different stokes for different genders?

I have just been listening to the  headmaster of Eton College on the radio, explaining the differences between boys and girls, when it comes to education.

Girls will sit down and apply themselves to work, whereas boys' minds will wander, they are restless and cannot sit still for too long.

There is a good  reason for this, an inbred reason, which will apply even more in developing countries.
Let's take, as an example, the Maasai. What do Maasai children traditionally do (if they are not attending school)?

Boys will be charged with looking after the flocks and herds. They will be constantly scanning the horizon for danger. They will be constantly gazing over their charges to look out for strays. They are not focused on anything close at hand. Their gaze is in the distance.

Girls will be at home, preparing food, making bead-work, looking after younger siblings, or whatever. They will be concentrating within their immediate environment.

Take these children and put them into a school environment where they are expected to sit at a desk and concentrate on their immediate environment - the chalk board, teacher, books.

Who is better equipped, due to the environment they are used to?

Well, it would appear that these activities that are carried out by the Maasai children today are inbred into all children, so even in a developed country, where children have been going to school for generations, these traits still come out. Boys will be looking into the distance, wanting (needing?) to move around, whereas girls can sit and concentrate on their immediate surroundings.

I accept that the above is a massive generalisation, but when I think about it, it seems to fit in with my experiences of child behaviour in class or other situation where sitting quietly is the requirement.

I will try to remember all this if/when we expand Twiga to include classrooms.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Gentle Drive to Kenya - Middle East to Kenya

Dreaming of (or maybe secretly planning) a 'gentle' drive from home in the UK, through Europe, Asia, and some of Africa to home in Kenya, a total of about 6,500 miles.
Since my last blog (not that long ago) in the subject of a fantasy[?] overland trip to Kisii from the UK, I couldn't find a way to get from Syria or Jordan to the west bank of the Suez or Red Sea. But now, I've found it!

So, the next part of my trip will be as follows. On leaving Turkey, I will travel south (as best I can) through Syria and Jordan, avoiding Israel like the plague.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Israel, but if I get any sort of stamp in my passport showing that I have been there, I will not get through some of the Moslem countries, apparently. So, I will avoid Israel like the plague as that is easier than avoiding passing through Moslem countries.

In Jordan, I will make for Aqaba, where I can then take a ferry to Nubeiba. In this way I avoid Israel and Palestine. The next trick is to cross either the Gulf of Suez or the Suez Canal.

Once over the canal, I will make my way down to Aswan and this is where, by all accounts, the next problem arises. It would appear that there is no unauthorised road crossing between Egypt and Sudan. This was certainly true for north-bound traffic in 2008 anyway. This is Egyptian law.

So, it is another ferry, from Aswan to Wadi Halfa, along the Nile. From there to Khartoum, then on to Al Qadarif.

Then it is in to Ethiopia, Gondar, Addis Abeba, Hawassa, Moyale and across the border into Kenya. An alternative route would be to go west of lake Abaya to Arba Minch, Omorate and across the border into Illeret on the NE shore of Lake Turkana.

There is an almost direct route to Nakuru, at which point I would consider myself "almost home", as it is an easy run from there through Kericho to Kisii.

So, apart from crossing the Suez (canal or gulf), the itinerary is sorted.

Any comments?