Visits from a president, a mongoose, hedgehogs, and other stuff

Last week the president of Tanzania, His Excellency Hon. Dr. Jakaya M. Kikwete, visited Kenyatta University as part of a three-day state visit to Kenya. President Kikwete was the chief guest at a ceremony opening KU’s new Hospitality and Tourism Department building. Jen and I were invited to the ceremony which was organized by our host, Dr. Fuchaka Waswa. The ceremony included great singing from the KU chorus (with three exchange students from Finland), the police band, and a very funny comedy duo. The president and other speakers talked about the importance of tourism to the East African economy and the desperate need for well-trained workers in this field. The KU Hospitality and Tourism program will help meet that demand. The building includes a restaurant and bar that is run entirely by the students and it is right down the street from us. We are looking forward to eating some good meals there.

We also had a few visitors to our yard this week. The mongoose is back and brought along two juveniles. I managed to get a picture of the adult as it sat in our driveway. These mongooses are definitely slender mongooses (there are three types of mongoose in Kenya). We also saw a pair of African pygmy (four-toed) hedgehogs scurrying about our back porch. I was unable to snap a picture (it was dark and 5:30 AM) but I’ll keep trying.

Saturday was a day for shopping and cleaning. Our neighbor, Dr. Thomas Thoruwa, took me to the farmer’s market in Ruiru, the town just north of KU. Last weekend, Jen went with Tom’s wife Caroline. It is a big, busy, bustling market with lots of vendors. We got a lot of green bananas for matoke, carrots, potatoes, and avocados (which are much larger than the US variety). The pineapple vendor saw me for the mzugu (white person) I am and charged me double, as I learned later. I was charged 60 shillings (about $0.75) each but the local price was 30 shillings. Live and learn.

While I was at the market, Jen and the kids did some hand-washing. The kids really got into it. We don’t have a washing machine here (neither does anyone else), so everything gets washed by hand. We hired a woman (Purity) to help with the housework and laundry. She does a great job and is wonderful with the kids.

The Thoruwa family invited us over for a nice dinner on Saturday night. They have a daughter, Daniela (age 10) and a son, Abraham (age 7). Caroline teaches in the Chemistry Dept. and Tom in Energy Engineering. Caroline’s father was a diplomat and she lived in Manhattan when she was a small child. Earlier in the week we learned that another neighbor, a math professor, earned his Ph.D. from Syracuse University (my alma mater) in 1972. It truly is a small world.

Meanwhile, the public university professors are still on strike (with public school teachers and public hospital doctors). I have had plenty of time to prep for classes, work on some research projects, and meet with people working in the environment, development, and energy fields here in Nairobi. I met with the team at the Greening the Tea Industry in East Africa project, who are helping to build small hydropower facilities to power tea farms.

Jen has decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree in early childhood education here at KU. The educational system in Kenya defines early childhood as through grade 3.  Jen had originally met with the psychology department, but the educational psychology program on campus only services secondary level students. She’ll be conducting a comparative study of math fluency assessments in Kenya and the US. She has registered for the program, but has not started classes because of the strike.

Linnea had exciting news this week as she was selected to play for the Braeburn Rounders team.  Rounders is a sport that looks like a combination of cricket and baseball.  Apparently, tryouts are quite competitive.  We found it both wonderful and amazing that Linnea made the team in a sport that she’s never heard of let alone played in the past.

Garrett is settling in well at school.  His first week of Reception included tears, being bitten by a fellow student, and the acquisition of a permanent stain on his school uniform. Pretty much the typical first week we all remember of kindergarten.

Comments are closed.