Holy moly kids. It’s raining again as we truck through our short rainy season. It is usually sunny till around 2 or 3 o’clock, then the clouds open up and it rains all night. The mud here is unreal and as you walk it piles higher and higher on your shoes, till you are like 8 feet tall (only a small exaggeration). I will note though a Kenyan can walk on a muddy trail in white pants and not get an ounce of mud on them where I usually look like I crawled to work!
Today is 11 months in Kenya, living without electricity, water, and indoor bathroom/ shower. I have lost 58 pounds (4 pants sizes) to date and am the lightest I have ever been since I was 12 years old. I look like a different person! I have been increasing my running mileage and am currently at 14 miles. I was able to run from my house (in Nuro Muro) to Nanyuki and then half way back before I was too dehydrated to keep on keeping on. I carry my water with me but need a refill at about 12 miles. I have been running later in the day to get my body used to the heat and sun which stops people from finishing the Lewa Marathon. The Lewa is June 30th and it runs through a game reserve, past zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, and other bigger animals. It has been gaining popularity as one of the cooler marathons in the world but also has earned a top ten hardest marathons in the world. The heat, hilly landscape, and altitude are all reasons that it is so hard. Fortunately, I live 2,000 feet higher in elevation than Lewa and the hills here are a bit bigger because I live on the side of a mountain. Ideal for some hardcore marathon training!
Work has been going well and these last few weeks I feel like I am trying to just keep up with all these projects. Check it out:
Coming up quick! Harvest season is upon us and we should be harvesting 8,000kgs of honey in this next harvest (really the first time that we have had a productive honey harvest in the last 4 years). Then we have also started our kebs certification process (like passing health codes in the states, so we can be sold in stores) and building a room that meets their strict cleanliness requirements. We have ordered the bottles but I have to buy a barcode and put the labels together to get everything ready to be packaged and shipped. I also want to check back with my farmers to see if there is any additional equipment needed. Then to review the business plan that I wrote a few months ago…
I just attended a 2 day value chain seminar on the benefits and reasons for growing bamboo. There is a huge demand for it and it has over 2,500 uses, including building furniture and even bikes. We have 5 farms that are working to produce seedlings to start this project. We hit a wall when we started with a species of bamboo that was not used to the cold weather here and there was a virus (bamboo has no immune system to repel sickness) which killed off our whole first batch. But I think that we got it right now! These last bamboo seedlings have been doing much better- I believe the goal is 750 seedlings to start.
Bamboo here has had a hard life- back in the early 1980’s the bamboo was harvested so much and so often that the government put a ban on harvesting it, that remains till this day. So strict that one pole of bamboo could land you in jail for 10 years. It has created astigmatism of people avoiding bamboo at all costs even though it is not illegal to grow your own bamboo and use it. In the last 3 decades, people have forgotten about bamboo but we are bringing it back! It grows silly fast and uses little water. It is also good for preventing soil erosion. These two things have led us to become friends with bamboo again and I think that bamboo deserves a second chance-don’t you?
Jikos (stoves)/Carbon Credits:
We have performed a week long survey finding out how much wood local families use when cooking or heating their homes. Then we have started to design our own new custom energy efficient stove called a jiko here to help reduce the amount of wood that is used in those processes. If we can get our stoves into 600 homes, than we qualify for carbon credits. Carbon Credits is essentially a process that says if you can protect an area or reduce processes that harm the environment (in this case wood burning and deforestation) then they award you credits/ money if you can make those efforts sustainable for at least one year.
These are the Jikos
Kenya Adventure Co.:
John and Charles’ mountaineering company has come a long way. I have been continually impressed by the level of service that they offer. We have been working mostly on the website, there has been so much content it has taken a while to write all of it. Now, the guys are reviewing all the data and then it will go to the developer. I have been having issues finding an insurance company that will cover our mountain hiking trips. Most providers will only cover you to 15,000ft but the point that we climb to is 16,000 feet. More research needed! The last part is to figure out how to accept credit cards, in general, and also on the website.
Guides and Porters Association (GPA):
We have held all of our awareness meetings and they all went really well. We have the Kenya Wildlife Service on board, which will require that guides, porters, and cooks be certified to a specific level of skill and competence that will be decided by the GPA. This association will also standardize wages, weights carried, offer first aid, CPR and financial management classes. They will also be responsible for doing risk management on the mountain. Out of the 2,000 guides and porters, there is a group of 60 individuals who do not want to join, for their own reasons. We have a meeting with them soon to see if we can get them to join. However, if everything goes to plan they will be required to join our association regardless of the outcome of the meeting. The next steps are to elect the committee to run the GPA and then they will elect a board of directors. Then these two committees will decide how we proceed.
Football (soccer for you kids!)- Symon, a football coach, approached me about starting to put together our own football league, because the costs of the one that does exist, we cannot begin to afford. Most of the kids that are playing soccer are playing without shoes, pads, and sometimes they play with a ball made of plastic bags. I want to write a proposal to get them soccer balls and eventually shoes and pads. It will be a slow road because it is very dangerous for some kids to be playing with cleats and some playing barefoot. We are starting with 130 registered kids who are between the ages 14-18. Symon wants this to be more than just a league of play, he relates football to math and other subjects. It will also become a vehicle for the boys to do volunteer work on the weekend with disabled people, orphans, and a variety of environmental projects. It seems like there is a lot of funding for youth football and girls football in Kenya. My goal is to start with the boys league then later, have them help me develop a girls league after we have a formula that works. Girl’s football has not seen a lot of positive feedback because of the house chores that are required of most girls here. They do not have nearly as much free time as the boys do. I have given myself 2 weeks to put together a proposal that Symon and I will begin to sell our league to organizations such as FIFA, Adidas, and Puma.
Peace Crop Nutrition Plan- I have always been interested in learning about healthy eating and why certain foods make us feel the way they do. As I have been shedding more and more weight, I have been curious about why the diets here have such a huge impact on our overall health. I already have a solid background in nutrition because of all the marathon running/ training I have accomplished. You have to eat perfectly to run almost 30 miles! Two other volunteers, Louis and Lorenzo, have been helping me compile a nutritional plan for all of Peace Corp. We had a chance to meet a few weeks ago, in at the Ultimate Frisbee Tournament, but we needed a little more time. I am very excited to put together this plan that will include a guide to general nutrition, exercise, and motivation!
Business Basics- This is an idea that Blake and I have slowly been developing. We want to create a very user friendly ‘business basics package’ to help the non-business volunteers. There are even some business volunteers that do not have backgrounds in business! More on this later…
Lily Pond- I have been working with Stacy PCV and Katy and Gareth, the owners, of the Lily Pond Arts Center. The restaurant was having trouble so Stacy and I went in and did some consulting for them. In the past few weeks Katy and Gareth have made some amazing and wonderful changes. The restaurant has now become a happening smoothie and coffee bar. The gift shop has become a bar and lounge (called The Pond) which has been quickly gaining popularity. We even had the Kenya Boys Choir come and sing there last Saturday (who played for President Obama)! Not bad for a place that’s only been open a few weeks. Gareth is the guy who is helping us develop the Kenya Adventure Co. website, so we come full circle in the helping game. Both of them have been wonderful to me and I feel very lucky to be a part of all this. Next step is to begin to develop the arts programs that Katy is very excited to begin. We were going to develop a CBO (Community Based Organization) called Hearts for Arts, which will create art programs for the community.
“The Pond” at the Lily Pond Art Center
Whew! So that’s about the majority of my workload for now! I am leaving today to do some work with the UNDP (United Nations Development Project) for a few days in a place called Embu. They disperse funding for many of the local development projects in the area. Then next week I will be teaching my bee and bamboo guys 3 days of business management classes.
Life gets lived! Just staying above the water and riding the wave! Here’s a few recent photos from the Adventures of Josh!! (More blog to read below!)
The Lewa Marathon is coming up quick (June 30) as is my Birthday (June 12)! Then in the beginning of July I am heading to Italy for about 10 days to see my mom and my new step dad, Jeff! Very exciting. Then in August, I have a hiking trip planned to the Abadare Mountains, where I will be working as a representative of the Kenya Adventure Co. to learn more about our British World Challenge Program.
On a side note! I was thinking today how we can live next to people every day but not understand truly how their lives are. I think that I have been hypersensitive to it because I have friends at both ends of the spectrum here. My neighbors live without electricity, water, windows, have dirt floors, and cook outside. Then I have friends that live a more western-style type of life; driving cars, electricity, running water, playing video games on their TV, basically the life I left back in the states. But it’s true; I don’t think that we realize how good we really have it.
This is a website that is pretty eye opening: http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats
These facts blew me away:
- Half the world lives on $2.50 a day
- 80% of world lives on less than $10 a day
- ¼ of the world (1.6 billion people) stay without electricity
- A mere 12% of the world’s population uses 85% of its water, and these
- 12% do not live in the Third World.
So count your blessings and appreciate your life! Problems are not as bad as you think when you have perspective. Love to all of you,
Take care and be well