Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thoughts and Miscellany from Kenya

This was an incredibly rewarding and fun trip. We learned a ton and had an experience that will give us lasting memories and possibly change how we live our lives. It’s one thing to read or see pictures about how people in developing worlds live, it’s quite another to see it in person. Some of the things we take for granted here, such as working plumbing and reliable electricity, are available only to those with money or sometimes not even then as far as reliability. I’ve long known how good I’ve got it, despite my relative poorness as a student I’ve never had to go without and have a strong support system with my family, but seeing rural Africa hit me hard on how well off I am comparatively. A lot of the people we saw live on less than a dollar a day and they first have to deal with how they’re going to get through the day before they can focus on education and improving their standing. This is something I believe many people here in the US fail to understand. These people are fighting for survival, and that holds true for our poorest as well, and don’t have the time or resources available to get the education and healthcare they need to do well. I will do what I can to help change this and hope to start my own business like Aqua Clara in the future. Bring them clean cheap water, improve their health and thereby give them the time and resources to improve their standing.

The smart culture book turned out to be very accurate and a great resource. Thanks Jen, you're the best!

I watched, I think, at least two movies on each of the long plane rides. I've been loving the VOD systems since they've come out, but getting them on planes like this is one of the best applications possible. No way my portable DVD player lasts through even one of the rides, and there were a plethora of options available for viewing. I watched the following: Sherlock Holmes, The Blind Side (really liked this, much more so than I thought I would), Inglorious Basterds, Avatar, Precious (fantastic), some of the TV shows they had, and The Invention of Lying (loved this).

Kenyans have a very different attitude towards work and time than we in the US have. The Moi students did help, but definitely took more breaks and were slower/more deliberate in their work. That's just the way they do things, and I kinda wish we were more like that in some ways as we are definitely a heavy working society here and are not as relaxed as many European and African countries. The Kenyans mentioned that they were impressed by our calm demeanor on that last day to finish up after we heard how crunched for time we were. We calmly and quickly solved all problems that were thrown our way and I think really gave Purdue a great name. I'm quite proud to have been a part of this group of seniors; those in ABE have been described by multiple professors as being the best group they've ever had.

Being a car nut, I kept an eye out for the vehicles there and observed the differences between what we get and what's available there. They're a former British colony, so they have right-hand drive cars and drive on the opposite side of the road than us. By far the most common make was Toyota, which seemingly was half the cars I saw and ranged from late 70s to brand new. The newer cars were better looking than the ones we get here, had different names, and were smaller. I don't recall seeing a new Toyota there the size of a Camry, aside from wagons. I was fortunate to see a Hilux up close and personal a few times. Those things are incredible and I cannot believe we don't get those here as they are indestructible as seen on Top Gear and can drive through anything.

A Hilux in the wild:
From Kenya 2010

They had no trouble going through stuff like this where other vehicles spun their wheels:
From Kenya 2010
From Kenya 2010

Overall, the Japanese makes made up nearly all of the vehicles. I don't recall seeing any American makes, which would make sense as we don't produce much in the way of right-hand drive. I saw a couple Peugeots and Renaults. Nissan was well represented in the mini-van (matatus) arena. The only luxury mark I saw was Mercedes-Benz.

It was a fantastic trip and I wish we'd had more time to finish the filter and allow for a little bit of sight-seeing. We wanted to go to a national park, but due to the struggles of getting there for the 12 who flew through Detroit we were unable to. I'd love to go back again, and I plan to keep in touch with Scott and Claire and could use a vacation next year or even this year and volunteer my time to help them do what they do. I look forward to hearing how this filter works as it could be another way Aqua Clara can help the people of East Africa.

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