Friday, July 30, 2010

Contest #1

Welcome to the first ever WoD Blog Contest! Now here's the low down. Below is a super adorable picture of a Maasai boy in Kenya. In the comments, write your best, most clever caption for this picture. Feel free to enter as many times as you want, but don't forget to put your name and email; we can't give awards to "anonymous" :)

The contest will be open for ONE WEEK, until next Friday, August 6th at noon. At which point we, your editors, will select our three favorite captions and post those for you, the readers, to vote on. Voting, in turn, will be open for one week, and the winner will be announced the following Friday. And don't forget there is an awesome prize up for grabs, too!

Here's your pic, now let the comments begin!

Just what is on this little guy's mind?

This Week in Kenya

We at World of Difference love to stay apprised of Kenyan current events. Here are some of the headlines that caught our attention this week.
  • Africa Can Grow Biofuel Crops Without Harming Food [Bloomberg]
  • Late Professor's Wish to Teach in Kenya Granted [My Plainview]
  • Children Remain Vulnerable in Kenya [Capital News]
  • National Housing Plans to Build 20,000 Homes Over Next 5 Years [My Bloomberg]
  • Debate Heats Up in Final Week Before Kenyan Constitution Vote [rfi]

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tomorrow's Contest

Hey all! I know each and every one of you is super duper excited for tomorrow's contest, aren't you? So are we! Let's fill you in on some of the details. The contest will be posted at noon (PST) tomorrow and entries will be accepted for one week, until the following Friday at noon (PST). It will be a "caption contest" in which we will post a radical African photograph and its up to you guys to come up with the caption! Sounds fun, right? It will be! And look what you will win:

Its a perennial calendar from our travels to Kenya with WoD! Completely hand crafted, and totally sustainable to boot!

Now set your thinking caps to clever and come back at noon tomorrow!

Adventure Race Experience

On Saturday, July 10th World of Difference co-hosted the first ever Women's Adventure Race in Provo, Utah. This race consisted of three legs: canoe, bike and run/walk. Each team consisting of two to three individuals had to complete the entire race as a team, and during each of the legs, there were team challenges that had to be completed (for example, small relays, games, etc. to learn about or benefit Africa). Read Adventure Race participant Charity's personal experience below:

The Adventure Race for Africa was very fun and a good idea for fundraising, and I can’t wait to be part of it next year. I was lucky and got to be a part of the race.

How it worked was there were teams of two to three people and you had the choice to do a 7-mile bike ride, canoe a mile, or run a 5K. Our Team (#174) chose to do the bike ride first, and that took us on the Provo River Trail. At the half way mark of all the obstacles, each team had to complete a challenge. The bike challenge was to climb up a slide, do the monkey bars, climb through a tube, and go down the slide, as well as put together three school kits, helping a kid get his Eagle Scout. After this there was a ride back to the start. Following that, we did the 5K. I had a hard time running, so we walked most of it. When we got to the halfway mark at the water station I had to blind fold my partner, turn her around 7 times, and tell her where to point to Kenya on a map. Next we had to run as fast as we could back to the start to begin the last leg of the Canoe Race. We hopped in our canoe and paddled as fast as we could to the halfway mark. Our challenge there was to fill a bucket full of water and walk the course that was laid out for us. This challenge was directed towards the Kenyan people who have to fight for clean water and how we, as Americans, use up to 10 gallons of water JUST when we shower. This gave us an idea of how fortunate we really are, and how grateful we should be for the things that we have.

After our final challenge, we hopped back into our canoe and paddled back to home base before running as fast as we could to our bonus challenge. Promoting the Grassroots Foundation for Soccer, we had to kick a soccer ball in one minute into the goal with two goalies blocking the goal. My partner did awesome and got it right in!!! We dashed to the finish line and everyone was cheering for us!! Following the race, there was a Kenyan band playing drums, and there were delicious bagels, bananas and water. The fastest people were given awards, and there was also a table set up to purchase goods from Kenya. Overall it was a very fun experience and I am going to train for next year so we can be the first ones and I can run the 5K.

If you were at the race and have any pictures or memories to share, please email them to blog moderator Dori at dori_jennings [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meet the Bukusu

The Bukusu are one of the seventeen Kenyan tribes of the Luhya Bantu people of East Africa. Calling themselves BaBukusu, they are the largest tribe of the Luhya nation, making up about 17% of the Luhya population. They speak Bukusu dialect.

Historically, the Bukusu lived in fortified villages, and did not have a structure of central authority. The highest authority was the village headman, called Omukasa, who was usually elected by the men of the village. There were also healers and prophets who acquired great status because of their knowledge of tribal tradition, medicines, and religion. Elijah Masinde, a resistance leader and traditional medicine man, was revered as a healer in the early 1980s.

The Bukusu highly approve of intermarriages between themselves and BaMasaaba. This is because they have quite a number of similarities in their codes of conduct, marriage customs, circumcision traditions and even folklore. Among the most famous of Bukusu marriage customs is the immense respect accorded one's in-laws.

Like many of the tribes we have learned about on this blog, cattle are very important: they are the main means of exchange. Most values, from the beauty of a girl to the price of a field of land, are expressed in terms of head of cattle. Possessing cattle wealth and prosperous agriculture, the Bukusu are sometimes not only admired but also envied by neighboring communities.

Being sedentary pastoralists, they have time to care for their sick and bury their dead. A sick person is looked after until he recuperated or died. When a person dies, he or she is buried in a grave that ranges from 3–4 feet in depth, with people buried facing East, the direction in which the sun rises. It is not uncommon for the dead to be buried in a sitting position.

Bukusu accounts indicate that both agricultural and pastoral economies have been practiced by the tribe for as long can be remembered. This is authenticated by the vast amount of knowledge they have about farming practices, rich pastoral vocabulary and the broad variety of legends connected with pastoral life. Today, they farm mainly maize for subsistence and sugar cane as a cash crop in the Bungoma area, as well as wheat in the Kitale area. Cattle and sheep are universally kept, cattle mainly for milk, and sheep for meat and ceremonial functions. Chicken, a traditional delicacy, are nowadays reared on small to medium scales for commercial egg production.
Photo credit: sTr Photo

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pic of the Week

Notice his bare feet; it is not by choice.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Swahili Times and Dates, Part 3

Last week we learned some more Swahili times and dates, and this week we continue this lesson.

Next week we will will wrap up this lesson:)

Need help with your Swahili pronunciation? Refer to our guide.

Friday, July 23, 2010

WoD Online Contest!!

World of Difference will be holding its first ever online contest in one week from today! Contests will be held every other Friday starting next Friday (July 30), so check back in one week for a chance to win some super radical Kenyan souvenirs! Prizes will include authentic African jewelry, wood carvings, masks, and more that we have collected on our expeditions to Kenya with World of Difference!

Details will follow in the next few days so stick around :)

This Week in Kenya

We at World of Difference love to stay apprised of Kenyan current events. Here are some of the headlines that caught our attention this week.
  • Hundreds Made Homeless by Mass Forced Evictions in Kenya [Joy Online]
  • Just Back from: Nakuru, Kenya [SF Gate]
  • Majority of Kenyans Support Proposed Constitution [VOA News]
  • Kenyan Firms Make Killing from Piracy [Daily Nation]
  • Denver Nurse Trains Kenyan Students [Colorado Connection]
  • Man Killed by Kenyan Police While Protesting Marketplace Eviction [VOA News]
  • AIDS-Related MTV Soap is Big Hit in Africa [The Guardian]
  • Jessica Posner's 'Do Something' Victory Gives $100K to Kenyan Slum Project [The Huffington Post]
  • Kenya's Teenage Mothers Get Helping Hand [Xinhua Net]
  • Half of Schools Funds Out in January [All Africa]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Personal Experience: Mary

Mary, photoed above with some students in Soweto, was a part of the 2009 expedition, and this is her personal experience:

The trip was beyond description. I am still taking it all in. I read my journal yesterday and this morning. I don't want to let go of any of it. My journal for this expedition is now one of my most valued possessions.

A glass of water has a different meaning. I have never been so happy to do laundry. It didn't bother me that I had 1,762 emails to go through...I have electricity and a chair to sit on. I have a new attitude towards peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I will never take a hot shower and a soft towel for granted again. The slums in Soweto are horrific. It is like nothing I have ever seen or could imagine. The stench is overwhelming. You can't take a deep breath. You breathe through your mouth a lot of the time or you may vomit from the smell.

Yesterday I spent most of the day with my daughter, Jamie. She loaded my photos on her computer. We laughed, we cried, and I felt as if I were at the projects all over again and that Jamie was with me. Surely the little mementos I brought home won't have near the impact on the people who will receive them as they have had on me. I unwrapped each item carefully and smiled remembering where they came from and how I felt when I was making my choices for the people I love. They should not be classified as "souvenirs". Each item is a work of art from the Kenyan people who are proud of their skills and what they have to offer.

The children and all of the people in Kenya are embedded in my heart. I am pleased to be able to give information first-hand to all those who were interested or doubtful about supporting this worthy cause. I can confirm with certainty that the funds donated for the project were used for building supplies and materials and were so appreciated by the staff and children at the schools we worked at. The Kenyan people worked hard side-by-side with our team. Women with babies strapped to their backs were helping us haul stone, men struggling to move wheel barrels over boulders wearing flip flops or rags tied around their feet. To those of you who so unselfishly donated dollars and supplies, a thousand times "thank you".

Together our team brought 1/2 ton of supplies for the children at three different schools and an orphanage. The kids were jumping up and down and cheering because they each got a pad of paper and a pencil. The children have no toys. They play with sticks and old tires. They make their own soccer balls out of rags and twine. School children walk an hour to and from school each day, six days a week. They are happy little children filled with hope and promise and an eagerness to learn. I had the honor to teach three separate classes. Together we learned about being humble, being prayerful and being grateful. There were times when I could hardly speak because my emotions were so high I feared I would literally burst into tears. Standing in the front of the room, looking at those smiling little faces and tattered uniforms. Watching the older orphans caring for the younger ones. I was a mess...

We worked through five tons of ballast, eight tons of sand and six tons of stone to get classrooms plastered (no cement mixers, all mixed by hand on the dirt classroom floors) and a foundation poured for a second story classroom. We broke down a partial stone wall and extended it to build a library. The children now have steps to walk down from their classrooms instead of stumbling over boulders to get to ground level. We built shelves for a school library and organized all of the books you donated in alphabetical order. The wonderful part is that the Kenyan people will continue to build and add classrooms because they have the supplies to do so for the rest of the year. Their progress will be evaluated and will determine what they will receive next year.

The people of Kenya are warm, loving and happy. They live a simple life filled with music, prayer and grateful anticipation for whatever they receive. They are friendly and eager to hear about America. They love education and work under such adverse conditions that I don't even think it possible for one to imagine unless you have seen it for yourself.

I feel that perhaps the joke is on us. We in America have everything and yet we are not fulfilled. We are stressed, discontent and do not take advantage of the abundant opportunities that each and every one of us has available at our fingertips. The Kenyan people embrace a book, a pair of work gloves. A bottle of bubbles creates smiles on the children's faces like I have never seen. They thank our Heavenly Father for everything they have.

One of the team members, Ruth, gave a thought at one of our devotionals. She said that she had been to Kenya with World of Difference several times and had asked herself "Why me"? "Why am I so blessed?”... She said she has come to realize "Why NOT me? I am doing God's work and helping His people. I know that God is networking through me and I am truly blessed because the people of Kenya have given me much more than I could ever give them".

I am grateful for the opportunity I have had with World of Difference. Our team was awesome and I hope that one day we can all meet again as each and every one of them is now a part of my extended family.

It is crystal clear to me why a soldier would get off a plane in our homeland and kiss the pavement beneath him.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Meet the Bajuni

The Bajuni people are an ethnic group who live on the coastal regions of East Africa, primarily the shores of Kenya. While they are traditionally sailors or fishermen, some also pursue other trades such as farming. Their trade is strongly linked with the capital of Kenya.

The Bajuni people call themselves Wabajuni and speak Kibajuni, a Bantu language closely-related to Swahili. They are Muslims and their dialect of Swahili contains many Islamic words and phrases as compared to "inland" Swahili. The language has its own distinctive words and pronunciation; for example, the word kichwa (head) in standard Swahili is pronounced kitwa in Kibajuni.

Photo credit: Nicola Prisco

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pic of the Week

This little one is saying "Poa!", the Kenyan way of saying "Awesome!" or "Cool!"

Monday, July 19, 2010

Swahili Times and Dates, Part 2

Last week we introduced Swahili times and dates, and this week we continue this lesson.

Next week we will will continue this lesson:)

Need help with your Swahili pronunciation? Refer to our guide.

Friday, July 16, 2010

This Week in Kenya

We at World of Difference love to stay apprised of Kenyan current events. Here are some of the headlines that caught our attention this week.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Meet the Aweer

In the weeks past we have been introduced to the thirteen East African tribes which make up the majority in Kenya. There are an additional 21 minority group tribes that we will meet over the coming weeks. As they are the minority, there is limited information readily available on these tribes, so our posts on them will be comparatively shorter.

The Aweer are a distinct hunter-gatherer-culture and indigenous people in East Africa. They are found primarily in Kenya, but their homeland extends into Somalia. These are the famous indigenous hunters in the hinterland of Lamu, who are often called by the derogatory term "Boni".

We found a particularly intriguing Anweer quote from an excerpt from Livingtime which says:
The Euro-American image of time is a machine, a factory assembly line chucking
out identical hours, each unremarked and indistinguishable. Worse than that, it
has insisted that its time is the time, and that indigenous peoples all over the
world lack a ‘proper’ sense of time. It is not a lack. Rather they have
cultivated a far more subtle and sensitive relationship to time and timing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Video for You

In Kenya it is a huge tradition for the children to perform song and dance for visitors. This is certainly one of my very favorite parts about traveling to Nairobi with WoD, and I am so glad I have videos like this one to brighten my days. Don't you just love their little voices?

The man at the end of the video is Isaac and this is his school. I mentioned Isaac and all that he did to create this school in my team member experience post.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Swahili Times and Dates, Part 1

Last week we wrapped up Swahili food and drink words, and this week we introduce Swahili times and dates.
Next week we will will continue this lesson:)

Need help with your Swahili pronunciation? Refer to our guide.

Friday, July 9, 2010

This Week in Kenya

We at World of Difference love to stay apprised of Kenyan current events. Here are some of the headlines that caught our attention this week.

Last weekend, for the 4th of July, WoD Team Leader JD and I went camping near Yosemite. One night I found myself really needing to use the restroom, but completely terrified of leaving the tent in the dark by myself. I found this incredibly odd as I have never had this fear before. A few days later I came across the following article in the BBC, and I realized that I was given this feeling of fear so I might relate - if even in the slightest way - to the much more valid fear the women in the slums of Nairobi experience on a daily basis.

Fears of Rape in Kenya's Slums 'Trap Women' [BBC News]

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Meet the Samburu

The Samburu are a Nilotic people of north-central Kenya that are related to but distinct from the Maasai. The Samburu speak Samburu, which is a Nilo-Saharan language. They live north of the equator in Samburu District, an area roughly 8,000 square miles. Its landscape is one of great diversity and beauty. It includes landscapes ranging from forest at high altitudes, to open plains to desert or near desert.

Traditionally the Samburu economy was purely pastoralist, striving to survive of the products of their herds of cows, goats, and for some camels. However, the combination of a significant growth in population over the past 60 years and a decline in their cattle holdings has forced them to seek other supplemental forms of livelihood. Some have attempted to grow crops, while many young men have migrated for at least short periods to cities to seek wage work. Many work in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, as watchmen, while it is also popular to go to Kenya's coastal resorts where some work; others sell spears and beaded ornaments.

Samburu practice polygamous marriage, and a man may have multiple wives. A Samburu settlement may consist of only one family, composed of a man and his wife/wives. Each woman has her own house, which she builds with the help of other women out of local materials, such as sticks, mud and cow dung. Large ritual settlements, known as lorora may consist of 20 or more families. However, settlements tend towards housing two or three families, with perhaps 5-6 houses built in a rough circle with an open space in the centre. The circle of huts is surrounded by thorn bush fence and the center of the village has the animal pens away from predators.

Men wear a cloth which is often red or blue and is wrapped around their waist. They adorn themselves with necklaces, bracelets and anklets. Warriors typically wear their in long braids, which they shave off when they become elders. It may be colored using red ochre. Their bodies are sometimes decorated with ochre, as well. Women wear two pieces of blue or purple cloth, one piece wrapped around the waist, the second wrapped over the chest. Women keep their hair shaved and wear numerous necklaces and bracelets.

Samburu religion traditionally focuses on their multi-faceted divinity (Nkai). Nkai (a feminine noun), plays an active role in the lives of contemporary Samburu. It is not uncommon for children and young people, especially women, to report visions of Nkai. Some of these children prophesy for some period of time and a few gain a reputation for prophesy throughout their lives. Besides these spontaneous prophets, Samburu have ritual diviners called 'loibonok' who divine the causes of individual illnesses and misfortune, and guide warriors. Although ritual life focuses especially on cattle, other livestock such as goats, sheep, camels, and even donkeys figure into Samburu ceremonies.
Photo credit: Gerald Legere

Monday, July 5, 2010

We Want Your Stories!

A few of our team members have shared their personal World of Difference experiences with us (see them here and here), and we LOVE this! If you have gone to Kenya with World of Difference and would like to share your story, please email it to blog moderator Dori at dori_jennings [at] yahoo [dot] com. Even better if you have a photo or two that goes along with your story!

We can't wait to read about your personal experiences!

Swahili Food and Drink, Part 3

Last week we continued our Swahili food- and drink-related lesson, and this week we wrap that up with a few more foods.

*Ugali and Skuma Wiki are the primary dinner foods you would eat while in Kenya on an expedition with World of Difference; although you will probably more often hear them referred to as "that white stuff" and "that green stuff"! Ugali is a a doughy, corn-based bread and sukuma wiki is a dish made with collard greens or kale. The literal translation of "sukuma wiki" is "push the weak", which reminds me of Popeye and his spinach a bit! This is a picture of ugali and sukuma wiki getting served up for the children at a school we assist in Nairobi:

Next week we will will will start to learn the days of the week :)

Need help with your Swahili pronunciation? Refer to our guide.

Friday, July 2, 2010

WoD Apparel Now Available for Purchase!

You've seen it on everyone around; its all the latest rage. And NOW it can be YOURS! World of Difference Apparel! Show your support right there on your sleeve!

Click here to visit and purchase your very own WoD gear at our new Etsy store. All items are custom made; we will make you practically ANYTHING you could possibly want! Up on the store are sample T-Shirts, Thermals, and Hoodies. Please note that we can get these to you in practically ANY color, size and style (v-neck, zipper, etc.) you could possibly want; you just have to ask :)

Prices are $15 for T-Shirt, $18 for Thermal and $24 for a Hoodie, and 100% of the profits support World of Difference!

INTRODUCTORY PROMOTION: Order any two items during the month of July and mention this blog and you will receive ONE ITEM FREE!!

A Beautiful Post

The team members from the 2010 WoD expedition have returned from Kenya this week full of experiences and stories and pictures. Scott Thomas, who has gone on two expeditions now, has posted a beautiful post with a wonderful slideshow over at his blog, and I think everyone should check it out!

Click here to see it :)

This Week in Kenya

We at World of Difference love to stay apprised of Kenyan current events. Here are some of the headlines that caught our attention this week.
  • Berklee to Hold Auditions in Kenya [JazzTimes]
  • Economic Impact of Kenya's Referendum [Reuters Africa]
  • The Battle Over Kenya's New Constitution [Time]
  • 1M Kenyan Children Out of School [KBC]
  • World Bank Approves $100M for Health Care in Kenya [Reuters Africa]
  • Kenyan PM Recovering After Brain Procedure [Associated Press]

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Making This YOUR Blog

We started this blog with one goal in mind: to bring you, the reader, closer to the peoples, events, cultures and customs of Eastern Africa. Our weekly features include a short Swahili lesson (Mondays), an introduction to an East African tribe (Wednesdays), and a summary of the Kenyan news headlines from that week (Fridays). As they become available to us, we also post updates from our friends in Kenya and testimonials from our team members' experiences on the expeditions.

That said, we want to make sure that this is YOUR blog! Yes, YOU! What would YOU like to see more of here on the World of Difference Blog? Photos? Music? History? Let us know in the comments!