Auto repair

A while back I mentioned that I was responsible for auto repair here at AIM-IS.  One of the things we want to do is get out and help missionaries where they are, and not make them drag their broken carcass of a vehicle back to Nairobi.  This is the kind of thing I mean.

Try to imagine the kind of engine that would use a part like this… Can you?  The engine it was in couldn’t.

Decompression Ride

I went out on a ride Saturday with Alan and John.  We intended to head toward the Rift, to see if we could get down this area that looked really nasty on Google Earth.  We ended up finding this really nice road, to no where.  Not actually no where, but a really wide, recently paved road that just ended in dirt.  It was still a wide dirt road, and fairly nice, but the rains has beat it up a bit.  There was no junction near where the pavement ended.  I theorized that an MP lived just behind the end of the pavement.  They usually have very nice roads to their homes.

Not wanting to bite of more than we could chew, none of us having ridden much in the last few months, we chose the easy route.  We went through Limuru and ended up very near Karuri, so I took them by the church.  We took a back way to Ndenderu (near the Kianjogu church).

Regarding the title, sometimes it is good to just let the Kenyan roads beat the snot out of you.  It feels great.

Mostly I wanted to post this so I could try out putting a track on the blog.  I also have some video of the last part of the ride.  I will try to post it later.

Manual Labor

Living here has really changed my perspective on a lot of things.  One of them is labor (or labour).

We employ quite a few people in and around our home.  That may come as sort of a surprise to you, but let me try to explain it with a story from this weekend.

dsc01161Across from our house is an empty lot.  It was a designated common area when the houses were built.  Not quite like the common areas around our condo in La Mesa, but the same idea.  I have sort of made it a project of mine, slowly making it a better field to play soccer on for the neighborhood boys, including ours.

There is a home owners association where we live.  They sprung up all over Nairobi as public streets were gated off for security reasons.  Once the gates were in, they needed gate guards to watch and open them.  Then some way to pay the guards and maintain the gates.  I happen to be on the committee of our association, as the vice-treasurer.  (Be careful what meetings you attend…)  Even the committee has recognized my part time hobby/project of the field and asked how we can do a better job of taking care of it.

(Interesting side note, the word in Swahili for field is “kiwanja.”  “Njaa” means hunger.   “Wa” puts it in the plural noun class for people, and “Ki” is a place or thing.  So kiwanja is literally “the place of the hungry people”.  Most Bantu peoples are farmers, so the field is the place to go for food.)

I have been looking for a way to trim the grass effectively, and using our 10″ shears (scissors) is quite a job to cut so much grass.  So this weekend, I went down the the corner Home Depot (well it is a 20′ shipping container, but they have almost everything… really) and bought a “slasher.”  Picture a golf club, but much cheaper, and where the “club” would be is a flat blade.  Blade in the sheet of metal sense, not the sharp like a knife sense.  The sharpening part is the responsibility of the new owner, and that would be me.  I took it home and began sharpening it with a stone my father had bought when he was here.  About an hour, many sore muscles and a nice blister later, I “slashed” for about 15 minutes.  Then I wished I was using the shears…

The next day, I went to a pub to watch the Manchester United-Liverpool match with my friend, Ken Wanyama.  On the way home, I was greeted by one of the car wash boys.   In East Africa, greeting requires a hand shake.  He noticed the “plaster” (aka band-aid) on my hand and asked what happened.  I told him and he was really sad.  He said, “Mr. Paul, why did you not hire me to cut the grass?”

That little episode explains a lot about labor here.   I could hire him to cut the grass, and clean the whole lot.  It would probably take 4 or 5 hours.  He would be really happy with 400 shillings (~$5.33)

I was raised with a very good work ethic.  Those of you who know my father know that he is a hard worker.  He is also very resourceful and rarely pays anyone to do anything he can figure out or manage himself.  I grew to see the value of hard labor.

However, here, everything is upside down.  I am doing more for society by employing these guys who are usually begging me for money.  I often hear, “Mr. Paul, how about some chai today?”  Or I just get the hand held out, following me for 400 yards or more.  There is actually one guy that has 6 fingers on his right hand.  I must admit, on more than one occasion I have given him 5 shillings, just so he will put his hand in his pocket. (Yes, I often think of Iñigo Montoya.)

Banana Hill

Last Sunday we went to Harvester’s Christian Church in Karuri.  Pastor Stephen had put me on the schedule to preach there.  I do not think he realized at the time, but that was almost exactly 3 years to the week that I was there, my first preaching experience at a church in Africa.  Karuri is Pastor Stephen’s first Harvester’s church.  It has a special place in his heart, and is where he and his family lived for about 10 years before they started the church in Umoja II.

The people are always so welcoming when we get up country.  After church we had chai and bread in the parsonage we partially funded with proceeds from the house we sold in La Mesa.  Then we were off to Muchatha for lunch and fellowship with people from all the area churches.  Churches here are a lot closer together, especially outside of Nairobi.  Almost no one has a car, so walking distance is an important feature when looking for a church.  This generally keeps church sizes smaller and so it is a good idea from time to time to get churches together for fellowship.


One of my hobbies has been working on the mapping of East Africa.  It is sort of like searching for treasure, but when I find it, others can use it.

The area below was almost completely done by me.  I added a new plugin that allows me to embed the maps here.

Emptying my phone

I had a few pictures in my phone I thought I would share.

Car in the ditch

Bystanders said driver was drunk

The day we left for California for Christmas, we heard a lot of comotion right behind our wall.  Somehow the driver managed to get the car in the ditch directly perpendicular to the flow of traffic.  I talked to some calmer people outside the “mob” who said the car was from a nearby “garage” where they fix vehicles, and the mechanic was doing a test drive… drunk.  I doubt there is any insurance to cover that one.

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