Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tragic Thursday

Horrible tragedy.  Unbelievable loss.  Shock and mourning remain.

Prayers for all.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thank you readers!

I discovered this morning a pleasant surprise.  I have passed 3,400 page views for the blog.  Here's how it breaks down by country:

United States
United Arab Emirates

Thank you Switzerland.  I have no idea who you are, but thank you for putting me over the top.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Closing thoughts: Learning to Fly

This is what I learned from my trip to Africa.  There was great, there was good and there was the heartbreaking.  But I'm learning to fly.  I'm earning my wings. 

Thanks for taking the ride with me.  LG 

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers live from Bonnaroo 2006

Learning to Fly

Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well the good ol' days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I've started out for God knows where
I guess I'll know when I get there

I'm learning to fly, around the clouds
But what goes up must come down

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Monday, May 11, 2015

A taste of heaven from East Africa

Now that I have found a good recipe for my favorite breakfast food from my trip to East Africa, I am going to become the lady on the street selling mandazi in Greenwood.

Mandazi Recipe

My Nose! My Nose!

I am leaving Nairobi on May 20th.  Nine days from today.  The reality is beginning to sink in and I realize I don't know where this last year has gone or why it is gone so fast.  I have been blessed beyond belief with so many new friends and new experiences.  In the coming weeks I will introduce you to my new friends.  I've decided to keep this blog alive because I may go on other adventures, but for the time being, it will focus on trying to more adequately discuss this adventure.

I am sad about leaving Nairobi because it is a truly fun town.  It has a rhythm, a beat much like that of Atlanta.  You hear music everywhere, mostly Bob Marley.  I like that there is music everywhere.  The people are very helpful.  If they see you looking lost, they offer to help you.  And the vast majority of them do not expect money for helping you.  Love, love, love the nightlife!  I have been to some of the most fun clubs and bars.  When I get back home, I will tell you more about the bars.  Incredible, incredible night life.

I will not, however, miss the smell of Nairobi.  For reasons that I cannot fathom, people keep livestock in the city.  I'm not talking a rooster or chicken or two.  I'm talking herds of cattle and passels of pigs.  At the end of the day I scrub my feet like Lady MacBeth before going to bed.  I want to bleach them everyday not only because of the incredible amount of feces everywhere, but also there is a large amount of rotting garbage everywhere.  The stench of all of this, plus an inadequate sewer system makes for a smell that has a life of its own.

Nairobi is a city that grew much, much faster than its infrastructure did.  Consequently, there are problems with garbage and sewer handling and traffic.  The traffic is always horrible, but not because the drivers are insane like they were in Uganda, but because there are so many cars and matatus to be served.  I live about 6 miles from town.  On a good day with light traffic it takes over an hour to travel those 6 miles.  During rush hour, it takes 3 to 4 hours.  And there are many people who spend 6-8 hours 6 days a week going to a job there.  And the standard work day here is 10+ hours per day.  So much for family life.  I don't know how they do it.

But despite the smell, the traffic and the poverty, I love this city.  I discover something new almost everyday.  Yesterday, I discovered a blooming rose bush at a clinic near where I live.  Imagine that!  One of the sweetest smelling roses I ever smelled blooming in the middle of Africa.  And I had no idea you could grow roses in Africa.  While the Masters was going on back home an hour away from my house, an azalea-like bush that grows everywhere here was at its peak of blossoming.  It's just another of the many serendipities of Africa, like the pergola that I discovered a few weeks ago.

It goes to show me that even in the most unappealing of circumstances that if I keep my eyes opened and my heart ready for the unexpected and beautiful, it is there.  I learn and relearn this lesson every day of my life.  Thank you Africa for teaching me this lesson.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Packing for East Africa (Part 1 of several)

1Here's my list of things you should bring with you on your trip to Africa, in no particular order:

  Frye Artisan Fold Over Cross Body Bag:

Without a doubt, the best decision I ever made when packing for Africa.  Okay so maybe there is some order to this list.  This is very, very good if you will be spending any time in a large city.  The style is understated and the leather is luxurious and durable.  My Jenny cross body will make many more trips around Africa and the globe with me.  Worth.Every.Penny.

Available at: or The Frye Company

L’Occitane Almond Supple Skin Oil & L'Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Body Lotion

Fabulous for the skin.  Smells soft and sweet, but not "loud".  In a pinch I have also used this light lubricant on a few sticky locks since I can't find a can of WD-40. Expensive, yes, but multipurpose.  Works well with Shea Butter Ultra Rich Body Lotion.

Available from:

Simply the best after bath lotion that stands up to African dry heat.  I've tried cheaper, but none works better than this at keeping dry skin away.  L'Occitane also makes very good hand and foot creams as well.  Again, expensive, but darned well worth it.

Available from:

  Austrailian Sun Block


During my time in Uganda, my friends Carolyn and Phillip from Sydney visited.  At that time, I was burned to a crisp by the sun, so I asked her to bring me sunblock.  This sunblock is the best I have ever used.  I know, I know -- I'm saying that about everything in this post, but, hey, when the stuff works like it advertises, you can't help bug brag about it.

Available from:  Carolyn and Phillip, Sydney, Austrailia

   LL Bean backpack


   A truly wonderful backpack at a good price.  Rugged as hell.  Ergonomic too.

     Available from:  L.L. Bean

     More posts later about great stuff to pack for your trip to Africa.



Monday, April 13, 2015

Eye Candy for Readers

This is George building a house.

Shower to clean off the mud:  $0.10
Shirt to keep your friends from drooling a river: $50
Trip to Africa to meet him:  $4,000

Waking up next to George every day for the rest of your life: Priceless.

Ladies, he's looking for a 2nd wife.  Applications with photos are accepted.  Contact author for details.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Night Blues

So I've made it to another Sunday night.  And this one is after the dullest weekend of my time in Nairobi, so I guess the Sunday Night Blues are inevitable.

The Sunday Night Blues have been an affliction in the Grose household since graduation from college.  Ah, those heady days of no responsibilities and no work on Monday, just 3 hours of class and then the bliss of putting off reading or studying while spending time goofing off with friends.  I wouldn't say the Sunday Night Blues are depression, just more a sort of vague despondency and a resignation that the inevitable Monday is only a few hours away.

In an attempt to rescue myself from boredom, I haul my laptop into my backpack and head for the Starbucks of Nairobi (Nairobi Java House) near where I live in Greenspan Mall.  I determine that I will spend the evening watching videos and surfing the net getting caught up on the world's news and just goofing off over the evening.

After I plug in my computer and start writing this post, I am joined by a complete stranger at my table which disturbs me greatly.  I am sitting in a 4-top booth that I had intended to keep entirely to myself. I had planned a perfectly funny evening of John Oliver from YouTube and now I can't enjoy laughing out loud with someone, a stranger, sitting at my table.  Hopefully this will not last all night.

The Stranger has pulled out his Bible and is reading intently.  This does not look good for having a quiet (but funny) evening on my own.  I am mortally afraid of being witnessed to against my will.  Momentarily, I think I would prefer Guantanamo Bay, but then I think better of that one.  He closes his Bible now and is looking around the café as if he is waiting on someone, perhaps someone unknown to him, that will engage him in the conversation that I will not.

Julius, my regular waiter here, brings me great service and superb light conversation.  He has also just brought me my Chicken Tandoori Wrap.  But wait, a light from my cell phone tells me that I have a text message waiting.  The evening could be saved, I hope.

An exchange of texts ensues, but nothing is really determined.  You come here.  No, you come here; I just got my dinner.  No, you come here.  You know the drill.  Looks like John Oliver and YouTube are back on again.

And so it goes, I have about 6 weeks left in Nairobi and one seriously dull evening was bound to happen.  On the bright side, I realize that spending an evening in an internet café is going to be a great way to transition back into my life at home.  Home.  Such a comforting word right now.

But wait, another text from my friend.  It is possible this evening could be interesting after all.  We work out a time and place to meet.  But I still miss home and right now I can think of nothing I would rather do than have the Sunday Night Blues with Charles.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Eat, Pray, Change

Travel changes you.  And the longer you travel, the more profound the change.

Eat, or not eat 

It is 3 a.m. on Saturday morning in Stone Town, Zanzibar.  I've had parts of this post brewing in my brain for a couple of months.  I knew from about 6 months in Africa that my body had certainly changed.  A 55 pound weight loss left me with energy to spare, which I needed every joule to make it through the day, and into the long nights with friends.  When I moved to Nairobi, the demand for that energy tripled or quadrupled -- there was night life, not just sitting with friends bullshitting over water.  Alcohol with pretty good taxis, a thriving expat community and my German housemate Silke, demanded a level of energy I don't think I ever needed before in my life, even in university.

So there's the more energy change -- not a good thing, Martha, but a great thing.  And I could go on ad nauseum about how your perceptions and understanding of people, of poverty and the politics of it, of the lives of the poor, etc., change and you change.  But no one wants to hear yet another person who has returned from their foreign study/gap year prattle on about this.


During my time in rural Uganda, the poverty of the people I worked with was stultifying.  Families of 6 or 10 or more living on about $400 USD per year.  I had and still have no true comprehension of how they made it work.  The school fees alone for the local average of 6 children per family consumed about $200 of those dollars every year, not including the uniforms.  If the family purchased the uniforms, then the children lived and played and worked in the uniforms because it was the only clothing they had.

For most of my life I have prayed in one fashion or another.  To those who read my Facebook ranting, it is probably a surprise to you that I do this.  I have a love/hate relationship with the God of Christianity and it is an understatement to say that I find organized religion the anathema of any relationship with God that it purports to extoll.  But, nevertheless, I find myself praying for understanding of life's events and people most of the time.

But when I came to the community of Kapuwai, Uganda, this encounter with the stark reality of life shook the foundation of everything I believed about issues of faith and belief in God.  In the worst of circumstances of life, the people of this community praised God and prayed to God with a sincerity that I had never seen in my life and my usual prayer for understanding abruptly changed.

I didn't pray for understanding of others anymore.  I began to pray that I would do nothing to destroy the one source of hope these people have in their lives of nothing but the worst suffering.  I became less sure of my belief that there was an all-powerful and all benevolent God, not that this belief had ever been sure in my life before.  But I knew I would be damned if I would take away the hope and the joy that their Christian faith brought them.  Others' joy became more important to me than my own beliefs to the extent that I censured myself on expressing my own beliefs to anyone but a very small minority of very close friends.

I don't know or even believe that prayer changed me, but seeing living and sincere faith certainly changed my prayers.

Change, at least from the outside

Sometimes travel can change a stranger's perception of your nationality.  You read that correctly.  When you travel internationally, because the rest of the world is so truly hospitable, people learn greetings in as many other languages as they can so they can make you feel at home.  If you are a taxi driver, it is good business to greet potential passengers this way.

Case in point:  I arrived in Zanzibar Thursday around lunch time.  After unpacking a few things, I headed to lunch at Mercury's Bar and Grill.  It was close and since I was in Zanzibar, I felt I owed the  spirit of Freddy Mercury a little homage.  The owner of this restaurant purports to be a childhood friend of Freddy's (more likely, I think cynically, the primary tormentor to a young gay boy during a time that didn't allow you to be gay).

As I walked to Mercury's sporting my new Jackie O. sunglasses and a smart dress, red lipgloss and heels, a row of taxi drivers are lined up under an impossibly large tree trying to solicit passengers.  As I approach, the first driver hops off the hood of his car and looking directly at me, raises both his hands in the perfect gestures of an Italian and shouts "Grazi!!", "Ciao!" and "Grazi" in rapid fire succession with all the gusto and sincerity and hope he can muster to win a passenger during the off season.

Mama mia, I have changed.  Cincin to me.

Channeling my inner Italian

                         *                                               *                                               *

Revised: Sunday morning, 1:33 a.m.  Still in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania and I realize I have finally been to a place in this big world that my husband has not visited.  Next, hopefully Arusha, Mombasa or Masai Mara National Park (Charles has been to all of these).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Look for the Bright Side

Look for the Bright Side.

This is my favorite blog by my college friend, and Unit 6 Basement alumni, Julie Loewus Rich.  It is about her family's experiences as her husband is deployed to Japan for umpteen years.  She vowed in the beginning of the blog to start looking for the bright side in any situations she encounters, the good, the bad and the ugly.  The result is her cheerful blog about surviving culture shock in Japan, having the military move you ⅔'s of the globe away from home, educating her two young children and her marriage to a fantastic, but too frequently deployed Navy man.

You should also know that Julie despises social media, so don't even bother looking for her on Facebook.  Although, I think she should get a Twitter account to share her thoughts on life with the world in just a few characters.

Love you Julie!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Everybody has their own NGO

Absolutely every single person in Africa has their own NGO.  And absolutely every single one of those people wants you to hear about their "program".

There is a neighborhood drunk where I work named "Sam".  A couple of weeks ago while I was buying a bottle of water, he accosted me with his "program".  Everyone with an NGO feels they MUST tell ME about their "program" every time they see me.

The basic tenets of Sam's particular "program" are as follows:

1) To remain drunk at all times;
2) To "do something" for the youth of Kenya/Africa while remaining drunk 24/7;
3) To "do something" for the youth of Kenya/Africa who suffer directly or indirectly from the scourge that is HIV/AIDS while remaining drunk 24/7;
4) To "do something" for the orphans and other vulnerable populations in Kenya/Africa while remaining drunk 24/7;
5) For me to finance all of the above, most particularly the portions of these programs that will allow Sam to remain drunk 24/7.

Nope, I'm not the least bit cynical today.  This post is dedicated to Perfesser Kevin Hill, Florida International University

Friday, March 6, 2015

Things I miss from home

  1. My home.

2.  Charles, especially his very dry wit.

3. My Imelda Marcos sized shoe collection

4. Scott and Alex (and Oscar-baby)

5. The Rhines

6. Pascal's

7. The Pantry's jalepeño pimento cheese spread

8.  My car and driving

9.  My rose garden that I perpetually ignore

10. My pets -- those departed and those still with us.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Culture Wars

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work in Kenya.  I try to live by the aphorism "When in Rome, do as the Romans" and I want the people of this country to know that not all Americans are jerks.  But I'm left with the nagging question of cultural practices.

Most of the men that I work with are of the Luo tribe of Kenya.  Kenya has 42 distinct tribes, each with its own native language.  The Luo also have the reputation of being the most restrictive when it comes to women's rights, but fortunately they do not participate in FGM.

I come from a culture that values women as equals, even though the pay gap and the glass ceiling are alive and well.  At least we say we value women.

In Africa, there is much talk from men about how women need to be empowered, but little is actually done on the personal or national level to achieve this goal.

And so, as a guest in Kenya and as an American woman, how do I manage the situations when the two cultures clash?  If it is inconsequential to me, I let it pass.  Why bother rocking the boat?  But in doing that, am I implicitly accepting the cultural practices of these Luo men that I do find offensive.  And how about when I am faced with the choice of how to respond when a cultural practice I find repugnant is unavoidable?  Or what about when the practice is just plain stupid?

In my fantasy world, I'd like to think we could meet in the middle and take the best of both cultures and forge a compromise that leaves both sides feeling good about their culture.  But in the real world, I find that I am most often on the short end of the stick.

And what of others respecting my culture and its practices?  Am I to abandon my culture completely because I am a guest and want to be a polite guest?

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top ten things your tour guide won't tell you about Nairobi

10.  There are approximately 4 million residents of Nairobi.  There is a speed bump for every single one of them.

9.  Nairobi is the host for the annual 124 mile Rhino Run.  This makes child's play of getting gored by a bull in Pamplona.

8.  The Solar Ice Rink boasts 15,000 square meters (area of the total sports complex that houses it).  It is the largest ice rink in Africa and the first ice rink in East Africa.

7.  Malaria is very rare in Nairobi according to medical experts in Nairobi and there are surprisingly few mosquitos here.  But I wouldn't chuck the malaria prophylaxis yet.    

6.  Odd dining options: The Iguana Bar and Grill serves Mexican and Indian food and Tanager Bar and Restaurant serves Chinese and African food.

5.  Narcissism in Nairobi:  A local bride had her wedding cake made to look like herself.

4.  Nairobi is home to the Male Girls Secondary School.  No commentary necessary.

3.  Nairobi hosts the Slum Film Festival, an annual festival celebrating films about slums.  I hope it has a category for films by slum residents.  I wonder if Slumdog Millionaire made the cut?

2.  According to Transparency International's 2013 study of corruption in Kenya, 58% of individuals that had legal issues reported paying bribes to the Judiciary.  77% of individuals having business with the police paid bribes.  I guess the police assumed these two riders on the back of a truck couldn't afford to pay the bribe for the ticket.

1.  A local pastor has banned women from wearing underwear during services underwear during services so that "God can enter their bodies more easily".  He did not ban men from wearing their knickers.  I suppose this pastor of the Lord's Propeller Redemption Church did not want male congregants to have God enter their bodies through their orifice.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

News from Nairobi Weekly (Week of 19/01/15)

This week in the Nairobi News (Week of 19/01/15)

Could it be more inappropriate?

20/01/15:  As I am working in the slum of Kayole-Soweto this morning fighting with Excel, this gem of Hollywood's early attempt to help people just like the ones I am trying to help comes blaring out of one of the residents' home.  Sorry, but this was too strangely funny and too utterly sick not to share.

This post is dedicated to Dr. Lisa Richey.  Check out the book she co-authored with her husband Dr. Stephano Ponte Brand Aid: Shopping Well to Save the World.  She researches the effects of celebrity fundraising on international development.

Only in Kenya

Thursday 10:00 a.m. EAT (East Africa Time):  So I leave my office to go next door to buy the morning caffeine rush.  When I get to the little hole in the wall shop, I see that no one is there to sell my drug of choice.  I decide to wait a bit.  About 5 minutes later, this guy shows up and stands behind me in line for about 5 minutes, then he opens the cage door, which is unlocked  (the cage door is the door that is closed when the store is open and closed.  When the store is open the cage is closed to prevent someone from just walking in and stealing the money.  When the store is closed, you can do the math.).  I assume that the shopkeeper is around the corner for a few minutes.  Who knows?

So the dude walks into the store, he looks at me and says "What can I get for you?".  So I say I want a coke in a plastic bottle.  Then he mentions a price that is about 10 bob higher (that's local lingo for a small number of Kenyan shillings) than I normally pay.  So I say "No.  Sixty bob" and I give my 60 shillings and go back to work.

Was I on Candid Camera or what?

Today in the news

23.01.15   Heard at 7:30 a.m. local time on Nairobi radio station KISS FM:  

The International Criminal Court is an unholy alliance.

Almost as good as dubya's Axis of Evil comment.  Maybe the Unholy Alliance will publish a cookbook like the Axis of Evil did.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Photo Friday 23.01.15

View from the Executive Suite at Arrow Web Hospital Kayole slum, Nairobi

View to the left

View to the right
Man with overloaded bike directly beneath

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tanzanian Excursion to Zanzibar

In late March, I am planning a trip to the Tanzanian spice island of Zanzibar.  It is a UNESCO (think United Nations project) World Heritage Site.  Check out the photos of Stone Town.  I did not know this until I started searching the internet for information, but Stone Town, Zanzibar is the birthplace of  Queen's Freddie Mercury.  Mercury House is his birthplace.  Although his family eventually moved to the UK to avoid the revolution, Mercury House is one of Zanzibar's most famous residents.

As for my trip, I plan to see the old Anglican Cathedral, the mosques and tour the Hamammni (Turkish Bath Houses).

This is a picture gallery of where I will be staying Mizingani Seafront.

Bon voyage to me!

Looks like a great place to retire!
More beautiful water than the Caribbean.
View of Stone Town from the Indian Ocean

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Weekly News from Nairobi (Week of 12/01/15)

Last week in the Nairobi  (Week of 12/01/15)

My Ass is Faster Than Yours

And this week's top story goes to the two (or three) donkeys who may or may not have won the annual donkey race in Nairobi leading to a riot at the finish line.  TV reports indicated that there were only six donkeys in the race.  If all three are declared winners, the donkeys will be just like US children where everyone is a winner no matter where they finish.

All the news that fits, I print.

Gap Year Continues in Nairobi

I have left Kapuwai, Uganda and many friends to work for the Arrow Web Hospital in the Kayole-Soweto slum of Nairobi, Kenya.  I will miss my many friends from Uganda, but it is time to move on.

I'd like to thank my husband, Charles Grose for this gap year in Africa.  I have grown more patient, more understanding and more caring for those who aren't as fortunate as I am.  Thanks honey!

Monkeys near Agnes #1's house in Kumi District

Cheers from Nairobi:)

Mother's Little Helper

The Rolling Stones sang in Mother’s Little Helper the following words “What a drag it is getting old” and nothing could be truer for me this morning.  There is not enough caffeine in this world to get me going, but I go on.

I am now in Nairobi, Kenya working for Arrow Web Hospital as a volunteer for the hospital that is in the Kayole-Soweto slum.  I don't live in the slum, but in a nice townhouse in Donholm with a couple of co-workers.  Nairobi is a far cry in many, many ways from rural Uganda.

My job is to develop a set of spreadsheets that will compile the information that all 14 of the reports that the Ministry of Health (MOH) requires the hospital to report, some are daily, some are weekly, some are monthly, or quarterly or annually.  Much of it is repetitive and the hospital needs something to save time filling out reports.  Hence, I have work to do.  And not enough time in the day to get this done by the time I go home in May, but I will be an Excel wizard when I do go home. 

It is said that time flies when you are having fun, but I say time flies when you hit middle age.  So back to my nested^infinity IF statements and linking cells and endless compiling the same information repeatedly as my need for more caffeine grows.