Well, almost. This past weekend Una and I visited a few volunteer friends who live near the slopes of Mt. Kenya, the second-tallest mountain in Africa. I visited Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, last month, but I had to stand outside the park gate because the entrance fee was too ridiculous (I’m not a tourist, guys!). I was glad Mt. Kenya’s entrance fee was only about eight bucks, because guess what? I never realized there were glaciers in Africa until recently, but we hiked up part of the mountain and there is definitely a glacier on top! I guess most of us Westerners think Africa only has hungry people and deserts (note: I did not say “desserts”)… WRONG! There are deserts, hungry people, glaciers, AND desserts!
All joking aside, the mountain is huge, steep, and cold. I even heard that the Mau Mau rebels used to hide in some caves in the dense forest surrounding the mountain when they were fighting the British for independence. Our friend Janneke lives in some village about ten kilometers from Mt. Kenya National Park’s front gate; this picture was taken from her door step. Pretty cool, eh? Unfortunately it is the only picture I have of the mountain, as the girls were using their cameras most of the time!
Last week I did a little handiwork around the house, adding curtains to a few bare windows. This week I added some Tibetan prayer flags to the overhang on my front porch, check it out:
I know it’s not much, but they really look pretty when the wind blows. Randi found them at the “bins” in Portland (a place where everyone’s old crap goes, and you can sort through them, pick out what you want, and pay by weight). I can see them through the trees from clear across campus when I look towards my house. As always (well, most always), Wikipedia has something very nice to say about Tibetan prayer flags, and as usual it’s better than I could do:
Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to ‘gods,’ a common misconception, rather the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.
I’m not a Buddhist but I’m down with compassion. Have a nice day. :)
Most of you know I had a brief holiday to Tanzania last week, but until now I have been quiet on how it all went. Rest assured, ladies and gentlemen, other than the semi-shocking experience with my hair cut this week, I am OK! The hair is growing back and I’m actually getting lots of compliments around Tala. Hah, they just don’t understand the beach/hippie thing here I guess! Before I get to the trip, a brief bit of background…
Tanzania is just to the south of Kenya, and while it has a similar population the country covers some 300,000 square kilometers more area than Kenya. The country received independence a few years before Kenya, and immediately pursued socialist economic policies. I spoke with several people who credit Tanzania’s strong society (yet poor economy) with their socialist beginnings. Even now, with over 100 ethnic groups (keep in mind Kenya has about 40), everyone speaks one language and is united over a common Tanzanian identity. Kenya, on the other hand, followed “free market” economic policies and made English an official language in addition to Swahili; as a result Kenya’s economy is the strongest in East Africa today. Continue Reading