Sunday, July 26, 2009

A little town called Meru

While not as exotic as the South Pacific and not as romantic as Paris, Meru is not without its charm. Take for instance the availability of goat meat, a local diet staple routinely served as a meal. If you like dark gray, tough, and dry meat, then you my friends have come to paradise! There is also an abundant supply of bottled water which I can't drink enough of. You see it's winter here in Africa and the local people are all bundled up in jackets and beanies. The problem is it's like a hundred degrees in the sun and I am roasting. Oh and the water bottles...well you have to check the bottom to make sure they weren't drilled and refilled with regular old hook worm infested tap water. I say tap if you're lucky, because it might just come from the spring where the camels and goats go to drink and use the potty.

The primary reason for our visit to Meru was to photograph women who carry wood. In Kenya the women work so very hard at taking care of their families. They feed the kids, cook, raise the kids, make babies, do the house work and chop wood to say the least. Oh and they also walk for miles in each direction to the forest where, with a machete, they chop up enough wood to break a Marines back and carry it back to town to sell. Sit down because what I am about to tell you will stun you....they do this twice a day and they earn 100 Kenyan shillings a load! Your not shocked? 100 KS is about a dollar thirty in US currency. I bet you are now. I tried to pick up one of those bundles and I just about had a heart attack. They tie these loads to their back with braided rope or twine. I wanted to carry one of these loads to see what it was like but I chickened out because I wasn't sure I would make it.

These women were real troopers. Rod and I walked with them out into the forest to document their experience. Once we stepped off the road all of the eleven women laid down and started to pray. Apparently they were praying for safety. Hmmmn....not hours before we had just seen the biggest elephant I had ever seen on the side of the road eating. Black Mambas, scorpions, spiders, lions and tigers and bears oh my...oh my...oh my god what are we doing here.

After they were finished chopping the wood they loaded up their backs like beasts of burden and began the long trek home. They laughed and sang and talked the whole way. For less than the cost of a Tall Latte at Starbucks these women labor all day to try and feed their families. All in all it was a very humbling experience that I won't soon forget. Next time one of my kids complains about their allowance I'm going to load them up with some campfire wood and make them work a bit.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009


"Do you have all of your shots and is your passport current?" is what spit out of my cell phone late that afternoon. Rodney Rascona had just asked me, two day before the scheduled departure, if I wanted to accompany him on a humanitarian project to Kenya, Africa.

I was hot and tired and was a little taken aback when the large Kenyan in a suit with the obvious bulge under his jacket asked me if I was a soldier and what was I was doing in Africa. I told him I wasn't a soldier (come on, that's not lying, I'm a Marine) and he put his hand on my shoulder and laughed and said "I bet the little Iraqi children were scared of you". Two more pleasant encounters with some local security, one two hour visa line, two lost equipment cases, 10 seconds through an empty customs area, and I was met by Rodney and his driver.

We arrived at the Fairview Hotel late in the evening and Rod said that I shouldn't worry because the Israeli embassy was across the street and the security was exceptionally tight and that they had these cool thing two keep truck bombs from making their way down the street. Oh good I thought, now I can get some restful sleep. The fairview is a great hotel with a wonderful and gracious staff that went to every length to make us feel comfortable. That comfort was short lived. Two days later we were on the road and off to our first location, the town of Meru. Two things I learned right away were that I like African beer and the power only shuts off when you need it.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009


For the next few weeks I will be in
Northern Kenya providing photography in
support of a humanitarian effort


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