Monthly Archives: May 2012

Explosion in City Center

Recently in Kenya, there have been an increasing number of terrorist attacks.  Typically this is in the form of throwing a grenade into a night club or hotel.  Yesterday there was an explosion in the city center… downtown area.  The following is an email the US Embassy sent me:

U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya
Security Message for U.S. Citizens
Explosive Device and Grenade Attacks in Kenya May 26-28
Over the last few months, the volume of terrorist attacks throughout Kenya has escalated. Westerners have not been targeted, and there is no evident pattern of attack locations or timing.
In the last few days, there have been three separate incidents in Kenya involving grenade attacks or explosive devices. On May 26, a grenade exploded at a construction site within the Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab, and another exploded at a hotel in Wajir, about 75 miles away.  Three Kenyans were injured in these attacks. On May 28, an explosive device caused a large explosion in the central business district of Nairobi. More than forty people were injured and several sustained critical injuries. No U.S. citizens are among the casualties.
After the explosion in downtown Nairobi, many hundreds of people crowded in the street and attempted to get close to the scene. We advise U.S. citizens not to join crowds that collect around incident sites. These crowds hamper rescue efforts, and such sites are not safe.
This is very interesting because the Kenyan Government has yet to report the cause of the explosion.  They have mentioned theories such as a terrorist attack or an electrical malfunction.  So the US Embassy is saying it was an explosive device from a terrorist attack, but the Kenyan Government is refusing to state the cause.  It is also funny they mention the crowds that swarmed close to the site of the explosion.  We watched the news in the staff room after the explosion and joked about how on 9/11 Americans (and others) ran away from the WTC while n Kenya there is an explosion so they flock to it.
The staff room is a lot of fun, particularly at lunch time.  I sit in a corner of the room at a table with some of the other male teachers.  We joke a lot and cause trouble 😉
I am hoping to go to Nairobi National Park this weekend and also go see a movie or two… I really want to see the Avengers.  I will try to get Maurice to come hang out for the weekend.  He is busy with exams until the end of the month so I am not sure on his availability.  A week from this weekend I think Bro Daniel and I will visit Bro Colm in Iten… maybe two weeks, not sure yet.  Bro Elvis is from Mombasa, so he wants to go with me there for a weekend.  Mombasa is a great place to visit.  Although, I here it is similar to midwestern summers, hot and humid.  There are other places I want to visit but with those three plans I will have the next three weekends busy, I will have time to fill the others later.
I finally bought some sun screen.  I bought the 50+ because my nose and ears probably have skin cancer at this point… I have peeling skin and scabs on them.  I will definitely use the sun screen from now on where I have had the most problems.  I will look like the Agnew boys when they go swimming, haha.
Well that is all for now, I must get to bed as I am very tired (no different than any other day).  I thought I would just write a quick note as I had received that email today.  Also, sorry to those reading this about my grammar… my method of writing on this blog is type away and post without revision… any students reading this, do not follow my example!

Nairobi Primary Schools Provincial Championships

Two days ago we went to Moi Forces Academy for the Nairobi Provincial Championships for Primary Schools.  The above picture is from the meet.  The 10k race walk (this is a boys event) is going on.  You can see the school buildings and the other fields (they have a huge campus!) in the background.

I am proud of the five athletes that made it that far as the next level is the National Championships.  I had Simon in the 5k and Fahran in the 3k.  Others were Juliet in the 5k race walk, Esther in the long jump, and Helen in the triple jump.  I am not sure how the jumps went, but Juliet was DQ’d… I am going to call BS on that because I never saw her do anything but walk, unlike many of the other girls.  I am not sure who placed 5th and who placed 6th, but those were the places for Simon and Fahran.  Simon ran 18:14 in the 5k and Fahran ran 10:54 in the 3k… remember Simon is 13 and Fahran is 12 (correction from an earlier post) and were running at 5500+ ft.  Simon has 2 more years  and Fahran 3 at OLN.  The boys that won the 5k and 10k look a little old for class 8… I thought my boys might be a little old for their classes, but after seeing the developmental stage of these other boys I do not think they are older than they say.  I think some of the controversy in the US about the age of some of the East Africans in high school cross country and track has made me biased.  I think compare the boys to others in their classes, but when you think about how many of their classmates might be undernourished you can understand why many of them are smaller than these boys.  Now I do not question that these boys are really as young as they say.  The boys that won the 5k and 10k look like they could be seniors in high school.

The rest of the day was very hot and sunny.  I wore shorts and my legs were sunburned and now both tops of my ears are scabbed.  I am going to buy sun screen this weekend.  The meet was fun and I talked to some athletes from other schools.  I talked to the winner and runner up from both the 5k and 10k.  They said they were in class 8, but maybe they are just there to compete for the school.  Patrick, the other teacher, said there is sometimes corruption and some kids that should not be competing are competing in the primary level… so to those in the US that complain about guys like Futsum competing in Indiana and thinking he is too old… well it sure could be possible, it happens in Kenya.  I asked these boys if they are going to secondary school.   Only the guy who was runner up in the 10k and 3rd in the 5k said he was planning to.  This, to me, says these boys are too old to be competing at the primary level.  Either way, I told them if they worked hard at school and in athletics, it never hurts to contact coaches at universities in the US.  I’m sure I’ve violated some NCAA rule since I want to become a coach.  Who cares though?  I also talked to a teacher from another school who wants to start training with me.  I told him I might not be able to train with him much as during the week I am very busy and the weekends are probably about to be full of traveling the country.  Maybe I can assist him with his training schedule though.

The brothers are still on retreat until tomorrow and the house is very quiet.  Definitely not as much fun with them gone… they bring a lot of jokes and laughter to the place.  Brother Daniel texted me two days ago and said when they return we will call Bro. Colm again and set up which weekend we can visit Iten.  That will be awesome!  I am still trying to come in contact with Renato Canova, but he is probably hard to get ahold of right now with training his athletes for the Kenya Olympic Trials and the Olympics.  Plus Kenya has come under a lot of heat the last week with a report by a German journalist about widespread doping of Kenyan runners.  Renato is voicing a strong stance that most Kenyans do not dope and his runners for sure do not dope.

As for today, I have gone to the supermarket and now can relax the rest of the day.  I am going to perhaps watch a movie and some tv, but most importantly catch up with my work for my internship.  Since the brothers have been gone and we were having power outages nearly everyday before they left I was unable to work on it.  Now that they will be back tomorrow, I can have everything ready to discuss with Bros. Julius and Maricky so I can email them to my professor tomorrow.

Be sure to check out some videos I have uploaded at:

I will try to upload more, but we lose power every now and then so uploading and downloading anything is difficult.

First Athletics (track) Meet as a Coach!

Today was the first meet for me as a coach.  What a great day!

First I road a matatu to OLN and then walked from the beginning of the slum to the school.  Those you have watched the video I uploaded, that was my walk today.  After we were all set we set out through the slum.  If you have seen the video, that is the main road.  The route we took was more of a path than a road.  No motorcycles, SUV’s, Cars could go here.  The shacks are much closer together.  Eventually we arrived at a railroad.  We walked along this for quite a while.  Along both sides of the rails, there are kiosks set up… and they stretch all the way down the railroad.  Some had tables or blankets with goods on them set up across the tracks.  When a train comes they move the tables, but the blankets and their goods stay between the tracks.  This was quite an experience!  I wish I could take video of it, but I think that would be seen as disrespectful by some.  Eventually wee made it to a bus stop and took a big bus to the primary school the meet was being held at.

When it comes down to meet organization today, I can only say wow!  This wow is not in a good way.  We started the meet 2.5-3 hours behind schedule.  The carrying out of the meet was not too bad, but there was definitely an organized mess out there.  The track was just a chalked somewhat oval/circle around the field.  There is absolutely no way it was 400m.  That would mean 5th place in the boys 10k would be 31:11 by a 14 year old… who has not been training much and ran this at altitude.  At the end of the meet there was some confusion, as one of my 5k runners was not called as a qualifier for Thursday’s meet.  He placed 2nd and the top two in each event qualifies for Thursday’s meet.

As for results.  My team had 5 qualifiers for Thursday.  The first is Simon Kitumo.  He is 14 years old and doubled in the 10k and 5k today.  He placed 5th in the 10k and 2nd in the 5k.  So he will advance to Thursday in the 5k.  He is very good and the fact that he was able to handle 15k of hard running at his age is very impressive!  In the US, outside of a conference meet, people would whine and complain about doing that double.  Even high schoolers in the US would complain about running 4×800, open 800, 1600, 3200… for these kids that would be “meh…”.  My other distance runner, Fahran (I might have butchered that, plus I do not know is other name yet), failed to qualify in most of his events last Friday.  He ran the 800, 1500, and 3k.  Today he ran the 10k, but was pulled off when he was lapped because he was not in the top 6, and the 3k.  I think he did not qualify for the 3k on Friday, but the other teacher coaching with me (Patrick) told him to run.  I figure if he was not supposed to be in the race, they would have kicked him out.  During this race I was very excited.  With a few laps to go, Fahran made a few surges to catch and pass 4-5 runners ahead of him.  On the penultimate lap, he had moved into second and gapping those behind him.  At this point my heart was pounding!  I told him he needed to catch the runner in first by the last curve then out sprint him the final straight.  He tried, but there was too much distance and he was only able to close the gap from 10 sec to 4.  We had three others qualify today, but as they are not distance events, I am not very concerned.  One is qualified in race walking.  Why is this a part of athletics!  I thought about either shooting myself or taking a nap during these (boys went 10k, girls 5k).  Then I think we had one in the high jump and another in the triple jump.  I really don’t know much about these, and I left my “track and field omnibook” in the US… I guess I could use the internet.  But we have not equipment to practice the high jump and the triple jump… wow, I don’t know where I would begin!  The race walking I would imagine would be like training for running, butas you have noticed I am not a fan of race walking.

I am extremely excited!  After the meet they were announcing the qualifiers and they did not call Simon’s name.  I was very upset about this.  Simon and I talked to Patrick, who then talked to the officials.  By the end we had things straightened out and Simon was registered for Thursday.

I do not like how close all these meets are to each other.  There is not time to do anything but race and each one has tougher competition.  The national championships for primary schools is next week so there is no time for hard work.  As my friend Blake Wysocki posted as his status today, “hay is in the barn.”

After the meet I had a woman approach me.  She said she is a runner for 5k-half marathon.  She said she is looking for sponsorship and funding for races.  I told her I am not an agent and I do not have the connections to find her a sponsorship or funding.  I told her about my background, exercise science major and teaching and coaching at OLN.  I told her I could give her training advice and I have nothing else to offer.  She gave me her email address so I can contact her.  I will see if I do.  I asked Patrick if I should and if she was just trying to scam some money, but I think I will try but not with my normal email.  When I asked her about some of her times for various distances and they do not seem farfetched… in fact her 10k and half marathon time correlate to similar ability.  If you want to know how I know this, some of you will say “you looked at Daniel’s?” (this is a training book for distance events called “Jack Daniel’s Running Formula” but I used some stuff from Renato Canova (yes, my coaching hero).

This is quite a read so I will end here and write again soon… tomorrow if something interesting happens, but definitely Thursday as we will have another meet.


Mukuru Slum and more

The Embed is not working right so I am just posting the link to the video of the drive through the mukuru slum.

This is a video I shot during the first week in Kenya.  It is not the full drive to OLN because the video would have taken lightyears to load (this one took 1.5 days… our connection is slow).  It is 720p and I think it captures a good view of what the slum looks like.  The only thing is you won’t experience the smell and the noise.  The smell is like a mixture of body odor, rotting trash, rotting food, smoke, exhaust from vehicles, and feces.  I do not smell that as much now, I think I have gotten used to it.

Today was a very interesting day.  Bro. Julius drove me in to school.  On the way, shortly after entering the slum, a boy did not see us and was walking backwards.  He was hit by the front corner of the car and (I could not see after he fell, so I am assuming) the tire went onto his leg.  We backed up and they brought him to the back of the SUV.  I expected bone showing, blood, etc.  Instead he had a few scratches and was starting to bruise.  Immediately after this happened, people quickly gathered around the SUV.  I would be lying to say I started to become worried.  Kiswahili was being shouted from every direction, and not knowing what they were saying was very uncomfortable.  I heard a few use mzungu (white person) in their speaking and they were pointing at me, so I was uneasy about what would happen.  My heart was pounding!  What an experience!  I don’t think there was any danger, but never been in an experience like that I did not know how the people would react.  Even thought my heart was racing, I tried to remain as calm as I could.  We stopped by a medical center, then stopped by the police station and finally I was dropped off at school.

I was also nervous about how the walk home would be since the brothers are going on retreat this week.  Again nothing happened, and I think I was just worrying too much.  These people are very friendly and nice.  Although, there are situations where you can find trouble.  Besides all this, today was my second time walking from the school to the matatu stop.  This walk is everything you see on the video.  I have now done this twice and will probably do it once or twice a day for the rest of the week.

First Athletics (Track and Field) meet as a coach.  Pretty excited about that. We have a much smaller team than on Friday.  These are the more serious students, although there are still some that aren’t that focused.  I have a couple boys that are very focused.  I am really excited as to where they can take their running.  I ran with them before I was sick and we maybe started around 7:30-8/mile pace and the last mile we ran 6:20ish and non of us were breathing all that heavy.  We have not had time for workouts because by the time we had our first practice the first meet was two days away.  We have the meet tomorrow (Tuesday) and There still wasn’t enough days to put a workout in.  Especially since we did not meet during the weekend.  However, Some of the kids ran a lot of mileage at a fast pace last Friday and definitely needed a break without workouts until the next meet.  If we have a meet on Friday, I will postpone doing a workout again, but if there is no meet we will do a workout.  Here you have to qualify to the next meet.  Hence why we dropped over half the team from Friday.  I will update tomorrow how the meet goes!  Bye!

My New Haircut

Bro Daniel and I went down the street to the market.  Here there is a restaurant, pub, hair salons, and other businesses.  We went to get a haircut for me and found a great place.  I told the guy I usually use #4 on top and #3 on the sides.  I was thinking it would be short and sweet like when I cut my hair at home, but instead this guy was very good.  We probably spent 20 minutes on my hair.  He gave me a shave as well and also some lotions and a quick head/neck massage.  This all cost Sh150!  Just to put that into perspective… using the exchange rate I got when I exchanged my money, it cost me $1.83!  Back home if I went to get a haircut I’d probably be looking at spending $12 just to cut my hair.  What is even more astonishing is this guy was much better than the hairdressers I’ve been to in the US.  After walking back home I thought I would write a post and put up a picture.  This led me to remember a certain video, some of you will remember the “My new haircut” youtube video.  Some people have asked me to take the video off.

Visit by Maurice

It has been a couple days since I last posted anything.  I am hoping to post a video of the drive from Davis House(this is were I live, It is in the Balozi Estate, which is in South B) to Our Lady of Nazareth.  It will be roughly 25 min long so if you have time to watch the whole video I recommend doing so, otherwise skip around.


On Wednesday my friend Maurice came to OLN to visit.  He took some photos and helped me with PE class.  We had lunch together.  For lunch that day we had maize and beans with cooked vegetables.  After classes we had trials to choose our 100, 200, and 400 runners.  We are only able to take 2 students in each event except for the 10,000m forboys and the 5,000m for girls.

On Thursday we spent the whole day conducting more trials for field events and making final choices for who makes the team for Friday.  We finalized the team with 45 boys and girls.  I have 10 boys in the distance squad (800-10k) and 6 girls (400-5k).

Around 3 on Thursday I started to feel funny.  By the evening my stomach was cramped up, I had a fever, and I had a headache.  There was a dinner at another Marianist community for a priest who is being assigned somewhere else.  Before we left Davis house I did not think it would be too bad to go.  By the time we arrived I was feeling much worse.  We had mass followed by dinner.  Then Bro. Maricky took me to a hospital.  The hospital visit was very long, we spent nearly 3.5 hours there for something that probably could have taken 1 hour.  I had a blood test and urine sampleboth of which came back clear.  The doctor said I may have eaten something bad.  He prescribed some medicine for me to take 3x a day for 7 days.  By the time we arrived home I took some medicine and went straight to bed.  By the morning I was feeling much better but my stomach was still a little cramped and my head hurt when I moved too fast. This evening I feel much better and hope tomorrow I am feeling 100%.

I am excited to see how the boys and girls competed today.  Hopefully many of the ran well enough to qualify for the meet on Tuesday.

Some other exciting news… Bro. Daniel and I were able to call Bro. Colm O’Connell, the famous athletics coach of St. Patrick’s High School in Iten.  He said it would be ok for us to visit Iten and see him.  I think in about 2 weeks Bro. Daniel and I will travel to Iten.  It will be exciting to see how many famous runners we will meet!

Walking The Slums

Today was an easy day.  I woke up around 5:30 and laid in bed for awhile.  Around 6 I walked around the house to see if JP was up and ready to go running.  I did not see him so I went back to bed.  Around 6:30 I decided I would get ready and wait in the tv room.  Before I could finish changing into running clothes JP came to my door looking for me.  We ran through the industrial park around Mukuru.  Mostly the same as I’ve seen.  Trash everywhere, factories probably heavily polluting the air, trucks and busses doing the same (I say this because they all have black, smelly smoke coming form them).  The run was good.  I think i am acclimatized to the high altitude.  Here it is maybe up to 6000 ft.

After running and taking brunch, we went to church.  The mass was in english so it was easy to follow along, except for the songs.  I was also the only mzungu there.

We went to a supermarket afterwards to eat and to pick some things up as well as shop around.  I saw a copy of KenyaRunning so of course i bought it!

Once we returned to the house Brothers Elvis and Dennis (he is new to the house, arrived today) were leaving for a walk.  I decided to join them.  Our walk led to the Mukuru slum.  At first I was unsure whether I should go into the slum, but I decided I might as well try it out.  It ended up being a great experience.  Think of those back in the US, I would highly doubt any of them would want to drive through the slum let alone walk it.  I think most people would feel unsafe because of the appearance and smells (think body odor, feces, rotting food, trash, pollution mixed together).  The people were welcoming as I waved and smiled to everyone that made eye contact with means shook a few hands. I also talked to many children.  They are the best as they are curious to speak to mzungus.  Typically you will here the children yell “Mzungu, how are you?”  I had one man walk by and say in surprise “Ahhh.  Mzungu!”  I turned around and said “HAHAHA! Yes, mzungu.”  He found this very funny.  As we were about to walk by a man Dennis and Elvis dared me I would not greet him.  SO i greeted him and the man smiled and offered me a puff of his cigarette (most kenyans do not smoke, my guess is they cannot afford them).  Towards the end of our walk we were walking with a boy (actually we could not tell if it was a boy or a girl) we asked some questions and he/she was to bashful to respond.  We joked with him/her a bit as we parted ways.  These people are so friendly and happy (even though they have little to nothing) and I love the atmosphere they present.  I have tried to keep every barrier from forming and all my judgements blocked.  I think this has allowed me to gain the respect I have encountered from these people.  The Brothers say I fit in so well it seems as though I have already been here for many weeks, although it hasn’t even been one, and we joke that I am already more Kenyan than some of them! 😉

I thought I would write this post as we lost power all day today.  Who knows why…  Hope all the mothers had a joyful mother’s day!