Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


we are busy busy bees in kenya, but nat, jenna, matt and i did manage to carve out a morning for some safari action. the laikipia region of kenya--where we are lucky enough to be based, and which includes an amazing view of 17,000 ft Mt. Kenya--is known for having some of the most concentrated biodiversity in Kenya, already world renowned for its incredible wildlife. according to locals we can catch a glimpse of elephants, lions, and leopards just off the side of any country road if we look closely enough. well, mzungus we are, we haven't had the greatest luck spotting wildlife this way, but we did see just about everything in the book at Sweetwaters Game Reserve: White rhinos, giraffes, gazelles, bushbacks, zebras, baboons, wart hogs, jackals, hippos, ostriches, chimps (not native of course), water bucks, and more birds than I could ever identify. when we were sure we were out of the lion/rhino region of the reserve, 3 of us rode on the roof of the landrover while the 4th drove. they would never let you do that in the states! (don't worry mom and dad, we were going about 10 mph, i promise.)

photos taken by matt richard and his awesome telephoto lens:

White Rhino in front of Mt Kenya

This rhino was weirdly comfortable around
humans...it even gave our landrover a little nudge--scary!

Our rhino friend getting some love from a man with a large gun.

I love wart hogs!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

the field

we've escaped the classroom and entered the lovely outdoors to begin data collection. jenna and anne have flown off to tanzania for the uncommon dialogue conference, and swathi and matt have shifted their attention to writing their dissertations, so at this point it's just natalie, jenna s., myself, and rob working in-country on this next phase of the project. soon we'll each be stationed in different regions to serve as 'satellite' support to the field teams. after that (we hope!) we'll be waist-deep in data.

the social aspects of water system engineering really fascinate me... it seems crazy that we can sit at our computers and design survey/focus group materials, and then bring them into communities to literally engage everyday people in hours of structured conversation. our pilot showed us that people have a lot to say about their water situation in this long season of drought (punctuated by population growth, climate change, deforestation, and other hard realities that Kenya is facing), as if they've been waiting to tell us what is on their minds...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Hey everyone. I've been way out of touch. The project has taken me to Nanyuki, Kenya, a very remote and HIGH place (see the elevation on the sign above) with almost non-existent internet. We've also been super busy with yet another round of training/piloting, leaving little time for much else...

Kenya is pretty spectacular: birds of every color of the rainbow, lush green land in every direction (the rainy season has just wrapped up), and at least in our neck of the woods--hardly a mosquito to be found in this perfectly cool/low humidity weather. We are living too good actually.

Oh yes, and during a hike in a national preserve last Sunday we found evidence of elephants everywhere. A little exciting, a LOT scary. I don't need to try to outrun an elephant anytime soon.

So here we are--Natalie, Anne, myself, and Jenna... hamming it up at the equator! Yeah.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I used to be a vegetarian before I came here. Now I eat steak. When I return to California I will go back to being a vegetarian.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pilot Day

We were up until the wee hours of the night last night preparing all of our equipment, and awake again before the sun came up to leave Dakar before the traffic got bad. This is pilot day, and everyone's a little nervous because so much of ourselves has gone into this study, and in particular this day that we launch everything. We have just about everything in order except for a few things that continue to make everyone groan, such as the survey being way too long, the GPS data collection protocol confusing the field supervisors (along with everyone else), and our difficulty acquiring essential equipment for assessing the water systems due to our contracted supplier being really difficult. This is field work!

Last night my bed was all aglow with electronics...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Negema wangu binti
Mchachefu wa sanati
Upulike wasiati
Asa ukazingatia

Come near me, my daughter
I am unworthy of God’s award
Listen to my advice
Maybe you will follow it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Touba buses

Senegal's public transport is amazing. Do you remember "The Magic School Bus" series from elementary school? That seems to be what the Touba buses are going for, except I think they've actually outdone the book. It costs about $0.25 to ride in one of these for as long as you want as it makes its loop, which is a pretty cheap tour of the city if you ask me (though you can't guarantee you won't have someone else's baby or bundle of vegetables in your lap). Taxis have adopted the look too, with tassles hanging from side view mirrors, multicolored windshield wipers, and these strange "tails" on the rear bumper made of leather or hair. I have yet to get a good photo of one though..

Sunday, May 31, 2009

HLM Marché

Emily and I managed to untether ourselves from our computers on Saturday morning and caught a Touba bus over to HLM Marché. This market is known for having one of West Africa's most vibrant and eclectic array of fabrics, with tailors around every corner available to make a custom fit outfit for just about any occassion. Unfortunately, most vendors here also have been the subject of one too many tourist photo shoots, it seems, because there is a consistently negative reaction to my camera no matter how nicely I ask about taking a photo. However, the young girl in the first photo, named Hadeh, was actually excited to pose, maybe due to the conversation that took place beforehand.

Hadeh: Where are your sandals from?
Me: They're from America. From Colorado, in the middle of the country.
Hadeh: Oh. Col-OR-rah-doh?
Me: That's right.
Hadeh: Can I give you my phone number?
Me: Sure! Can I take your picture?
Hadeh: Yeah!

The boys in the 2nd photo took much more persuading, involving my refusing to pay them to take their photo (yes, every one of them), walking away, and then coming back and asking if I could take a photo if I bought some of their...um, for lack of a better term..teeth sticks. Senegalese people, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, can be seen with these twigs in their mouths because they taste good, clean your teeth, and supposedly calm your stomach. So I bought a small bundle and snapped my one allotted shot. Finally, the last photo was allowed because I bought 6 meters of cloth from this shop. Later this week I'll ask my friend Talla, the teenaged tailor that runs a shop next to our hotel, to make me a couple of skirts so I can get out of the boring brown one I wear literally every day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In my humble opinion, our team is as talented as it is handsome. Some portraits taken this afternoon...









Making progress

Training continues, and despite some inevitable setbacks (namely, super problematic software) it's apparent that the team is learning and progressing each day. For example, we've left behind the draft paper surveys and graduated to handheld devices, or PDAs. I'm happy to end the constant printing/copying cycle and save a few trees!

Friday, May 22, 2009


The sky is trippy tonight... same color as the buildings and the sand in Grand Yoff!

Training week

This week we're training a team of about 20 Senegalese men and women to deliver our surveys in 50 rural villages. We have something like 7 different types of data collection instruments, including the straightforward paper-and-pen check-the-box type (although in our case we use PDAs, a stylus, and some simple software), an engineering assessment of the water system in each village using a platform called Manobi, a 'choice experiment' using the randomized delivery of photos that show different attributes (to use the academic term--better described maybe as a 'feature') of water systems pre- and post-upgrade, and GPS data collection of village structures using ArcPad. This is a whole heck of a lot of training to do, for ourselves and for the enumerators. Lately I've been feeling as if there never was a time when I did anything BUT stare at my computer, but nonetheless it's satisfying, almost exhilarating, to see the project taking shape. Some photos of our choice experiment training today:

Above is one ideas for portraying the 'distance' attribute of water supply systems using a simple picture. Below the artist is explaining to the group how we might portray this to people with relatively low education levels.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

evening run

Emily, Ralph and I go running each evening around sunset through Grand Yoff and see, well, just about everything under the sun. Taxis are buzzing about next to horses drawing carts loaded with cement blocks on bumpy roads, which always turn into alleyways with goats running alongside packs of children wearing holey t-shirts and no shoes, all yelling "toubab! toubab!"at us as they kick their soccer balls through the sand, the ragged balls kicking up dust and bouncing off of the crumbling walls that feature the same sketches of the local marabouts' heads, or of the same two haircuts available at the local haircutting shack. Then there's the 20-something guy leaning up against the wall smoking a hand-rolled cigarette in knock-off Gucci sunglasses, kittens hiding behind a gas can at his feet, ladies adorned in glittering robes walking by with their heads held high, sometimes because they're balancing a load of vegetables up there, teenagers shouting at each other while they talk on their cell phones...