Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Memories

So now we begin the season of seasons. Christmas is often mixed in with Chanukah and Kwanza and a few lesser known celebrations, but predominantly this time of year in the west is known as the Christmas season and more so in recent years as the Holiday season. The holiday season is an accommodation to merchants who want to include everybody in the festive celebrations.

For those of us who celebrate Christ's birth, symbolically or otherwise, it is a joyous time of year. Excitement and reverence permeates the festive and sacred atmosphere. Children take in the energy and send it out exponentially. Their expectations and joy influences all of us. Religions promulgate the sacred and all of us benefit.

It too is a time to look back on childhoods that were much different from today’s children. Times then were simple. Families seemed more important and gatherings special. You never knew which of the older folks would not be there the next year. There were always some who hands were missing at the Christmas table grace. Gifts and cards were not always bought, but made with thought and care.

My Dad was not rich in bank accounts, but he was in craftsmanship. When I was eight years old my main gift at Christmas, besides the proverbial socks and necessities and a knitted sweater from my grandmother, was a table model radio and record player.

It became my nightstand next to my bunk bed. It was bright red with cartoon decals on either side of the six-inch fabric covered speaker in the center of the front panel. On top, a door lifted up. Inside was a record turntable. Underneath the electronics were slotted cubby holes to hold the 78-RPM records I had amassed as a kid.

I had several of the Uncle Don series and Rusty in Orchestraville and some others I can’t remember.

My Dad had spent nights building the cabinet and the radio and the record player. He knew electronics and could do those things with capacitors, resistors and tubes. He put them all together and it worked. I loved it.

I would spend hours after I was supposed to be asleep listening to distant radio stations. I had the volume turned low. I would tune in WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia, WOWO in Fort Wayne, Indiana and KDKA in Pittsburgh. It was exciting for a nine year old.

I do not wish to go back to those days and times. I do wish some of the ethics and integrity and reverence common at that time had been sustained within our social structure. But then those things are not endemic to the social structure. They are strictly traits of personal character.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Carnegie Hall

You’ve heard the expression question of “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” and the comic, yet also practical answer is practice.

This coming Thursday on December 2nd I have been invited by composer, musician, conductor, musical bon vivant, Tim Janis to host his Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall presented by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

I will read three of my Christmas/Holiday poems. They will be interspersed throughout the musical concert of very talented performers and equally talented choral groups.

Here’s the Playbill:



Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 8 PM

Tickets from $40 - $60

The Program

Tim Janis
Chandler Lutz, Donald Braswell, Jim Cole, Sarah Darling, Wendy McPike, Emily Bear, Eli Mattson, Lynn Witty, and Hollie Steel, Vocalists
Jimmy Nichols, Music Director
Andy Hire and Kevin Cooper, Conductors
With Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Three Crosses Band
Rolland Smith, Host

Works by Tim Janis and Andrew J. Wight

I will share with you the poems I will read on Thursday.

If any New Yorkers would like to attend….hope to see you there.


Friday, November 26, 2010

More Greece Please

Turkey is a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for many Americans. It is a carry over from the pilgrims and their original feast of Thanksgiving when the native bird was plentiful in the wild.

So why do we call it Turkey? There is a reason and as happens so many times, the all-American bird got its name somewhat by mistake.

The tale begins with the British Empire which had stretched itself into Africa during the sixteen hundreds. Along with diamonds the British exported a wild eatable bird back to England, but in order to get the shipment to the British Isles the cargo was routed through Turkey and supposedly that is how the big bird got its name.

When the sharp eyed settlers spotted a similar winged bird strutting through the American colonies, they called it...Turkey.

Scientists who study these sort of things tell us the bird that lives in Africa, that was imported to Europe by way of Turkey, is not the same bird that is native to America.

Actually we probably ought to call our bird " Meleagris". that's what the turkey is known as in scientific jargon, and that comes from the Greek. In fact, one of the earliest mentions of the Meleagris comes from Aristotle. Just think, if the bird had first been exported from his country we could be sitting down to a Greece dinner with all the trimmings.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

To all a very Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Giving of Thanks

Here it is the day before Thanksgiving in the United States. My friends in Canada celebrate it on another date.

Our Thanksgiving is similar to the August Moon Festival in China, Tet Trung Tru in Vietnam, Succoth in Judaism, Kwanzaa in Africa, Pongal in India and Chusok in Korea and Emtedankfest in Germany. The list goes on, but in essence the purpose remains the same, to thank God for a harvest of food and thought.

Giving thanks should never be relegated to a single day or a passing expression of gratitude. Giving thanks should be an ongoing every moment expression of appreciation.

Giving thanks should be a continuous expression of our lives for we as experiential souls in the density of life have truly been given so much for which we forget, deny, or explain away as something else.

It is amazing to me that the majority of us cannot see the abundance through the maze and fog of always wanting more. In my experience the All That Is provides for everything we need, but will not alter our free will choice to experience lack and deprivation.

Don’t ask me how that can be. I have no idea. I suspect that God experiences life through us as us.

Obviously our divinity is not omniscient or omnipotent, but it is on the edge of creation and understanding because there is a little bit of the Divine in each of us.

The Divine is always in a state of unconditional love. Intrinsic in that state is constant appreciation. It seems to me we have forgotten appreciation and in our human arrogance of self we have ignored what we know deep within our souls.

In the United States, in particular, we forget to give thanks for clean and clear water, for the purity of a breath of fresh air, abundant food, the freedoms and liberty we enjoy and the right to worship as we please; The latter includes the personal responsibility to say thank you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I rode the subway again the other day when I was in New York City for a recording session.

In one particular train car there was a guy seated and playing his guitar with gloves on. Granted it did create a unique muted sound as he picked out singular notes to match the tonality of his words and sang a song I did not recognize.

The train weaved and rumbled through a couple of stops and he continued to sing. Finally he finished his song and took his hat off and looked around the crowded train car for anyone to show a monitory appreciation. No one did.

As he played I watched the other people in the subway car. Some were reading, some were writing, some were sleeping and some just stared into empty space seemingly oblivious to this man’s public creativity and performance. Everyone ignored him. Nobody applauded. Nobody said anything and the guy looked surprised as he got off the next stop. He was probably headed to another car and a more receptive audience.

He wasn’t very good at either singing or playing the guitar with gloves on. But without inhibitions and with complete confidence in himself he played and sang and hoped for some remuneration.

I wondered then and still do today if this guy might have been an angel placed there for me to appreciate and acknowledge with a small token of his performance. I couldn’t understand his words and the din within the moving train was overwhelming.

I'd like to think that angels move in and out of our purview with offered lessons of love and tolerance. It’s one of the reasons why I keep a few folded dollars in my pocket to toss into baskets or hats or place in the hand of some seeker who seems to need it.

Monday, November 22, 2010


The waning seconds of golden sunset had just passed the other night. It was glorious and comforting and escorted with a powerful wind as the light and wind passed into the west for others to experience. Everything was flushed in the gilded gold of sunset if for just a moment or two.

There is something about the setting sun that reminds me of being finite and infinite at the same time. My body is finite. My spirit is infinite. It is my spirit that animates my body and when it is done with what it came here to do it will relinquish the flesh and let my body return to the metaphorical dust of creation.

We have endings and continuations and beginnings within each moment of our existence.

Whenever I forget about the impermanence of things I look to nature for a reminder. Days come and go with each one renewed in the light of All That Is. Seasons come and go, yet each returns afresh, exuberant in the youthful expression of snow, color and growth and the budding green and birth of spring.

Why is that not true for all us souls of humankind? The only reason we are here in this density is to perfect our souls for the glory of God through the experience of choice.

Could we not return time and time again continuously perfecting our choices for Him? Incarnation after incarnation? Why not!

Each of the world's dogmas embraces, or did at one time, some kind of rebirth equation. The inequities of a single lifetime belie the belief of just one.

I know I have lived before! It's more like an esoteric knowing rather than a cognitive or exoteric construction. Can I prove it? No! Do I know it? Yes!

For me, reincarnation provides a relief in understanding the injustices I see in the world.

Khalil Gibran once wrote that the murdered is not without participation in their murder. I find that difficult to fathom from the finite level, but understandable from a spiritual awareness.

So where does that leave me and my argument? In the wondrous dark again. It’s fun to think about though, isn’t it?

Friday, November 19, 2010


There are always some things in life that will offend. You have your items and I have mine

Here are a few of mine.

Joe Miller the republican candidate for Senator in Alaska was backed by Sara Palin and the Tea party to defeat the current republican Senator from Alaska Lisa Murkowski. Miller is (has been) challenging the write-in ballots that misspelled her name.

It’s not right, it’s not fair, it’s stealing the franchise from citizens who know for whom they voted, but did not have the right spelling of the name. But two days ago Murkowski was declared the winner. Bravo.

If I had a nickel for every time my first name has been misspelled we could all go out to dinner. Just so you know, my last name has rarely, if ever, been misspelled. Go figure!

Shame on Joe Miller and his campaign. It is unfortunate that in today’s political process, winning is more important than ethics. Maybe that’s why we have so much dissention and contention in Washington.

Here are some little annoyances, OK, they are really, really, little ones and a lot more mundane in the whole scheme of life, but they still annoy me.

I am annoyed at night drivers who wait until our cars are face to face before they dim their lights. If I can see their lights before we are head-on to each other, then they can see my lights long before they choose to dim theirs.

I am annoyed at benevolent police organizations or the PBA's that call at dinnertime asking for a donation. When I say I am giving to other law enforcements organizations they rudely hang up. I keep a list. They will never get any money out of me.

I am annoyed at cell phone talkers on the train or bus or in a restauraunt who think they have to shout into the phone for the people on the other side of their conversation to hear them.

I am annoyed at riders on trains, or people getting on elevators who do not wait for people getting off the conveyance before trying to get on.

I am annoyed at moms and dads who let their youngsters run around a restaurant or in a store without the parental discipline of restraint.

I am annoyed at grocery store lines when to pay for the groceries the person at the checkout register has to fill out a complete check. Why not fill it out, except for the amount, before you go to the store. You know you are going to write a check. To me it’s a courtesy to those in line behind you.

I am annoyed at me for being annoyed at these silly stupid things.

I’ll be better tomorrow.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good Grief!

"And now, in an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters, Sarah Palin "says she is seriously considering a run for the White House, and she believes she could beat President Obama in 2012."

The interview will run on Dec. 9 as part of Walters' "10 Most Fascinating People" of 2010.

I read this and I could not believe it.

She is a nice person, a good Mom, a fine spouse, a governor, a candidate for Veep. SHE IS NOT OF PRESIDENTIAL CALIBER. I am concerned that celebrity arrogance will catapult an unqualified into a candidacy that would deny a rightful recipient of the nomination and therefore deny America a leadership with discernment, intellect and experience.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Was Gone!

When the election took place a couple of weeks ago I was out of the country. I did vote absentee, but I was gone and it took a little while before I read, heard and embraced the ramifications of the winners and losers.

Some thoughts on who won.

We won.

The American people, the citizens who by majority rule, comprise the policy and philosophy of this maturing republic won. The true winner is "We The People."

Once again we became the evidence of our beliefs and by public example demonstrated to the world and to ourselves that democracy is still a valid and effective process.

We live in a pragmatic world, often fearful, sometimes cruel and we the people are not perfect, but collectively we strive to live up to the founding ideals of democracy. We shout, we argue, we debate, we accuse and when the votes are counted we accept, we forgive, we get together and we live in diverse harmony until we do it again. That’s greatness, that’s America.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ted Kopple

I subscribe to a internet news blog called: Newsblues. It's a compendium of things happening in my chosen profession. This was in Monday's post. I thought you might like to see what a true journalist thinks of today's alleged story tellers.

New viewers, news readers and even those who only glance at the headlines can change this if we want too.


"We live now in a cable news universe that celebrates the opinions of [Keith]Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity andBill O'Reilly," writes Ted Koppel in a Sunday op-ed piece for The Washington Post, "individuals who hold up the twin pillars of political partisanship and who are encouraged to do so by their parent organizations because their brand of analysis and commentary is highly profitable.

"The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's oft-quoted observation that 'everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,' seems almost quaint in anenvironment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts.

"And so, among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone."

Monday, November 15, 2010


I have an IT friend who knows the ins and outs of the Internet.

There is a program that can determine who is looking at a blog and from where their look or surveillance originates.

Mr friend did it for me on my blog.

Guess who showed up as reading my posts from Kenya?

Homeland Security and the Justice Department.

Jeez, I hope they learned something. I hope they learned that not every citizen who travels to foreign ports needs to be scrutinized for anti-american behavior or seditious activity.

I hope they learned that fear based government departments will alway disintegrate into their own illusion. I hope they learned about trust, compassion, courtesy and especially common sense.

Keep reading G-men (and women). I wish you a fearless day. Every thought I have from this blog is open to parsing.


Friday, November 12, 2010

The Oneness of All

I was in New York City yesterday for a luncheon meeting with a friend of many years.

As I walked several blocks from the subway to a restaurant I looked at all people differently. New York City is peopled with many races; White, Black, Asian, Indian, Hispanic and all cultures and races in-between. New York has a large black population, but black are still a minority population in this city.

When I was in Nairobi, Kenya a couple of weeks ago Caucasian was not even a minority race. Caucasian was an anomaly and I felt the difference. It was not a negative feeling, but more of an observational and sensory one. Maybe it was just me, but I felt I stood out in the crowd so to speak. I was never fearful, only different.

The proportional difference between blacks and whites in New York City is far more than that of whites to blacks in Kenya. In Kenya it was possible for me to travel miles and hours and not see another white person.

In the one to one of health-care in Kenya we were all one. In the political discussions of what should and could be done is where the oneness diverges.

Yesterday in New York I watched all people more closely than I ever did before. I looked at black mothers and fathers on the subway with their kids and I did so with a new awareness and appreciation. I saw tenderness, concern, and caring. I knew it was always there, but I was not as aware of it as I was yesterday. I watched family interactions with admiration and with the distant memory of covering the civil rights movement in the sixties. Back then, as a young reporter, I attended services in Black churches and listened to a fiery preacher call for justice and righteousness in an affirmative chorus of “Amen’s.”

I have a wiser appreciation of human identity and dignity the older I get.

I think one has to experience being a minority before one can understand that minority and majority should mean nothing. The only things that are truly important in life anywhere are smiles, courtesy, dignity, tolerance, equality, opportunity and the unconditional acknowledgment of the sameness of being.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kenyan Memories

It is Veterans Day. A sacred day in the history of America. I acknowledge that as I have in many blogs of the past, but today I beg an indulgence.

I've just returned from a profound experience in Kenya, Africa and I cannot dismiss my recent images. I’ve tried to let go of the images, but this post will be yet another one of memory, influence, and emotion from my experience. I was with the CMMB executive staff and members of the Board of Director’s visit to the lesser parts of life in Nairobi and rural Kenya.

CMMB’s global influence is extensive. Check out their website at www.CMMB.org.

The images are like an addiction that begs my return to them over and over again and it leaves me unsatisfied.

The real is worse. The images return at inopportune moments. Mostly when I’m dining. Often when I'm asleep and always when I see what I have.

How many of us have ever seen an open sewer sliding by our front door? How many of us would even tolerate that experience with our children, our loved ones, our parents our neighbors. We, in the experienced nations of the world would revolt, we would move en mass to cleaner places, to breathable air, to hopeful opportunities.

Why don’t the millions in the slums leave or a least try too? From my observation, and granted it is very limited observation, few have ever experienced a better life-style or have the money and therefore they remain in a condition they see as normal. I don’t know if that is true for all, but it seems to be for the many-few who rarely leave the slums.

Some do leave for daily jobs in the mercantile city and they return at the end of the day to a life different than what they observe in the “have-world.”

Where do I go with these thoughts? Nowhere! I leave them open, without conclusion for they are sores on the humanity of life. They are the raw wounds of incomplete compassion and they are the elegance of what all of us could be if we let go of the belief that being safe is having more and that stuff is suffocating and separations of culture, religions and geography is truly an illusion.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reflections of Kenya

Now that I’ve had the time to unwind from my Kenya experience with CMMB, I am reflecting on what I’ve taken to heart from the trip.

I’ve written about the pathos and the passion of the experience through what I observed in the slums, but underneath the perceived sadness and poverty there is the awareness that there is another side of this visual despair.

It is the side that laughs, smiles, dances, and is joyful for the gifts of help, medicine, equipment and the medical care and compassion from strangers.

In my posts, I did not intend to leave out the positives and the joy of what I experienced in my visit to Kenya and its unsavory places. In all putrid places there is purity. In all slums there is solemnity. In all ignorance there is intelligence.

I don’t know what makes some people give and other’s take. I don’t know what triggers a professional person to give up a lucrative medical practice and volunteer to come to a remote region of the world and be of service to those in need. I don’t know what makes a clergy or a religious choose to minister care without reward to the sick, the poor, and to the infirm. I don’t know how any of them do it; it is not me. I could not do it with the joy that I observed in those that do.

CMMB has attracted a plethora of partners and giving souls to distribute the largess of generous donors in America. There are many in CMMB from the President and CEO to the country directors and the daily caregivers who labor without accolades or ribbons.

The people of the slums work hard too; they must do so to survive. They also smile, laugh and love. It is human nature to find joy in misery, to find humor in despair and to laugh at life. The difference from there to here is that they have to look for it, we don’t.

I bring back a new appreciation of simple things: clean and running water, electricity, grocery stores, sewers, paved streets, and available medical care. I will never again take these gifts for granted.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Kenya Experience

A good friend of mine has been following these posts and asked me in a private email did my experience in Kenya test my belief or faith and did I believe any differently now than I did before I left?

I sent this reply to her email, but I thought I’d share it with those of you who read this blog.

To wit:

Dear ............

I don’t believe that the All That Is tests us. We test ourselves by the experiences we choose in life in order to grow into our own divinity. I believe no soul is made to do anything or given any experience, terrible or pleasant, that was not designed in the spirit world by that soul for the purpose of glorifying God and advancing individual spiritual growth. All of this is done before entry into this world.

This thinking is inimical to the constricting dogmas of some religions, but in my experience and as I see it, it is a spiritual truth for me. It does not hinder the foundational truths of most religions and it allows me to understand and accept the tragedies and trials of this finite world.

There is not one path to God. All paths lead to God, even a path through the slums of Nairobi.

As I walked through the pathos, the poverty and the putrid odor of the slums I was immediately connected to the Divine. It reminded me that what I was seeing was with human eyes, not with the divinity within me.

Of course, my human awareness and emotion was sad, and I want to do everything I can to humanly help, but my spirit, the one that connects to the oneness of each of us, was in awe. Awe that these millions of spirits chose this condition in order to teach compassion to the world. What a gift.

(For those of you who choose not see the truth of this, that’s fine. It works for me. I will not debate the point.)

These souls were not forced into or inflicted with this life of deprivation by a dispassionate God. They, as spirits, participated in this life choice in order to spiritually grow, glorify the Divine within them and by example teach the rest of us that human compassion and the giving of substance is essential on our path to the Godhead.

The Almighty, the Source, the All That Is, and the omniscient Divinity known by so many names loves us unconditionally and knows that we chose to come into this density in order to advance more rapidly into the Divine Oneness that created us.

We have a loving divine creator, not a stern, demanding, commanding entity that tests our loyalty or gives a life of misery, pain and poverty.

My visit to the slums of Nairobi affirmed not only the grace of God, but also the love He has for his children by giving us free will, free experience and free choice.

Our time on this earth in poverty or depravation and power or privilege is nothing compared to the eternity in our true home.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mathare Slums

(Note) these photos are from the Internet. Mine are not yet available. I'm working on it.

Monday’s post…post Nairobi.

For me there is no other way to describe the emotion of my visit to the Mathare slums of Nairobi than by the use of symbolic poetry. It will follow this preface.

Over a million people call the thousands of connected tin shacks home. Children are raised there. Families exist there. People die there. Cooking and washing is done outside. Small boys make up games to play and run through the garbage and the muck.

Everything that’s down there is hand carried in. The men fix and repair what little they have. Even this living has its needs. Some make charcoal for the cooking fires and bring what clean water they can carry for drinking and bathing.

On my visit I never saw a dirty child or a beggar’s grimy pants. Walkway trash was everywhere. There was universal curiosity of why we were there, despite the fact we were escorted by known CMMB health care workers and Father Ed, a Maryknoll priest who ministers to this flock. He jokes and teases in Swahili in a booming voice that soothes and comforts. He was smart he wore calf high rubber boots. We wore shoes and low-cuffed slacks. How naive. Many in the slum wore foot thongs or went barefoot in the mud.

We were there to see first hand the evidence of how CMMB’s donated dollars are used to treat the ill and infirm and how their funded education programs are working.

We visited three homes, probably eight by ten feet in size; some were smaller. The space is rented. Most pay the equivalent of 12 dollars a month for the space. Some homes had a single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. A blanket or curtain separated the sleeping area from view. The rest of the space might have a chair or two and a makeshift table. Clothes and what little belongings each family had were stored within the small space. That was it. That was home. That was life.

Poetic thoughts below…

Mathare Slums

© 2010 Rolland G. Smith

I walked among the shacks of tin

And felt my mind in disbelief.

A sadness came from deep within

With throbbing thoughts of no relief.

No one can know the lives of some

Without the heart to open wide

And see that all of us are ONE

Beyond the culture and the pride.

A million souls in one foul place.

Where sewers slide along the feet.

A liquid stench of flowing lace

On what the children call the street.

Some little one’s peek from the door

To watch the strangers walking by.

How can I pass and thus ignore

That living here is cry and die?

The children look and wave to each

And say to those who smile back.

“How are you?” are their words that reach

The heart and soul that sees the lack.

Each slippery step from me in mire

Presented scenes from life’s latrine.

Cooking o’r a charcoal fire

And keeping self and children clean.

My spirit ached when last I stepped

Away from lives I’ll never see.

When out of sight I silent wept

And thanked the All it isn't me.

But seeing this produces change

Within my heart and conscious mind.

Priorities are rearranged

My gifts and giving now refined.

Check the CMMB website -www.CMMB.org- for ways to give. Trust me, it's needed. And if you are so inclined, send this post to a few of your friends and let us see together what just a few of us can do.


Friday, November 5, 2010


Good Day to all,

This is what I tried to send this morning as my plane was winding its way to the terminal. I see that only the title came through. Sorry about that.

It's good to be home and I'm fortunate to have had the experience of Kenya. It is not the Kenya of safaris that I experience or ones of tall Masai tribesmen walking barefoot and herding their livestock.

Kenya is filled with screams. You can feel them.

More thoughts and pictures on Monday.

Thanks for tuning in.



Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rural Africa

Another meaningful day traveling with the CMMB BOD in Kenya. We flew to Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria. It's a one horse airport, but two airlines come in twice a day and our small jet was full. We traveled northwest about 30-miles to an area known as Aluor.
There is a Catholic mission hospital there that is in the middle of what seems to be nowhere.

There are a few moderately paved roads, but most are rutted dirt with deep pot holes. At times our vehicle had to creep over imbedded stones and washed out gullies. The dirt has a tan orange color to it and it is actually pleasant to the eye. It had rained the day before so dust was not a problem.

All along the road-paths people walked. Woman and young girls balanced goods, pots and water jugs on their heads. Babies were nestled into a sling on their backs. Sometimes large carts, piled high with sugar cane, charcoal, bananas, potatoes and what have you were pulled and pushed by two people. One in the front pulling and another in the back pushing. Bicycles were used as carts too. Stuff would be stacked high on the bike as the rider walked along side wheeling the contraption. An occasional motor scooter would weave in and out and over the ruts and bumps.

Livestock of cows, goats, donkeys were often herded along the road heading to some unknown place, unknown to me anyway.

The terrain is one of rolling hills with some small mountains. Lush valleys are sprinkled with grass huts, tin shacks and a few packed mud and stick buildings.

Every walker, from the elderly to little uniformed school children, would step to the side and stare at this apparition creeping by. A van loaded mostly with white faces is an unusual sight in this rural area.

Ten years ago in this area 40 percent of the population was HIV positive with little hope of survival. There are many reasons why such a large percentage were AIDS infected. Superstition, transient fishermen along the shore of Lake Victoria, lack of education, and little medicine all played a part. Today because of the help of dedicated volunteers and organizations like CMMB, the percentage of HIV positive people is down to 18 percent.

We then headed, over similar roads to Maseno and another rural hospital. We did pass President Obama's family homestead in Kogello. His grandmother Sarah still lives there. There were a few signs proclaiming location.

I am still processing my visit to the slums of Mathare Valley. That post will have to wait until I return home. I have pictures of most of what I write about and will include them in future blogposts.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Images from Kenya

At Rolland's request, I post these images he was able to email to me.

Travel safe, my friend.


Good Morning all.

I cannot post a blog this morning. The emotional experience of the slums of Mathare Valley was profound. I have sent an email and pictures to my friend Sue who will post the pix on this blog when she can. I will certainly describe my experience when I have the time to process it.

You will not believe it. I could not believe it. No life should be live this way.

I ate dinner tonight, but reluctantly. I'm off the shores of Lake Victoria as you read this. More on both experiences when I can.


Sent from my iPad


Dateline: Nairobi, Kenya. Tuesday's post

CMMB is a nonprofit, faith based organization that provides and delivers aid without regard to creed, race, sex or national or political circumstance. It is a noble mission statement and they succeed at it based upon my observations.

CMMB stands for Catholic Medical Mission Board. It was founded a hundred years ago by a medical doctor from New York who saw a need and filled it with the help of dedicated partners. Unfortunately that need as been ongoing for ten decades.

Yesterday was a day of information for the CMMB board of directors who could make it to Africa. They listened to well prepared presentations by CMMB staffers who coordinate the Kenyan health and medical outreach programs in this country.

I'd never heard of the organization before two months ago when I was asked to host a series of informative programs about CMMB to be aired on Telecare, a Catholic television station based on Long island.

I've never had a jaded opinion of life for it is not part of my nature, but being a journalist for nearly a half century I've been exposed to the misdeeds, corruption and organizations that take your money, make promises and never fill them. The CMMB organization is the pure evidence of altruism and the Samaritan ethic. The money donated to CMMB goes to help those in need and not the administrative coffers. 97% of all money gifts go help those in need.

When you've been fortunate enough to travel the globe as I have been in my profession you realize just how different life is in America from the rest of the world. We have an abundance of goods and opportunities. We have expectations far into the future. Most of the rest of the world has none of these things.

Where I will take you in tomorrow's post will be the worst of the worst. The slums of Mathare Valley. Join my if you can.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kenya First Impressions

Dateline: Nairobi: Kenya. Monday post

First impressions of Kenya, Africa.

Warm, but not hot, even though I am near to and just below the equator. Nairobi is the Capitol city of Kenya with a population of four million people.

The area was an uninhabited swamp until a supply depot of the Uganda Railway was built in 1899. It soon became the railway's headquarters. The city was named after a water hole known in Maasai as Ewaso Nyirobi, meaning "cool waters".

Nairobi was completely rebuilt in the early 1900s after an outbreak of the plague and to contain the disease the town was burned to the ground.

The location of the Nairobi railway camp was chosen for two reasons. It was a central location between Mombasa and Kampala and it was near a network of rivers that could supply the camp with water. An elevation of nearly seven thousand feet made it cool enough for residential purposes and difficult for the Malaria mosquito to survive.

When I landed in Nairobi it was mid-afternoon. Eighteen plus hours after leaving New York and seven hours ahead of my normal time on the eastern time zone of America. The first leg of the trip took me to Dubai. I had a two hour layover and then another flight of five hours to Nairobi.

It is an agglutination of people and pollution. The poor coexist along with pockets of wealth. There is construction everywhere. The roads are congested with cars, bicycles, motor scooters and people who seem to walk everywhere.

I had yesterday to acclimate to the time change before I join CMMB, the Catholic Medical Mission Board today and their tour of their health care facilities. More on that tomorrow.

English and Swahili are spoken in most places, but my ear is having difficulty discerning the English words from the altered British accent. All in all it is a poor country even though it has one of the best economies in Africa. There are however so many in need of basic health care and education. That is CMMB's mission with its partners in Kenya.

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