Thursday, November 06, 2008

Captured by Facebook

Here's the reason that I have not posted in a long time: I started a Facebook account. There is only so much time in a day and my online social networking time is now spent there. This morning I am going in for surgery (removal of a hand bone that is causing problems), so maybe I can use some "sick" time to catch up a bit.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Possible job change

I am thinking of some changes. Take a look at the video and tell me what you think.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Graduation in Kenya

One of the other representatives of Wayland Baptist University just gave me some of the photos he took while in Kenya. This is a closeup of Bella, the leopard that we saw while on safari. She has been the subject of National Geographic specials before. She was resting in a tree when this photo was taken. Click on her photo to see it larger.

One of the big events in Kenya was the graduation of eight students with a BA degree. Here is the lineup as we prepared to march to the field where the tents were set up.

These are the graduates trying their best to all smile at the same time. It was a challenge. We are standing on the grounds of the Brackenhurst International Conference Center. Yes, it stays this green all year long.

Oh, yeah, the Dr. Wayland thing. Well, I backed out, which turned out to be a smart move. The students all crowded around the plaza for the ceremonies and no one further than five or six rows back could see anything. Plus, the sound system was way inadequate; it would have been necessary for "Dr. Wayland" to hold the microphone right at his mouth. And this was all done in front of the new statue of Dr. Wayland that was just unveiled. Imagine acting the part of a character whose nearly double-life-size statue was behind you. Yeah.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Honoring Dr. Wayland

This year, the university for which I work celebrates its one hundredth year of continuous existence. The school was started by a medical doctor who had moved to the South Plains area of Texas for the dry weather (he had asthma). Among the activities planned to celebrate the centennial is the portrayal of Dr. Wayland at the meetings of various civic groups in the area and at some of our remote campuses. The centennial committee has asked me to be one of the actors to play the part. My first opportunity will be next Wednesday when students gather around a newly placed statue of Dr. Wayland for the chapel service. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kazuri bead factory

One of the places that we visited with the college students was a bead and pottery factory which employs hundreds of women. It is not a sweatshop; the women are extremely grateful for the work as the company provides health benefits as well as school uniforms for the workers' children. They are all single mothers living in the Karen area near Nairobi and this factory is a place which pays living wages. Some of the women who work here walk miles to work each day; it is worth it to them. Kazuri Beads was started in 1975 as a project to develop employment opportunities for Kenyan women who had limited job skills. At first they imported clay from England and sold products locally. Today they process local clay and sell globally. A huge dry-erase board serves to chart orders indicating how many thousands of beads are needed each day.

When visitors stop by the factory, they are given a brief tour. The first stop is the machinery which mixes and prepares the clay. Bars of freshly pressed clay are stacked up to be taken to the women inside the shop. Next one enters the bead-making portion of the factory. This is a large series of rooms filled with tables where scores of women sit doing specialized tasks. Some are rolling clay into beads according to specific patterns. Others apply glaze in patterns and colors corresponding to the hand-written lists in front of them. Still others string beads into earrings, bracelets, and necklaces to create the final products listed for shipment that day. Between these three stages, the beads are fired (cooked) and cooled, sometimes several times.

The penultimate stop was the pottery production area. Fewer workers are involved in this process and many of the pots are created by men. Firing the pots takes several days and the number of patterns available are necessarily limited.

Of course, the last stop was the gift shop where one could see thousands of combinations of beads. While it is possible to buy loose beads, the greatest number of sales are of pieces already made up, either individually or in sets. The girls in our group spent many minutes considering and consulting before making their purchases.

Most of the women who work at Kazuri Beads were cheerful, at least in our presence. They chatted with one another, but kept busy. Our tour guide encouraged us to keep moving. I suppose that frequent conversations with visitors would hamper production. But the women were always glad to show us what they were doing. They produce some beautiful handwork. Cat is delighted to own some necklaces and bracelets from this community-minded enterprise. You can buy Kazuri beads online, but there is nothing like seeing the shop in person.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

More animals

A parade of wildebeests observes our caravan with some suspicion.

When rains come to the Masai Mara, the zebras and wildebeests migrate with gazelles, impalas, etc., northward into Kenya. Zebras travel in herds but the wildebeests tend to form long trains. Sometimes you can't see the beginning or the end of the line. Wildebeests look to me like they were put together by a committee. When they run, it is a loping gait, so you see horns and heads bobbing up and down through the line. Because these herbivores migrate, the carnivores follow them.

Gazelles are slim and swift. We didn't see many of them this time, but I think our driver was looking for the more dramatic animals for us to see.

Our driver took us to a bend in the river where hippos congregate. Here is Cat standing near our Masai guide with hippos in the background.

Unfortunately, the hippos were not particularly interested in putting on a display. They submerged for about a minute before surfacing with a blast from their nostrils. Here is one that yawned for us--facing the opposite direction, of course. Every evening the hippos clamber up the river banks to graze in the savanna. Typically each animal will tuck away 100 pounds of grass a night. So the river is where they catch up on sleep. This is the safest time of day to observe them because they can be vicious when coming out of the water. Maybe it's because they are hungry.

These zebras are carrying along some birds that remove the lice and other pests from their backs. The birds are yellow-billed oxpeckers. Yeah. Zebras when threatened will gather and mill around. The stripes help them confuse the predator by making it difficult to distinguish one individual. We saw a number of foals whose coloring tended to be reddish brown rather than black. Note that no two zebras have identical markings. You did note that, didn't you?

You might think that lions and leopards were most dangerous to humans, but it is the cape buffalo which can be most threatening. They just don't think twice about attacking.

While the others in our group looked for big animals, I was fascinated with the birds. The martial eagle is Africa's largest. This one is probably a female, exhibiting more of a brown color than the males. We saw several of these perched on treetops. I did see a couple in the air, but they were far away. This bird has a wingspan of about 6 feet and can take down an impala.

Here is an eland, the largest antelope in Africa. We only saw one of these on this trip.

It was very nice to come across this group of lionesses and their cubs. We watched them nap for a while. One of the cubs (the one in the center) played with a stick, but could not arouse the interest of any playmates. But he entertained us.