Sunday, November 30, 2008

Imekuwa Kitambo

Sikumbuki mara ya mwisho nikiandika chochote kwa hii lugha. Nafikiri ilikuwa katika mtihani wa fasihi ya KCSE. Lahaula! Nimesahau vitu kama minyambuliko wa vitenzi, mithali na kadhalika. Ninashuku kama ninaweza kufunza mtu yoyote kuhusu kiswahili. Nifanyeje? Labda nitaanza kuandika hapa saa zingine kwa lugha halafu tuone itaendeleaje? Labda hata siku nyingine hivi karibuni, nitaandika hapa kuhusu "Jifunze kiswahili". Au sio?

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Our Turn to Eat

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kenyan elephants are 'smart'

Kimani the elepahant. Can you see his collar? It carries a SIM card.

I a country that largely depends on subsistence farming, it is devastating when your crops are destroyed, especially if the very crops take a year to mature. In regions bordering the game parks, elephants are known to wait till harvest time before they come and 'eat' the entire harvest in 'one seating'. Kenya is currently trying a new piece of technology where they insert a 'warning card' in elephant's collars such that it alerts the rangers when the elephants have gone near a geofence monitored by GPS. Read the story for yourself.

Apparently, you can track the elephants by GoogleEarth. I am going to try and do that sometime.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Anti Obama book launch in Kenya? How about NO!

Next time you think about launching an anti-obama book, think twice about it. Dont try to do it in a country where every single living thing, including plants and microscopic organisms love him. Yea, let me just tell you that if Obama really wants to be president and lets assume he doesnt win in the US, the Kenyan president might be willing to step aside and let him lead Kenya and all Kenyans will be receptive of that. Dont quote me on anything.
Who does this guy think he is? Trying to donate $1000 to Obama's brother? Does he have any idea how the justice system is in Kenya? Hopefuly his balls dont get squeezed at the famous Nyayo house like they did to detainees in the early '80's. I have a feeling that wasnt a good experience.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Goat Condoms - Only in Kenya

Yup, only if we could control the people population like the Maasai control their bucks from impregnating the female goats, we wouldnt have an overpopulation problem. You see, there is a contraceptive that is made from cow skin and then slid down to the shoulder area of a male goat. This device is called an olor.

You hadnt heard of the olor before, had you? Now you have. The thing is, you have to kill a cow, then cut off a small piece of hide so you can tie it around a buck to prevent it from ummm ... humping female goats. Yea, it only makes sense to those who need to do it. But seriously, think about the desert ... dry, no vegetation, no water. Ok? Got the picture. Now think of a cow and a goat. Which is better suited to survive such harsh conditions? Wouldnt it make sense to sacrifice one cow to save many female goats from unwanted pregnancies? Man! Those maasai people are smart. 

Its only a matter of time, though, before the bucks figure out a way around this. You feel me?

The other option is to separate the males from females. But that requires fencing and more boys to heard the separated goats. You would also need money to buy fencing requirements. Well, if you are a maasai, money is probably not the most important thing to you. Your wealth is judged by how many cows and goats you have. So, why would you need money when you can make the best of what you own?

I am Kenyan and I approve this technology. It has worked for the maasai goats, it should work for everyone else!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Michael Phelps' Parade of Gold.

There was a parade yesterday in Towson, MD to honor the olympians from the area.  It was hyped more as a parade to honor Michael Phelps than all the olympians. Of course we all know that if the medal tally was ranked by gold, Phelps would have been  right there on 9th place with Italy. I say, he should buy his own country, be the president, the people, the athletes, the bank (he's got the $$$), the husband, the father, the thief, the good samaritan ... his mom will be the mother of the country and the country will need a first lady.

Here are some pictures for you.

Congressman John Sarbanes' office helped get me out of Mexico. So I got to yell out "Congressman Sarbanes, You are Awesome! Thank you!" I was wondering when that was going to happen, but at least I got it out of the way and in public!

I asked Jessica Long why she wasnt wearing her medals. I didnt hear her response, but she responded.

Katie Hoff. She was just chillin' ... 

I dont remember what I yelled out here, but I definitely yelled out something nice.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon were also in attendance.

Debbie and Hilary Phelps were signing autographs ...

but Michael Phelps wasnt.

Michael Phelps had more security and more throngs of people following than the gorvenor and the mayor.

"Michael Phillips" again.

He was wearing the same outfit that he wore in this commercial ...

 ... and this one 

So, a bear walks into a sandwitch shop ...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Conflict of Interests - Doctors, Patients and Money

A while back, NYTimes carried a story of a widely controversial practice involving some physicians at the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Joseph Biederman, Dr. Timothy E. Wilens and Dr. Thomas Spencer had been caught red handed after receiving more than $1 million in consulting fees from drug makers without disclosing them to their employer. 

Today, the same congressman leading the inquiry into such behaviors, senator Charles E. Grassley, just uncovered another shady deal. One of the nations’ top psychiatrist Dr. Charles B. Nemeroff of Emory University failed to report that he earned more than $2.8 million from drug companies despite having signed papers and repeatedly vowing to the University authorities that he wouldn’t take anything more that $10, 000. From reading the article, it appears that Dr. Nemeroff had an electronic altercation with one of the deans at the school and it seems to me that he didn’t care much about what the dean had to say. 

These articles appear in big time news agencies because they involve the big fish in the water. I wonder how many other such controversies are going on and not being caught by the mainstream networks because they involve the small fish in the ocean. 

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, are required to reveal any outside sources of incomes. The NIH strictly prohibits such dealings that could bring about conflicts of interest and usually relies on respective schools for oversight. Most schools (like mine) usually have their researchers sign paperwork promising that they will refrain from conflict of interest acts. 

I am sure these same doctors signed paperwork promising that they wouldn’t write favorable reviews about devices made by the same drug companies giving them hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultation fees. They must have also promised (on several occasions during their career development) that they wouldn’t vouch for unapproved drugs to be used to treat the patients they should be standing up for. 

In reality, no one is really keeping an eye on any of these researchers. The schools usually expect their employees to follow a certain code of conduct and schools seldom check to verify voluntary disclosures when it comes to outside earnings. With current tight budgets and almost no grants being awarded by the government these days, drug companies are capitalizing on such with their bottomless resources. 

In the wake of these findings of the Grassley-led inquiry, some drug companies including Eli Lily & Company and Merck & Company have announced that they will be publicly disclosing fees paid to physicians. Some states already have such requirements and it also seems that in the near future, it may be a federal requirement.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Swimming Lessons

I have a HUGE goal that I have set for myself. To attain this goal, I have set myself a "list of things to do". The list inludes a) run a marathon next in 2009 b) learn how to swim c) do a triathlon in 2009. 

Running a marathon has been in my plans for a long time now. But as I always say, I want to run one when I know I am ready. I was so close this year before I ended up with a back injury that I cant pin point the cause. I had reached a point where I was doing some 90-100 miles per week with my long runs exceeding 2hrs 15mins (I ran a 2hrs 45min long run once and felt like a horse doing it) and really good strength workouts.

I also had so much school work which had me loggin in a string of 100hr weeks! I have since settled to a normal 60hr week (haah!). My synthesis (or should I say my drugs?) had me running crazy. All that time and all that research but nothing has really changed much albeit I foresee some great things sometime in the near future.

Anyway, back to that GOAL. I started swimming lessons today. When I called the swim instructor last week, our conversation started like this:

Me: "Hi, my name is Kip and I am calling to find out about swimming lessons."
Instructor: "Bla bla bla bla ... What's your child's name?"

How dare she say I have a child?

I had been taught a little, by my friend Alyssa, about swimming. I basically dont know how to breath right while swimming. And yes, I taught myself how to float! But what will floating do for me without breathing? Alyssa steered me towards the right direction on how to breath while in water but I was still having trouble and my pool closed. So, I thought it would be a good idea to pay someone with a pool and who does instruct for a living. My instructor's name is Annie. She is one of the trainers at the Michael Phelps Swimming Pool a.k.a Meadowbrook Aquatic Center. (Yes, Michael Phelps train(s/ed) here and (I believe) owns the place).

Ms. Annie is phenomenal. After introducing herself to me, she said "We are going to do Bob ..."I didnt know how to respond to that although I later learnt that its a jargon she uses while instructing. She had me learning all those breathing techniques within 45 mins (totally worth the $50/hr I am paying) and even had me doing back strokes. I have never floated on my back. Yea, I am putting my back into it (all pun intended).

Triathloning also involves biking, just in case you dont know. My friend Elf a.k.a Ryan McGrath lend me one of his bikes so I can use it for training (are my friends AWESOME or what?). I have been bking to school (45mins out, 45mins back) and have gone out several times on weekends for longer rides (1.5hrs +). I grew up biking a lot, so that was easy to pick up on. I know I need some instructions on this but I am not worried. I'll worry later when my tail gets smashed by big boys.

One other exciting recent development came last Monday. I was out jogging (no, I wastn running) when Joe, of Joe's Bike Shop here in Baltimore, MD came up to me. He was biking from somewhere. After saying hello and all that, he said "So when are you going to come in so I can hook you up with a bike?" My response came in between my breaths as I mumbled "Saturday!" I cannot wait for this day. He helped me get Elf's bike into good road shape (Elf's bike is a $3000 bike!) a while back. After I asked him if I could be a good cyclist, he basically said that if I had a better bike, I would perform better. Who knows what's in store for me?

If you read this far, I am sure you are a fan of mine. I am a fan of you too!


If You Were a Boss ...

I got an email from a friend today that I thought was interesting. The email seems to have originated from some Bill Collins (State President, NJ NAREB). I copied and pasted the email. Here it is.

If You were The Boss... which team would you hire?

America facing historic debt, multiple war fronts, stumbling health care, a weakened dollar, all-time high prison population, skyrocketing Federal spending, mortgage crises, bank foreclosures, etc. etc., this is an unusually critical election year.

Let's look at the educational background of the candidates and see what they bring to the job:

Occidental College - Two years.
Columbia University - B.A. political science with a specialization in international relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) 
Magna Cum Laude

University of Delaware - B.A. in history and B.A. in political science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)


United States Naval Academy - Class rank 894 out of 899 (meaning that, like George Bush, McCain was at the bottom of his class)

Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in journalism

Now, which team are you going to hire to lead the most influential nation in the world?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pamela Jelimo (I read: Marry Me, do you?)

Pamela Jelimo, the new 800m sensation from Kenya and the first to win the Golden League Jackpot from Kenya has also run the fastest time any woman has run since 1989 (see the youtube clip below). This girl is FAST!

I think Kham (my favorite cartoonist) read my mind well this time round.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I have many things that I want to write about on this blog but I always dont have time to. Surprisingly, I often finish my days feeling like a waste of space. I never seem to accomplish anything albeit I am always doing something ...

Here are some things that I will post something about, some day:

- Tribes and Tribalism
- Witchcraft
- Science and Graduate School Life
- African-ism
- Places I would like to visit
- Chemistry and Drugs
- e.t.c

Monday, May 19, 2008

It sucks to be a foreign national in America!

Like you didnt know that already!!!

Reports are emerging that foreigners who are in detention are roofied before being deported to their home countries! Despicable acts!!! How on earth do you call yourself a nation that respects human rights, preaching it to everyone and yet have such inhumane acts going on in your own back yard? Shame on you America.

The article below is an investigation by The Washinton Post. Enlighten yourself ...

Is it Summer Yet?!?!??

I have a very low tolerance for cold weather and chilly environments. I dislike being cold for many many reasons. I dislike having to wear hooded sweatshirts and sweatpants in my apartment, I dislike having to wear too much clothing on my runs, I dislike having a runny nose, I dislike the way my heat goes only up to 72 degrees ... I can go on and on and on. Sometimes, I wish I could take my school or my lab somewhere warm. But then again, I am not a fan of all warm places.

Take Miami, Florida, for instance. I can only visit such a place for short periods of time. I spent my college years' spring breaks in Coral Cables by University of Miami ... the only interesting thing I remember from that place is all the palm trees. Nothing pleased me as such and I have no desire too go there. I did not even like the famous South Beach ... it was the first place a woman over 50, that wasnt from the Maasai tribe or Turkana tribe topless.

I hear good things about California, though. Plenty of opportunities for people like me, warm weather, all the surfing etc etc. I would love to go to Mammoth Lakes ... or somewhere quiet. I am not a fan of all the action scenes. I just want a quiet place, a place that would feel like home. A place like the Adirondacks up in New York. A place with some authentic unadulterated, serene natural environment. I know there are better places than those, but those are the only places I have heard of or been to that I did like and wanted to camp out for a while.

I hope it gets warm soon, I cant take this 60-degree and below weathers anymore!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A seal rapes a penguin

No, not a Navy Seal but a 100kg (~220lbs) fur seal tried to have sex with a 15kg (~33lbs) king penguin. Absolutely bizarre. For 45 minutes, the seal "alternated between resting on the penguin, and thrusting its pelvis, trying to insert itself, unsuccessfully." Apparently, it seems the seal was young and inexperienced. There is a possibility it had been rejected elsewhere ... so the only option it had was ... a penguin!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Lesbians are fighting to keep their name!

People from the third largest Greek island, Lesbos, are suing to stop the homosexual community from using the word "lesbian" to describe their women. I agree with them. Imagine if Kenya metamorphosed and acquired a new definition, such that I wouldnt be able to go anywhere and say "Hey, I am Kenyan" without someone saying "Are you kenyan? or Are you Kenyan." How on earth would I respond to that? But why did it take the Lesbians more than 2, 000 years to respond? They cant say they didnt see it coming.


Say your goodbyes to DRAMs (dynamic random access memory) as HP has reported on unveiling a new piece of technology that may soon replace it. The ability of memristors to hold much more information in a tinier space than DRAMs is good news to those trying to make even smaller computers. The memristor idea was invented in 1971 by Leon Chua, I hope he gets his dues from this.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

$17, 000 a month job ... in Kenya!

My new Hero

This girl falls in a race, gets spiked in the head (and is all bloody) ... gets up and runs a gutsy race. Very few can do this. Much props to her.

Japan to Build 1, 000 schools in Africa

Here is the link to the story.

Interesting statistics:

- 1 in 3 kids will never see the inside of a classroom.
- UNESCO plans to have free primary education and gender equality by 2015! I wonder how many other African countries provide free primary education besides Kenya.

Thanks Japan. You rock.

Doping Loophole

Read this interesting article in NYTimes entitled "Some Athletes' Genes Help Outwit Doping Test". The title is self-explanatory, but I should point out that the research reported has shown that some people have the ability to pass the doping test despite having high levels of exogenous testosterone (implicated in 43% of doping cases).

Whats up with Africa and its leaders?

The world should know, by now, that there are different definitions of democracy in different continents. Sure, some countries may share the same definitions even though they might be seas and oceans apart. I also vividly remember in 1992 Kenyan elections when democracy meant "picking someone from your own tribe". I am sure you heard what went on with Kenyan elections which eventually spiraled to war between tribes? The same exact thing is happening in Zimbabwe, who knows what that is going to bring. The point is, African old men were given a different dictionary that allows them to rig elections and NEVER want to give up power, despite what the constitutions of their own countries dictate!

Are there some exceptions? Have there ever been peaceful elections in Africa? Yea, of course, but why would the media chose to write "peace" and "Africa" in the same sentence if it is not preceded by "lack of"?

Should anyone care about such stubborn leaders? What is the whole point of having an international elections observers anyway? The international observers reported that Kenyan elections were flawed (duh, 4 year old kids knew that). They have also reported that Zimbabwean elections were flawed (Isnt that obvious? Everyone knew it before the elections even started. And, since when does it take 2+ weeks to release presidential results when parliamentary results were finished within 2 days?). Despite all these "reportings" and "observations" ... NO ONE LISTENS!! Or is it that no one does anything about it?

Its 3am, thats all I got. Thanks to all the adrenaline I am getting from running too much.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Imbaya Festival - Striking Images

One of my favorite sections in the BBC News Website - Day in Pictures (Striking images from around the world) - carried an image from a celebration in a Filipino town or Banaue. An Igorot tribesman, Robert Duyugan (above), was photographed riding his wooden scooter in a race. Awesome!

Monday, March 31, 2008

"Running 26.2 miles from their problems" - The Onion

Anyone read The Onion? I used to, then I got busy. Today, I learnt (thanks Mike) that they had an article about Kenya entintled "Running 26.2 miles from their problems." I guess Kenya is the country of the week and they have "factoids" about the country. All is about running and is untrue but really funny. The stuff they have on the clickable onions on the map of Kenya is hilarious. I was in tears ... you click on the title above or here and see it for yourself.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Quick note

Yea Ya, its been a while. I bet you missed me. I have been busy.

I thought I would share something with you. A story about an evolutionary biologist being kicked out of a creationist film ... one of the guys with him was Richard Dawkins. I thought that was interesting. I also added this guy's blog, Pharyngular to my bookmarks. I'll let you find out who those two are.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Columbia 10 mile race

Last week, I wrote about trying to take the "express lane" to getting in a good racing shape. So, I feel like I should tell you that I did what I usually dont do again today. I raced ... no, not a 3.1 mile/5K race or 10K, but ... a 10 mile race! I raced without any base milage, without any workouts under my belt, without warming up, without pants or long tights and it was some 30 degrees Fahrenheit! I did the Columbia 10 mile club challenge.

Honestly, I did not think I was going to race until about 5 minutes before the start of the race although I was prepared to race. I had a million reasons NOT to race but since it was a team event, I really did not want to be that guy.

I was really unprepared for the race. I did not even know where it was (had a general idea). I usually look up where my races are and do some homework on how the races had fared the previous years. I didnt do that for this race.

My friend, Ryan a.k.a Elf (the one guy who has really made a positive impact in holding Baltimore running in one piece) warned me that the course was tough. But I was not prepared to climb all the mountains they had there. You know how they say that for every uphill there a downhill?I dont remember seeing any downhills. I am sure they were there but I was probably busy recovering from all the torturous climbs that came prior to them. I was able to hold myself in one piece and ended up running about 6 minutes faster than I thought I was going to run. I did it in 54:34. I promised myself to be in a better shape in four weeks. Ryan wrote a race recap.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Traveling the Americas with an ass?

(Picture courtesy of NYTimes).

I just finished reading a story in NYTimes about this guy, Jon, who is traveling the Americas with nothing but an ass. The ass is named Judas and no one seems to know how that name came about. I have seen and read crazy things, but this one is new. I would love to meet this guy.

Apparently, he started from Portland, OR, walked south. Ended up somewhere in Tamaulipas state in nothern Mexico. Here, he learned how to milk and was given a donkey. He and the Judas the donkey have been travelling for the past two years heading South and are now somewhere in Venezuela. He is a biochemist (a crazy one nonetheless, I think this makes me look saner?) and has been mistaken for an athlete, a missionary and ... a spy! I am surprised no one has robbed his ass, all pun intended! But one thing I noticed is, Mexican people are nice. I agree.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I'll never run that long again

Have you ever pushed your body to the limits? That point where you are almost surpassing your tensile strength? Depending on how you look at it, there are tons of ways you can answer this question. Maybe you have been pushed to some emotional limits or physical limits or intellectual limits or xyz limits.

Many a times, such events are a consequence of our quest for superiority over something. For example, maybe you just want to prove to yourself that you can get that which you want, regardless of what it takes.

Why am I saying this? Let me tell you about an experience I had recently.

At this time of the year, I usually run moderate milage in preparation for the upcoming season. Since graduating from the NCAA type of seasons (cross country in the fall followed by indoor track in the winter and then outdoor track in the spring), I have adopted the single season mentality. I just get myself ready for road races and anything that has $$ and fun. Road racing "starts" (there are always road races all over the US) around March for me.

The Mexico saga threw my schedule off. As such, I did not really train much for about two months which means I am out of shape. At the time when I was dealing with my visa issues, I never really thought of staying in running shape. Well, except that one time when I took my running clothes to Ciudad Juarez, only to be stuck there without a visa. That "strangled" my attempt to maintain my running shape.

You might be wondering what I meant by moderate milage. Let me clarify that a bit. Last year at about this time, I was averaging about 50 miles per week. My longest run was 19 miles. This year, my average milage is 5 miles per week and my longest run had been 8 miles. I call what I did last year moderate milage.

Well, I need to get in shape quick. There are so many upcoming races that I want to do but for those of you who know me, I dont just go to races to run. I go to compete. It is fun that way. This means I have to be in shape or I cant compete.

This past Saturday, I decided to take the express lane to getting in shape. It also happens to be an express lane to getting injured, depending on what you do during and after your run. I decided that I would increase my long run from 8 miles to ... take a guess ... 2 hours. Two-hour runs usually range from 17-20 miles depending on what shape I am in and what I am trying to accomplish from the run.

I was a little skeptical of my run and I was afraid I wasnt going to finish it. But I did convince myself that I would not run any faster than 7-minute pace and that I would slow down if need be. I hit the first mile in 7:20 and was at mile four at 28 minutes. I wasnt feeling great, but I knew it usually takes me about that long to warm up especially when it is cold. For the next 50 minutes, I felt like a champ! I was cruising and feeling great. At this point, I had an option of heading home which would have taken me 15 minutes. This would have put me a little over 1.5 hours total. Since I was feeling good, I decided to add a 25 minute loop. Finishing this loop and heading home would have given me exactly two hours of running, just as I had planned.

I finished the loop feeling like I owned it. I almost did some sprints in between my run just to celebrate how I was feeling.

Turns out, my body could only handle 10 extra minutes. I didnt know this then but I could tell going slightly uphill that things were going to be rough at some point. For those of you who know where I live, you have seen that there is a 1-mile climb to my house. It is not that big of an elevation but it is one that will deliver the final punch when it needs to.

I only made it two minutes into the hill. It usually takes me about 5-7 minutes to complete it. I couldnt move my legs, my head started spinning, I started swaying to the sides ... I had never really hit the wall in my life.

(For those of you who dont know what hitting the wall means, watch the video below. Even elite athletes, like marathoner Kayoko Fukushi of Japan hit the wall).

Finally, I stopped. I walk home. For the first time in my life, I walked home from a run. No, I did not jog, I WALKED. I a little over a half a mile to go. I couldnt imagine myself face planting and possibly inflicting more harm than those I had already caused. My total milage was 17.26 miles for the 1 hour 55 minutes that I was out running. I swore never to run that long again but as I write this, I know that in two weeks I will be doing the same thing. Only this time, I will actually go for two hours non stop.

Here is a Google Earth capture of my long run route. Can you see the disconnect from the start point and the finish point? Click on the image to see the route I followed.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Long time no see

Hey. Its been a while. I am still alive!

The artwork above is by my favorite Kenyan cartoonist Kham. It doesnt have anything to do with the ongoing crisis, but it speaks loudly about it. It reads ["Welcome to Kenya, No worries ... (but we might choke you? or we choke chicken? Well, the government does choke everything)]

I have been meaning to write something here. I am thinking of doing a weekly type of thing. My friend Kevin said I should have a weekly write-up where I present life through my eyes. He called it kipservations. I doubt it is going to be anything exciting on a weekly basis but there are some things that happen in my presence that I usually dont tell. But now that you (the blog) are my best friend, I will tell you some of these things.

Anyway, life after Mexico has been good. The entire Mexico trip turned out to be almost pointless since I am cancelling my homecoming a.k.a surprise family visit to Kenya. I cannot afford to be a victim of police brutality and all the hatred going on there. My younger brother has already been victimized. We still havent recovered from that and I think that is enough for now.

Yea, so all's been well, except soon after I got back from Mexico, I got a cold that was followed by an ear infection. I am finishing my atibiotics dose in two days time. It wasnt that bad, but I should tell you that if you yell out really loud (do it now) I cannot hear you. But its getting better, except I got every single side effect mentioned in the package. I never take drugs, so my buddy must be pissed off about it.

I have also converted to Linux operating system and soon getting rid of Windows XP. Linux is entirely free/open source. The learning curve is steep, but no one ever said learning was easy. Its like learning a new language, except there is no one to talk to but yourself. Yea, I am nuts. I like soliloquy ... but this involves a keyboard and a terminal. What type of soliloquy is this?

I also wanted to post a link to Thao Nguyen's podcast of my last trip to Mexico. She takes great pictures. She converted some of the pictures into a video type of thing with me narrating a few things here and there. Check it out here I had never heard myself speak ... what an accent!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kenya is ... Hell

Kenya needs help. I just talked to my family not too long ago to find out how things are going. I had been refraining from doing that for fear of hearing the worst, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Two Members of Parliament from the Opposition Party were killed within days of each other. One of them was caused by the police and the other, the police are calling it "murder," but the opposition is calling it an attempt by the government to reduce their number in the parliament.

The situation is so tense there. I remember when there was some tension in 1992 and 1997. Houses were burnt then and people were shot with arrows. There was not so much hacking and stoning since every tribe was against the other. Now, all the tribes are against the kikuyu, the president's tribe. The kikuyus are now retaliating against the kalenjin, the luo and the luhya who are the large supporters of the opposition.

A patient, with an arrow lodged in his head, awaits treatment at a hospital in Kenya. (Picture Courtesy of Reuters)

The one place that hasnt seen such chaos is Kitale. Thats where my parents live. I dont know how long this will last. It seems as though the calm there is due to the fact that there is a mixture of almost all the tribes. There is not a place with one-tribe concentration ... that is a stretch though because concentration is a relative term.

Eldoret is a different case. That is where one MP got killed today. My grandmother and my extended family live around there. I wasnt too far from the 1997 chaos. But I hear that was nothing compared to what is going on now.

More Photos

Boundary of the United States of America and Limite de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Ever noticed how other countries have signs that say "Please come again" or "Thank you for visiting" or "Country X welcomes you?" Yea, I didnt see that when I left America, when I came back, then left again, then came back ... they dont care whether you leave or not, but they will try to keep you out! (Picture Courtesy of Thao Nguyen)

I had never seen Mexican Homer. I was so excited that I really wanted to watch The Simpsons in Spanish. When I got a chance, they had regular Homer who was talking in Spanish. I understood nothing even though they had English captions. That wasnt as exciting as I expected. The Mexican Homer does not sound anything like the Homer I know. He didnt even say "doh!" unless there is a Spanish version of that?

Flying over Dallas Fort Worth at night. I tried to take a picture and got this ...

So I took a video.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Visa Photos

Here are some photos of my visas. I promised I was going to post them.

This is my old F-1 student visa. It expired in 2005, but since I maintained my student status, the expiry date did not matter. You have to renew your visa when you leave the country and need to re-enter. You also need to go out of the country to renew your visa. Some people have been asking me why I couldnt just go to Washington DC and renew it. That is not the case.

In this blog ((Barely) Coming to America ...), I did mention that my visa was "CANCELLED WITHOUT PREJUDICE" as you can see in the picture above. I also mentioned that they had the wrong cancellation date of Jan 08, 2007 instead of Jan 08, 2008! That indicated that I had been in the country illegally for one year! It is probably going to give me some problems in the future too.

Here is my new F-1 student visa that the US consulate at Ciudad Juarez issued me. Notice how it says I am from "Baltimote, MD." It sounds like a cool city, but I think I'd rather just be in Baltimore. I hope this doesnt give me problems in the future. Also, notice that it is only valid for two years as opposed to my old visa above which was valid for five years.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Am I back?

Alvaro was 15 minutes late! I wasnt in a hurry, but the wait seemed a little too long. The trip to Zaragoza Bridge wasnt unique except the meter in Alvaro's taxi read $32.xx. That is the most I have ever paid for a taxi and the knowledge that I had to pay that same amount on my way back was ... well, lets just leave it at that.

I have stopped expecting people at the DHS to be nice or even anywhere near that. The first officer that called me to the window was really nice, but then he had to leave for a shift elsewhere. The guy that came in after him was from another world. I forgot to get a copy of my parole/deferred inspection Form I-546 and had gotten an OK to get a copy from the first officer. The guy that came after he left for his shift did not even want to listen to why I needed a copy, but atleast he gave me my passport back. He then said, "You know you cant come back without a visa, right?"

Thao was with me, so we called Alvaro from the other side of the Zaragosa Port of Entry. He showed up some 10 minutes later and drove us to the US Consulate in Juarez. It was quite far judging by $$$ displayed on the meter. Well, I was also anxious to get there and get things over with.

Since I had done this before, it was easy finding my way to the non-immigrant visa section. I was in there for less than 15 minutes. They gave me a green piece of paper that told me to come back at 2:00pm. It was about 10:45am. By the time I came out, Thao was gone for a walk or something and was going to show up some 45 minutes later as we had agreed.

I decided to take a walk ... there was not much to see around the Consulate. I had seen everything three weeks ago. So I came back to wait for Thao. Soon, she showed up and we decided to look for a place to eat. Some guy pointed a general direction to "The Mall." It turned out to be some strip mall and it wasnt what I expected.

Soon afterwards, we were sitting in some place eating a burrito. I have eaten burritos for five days straight now ... I am maxed out.

At 1:45pm, I was standing at the Consulate's gate. The security guard turned me away and told me to come at 2:00pm. So I crossed the street and waited from the opposite side. At 1:57pm, I was standing at the gate again. He had closed the gate as there was no one waiting there anymore. So he signaled me in, but I waited until he came a slid the gate to the side. I didnt want to do that.

Some 3 minutes later, I had my passport back with a two-year visa and my Form I-20 attached to it. The wait is over. I have my "student status" documents back!

I am currently editing photos of these documents and will post them soon.

Headed to Mexico, Again!

Last week, I was told that my visa is ready for printing. I made my way here last night from Baltimore. My trip here was uneventful. I decided to stay close to the El Paso International airport because the hotels here are significantly cheaper than those that showed up in my search in Juarez. Who knew?

It is about 7:25am local time and I am getting ready to eat breakfast. I also called up a taxi cab driver that gave me a"tour" of El Paso the last time I was here. His name is Alvaro, and I thought he was really nice. When I called him last night to ask him for a ride to the Zaragoza Bridge, where my passport is (hopefully), he hinted that we could also strike a deal and have him drive me to the US Consulate at Juarez.

My friend Thao Nguyen, a photojournalist, wanted to document my trip there and she is tagging along.

More updates later.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Kenya Headed to Peace?

Violence-Stopping Hand Shake? President Mwai Kibaki (C) and Opposition Leader Raila Odinga (R) shake hands as former U.N boss Koffi Annan (L) looks on. (Photo Courtesy of NYTimes)

The two opposing parties met for the first time since the start of violence in Kenya. Albeit it seems the details of their meeting that was spearheaded by former U.N. secretaty general Koffi Annan were not fully released, rumor has it that there is a potential power sharing deal being brokered. This is promising. Hopefully this spells an end to the political tumult and senseless killing of civilians.


It is 12:21pm Eastern Standard Time. I just got off the phone with the Chief of the non-immigrant visa section at Ciudad Juarez general consulate. He said, "Hi [Kip], just wanted to let you know your visa is ready to print. Just come in whenever and we will process it for you the same day." He preferred that I go there on Monday January 28, 2008. It is all done! I will celebrate.

Oh, I just got an email too. It reads

"[Kip] --
Your visa is ready for printing. Please let us know when you will come back to Ciudad Juarez.

You all have been awesome! Thanks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Here is what you need for your F-1(student) visa renewal

If you are an international student planning on renewing your visa, I suggest you do it at your home country unless you really have to go to Canada or Mexico. I have come to understand why there are so many illegal immigrants in the US. If someone who is here legally goes through such process as the one I am going through, imagine what someone who is here illegally goes through? I don’t even want to imagine. It is impossible.

In any case, when you show up at a US consulate for a student, F-1, visa renewal, make sure that you have the following documents. Present what they asked you to bring along, but keep the rest handy, just in case …

(Consult with your school’s office of international students if you have any questions, I am not a professional in this field and that means you cant hold me responsible for any mishaps)

- All original Form I-20's that you've ever held including an endorsed current Form I-20
- Original Travel and Departure Record Form I-94
- Passport(s) old and new with all visas you've ever held
- Proof of solvency including a letter from the department that is funding you indicating you ability to pay tuition
- Letter from the head of your program indicating your status as a student
- Official transcripts and diplomas from all schools you have attended
- Letter from the registrar of your current school indicating your student status
- A copy of your resume
- Form I-688 (Employment Authorization Document -EAD) - even if it expired
- A list of references (about 4) from the US and your home country
- A short description of your research, if you are doing any. You could alternatively take a letter from your research adviser stating, in technical terms and Leyman's terms
- A copy of tax returns
- Visa application forms
- Your appointment letter (they wont let you in without this)
- Passport size photographs (check out the DHS website for specs.)

I found these webpages, among others, useful: