Friday, April 6, 2012

Stanley plans for Africa again ...

Stanley can NOT go to the store any more.  Every time, he comes home with more kid stuff.  There's hardly any room in the suitcase for clothes!

The colored balls have flashing lights inside!  Too cool to pass up.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Wandering in Africa

Meeting new folks is always nice.  Here, Stanley gets introduced to some new friends in eastern Africa.  It's Djibouti, a small country on the east side of Africa.

Stanley and his friend wander out into the countryside to meet a camel.  Camels look nice, sort of, but they're not really friendly.

They're domesticated, lots of the time, like cows perhaps.  They can run really fast for short distances and they're maybe 7 feet tall at the top of their hump when they're full grown.

The trees you see are shaped that way because the camels eat all the lower branches and leaves.

Here, a tall adult camel munches on the branches and leaves in spite of the fact that they're full of thorns.

You can click on the picture to get a better look.

Djibouti is a mostly desert country.  Not much scenery with any green.  It doesn't rain much which means there aren't many farms or rivers.

Goats are important in Africa.  For some families, the goats are like a savings account; if you need money, you sell a goat, and if you have money you don't need at the moment, you buy a goat.  And they give milk, too.

Stanley make friends wherever he goes.  Stanley wonders how these nice people survive in such a difficult place.  It doesn't take much for kids to be happy; food, water, shelter, family, safety perhaps.  All those are difficult things here.

Like kids everywhere, children in Djibouti enjoy a chance to play and laugh.  Stanley joins in and runs around with bouncy, barefoot participants in the dusty street.

Kids play at jumping a ditch near a new construction project.  It's like summer pretty much year around here.  It makes Stanley think about how nice it is to have running water and air conditioning.  Most of the people in the world don't have such things.

Then there are camels!  They do have camels here.  You can click on the picture to see her up close.  She has really long eyebrows, and she has a collapsible nose so she can keep out the dust.  And a mustache.  This little camel is a girl's dowry; that's the gift her father will give when she gets married.

And here's a bouncy little gazelle; kind of like a deer but really small; it's about knee-high tall at the nose.  This one bounced into view long enough for Stanley to take a quick picture, then bounced away into the dusty countryside.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I'm going to Africa, I'm going to Africa!

"I'm going to Africa, I'm going to Africa!"

Flat Stanley is planning for his next trip.  Back to Ethiopia, then on to Djibouti at the end of the month.

He's excited; he loves to travel.  No problem for him, of course.  He sleeps in an envelope.

He's off to meet a friend he's never seen in person, a college fellow in Ethiopia.  They've exchanged emails but never met.  Cool stuff, huh.

Do you know where Ethiopia is?  It's a long way away.  It's 7,150 miles!  That's 11,500 kilometers; too far to walk.

Once you make it to Ethiopia, Djibouti is just around the corner.

Lots of sand around here.  :)

Update:  25 FEB; finally on my way.  I'm at the airport with all the other people.  The trip started at 4:00 AM this morning, and we'll get there tomorrow around 8:00 AM.  It's a long way to Africa. 

Update:  In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!  It's the capital city of Ethiopia.  Stanley connects with friends from a year ago!  They live kind of on the edge of the city.  That's their home in the background.  It's a poor neighborhood, but Stanley thinks that's where the nicest people live.  Certainly the friendliest!

We went back to the weaver's neighborhood, but everybody was gone.  The Ethiopian government tore down all the slums and relocated all the poor people who lived there to another area.  

Update:  In Djibouti now, Stanley visits the countryside.  Stanley, Todd, and an indifferent camel pose for the picture.  The trees are shaped the way they are because the camels eat the lower branches and leaves.

This is the foundation where Stanley's friends used to have their home.  It's gone now, and the people live in new housing the government built for them.

Stanley and friends look over the neighborhood where they live now.  It's very simple housing, but it's much nicer.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Flat Stanley and the Ethiopian Weaver

In Ethiopia, Stanley made friends with this little girl and her grandmother.  They invited us home to meet grandpa who is a weaver. 

On the way, the little girl held on to my pants leg; for stability I suppose.  She put her foot on top of mine for a moment, maybe to compare sandals or something like that.  She pulled my toe experimentally and laughed.

(Click on the pictures to see them big.  There's a cool video of grandpa working the loom near the end here, too.)
Back in the front yard, the men are busy setting up the loom.  Stanley stands beside the bobbin filler; it's where you wind thread on a stick to do the back and forth part of weaving.

Here's a closer look (right) at the bobbin filler (or winder, because it winds the thread on the bobbin).  The bobbin is the light colored stick with the thread just started on it.  Click on the picture so you can see it.

And here you can see the thread being wound up on the bobbin.  He turns the wheel by hand, and the bobbin turns really fast so it doesn't take very long to fill up a bobbin.  Stanley tried keeping up with the wheel ...

If it looks like a lot of work, it is.  It takes days to prepare all the thread and set up the loom just right.  Then it takes more days to make a long piece of cloth.  It's a lot of work, and it takes skill to make it come out looking good.
Here you can see grandpa with a freshly filled bobbin in his hand.  He's going to put it in the shuttle, the little boat-shaped stick just in front of him.  The shuttle is what goes back and forth in the loom, leaving behind a single thread from the bobbin as it travels.  That's where all the back and forth threads in the cloth come from.

Grandpa and the rest of the family are glad to have skills and a market for their work.  Unemployment in the city is around 50%.  It's pretty tough if you can't find a job, so the family works hard at the skills they have.

Stanley took a cool movie of grandpa working the loom.  You can see the shuttle go back and forth.  As it's made, the cloth rolls up in the stick right next to grandpa.

It's really nice cloth, and they use it for their traditional dress like this little girl is wearing.

Grandpa and his family don't make very much money for their work, but they try hard and do their best.  Grandma runs a little vegetable stand to help out.  They're really hardworking people; they have to work harder than most of us do.

Know where Ethiopia is?  It's in the east side of Africa!  It's next to Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia and Kenya on the side where the ocean is.  Sudan is on the inland side.  They don't have any ocean shore so things like aid shipments of rice and other cargo mostly comes through the seaport in Djibouti.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Stanley goes grocery shopping in Africa

Off to Africa in June, Stanley got to spend time with his young friends while the adults did boring adult stuff.  At some point along the way, there was a truckload of kids; that was probably the fun trip down the hill to the beach.

Stanley (above and right) went to the market and to the beach and back home with his friends.  The market was interesting.  Kids here selling bread made friends with Stanley. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


In Kenya again for the third time this year already, Stanley finally gets to go to see some cool animals with kids his own age.  GX65WYAMBPV9

Giraffes!  Look at the size of these fellows.  Did you know that it is the tallest animal living on the land?  

They're related (cousins?) to other similar animals like deer and cows.  You can sort of see the family resemblance, I suppose.  They have the same kind of toes, we're told. No kidding.  :)  Can you see the monkey in the tree?  He's not related.  Just a neighbor.

If you want, you can click on the pictures to see them them full size.

Here, Stanley's friend Abas feeds a giraffe by hand.  It's 15 feet tall so it has to bend down a long way to reach Abas who's just 5 feet tall.

Abas chuckles at the great big giraffe lips that gather up the pellets from his hand.  It has a huge tongue too, and it kind of slobbers on your hand while it tries to lick up the last crumbs.  Funny to think that one of the jungle animals would be so gentle. 

Would you look at how big this tortoise is, and such a long neck!!  He's big enough to ride, but you're supposed to not do that.  We respect the animals.  Abas and the rest of the kids all want to touch the tortoise though.  His shell is like really hard wood.  A tortoise is a land turtle, and they live as long as people do.  Some even live to be 150 years old.  This one could have been born during the Civil War in the 1860's!

Farther along the way, ... alligators!  OK, this is cool.  In the picture are Kenyan alligators, but they aren't really alligators, scientifically speaking.  They're crocodiles; you can tell by their pointy snouts.  Alligators have wider heads and a rounder snout instead of pointy.  BUT, in Kenya, they call them alligators, so that's what they are.  Kenyan alligators.  :)  Here they look like they're singing a song together.  NOT.

 Then, of course, there are the hippos.  A trip to visit the animals wouldn't be complete without seeing the hippopotamus, I suppose.  So ....

See the bump in the water?  That's the wave over the top of a hippo who's running along the bottom!  Hippos are so heavy and dense that they don't float like you'd expect.  They can sink to the bottom while holding their breath and walk or run where they want to go.  They don't go very fast, though, and they move even slower when they're on the land.  They can weigh as much as an SUV (4000 pounds!).

Now with just eyes and ears above the water, they peek around to see if anything is going on, I suppose.  

They climb oh so slowly, oh so slowly, slooooowly out of the water ... and finally ... they walk over to near where we are.

Here's Miriam and Rhama and Yousef watching the hippo eat lunch, but they're not the only ones.  See the monkey?  He's stealing a little of the hippo's food for himself, but the hippo doesn't seem to mind.  They're really dangerous, though.

Walking home after visiting friends, Stanley catches up with some kids carrying jugs of muddy water.  They don't have clean water where they live.  It's the rainy season in Kenya, finally, so there will be more water for the animals and for people too.  The rainy season is April and May.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Flat Stanley in Kenya again!

So, off to Africa again.  A bit of a rush getting everything together; you'll never know what you need when you travel.  Extra socks, a camera, things like that.

I got to look around a bit this time and meet some people; nice folks, pretty place near the coast.  The beach in Mombasa is beautiful!  I'm fond of the beach; it's a great place to play.

Here's an early morning look at the beach in front of our hotel ...

Boys on the beach early, hoping perhaps to meet some tourists who would want a guide for the day.  The beaches are a popular tourist attraction.  Can you think of anything else a tourist in Kenya might want to see?

How about ...

Monkeys?  Of course!  There are lots.

Kenya is pretty big, almost as big as Texas.  Almost.  Not quite.  :)

Everything is big in Texas, they tell us.  I wonder if they have big bugs...

... like this African dung beetle; big enough to run off with your cell phone.  I've never seen one that was two-adult-thumbs wide before!

Not a pretty thing, but really impressive.

Do you have any beetles that are this big where you live?

Everybody knows there's no such thing as a blue lizard with an orange head!  Right?  What would a lizard like this eat?  Bugs, probably.  I watched one of these fellows sit by an ant path and eat 20 ants in a row!  He ran off after that; I guess 20 was enough.
Of course no trip to Africa is really complete until you've been on safari.  Safari is when you go out into the wild, or maybe one of the wild national parks where the big animals live.  There are lots of these guys in the game preserve areas.  My friends Franklin and Ahmad took me; we spent the night in the middle of a game preserve.

Kenya is growing and changing.  They have a new government and a new constitution that's kind of like ours.  Free speech, freedom to gather, freedom of the press, religious freedom.  They have lots of work ahead.  What are some of the things they'll need to make those freedoms happen?  Honest courts, honest police, honest government officials, fair business laws and labor practices, good public education, checks and balances in government.  Years of hard work go into making democracy work for everyone.

 These ladies are from the Maasai tribe.  According to their oral history, the Maasai originated in the lower Nile valley and migrated south around the 15th century to the area that is now Kenya and Tanzania.  There are perhaps 900,000 or so Maasai folks in the area.  The changes in Kenya may be difficult for them and have some impact on their culture.  More than once, they've been displaced (forced to move)  from lands where they lived.

In earlier years, they were a much feared warrior tribe wielding spears and war clubs they could throw accurately at 70 paces (maybe 60 meters).

Maasai are pastoralists which means they raise livestock like cattle or goats, and they're semi-nomadic which means they settle in a place for awhile and then move on.   They've resisted the urging of the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments to settle down in one place. They have demanded grazing rights to many of the national parks in both countries.  We'll see how they're treated in the years ahead.

The Maasai people stood against slavery!  Maasai society never condoned traffic of human beings, and outsiders looking for people to enslave avoided the Maasai.   And while they lived alongside wild animals, they generally had an aversion to eating wild game and birds. Interesting history of an extraordinarly strong culture.

What would it mean to the Maasai to have a modern country growing up where they live?  Do you think maybe it's kind of like the problem native Americans had when Europeans moved in and took over?  How will the Maasai benefit from democracy?
Citizenship perhaps, access to public services and education, a voice in law making, representation in government bodies, equal treatment under the law, all optimistic and promising, we hope and pray.