This is awesome, its ESPN's top 4 players from each team in the American League, and they pick Billy Beane, even though he hardly even played for them, citing his incredible contributions off the field as the General Manager. The explanation is priceless (literally, almost):
Billy Beane? Over Rollie or Catfish or La Russa or Giambi or Eck? Yes. Since 2000, only two franchises have won more games than the A's -- the Yankees and Red Sox. During that time, the A's have spent $460.6 million in payroll while the Yankees have spent $1.47 billion and the Red Sox $1.05 billion. So, yes, Billy Beane.

Pitchers and catchers reported to camp a couple weeks ago. I miss a lot of things about home, but few so much as baseball.


There's this brief 15 or maybe 20 minute window in the weekday afternoons here in the Westlands area of Nairobi where everything just slows down for a minute. The children leaving school across the street have all disappeared, and people aren't yet "knocking off" (as they say) from work. It usually starts right around 4:30pm, and it is glorious.

Pretty soon the street will be covered in the walking masses and the driving lesser masses, but right now it is just the wind in the trees and the occasional laugh in the distance. Its warm out in the sun but the breeze pushing through the office is just right. Pretty soon it will start carrying the charcoal woodsmoke of locals making dinner. But right now, its like one big collective pause before the evening bustle begins.

This is my favorite part of the workday here.

Been insane busy with work but hoping to blog more shortly)


This is a small cone of paper wrapped around some nuts.

I bought it tonight on my way home from a kid, standing in the middle of the road, in the dark, in traffic. He stands there every night, from the start of rush hour until late in the evening. He's wearing his school outfit - a dirty white collared shirt covered with the typical v-neck sweater. Slack shorts that are a little too short for his slender frame, dirty brown socks sticking out of over-worn brown loafers.

He's standing there every night. Selling nuts. Waving the little cones back and forth in the air, trying to attract the attention of the drivers streaming past him on their way home, or out to dinner, or to the mall.

"How much?"

"Please sir, pull forward." And he trots along with me - more worried about holding up traffic than making the sale.

"How much?" As I'm reaching for my wad of cash.

"5 Shillings, sir."



The smallest paper bill I have is 50 shillings. That's the smallest one they make. I don't even bother carrying coins less than the 20, the one you use at the mall to pay for parking if you stay over 30 minutes.

5 shillings.

For the past hour that's all I've been able to think about, just sitting here staring at this little home-made, smoke-smelling cone of nuts. He sells them for a little over a nickel. Every night. In the dark. Almost no one rolls down their window to buy one. I don't know why I did. I think it was that part of me that tries to reward industrious effort when I see it - I always leave a buck or two with the subway performers in NYC.

But this kid is in Nairobi, and he's much better off than millions of others who aren't privileged enough to live in the slums here, selling nuts on the side of the road. Which hardly anyone bothers to slow down and buy.

When I was thirteen I had my first job and I was making 6 dollars an hour training hunting dogs and cleaning kennels. 6 dollars an hour. This kid was selling nuts for 6 cents a cone.

Where do you sleep, when you're that kid selling nuts? What do you eat, for your one meal of the day? If you get one? How many hours do you walk to school? What did your mother have to give up to get you the uniform, so you could go at all? Will you ever see a doctor, or own a pair of jeans? Will you live to see 30?

What can you possibly afford when a good night nets you - maybe - half a dollar?

Hell. I spent so much mental energy and frustration this week on the fact that I can't afford the big 4WD I want to be driving around this continent, feeling betrayed of what I know is rightfully mine. Because I've worked so hard for it. Or something.

5 shillings.

What is wrong with me?


OK so I should probably write an update about last week and who I met in Kampala and what I went and did last weekend in Western Uganda, but instead I'm just going to blow some steam about the car situation here in Nairobi. Which can be summed up pretty succinctly:

It sucks.

The main problem is the duties. Duties to get a new vehicle here typically (TYPICALLY) run right around the same amount as the ENTIRE STICKER PRICE OF THE VEHICLE ITSELF. So, I'm looking at a nice new Hilux, Toyota's kind of equivalent to the Tacoma pickup back in the US, the first (and only) car I had out of college (I payed something in the mid-teens for it, used and a couple years old). The sticker price is something around $25K which of course is a stretch on a humanitarian budget, but possibly doable.

Here's why a pickup or an SUV - something with decent clearance and 4WD is important - of all the countries I've been to all over this continent, Kenya has, hands down, far and away, without a doubt, and beyond all comparison the WORST roads of anywhere. Ever. I'm talking speed-bumps the size of Volkswagens, roads in complete disrepair, potholes so big they should really be called craters. Some of them actually look like sinkholes, there are at least 2 within a couple kilometers of my apartment that I know if I ever hit by accident will pop the tire and probably bend an axel, at the least. There is no way I'm investing in anything less than a truck, as it would just get torn to shreds here. I've actually seen potholes in the speedbumps.

So anyway, back to the shiny Hilux. I'm thinking I just might be getting one when WHAMMO I find out about the duties. Just take that price and double it. Hey at least the math is easy, right? So instantly you take the idea of "new" and eliminate it from your car shopping vocabulary, that's no longer an option.

OK, so, used. Anything in the last 7-8 years is pretty much still out of reach because locals typically pay the duties in monthly installments, like their actual car payment. So anyone selling one is also selling it with whatever is still left on the duty. So I can't really afford anything newer than a 2001, maybe a 2002 if I find a steal.

Which just so happens to prove a very minor problem in that Kenyan banks won't make loans on older cars given the legal restrictions around the selling / importation / etc. of older model vehicles, in what I understand to be a rather admirable governmental policy trying to force newer vehicles onto the road and reduce fuel consumption. Smart move when the country's often out of gas (lines were 30 deep at the pumps yesterday, that I saw). So, I can't get a loan for the cars I can afford, but I can get a loan for the cars I can't afford. Brilliant.

Which in a way is fine, because, considering the state of the roads here, 100K kilometers on a used car, well I'd estimate that to be at least 1.5 to maybe 2.0 times as many kilo's wear and tear as it would be on the same vehicle in most developed countries. So I'm hesitant to consider one of those cars anyway.

So I'm up a creek. At this point I'm thinking maybe I'll just resort to taxis and borrowing friends cars here, and renting when I have to. WV's vehicle allowance is nice and all, but it gets me nothing up front to fund a car, so unless you want to blow your down-payment-on-a-home savings on something decent, that's not an option. I can always take the pool car which will be one of those used sedans that will get swallowed in a pothole, but then I don't get the allowance, and you can only use that for work anyway.

I realize I'm in the humanitarian sector now, but honestly, time is money, and the amount of time I've burned and will still burn on this headache is just bad business.