Friday, January 15, 2010

Solar Eclipse Photos

". . . and the Sun has perished
out of heaven,
and an evil mist hovers over all."

Said to refer to a total solar eclipse of 16 April 1178 BC.
From: Homer (Greek), The Odyssey (8th century BC).

So this morning (Kenya time) I witnessed a solar eclipse and took some photos I'd like to share. All of these photos were taken from outside my house in Garissa, Kenya. :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaching to Inspire

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.” ~Buddha

With the arrival of January 2010, the first term of the school year has begun. In case I forgot to mention this before in a previous blog, the school calendar in Kenya is different than that of the U.S. Here, the lessons go for three months on, one month off. Which means schools open in early January and break for the month of April for the first term. As we are now about half way through the month of January, the school is open and classes are on track.

This term I am teaching several classes. I am teaching Computer Applications (i.e. MS Office), Word Processing, Databases, and Human Growth & Development (HG&D). In terms of hours this term I am teaching more than I taught last term (Sept-Nov) but I am excited to be teaching the HG&D class.

The first week of classes goes by a little slow as not all the students have registered for the term and they continue trickling in. Last week when the school opened and registration began there were some transport issues with the matatu (public transport vehicle - a 14 passenger van) strike.
I feel different being on campus again this new year. It seems to me as though something has changed though I can't quite put my finger on it. It might be the 35 new computers we received in December. No, I was here when that happened. Maybe it's the new classroom block and offices? No, I knew the construction would be finished soon. Maybe it's the few new faces - the new teachers on attachment? Hmmm..could be, though there's definitely something else. Maybe it's the fact that instead of the small school van the bus is now being used to shuttle students and staff in the morning to school? I don't think that's it either. I remember hearing that was supposed to begin last term. It's probably because I too have changed since the closing of the school last term.

Well whatever is causing this feeling of "change" or "difference" I will continue to do my best and inspire my students/peers to excel.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Seeking Peace Within

“Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” ~T.S. Eliot

So as part of Peace Corps Kenya, we have a monthly newsletter through which we are able to send announcements and share information between volunteers in Kenya.
I recently submitted an article to provide a little more insight as to the meditation course that I attended recently. The article I submitted I've copied and pasted here:
"Everyone seeks peace and harmony in their lives. Sometimes we find temporary peace or harmony and yet it always seems to slip away when we do have it temporarily. Sometimes the journey for peace and harmony may lead people, such as myself, to leave everything that is known to them and take the time to experience life in a new and different way – for me this means joining the Peace Corps in search of a better understanding.
Through the journey of the roller coaster of our Peace Corps experiences, we have our ups and downs – joyous wondrous achievements and frustrations that all come with life. What if there was a way to change that? What if we could learn to maintain our calmness during the hard times?
There are many techniques that some people try and use to maintain calm. One of these techniques I recently learned is through meditation. So what is meditation? Meditation is simply awareness. The focus of awareness tends to differ by meditation techniques. One such example is simply observing one's own breath. Such a simple act of awareness is a simple meditation technique. Meditation is typically a tool to achieve greater focus, creativity, self-awareness, or simply a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind.
There are various kinds of meditation techniques - some that are traditionally used by specific religions or religious teachings. That is not to say, however, that all meditation is specific to one religion or another. One very good example of a non-sectarian meditation is that of Vipassana.
Vipassana is a meditation technique that is taught in 10 day (and in some cases longer) courses, often called sittings. Throughout the world, including, in Kenya. Having found out about it by word of mouth - first Sylvia mentioned that she was aware of a meditation retreat, later I found out the specific information - I decided to give it a shot
For ten days we, the participants of the retreat (including 3 Kenya PCVs, 1 Uganda PCV and one Kenya RPCV), lived the lives of monks/nuns. The retreat took place at the Kolping Conference Center where in April of last year my training group had our In-Service Training. For ten days we lived by practicing a life of moral conduct. Abstaining from harming any living beings, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from sexual misconduct, abstaining from telling lies, and abstaining from all intoxicants. With the moral foundation, we proceeded to develop our concentration of the mind. By concentrating our minds we were able to gain wisdom through insight of this meditation technique.
Now 10 days may sound like a long time, but from my own experience those 10 days pass by very very quickly. (I mean consider this, for many of us we've already been PCVs in Kenya for a year and that time has flown by).
The ten days themselves were, for me, a beginning of a wonderful technique that I believe will help me greatly.
For anyone who might be interested in learning this particular non-secterian meditation technique there are typically three sittings a year - that is three 10 day courses per year in Nairobi. For anyone interested in finding out more information, you can go to the website From this website, you can read information about the teachings in general as well as look at the course schedules around the world.

Shamsudin (aka Daniel)"

Two other things I would like to mention: Special shout out and thanks to Chad for the letter - I really do appreciate your mail. I also hope you get your invite soon and please let me know if you end up setting up a blog!

Lastly, I wanted to emphasize something that Chad wrote: "Kanye once said, 'If you admire somebody, you should go ahead and tell 'em, nobody gets the flowers while they can still sell 'em.'...people often forget to thank the people who are most important to them."
This message is very true and I would once again like to express my deepest gratitude to all who have helped me to get where I am today. Without your support I would not be where I am today.

May all beings be happy; May all beings find real peace, real harmony.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Year, A New Adventure

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~Andre Gide
Greetings to every being near and far!
I hope that everyone has had a wonderful Holiday Season and enjoyed spending time with their families.
As a new year has arrived I thought I would write a blog post to detail how I spent my Holiday Season. During the Holidays I lived as a monk living a life of moral conduct, concentration/mastery of the mind, and wisdom.

Having gone through this experience by way of a meditation technique taught my S.N. Goenka with the help of an assistant teacher to help answer questions we had about the technique, I feel that I have taken an important step in my life's path (whether it was a big step or a small step I'm not sure, but an important step either way).
For anyone who might be interested in further information about the meditation technique or information regarding the teachings involved, the information can be found on the web at [Note: the meditaiton technique is non-secterian and is universal]

So as we welcome in a 'new year' (given that our sense of time might be entirely incorrect) new adventures are on the horizon. Unfortunately the horizon is an imaginary line that recedes as we approach it. So the best thing to do is to live the adventure in the moment!

Keeping that in mind, I am looking forward to getting back to Garissa and the projects and the people to continue to serve mankind and the nature as I proceed on my life's path.

At this moment in time I realize that new adventures come and go and many times we fail to realize the wonderful opportunities we have to learn and grow and instead we get angry or in some other way fail to realize the wonderous opportunities that are present.

May all beings be happy and find real peace... real harmony..