Talking Trash!

Plastics rubbish in Kampi ya Samaki, Kenya

This morning, I dressed up! Showered and dressed in my smartest cotton long trousers, I combed my hair and put on a little face powder and mascara. It was a good thing I did, as you never know what the day might bring, and my day certainly changed quickly!

Having discussed my ideas with the owners of Island Camp in a private chat a week or so ago, I left home and headed for our nearest neighbor luxury camp, Tumbili Cliff Lodge. From there, I called briefly at Roberts Camp, and then met with the leadership of the Baringo Boating Guides & Excursions Self-Help Group. At each place, I announced my intention to launch a campaign to clean up Kampi ya Samaki, and at each place I was warmly welcomed and met with a strong statement of support.

The last stop of the morning was Soi Safari Lodge, and guess what? There was a major meeting going on there to discuss all matters relative to tourism in Kampi ya Samaki!

The assistant manager met me in the lobby and expressed surprise that I had not been invited to the meeting. I reassured him there was no particular reason why I should have been invited, as I am not engaged in business within the community, but that I had stopped in to discuss the problem of trash with the hotel manager. The next thing I knew, I was introducing myself to the assembly of about thirty-five officials and business owners, and presenting for the first time in a formal setting my personal agenda to clean up Kampi ya Samaki. I was publicly talking trash!!

The people present at the meeting are the primary stakeholders in the development of the entire area. I felt humbled to be among them, having only a resident’s concerns without major commitment of resources in the community. Nevertheless, it was clear that I could bring to that forum a somewhat different but equally valid perspective – that, plus my willingness to get involved and take action!

The issues in the community are many, and they are certainly not limited to cleaning up the rubbish. Topics like road development, provision of safe drinking water (that would be a huge help in reducing the number of plastic bottles that end up in the bushes), safety on and around the lake while respecting resident wildlife, community health and security are all on the general agenda.

It’s reassuring to know that the important figures in the community are both well-informed and of like mind that these issues must be addressed. If I’m talking trash, at least I’m not alone! And it was most encouraging that one official commented on the potential to turn our efforts to clean up the community into a model experiment that could, if successful, be replicated elsewhere in the country – echoing my private thoughts, exactly!!

Next step? To do more research, find out what are the options for dealing with the trash problem, then to sit down with my newly-discovered political friends and business neighbors and hammer out a plan of action.

Wish us all good luck; we are going to need that – and more . . .



Filed under Animals, People, Tourism

Kampi Clean Up

I met with the Public Health Officer in Kampi ya Samaki on Monday. He was very genial and soon understood the purpose for my visit. Agreeing with the concept of cleaning up Kampi ya Samaki’s plastic, glass and metal rubbish as being under his bailiwick, he offered most kindly to discuss the matter with the Baringo County Council members and with the local chiefs. The Public Health Officer, being a local fellow, already knows all those people, whereas I do not, and his Kiswahili is much better than mine, so I trust him to do a good job representing my case to these most important individuals.

Red, white and blue litter in a Prosopis juliflora bush in Kampi ya Samaki, Kenya

Red, white and blue litter in a bush in Kampi ya Samaki, Kenya

We cannot do anything without involving the Baringo County Council, who will first have to hear our concerns, possibly through a formal letter, and then consider whether they want to act, and if so, determine the best steps to take. Then, we’ll have to work closely with the local tribal chiefs. We need their support to rally the people and guide them in the adoption of new, better and healthier ways to live and manage the rubbish problem.

We’ll engage local businesses, especially those who cater to tourists; they stand to lose most if the situation is not addressed. This part is my task – going separately to each business, shaking hands and getting to know the managers, owners and operators, and informing them of our goals. We can expect no help, really, from the national government, although that would certainly be appreciated if and when forthcoming.

Together, the people of Kampi ya Samaki have to decide whether to move the rubbish, destroy it or recycle it. Shifting the rubbish will cost money and pay back nothing except a clean area here at the expense of deposited rubbish elsewhere.

We can teach local women how to knit or crochet plastic bag tote bags, but that’s no guarantee they will want to do the work. If the totes can be sold from the hotel gift shops in the area, that will help indeed. Women can generate income relative to their skills and willingness to work hard and some of the clutter can be contained – at least until the women see they can earn a lot of money, in which case they will buy, beg or steal any plastic bags they can find. Let’s hope that will be a good thing!

Another idea that could be useful here is to use plastic drinking water bottles as building materials. Cases documented online include filling the bottles with soil and using them like bricks to build household walls, and flattening bottles and applying them like shingles to build household roofs. Convincing people to build houses with these terribly non-traditional materials will be a major cultural undertaking, one that will require us to import some experienced trainer/builders. That means we’ll probably have to write grant requests and pray for someone to provide funding – a MAJOR undertaking!!

Less likely to succeed here are developing schemes to burn the plastics to produce diesel and other petroleum by-products including some gasses. Those ideas, I fear – although likely to be desirable to local people – will require more specialized equipment and materials than what our community likely has at its disposal.

At any rate, this project is going to be an interesting challenge, one that may well have repercussions around the world, and that will almost certainly have some positive impact on Kampi ya Samaki, Kenya!


Filed under Patchwork Quilting

Plastic Trash Rampant in Kampi ya Samaki

Plastics rubbish in Kampi ya Samaki, Kenya

Launching a new initiative today in Kampi ya Samaki!

Sick to death of seeing all the plastic trash, broken glass and rusted metal scattered EVERYWHERE in Kenya, I’m even sicker of the apathy about it in this place.

Plastics rubbish in Kampi ya Samaki, Kenya

Today, I’m having a meeting with the local public health officer to discuss the problem in our area and see what might, if anything, be done to clean up Kampi ya Samaki (Fish Camp). I already know the Baringo County Council has taken some action in the village, but the outlying areas are equally problematic and, apparently, unaddressed.

Mine is only one small voice crying, literally, in the wilderness, but every great journey begins with a single step, yes? So – wish me good luck. I’ll keep readers posted of the responses I receive and the new ways in which we begin to address this now old and tiresome problem: what to do with all the taka-taka!

Plastics rubbish in Kampi ya Samaki, Kenya

If I can work with local businesses and government officials successfully to address the problem, we might come up with ways to expand our methods throughout the country. Nothing like thinking big from the start, is there?

Hint: What I’d really love to do is to pack it all up and send it back where it came from . . .

Please – if you know of any systems for controlling rubbish in other places – systems that really work! – tell me about them by leaving comments!! Much appreciated!


Filed under Animals, Patchwork Quilting, People, Plants, Tourism

QuiltEd Online: Crystal Quilts

Jewel of Africa, a Crystal Quilt by Dena Dale Crain

Jewel of Africa, a Crystal Quilt by Dena Dale Crain


Check out the new course offering at QuiltEd Online! First take a peek at my gallery and enjoy seeing my Crystal Quilts. Then go to QuiltEd Online, read the blog post there, and have a look at the student work. Then, come join me for the course – Crystal Quilts!

In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy seeing my video, How to Make a Crystal Quilt!


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Filed under Online Quilt Classes, Patchwork Quilting, Quilt Workshops, Quilts

Safari to Turkana Basin Institute

In 1960, young Jonathan Leakey spent a summer digging at Olduvai Gorge under the blazing Tanzanian sun. He selected a spot and began excavating it with the assistance of a student. Soon after, he recognized the fossilized remains of a saber-tooth tiger, the digging became more serious and attracted the attention of Jonathan’s mother, Mary Leakey. Long tedious hours later, Jonathan’s finds were catalogued and roughly reassembled. What he had uncovered in the hard packed dirt were the remains of a creature never seen before. It was given a name: homo habilis, one of many other specimens destined to help prove or disprove the evolutionary descent of humankind from the apes.

Homo habilis fossilized skull

Homo habilis fossilized skull

A few weeks ago, we received from Mary’s second son Richard Leakey an invitation to visit the Turkana Basin Institute, so that Jonathan could be present for the opening of a conference to re-examine the evidence provided by homo habilis fossil remains. On Tuesday of this week, we flew to the Institute, about halfway between Lodwar and the western shore of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, to be present for that event. For me, it was a dream of a lifetime!

Many years ago, I studied cultural anthropology at the University of Cincinnati and at the University of Maryland, College Park. I logged enough graduate hours to earn a master’s degree in the field, but textiles were my first love and life led me down that different path instead. Nevertheless, to visit a place I had only dreamed of in those early years of study, was certainly a special treat for me!

We arrived late in the afternoon, after a relatively quick (1 1/2 hours) and smooth flight in an airplane Jonathan and I knew very well; it had once been his and we had spent many hours in it flying all over Kenya.

We settled in and joined the conference attendees for a very pleasant dinner. Some 35 or so researchers, scholars and authors were on hand for the conference, so we made a good-sized and very sociable group that evening. One notable we had the pleasure of meeting for yet a third time was Dr. Lawrence Martin, Dean of the Graduate School at Stony Brook University and now Director of TBI, a genial and likeable fellow who also helped us feel right at home.

The next morning, Richard Leakey showed us around the facilities that house the Turkana Basin Institute Field School and the Institute itself. With a student dormitory and mess to cater for 10-week sessions of visiting students from all over the world, extensive laboratories and storage facilities, conference rooms, accommodations for guests and staff quarters, the compound is quite large and well-planned. Turkana Basin Institute buildings are ventilated naturally by large windows to permit air flow in the sometimes severe heat of the day, and the site is equipped with eco-friendly programs and equipment to provide utilities like electricity and water. Comfortable, but efficient, these buildings suit the local geography while they minimize impact on the environment and cut unnecessary costs of living there.

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Later that morning, after Jonathan met briefly with the conference attendees to answer any questions they had, we flew across Lake Turkana from the Turkwel Research Facility to visit the dig sites and facilities at Ileret. The pilot was careful to fly right over Kenya’s Central Island National Park with its three crater lakes, Crocodile, Flamingo and Tilapia. We had a very pleasant lunch at Ileret before being flown back for a second evening spent in quiet conversation and dinner with Richard and Meave Leakey in their quarters. The next morning, we received a guided tour by one of their special field assistants, a young woman we know quite well. Then we flew home to Baringo, dusty and tired, but having had a truly wonderful time!

Learn more about the Turkana Basin Institute and its active Field School at Discover many more photos of the area on Google Images. Find out more about homo habilis on your own, but don’t believe everything you read. The jury, it seems, is still out . . .



Filed under People