21 November 2010

Bird Banding

The other day, we had an opportunity to band some birds.  Here in Kenya, they use the queen's English which apparently dictates the term 'Bird Ringing,' but at any rate, some friends of ours here have been involved for quite some time with ecological studies of birds here in Kenya. Right now there are both local species and those which pass through on their migration from Europe and West Asia.  I (Jim) have had a wonderful time chasing around birds in my spare time (not a lot) and it's fun to learn about how biology works here.  I know.  I'm a big nerd.  Here are some pictures of our banding adventures.  Maybe I'll post some more general photos of birds soon.  This area is really a beautiful place!  Above are some red-fronted parrots we saw as we were setting up the nets.

A female Baglafecht Weaver waiting in the net.  They're the ones that build the crazy hanging nests in Acacia trees.

Cape Robin Chat in hand and a Rufous Sparrow waiting.

The kids getting an up-close and personal view of the action.

A Bronze Sunbird

Our friend Jeff taking some vital statistics.

01 November 2010

A month of activity

Here are some picture highlights from the last few weeks.  There's been plenty to keep the students and teachers busy.  Only three and a half week left to the end of term.  We can't believe it!

Multicultural day is held on one of the Kenyan holidays.  There are no classes, but RVA turns the day into a huge celebration of all the nations represented at the school.  We got decked out in our red, white and blue.  And who knew that kids dried tempera paints sufficed as face paint?!  In the land of 'not-what-we're-used-to', I was pleased with my last-minute success.  

A long assembly is held in the morning, where there are lots of songs, cultural presentations, and finally a flag presentation.  The student who has been at RVA the longest from his or her home country gets the honor of carrying the flag.  It was such an amazing celebration of the diversity that is found here.  Next year, we'll make sure the camera batteries are fully charged!

Here's Joel enjoying our cheap calling rates to the states.  Our phone carrier just lowered the rate from 10/= (shillings) to 3/= per minute.  The ten shillings was a pretty good deal, but now it's about $0.04/minute.  

 The next weekend was pinewood derby and senior store.  Senior store is a "restaurant" put on by the senior class to raise money for their 'Senior Safari' trip to the coast.  This means fresh, homemade donuts, and yummy American-style lunch choices like pizza, hamburgers, taco salads, and hot dogs.  Donuts can even be delivered Friday night to your home!

Students and staff alike work for weeks and weeks on their pinewood derby cars.  Faith and Jim's is front and center... the spotted convertible!  Jim did all the carving, which was beautiful, and Faith added her special touch with the painting.  Once students are in 4th grade, they can work individually on their cars in the wood shop, but until then, many make cars with their parents.

Some go for speed and the hopes to be the fastest in their division, others focus on design and creativity. It was fun to see all the cars on display before they were raced.

The track is set up in the gym (the varsity girls basketball team even had to play on the outdoor court the afternoon before) and is quite elaborate.  It races six cars at a time, has an electronic sensor that times and places the cars.  We can sit right above the track in the stands and see all the action.

The cars are carefully lined up at the top and released.

As you can see from Joel, it's an all-day affair.  The 4th grade races begin after breakfast, with the men's, women's, and 11th/12th grade races finishing up in the mid-afternoon.  Joel was asleep by the time Faith's turn came!

There's even instant replay and a rapidly-updated spreadsheet projected for everyone to see.  If you look closely, you can see that Faith and Jim had the fastest time for the men's division!  There are many heats/semi-finals before the final six cars race their three championship races.  It's a very thorough system!

Here's Jim and Faith watching their car race.  While Jim didn't build the car for speed it did quite well.  It was the fastest car overall for the men's division, but raced its slowest times in the championship, only making third place.  But that's probably okay... we didn't want to get Faith's hopes too high for next year!

Here are the kiddos with the car and their trophy.  Faith had a wonderful time with Jim working on the car.  They made some great memories.  

This past Saturday night was carnival.  As a school, there is no acknowledgement of Halloween, similar to many Christian institutions.  But, there always seems to be an excuse to dress up and eat candy!  Joel was a very cute clown.

And Faith was a sweet ballerina.  Here she is with her two big sisters, Sarah and Naomi.  They occasionally take her for "coke dates" and other activities.  All the titchies have a big brother or big sister.  She had a fun time with them, even with mom and dad tagging along.  

The carnival had many different games and activities, where the students could earn "dollars" which would later be "spent" on candy.  This was the first activity the kids did.  The idea was to do it against your big brother or sister, but Faith insisted on competing against Joel.  They had to stay in the circle and get the flag of the other person's belt.  Here they are sizing each other up.

They've never really competed like this before.  We figured it could go well... or go badly.  So we watched a little hesitantly...

They had a blast!  They ran in circles with huge smiles on their faces, really trying to get the other's flag, but they didn't pull each other over, so that was good.  They laughed so hard the whole time.  In the end, Faith got Joel's flag, but it was a pretty fair match.  Joel is still convinced he got his sister's first.  So they're both happy with the outcome!

Joel loves apples so much (which are a treat here) he was very enthusiastic about bobbing for apples!

Faith tried her hardest to get a basket!

It's getting warmer, so the hair is getting shorter around here.  Faith got her hair cut yesterday, Heather got hers cut today, and Joel's on the list for tomorrow!

So there you have it... now we're ready for November!