Kenya’s election only one week away

Kenya’s election only one week away

“There is a growing perception among many members of Mr. Kenyatta’s ethnic group, the Kikuyu, and Mr. Ruto’s, the Kalenjin, that they must win this election in order to protect their leaders from being hauled off to a jail cell in Europe, which is raising tensions even higher.”

– Jeffrey Gettleman NYT Feb 22, 2013

Kenya’s presidential election may be the most eagerly anticipated in sub-Saharan Africa this year and it is only one week away. Peace throughout the process will bring unexpected hope for the country and region going forward while ethnic violence could further entrench a crippling precedent. Check out this piece by Jeffrey Gettleman to gauge the level of tension leading up to March 4th.


Rural Indians eating less than they did 30 years ago, by choice?

In 1983, about 65% of rural Indians didn’t eat 2,400 calories per day and about 18% reported that they had a lack of food. 21 years later only 3% reported a lack of food but  the percentage of people who didn’t consume 2,400 calories per day jumped to 78%. Weird right? So what does it mean?

I got this from the slides of the first lecture in MIT’s The Challenges of Global Poverty free online course and thought it was really interesting. I guess it means either that people don’t want to admit that they are lacking food nowadays, or that they actually do feel like they are getting enough food, because they have the choice to eat or not. This could be an answer to the infamous, “Why does everyone in the slum have a TV and a phone but they don’t have enough to eat?” question that every tourist is puzzled with. Because they choose to. Rural Indians have become less poor since 1983, and they seem to be choosing to spend their time and money on things other than a necessity like food. Maybe it’s because they have this choice that they’re reporting that they’re getting enough food, while they are in fact eating less than they did when they were poorer in 1983! Super interesting I think. Wish I could’ve been in the actual class in Cambridge and heard one of Esther Duflo’s TAs explain it.

Rural Indians eating less than they did 30 years ago, by choice?

Article in The Hindu about a place we stayed in India

Article in The Hindu about a place we stayed in India

Check out this article about Malika Virdi’s homestay program in Munsyari, Uttarakhand, India. Munsiyari is a town nestled in the Himalayas near the border of India and Nepal where Katie, Mom, and I stayed when we went to India last summer. They charged 750 rupees a night (about $14) to stay in a guest room at one of the houses in the community. Part of your fee of course, goes to the women that host you, to supplement their daily agricultural work. The program offers visitors an opportunity to experience a remote neighborhood completely encompassed by the nature of the Himalayas. Malika and the people from the village lead guided hikes and nature walks and have amazing knowledge about all of the local plants and animals. We didn’t have time to help out with any of the farming that visitors are encouraged to part take in (we were only there for one night) but we did have a few other memorable experiences. If you’re every traveling through northern India/Nepal, try to make a stop here for an incredibly peaceful venue, and an experience as authentic as it gets, staying and working with the local community. 

A few stories from our 24 hours there:

– We took a hike up a hill to the village’s central water source, a pond that you could drink from. On the way up Ram (mentioned in the article) told us everything about practically every plant we passed (Mom’s favorite part of the stay……)

– I saw the biggest butterfly I have ever seen. Ram said it was called a birdfly, because it looked like what would happen if a bird and a butterfly had a baby. Might sound weird but it was one of the coolest animals I have ever seen. 

– I woke up to a colony of tiny worms crawling at the head of my bed. One of the freakiest experiences of my trip to India was when I woke up in the middle of the night and flashed my headlamp around this room that I was sleeping in for the first time. I pointed the lamp down at my bed and saw a tiny worm on my bed about ten inches from my pillow. Obviously my heart stopped for a few seconds, and then I proceeded to look at the wall behind my pillow, only to find dozens more crawling up and down the wall. 

I moved down to the other end of my bed and slept in a ball facing off the foot of the bed, my back to where my head should have been. I couldn’t sleep much more because I kept having to getting my light out of my clenched hands every twenty minutes to check for worms but they never made it down to my end of the mattress. I finally slept for about an hour and woke up at 5, worms gone back to their hole in wall, to a beautiful morning. 

– Before we left we got to speak to Malika for a few hours about her remarkable life and the community in Munsiyari. She is a really amazing person woman who has done super interesting work throughout her life and conquered some pretty impressive mountains as well. In 2005 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by an organization called PeaceWomen Across the Globe. 

Like I said, if you are ever traveling through the area, be sure to spend a few days/weeks here!