Nineteen, 19, XIX

Here I go, like “Seinfeld”, another blog about nothing, seinfeld
but “if you hear the song I sing, you will understand” (Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods, 1967). 220px-Youngbloods_Get_Together
Hey Nineteen” was a song released by Steely Dan on their 1980 album “Gaucho”. Hey_Nineteen_cover
I am not a Steely Dan fan, but I needed something to kick start this blog, and music usually is my inspiration. The wheels had been turning, and ‘I can’t slow down, I can’t let go and I can’t hold on, I can’t go back and I can’t stand still, and if the thunder don’t get me then the lightning will!’ Life is good with any Grateful Dead song.Grateful Dead
Like the 1972 Jerry Garcia tune “The Wheel”, this blog is composed spontaneously at my desk (perhaps Tom Foley (Upper Providence) can confirm this GD factoid).GD the wheel 1
It has also been partly inspired through email conversations with Eileen Smith (2014 PULSE, AMREF, Nairobi, Kenya) who I have yet to meet but will do so on 16th October during GSK Volunteer Awareness Week, and partly from the countdown calendar I usually prepare for my wife Christine, and our good friends and scuba diving buddies Donna and Joe (which by the way, 174 days until Belize).
The significance of ‘19’ evolved from events of this week. Firstly, I departed Brussels to return to Kisumu after a long weekend rendezvous holiday with Christine. After 36 hours, 3 flights and nearly 18 hours of layovers in 3 airports, I arrived at Kogelo Villas (my apartment complex) just after sunset. No sooner did I arrive at my door, all power went out in the area (for you at home keeping score, that would be power outage number ‘17’). Not a problem, but actually a very big problem because my flashlight and door key were locked in my backpack and I could not see the numbers on the dial of my travel security lock to open it because it was DARK. So I took my backpack up to the main road and used the headlights of an oncoming car to read the dial and extract my flashlight and keys—success at last. I lit two candles, unpacked a little bit, but could not shower because we use a hot water on demand system that is electrically powered. So I boiled a pot water on my gas stove and was ready to take a sponge bath when power was restored 1.5 hours later. But relief was short lived because an hour later, we lost power again (that would be power outage No. 18) that lasted well past 11 pm. Keep in mind, comfort is only as good as the air circulation in your apartment, and without electricity, the room fans do not operate. Warm humid stagnant air combined with 36 hours of travel and short cat naps here and there and I was feeling quite uncomfortable—but clean because I was able to shower in between outages.
Fast forward to Thursday afternoon. The air quality absolutely SUCKS. There is no better way to describe what it is like to directly breathe the output of a chimney for several hours all around Kisumu. Fans just move the air about, but do not cleanse it. Oh my goodness, it was a giant cloud of smoke from every outdoor massive burning that was trying to consume Kisumu.INDYSPIRIT
090410-10commandments2Quickly advance to early Friday morning: it rained from midnight until 6:30 am, a much needed relief, an atmospheric cleansing, thank goodness. The temperatures dropped, the air quality improved and I was able to run 7K this morning in a light mist which helped to keep me cool and comfortable but not drenched. I showered, had breakfast reported to the office before 8am. But upon their arrival at the office, Victoria, Isabelle and JoJo informed me that there was another power cut which had left most of Kisumu in the dark again: Number 19!!.19 Image 1 Fortunately, the OGRA House has a battery backup system to enable us to power our laptops for several hours. All was restored to normal before lunchtime.
19 is the 8th prime number, the atomic number of Potassium, a title to a Judy Picoult book “Nineteen Minutes”; the game of “GO” is played on a 19×19 grid; there are no combination of cards that can add up to 19 points in a hand of cribbage; the “19th” hole in golf; the 19th president of the United States was Rutherford B. Hayes; the 19th state to enter the union was Indiana; Kellogg’s Product 19; the jersey number worn by Tony Gwynn (baseball), Willis Reed (basketball), Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana (KC) and Lance Alworth (American football), Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman (hockey).
As most of us move into the second half of our PULSE assignments, I circle back to “The Wheel”, and remind myself to finish strong, and to make it sustainable I will have to “try just a little bit harder, couldn’t I try just a little bit more.”
On a more serious and business note, as a wheel has no beginning and no end (much like this blog), EileenSmith, Susan Gitau (GSK Nairobi) and I are the points of Kenyan contact for the upcoming GSK Volunteer Awareness Week (13-17th October). Four of the Kisumu PULSE team will travel to Nairobi to meet with our other PULSE colleagues and also have an opportunity to share our experiences with our local colleagues at the GSK Nairobi facility. MB Image I will share the outcomes from this opportunity to spread the word about volunteering self and time to make a difference, to make it count, and continue to “Be the Change”.


  1. Awesome as usual!! I see you are already counting down to your next adventure. Just to let you konw that you are famous here at GSK. I attended a 2-day Women’s Leadership Initiative Conference at UM, and there was a table for Pulse at the Development fair. The last picture you have in your blog above was made into handouts at the PULSE table!!

    1. My 15 seconds of fame!!
      I don’t think an autograph session with proceeds going to charity would be very fruitful. Trust me, I was just as surprise to see my likeness being distributed world wide. I’ll give you the longer version in December. mb

  2. Hey Martin. I do enjoy your rambling blogs. Glad you enjoyed your break in Europe. We all should do that more often. After my Pulse assignment I’ve become a more adventurous traveler. This summer my family went to Ireland where I personally thanked the folks at Guinness for helping me through my 6 months surrounded by Tusker & White Cap. Your story about people burning trash on the side of the road reminded me of one outing with the Kisumu group in ’12. We walked to the “Mexican” restaurant Turtles (I think that’s the name) near your apartment for dinner on the outside porch. We had an excellent view of the gas station and the smoking cars blowing exhaust towards our table. We also had a get together in Nairobi back then. Two Pulse volunteers from Ethiopia came down too. We toured the GSK facility, met with the GM, and met with employees interested in volunteering. We had a fun BBQ back in the penthouse apartment of the 6 people based in Nairobi at Mimosa Court. It was great to share stories about our assignments and living conditions. I personally didn’t count the power outages but they were almost daily during the rainy season. Keep the stories coming…BJ

    1. You got it! Thx BJ, I am glad to be able to bring a bit of entertainment to those that follow along. We have not yet made it to the Turtle Café but they are performing significant road destruction all over, and I breathe enough dust and dirt that I don’t need it as a non-optional food topping as well. Perhaps the road work will be completed before we leave. Dunga Hill Campground is our new hangout–low key, a few more beers to select, and great sunsets. Cheers, martin

      1. Hi Martin. I never made it to Dunga Hill. Looks great from the pictures on FB. I’m sure you have found the roof deck at Duke of Breeze hotel. I stayed there 2 times on visits to Kisumu. Have you made it to Eldoret yet? Let me know if you want me to arrange you guys sitting in on a fistula repair surgery at Gynocare with Dr Hillary Mabeya. Cheers.

  3. How many points in a range of 1 – 10? … 19 points! A perfect post and a very good description of all the ‘little’ issues we have to deal with more or less every day.

  4. Thx Guofeng, I write what I feel, and I mean what I say. it is all about my day to day life experiences, regardless how trivial or impactful they may be. Stay tuned–there is always another episode to write about!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s