Month: January 2014

Preparing for the North (part one)

Traveling North is not the same as going to other places, local or international. The deadening excursion from Nairobi, or any part of the world to Turkana requires thorough preparation. Usually, travelers flying to international destinations have to prepare physically and mentally before their journey begins. Otherwise, one would be so tired and stressed that he or she would need some days or even a week to recover from the consequences of unpreparedness. Jet lag and stiff muscles are common to those who travel by air. Instead, I am wrting to road travelers. I am doing this to enlighten you on how to gear up for the not-so smooth lengthy-some journey that will leave you craving to go back home.  However, if you follow my advice carefully, this will not have to be the case. You will be ready for work as soon as you have showered and changed the clothes that will have soiled due to the dusty road.

The road

Road 2 Turkana

Do not be in a rush. Traveling to any marginalized will need some good time on the road. Ensure you carry out extensive research before embarking on the trip. Traveling to Turkana calls for the same. Ensure you have a list of the vehicles that are available on that route and how much they cost. You are lucky because I will give you some of that information here. Well, four major bus companies ply from Kitale to Lokichogio. Although the bus will proceed further north after getting to Lodwar, the town stands as the biggest on this route. Most travelers prefer Dayah Express because of its reliability, but it is the most expensive. Eldoret Express, on the other hand, charges cheaper than its biggest competitor, Dayah Express does. Mvumilivu Safaris is an upcoming bus line and does not have extensive experience in the route. Sabre Star is the worst bus you can ever travel with on this route. However, because of its poor services, unpresentable appearance, and unreliable services, it is always available as an emergency bus when you are running late.

The buses

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Dress well. Turkana is hot, and so are the environs. While traveling, you will only need to be warm halfway through the journey. Throughout the rest of the journey, the general temperatures will dictate your dressing. Besides the temperature concerns, you need to dress comfortably. Do not dress white. The road is excessively dusty that JIK will not be able to whiten your clothes again. Consider clothes that will absorb your sweat because there will be too much of perspiring. Stretchy clothes are actually the best. They blend a practical approach with comfort. They will also not show that you slept in them. Open shoes might help you with swelling problems if you have any. Ensure that you have extra clothes for changing, in the event that stopping over at some hotel becomes a necessity, especially with the onset of night travel bans. Overall, be prepared to do a thorough cleaning once you get to the destination. There is plenty of water.

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Pedagogy

Teaching is interesting. Very interesting. Especially if you get to teach at university level. All you have to do is lecture. Your pedagogical skills will make your work either much easier or mighty hard. Most tutors, lecturers, and even professors lack the simple, but essential skill that draws the line between dictation and education – pedagogy. It is an art and a science, particularly instructional theory, which underlies education. Content pedagogy, a requirement for every effective teacher, refers to teaching skills that can help one to impart specialized content or knowledge of a particular subject area. Effective lecturers, teachers, tutors, and professors have to display a wide array of abilities and skills that build a learning environment conducive enough for students. Content pedagogy assures students that they can make it both personally and academically. Universities and middle level colleges integrate this combination of abilities and skills in the teaching profession in their standards, which also entails disposition, indispensable information, and commitments that require educators to practice excellently.

Many lecturers miss this point. They think that lecturing or tutoring is all about utilizing the available technology around and transmitting information from digital sources to student’s memory chips, which most of the time run on flash memory – they forget the moment they walk out of the lecture hall. While technology is here to improve learning, its application can only lead to success if teachers can explore their interaction between technology and pedagogy. Teachers lack dedication in pedagogy making many students bog down in their performance or drop from courses altogether. These implications are chilling, particularly because the practices exist in our very own local universities and some international training centers. In short, we can only become teachers, tutors, or lecturers once we embrace pedagogy. Then can we integrate educational technologies and pedagogy and spur critical thinking on both students and teachers.

Delineating the best teaching methods and acknowledging those who achieve effective methods are the first steps in changing education. In-depth studies show that teachers who use cooperative approaches in their delivery of content help students develop their generic skills. Cooperative learning entails myriad principles: individual responsibility, positive independence, group maintenance, appropriate grouping, interaction time, and cooperative skills. Cooperative learning approach provides guidelines for managing the classroom and ensuring that learning takes place. Some of the tenets of the cooperative learning approach such as pairing students, forming generic question stems, formulating dyadic confrontations, sending students to discussion corners, facilitating blackboard share, drawing gambits, and asking students to paraphrase what authors have said can help improve a class’s performance.Image

What do you get from social sites?

The list of social sites is ever growing as days go by. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, Blauk, Flixster, Instagram, Jaiku, Nexopia, etc. Social apps and websites exist for every imaginable cause. Some are for meeting new friends, while others are for posting photos. Some social sites also offer their members with a good opportunity to blog. You probably have more than 10 different identities if the details used in social sites are anything to go by. I have many accounts myself. Some I have forgotten usernames while others I don’t even have a clue what the password is anymore. Despite that, I am always persuaded to open a new social site every day. Last week, I registered my details on some social site so that I could have access to research articles. I got the research and now I can’t remember my login details anymore. So my prime question today is: what do we get from these sites?

Since we all spend time on these social sites, it then follows that the interaction, information, and communication that takes place on these platforms influences us. Many articles feature social networks and posit that they have business value or cause behavioral influence. People have found jobs through social applications and sites while others have lost their employment contracts. Companies seem to take social networks seriously as they get important insight and trends from their high traffic and analysis. It is common to come across advertisements on social networks these days. In fact, I recently stopped frequenting Facebook because of the overabundant advertisements that keep me distracted long enough to cause me to forget about my work. Marketers are finding social platforms a safe haven where they can market their products. Well, bloggers are also making a killing by attracting followers and consequently appealing to companies who want to increase their leads. I am sure you now see how deep and tangled the web can be.

My interest, however, is not how you can land a new job, increase sales, meet new people, or communicate flawlessly with them. I interested in the hidden benefits, or demerits. We are living in hard times, filled with economic strife and highly devastating events that cause emotional turmoil and physiological distress. Some of us live alone and are clouded with loneliness. Devastating events surround us, and we don’t stop questioning why they have happened to us. So where do we run to when we are bundled with problems? Hospitals corridors fill with patients who need treatment for diseases they could have easily avoided or managed. Counseling is becoming an important profession by the day. We lack peace within ourselves because of problems from our environment.

My advice: when life seems to be fast-paced and you seem to be losing track, pause and bounce back to one of the social platforms. It does not have to be your favorite. You see, doctors provide various diagnosis to solve chief complaints from their clients. I am also recommending various interaction with myriad social networks depending on the prevailing situation. Posting photos on a social network say Instagram draws attention and generates comments making you happy. Seeing yourself on the web will generally make you happy. Try to be lively on social networks and monitor your health trends. Well, sometimes it may prove hard. Credible sources associate social networks with lowered risks of cardiovascular diseases improved mental health, and lower mortality rates. So, next time you visit twitter, Facebook, or Google+, know that you stand to benefit.

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Traveling North

I work in Turkana. Everything about my job is great, except what I undergo to get there. The long trip normally daunts me especially after our inconsiderate but well-intentioned transport minister decided that night journeys are too dangerous. Travelers using private means, however, are still enjoying the quiet night travels that are traffic free and convenient. Talking on convenience, traveling north has become harder than it already was. Rarely will you be lucky to get there in the first 24-hour cycle from the time of starting the long and uncomfortable journey. So now you understand why the mere notion of going back to the northern parts of Kenya sends my happy nerves to a coma. Worse still, the means of traveling available are all in a deplorable state. I would have loved to use Fly 540, but every indicator points that I am not ready to live that large. The bus below is certainly not the ideal mode of transport for a journey that will take more than twelve hours. However much you do not want to imagine, this is one of the options you get when heading to the northern parts of Kenya. The last time I was coming this way, this was the only bus still standing at the bus stop.

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We, my roommate and I, paid KSH. 2,500 to travel by this bus from Kitale to Lodwar, instead of the usual KSH. 1,000 we were used to before the night travel ban was set. That is 35% what you would have to pay to travel by air from Eldoret to Lodwar. Why didn’t I take that option? I would have arrived in Lodwar within one hour. My friend, who was coming with another bus company, Dayah Express, paid slightly higher – KSH. 3,000. Most people who in one way or the other have to go through this horrendous excursion prefer using Dayah – it is stronger, faster, and more reliable. Over time, the bus company has turned to extorting money from desperate commuters. The situation got worse with the night travel ban. However I do not mind traveling with another so long it’s cheaper on my not-so-deep pockets. A keen look at the Sabre star should tell you the state of roads that lead to Turkana. Oh, there is no actual road. Just some tracks that provide the direction to the destination. The journey is anything but smooth. If you happen to sit at the back of the bus, you will need someone to literary jump on your back to straighten it. I remember the windows to our bus falling off as the uncaring driver sped off on the excessively rough terrain. When I passed at the bus stage a few days ago to see if the bus was repaired, I was shocked to find that it was still in the same deplorable condition it was when we arrived. Where does all the money the bus company makes go?

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Transportation has become a lucrative business for bus companies plying on the Kitale-Lokichogio route. However, like the rest of us Kenyans, these businessmen have been bundled with greed, and they plough very little back to the business. As a result, the buses deteriorate at a very fast rate and, at times, go for a long time without mechanical tune-up. My friend, who was waiting to hear how my journey would go before he started his, was unlucky to travel by a bus that had not been serviced well. The brakes were weak, and the driver did not even know. Considering that he was paying more than KSH. 2000 to travel by a 65-seater bus, lacking proper service was the last thing I would have expected to hear. They say speed kills, but I believe that greed destroys at a much faster rate compared to over-speeding.  The underserviced bus was not able to make it far on the rough terrain. No sooner had they passed the Kamatira hills than the brakes failed. Praise God we are currently writing this article with him, but here is a picture that shows how lucky he was.

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I am hoping that things will become better for the people of the northern Kenya and me. That I will get a job promotion that will enable me afford to travel by air. Until then, my prayer is that our drivers, and bus companies for that matter, will become more human and less greedy. Traveling has become expensive to all Kenyans, but those who are marginalized and forgotten, like us, are going through extremely hard times.

Investing in the Stock Market

Many people shun the stock market and assume that investing is a preserve for the rich, famous, and those who don’t have anything to do with their plethora of wealth. That notion is wrong. Everyone can invest, not just those who are well off. Almost everyone can set aside some small cash to invest, close eyes on it, and end up with more money than the original investment. Simply put, frolicking the stock market is not out of reach for anyone, but for those who have weak financial faith that they can grow their money. Investing is relatively simple, and the outcomes are sweet and plentiful. By acquiring shares of listed companies, you will have saved money for essential things such as education, retirement, business – or you could transfer the benefits to your family members so that they become the most cherished investors. Investment basics will assist elevate your financial status, not just as a beginner in the stock market, but also as an ardent investor.

Good financial planning stands as a rule of the thumb for a successful investment.  Investments are long-term, and you should pay yourself before plunging money into the stock market. Make sure that you do not accumulate debts because all the money is in the stocks or some securities. Even if you are into investing, do not deprive yourself of basics, but cut down on unnecessary things and luxuries. Do not buy or pay for anything that you don’t need to have. Some of the biggest and wealthiest investors did not live lavishly at first, but led a frugal life because of their seriousness in investing and accumulating wealth. If you receive direct deposits from your employer, consider channeling a certain amount of every pay directly to your investment account. This will reduce many temptations that may make you squander the money in unnecessary things or excessive expenditures.

Read widely on business issues on a regular basis before you invest. You have to understand the available investment options, and reading financial publications and other related documentation religiously will help a great deal. This will also help you know how to assess financial statements, scrutinize stocks (for valuations, quality, growth potential, financial strength, etc.), as well as how to evade pitfalls and scams related to investments. Some of the most reputable business publications include the East African Business Weekly, the Business Daily, and Investors Business Daily. There are several bloggers and websites out there who also provide credible information concerning the stock market such as Richmanagement.co.ke, Tsavo securities blog, etc. Also review international authoritative websites such as Yahoo! Finance and CNN Money. Warren Buffet is a classic example of success in the investment world – he had read more than one hundred books on investment before he was twenty.Image

The Android Experience

I switched to a basic phone today in the place of my sophisticated android powered smartphone. I found it to be quite hectic. In fact, I couldn’t function normally without my small, powerful gadget that runs on android 4.0.4. The frustration began barely some minutes after arriving at work. I could not access some of my numbers because my contacts are either saved in my Google account or the phone’s memory. I also have to admit that switching back to a phone with hard keypads was a challenge. By 10 am, I had gone without replying a couple of SMSs owing to the hard-to-type multi-tap keyboard that I have stayed without using for years. I missed the sleek menu that comes with my phone, which I also refer to as my digital companion.

Android smartphones have revolutionized the lives of many, not just mine. It is common to find young people glued to small, sleek devices that are running on one or the other form of the android operating system. Ardent android users are always on the lookout for updates that will add new features to their android phones. The recent announcement of android 5.0 has caused massive exhilaration among many. Those who tout android as a preferable operating system to iPhone, Blackberry, or Windows 8 are saving in preparation for the first device that will enter the market with android 5.0 to be announced. I am also earnestly and anxiously waiting for this mammoth operating system that can engulf in a physically small electronic device. I am willing to purchase the first device that will meet my eye with android 5.0 – be it HTC, Samsung, Sony, Huawei, or even Tecno.

Come evening, I hurriedly left work. I couldn’t wait to have my SIM card back into where it rightfully belongs – behind my sleek android phone. When my android finally powered, I felt some changes in my mind, heart, hands, and the whole body. My fingers started browsing the menu briskly, and I stopped once or twice, not sure which app to open first and which one to leave for later. I had not read my daily verse, so I started with Daily bible app. I then proceeded to setting a new record in racing after opening the Fast racing app. Facebook, oh, how I had missed commenting on my favorite stories with ease. Ten minutes with my android and I am wondering whether I am a victim of technology overload. Evidently, spending a day without my smartphone, my android, and my personal digital partner (PAP) seem a lot like hell than staying for a week without watching TV, or a movie, or spending time with a buddy I like.Image

Prayer Warriors

True Christians define prayer as a way of having communion with the creator – God. Christians are able to experience a relationship with the creator. Prayer is as important to spiritual growth and knowing God as eating parallels a healthy body. The frequency and quality of our prayers, therefore, dictates the relationship we have with God. Prayer amounts to talking and listening to go God while enjoying His presence. Prayer takes many forms – for instance: confession, worship, intercessory, thanksgiving, petition, and waiting (sensing, silent, and listening of God). Many consider prayer to be an important part of their daily lives. However, most people who claim to consider prayer an important part of their lives miss the point of what sincere prayer actually is. Additionally, although many claim to pray, few acknowledge and depend on prayer as their lifeblood.

A prayer warrior is anyone who can commit to frequent and heartfelt prayers alone or in the company of others. Prayer warriors put the needs of other people before their own needs and can even pray for strangers. Actually, we all need to be prayer warriors for our petitions to be answered. However, most of us present wish lists before God that exhibit our selfishness and the uncaring attitudes we have towards others. This is Satan’s scheme to make Christians think that they are spending quality time in prayer. The world we are in desperately needs our prayers – prayers that are not selfish in nature. Our collective and incessant utterance of prayers can work miracles in any situation, but above all declares and spreads God’s glory.

The Bible is full of lessons, examples, and wise counsel concerning prayer. From Genesis to Revelation, instances, requests, and merits of prayer are presented in the most elaborate manner. Most, most of us still don’t pray the right way or don’t pray at all. The power of prayer is illustrated in Genesis 20:7 where Abraham had to pray to God so as Abimelech could continue living. God also shows that prayer is pertinent for us to receive forgiveness. In fact, some of our petitions to God never get answers because we sin and fail to turn back to God for forgiveness. God states that if people called by His name humble themselves, turn from sinful ways, and seek His face, He is ready to forgive them and bless their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). When what we do is according to the will of God, our prayers receive answers quicker than when we plunge ourselves in sin. A servant sent by God’s faithful servant, Abraham, had his prayer answered before he could even finish it (Genesis 24:45).

The New Testament elaborates what prayer warriors ought to consider and ensure in their supplications. For prayers to be acceptable before God, they have to be offered with fear, reverence, and a deep sense of man’s insignificance as mere creatures that have plunged into sin. In addition to that, prayer warriors ought to have earnest importunity and unhesitant submission to the will of God. Sincere hearts filled with faith are key whenever servants of God are drawing closers to Him in prayer (Hebrews 10:22). A person who does not offer prayers backed by faith in God does not qualify to the title “prayer warrior.” God truly hears and answers prayers (Mathew 7:7, 8). So long as we call unto God through Jesus Christ, our prayers will always receive a response (John 14:13, 14).