Archive for January, 2013


ROUGH BUMPY RIDE WITH LESSONS.

A passenger’s terminal characterized with hordes of people is what I had expected; I was right. It was minutes past noon when I arrived at the place, took a shelter from the scorching sun under a standing by young lady’s umbrella; she gave me a smile that caught me by surprise. A call came in from my host, I was to take a matatu heading for a small town East of Eldoret about fifteen kilometers from the hub.

A clear label read ‘number 13’ on a board placed on top of a green matatu, this was my ticket. Vehicles plying root thirteen were different; one of those that were popular back in the days that saw six passengers sit on opposite sides facing each other. More like an enclosed pickup. Two others got to sit on the far end as if to mediate between two opposing sides. I would later learn that only these type of vehicles were able to endure the pathetic road that lead one to the small town. Life is all about facing situations, realities and challenges. Here I was, facing strangers and trying my best to put a friendly face to an otherwise total alien world. Anyone looking for a comfortable ride was mistaken and as a sicker inside the matatu read ‘plan b: buy your own’, it was perfectly right. My grandpa always said that we should accept the situation we are in and using what we have at the moment in the hope that things will get better in the future. I got to see the point.

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In no time we were on the road. The matatu was overcrowded. The three extra passengers had to squat since there was no more sitting space. Among them a middle aged woman, whom we were locked to eye contact for a while, each other seeming to pity the other though it was quite clear that she deserved all. Then it hit me that I was selfish. I had only thought about myself. I had been thinking that it was only hard for me but at least I was in a chair compared to some stranger lady. Due to to the overloading, the driver had to drop his ‘token’ to the witty traffic police in a couple of road blocks; in life there are many injustices. Just before we took off the main road into a rough road that leads to the small town, the driver takes a sudden halt that causes as to be pushed forward. This leads to a random thought in my mind. When we face hard times, we are not the only ones. Most at times, we tend to think that life is unfair to only us. No. More passengers were picked up. This left me shocked. Among the new passengers was a young lady with a baby. I could tell she was a new mother. The lady had to hand over her kid to a girl that sat at the far end as she had to squat. The girl seemed not to know how to handle the baby and she was soon crying. That led me to another conclusion. Life at times forces us to watch as our loved ones undergo pain in our watch. We want to do something but it becomes entirely impossible and all we have to do is sit back and just watch, just like the lass did, watching her child crying from a distance.

A closer look and one could see a sigh of relief as we delighted from the vehicle at the small town. Reaching the destination is what mattered most and not the means under which one had to endure. It was almost a norm as my host would later tell me. I took a deep breath as the conductor collected fare from the individuals keenly looking as the young mother was being reconnected to her child. The child enjoying every moment of breast feeding that she had been denied from the moment she fell on the hands of a stranger. I was happy.

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MyPal: AN ANDROID KILLER APP.

One day you wake up and in the usual rush that is almost becoming a norm then later remember you forgot your phone in the house. Think of it. Your workplace could be miles away or maybe you are a student and have to catch a class. What do you do? Here is what I think. You get to your best friend then explain to him or her what happened in the hope that they may help when you need to make a call. But times have changed. The friend might have to turn your request down because his credit has got way ‘better’ things to do or maybe he just doesn’t have credit on it. I’d say you are to blame but of course I am sympathizing with you. This scenario gave birth to an android app that is the solution to the problem; MyPal.

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A group of students converges on the 22nd of December 2012 at Dedan Kimathi University for an annual hackathon event. In the group are two students from JKUAT university who later team up with other three students of the host university to form a group that would answer the previous question. The team has 48hrs to sit down and plan on turning the then idea into a reality; an app. I was part of the team. The two visiting students had actually extensively researched on the problem and had figured out that it was workable. The task at hand was to code it and basically add some other features. In about 30hrs, MyPal was born.

MyPal is an android app that seeks to solve a couple of problems. Let me take you back. Realizing that you have forgotten your phone, this app will make it pretty simple. All you have to do is borrow a phone; here’s a thumbs up, it doesn’t have to have credit. What MyPAl does is to query your phone, send to your friend’s phone any number you want retrieved and then you can make a call from your friend’s phone with the charges on your sim card. Here is what the app allows you to do:

  • Query you phone for specific contacts. You just have to remember the first two letters of the contact name.
  • Retrieve saved messages from your phone.
  • Save a new contact to your phone.
  • Forward message to other phone.
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A screen shot of MyPal app.

Then came another idea latter. What if you misplaced you phone in your place but you had put it in a silent mode? The app allows you to change the mode of your phone( to either silent, vibrating or ringing modes) from your friend’s phone. Thereby in the above situation, it will be easy to find your phone. All this is possible through a couple of specific query methods that you make for each operations. No worries, the queries are provided for in the app’s help button.

Pros.

The app basically has lots of advantages but the main one is that your friend’s phone does not have to be an android phone. If at all your friend’s phone is not an android one or say it doesn’t have MyPal app, all queries are made through short messaging service(sms).

Thumbs down.

On the down side, the might have security issues in a situation where users have same passwords and make same queries though this is highly unlikely.

You pretty much understand the app now and know why we settled on the name MyApp because basically it’s all about borrowing a pal their phone. The app is currently not available on Google Play since there are some improvements that are to be made and the two guys are also to present an improved version in Nairobi early next month. But it will roll out soon. I have it on my phone and I love it. Matter of fact, sometimes I make sure I forget my phone :). Watch out for it!

GO HOME SANTA!

The alarm rings at exactly 12:00 midnight to signal the onset of a day of merry. I hate myself for spoiling what was a nice dream. All my nice dreams have either featured an Asian hooker or on the brighter side, a rogue nun. I get out of my bed and head straight to the balcony to see what the world was holding out there; nothing. No cheers, no fireworks sealed with dark lifeless skies. Then I pull one of those not so common stunts, something close to a walk of shame and back to my sleep.
A gentle slap by my niece wakes me up in the midmorning. I rush to the kitchen to ‘spoil’ myself only to be greeted by the usual not-so-happy face. As I drink my black tea served plain trying all the best to feel the sugar in it, the lass narrates to me how times are hard and how I should go out there and get myself a job. Here’s the part I love, she always says I’m someone people can look up to. I believe her. As we walk to church, I take a peep to my neighbor’s place and see a husband and a wife who from the look, one could tell they had recently quarreled over something and were trying to make out. Ask for my opinion and I’d say that was a missed shot.
The service was all in a mess; front pew remained unoccupied for the better part but this was saved courtesy of ‘mama Kanisa’ that came late. One could tell by the number of people that went to receive the Holy Communion that the previous night was spent against Father’s’ will. We took handshakes on our way out then a promo car passing by, loud music on, reminded me that it was not just an ordinary day but the day Jesus Christ was born. A friend of mine offered a lift to town that was to be the longest journey of my life. The town is barely three kilometers away mind you. Lingala music from back in the days that I’ve always hated played as we were being told of how things were wrong and that we as friends had failed them. My sis took the blame on me saying that she had done the better part of everything and every other activity was on me. Being a good man, I apologized. Unlike the past years, the town was not that crowded.
We cross the street to a local mall to see to catch a glimpse of what was trooping people there. Alas! My little queen gets the sight of one Mr. Santa, frees her hand off mine and runs towards him. I hurriedly follow her as my sis goes for some ice cream. Reaching halfway to where Santa was, she slows her pace certainly to show sudden mixture of excitement with fear. Fear for the unknown. I slow mine too. She picks up and heads towards him as if to give a warm handshake or perhaps a hug. Before I knew it she was screaming at the top of her voice while Santa tried to get her to calm down. I run and get her to my arms, the kid was shivering. Sis comes by and takes nana into her arms. I take two steps behind then as the crowd that had come to see what was happening started to disperse; pause. Then I turn back head to where Santa was, look straight into his now red eyes, take his autograph book and without much thought write GO HOME SANTA.
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Janet's Planet

Please note this is not an official Peace Corps site. The views expressed are not those of the government or the Peace Corps but are Jane's own, unofficial musings about her life and travels. All material is intended for friends and family, not the paparazzi.

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