RIP – Gary L. Hunt

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — Gary L. Hunt, 56, of Arsenal Street, died Tuesday after being stricken ill at his job in the maintenance department at Mercy of Northern New York.The Jefferson County medical examiner, Dr. Samuel Livingston, conducted an autopsy. The cause of death was determined to be natural causes.Mr. Hunt has been employed Mercy Hospital and later Mercy of Northern New York for 40 years.

Born Feb. 8, 1951, in Watertown, a son of Lawrence J. and Mildred Hunt, he went to work at Mercy Hospital after completing his schooling.

Surviving are an aunt, Katherine Hunt, Redwood; several cousins, Wesley, Jonboy Hunt, Pearl Hunt, all of Watertown; Tommy Hunt, Philip O’Neil, Mary and Patsy Hudson, all of Redwood, Bob Davis, Washington, and Beatrice Weaver, Arkansas.

The funeral will be 7 p.m. Friday at the Reed & Benoit Funeral Home. Cremation will follow the services. Calling hours are 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at the funeral home.

Information provided by Reed and Benoit Funeral Home and Newzjunky, Watertown, N.Y.

I’ve known Gary for 5 years. As a long time resident of my hotel he was someone who I conversed with on a daily basis. Gary was always there to chat with me on the nights I was stuck working till 6AM. We joked about life, the maids and my often crazy love life. He’d make fun of me for playing video games and swearing at the computer and I’d make fun of him for his big gray beard. I enjoyed Gary’s company so much that his unique personality served as an influence for a screenplay I wrote in film school in 2005. Gary was a good man and great friend, he will be missed.

Day 26 – Nairobi/Maasai Market

It’s late here… nearly 1am so this will be brief. I’ve returned to Nairobi after spending two weeks in Magadi, hence the lack of updates. I promise an in depth report on those two weeks and the archaeology work that went with it as soon as I get back to the states. In the meantime, I’ll finish out my daily logs.

Today we got to sleep in, which would have been great if my body wasn’t hooked on the 6am routine. A few of us were keen on visiting the Maasai market in Central Nairobi so we hopped on a bus and headed down town. The Maasai market is held on Tuesdays and Sundays and is a great place to shop for hand crafted items and Maasai made goods. I still had a few people to shop for so I set out with them in mind and worked my magic. Shopping the Maasai market is only viable if you know how to haggle. Now I’m not saying I’m the best, but nearly four weeks here and I’ve got a pretty good grasp on how to get what I want at a price close to what I’m asking. As you move through the market you are constantly approached by the vendors for each stall. They always greet you with a handshake and ensure you they have just what you are looking for. A lot of times the hand shake won’t let go and they drag you right up to their stall, informing you that looking is free. Usually you can shake them by saying no (la), thank you (asante sana) or just plain ignoring them. The market was crowded with people and it often gets very confusing, but our group stuck together and worked as a team to get deals. I managed to spend only 1400 shilling (just over 20$) and I finished my shopping for three people and got something for myself.

After the market we took a bus to Nakumatt Junction and had lunch. Kyle and I weren’t entirely anxious to head back to the compound and start our papers just yet, so we caught a movie at the cinema. A Kenya film? Something in the native tongue? Maybe a Bollywood film? No. We watched Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Not my favorite comic book, but an enjoyable movie. I enjoy watching movies in the places I visit just to see how the film industry differs. For example, all the movies here are preceded by local vendor advertisements, a couple trailers and then everyone in the theater stands for the national anthem before the film starts. Interesting, eh?

Kyle and I finished our night at a local restaurant; I had a great bowl of Zanzibar fish and coconut soup and a few Tuskers. Later we met up with two other students and a man named Dr. Mike Meegan who is the founder of an organization here in Kenya called ICROSS (International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering). Kyle and I sort of jumped in at the end of the conversation, but we had a fascinating discussion that spanned economics, politics, religion and philosophy. He is a very intelligent man and hopefully our paths will cross again. Mike had to leave so the four of us enjoyed some green apple sheesha and talked about our time in Africa. It was very enjoyable. We came back to a sleeping compound and this… the conclusion of tonight’s update. Not sure what is on tap for tomorrow, I’ll have more soon. Thanks for reading.

Day 7 – Kenya National Museum

Today was my first day out with only the archaeology people. Our destination was The Kenya National Museum, which was closed for renovations, but Dr. Barthelme managed to pull some strings and got us behind the scenes and in to the archaeology, paleontology and osteology sections of the museum. We had a short lecture in the archaeology lab, successfully cramming 800,000 years of history into an hour. Anyone know how many years that is a minute? We looked at samples Dr. Barthelme had collected at Magadi and he explained what sorts of material we might encounter during our time there. The lecture was very informative. Being in the archaeology storage room allowed us to see many exciting things, including samples that the Leakeys’ collected. We did not see any hominid fossils; those are all secured in a very large safe on the ground floor. After our archaeology lesson, we moved up to Paleontology and saw an enormous collection of prehistoric fossils. My favorite was a six-foot long crocodile skull that belonged to a creature 40+ feet long. I saw skulls and femurs that were larger than me, pieces of animals 80 million years and older. To a kid that spent a majority of his childhood digging in his sandbox for just such creatures, it was very exciting. We had a bit of lunch at the museum café and rested our feet. There was a lot of shoptalk about the upcoming trip to Magadi, which is now only one day away. Feeling re-energized, our next stop was the osteology department. There were over 16,000 specimens in the room; aisle after aisle of elephant bones, antelope and gazelle horns, feline skeletons, even a spine and skull from a sperm whale, which was massive! The pictures are quite neat and I am very eager to show everyone. Dr. Barthelme won a few beers by quizzing us on certain bones, I suppose I’m going to have to brush up on my faunal remains before we hit the field or I’m going to be broke. Our final stop of the day was the Snake Park, which was located next door. It is a very small reptile museum showcasing the deadly snakes of Africa. We got to meet all the snakes we will encounter in Magadi. Special emphasis was put on being able to identify them, which is key if you have been bitten and the snake gets away. All around a very informative day. I would love to write more, but like every other day, I am knackered. More tomorrow.

Day 6 – Kibera

Today we sampled the Health curriculum by making a visit to the slums, or informal settlements, of Kibera. Kibera is a Manhattan sized chunk of land dominated by tin, stone and mud huts. It is home to over 700,000 people, 250,000 of which are children. There is a complete lack of infrastructure in this area and robberies, rapes and muggings are prevalent at night. We had a short lecture at the Carolina For Kibera center which is run by UNC and student volunteers. The staff briefed us on the work they do informing people about safe sex, diseases, violence, and other social problems. CFK is working very hard to improve life in Kibera. We were then split into groups of four and given a tour of the slums with one of the local woman. Ana was our guide. She was 25 years old and had a daughter named Melissa who was 6 months old. Our walk into Kibera was eye opening, an absolute culture shock. I have never seen anything like it before, nor do I believe will I ever see anything worse. There was trash everywhere, the air smelled like sewage. The movie The Constant Gardener has a few scenes in this area, so I knew what I was getting into, but I never imagined it would be this bad. The entire horizon was covered rusted tin shacks snaked with small alleys of packed red earth. The alleys are filled with trash, foul smelling streams slip down the sides of streets, cats, dogs and chickens wander aimlessly searching for food, children splash in puddles of sewage- its unbelievable. We followed Ana through the narrow alleyways to our first stop which was the health center. On a busy day the health center can see up to 200 people. The health center was four small rooms in an alley that was maybe 5 feet wide and 20 feet long. The nurses were too busy to talk, so we simply watched them work. Next we followed Ana deeper into Kibera to the house of a young woman and her daughter. The house was ten by ten, it had a sheet for a door, a ratty carpet covered the dirt floor and the room contained a single couch. The young woman had a daughter who was two months old with a cast on her leg. She told us that one day she was cleaning and a chair tipped back and broke the child’s leg. The child could hardly move as she lay on a small pillow, her cast was covered in dirt and feces, it was very sad. The woman did not have any milk so she only had water to give to the baby. As part of our visit we delivered baskets of food, so we left a basket with her and continued our journey through Kibera. The children in the streets were very friendly, we were greeted by all of them with “How are you?” to which we respond “Fine, how are you?” and then they respond “How are you?” It was one big circle and very cute. At one time we’d have up to a half dozen children following us, yelling “Wazungu!” which means ‘white people.’ They all wanted to shake our hands and say hello; they were absolutely adorable. We followed Ana to her house which was also 10 by 10 feet and similarly furnished. Ana made sure we all had seats and then she told us about her life and what it is like in Kibera. She had been living in Kibera for two years. The rent for her house and most others is 1000 shillings plus 500 for electricity, which is usually one light bulb. 1500 shillings is equal to about 20 USD. The landlords come once a month to collect it and they are not lenient on late payments. We met Ana’s sister, Vivian, who was very shy. She told us a little about her school and her favorite subject, which was History. We left Ana with a basket of food and she told us we were welcome back anytime. On our walk back we met dozens more children who continued to greet us and follow us back to the CFK center. We didn’t have any problems with the adults, most of them simply waved to us. A few other groups had people ask them for money, which is natural. The trip to Kibera was an eye opening experience. It forced me to realize that I had no idea what poverty really was. I don’t think I’d be able to handle working in Kibera. It takes a very strong person to devote themselves to those conditions and in my mind all those who do are heroes. The rest of the night at the compound was like every other, but I found myself enjoying each bit of food and every drop of running water just a little bit more than before.

More tomorrow.

Days 4 and 5 – Nairobi National Park/Great Rift Valley

Hujambo (Hello!) Habari gani (How are you)? You respond Nzuri sana (Very good). Sorry for the lack of an update yesterday. I’m trying to get as many as possible in before we relocate to Magadi, but I was knackered from traveling. Yesterday morning we had our Kiswahili lesson bright and early at 8. I’m beginning to pick up a few words and phrases, numbers are my forte. The class is a lot of fun and it helps to wake me up. After class we packed a bag and made a trip to Nairobi National Park for a safari. The weather was beautiful, as it is everyday- high 70’s. The Nairobi National Park sits at the southern end of the city and encompasses something like 140km and supports an animal orphanage. The park is not fenced and wildlife is still able to migrate along the narrow wildlife corridor to the Rift Valley, therefore you never know what you are going to see. The park is home to over 550 species of birds and also has the highest concentration of black rhinos in the world. I don’t think we saw another vehicle the entire time we were on the trails. We had a great lunch on a lookout that overlooked the savannah. The view was breathtaking… absolutely unbelievable. I’ve never seen such a large tract of land. We could see impala and gazelle grazing below us, watching the shadows move across the savannah was incredibly relaxing. The pictures are fantastic and I can’t wait to share them. After lunch we did some more driving, which felt an awful lot like off roading. The bus got stuck in the mud at one point and 5 of us had to push it out of the mud. That was a lot of fun, seriously, how many people can say they got stuck in the mud in the middle of the African wilderness? The first big animal encounter of the day came when we stumbled upon a family of giraffes a short while later. Sinnary, our guide and the head of the conservation program told us what he could about them. He wrote his dissertation on giraffes. I took some fantastic pictures, they were no more than 10 feet from the bus. We continued to see impala, ostriches, congoni (cousins of the wildebeests), and one black rhino. The rhino was a great surprise; it was massive, built just like a tank. Imagine our surprise when it stomped its foot and began rushing the vehicle. Everyone jumped to the other side, Matt our resident Peter Parker nearly dropped his camera jumping back into the bus. Fortunately, it stopped about 10 feet away and turned back. It probably realized the bus was much bigger, but Sinnary suggested we leave anyway. Altogether we spent about 5 hours in the park, I enjoyed every minute. The driver dropped us at the Karen market on the way back so we could pick up some beer. That night we all sat around playing landmine, my new favorite drinking game, and talking about the day. By 11:00, I was sound asleep.

Today was another exciting day as it was our turn to share our curriculum with the group. For those of you who don’t know, my focus on this trip is African archaeology. The other two programs involve health and conservation in Kenya. Beginning on Saturday we will travel into the Great Rift Valley for three weeks to do excavations and field surveys. Today we got a small sample of the work we’ll be doing and the environment we’ll be living in. The site we visited to day was called Olorgesailie, it’s about a two hour drive from where we live. Our first stop along the way was at the edge of the Great Rift Valley. Yesterday I argued that I’d never seen such an expansive tract of land, well I retract my previous statement. I can’t really describe what its like to see a tear in the earth that is as long as the distance from Boston to San Francisco, but there it was. The Great Rift Valley is a break in the African continent where the tectonic plates have been pulling apart for millions of years. In a few billion years everything east of the valley will become an island, or so geologists predict. This area is ideal for archaeological work because the strata layers are exposed and the many volcanoes in the area have helped to preserve anything that has died. Anyways, I could have taken pictures all day, it was so unbelievably beautiful. Far down in the valley we could see the bright red specks that were the Maasai, herding goats along the more fertile tracts of land. The road through the valley was better than any rollercoaster I’ve ever been on. As we traveled deeper into the Rift, the soil and vegetation quickly began to change. The verdant green grass and dense tree coverage faded away to reveal thorny bushes and bright red clay. Some of the thorns are so thick, Dr. Barthelme said they can easily pierce a tire, or worse a hiking boot. As I mentioned before, Olorgesailie was our major stop for the day. The site is actually a dried up lake bed, evident by the chalk white deposits that stretch for miles. The Smithsonian has set up a small museum at the end of the long dirt road. The museum is literally four brick walls with a wooden roof. There are no doors or windows on the building and only one attendant. We walked around the museum which was quite informative, providing a basic outline of the area and what makes it so important. Dr. Barthelme then led us on a walk through the dig site. The temperature was only 80, but with the sun it felt like 100. Five minutes in this are will get you a nice tan, I can’t imagine what three weeks is going to do to me. The site was very interesting, providing us with a sample of the kinds of things archaeologists search for- human and faunal remains, stone tools, etc. We saw an elephant femur the size of my body. After a quick lunch we talked with the local Maasai women and bought some gifts for the people back home. The ride back to Karen was long and hot, I watched the scenery for an hour then drifted off to sleep until we were at the foot of the compound. Altogether a very successful day.

Tomorrow we are heading to the slums to experience the Health program’s curriculum. As soon as I get a chance I’ll send some pictures along as well as another update. Thanks for reading, more soon.

Day 3 – Nairobi City Center

Today marked our first trip into the center of Nairobi, a day I’ve anxiously been looking forward to. The instructors made our excursion interesting by handing us a list of goals to accomplish on our trip. My group was assigned with the task of interacting with people of different backgrounds and learning about their life in Kenya. It sounded a lot more challenging than it actually was. It was about a ¾ mile hike to the bus station from the compound. The wither was beautiful! High 70’s, partly cloudy sky. The sun here is so unbelievably warm, you can get a tan in a matter of minutes. We had to be cautious on our trek to the bus. Traffic laws are very lax here. Drunk driving is not enforced but taking on a mobile is, imagine that. We have to be very careful when we walk anywhere because of the maniac drivers but all the roads are bordered by a clay foot path from heavy pedestrian traffic, so we just stick to those. We must also watch out for termite vents, large holes in the clay that the termites dig to cool their underground lairs. Sometimes the holes are as big as 6 inches across and you can easily step into one if you aren’t paying attention. The bus took us 20 minutes east to Nakumatt Junction where there is a very westernized shopping center. We had a cup of coffee, African coffee is fantastic and very strong, and we had a quick lunch. The shopping center was far too civilized for us so we decided to continue our journey onward to the center of the city. Nairobi is a city of about 2 million. From a distance it appears very modern with its glass high-rises and brand name buildings, but closer inspection reveals a city that is still developing. For every few nice glass and steel towers, there are two ramshackle markets or business. Many of the roads are broken or in severe disrepair. Construction projects are not marked off and a person can easily wander into a hole in the sidewalk. I can’t imagine being blind in this country. The people we encountered were very friendly, as all Kenyans have been. On the bus we talked to several people who happily pointed us in the right direction. Two gentlemen asked us to pay their fair while simultaneously making fun of us in Kiswahili. We didn’t find that out till they got of the bus, but we weren’t offended. I can’t stress enough how friendly the people are. They are very fond of their country and are interested to know what brings us to Kenya. I only wish people in the States were so welcoming. In the city center we found two very nice shops that sold artwork and jewelry. The owners are very good at persuading a sale, whether it be through sweet talking or sob stories, they don’t let up. It was so much fun to haggle with the shop owners and I felt very accomplished having talked a man from 6100 shillings (95$) to 1100 (18$) for a shirt and banana paper painting. After spending a few hours on foot and becoming more comfortable with exploring the city on our own, we headed over to the United Kenya Club where we listened to a lecture from Professor Muriuki on the history of Kenya. He got a few good shots in at the archaeology team and Dr. Barthelme, calling us grave robbers and not history seekers, but it was all in good fun. His lecture was incredibly informative and I took pages of notes. We headed back to the compound for dinner and then a few of the guys and I relaxed with some Risk and Tusker beer. Tomorrow we will be traveling to Nairobi National Park, I’ll have more then. Hope everyone is well!

Day 2 – Nairobi

Another beautiful day in Kenya today.  This morning we had breakfast bright and early before heading out for a walk around the neighborhood.  The weather was about 70 degrees with partly sunny skies. It’s been much cloudier and rainier than I expected Africa to be, but Nairobi is an exception due to both the time of the year and the altitude. We took a trip down to the nearby shopping center where we were able to change money and shop around.  $100 US dollars will get you about 6,600 shillings.  I didn’t buy much… a few postcards and some beer (Tusker – fantastic beer).  After a 20 minute walk back and lunch, we spent the rest of the day relaxing.  This has got to be the best class I’ve ever taken, my volleyball skills are really improving.  We did take about an hour to go over security and safety in Kenya, but that ended in more volleyball.  There is a party on tap tonight, but shhh, the faculty doesn’t know.  Although I think they suspect since all 24 students purchased six packs and filled the fridge.  There is a trip planned into the center of Nairobi for tomorrow so expect pictures and stories.

Day 1 – London/Nairobi

Greetings everyone from Kenya!

Arrived safely in Kenya at 6:30 this morning to rainy skies. After getting our bags and meeting Dr. Barthelme and the others, we hopped on a bus which transported us to the compound in Karen. Karen is a nicer part of Nairobi, home mostly to people with money. We didn’t see much of the city on our way here because the bus was fogged up, but we’ll be seeing a lot more during the next few days. Kenyan drivers are absolutely mad! I felt like I was on a rollercoaster most of the trip. The compound itself is beautiful covering six acres and housing several small buildings. It was originally a hunting lodge until St. Lawrence bought it. They have since made several additions and the compound is very well protected by walls, razor wire and guards at the gate. There are avocado trees, macadamia trees, and guava trees dropping snacks all over the place. The air here smells so sweet and light showers come and go every few minutes, interspersed with periods of warm sun. All of the instructors are fantastic and have a lot of interesting things planned for us. There are 25 students total staying at the compound. Kyle, two others and myself are staying in the newly constructed “barn” which has a small living room and a bathroom downstairs and 4 beds upstairs, it’s more of a small cottage and is actually quite nice. Many of the staff live here with their children who are so much fun. We spent all afternoon playing with them in the yard, despite the fact that we’ve been up for over 50 hours straight. Yes, the plane rides were very long and uncomfortable. Stopping in London was a great reprieve. A few of us had lunch on Carnaby Street, then walked through Piccadilly and Leicester Square down to the river. We stopped at Belushi’s in Covent Garden and had a few pints, then headed over to Holborn and took the tube back to Heathrow. It was surreal to be back in London, if only for six hours. I can’t wait to go back after Kenya and spend a bit more time doing what I love.

This afternoon was very lax, we got a tour of the compound and learned a bit more about our coursework. Alex, the chef who will be accompanying us in the field is fantastic and served us three excellent meals today. Dr. Barthelme promises that Alex always makes more than we can eat which I fully plan on testing.

Not a real exciting night planned, most of us will probably crash in a few hours. There has been a slight change of plans in the schedule. We were set to head out to the Great Rift Valley on Wednesday, but it has been pushed back until next Saturday. We will be there almost the entire month of June. It is unlikely that the schedule will change much more than that, and besides I’m happy to be spending more time on this beautiful campus.

I’m off to enjoy the night with the others now. Pictures and more new soon, when I’m not so knackered. Tomorrow is a two hour Swahili lesson and a trip into the center of Nairobi. I hope everyone is doing well. Speak soon.