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Dispatches from Under African Skies, 2001

The following is an account of the UAS 2001Science Education Expedition generated while in Africa. Starting in Pretoria, South Africa, the team worked it's way north to Nairobi, Kenya stopping along the way to teach science and inspire the young people they met to think scientifically about their surroundings.

You can use the hyperlinks to jump from entry to entry in this journal.

Journal Entries

Top June 9

Saturday, June 9

Pretoria, South Africa

George lands at Johannesburg International Airport from New York in the morning and is picked up by Stewart of Word of Mouth hostel in Pretoria. People coming into Joburg often move directly to Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa, because Jo'burg is perceived as so dangerous.

Word of Mouth is an island of calm, a central building surrounded by a handful of pine chalets. As a bonus, it's equipped with six computers linked to the Internet via satellite. In the afternoon, Michelle - the contact through which Kevin Hand arranged our expedition's transport - drives George over to Avis to rent a car.

In the evening, George emails Will Marshall and gets an immediate response.

"Are you going to pick Julia and me up?"

Instant continent-spanning communication via the Internet. For the duration of the trip, we will never has as good email contact as in Pretoria.

Sunday, June 10

Pretoria, South Africa

Will and Julia arrive early in the morning at Joburg International. Next to pick up is Kachiellou Lawan, who is due to arrive from Abidjian an hour later.

Julia T. and Will arrive but most of the day is spent at the airport sorting out the passport difficulties of Katiellou:
As a resident of the Niger Republic, he needs a visa before he lands, but he doesn't have one. We wait for a few hours after his arrival and there is no sign. We call back to immigration and, surprise, he is there. Will and George get back to immigration and start negotiating but it becomes clear that there is no way Katiellou is getting in to the country. (During our discussions, Immigration proudly declares that they refused speakers at the recent, high-profile AIDS conference in South Africa.)
The airline could return him to Niger, or we could fly him on to a country along our route which doesn't require a visa before arrival. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe also requires a visa beforehand So we buy a one-way ticket for him to Livingstone, in Zambia, just across the border from Victoria Falls.

Monday, June 11

Pretoria - Johannesburg - Tswaing Crater, South Africa

The truck arrives with Eddie and Bernard, our drivers. Kevin and PJ also arrive, as do Naida and Felicien. We drive on to a site north of Pretoria (Tswaing Crater) and camp.

Tuesday, June 12

Tswaing Crater, South Africa

We use some time at Tswaing to organize ourselves as a team. The in-kind donations we have received for distribution needed sorting and we went to the edge of the crater lake for our first meeting as a group in Africa.

Friday, June 15

Bulawayo - Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

It's been almost a week since our first journal entry, but it feels like a month. Today is Friday, June 15, and in the past six days we've picked up our truck, assembled our team, crossed over the border from South Africa to Zimbabwe, and - most important - visited and talked with students in six very different schools.

Our adventure began last Sunday, when Eddie and Bernard, our two South Africa drivers, arrived in our truck. The truck seats 22, is 12 feet high and 25 feet long. It is big. Picture the cab of a converted Mercedes truck, with the body of a passenger bus welded to the back, and you get a basic image of what it looks like.

Right now our team is eleven strong. Here's a quick introduction to the members: First, there is Kevin Hand, the founder of Cosmos Education and the leader of this expedition. He's in his mid-twenties, with rectangular glasses, an impish grin, and a spectacular talent for connecting with students. Benjamin Moalusi is a twenty-seven year old masters candidate in astronomy at the South African Astronomical Observatory. He speaks eight languages and has a great laugh. Benjamin's colleague, Fezile Vuthela, is twenty-five and also studying for an astronomy masters at SAAO. Will Marshall is a red-haired Brit now doing a PhD at Oxford University. Julia Tizard, a fellow Brit, is studying astrophysics at Manchester. Félicien Nzeyimana is a respected teacher and researcher from Burundi who is also an expert drummer. Naida Kendrick works at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California. And I live in Los Angeles, a few blocks away from the Planetary Society.

The first highlight of our journey to Nairobi was a visit to Tswaing Crater, an ancient impact formation a few minutes north of Pretoria. 220,000 years ago, a chunk of rock around 150 feet across smashed into the Earth, creating a massive ring formation in an otherwise flat landscape. The crater today is covered in trees and holds a small still lake in its basin, but the shape of its towering walls give a suggestion of the tremendous power that pushed up rock and earth into the shape of a cresting wave.

On Tuesday we visited our first schools: Reitumetse High School and the Soshanguve Technical High School. The teachers at Reitumetse call their kids "learners", and they were clearly excellent at that. Our team divided into groups and visited three different classrooms filled with kids eager to learn about space, science and technology.

The Soshanguve Technical High School began as a technical training center for kids from Johannesburg and Pretoria. Now it's a full-fledged high school whose mission is educate its students to be globally competitive. The headmaster, an inspiring man named Mr. Teffo, brought us out to a courtyard where we spoke with around 100 students.

Kevin opened our presentation by juggling oranges - he used to be a magician and his expert handling of the fruits immediately captured the kids attention. He then asked them to imagine that the sun is the size of the orange - "what size would the Earth be then?" To the kids delight, he reached down and plucked the smallest pebble from the ground. "This big!"

"Now, if this orange is the sun, and this pebble is the Earth, how far away would the next nearest star be?" The students yelled out various distances, from a few feet to perhaps 10 feet. Then Kevin started walking and said, "the next nearest star would be in Capetown, South Africa!" This too elicited cries of delight.

On our night drive up from South Africa to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, we stopped the bus in the middle of a darkened field. Our team tumbled out and looked up into the night sky. For those of us from North America, the stars above were like nothing we had ever seen. The Milky Way was clear as an elegant trail of aerosol paint straight across our view. You could clearly make lumps of black across the Milky Way's arm - an effect of the dust clouds interspersed within the galaxy. We saw the Large Magellenic Cloud, Scorpio, and shining brighter than anything else - the constant burning red of Mars.

Over the next few days we'll continue our drive up to Zambia and to our rendez-vous with the planetary coincidence of the eclipse.

Saturday, June 16

Hwange National Park - Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Although it was a Saturday and no schools were in session, we figured it was worth stopping by the Girl Child Network School in Hwange just to see if any teachers or students were around. Finding the exact location was a minor challenge, but after a number of inquires in the nice town of Hwange, we soon found ourselves in a pleasant neighborhood with a number of small, but well kept houses. The children on the street directed us to the Girl Child Network headquarters - the home of Rittah Mukuchura.

When Rittah answered the door she was a little surprised to see us, not to mention the sight of our big truck parked across the street from her house. After a few introductions it all made sense and she was delighted to see us. I had communicated via email with Rittah and a few others associated with the GCN prior to departing Stanford and thus she had a vague sense of when we would arrive (given the fuel shortage in Zimbabwe, I had warned her that we could not reliably predict when we might reach Hwange).

Working together, we decided that although it was a Saturday it was worth trying to rally students in the area to come to Rittah's lawn for a fun day of activities and education. Only one problem remained - many of Rittah's students lived a considerable distance from her house and thus would not be to participate. The fuel shortage made it impossible for them to get back and forth from their neighborhoods without several hours worth of walking. Nobody in town had fuel; nobody, that is, but Eddie and the truck.

Forty minutes later Eddie and crew pulled back into Rittah's place on Boabab Hill. The door opened and 20-30 young students excitedly piled out. We sat the students and the neighborhood children on the lawn and began our show.

For a bit more than an hour the team worked together through the standard routine - I opened with introductions, rules (#1. Let us know if we are speaking too fast, #2. Ask questions. #3. Have fun.), and juggling oranges. Then, pretending the Sun was the size of the orange, we had fun demonstrating the size and scale of the solar system and the Cosmos. Julia talked about the stars and the Sun and then segued into Newton's Mango with Felicien and me. From there Benjamin used some volunteers for the Eclipse Dance and Fezile talked a little about astronomy and careers in science. Felicien then finished with his story of the eclipse in Burundi 120 years ago.

Having run through the group presentation, we then broke into smaller clusters, each group addressing a different issue. Naida organized some arts and crafts by handing out crayons and paper. The children drew pictures of everything from our truck to the solar system. One particularily interesting drawing depicted a family trapped on a roof-top during a flood. I asked the young girl, Nyasha, to tell me about her artwork. It was an image of her relatives caught in the flooding of the Limpopo River during the previous year's cyclones. Some of Nyasha's relatives died. Though she was quite young, perhaps eight years old or so, I talked with her about the ways in which she could help prevent future disasters from claiming lives. Perhaps someday she could become a meteorologist or study remote sensing and help predict the time and magnitude of such events. Perhaps she could become a doctor and help cure the diseases that spread easily as a result of flooding. Regardless of what she ultimately wanted to become, staying in school, studying hard, and learning math and science would greatly aid her in her desire to help those afflicted by flooding and natural disasters.

As I worked through each of the drawings with the students, Will Marshall entertained students with the telescope and views of the Sun. George captivated a small audience with posters of Mars laid out on the ground. Showing NASA images made into posters and given to us by the Planetary Society and the National Geographic Society, George gave students and teachers a virtual tour of Mars.

After a few hours of education on the lawn, we brought everyone back together and presented posters, books and Planetary Society memberships to the four teachers from different schools. While the team had been entertaining and educating the children, Rittah and a few others prepared a large meal for the staff and the Cosmos Education team. We gave one person some Zim Dollars to go buy the ingredients and once Eddie and a few team members returned from dropping the children back at home, we were very greatful to find a huge traditional Zimbabwe meal awaiting us. Sansa and a wide assortment of interesting dishes filled the table.

We ate and told stories until late afternoon, at which point we had to depart to drive to Victoria Falls. We arrive a bit too late to get into the falls' park, so we decide to head out our campsite, the Nhyati Campsite, Victoria Falls.

Sunday, June 17

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe - Lusaka, Zambia

Sunday for many on the expedition means Larium Day - the weekly dose of malaria medicine that reminds that we are indeed in a different place. A few others take different medicines - another one is called Malarone, which is taken daily. And there are a hardy souls - Eddie and Bernard in particular - who don't take any medicine, as they live here. For them, malaria is something to be treated after you get it.

We pack our tents - big 3-person expedition tents that stand around 6 feet high when erect. Then breakfast and into the truck for our visit to the Falls. They are the biggest falls in the world, by some metric. Supposedly, the first European to see them was Dr. Livingstone, of the famous phrase, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume." He was a missionary who traveled throughout southern Africa, and you see various monuments to him around Vic Falls.

The town of Victoria Falls is fairly small and very touristic, more so than any place we've seen so far. Lots of shops selling African trinkets, hardwood figurines and masks lining the sides of the streets. Vic Falls has turned into an adventure travel destination - signs for bungee jumping, parachuting, microlight flights, balloon flights, and a score other heart-pounding activities abound, all designed to create a sense of danger in the tourists escaping their desk jobs.

The falls are stunning, though. You can see the spray that they kick up from miles away, and the main street of the town is perfectly aligned to see the perpetual, nature-made cloud. We say goodbye to Bernard, an African Routes driver who accompanied us up. He's a new driver getting some experience with Eddie, our expert. Our trip is Eddie's 50th in three years. Then in the early morning light we walk down from the town to the gates of the park.

Victoria Falls are called Mosi oa Tunya in the local language. They sort of look like someone cut off an edge of one of the Great Lakes and let the thing drain. It is a lot of water, draining over a long edge of steep rock. The best way to experience the scale and power of the place is to walk out to one of the cliff precipices and get drenched in the perpetual rain of spray that thunders up from the roiling waters 90 meters below. As Kevin put it as the drops hammered up, "Welcome to your Planet Earth!"

After the Falls, we pile back in the truck and cross the border to find Katiellou, our long-lost teammate-cum-advance-man sent prematurely off the Zambia due to visa issues. The border crossing is a hectic place occupied by a pack of belligerent baboons. They patrol incessantly, turning and reaching into all truck handles, knocking over trash cans, and ripping food from open windows whenever possible.

We make it through and pass into Zambia, and Livingstone. It's a smaller town than Vic Falls, and a bit less touristic. We have an address for the guesthouse that Katiellou is staying at. We find the street but the problem is that numbers on this street are not exactly sequential. We're not quite sure what the process was that established the numerical order - it may well have been order of construction.

After literally five discrete traverses of the appointed avenue, the last three with a new local guide, we finally find the right place - of course next door to the first place that we stopped at. And there is Kachiellou! He looks okay after nearly a week biding his time in this border town. We pack his suitcase and the truck roars north to Lusaka.

Lusaka, Zambia's capital city, is a good five hour drive from Livingstone. We're staying at Eureka Campgrounds, situated about ten minutes south of the city. We get in fairly late, and see two members of our team already there. Julia Birch works for the European Space Agency outreach office in the Netherlands, Miranda Johnson is a college classmate of Kevin's now working in Dar-es-Salaam. She's fluent in Swahili, a fact that impresses everyone.

Later that night, just before dinner, a whole busload of folks pull up. Our team is nearly complete - Iago, Erin, Andrew, Joanna, and Takei all have arrived. Iago, Erin and Andrew all went to Dartmouth, like Kevin. Joanna is studying at NYU. And Takei, perhaps the best story, is a Japanese architecture student traveling the world. He was having difficulties on the ride down from Tanzania, so the Cosmos team adopted him. He speaks almost no English, but he's got a great smile, and we've now got a representative from Asia at our international conference.

Before sleep, we review the lists of tasks to do before the conference starts on Tuesday. It's a bit daunting, but a great group of people have assembled and the informal motto of Cosmos rings in all our minds: "Team Cosmos is unstoppable!" (By the way, the other informal motto is, "Space blows our hair back.") We hit the sack ready to wake early the next morning

Monday, June 18

Lusaka, Zambia

The University of Zambia is a bit like a lost Mayan temple of learning. It's a vast complex cast in crumbling concrete and covered in growing vegetation. Apparently it was built in the sixties by a firm from Israel. The story goes that when Zambia recognized Palestine as an independent state in the mid-sixties (possibly following the 1967 war?), the Israelis pulled out and left the complex unfinished. The result is an Escher-esque architecture with stairs leading to nowhere and beautiful columns that support nothing.

Our team, nearly twenty-five strong, arrives at around 8 am. We have three people we really want to find, basically the three main conference organizers: the first is Dr. Peter Nsombo, the head of the Surveying Department. He's not yet in when we arrive, so we head over to the Physics Department to find Dr. Mweene, the head of the department and a general sponsor of the conference. As we walk up the darkened stairways, we see a small poster advertising the Under African Skies conference. We feel a bit better then, and we feel even better when we meet Dr. Mweene.

He's a big man with a big personality. He's also a local expert on the upcoming eclipse; we find out later that day that he was interviewed on Zambian national TV about the eclipse. Dr. Mweene assures us that many preparations have been underway, and ushers us into a room that we adopt for the morning as our de facto base of operations.

Once settled the team starts to fan out across the campus and across town. One team leaves to check out the rooms where the conference is to be held, another leaves to make up more posters. Will Marshall and Benjamin leave to hire taxibus drivers to bring more secondary school students to the conference. Miranda, Julia and some others make a shopping expedition while Miranda, Fezile and George left to drum up some press coverage from the Zambian media.

Surprises abound: our star student organizer, Oliver, is no where to be seen & one report says that he is in New York for some other conference. Food for the hundreds of students has not yet been settled, so some team members go off to settle that. And a healthy proportion of the speakers are AWOL. But overall things look like they'll be okay. We get a story on a big Lusaka radio station, and promises of a few stories in the next day's papers.

By the end of the day, the team drives off satisfied with its work. Posters are up, the press is alerted, and nearly three hundred secondary school children have been invited to attend. Tomorrow is a big day.

Tuesday, June 19

Lusaka, Zambia

Ten minutes before nine in the morning and we are working on the seating chart for the opening ceremony. It turns out that the Zambian Minister of Education and Science will be making the keynote address, a late but very welcome addition to a program that already includes the Vice Chancellor of the University of Zambia and the head of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (OOSA). Kevin looks sporty in a bright blue jacket he borrows from Fezile, the suavest Cosmos team member.

The ceremony opens and the speeches begin, spoken to a crowd that soon starts to overflow the room. There are several hundred secondary school kids in the audience, all smartly uniformed in their school clothes. Then there many more UNZA students, all the Cosmos team members, professors from the university, and assorted tourists in town for the eclipse. Kevin gives a confident wink to the team, somehow communicating, 'Woah!'

The Minister gives a kind speech, followed by some wonderful words from Dr. Othman, the UN OOSA director. She talks about the UN-organized world space conferences which provided the initial impetus for this project. Indeed, without the UN, Kevin would have had a much tougher time meeting all the Africans now on the Cosmos team. Many of the Cosmos Education team members first met at the Space Generation Forum (SGF) held in conjunction with the UN's UNISPACE III conference in Vienna in July of 1999. The SGF was organized by the International Space University in cooperation with the United Nations. Over 150 delegates from around the globe were brought together to discuss the peaceful uses of outer space. The seeds for the work being done by Cosmos Education were planted during the Space Generation Forum. In addition to Cosmos Education, some of those seeds grew into other great projects such as Yuri's Night and the Canadian project on aerospace medicine (ADAM). For us to have Dr. Othman at the opening ceremony of our Under African Skies conference was a great privilege, for she is largely responsible for initially connecting the members of our team. We thank her for her time, energy, and dedication.

After the opening ceremony, three talks are given by leading international scholars. Dr. Christian Keoberl of the University of Vienna and Professor Wolf U. Reimold of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg both address asteroid impacts and draw nice connections between the solar system and the geology of Earth. The terrain in Southern Africa is some of the oldest existing crustal rock and thus has much to offer when trying to study the early Earth and the origin of life. In addition, Professor Reimold discusses the issues of the environment and conservation and tries to connect students with the landscape around them. Many of the UNZA students are from the Department of Surveying or from the Department of Geology and thus Reimold's comments are well heard.

Next we hear a talk about the Sun given by Dr. Ken Phillips of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the U.K. Given the eclipse as the penultimate event of the conference, Dr. Phillips' talk goes a long way towards enhancing the scientific literacy of the audience.

At the end of the morning session, more time for questions is allowed and then we break for lunch. This is accompanied by mild chaos as we sort out who are the secondary school students, but the end result is a pleasant lunch of shima and chicken down in UNZA's cafeteria.

In the afternoon, two sessions are run simultaneously: a research session for university students and professors, and a hands-on education session for the secondary school students.

The afternoon research talks range from the topic of women in computer engineering to variable stars and exploring the solar system with an eye toward environmentalism.

Meanwhile, in the education track, Kevin starts the session with a little juggling and sense of scale and then Iago and team direct the students in painting the planets. As Iago divides the students into groups he explains that each group has the task of designing a human mission to the given planet. Each group is given a copy of "Unfolding Our Universe" (donated by Cambridge University Press) and magazines and posters (donated by The Planetary Society, NASA, Sky & Telescope, and the San Jose Astronomical Association). With these materials they must collect information and write a short travel guide explaining what it would be like to visit that planet. In addition, each group is given a 1 meter by 2 meter piece of strong cardboard. Using paints provided by Cosmos Education, they must paint a picture of their planet.

At 16:30, the minibuses arrive to take the students back home. One minibus is missing and thus we have to take one school home in our truck. As Eddie drops the students off, the research track comes to a conclusion and we finish with day one of the Under African Skies Eclipse Conference.

Many details need to be addressed for day two, and the team heads into town to make sure everything is lined up and all the materials have been purchased.

Thursday, June 21

Lusaka, Zambia

Finally, the big day had arrived. As the Sun rose on our campground, the empty moon was rapidly approaching the line connecting the Earth and Sun. As the Earth and Moon rotated and orbited the sun during the day the shadow of the moon began to approach.

Everyone of the team was enormously excited, but before enjoying the eclipse we had a full morning of the conference in store. The morning began with introductions of the full Cosmos Education team and then stories by Felicien and Katiellou about eclipses of the past in Africa. Chandra Aubrey, an UNZA student, then acted out a play he wrote entitled "The Mysteries of God".

Next on the agenda is the distribution of prizes for the student workshop paintings and guidebooks. Mars, Neptune, Earth, all claimed prizes for artwork and the Sun team took home the prize for best guidebook. Each member of the team was given a copy of an issue of the Planetary Report, or a poster, or an issue of Sky & Telescope. In addition, each team got a bag of candy.

Once the prizes had been awarded, the floor was cleared for a theatre group consisting of UNZA students and members of the Lusaka Players. For an hour, the group acted out excerpts from a 3-hour play depicting the total solar eclipse of 1835 and the crossing of the Zambezi river by the Ngoni tribe. The production was fantastic and the audience enjoyed every minute.

The room was now fully packed - an estimated 400 people filled the hall. It was now time to pass out the eclipse glasses. It was a moment that the team had been contemplating for days. People had been asking us about the free glasses for days and we knew that chaos would erupt around the distribution process if we did not do it correctly. Long ago, we had told Peter, Oliver, and Habatwa (Mweene) that those who attend the conference would receive free eclipse viewing glasses. Now, as we looked out at the crowd and observed the hoards of people outside the hall, we contemplated the logic that had allowed us to announce the free glasses to the local organizing committee. Our plan had worked - hundreds of people had been attending the conference. We told everyone in the room that they would receive glasses - between donations from Rainbow Symphony and a company in the U.K. we had over 1600 glasses to hand out.

Distribution in the room went fine. Everyone was calm and organized. Our big concern however, was letting people out of the room. As soon as the first person outside saw people from inside leaving with glasses, we knew trouble would follow. We let people out and George and Bojan manned the doors as an ever increasing crowd pushed from the outside. We had two boxes that needed to get outside, one contained the glasses and one contained miscellaneous materials. We hoped that having two boxes might confuse those interested in the glasses. Will left with the box containing the glasses and made it back to the truck safely. He left through a broken window in the back of the hall. I (Kevin) grabbed the second box and headed in the same direction. By the time I got to the window a few people were on to the back window plan. PJ blocked oncomers and I made it back to the truck in one piece. It was now close to 11:30. First contact was at 13:09 and we still had over 1000 glasses to hand out. We contemplated not dealing with it, but that would be a shame. We contemplated putting the box in the center of the field and seeing what happens. We contemplated running through the crowds, leaving trails of glasses behind us. All of these had their pros and cons, but eventually Julia and Joanna found a solution that worked quite well.

At roughly 12:30 the Assistant Secretary for Zambia boarded our truck as a small army of uniformed guards waited outside. One at a time, the guards entered our truck and we stuffed a few hundred glasses under their jacket and down their belt. The stocked guards then left the truck and walked to a place far away from our truck. It was then his job to distribute the glasses. Some guards handed them out one by one, some passed them out in batches, and some just threw them into the air. By 13:00, all our glasses were gone and we were ready for the eclipse.

From the time of first contact to totality, the lighting gradually changed to an odd hue of blue. The temperature dropped and cool breezes swept through the fields. As darkness grew, a bizarre aura filled the crowd. Flocks of birds migrated from point to point with understandable confusion. Shadows sharpened and crescent shapes filled the ground as leafy trees created arrays of pinhole cameras.

With only a sliver left, noise began to grow in the crowd. People began shouting and cheering in anticipation of the total eclipse shadow. At the moment when totality hit, a crescendo occurred and the chanting shrank to mere noise. People stood transfixed by the blackened Sun.

Much of our team stood atop the truck and for over three minutes we laughed, cried, hugged, and stared as the cosmic spectacle filled us with an uncanny energy.

And then it was over.

A point of light emerged from the other side of the Moon and light returned to the campus as we left the umbra and re-entered the penumbra. The dance, the battle, the orbits had come and gone. Now the crowd celebrated as the Sun gained in size. One could not help but breathe a sigh of relief, as if something deep within us might have still been afraid that the Sun would never return. All the science, all the math, all the technology pale in comparison to the overwhelming emotions evoked in our mammalian brains as a result of an eclipse. A celebration of the Sun ensued as we all welcomed back our friendly star.

Once the Moon had completed exited the line between the Earth and Sun, we held our closing ceremony for the conference. With the student paintings hanging from the wall behind us, we gathered a small crowd and presented books, posters, educational cassette tapes, science toys, and a World Space receiver to Professor Tembo and Dr. Nsombo of the UNZA. With the conference officially over, we celebrated.

We were to hear a presentation of UNZA theater students, enacting a moment over a century ago when an indigenous tribe was dissuaded from migrating across the Zambezi River by the last total eclipse.

Friday, June 22

Lusaka, Zambia

We get up early and head to the Hotel Inter-Continental Lusaka. The morning holds a breakfast with Eric and Stephanie Tilenius. Eric, an established Internet CEO, is a major sponsor of the expedition. For the last ten days or so, he has been traveling in Africa. Generously, he offered to sponsor a breakfast for the team today, both to give the team a nice meal after a few days of hard work, and to give him the opportunity to meet everyone.

The breakfast is exquisite - we all keep making trips back to the buffet tables for fresh juices, muffins, omelettes. Kevin half-jokingly encourages us to eat as much as possible as we won't have another meal like it. Eric suggests that, as we all make introductions, we say a word about what was most memorable to us. The experience turns out to be a great team-bonding moment. Each person has something different, but it's clear that everyone - Africans, Europeans, Americans - have all had an incredible experience.

We say goodbye to Eric and Stephanie, who are flying back to the states that morning, and head to the Nkwanzi Trust School. This will be the first time that the new team members get a chance to see the show, and everyone is a bit excited.

The headmaster of Nkwanzi is a disciplined ex-Brit who clearly runs a tight ship. Each of the seven classes precesses in, and remains standing until the entire school is assembled before us. The headmaster then sits the students down class by class, leaving around 200 enthusiastic faces turned toward us.

Kevin opens with a juggling demonstration and the kids go wild. Kids are so honest - you know when you've lost them, and you know when you've hooked them - and when their mouths drop and start yelling, you know you've got them.

In rapidfire succession, we run through a full program. It really works - few gaps, each segment segueing well into the next. By the end the kids are on fire; they ask tons of great questions. After the questions are done we get up to drink some coffee in the teachers' lounge, but are stopped by hoardes of children asking for signatures and email addresses. Probably the closest that many of us are ever going to get to being rock stars.

A BBC reporter, John McNish, films the morning with a snazzy DV videocamera.

Finally, one last night at Eureka Campgrounds.

Tuesday, June 26

Lusaka - Mkushi, Zambia

Today was arguably one of the most logistically difficult days to date on our Under African Skies journey. We began the morning in Lusaka with a list of tasks that needed to be accomplished before we could get on the Great North Road heading to Tanzania. Along with arranging flights for Julia Birch (Australia) and Milton Waiswa (Uganda), we had some unfinished business to take care of at the University of Zambia (UNZA)- a few bills to pay and a few bills to collect. In addition, we had to say goodbye to Frank Bwalya (Zambia). Frank has been a great asset to our team ever since we arrived in Lusaka and we'll miss his presence. As a student studying remote sensing in the Department of Surveying at the UNZA, Frank had to return to campus after joining us for a few days down in Livingstone. Someday he hopes to attend graduate school in business, perhaps in the U.S. Realizing the reality of Frank's situation and the cost of taking the GMAT, George Whitesides passed a hat to build a small collection of funds to go towards helping Frank with his dream. After more than a week of getting to know Frank, many of us are quite confident that he will be successful at whatever he does; perhaps we'll see him in orbit someday.

At almost 14:00, we made our last pass through downtown Lusaka, entered the northern roundabout and veered off along the Great North Road. Our goal for the day was to make it to Mpika - a few schools in the area are expecting us later this week and we wanted to arrive as early as possible to allow time for any additional schools.

Well, Mpiki is a long way from Lusaka and despite Eddie's fearless driving, there were a few parameters that needed to be included into the driving equation beyond just distance and speed. Of key importance was roadblock density and difficulty. You see, in traditional African road patrol and management the police and immigration officers set up roadblocks every 50-200km and hassle the driver until a small 'fine' is paid. So far this year our travels on the road have been quite flawless; apparently the Zimbabwe and Zambian governments realized the importance of the eclipse tourism economic boost and decided to make sure hassles were minimized.

Well, the eclipse is over. The moon now basks in the post battle glow of a new moon turned crescent. It seems that such lunacy has also had a lasting effect on the roadblock officers. Whereas prior to the eclipse, Eddie would simply smile and wave as the guard cleared the roadblock for our easy passage, today the guards decided they needed to see all the paperwork plus passports.

Now unbeknownst to him, upon arrival at the Lusaka airport our Croatian team member Bojan Pecnik had been marked for a seven day visa upon entry as opposed to the thirty-day visa he thought he was granted by the High Commission in London. Noticing that Bojan's visa had expired by a day, the guards demanded that Bojan and one other person return to Kabwe to settle the matter in the immigration office.

. . . Kevin and Bojan get in a truck to drive back to TKTK and the local Immigration Office.

The rest of the group thinks for a minute or two of waiting at the checkpoint, but two officials mention that Bojan will probably be 'detained', so we all jump in the truck and speed after Kevin's truck, catching up just before we reach the town.

Then begins a multi-hour odyssey at this small local immigration office, co-housed with the local Ministry of the Environment offices.

As Kevin and Bojan negotiate, the rest of the group waits outside, swinging from a vine tree, listening to a church choir singing African hymns, and seeing how fast they can eat biscuits.

Eventually, the price of Bojan's new visa / freedom is brought down to 400,000Kwacha, a bit over $100USD.

We have a team meeting to decide whether to take the offer (which seems in fact legal, though it seems equally clear that the officials could cut us some slack), or to call their hand and see if they do in fact put Bojan in the clink for a night.

We decide that expediency and ease dictates we get Bojan out, pay the money, and carry on driving.

Strains of the song by Chumbawumba, 'I get knocked down, but I get up again, they ain't never gonna bring me down' rock over the speakers as we leave the town.

We stop by the side of the road for camping that night.

Wednesday, June 28

Shiwa - Mgandu, Zambia

After a night of camping in the roadside bush near Mkushi river, we're back on the road heading north through Zambia. When we awoke this morning with the rising sun we discovered a school sign near our makeshift campsite. Will Marshall investigated and found out that the school was just six kilometers down the nearby road. Unfortunately, it was just after 6:00am and thus a bit early for an impromptu visit from Cosmos Education. We packed up our tents, drank some hot liquids, said hello to a few locals and hit the road. Currently, we are a stones throw from the Congo border; hopefully today our luck with roadblocks will be better.

Kapoko School - off-road education.

That Left-Hand Turn - we miss the town of Mpike - where we are supposed to get gas, but don't, something that will affect us later. Missing mpiika, finding shiwa, schools, etc

We see a campsite marking on our map around 100km ahead: It says TKTK Hot Springs

We drive in to an amazing area of thick Eucalyptus trees. An old farm that is now maintained by the grandsons of the surveyor who found it back around 1911. Old iron steam-powered tractor, American-made, lies rusting on the side of the road. We continue our drive and after hours we reach the campsite: The site of a hot springs and house

Hot springs are amazing - a clear aqua pool, a couple of feet deep, steaming and bubbling

Just like a bath

Amsat attempts, telescope, we try to get in touch with UO-22, an amateur communication satellite. We think we watch it pass over - in fact we see three satellites in the space of about 5 minutes - but don't get any contact. Get sense of the possibility of space and technology for the particular conditions of Africa

Friday, June 29

Shiwa-Mgandu, Zambia

As our truck drove up the driveway to TKTK School, we passed a heated student football (soccer) game in progress. Four of us disembarked, loaded with posters, gyroscopes, Energy Balls and blankets - all fodder for our demonstrations. We looked around the buildings and saw no one, but soon an elderly gentleman in a grey overcoat ambled up. Mr. TKTK turned out to be the headmaster of the school.

Realizing that we were a total surprise to this school, we immediately explained that we were part of an educational group visiting schools in Zambia to talk about science and technology. Perhaps of slight luck to us, though quite bad for the students, the teachers of Zambian schools are now on strike. They claim to be underpaid, and are now negotiating with the government for a salary increase. In the meantime, a few noble teachers are volunteering their time to stay around the schools and keep the kids in the habit of going to school. The upshot is that at TKTK School, as at several others, the teacher in charge absolutely loved the idea of a group of foreign teachers coming in and working with their students for a few hours.

With a whistle, the headmaster called the kids to attention, and they came careening in across a stand of pine trees from the football pitch. Following them inside, we found a simple room with a few wooden desks. The windows were open - there were no electric lights - and a six-inch gap separated the top of the walls from the roof. We set our toys and posters on a wooden bench in front of the blackboard and got ready to go.

Our group of four included Felicien, a teacher from Burundi; Will and Julia, two British astronomy grad students; and George, an American from Los Angeles. Julia opened up by welcoming the students, via Mr. TKTK, who provided translation throughout the session. As we've moved north - out of South Africa and Zimbabwe into Zambia - the level of English proficiency has steadily dropped. At a school like today - a rather remote elementary school - the students understand very little English, so translation via their teacher is an absolute necessity. It means that good translation is the difference between an acceptable presentation and one that blows the kids' socks off. So far, we've had perfect luck, with teacher after teacher having enormous enthusiasm for the material and a skill in presenting it to the students.

In rapid-fire fashion we started through our program, or 'set' as we've started to call it. We all presented 'The Rules': Tell us when to slow down, Ask questions, Show a thumbs up if you understand, and HAVE FUN. Then on to the demonstrations: Julia showing the scale of the solar system, Felicien talking about why an eclipse happens, Will explaining gravity and orbits. We've learned that elementary schools - and in particular elementary schools with low English proficiency - demand presentations with constant demonstrations. Basically, we try to maximize the wow factor at all times.

Big successes today were the Energy Ball - a little ping pong ball wired with a curcuit and two contacts that we used to demonstrate the principles of lighting; and Felicien's story, a mythic tale that tells what happened in Burundi during the last solar eclipse, 120 years ago. He tells it first in Kirundi - his native language - asking the kids to repeat each phrase as he goes along. Then he tells the story again in English. It's an entrancing tale full of animals coming out of the forest and eating the local population - in particular the children - and Felicien tells it with deep relish.

After around 90 minutes we wrapped up and made a presentation of materials to the headmaster. These are already deeply appreciated, in particular the demonstration devices and the membership to the Planetary Society. Then, to general celebration, we escaped to the football pitch to begin a full game. The students were incredible - pounding the ball half-way down the field in their bare feet. The muzangas - 'white people' in Swahili - were completely poor in comparison.

After a few hours of football, the truck finally showed up and we tromped on. Waving to the kids, we departed in a cloud of dust and beeping.

Friday, June 29

Shiwa-Mgandu - North Luangwa, Zambia

Staying at Buffalo Camp, North Luangwa Park

Unbeknownst to us, Kevin Hand's birthday, which we discover the next day

Get up early

For some, one last dip in the hot springs

Planet Earth

Visit 3 schools on the way to North Luangwa Park

Very quick visits - 10-20 minutes

At one school, the last, just before we enter the park, we meet an elections official doing registration for the upcoming

Trip to buffalo camp

Drive from Hot Springs to Game Park

Friday, June 30

North Luangwa, Zambia

Walking in the rift valley, connection with the past, leopard, indigenous knowledge, Christian and the Wild Lavender bush

After the walks, a relaxing morning spent by the banks of the TKTK river, sitting in the sun, doing water colors, writing in journals, playing Risk board game and Jenga.

Drive out of park discussing plans to integrate the disparate elements of the space community. We see warthogs, a couple, just as we leave

They escort our two trucks for two minutes, running parallel, like porpoises on the way out of port

Also an elephant

Goodbye to Loretta, McKell - clear that after only 10-11 days both had become key, valued members of the team. We all miss them

Drive north from park

Run out of gas along route - Eddie, "We've run out of diesel - major cock up."

3 hour search for fuel, unsuccessful

Circling around town of Chinsali between 9PM-midnight

Looking for a fabled BP Station

End up camping by the side of the road in the town of Chinsali

July 1, 2001

Chinsali, ZAMBIA - Mbozi Meteorite Site, TANZANIA

Find the BP station, hidden down a small road,but we don't get gas from there

Fill up with some diesel from some guy who lived around the BP station

Enough gas to get to next town of TKTK

Fill up with bread, sugar cane and bananas

Reach the Zambia-Tanzania border

Getting out is no problem

But getting in, Kachiellou is refused entry.

With a sizable bribe, K is admitted past immigration, but without a stamp in the passport, so we worry about getting stopped at a checkpoint.

We eat dinner at a small restaurant at the border, then start driving north

Later we reach Mbozi Meteorite Site, around 50km south of Mbeya, and bush camp

July 2, 2001

Mbozi Meteorite Site, TANZANIA - Mbeya, TANZANIA

We wake early, with cows around our tents

The landscape is beautiful: small coffee farms, with rolling hills off into the distance.

Several people thought their feet might have been licked by cows during the night.

We gather up the locals

Elias interviews the administrator of the site in Swahili. It turns out that he is the son of the original administrator, who passed down knowledge of the meteorite to his son. A neat example of science knowledge passing between generations outside of traditional academic channels.

Chief of tribe told his tribe not to tell the white man about the find.

Then will Clarkson makes a presentation about meteorites, followed by several great questions about science and religion including the following, directed at Will:

"You say that the meteorite is probably several billion years old. But the Bible says that the Earth was created a few thousand years ago. How is it possible that the meteorite could be that old?"

Then we drive north, gaining altitude, to Mbeya. The topography changes as we ascend, hills and even mountains popping out.

We reach Mbeya, a sizable town of perhaps even 100K-200K. It fills a basin formed by some arching hills and mountains to the north of the town.

We spend the day changing money, shopping for food (the next several days, across the interior of Tanzania, will offer few opportunities for shopping).

We stay at a hostel a few km out of town.

It costs a few US dollars per person, and we have beds for the first time since Pretoria.

We celebrate the birthdays of Kevin and Bojan

Two space explorers born a world apart from each other (Vermont and Croatia), but only three days apart.

July 3, 2001

Mbeya, TANZANIA - Bush camp 160km north of B6, TANZANIA

Start the much-anticipated drive north from Mbeya

On our maps, the road (the B6 highway) is a solid yellow, which means gravel.

Nearly 1000 km of gravel

Eddie's never been on it, but thinks that it will be okay as it is not in the wet season.

The initial 40 km are just amazing, driving straight up the mountains to the north of Mbeya.

We start driving along a ridge with huge drops on both sides

Valley floor hundreds, probably thousand feet below

Roughly 40km north of Mbeya, we see a sign that proclaims that this is the highest point on a Tanzanian road: a bit over 8000 feet.

We get out to take in the view

Tens of locals start to gather, bringing along huge carrots to sell

We buy several bunches and head off

Pass Salangwe, Isenyela, Chunya (a more "major" town)

Take a north turn at Makongolosi, onto the B141

Day full of driving ends in the chicken incident

Elias and Christian negotiate to buy three chickens for around $5US.

Much mirth for the collection . . . they get plopped on the floor of the truck, legs tied.

We drive a bit up the road, stop to camp

Kachiellou cuts the heads off the chickens, standing on the wings, as Felicien holds the legs

K performs the operation according to Muslim principles:

Facing east says a word of thanks to Allah for each chicken

Pours water over the cut neck as the blood pours out

Then twists the wings together to prevent it from running off.

Elias and Felicien do the cooking

Big feast, with onions, rice, vegetables, and big bottles of Tanzanian beer: Safari and Kilimanjero

July 4, 2001

Bush camp

We get up early and start driving across the long expanse of the B141

Passing small towns full of kids (Igoma just a few minutes after we leave)

We stop at one to fill up on water

Then, as we just started to pass Rungwa Game Preserve (adjacent to Ruaha National Park)

Stopped by park police

They say we shouldn't have gone through some gate up the road

They say we should have stopped for a day or three days?

We're stopped for a half-hour

They basically just drive off.

Eddie spots elephant and lion prints in the dust of the road.

July 5, 2001

Bush camp

Long day of driving across the interior of Tanzania

In the morning Eddie spots some lion tracks along the road which continue for miles

Come a across a dead puff adder along the road.

Some one has cut off is head

Christian puts it around his neck

We camp near a power station and fall asleep to the sound of hyenas and a local town partying with drums and singing.

July 6, 2001

Bush camp - Meserengi Snake Park, Arusha, TANZANIA

Another day of driving across the interior of Tanzania

Overcast today.

We stop in the morning at a cave painting site

Try to drive the truck in to the site, 14 km, but it can't make it up the hill

So we pile ou and hike up to the sites, on top of a local hill

See three sites

Paintings in fig juice and elephant oil

Beautiful giraffes, zebra, enlephant, long human figures with 'rastafarian' hair

Scene of a rape, or two

Scence of an animal trap

A beautiful sun, somewhat like a native American sun.

The sites are amazing - painted on rock beneath massive outcrops of sedimentary limestone.

We hike back and carry on to Arusha.

Everyone gets fairly enibriated on springboks

Saturday, July 7

Meserengi Snake Park, Arusha, TANZANIA - Ngorogongo Campsite in Karatu, TANZANIA

We leave the Snake Park in the morning to enter Arusha and organize our weekend safari. Our goals are to visit Serengetti Park and Ngorongora Crater. Before leaving, some of the team check out the snakes of the Snake Park. Kevin visited both last year and said they were worth every penny - no small praise from the most economical member of our expedition.

Arusha is a fairly big town. We locate the safari organizer - happily, Julia decides to come along. Kachiellou, Felicien, and Eddie decide not to come along.

Our two safari landrovers arrive at 2PM. Our drivers are Jackson, aged 35, a pro who's been driving for 12 years, and Shifino, an Indian with 11 siblings. Shifino's grandfather emigrated to Tanzania to find work, and managed a sugar cane factory for many years. We are also accompanied by our cook Raymond.

After a beautiful drive up the escarpment to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, and a stunning view of Lake Manyara, we reach the plain of the Serengetti - our driver Jackson wins the pool for the first animal we see: a bunch of giraffe far off the side.

We stay the night at the Ngorongora Campsite.

Sunday, July 8, 2001

Serengetti National Park, TANZANIA

Our first full day of safari takes us to Serengetti National Park, the legendary wildlife area. We cross a vast grassland to reach the wildlife, and are amazed by zebra, elephant, and literally dozens of lions.

Monday, July 9

Meserengi Snake Park, Arusha, TANZANIA

Today our safari took us to the Ngorongoro Crater, an otherworldly refuge of thousands of megafauna. We see elephant, lion, wildebeast, zebra, warthog, ducks, herons, flamingos, a lone rhino, and a pack of hyenas.

On our way to the crater we visit the Olduvai Gorge, the site of Mary and Louis Leakey's discoveries of Paleolithic man.

July 10, 2001

Arusha - Moshe, TANZANIA

Today we got up early, broke into teams, and hit schools in Arusha. We were anxious to get into schools as we hadn't been in for almost a week.

We begin by packing up at the Meserengi Snake Park. We then drive into Arusha to one secondary school that turns out to be closed. But we pick up two students from the school who volunteer to show us secondary schools that are open. Apparently many Tanzanian secondary schools are on some sort of break now.

We drive across town and drop off Will Marshall's team at the first school. They pop out eagerly with toys, demonstrations and gifts in hand.

We drive a few minutes away and find another school - this time, it's a primary - middle school, with hundreds of students playing in the courtyard. We drop off Julia's team and the kids run at breakneck speed to gather around.

Finally, we drive a few minutes out of town in the hopes of finding the third secondary school in Arusha that is open today. Christian - a Tanzanian student accompanying us on the trip - talks with the locals in Swahili to try to find out where this school is. We take a right off the main road and drive down a long narrow dirt road. Looming banana trees 20 feet tall brush the side of the truck as we pass. We go past shacks and shanties, old women dressed in beautiful cloths with thick bananas on their heads. Finally, we reach the school, at the end of the road. Unfortunately, the headmaster can't fit us into the schedule today, so we drive out to the main road.

Luckily, there's a school across the road, up about 1.5 kilometers. The Oldadai Secondary School. However, the road looks even more narrow than the other, with more cars, so Eddie is reluctant to drive up. So Will Clarkson, Felicien and George pop out with a box full of materials covered in the red Masai cloak Will bought the day before.

We walk up the road, past huge banana trees with coffee plants around their bases. A small market is in process, with ladies selling vegetables and men selling charcoal. We dig around for a few minutes until a kind woman shows us to the school.

We find the headmaster and explain that we are a group of teachers traveling through Africa and talking with students about space and technology. He agrees to try to shift the schedule around, so we make our way to the teachers' lounge and start organizing.

A great teacher named Threza starts talking with us. We'll be talking to several of her physics classes. The students assemble, looking smart in purple and green V-neck sweaters. At first they are shy, but they warm up a bit as we go through our presentations, and after we finish they pepper us with questions.

As we are leaving, the students assemble to leave for the day. It looks like the school has around 300 students in total.

We make our way back to the middle of Arusha via mini-cab (Dali Dali?) and a short walk through the middle of town. Soon we're off to Moshe, which we reach after sunset.

On our way we see an amazing site: a full profile of Kilimangero - our Uhuru in Swahili. It is apparently rare to see the whole mountain in its spendour, but we get a fabulous sunset view. It is stunning for so many reasons: but most of all is the massive size - at one point it literally extends nearly 180 degrees of view! At this point we are still 40 miles away at least. Stunning. We can see the glaciers hanging off the peak - we are viewing it from the southwest - and thus viewing a steeper side of the summit.

In Moshe, we find Kevin's friends Iago and Erin, who take us to our campsite on the outskirts of Moshe.

We cook up a meal of pasta and tomato sauce, mixed with beans and peas. It does the job, and we head off to our tents.

Wednesday, July 11, 2002

Moshe, TANZANIA - Nairobi, KENYA

We rise early - around 6am - in order to make an orphanage before the kids leave for school in the morning. On the way we drop off a team at another school.

We find the orphanage and make a good presentation - the kids are enthusiastic.

We pick up the other team and present to Weruweru Girls Secondary School, a large all girls boarding school. Our host is a great Peace Corps volunteer named Clay. The school is literally on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Clay is from Minnesota, and earns our respect and undying love by making us a stack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

After Weruweru, we drive to the Kenya border and spend several hours waiting for Elias to negotiate entrance for Kachiellou.

He achieves under cover of nightfall, and we follow in the truck. Visas for most are $50, but Kevin negotiates for transit visas for several at $20. The border area between Tanzania and Kenya is a strange, developing world version of the airport duty free area: a sizable stretch of shop upon shop, doors open and lights shining out into the hazy night.

Having crossed into Kenya, we make the decision to drive straight on to Nairobi, about two-and-a-half hours away. We dig peanut butter and bread from the boxes below and start making sandwiches as Eddie ploughs through the Kenyan countryside.

We reach Nairobi around 11pm, shooting past gleaming car dealerships and ten story office buildings on the outskirts of the city.

Thursday, July 12, 2001

Nairobi, KENYA

Morning is a relaxed affair: we order breakfasts from the campsite kitchen and do our laundry for the first time in weeks. The combination of sausages and Dynamo washing soap proves relaxing. By lunch we are off to downtown Nairobi, where we get some Kenyan shillings from willing cash machines and some reluctant banks. Nairobi also has plentiful Internet cafes - with the highest speed connections we've seen in Africa - so we take the opportunity to plug in again.

After a few hours all that's left is to buy a few pizzas from the Pizza Inn chain (curiously, always adjacent to Chicken Inn and Creamy Inn) and assemble back in the truck to try to find Nicholas Ochanda.

Nicholas is a lecturer at the University of Nairobi. He met Kevin and others on the team at the Space Generation Forum conference at UNISPACE III in Vienna. Last year, in 2000, Nicholas hosted Kevin at this house for a week. From there Kevin visited a bunch of schools in and around Nairobi. Kevin has been looking forward to meeting him for the whole trip, as Nicholas has agreed to accompany us out to his home village in the west of Kenya, and he may bring his whole family.

We start our search for Nicholas at a satellite campus of the University of Nairobi. We drive out through shanty towns and up verdant hills covered in banana and eucalyptus. Finally, we find the driveway and locate the Department of Geography. Nicholas is not there now, but the Department chairman is, and he welcomes us into his office for a few minutes.

We get Nicholas on a cell phone, and agree to meet at an intersection near his house. After a bit of circling through some neighborhoods, Felicien spots the man himself in a crowd. He takes us back to his house and introduces us to his three kids and wife. We share some beers and Coke around his living room table, then head back to the campsite for a late dinner.

Friday, July 13

Nairobi, KENYA

A few of us visit the Kenyan Science Teacher's College, the place where primary and secondary science teachers are educated in Kenya.

Other members of the team disperse to visit schools, ending up setting up three appointments for Wednesday of next week.

Saturday, July 14

Nairobi, KENYA

A day of reconnection as we check email and get lunch downtown.

Dinner at Nicholas' place?

Sunday, July 15

Nairobi to Nicholas Ochanda's village

The drive out to Nicholas' village.

Sights, events along the way?

We pass Lake Victoria, late, arriving at the village late.

We set up tents and head to sleep.

Monday, July 16

Nicholas' village, KENYA

Day spent at the home village of Nicholas Ochanda.

We visit two schools, one primary and one secondary. Nicholas actually attended the primary school when he was a kid; the secondary school wasn't built yet.

Primary school:

Name? TKTK


Pink uniforms

Kids gathered in a evergreen grove.

Two times the younger students were released from class and rampage over, yelling and running, to gather around the presentation.

Great questions

West Kenya Secondary School.


Blue uniforms

Smooth presentation

Team is getting polished again

Good questions

Katiellou does a great water cycle segment

Afterwards we play the secondary school football team.

Many students from the school, and others from the town gather around, until several hundred people are gathered around the pitch.

They have uniforms and some have cleats and shinguards while other don't have shoes.

Felicien leads our team through some warmup exercises.

"Team Cosmos - Go Warthogs!"p>

they score first

then Kevin lays a beautiful shot over the head of the goalkeeper!

It's tied going into halftime.

They score again and end up winning, 2-1, but everyone is satisfied with a good performance.

Next year, perhaps we play a game at every secondary school.

Get us in shape and make a different connection with the students.

After the game, we clean off at the local watering hole

Then enjoy a dinner prepared by the local villagers

The elders of the village come to our campsite

Tell us stories of the stars and the eclipse

On the way back, fireflies under the Milky Way

Tuesday, July 17

Nicholas' village - Nairobi, KENYA

We rise early, around 5, in order to make the trip back to Nairobi by 3 for an appointment with the Kenya Meteorological Service.

Along the way we drive past Lake Victoria and stop at Hippo Point. No Hippos, but a very large body of water.

Wednesday, July 18

Nairobi, KENYA

Final day of schools - three in a row.

But first we need to drop Katiellou, Bojan, Felicien at the airport. Sad.

The first is great - vocally enthusiastic, and the Cosmos team is on.

We blitz through our presentation and head to the truck.

Just nearby is Aga Khan Secondary, but, disappointingly, there is a mixup.

The teacher who said that a big group would be assembled is no where to be found.

We are ushered in to talk with a group of around 30 students.

Later, we realize that this might be the detention group.

We try to engage them, and it sort of works, but sort of doesn't.

We leave a bit disappointed that we weren't able to share our message with more kids at the school.

But all that changes when we hit the last school. We present to a crowd of perhaps fifty girls, most of them in the equivalent of the American junior and sophomore years. It is a wonderful presentation. The team is on, and the response from the students is incredible. They are articulate, ambitious, very intelligent, and they get it.

Will Clarkson takes the 'Newton's Mango' module, in which he uses a thrown potato to demonstrate how orbit works. When he reaches the real point, we actually hear gasps from the audience as the students make the connection between a thrown object on Earth and a satellite falling around the Earth.

When Elias calls up two volunteers for his discussion of careers, the two young women declare confidently that they want to be, respectively, the first woman President of Kenya and a nuclear physicist! These are students who have high goals and who know how to achieve them!

Leaving our last school on the trip, we leave on a high, propelled by the enthusiasm of the students and the idea that we may have made a small difference in somebody's life. It is the perfect end to our journey.

After seeing Will Clarkson to the airport, we return to our campsite, and walk over to a local restaurant. There we spend the night toasting each other and exchanging signed books as gifts.

Thursday, July 19

Nairobi, KENYA

Kevin and PJ dropped off at the airport, while the truck begins its long return back to South Africa.


In Kenya, Cosmos Education Kenya is Registered Society No. 26710.
In the United States, Cosmos Education is a Project of The Tides Center, a 501(c)3 non‑profit organisation.
In England and Wales, Cosmos Education UK is Registered Charity No. 1100278
Cosmos Education Zambia is registered under the Societies Act in the Republic of Zambia, Registration No. ORS/102/35/3017.