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Habari Gani?
(Swahili for “What’s the news?”)

Amanda Pearson ’92
KSP fall ’90
178 Roberts Rd.
Cambridge, MA 02138

In early September I sent a link of the August 25 New York Times article “T ribe, Claiming Whites' Land, Confronts Kenya's Government” to John Linsley ’04 (KSP fall ’02), who is studying in Tanzania and Kenya. John sent a quick response back: “That was definitely a good sum-up of what is occurring in Laikipia.” The land controversy started in August, around the 100th anniversary of an agreement reached between British colonialists and some Masai elders, the article reported. The center of the protests is Laikipia, which sits just north of the Equator. As John noted, aggravating the current conflict is a drought that has hit parts of Kenya hard.

John added the following: In early April, the African Student Union, a recently formed student organization at St. Lawrence, organized an “Africa week” on campus. The highlight was “Africa Night,” featuring an African theme dinner, cultural presentations by African students, and guest appearances by several KSP alums. Valerie Foster ’98 (KSP '97), Erica Holzaepfel ’01 (KSP fall ’99), and Matt Meyer (KSP fall ’92) shared thoughts about their KSP experience and how it has influenced their lives at present.

Meyer is co-founder of, a sandal-making project that is run out of Korogocho slum in Nairobi. In a recent e-mail Meyer writes, “I interned (IDS) with an organization called the Undugu Society of Kenya, working with street children in the Dandora slums. My senior year in college I won a grant from the extraordinarily generous Samuel Huntington Fund of Massachusetts to return to Kenya to create the project. In 1995, Benson Wikyo, who I volunteered with at Undugu Society, and I co-founded it.” You can read more about Meyer’s project at

Foster was an AmeriCorps volunteer for two years beginning in 1998. In a recent e-mail, she writes, “I started my graduate studies in the summer of 2000, funded by Foreign Languages and Area Studies (FLAS) to study Kiswahili intensively. I have spent about 10 months in the past three years in Tanzania, funded by NSF, Fulbright-Hays, Ford, and FLAS.” In May of 2002, she finished a master’s thesis “on the interconnections of HIV/AIDS and malnutrition in Tanzania." She is a Ph.D. student, focusing on HIV/AIDS and food security in Tanzania. Foster adds, “I feel so fortunate for the academic experiences I had at SLU. I am sure you can see that my passion and dedication for my work stems from those experiences.”

John, who was awarded a Fulbright-Hayes Group Projects Abroad scholarship for intensive Swahili directed by the African Studies Institute of Georgia, wrote from Tanzania with periodic updates last summer. He completed his Swahili language course in Tanzania in early August, and although the classes were very hard, he managed to greatly improve his speaking skills. “In early July the other students and I were on study break in Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater National Parks,” he wrote. “We made some good animal sightings in the crater: cheetah, lion, and some great displays of elephant and zebra mating. Everywhere animals are always putting on a show. Then again in late July we had a study break in Zanzibar (a small island off the coast of Tanzania) for a week.” He went on safari in Amboseli National Park, scouting the location where Eric Klapper ’04 (KSP fall ’02) and he would be interning this fall doing community conservation and tourism development work with the local Maasai community.

One long journey John took involved the 15-hour train ride from Nairobi to Mombasa. “It was really bumpy, and both dinner and breakfast were served in a dining car, which was like being in a time warp back to the 1950s,” John wrote. He didn’t sleep much due to the endless train stops and his “never-ending dreams of a train wreck (the tracks are not in the best of shape and the Lonely Plant Guide warns train travelers of ‘catastrophic’ accidents).

John and a friend from high school climbed Mt. Kenya, “Much tougher than when we climbed the mountain in 2002,” he said. “We went up the Sirimon Route and down the Choguria Route. In Liki North Hut on the second night we noticed that many SLU students over the years have left their mark on the hut's walls. There were SLU etchings from 1997, 2001, and 2003, and now ours from 2004. It was fun to sleep in a tiny mountain hut, high up on Mt. Kenya, knowing that so many SLU folks had slept in that same place.”

While visiting the SLU study center in Karen, John and Eric Klapper met Mari-Anne Pisarri ’77 (KSP spring ’77 ), who was back in Kenya visiting friends. John wrote, “She was blown away by the compound… in her day the KSP was run out of a rented dormitory in Parklands, Nairobi. She was excited to see all the current students and what was really funny was that she had all of my government professors from SLU.”

Speaking of those early years, another Kenya Semester Program “pioneer” and founder, Prof. Peter French, wrote from the University of South Florida, where he is the associate vice president and dean of academic affairs: “I was recently sent a copy of the SLU magazine with the Habari Gani column. It was so good to hear about the continuing success of the program.” Prof. French wrote that he has heard from numerous of the “early pioneers,” and “it is clear that going out to Africa had a profound impact on all of them. It occurred to me, however, that most of the alumni have very little idea of how the KSP started.

In January 1972, Peter and his wife, Grace, took 15 students to Kenya. Eighteen months later, they accompanied 20 trustees, alumni, parents and St. Lawrence friends on a three-week seminar that duplicated the student experience. Then in summer 1974 he took another group of students to Kenya and later that summer, according to French, the University “gave me the go-ahead to plan a Nairobi Semester Program. That fall we began the recruitment of the first Nairobi Semester group, for which SLU hired Jane Hansmann as the first field director. In January 1975, Jane, 25 students and I went to Nairobi. After four weeks I returned from the launching of the Nairobi Semester Program leaving Jane and the original group to begin what has become a long tradition. With all good wishes, I close with the common Kikuyu message, Thii n'wega”

Jared Crawford ’84 (KSP fall ’83) penned a quick note from Kenya describing one of his most recent safari adventures that was run by his company, Mathews Safaris and Geocartographics, based in Karen. “The client wanted to be based 10,000 feet up the mountain and use jet helicopters to drop him and the guides at interesting hiking locations. I spent most of my time trying to catch up on foot. It was great fun and a colleague and I have hatched a plan to use the same base (a cluster of charming cottages on a high mountain lake) for special safaris for triathletes and runners who wish to experience Kenya and train at high altitude. We plan to offer mountain biking, trekking, technical climbing and kayaking as options and will have an excellent cook and a masseuse at the ready. Perhaps we will offer it as a primer for the 2005 Lewa Marathon.”

Jared continued, “The Great Migration is off to an astonishing start with hundreds of thousands of wildebeests and zebras streaming across the border from Tanzania. Last year's migration lingered until late October and fat lions made for formidable dinner guests in camp. We looked set for more adventures this year but, ironically, our entire camp and crew is set to head off in the totally opposite direction at the moment to support a German film crew in Northern Kenya. I saw Bill Kane’85 (KSP fall ’83) in Nairobi with his entire family. He's working in international law (and trade) and his Kenyan wife works for World Bank. It was great fun to see him after 20 years or so.”

In June, I competed in the Triathlon Long Distance World Championships in Sweden as a Team USA member. “Long course” consists of a 2.5-mile swim, a 75-mile bike, and an 18.6-mile run. Many months of hard training paid off, and although it was a long day (about eight hours), I had a great race. Next year this competition will be held in Denmark, but before that I am getting married in June in Maine. First things first!

I close by encouraging the alumni to bookmark the KSP Web site,

Summer 2003 Entry
Fall 2003 Entry
Winter 2004 Entry
Spring 2004 Entry
Summer 2004 Entry



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