Monthly Archives: June 2012
Our site placement is Ol’Kalau… I don’t really know ANYTHING about it other than the short statement we received from them and what we can see on a map. So here is what I got so far:
- It is about 9,000 feet in elevation (which probably means NO mosquitos which also equals NO Malaria – but this is just speculation) It also means that it will be pretty chilly! I have to get some warmer clothes!! IN AFRICA??? Yes, it’s cold in Africa. Who would of thought? :o)
- It’s about a 3 hour drive to Nairobi (the capitol) about 2.5 hours from Kisumu (Lake Victoria), and about 3 hours from Mnt. Kenya (tallest peak in Kenya, and apparently harder to climb and prettier than Mnt. Kilimanjaro).
- There are 4 other volunteers within 30 minutes of us. Rock On!
- A predominant farming population with about 67,000 people. Mostly of the Kikuyu tribe (which is what our “Mama” is) and they are largely Christian.
- We will be working with the District Hospital on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Mitigation.
- We will also be working in coordination with other CBO’s and NGO’s in the area.
- We are living in hospital staff housing which I am not thrilled about. It’s similar to a duplex in America… I was really hoping for a legit home BUT with all of the other good stuff I will get through it. The Good Stuff: Running Water and Electricity!!!!!!! SOOOO glad! Yay! Also from the picture we have it looks like there is plenty of land for a small garden!! Yay times TWO!
That’s all I have so far! Hopefully over the next couple of days I can gather more information and we will email our contact there too. All of the volunteers were placed in the lower left portion of Kenya so luckily we will be able to get together if we want too – we have talked about once a month birthday celebrations, but who knows!! Overall, the majority of us are pleased or have a handful of things to be happy about. It’s just a matter of getting there and seeing it with our own eyes!
Love you all! It’s getting easier here and I know it will continue on that path… just gotta keep on truckin :o)
Well the week started off with cheeseburgers!! What! Cheeseburgers in Lolitokitok??? I tell you what, that restaurant owner knew what she was doing because all 30 of us piled in to partake in something that reminded us of American food :o). Unfortunately, it was pretty expensive. Not only for us, but I am sure for her too so there is no telling how often we will get to enjoy that treat! Yum Yum it was delicious!! On the topic of food I will say that it has been easier and easier to grab seconds at the dinner table. Our “Mama” realized quickly that if she prepared vegetables I would eat them all and for some time now she has not disappointed!! There is a staple dish in Kenya called Ugahli. At first, I had a tough time understanding WHY oh WHY people here loved it. Basically, it is just cornmeal and water. Seriously. I just couldn’t understand. Well, the trick is you HAVE to eat it with your hands… there is something about the WAY you eat it that changes everything. Pair it with sukumowiki (kale) and kichembari (tomatoes, onions, peppers) and you have yourself a pretty delicious meal! Now if only I can get some legit hot sauce I’d be dancing and singing :o) ( Thanks for sending some mom!!) Also, we have been getting a lot of fruit lately. Watermelon, Pineapple, Oranges and Bananas – I think my whole attitude here started changing when the food became better … Sad, I am so easily swayed.
“Mama” laid down the law this week on the English speaking. Her words were “Nimechoka cha English!!! Utasema Kiswahilli BAS!!” (I am tired of English!!! You will only speak Kiswahilli!!) Haha Sawa Sawa “Mama” – You got it! So needless to say we have been struggling around the house but it will help us tremendously in the weeks to come and we are both very thankful for her order! In language class we are moving a little faster now and we will be given to another language instructor soon. We are pretty sad to see Emily go! She is an amazing teacher and we love her!! I guess it is only fair that we share her with other volunteers. I am not sure who we will have instead but it will be useful to hear a different accent.
I have been waiting to write about church because I wanted to give it another shot. The first one we went to felt like fire and brimstone!! I was really overwhelmed. Not only was it in a language that I couldn’t understand, but there was a whole lot of yelling (undetermined whether bad or good yelling) some pretty bad sound equipment and not American Idol singers haha…. I wasn’t overly joyed about the experience. This past week we went to a church with another volunteer and his family and have a MUCH better experience!!!! It was LONG – about 4 hours – but it was pleasant and comforting… A little Swahili a little English. We felt SO welcomed and had a great time singing and dancing for the majority of it. We will be going back! No doubt about it :) Yay!!!!
Wednesday was a big day! We learned our site placements for our two year service and we also received details on our shadow visit next week. There are 5 of us in our shadow group – pretty big group! We have to arrange travel on our own and once we get there we don’t know what will happen. Apparently, we are all staying in the volunteers’ house so it’s just going to be one big sleepover! Brett and 5 girls LOL – poor Brett.
My times are in Thy hand. – Psalms 31:15
I am so glad! It is such a rest to know that Thou hast ordered and appointed all, and wilt yet order and appoint my lot. For though so much I cannot understand, and would not choose, has been, and yet may be, Thou choosest, Thou performest, Thou, My Lord. This is enough for me. – F.R. Havergal
Well it has been 3 weeks since we left home and we have all successfully gotten through 2 weeks of training!! I will tell you it hasn’t been easy! All of us have admitted to having at least one “Good Cry” and although the days get easier there is no way to explain how much we miss home. I think I can say for everyone that the food is one of the toughest parts (When people get food packages from home you can read the envy on everyone else’s faces lol). Another hardship is missing our family and friends and a huge majority of volunteers have significant others back in the States too… I can’t even imagine how difficult that could be. Needless to say this life isn’t easy – But we did choose it J and personally it is growing on me!
Now that we have formed routines both as a group and individually time seems to be moving much quicker. We have a pretty strict schedule of language class starting at 8 in the morning – lunch at 12:30 – Culture and Technical classes from 2-5 – STRICT curfew to be home by 6:30 when it is already DARK DARK DARK outside (AND COLD COLD COLD)! Unbeknownst to me, Kenya gets dark every day of the year at 6:30! Yikes I am going to be missing the days where it’s still daylight at 9:00 PM!! When we get home we normally start cooking (which takes a couple of hours) eat and watch a movie with the kids before bed. We showed them Lion King for the first time last week and ever since then we have had to watch a different movie every night. Thank goodness I have so many!!! It’s been great for me I LOVE movie nights!
As far as training goes, we all had our first language test on Friday. We have been trying our best to speak mostly Swahili but our “Baba” speaks such great English that sometimes we just can’t get around it. We did well though; all of us tested at a Novice Mid-level with the exception of about 5 who were at Novice High. To pass training (8 weeks from now) we have to be at an Intermediate Medium-Level. I think that is completely doable considering how much we know in only 2 weeks. It’s funny, Kenyans know a minimum of 3 languages – some of our trainers know 8 or 9 – and Americans struggle with 2. We just expect everyone to know English… Hmmm. :/ … Culture and Technical training has been VERY basic as of yet. We have been struggling to keep good attitudes as we are taught Mean, Medium, and Mode for 3 hours! One of the trainees even dared to say “I don’t mean to be rude, but isn’t it a requirement that we all have a college degree? Can’t we make this a little more challenging?” It has been rough, but we have been assured that it will pick up next week as we start more technical training.
There aren’t any BIG EVENTS to update you on. This week went by so quickly! However, we do have some upcoming dates to be excited about!
June 27th – We find out our future homes!!!! We will know where in Kenya we will be living for the next 2 years! Its nerve racking trying to figure it out, and we all have such different preferences, skills, and medical requirements that there is no telling how they are going to assign us.
July 1st – We leave Loitokitok for 5 days to do a shadowing of current volunteers. We will be sent all over Kenya so some of us suspect that we will be going to our future site (although the trainers keep telling us this isn’t so).
August 11th - We have our final language test!!! Good Luck to Us!! They have told us in the last 6 years they have had a 100% pass rate. Seems promising :o)
August 14th – End of Training!! Thank goodness, we all will be sooo sad to leave our friends but it will be GREAT to start our service. PLUS, we will be in Nairobi for a couple of days and although it’s not my favorite city in the world – they do have semi- American food options!! We have been promised hamburgers and pizza!
In-Service Training – This date is uncertain. Some trainers say it is 3 months past training and others have said its mid-December so we can’t plan anything around it… The only they we can plan on is that ALL of us will be ready for time together again!
Mid- December – When Kenyan elections were supposed to take place but the constitution isn’t ready and a lot of other factors have been contributed to it being pushed back – NOT good. People here are going to be getting antsy.
Mid-March - Kenyan Elections tentative time. The last elections here in Kenya got out of control and Peace Corps had to evacuate the country for 6 months… here is to hoping that it doesn’t happen to us!!
LOVE YOU!!!! Thank You For Your Letters and Packages :)
I have heard from our new friends that some of their parents are using our blog to check in. I just wanted to thank you!! Thank you for following our blog, but most importantly thank you for raising amazing kids!!
Brett and I have felt so blessed to be placed within this group Of PC Trainees. We have formed a family more quickly than any of us imagined we would!!! It is, in large part, because of our parents that we have become the adults we are today. I hope we can transfer all of your knowledge, kindness and courage into our lives here in Kenya. Hopefully we can teach others as well as you have taught us back home.
There is no way to explain how much we miss our families! Keep writing letters everyones face explodes in smiles when they pass out letters and packages during class! (You can get the address from our “Contact Us” page)
We love you!!!!
Some of our fellow volunteers have started receiving packages. They have said that their parents sent them a couple of weeks before they even left for staging! YIKES that takes a long time! We have estimated about 3-5 weeks.
We have gotten some messages about where to send stuff so if you want here is the mailing address again: ( Make sure to address it to our legal full names) — If you happen to send a package add in a snack from home! The food here is so hard to get used to!
US Peace Corps
P.O. Box 698-00621
Village Market, Nairobi, Kenya
Love and Miss you All!!!
PS There is additional contact information on our Contact Us page at the top!
Normally we will only have access to internet through a very small phone we bought here in Kenya. We can email fairly cheap (but only in 1000 characters or less – hence the name ) so I am going to try and update more often using this method instead of the very expensive and inconvienent cyber cafes here in town. Hopefully this helps me avoid writing a novel everytime i update!!
As for now I typed up the previous post a couple of days ago and since then nothing huge has happened. Except that today Brett helped birth a baby calf! It was crazy! I have never seen anything like it! Brett was all in there too – the ooooy gooooy mess of it Haha !
That is all! Like I said we can email so update us on your lives too! Love and miss you all!
There is so much going on here all the time. Right now I am hearing the joyous sounds of children playing ( 9 of them to be exact), the 12 cows contained in our small backyard are mooing — Probably screaming to get out — The chickens are busy pecking and we even have growling monkeys in the trees overhead. Birds, neighbors, insects (if I really listen) the day to day of life in an African village is very peaceful, and at the same time really overwhelming.
One of my fellow PC trainees explains it perfectly. We have lost a large chunk of freedom by becoming Peace Corps volunteers. We have been placed at the mercy of our supervisors. They have chosen our location in the world down to the family we must stay with during our 9 week training period. We were given one questionnaire to say what we would prefer our family to look like. Would we like to have children, how long our walk to class would be, what religious preference we would desire, even what we would want to eat. I think some of us overestimated our strength and now we have to deal. Luckily, the Peace Corps staff has a pretty good sense of what we are experiencing and I feel like they did a very good job. Brett and I especially are thrilled with our families.
A host family’s job is to guide us into becoming self-sufficient in a world we know very little about. We are to learn how to cook with pre-modern appliances. Charcoal fires with open flames in the middle of shacks, zero refrigeration – forget daily smoothies, microwaves, ice cream, toasters – this is just one of the challenges we must learn to overcome. How wonderful was it to enjoy a luxury bubble bath with soothing aroma and sweet music, all in a clean bathroom dimly lit with pretty candles? A thing of the past! Now, we have a closet sized room with a bucket – sometimes hot water (which we are to heat over the open charcoal flame in the middle of the kitchen – then carry to the wash room) we have limited diversity on product we are able to find to clean ourselves and then once we have EVERYTHING ready we have to figure out how to actually wash our hair and clean our bodies by scooping water from the bucket with our hands. This is the funniest thing I have ever done. It isn’t as terrible as it sounds – but it’s pretty exhausting! Still, this isn’t all we have to adjust too. Let’s talk about food. First, I will start off by saying I have cried one time since we have been here ( now almost 1 week ). I walked into a restaurant with friends after class glanced at the menu – finally saw something semi American (french fries) – proceeded to order only to find out that they were merely severing the regular beans/rice/kale mixture that I had eaten at least a bazillion times since I have been here. I lost it. Totally lost it. Right there in the middle of all my friends. The BIGGEST adjustment is food. I am miserable with the food here. It drives me insane that there is so much diversity in fruits and vegetables but they only come prepared one way, with one joint taste. Eventually, I will be able to cook for myself – but now I just have to grin and bear it. It is very inappropriate to turn down food in Kenya. I can’t suggest alternatives and I have to eat something, so I do but very little. I can’t even begin to explain how badly I want Mac n Cheese, garlic, spaghetti, A HAMBURGER!!!!!! Even cheese is impossible to find. My solution has been hot sauce and even that is rudimentary… I miss garlic tabasco, sweet baby rays, and honey chipotle sauces! Oh I could go on forever. I’ll move on.
Our host family is awesome. We have a “Mamma” Grace, who stays home and sells milk while cooking and cleaning and looking after the kids. We have a “Baba” who works and travels some with that. Lucky for me, he has spent some time in the states so is pretty familiar with the likes and dislikes of typical Americans. We have 3 “Dadas” (Sisters). Stella is 4 and adorable! She sings and dances and makes fun of pretty much anything we try and say in Swahili – she also imitates everything I do. Seriously, I can entertain her for a solid hour just by making different faces and signs with my hands. Melody is 6 and also pretty perfect. She hasn’t opened up just yet but she will search me out to share and orange because I love them so much. Abigail is 11 and has finally started to communicate with us. Last night she went through all 4 lessons of our homework and told us what we did wrong and how to correct it. We didn’t even ask her for it, she just decided it would be a good idea – took our books – and started correcting. We also have 1 “Kaka” (Brother). His name is Allen and he stays home from school and plays all day. Only primary school is mandatory in Kenya and when our family moved recently they opted to keep him home because he was having a difficult time adjusting to the new school. He seems ok with it, but he is also very quiet. Maybe I will hear a different story as he starts to open up.
The final updates I will give you are on training. Peace Corps has decided to standardize their training on a global scale and we are the first classes to try it out. I am pretty excited about this. It gives Peace Corps a brand and will later be very helpful when we start applying for jobs. So far we have had a strong push to learn the language and they do a VERY good job teaching us. Not only are we solely speaking Swahili at our homestay but we have class for 3-4 hours a day with a certified language instructor. It is pretty amazing how far we have come in such a short amount of time. We also spend a good portion of our time on safety and security and also diversity and culture within Kenya. These classes are held daily and compiled of short lectures and then guided activities within smaller groups. Keeps us moving and awake and although sometimes we roll our eyes at yet another skit we have to do, I think we all enjoy it in the end and the activity helps to reinforce the lesson. As far as medical is concerned I have become lackadaisical about shots! I need yet ANOTHER vaccination? You got it, which arm or butt cheek would you like this time? Haha seriously I have had so many shots I am pretty much invisible – well except from the worms, amoebas, spiders, snakes, lions, tigers and elephants!
Oh yeah, speaking of elephants! We have seen Giraffes close enough to take pictures of!! Zebras – too far away, sorry Erin – Monkeys and one of our instructors saw elephants on the way to class today… but we don’t completely believe her on that as of now!!
Africa is pretty great but will definitely take some getting used to. Hope to have pictures up soon! LOVE YOU! Thanks for reading if you made it this far !!!!!!!!!!
Tomorrow starts the beginning of REAL training and the end of our pampered lifestyle here in Afrarlti. We had the Homestay Preparation classes and it seems as if life in Loitokitok will be much different than what we have grown to love here on the outskirts of Nairobi. No more will we have every meal cooked for us, we won’t have such a diversity in our food, and I am worried we might not even have coffee anymore :( So sad!!! I guess the most sad is that we probably won’t have availability of internet! It has been nice to email with my mom back and forth and oovoo with whoever might be on at the time!
Today during homestay training we had to demonstrate how we thought bucket baths would be taken and we also had to practice squatting for pit toilets!! Can you imagine! ME, squatting in the middle of 31 of my new friends and 12 Peace Crops staff?!?!? I tell you what, I turned as red as the shirt I was wearing! I guess I will be prepared though, and there won’t be any surprises - well no surprises in the bathroom department anyways.
In Loitokitok we will almost immediately move to our host families houses where we could have any type of family (similar to the US). We could have one mom and bunches of children or 2 parents and no children… we could have grandparents and aunts and uncles! There is no telling what it will look like. I do hope that there are children around! For some reason I feel like it will be much easier!
A few more updates:
Language Training is going really well and I feel like I could have a 10 minute conversation saying Hello and How are you – How is your family – How is your Mama ? Haha there are so many different ways to ask the same questions!
Nairobi ( The Capitol) sucks and I never want to go back there… It is like Atlanta during Rush Hour on Crack and dirty like you would imagine a third world country to be. You know, you can get arrested for talking on your cell phone while walking across the street – which is better than the alternative of getting ran over by a matatu going a million miles an hour — ON the WRONG side of the road!
You’d be happy to know that we taught all of our friends NINJA and it has really brought us closer together… Lol. Honestly, I have laughed so hard these last couple of days! We have all become instant best friends and its not hard for us to find fun things to do!
We have contact information now. Look to our “Contact Us” page for further instructions. Out phone number is 254 723 625 880 (there MIGHT be a 0 after 254, we are not positive yet) and our mailing address is
Brittany Nycole Werkheiser OR William Brett Werkheiser (It HAS to say our official FULL names)
US Peace Corps
P.O. Box 698-00621
Village Market, Nairobi, Kenya
I have never seen a public place so dark before. Walking off the airplane and into the terminal was a little scary. Caught off guard by the dimness and the small size of the hallways, you were acutely aware of how out of place you were. During the first 10 minutes of arrival we experienced a power outage – IN THE AIRPORT. Believe me, that is a third world problem (#Firstworldproblems lol). Fortunately, we were met by the smiling face of our first Peace Corps staff member. He directed us through customs (Which was a mad house of visitors and natives – with no sort of order) and down to the baggage claim. All of us were half expecting for our baggage to be lost but luckily it was all there and more Peace Corps staff had loaded it in carts for us to carry out. If I could describe Kenyans in one word it would be “helpful.” So far we have not wanted for anything, have not had a question go unanswered and have not struggled through any task alone. Our luggage was handled with care and loaded into buses, they have set us up in a hotel with our own rooms, showers and baths, we have had outstanding meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner… and to top it all off every day will be broken up by 3 tea breaks comprised of Hot Tea, Coffee or Hot Chocolate AND snacks! I can even make my very own Mocha!
Seriously, this is not what I expected. It is possible that we are in an “incubator” of sorts and they are careful not to expose us to extreme roughness too soon… but if village life is made up of kind, caring, helpful Kenyans like we have met, I am certain that this 2.5 years will be a pleasant –if not amazing – experience and Brett might be right… I might not want to leave :)
Oh, and just in case you were wondering… Weather here is PERFECT!!!