Monthly Archives: July 2012
Well Brett wanted to get an IPhone before we left and I fought him on it tooth and nail. Turns out it would have been extremely useful! Wi-Fi does exist here and having a phone to access internet easily on those amazing occasions would have been great!
So that being said, if you have an IPhone, Droid or anything similar and you are thinking about upgrading we would love you to send the old one to us!
There is an extra plus if you have a wi-fi enabled phone that can ALSO hold a sim card! (You use SIM cards here to buy airtime and make calls, send texts etc.)
Just a shout out to my Grammamamama Jerry for sending me some delicious chewy granola bars and Mac n Cheese!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh man getting mail here hasn’t gotten old and I can’t imagine that it every will!!! Thank you so much for all the amazing snacks and for the toiletries too!!! I think between you, my mom, and Gramma Cecily I won’t have to go shopping for toiletries for a solid year! Haha I am wondering how I am going to take them from training to site :)
You are so great!! I am so lucky to have you looking out for me back home!!!
I know we still have packages from Kathy and Susan coming but if anyone else was thinking about sending one wait a couple of weeks until we find out our new address!! If you have already sent it just let me know and I will try and find where it might be :) Oh Kenyan mail!!
Things you could always send if you want to…. SNACKS and CANDY !!!!!!!!!!! We don’t need anymore toiletry items because from my family we are set for LIFE!
Okay LOVE you all !!! Thanks for being so good to us!!!
I was the only trainee left in the conference room today after class and I had been enjoying the quiet and time alone… until all of the trainers come in for Chai. At first I thought that maybe I should leave then I decided I wasn’t a bother to them and it turned out to be a pretty good idea. As we sat together drinking tea and eating gizzards (them not me) we talked about life in Kenya and about some of the struggles Americans face coming to live here. They look at our Peace Corps service as a huge sacrifice. A lot of them can’t wrap their mind around what we have to give up and more than that they can’t understand why we would want to. I didn’t want to completely give my motivations away but I tried to explain to them that it isn’t all altruistic. There are a lot of reasons for joining Peace Corps and I think all of us want to make a difference over here but it normally isn’t the only reason we joined. I tried to explain to them the urge to leave comfortable America and how sometimes (a lot of times) all of those luxuries and more importantly the hustle and bustle takes away from community and really what we are looking for is just that. I told them that Kenya has preciously what America lacks and although it might be nice to get a hot shower and some National Geographic on the TV – when it is all said and done I think I might really miss Kenya.
The week is coming to an end and we are dealing with having to leave our Wi-Fi internet, electricity, amazing food and toilets. Oh, it has been so nice and I am forcing myself NOT to write an entire post about all the food we have eaten!! We have had such a great time here! We have had a curfew but because we are all in the same hotel it hasn’t mattered. There have been plenty of 2 o’clock in the morning escapades and we have even managed to orchestrate a Mr. and Miss Peace Corps pageant. (Take a look at the link to pictures over on the right hand side of this page) I have gotten used to the other volunteers here – we can talk about everything, we have to talk about everything, and we even talk about all the gross stuff that girls aren’t supposed to talk about. So, when I say that I had the weirdest experience last night it might just blow your mind. Getting ready for the pageant I was with a bunch of girls and we were putting on make-up and getting dressed up and putting on GLITTER!!! I was shocked. With all of the ways I have to get close to the girls here and all of the things we know about each other… this was the weirdest. It’s hard to explain – but when you never see girls with make-up on and all you talk about is bodily functions and medical patients – it’s strange to then turn a 180 and do something girly for once. I know you won’t get that, but to me it was worth writing and if it ever happens to you I hope you laugh about it and think of me.
We have worked a lot this week too, I don’t want to give the impression that we only play (which is what the pictures would suggest). I think I can speak for everyone when I say that this week has been the most influential by far. Instead of sitting in a classroom and hearing lecture after lecture we have actually gone out into town and have spoken with real life Kenyans. Amazing idea huh? We think it’s about time so we took full advantage of it. We were able to contact a bunch of very successful HIV/AIDS patients who have started outreaches all over the country. It was incredible hearing about their struggles and accomplishments. We learned a lot about the stigmas associated with AIDS and how the lack of information Kenyans have access to really plays a huge role in how these people interact with each other. Did you know that they still believe, whole heartedly, that you can get AIDS by holding hands, by eating the same foods, by being in the same room even?? You have to be so careful when talking to them about the disease too because they take everything at face value. For instance, this company called LifeStraw came in and gave out water purification systems for free to anyone who got tested for HIV. Well it backfired, and before long people associated LifeStraws with AIDS and all the Kenyans started to believe that AIDS was actually IN the LifeStraw! It really blows my mind all that we have learned about the critical thinking, or lack thereof, in a third world country. Honestly, we have probably spent more time learning how to effectively talk to Kenyans than about anything else. Speaking of that, one more gripe I have about being a health worker here is that there are simply not enough words in the Kiswahili language to effectively educate people about anything medically related. What can you possibly do when you can barely communicate to begin with and even if you could there aren’t enough words to describe what you need to tell them? Talk about third world problems. Then again, we aren’t supposed to be the ones doing all the work either. It is our job to find motivated leaders in the community to start outreach, not do it alone. If we can manage to encourage and find them the resources they need to get started and then turn them loose and they are sustainable, that is when we have done our job.
Well, this post isn’t one I am most proud about. Its random and unorganized but I have just been having so much fun this week that I haven’t spent much time on writing – Pole!! (Sorry) All in all Machakos was a success – We learned a ton, grew a ton, and had a TON of fun! Yes FUN!!! I feel a little bit more prepared to start working and I guess that is enough!
Our Final language proficiency test is next Friday! Yikes!!! Its now back to Loitokitok for 4 hours a day of language class to prepare and a lot of nervous Peace Corps trainees to comfort!! Of course we will all pass – Peace Corps does a great job at preparing us for this – then we will celebrate with Pombe (beer) at the Giraffe bar!! WHOOP!
Anne Rice has me floating back in time. Not only has she taken me back to the 1700′s to live, dance and dine among vampires but she has rekindled my adoration for New Orleans. This fragile city creeps into my thoughts more often than any other town I have lived. The community you encounter there is rich in spirit and the connections you make withstand the test of time and nature.
“There is something forever savage and primitive there, something that threatens the exotic and sophisticated life both from within and without… A fierce wilderness forever surrounds the city, ready to engulf it. Hurricanes, floods, fevers, the plague and the damp of the Louisiana climate itself works so tirelessly on New Orleans that it seems at all times like a dream in the imagination of her striving populace. A dream held intact at every second by a tenacious collective will.”
I will always call Georgia home but New Orleans holds my heart. You just have to live there to understand.
This week Brett and I broke out the games! I just want to emphatically state that I am a genius for bringing all of our games organized in a roll up case! I applauded myself – no kidding :o) We have played Monopoly cards and Scrabble Slam, Hand and Foot, Sequence and Phase 10 … I am so glad I have an awesome husband who likes to play games with me!! I actually didn’t think we would have much time to play during training because technically we are supposed to be spending the vast majority of our time with the host family. Luckily, NyaNya is in town and the family has been focused on catching up with her. Therefore, we have had a much needed break to be alone and have FUN! Yes FUN :o)
Our week so far has gone by pretty quickly. We are all anxiously awaiting this Saturday and also next week’s adventure to Machakos! Saturday (Sorry if I have already mentioned it) we are having a big party/ sleepover at Outward Bound Campus! It is in celebration of a late 4th of July and also a couple of birthdays coming up very soon… Oh and of course our 3 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!! Married 3 years already?!? Blows my mind! We are all going to Machakos for a week to attend a HIV/AIDS seminar and while there we will have hotel rooms with showers and PIZZA and a grocery store and even though we will still have a curfew we will all be together so we have come up with plenty of events to keep us entertained. I am pretty sure there is a pageant in the works to establish Mr. and Mrs. Peace Corps, a beard competition (which I plan on winning with my rainbow hand sewn beard) and also a talent show! So plenty of pictures will come from this upcoming week- get excited!!
Speaking of pictures… most of you who read this have access to my Facebook album but I am trying to figure out a way to reference that by a link on here. Maybe you can help Mike and Uncle Tommy?? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. The album is public and I have tried a similar code to the one for the links on “My Inspiration” but it did not work.
Anyways, over half way done with training and it feels great! All of us have reached survival levels as we can demonstrate by the many MANY skits and interviews we have to go through for language. Today we had to spend about 2 hours going through various simulations with our language teachers. It was a riot! All of our instructors (most of them very quiet and timid) had a role to play and they really put on a show! We had pickpockets, drunk prostitutes, crazy dangerous matatu drivers, relentless hawkers, mean street kids, incompetent waiters, men trying to buy women, women trying to buy men, moms throwing us fake babies (only in a 3rd world country do you have to worry about this one). It was our test to survive them. If someone did wrong to us we had to find the police and report it, we had to bargain at the market and had to order dinner at a restaurant. We had to haggle with a matatu driver and protect ourselves and our friends at a bar!! It was a crazy couple of hours!! All in Swahili, and we did a very good job if I can say so myself!
Not much in other news… like I said we are all very much anticipating the end of training and although that brings much needed freedom and privacy, it also means that we will be leaving our friends/now family and a lot of us will be pretty isolated. Its bitter sweet to say the least and hopefully we make valiant efforts to stay connected!
It blows my mind what the children here are capable of! A lot of times it breaks my heart. In America children under 5 always have a guardian or someone supervising nearby. In Kenya one year olds are given to the 3 year olds to look after while Mom goes to work in the fields or home. I was getting used to it until we saw our 4 year old sister walking home alone today!
We have a pretty long tough walk home. It takes us between 30 and 45 minutes. Not only is it a bit of a work out but it is dangerous- for adults – let alone babies! Some common hazards could be:
- Herds of cattle
- Herds of sheep
- Men (alone and in groups)
- Rabid dogs
- Other children!
- Feces (Animal and probably human)
- Dust and dirt!!! So much dust!
This is not a road either. It is a dirt road wide enough for one car with sometimes barely any room to escape the fast traffic!
You never know what you should count your blessings for… Missing America !!
I woke up this morning to quiet. It doesn’t happen often so I smiled and decided it was okay to lay in bed a little while longer. Next, I picked up a book and read it until it was finished – another thing that is not likely in my current life. What to do next? The morning has been perfect and I have done everything I wanted to do so far ….
Now, I want to go to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast and then come home to watch National Geographics all day in my pajamas. I believe with my whole heart this is possible….
Until I walk out of my room and I realize – I’m in Africa
NyaNya (Grandmother) is in town for a couple of weeks. She brought with her a house technician (similar to a maid) and we also have a friend of our brothers staying over for a couple of weeks – bringing the family total to 12! This Includes Brett and me because at this point we have actually become a little family. :o) NyaNya and I are sitting on the couch and watching the fire. We have tried to chat a little but she speaks mostly Maasai so it has proven to be difficult. The fire feels amazing, it is so cold here! I never expected to be so chilly in Africa but this is only one of the many things that have surprised me about this experience. Some of the others are how beautiful and lush the landscape can be, how children are entirely self-sufficient at the age of 3, that the food is not as bad as I made it out to be in the beginning (although it does still taste the same no matter what they cook!) and also the most surprising is that every day my mind changes about what I can handle and also what I want my experience here to look like.
Brett and I have been very fortunate throughout this experience. Our host family wanted us to be here and more than that they requested a couple. We also have all the food and more importantly water we could ever need. Unlimited water is unheard of in Kenya and even right now our village, Loitokitok, is experiencing a drought and major water shortages. Our host family has taken to selling water to meet the needs of others. Other volunteers have to live with this on a daily basis and a lot of the time they don’t have enough water to wash their body and hair in the same day. I should really be counting my blessings and now I will be more conscious of it.
Yesterday we had a field trip to a neighboring town called Kimana. It was a small group of us, just our language group and one other. We weren’t very excited about it because today we have a test in our Swahili proficiency and we are all pretty nervous about it, so we really wanted to study. We were going to look at possible water sources. Brett was stoked and really interested as he has had a passion for water and sanitation for a couple of years now and has even traveled with a non-profit called Beyond Poverty to Haiti for this very reason. I was in between going with the flow and trying to make us move faster – not really interested because water, at this time, was a very small concern. We started off walking to find a stream that the community has tried to restructure to fit their needs better. I would say close to 400 people survive off of this one water source alone and because of this they have caused detrimental effects to the foundation. Over the years the spring had turned into a marsh because with all of the traffic (people walking) to get water they had ruined the soil. About 4 years ago someone – who knows who – decided to change this and has made a protective barrier to confine the spring. Now, the land is beautiful again and the spring can run freely throughout the entire village by a concrete waterway. It is accessible to everyone. However, this has not solved the whole problem. Still, the clinics and hospitals are overrun with people ailing from water borne illness. The people believe the water is clean because it looks clean. It sounds good, but we took a long walk along this water source and there are countless contaminants. Mothers are washing clothes in the spring, animals drink out of it and they walk through it, people walk over it and sometimes through it and even vehicles pass through. There is no way the water is clean but there is no concept of critical thinking here. Things just are what they appear to be at that moment. It really changed my idea of what I wanted to accomplish while I am here. Now, I realize how big of a concern clean water is and I hope that Brett and I can make a difference.
We have learned that changing behavior is the most difficult aspect of being a successful Peace Corps volunteer. To convince people to take extra time, extra wood, extra charcoal (all equaling extra money) to clean water that they truly believe is clean is a hugely challenging task in a third world country. We have to start somewhere though so hopefully we can develop a decent strategy. I am looking forward to trying. I have a lot of big dreams for my time here and it is exciting that they are slowly becoming more defined.
Today was vaccination day! Everyone had to get 2 shots but lucky me had to also get the last Hep B shot. 3 shots in one day is never good but I had felt relaxed about it because our PCMO is so amazing and always brings candy! Well, she wasnt there today and her replacement was a man with zero empathy for wussy American girls! Ouch!! I cried about it – he didnt care…. So the day was a bust but I went home and decided NOT to go to my room! I was going to try to be happy and intergrate with my host family like a good PC volunteer :) So I taught them how to make French Fries!!! Win Win!!!
As we were cooking my “Mama” started asking all about our wedding :) So I went and got our photo book to show her… Haha the first thing she says is “Aaaaiiiii Brett kabla ya rasta!!!” and she died laughing!! (“Brett before dreads”) it made my day for some strange reason! She continued asking tons of questions about all of you!!! Pictures are Amazing! It was fun showing off my family and friends!!
Every Peace Corp trainee will visit a current Peace Corp volunteer ( CPCV ) and shadow them for a week or so. We are supposed to see how a real volunteer lives and works within their community. It is essential for the training process because of a couple of reasons. First, we need to see what we are really getting into. Some of us went to regions that were super isolated and others went to villages that were connected to a larger town. I would like to think this is directly correlated with how our future site will be. Also we need to see what it is like to, in most cases, be the only American for miles and miles and consequently be the only English speaking person. Second, it is extremely important for us to experience travel in Kenya. There are several forms of travel; Matatu (minivan taxi), bus, coach bus, plane, private taxi, piki piki (motorcycle which we are strictly forbidden to take) and walking. All of these are exceedingly dangerous. The only one we aren’t allowed to take is the piki piki, the two which we could never afford are a private taxi and plane. So we are left with Matatu mostly, and on the rare occasion we might be able to snag a coach bus. Lastly, we need a vacation. Training wears on you and they schedule these site visits at the perfect time; Right in the middle, around week 4 or 5. It gives us a chance to gain some freedom and privacy back. Be around other Americans and just plain relax.
I think all of us had great stories from our journey but instead of just telling a long story about ours I will list you off some of the most memorable accounts from everyone.
- We all had amazing food over the course of the week. Pizza, Spaghetti, Cheeseburgers, Milkshakes, Peanut Butter Cookies, Baked Ziti, Stirfry, Pasta Salad… the list goes on and on. The best thing was texting a volunteer at a different site and asking them how they were doing. Chances were they would write back about the food they were getting to eat! Love it!
- You previously read about our Matatu experience and we were not the exception. Along with fitting a copious amount of people in such a small space, playing chicken with much bigger oncoming vehicles, and strange driver habits – there we also stories that far exceeded ours. Imagine, if you can, being a man sitting in between two women – one openly breastfeeding a small child, the other holding 2 live chickens all the while a man is straddling you ON YOUR LAP so the only thing you can do is sit perfectly still with your head up looking at the ceiling and just praying that sometime soon some of these people will get out of the dang car and then (as if you needed anything else) the Matatu stops and instead of people getting off, 4 more jump on! Such is life here in Kenya.
- One group went to a pretty remote village where they were only accessible by taking a 1.5 hour walk up a mountain from the town below. There wasn’t even an option for a car or even motorcycle with the narrowness of the foot path. They had a chance to see something pretty amazing though. It this particular tribes culture they would bury their dead on their land (which is pretty typical here) but a year later they would dig them up and take off the skull. The family would have a ceremony of sorts and take the skull down to a cave within the mountain and would place it there among all of their ancestors. I’m not sure how you are imagining it but to me it seems kind of beautiful. – Hoping to snag some pictures from these volunteers.
- Not sure how savvy you are on the current Kenyan news but there is one political member who has been indicted by the ICC for hate speech with the upcoming elections and in his absence a Peace Corps volunteer has been placed at his house. So 5 of the trainees had a chance to stay there on their visit and enjoy their own private bathroom, full kitchen, flat screens, and even house help. Haha I assure you this is the exception! The rule is a small house with a pit latrine and no running water and electricity. – don’t think Peace Corps is getting all fancy ☺
- Every trainee came back with success stories and struggles that the current volunteers are facing. There are a lot of projects going on and it seems that everyone they sent us to have a firm grasp on what it takes to be effective at their site. I won’t list many but our particular volunteer works with Junior Achievement and she just finished a huge Junior Entrepreneurship Competition in which 50 schools from the region participated. In Kenya that takes a lot of personal motivations by the students as well as a tremendous amount of work for a volunteer to reach that many schools and have them all meet at the same time. It went very well too, the winning school was one she has personally helped over the last year and they will be going to Nationals in the upcoming months.
- Three of the volunteers went to the coastal region and got to put their feet in the Indian Ocean! So jealous! I can’t wait to see the coast.
- One volunteer had her phone stolen while she was in a Matatu – the man just opened the window from the outside reached in and snagged it all in about 4 seconds flat! Another volunteer had a run in with a man very perturbed that she was taking pictures from inside the Matatu. Now Noted – keep your camera hidden away!
- We all came back with travel, vacation, safari, and restaurant ideas and websites for planning those trips over the next two years – EXCITEMENT!!!
Everyone had great stories and tips from the current volunteers that we will all find very useful in the years to come. Overall I think it was a great experience. It was much needed as a vacation, but also important to see if we can do this for the next two years. Our volunteer said she could see herself permanently moving to Kenya, that she feels perfectly safe and happy here. I don’t know if I will go that far, but I am open to idea. I know Brett would be overjoyed :o) From what we have seen Kenya is beautiful country with beautiful people and I think we hit the jackpot of assignments.