Category Archives: 1st Year!!!
Slaughtering of the goat (see last post) started a chain of events I will remember for quite some time. Strange things have been happening, and stranger things are yet to come!!
Our old neighbor, Beatrice has been asking for a picture of her cow since the day we moved in. Seems like an easy task. Point, Shoot, Develop. It’s not that easy though. You have to slop through the mud, travel into town, pray for there to be power, hope that the one small shop that develops pictures has paper, then you realize you forgot the jump drive!!!!!!!! Happens all the time. I finally did complete this task though and was pretty excited. I prance up to her house and hold my breath… she keeps her chickens INSIDE her house – you can judge her, as I sometimes do, but at least her chickens weren’t eaten by dogs… knock on the door while showcasing the picture out in front of me. When she opens the door she starts crying. Honest. She is crying. She is so happy to have a picture of her cow that she is crying.
Yesterday, I was a little glum and decided that if I let our new chickens out of the cage to play in the sun then their happiness would equal happiness for me! It was true in the beginning. I felt better! Out in the sun, reading on my hammock (LOVE my hammock) watching the little chickens bop around. Then I have to put them back. I could not catch them. I tried so strong to be brave but those little suckers get to squawking and flying around, it’s just hard! After 3 hours and a lot of bribing with food I got 3 of them inside. Accomplishment! After another hour of trying for the last one I decided to suck it up and ask a neighbor for help. I will never live that down.
I currently employ two little boys (Josephs sons) to bring me mushrooms. I told them I would pay them 10 cents a mushroom, 3 per week. At first I didn’t know how I felt about it but they keep coming back, Joseph doesn’t find a problem with it and I love mushrooms! ** For you worrywarts they take them to their dad first to make sure they aren’t the killer ones.
Dancing in the Street.
There is a man named Ezekiel Josephat Daniel Mwangi. He sings to me when I go to town and he gives me fruit. He follows me around with his sweet voice “Oh my darling, how I love you… Be mine oh my darling girl I love you!” He also recites scripture from the old testament. He is so great. Makes me smile. Always tells Brett that I am his darling girl. On Sunday I went to town alone and was meandering because I just didn’t feel like going home — RIGHT, totally a bid deal!! I hung around with my tomato and pepper mama, Helen and we chatted about her daughter and why the tomatoes were so ugly. Then Ezekiel Josephat Daniel Mwangi comes up and starts singing to me. Like always everyone is watching, they find this soooooo funny. He asks me to dance… duh dun dhun. But I did it. I danced with a crazy man in front of a bunch of Kenyans who already think I am strange enough. It was awesome.
Its been a strange week. But that’s okay :)
The rain begins to drizzle as we leave our house. Finally, we have gotten used to wet days but I still have to conceal my initial irritation and remind myself to remain pleasant. This day is going to require an exorbitant amount of happy smiles. Joseph has been preparing a goat for slaughter. Brett, being predictably excited, did not hesitate to commit us both. As we slosh through the broken dirt road leading to Josephs I humor myself with the memory of the last time Brett committed us to a slaughtered home meal. I slightly quiver as I recall the feeling of anxiety I had as I bit into a piece of chicken and could not, for the life of me, tear it off. The gift of meat was so tough that it hit the back wall with a thud when I threw it under the couch in desperate need to hide the evidence that I was not going to be able to eat it. To my knowledge no one ever found out my secret, aside from the sneaky cat who watched my act of defiance.
We trudge up to the gate of Josephs land. There is no need to call or wait for an escort into the family property. Brett unlatches the barbwire fence so that I can climb through and I wait and hold it ajar for him. Together we wiggle it closed and turn to proceed in the direction of the house.
“Hodi!!” I say aloud to alert the family of our presence. “Karibu!” Is the unison response we always receive from whoever happens to be within earshot. Little Faith, 2.5 years, comes running out with arms outstretched ready for her big hug and hundreds of kisses. I can’t help the smile that comes to my face as I see her emerge from the house. She makes every visit worth it. Today for the rainy weather she is wearing a princess dress, a GAP hoodie, holey purple leggings and shoes which are inevitably on the wrong feet. Her mother purchased all of it from the town market where piles upon piles of clothes are brought from the donations of Americans.
Joseph and his sons come out to greet us in the rain and escort us to the shed that is within eyesight, that which we have never seen inside. Already they have laid out a pallet of eucalyptus branches, which makes me think of my mother, and huge bay leaves bright green and resembling elephant ears. Their mother brings in, from the back of the house, the doomed goat. As she approaches Faith comes and takes hold of my hand. With her most precious endearing smile she looks up at me, points, and says “goat.” Then she says, “food.” Joseph grabs for the goat, who is starting to look more and more like an old man, and maneuvers him into the small, dank, shed.
I knew I was going to witness this slaughter but I didn’t expect to be affected by it. A goat, for some reason, is unlike a chicken. As Brett and Joseph start to tie up his legs and fold him into the right position I settle back into the wall and hope to go unnoticed. In the very least I am hoping to not have to participate. Brett holds his legs as the goat seemingly says, “nooooooooooo” and Joseph seems to respond with, “yeeeeeeeeeeeeesss.” I thought at first I was imagining this interaction until Brett looks up at me with questions in his eyes. I shrug and force a small smile and Brett laughs and resumes his duties.
Several pots were brought in to hold various portions of the soon to be dead animal. Joseph takes one and places it beside the neck of the goat, grabs the knife and slits his throat before I have a chance to breathe. Faith is still beside me holding my hand and watching, blood trickles to her shoes… she smiles at me and absently plays with my ring as she continues to witness the slaughter of her next several meals.
All throughout the dislocation of skin, bone and organs Joseph explains to us the traditions of animal slaughter. How women are not permitted to be near the killing and how they are not aloud to roast the meat once the job is finished. He explains which parts of the animal go to each family member. As he is dissecting the small intestines, heart, kidneys, and liver from the four stomachs he confides to us his favorite parts of the goat and which organs are the sweetest.
The entire process of slaughter, dissecting and cleaning of the feces and bile takes 3 hours. I remained in my adamant state of witnessing only and dealt with the sights and smells from a healthy distance. It is disrespectful to refuse food but thankfully after 9 months of friendly banter, Joseph remains unscathed when I tell him I will absolutely not eat the intestines of the old man goat. I know he is greatful that we spend time with his family, and for him and I it is understood that it is enough. Brett on the other hand is not given such courtesies and being a man he must try everything that is placed before him. Before we leave Brett has eaten intestines and liver not to mention had to endure sticking his fingers in organs and pushing out feces, breaking the neck and legs off, and cleaning out the stomach.
We were sent home with a huge thigh and 8 ribs… after marinating and cooking the meat it still took Brett 10 minutes to chew every piece he put in his mouth. Even then he was still just swallowing massive chucks of tough animal. I smiled to myself… at least I got to see Faith.
We had a big turnout for this Sunday’s “Kicking Out Malaria” games, close to 500 people showed!! We were happy with the outcome. Peace Corps shipped us 50 t-shirts, some pretty cool carrier bags and 6 soccer balls. With all of the free stuff all we had to do was propose the idea to our community and they ran with it.
Our co-worker is pretty into soccer and has put on several events like this so we let him plan and run everything. We planned a small Malaria info session for right before the playoff game, and other than that is was all about soccer.
6 teams played for the grand prize of 8000 ksh, sponsored by Beyond Poverty. The money will pay for team uniforms and also field rentals, referees, and basic organization fees. A small amount to ensure that they can keep doing something that they love to do. The prize money also brought in some bigger teams, which brings bigger crowds to hear the health messages we needed them to hear.
Malaria is not a big concern here in Ol’Kalou. With the cold weather we don’t see many bugs and mosquitoes have a difficult time surviving. Still, the disease does present itself every now and then and it is important to still educate the communities about it. More times than not a person will contract the disease while traveling outside of Ol’Kalou and when they symptoms present themselves, 10 days later, they will automatically assume it is the flu. That is when the disease kills.
It was a fun day. I mean, I don’t really care anything about soccer but I sat with some kids and they painted my finger nails and we laughed about how weird my hair was. Then we did some cartwheels and I taught some plucky little boys how to do front flips. So I guess I got some good laughs out of it. Brett, of course, is inspired to start tournaments in Ol’Kalou … Yay?? :) He is full of new ideas.
Malaria quick facts if you are interested :
** Malaria is an illness caused by a mosquito bite. It is estimated that 300-500 million cases of Malaria occur each year, about 90% of those occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.
** Malaria kills between 1.1 and 2.7 million people each year, wold-wide. About 1 million are children under the age of 5 years in Africa.
** Deaths by Malaria represents about 25% of all childhood deaths in Africa.
I was thinking last night, while lying on my bathroom floor, that there are a number of life experiences that you will have to muster up the courage to get through when you are serving as a Peace Corps volunteer.
- You will spend several nights on a bathroom floor, though through no fault of you own. Except if you count drinking water or eating any food.
- You will definitely catch yourself staring at a wall and realize with a startle that it has been 5 hours.
- It is certain you will break a tooth on the little rocks that are hidden in your rice.
- It is inevitable that you will find a bug in your food and eat it anyway.
- Many times you will survive off of only popcorn.
- Washing your feet will be an obsession. Until it is not.
- You will slaughter an animal for food.
- It is highly possible you will get hit by a car, taxi, bus or motorcycle.
- You will loose all of your boundaries and R.E.S.P.E.C.T will take on a whole new meaning. Now, if I don’t ask about your bowel movements I am being insensitive.
- You nod Yes to everything because it is easier than asking a person 100 times what they are trying to say.
- You will step in feces. You won’t try to determine who’s or what its from.
- You will develop a “special english” and it will make you laugh.
- You will definitely call your friends to make fun of the locals and realize you both do the same things.
- You’ll pay outrageous prices for American foods that you randomly find in supermarkets.
- You might get in a fight, you will probably get robbed and you are doomed to be pick-pocketed.
- Your hair will turn grey and you will contemplate dreads – or you will shave it all off.
- You will scream at an animal and will probably push a child down (self-defense!).
- You’ll stop being afraid of spiders.
- 2 days becomes 1 week, becomes 10 days since you last bathed. In a bucket.
- You will cry often and will always be incredibly uncomfortable, you will covet what your friends and family have and become overwhelmingly jealous of their time together… But then you will realize
“The difference between an adventure and ordeal, is only your attitude.” – Kathy Werkheiser :)
You can easily take for granted the clean water that comes pouring out of your faucet at all hours of the day. Its cold and fresh, refreshing. I greatly miss being able to turn on my bathroom sink to brush my teeth and wash my face. Jump in the shower, wash dishes under running water, water my garden, run a sprinkler system all without very much effort. Miss this!
Brett and I (mostly Brett) decided awhile ago to take on solo projects. It is important to us. Not only do we get a better taste of what our fellow PCVs have to do on a daily basis, be alone, but we also get to interact in the community to show them how gender roles can be drastically different than what their traditional gender roles are. It was a shock at first to meet with the CHWs and just be plain ol’ female me. They were a little stunned and probably, if I am being honest, were looking for the white man that gets things done. They have gotten over it though. I have also gotten used to it. Brett is full of ideas and constant encouragement.
One of my projects has been to bring clean water to the schools in our constituency. Luckily, the organization Water Charity is incredible to work with and with the funding they have I am sure that I will be able to bring water to all of the primary schools in our area. It is a simple process. We gave the CHWs applications to hand out to the schools in their villages and as they bring them in I apply for grants through Water Charity. The funds come in within the month and we set to work with the school. Most times we give the schools conditions to meet to be eligible for the grants. The majority of schools are required to supply materials such as rain gutters and cement foundations, if they aren’t able then at the bare minimum they must supply the labor for the whole project. It is very important not to do the whole project for a community. They have to take ownership of it. Similar to how your parents make you buy your own car so you don’t wreck it …. :) Yes, smile mom. She was so good to me by buying my first car and I wrecked it – several times. Then I wrecked hers. At least I am learning something here!
Kenyans are still coming around to the idea of drinking water. Joseph’s key statement is “Well, I haven’t taken a cup of water in 10 years.” He isn’t exaggerating and he is not the exception. Many times you hear that drinking water makes you sick. It is a constant battle. Even when you try your very best to explain that they reason their children have yellow and brown eyes is because they aren’t getting enough water. So, needless to say, I have taken a great interest in this personal endeavor! If nothing else it has me walking close to 12 miles a week up gigantic hills and into the most remote parts of this area. The central region of Kenya is beautiful, and I am going to have amazing legs :)
Speaking of Joseph… I know you have missed hearing about Joseph! His family was all together for the first time in awhile so we got a group shot! We have also planned a big spaghetti dinner and UNO night at our house, followed shortly after with an all day goat eating extravaganza. I have been told I will be holding the legs while Joseph slaughters it and Brett has to eat the eyeballs. For real.
This is Faith. Joseph’s youngest daughter. She is so perfect and happy with her only doll :( If you look closely you can see how brown her eyes are. She only drinks tea and milk.
“Daily Strength for Daily Needs” by Mary W. Tileston is by far my favorite devotional book. You can get it for free on your kindle. So go do that right now.
I feel the majority of my last couple posts have been all mushy about how much I love my mom and my family – so maybe I just really miss you guys, and even in danger of losing some followers I am still going to write this. Today’s reading is for my Mom, Brett’s Mom, for all 3 of my Sisters (counting a soon to be) and for all three of my Grandmothers.
“Are they not all ministering spirits?” – Hebrews 1.14 (KJV)
Certainly, in our own little sphere it is not the most active people to whom we owe the most. Among the common people whom we know, it is not necessarily those who are the busiest, not those who, meteor-like, are ever on the rush after some visible charge and work. It is the lives, like the stars, which simply pour down on us the calm light of their bright and faithful being, up to which we look and out of which we gather the deepest calm and courage. It seems to me that there is reassurance here for many of us. If we can do nothing for our fellow-man, it still it is good to know that we can be something for them; to know (and this we may know surely) that no man or woman of the humblest sort can really be strong, gentle, pure and good, without the world being better for it, without somebody being helped and comforted by the very existence of that goodness. – Phillips Brooks
Robert, our main contact for rabbits here in Kenya, came to Ol’Kalou today with some replacement rabbits, food and medicine. We had a short meeting and then conducted some questions and answers back and forth between him and the group. Last time Robert came he brought with him 3 fairly small pregnant females and the CHW group threw a huge fit about it. They yelled to us about Robert taking advantage of the fact that we were white and said that we shouldn’t pay the requested price. Then Robert yelled to us about how the CHWs were taking advantage because we shouldn’t be helping them if they are so ungrateful. It has become custom for me to attend these meetings just to handle these particular outbursts. I have to secretly, so I don’t hurt man pride, take Robert to the side to tell him to please smile and relax and let us handle the group. Then I have to take the CHWs to the side and remind them that we know what we are doing and to please stop yelling at our only rabbit contact.
It has been stressful, this rabbit project. Everyone seems to know everything about the rabbit business and Brett and I are constantly wading through what we are told to find the real solutions to these problems. Because, honestly you have to be careful what you believe when it comes to project information here. Kenyans have a lot of pride that might not always be worthy and sometimes they will stick to what they believe until all of their rabbits have died.
This is one of the reason I love Robert. He has been very angry a couple of times, and I have had to work really hard at calming him down. Now, and I am so thankful for this, he shoots his eyeballs in my direction if he is getting ticked and then I know its my job to intercede for him. This makes him look always the happy one and keeps everyone feeling much better about the process. Same is also true for the CHWs. When they don’t understand or feel irritated they all shoot their eyeballs at me and I do the same thing for them.
All that to say a funny thing happened today. One of the CHWs was worried that his rabbit was overweight. Robert starts laughing so hard in his strange half child half grandmother laugh. Kind of sounds like a donkey is thrown in there. Hard to explain. Anyways, he’s laughing and everyone shoots their eyeballs at me. I have to remind them how just last month they were worried because the rabbits he brought were too small. So Robert first addresses the overweight dilemma and then in true Robert form he starts making analogies about weight. Goes something like this:
You know big people don’t get anything done. Same is true with rabbits, they are just like people.
A big person will work a veeerrrryyyy short time and a little person will work for 24 hours straight. Same is true with rabbits, they are just like people.
You know the Chinese. They are veeeerrrryyyy small people and they work very hard. They will work 24 hours a day.
You know Goliath was a big person and he was very slow. David was a vvveeeerrryyyyy small boy and he killed Goliath with just a pebble.
You know a very big rabbit will eat her children because she is always hungry. A small rabbit will make more babies and eat less and never eat her children.
Then Martin, our main man, says “but Robert, we are Africans we like BIIIHHHGGGG (BIG) things.” He throws a grunt in there for good measure. Then everyone laughs.
Robert says, if you want a big rabbit then I will bring you big rabbit. But the vveeeerrrryyy small ones are better they don’t eat their babies.
Martin now wants to talk about medium rabbits. AhhH! Robert shoots his eyeballs at me. I have to say, How about next time you don’t bring vveeeeerrrrryyy big rabbits or vvvveeeerrrryyy small rabbits. Next time you bring in between rabbits.
This is what I deal with on the day to day.
Finally the group meeting looks like its coming to an end and Robert tells the CHWs that at the next meeting he will cook us rabbit. Everyone is excited. Then he throws in that he is going to charge everyone per piece they eat. All the CHWs shoot their eyeballs at me. —- And here we go again. Another 30 minutes pass, the problem is solved and we start to walk home. Just as the rain, thunder and lightening begin.
All in a days work.
I just need to tell Keith and Allison Jemo how amazing they are real quick! They have just donated the funds for 4 bicycles helping us to hopefully reach our goal of 70 bicycles for the Community Health Workers in our area!! What an amazing contribution! Thank you so much for helping us out Keith and Allison! We are so lucky to have you as friends – and family :)
Thanks again you guys!! You have brought smiles to my face and I can’t even wait to see how the Community Health Workers take it! Once we have enough money to start buying the bicycles I will be sure to send you pictures!!
This day last year was the last time I saw my brother before I left for Peace Corps :( And I won’t see him again until his wedding day!!
This is what I thought when I woke up this morning. Then, I got an amazing phone call from my mom!! She stayed up until One in the morning to tell me Happy Easter … I mean she could have just happened to be awake, but I am going to say she stayed up for me.
When my mom calls me in the morning it always makes me late for whatever I need to do. I just don’t like hanging up the phone with her. Then my step dad gets on the phone and I can’t hang up with him either! There is just too much to say and be happy about. So now Brett and I are late for church. Easter Morning Sunday, Kenyan Church. You can be late for just about anything here. — Brett and I are always waiting around for hours for our groups to show up and they don’t pay no mind. However, you cannot be late for church. We were though, so heads hung low hoping nobody notices the white people walking in the back, we sneak in while none other than Matt Redman is playing on the speakers. It’s always a good service when you start off with Matt Redman.
The church we go to is a mega church in Ol’Kalou, relatively. It is huge and there is so much sunlight shining in from the blue and yellow stained glass windows. You feel happy being there. Most times we sing songs that we know from way back when in middle school church groups, and then all of a sudden the congregation breaks out into Kikuyu song and dance and you feel flash mob excited. Its wonderful. I prefer the Kikuyu songs. No doubt about it.
There is always a lot of standing up and then sitting down and then standing up in a Kenyan church, only to sit down and stand up 500 more times. There is also a lot of ear piercing sermons where you are in a tiny bit a pain, maybe to get their point across. Although, little do they know I can barely understand what they are saying anyways. Amen, Yes Lord and Holy Father are said at every break and we are just now starting to get the hang of when and where it is appropriate to agree with the pastor. They make us stand up and say our names and where we are from, every time. Brett always takes the microphone AMEN, and says “Praise the Lord, I am Brett and this is my wife Brittany. We are thankful to be worshiping with you. God is good.” Than they say, “All the time.” Brett says “All the time.” They say “God is good.” I know this is a world wide volley, but it still makes me giggle when Brett starts it. I think he secretly thinks its fun too.
This morning I planned on returning home after service to finish up my Jodi Picoult book that I started yesterday. (Thanks Jenni!) Instead, a woman that works at the hospital we are connected to invites us over for lunch, and she invites Mercy too which makes us super happy! Its always great having a local friend accompany you to an unfamiliar place. Well, little do we know but this woman – Esther – is a hot shot and we immediately fall in love with her. Not only is she amazing but she also has a hot shot daughter who outshines us in almost every way. They were amazing company and so considerate to invite us over. We left carrying presents of yogurt and cornbread and with the expectation that they next time Esther is working I have to make her bean burgers for her lunch break. Done.
We made it home just as the rain started. I was still able to finish my book and Brett has been consumed with crossword puzzles. My kitten is sleeping soundly on my lap, the electricity is still working and we have spaghetti leftovers for dinner.
Not such a bad way to spend a holiday away from home. Happy Easter everyone. Don’t ever forget the real reason we have this holiday… Jesus Rocks!
In a comment from my most recent post my Mom responded with her very own poem… She showed me up!! Hahaha I love her so much! It is my mom who makes me smile and laugh the way I do… See for yourself how amazing (and funny) she is!
You make me laugh out loud which is such a good thing
But with this I hope you are listening …
You can love it today
You can even want to stay
But when there are grandbabies involved
I better get a call
From the phone – to the car – to the airport
I will come in a dash for that plane ticket
I will work harder for cash.
You have been a delight since the day of your birth
Having you and your brother has been the best experience on earth.
When you become a mom and brett a new dad
Don’t do as your parents did or you both will be sad
Raise your children to be co-dependent from the start
Then you will never have to deal with the leaving home part.
What you are doing is such an exciting thing
I too loved waking by little ones singing
When you are ready for children my phone better be ringing
Enjoy your time in your new far away world
Learn all that you can and share your smile everyday
But keep your eyes open to this one simple truth – when it comes to THAT Special DAY
I will steal your children away : )
JUST SO YOU KNOW
Luv Ya !