Category Archives: Training
This week was AMAZING! It went by SO fast. Thank goodness too because training has seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace lately. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed myself here :o) but it’s just so exciting to actually have the time in sight where I can start getting work done. On that note, I have failed to mention how perfect Peace Corps timing is during training! They have scheduled every event and outing at the exact time that all of us needed it to occur. Right at your breaking point they present you with this marvelous vacation then you come back for two weeks and then leave again for yet another vacation… finally you come back for two weeks where the first one you solely prepare for the language test (much needed!) you get to celebrate for passing (hopefully) and then one week left to pack and BAM you are done!!! I want to sing about how happy I am that they have scheduled training to fit me perfectly :o)
Yesterday, we had a project to build a rocket stove. Basically it is 16 bricks formed together mortared with ant poop and straw and water. It’s simple (until you have to mix it all together- Poop!) and Mama’s will save a ton of time cooking and also a significant amount of wood which both equal more money. Need an equation? Hiya!! Poop + 16 bricks = Money. Glad we are on the same page. While this was happening and everyone was working really hard and covered in poop; Rachel and I sat on the sidelines chatting – Really why does EVERYONE need to be covered in the stuff?? — suddenly she turns to me and says (with complete conviction) “We live in Kenya.” Whoa… We do live in Kenya. Technically we haven’t even started our 2 years yet … I’m telling you one thing this realization has happened many times over the course of training and it never ceases to amaze me how this small statement can be both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
All of us are going to have considerably different Peace Corps experiences. Take, for example, Brett and I – Oh lucky Brett and I – who will live in a large town only an hourMatatu rollercoaster from the fastest growing city in Kenya AND who will also live very close to 5 other volunteers. Compare that to Max – Maximillion Mann! – who is moving to the Masai Mara where he has to wear traditional Masai garments so as to not be attacked by free roaming elephants. Also I want to add a short quip: Masai, if you turn on a TV and show them a war scene with gun fire and explosions, will actually DUCK thinking that it is real and the small little people on the TV are legitimately shooting at them. Colossal difference there! Needless to say, Brett is very jealous of Max! We all know that he would be out there if it weren’t for me… Pole Sana Mume!!! (Very Sorry Husband!!!) I ask him, if you had to choose which would you prefer? He says – with his fantastic smile, hands on hips, and head tilted to the left (you know the stance) “I want to be with you, of course, and I want you to want to be there.” Typical :o)
I can’t believe it is August already and we are approaching week 10 – final week – of training. I have gone through some significant ups and downs just in this short amount of time and I can’t begin to wrap my mind around what Brett is going to have to go through once we live alone without our friends! Obviously, I say this because I am a champ and Brett is the rollercoaster! Haha right, I am so lucky to have a husband who can handle my emotions!! I try not to talk about this with my friends here, it is really important for me to realize that everyone else is about to be alone- 100%. Max isn’t the only one about to have his world rocked there are several others like him, and many more that are going to have a life very similar to his. I just want to say that I am so proud of these people. I have seen more strength and courage in these 30 individuals than I can say a lot of people have. It is one thing to join the Peace Corps, it is quite another to join knowing that you are going to be alone without creature comforts in a place where lions and elephants sleep outside on your front step and where it might take you your entire two year stint to convince someone that defecating in the water they drink is a bad idea. Seriously.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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 !!!!!!!!!!