Today we had a practice LPI (language proficiency interview) for KSL. It was not a big deal, very casual. In the big classroom for tailoring that we have been using for PCT, two pink plastic patio chairs sat in the middle, facing each other. There was a long table/desk sitting about 10 feet away and 3 chairs at the table, facing the two pink chairs. I sat in one pink chair, and one of the trainers – Carol – sat opposite. Another language trainer, Isabel, sat at the table with two interpreters – Maureen and Joseph. Carol began by asking me my name, where I came from. We then discussed food & talked about my site – since I’ve been lucky enough to already see it. Carol happens to be from the same area, so we briefly talked about her coming to visit. It was laid back, casual. No stress. The observers took notes as we discussed, and afterwards they gave me feedback from a pink index card. It had different categories on the card, on all trainees cards, from which they based our scores. One was hand shape, others: ASL, grammar, vocabulary. All of mine said “excellent” but had a few notes for improvement underneath. I was thrilled! I knew it went well, but it’s a relief to see documentation stating that you are learning and training is successful. Plus, I just really feel like I’m learning and improving. It’s such a great feeling, even if you aren’t the best, just to know that it’s coming along. Makes up for having to come to class on a Saturday morning!
Then we had to mop. Not the kind of mopping you are picturing. The room has a big concrete floor, as I mentioned in the past, and there is mud everywhere. We are constantly tracking through mud; tracking it into our house, our bedrooms, classrooms, restaurants, etc. It’s just a big muddy mess, all the time, everywhere. That’s how you know where the white people are; we never clean our shoes. So today, Saturday morning, we had to mop the classroom, with a rag that I’m pretty sure used to be a checkers board at Cracker Barrel – swaying back & forth with our butt up in the air, wiping the floor with these stinky rags.
After cleaning, Claire & I walked home. It’s a beautiful day here, the sky is so blue and big fat white clouds lazily drift across. It was one of those walks where you don’t really even say much, just soak everything in. I had a moment today where it just hit me that I’m in the Peace Corps, living in Africa. Strange. It’s still hard for me to grasp, one of those things like winning the lottery – never happens to you. I told Steve, our Country Director, that it’s still shocking to me because I’m just a country girl from West Virginia – from the smallest, poorest po-dunk county in West Virginia. It’s just crazy how these things unfold.
I’ve been here for a month, but it seems like it’s been so much longer. It’s unbelievable how much change can take place in such a short amount of time. Truly unbelievable. It’s strange, because I’m still Kelsey. I’m the same person I was when I lived in West Virginia, it’s still me, just living in Africa. At the same time, I’m totally different. I feel like I’ve made so many adjustments to my self. & I want to emphasize “self” not like “myself” I feel like there’s a difference. Like, self as in my state of being. I feel like I’m a lot more aware of my self, & how I feel, how I respond to certain situations – more perceptive. I am learning how to react, how to adjust. Learning about what I value & what I need vs. what I want. Things that give me satisfaction, because now I find that satisfaction is much more important to me than happiness. I like being happy, but feeling truly satisfied and content is just so much more fulfilling.
It scares me to think about coming home. One of the only times I’ve cried since I arrived in Kenya was the day they told us to pack an emergency bag in case we had to be evacuated. I’m not ready to come home, but I miss my family. It’s a very confusing feeling. Claire and I had a discussion today about trying to stay connected with everyone at home, and it’s tough! We both find it challenging to share stories from here with people at home because it is difficult to accurately explain situations here. There are so many factors that are impossible to describe, and when you can’t accurately describe something, it’s hard to get the reaction or response you desire. A lot of the stories that are worthy of sharing seem to have a sad undertone, but when you tell others about these situations, you don’t want a sad reaction. You just can’t compare life in Kenya to life in America. They’re entirely different, and one is not better than the other, there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” they’re just different. I think both countries could benefit from using concepts and ideas from the other country – which happens to be the foundation for 2 of the 3 goals of the Peace Corps.
I now realize how difficult it will be to not be a part of my family during the holidays. Every time I get on facebook (or any American website, actually) Christmas is everywhere. This is my favorite time of year! Memories of the Town Center, Starbucks peppermint mocha’s, cinnamon candles, candy canes, Christmas songs, the smoke from the woodstove… I’m missing all of that, which I knew would be hard. I feel like not only am I on a different continent, but in an entirely different time zone, like months behind, stuck in July. No red and green, no Christmas décor, no Christmas shopping. I haven’t even heard anyone mention Christmas, actually. I asked how they celebrate in my family, and they said that they slaughter a goat and then take a nap after lunch. Family comes over. They used to go to a park or something and play outside when the kids were young. It’s just so different.
I have a lot of time here to think about who I am, and who I want to be. How I want to live my life, and what’s really important to me. We all have 24 hours every single day – you, me, Martha Stewart & Obama. It’s up to us how we spend our time, and one day, we won’t have any more. Living here has made me realize the value of a day, and doing something meaningful, positive or enjoyable every single day. Making it into the life you want it to be. I think that in America, sometimes that can be lost. It’s true here, too, but in America I feel like it’s a lot more about quantity rather than quality. You follow? I think that in America, the success of your life is frequently measured by how many degree’s you have, what car you drive, the digits in your paycheck, the house you live in… There’s just more to look forward to than that, and I think that sometimes that gets lost in the chaos. It’s something that is really hard to grasp, and yeah I waste a lot of time, even after this epiphany, but it’s something to think about. And, it’s ok to “waste time.” At home, time is “wasted” by watching TV, spending the weekend in the house, taking naps… I don’t think Americans really know how to spend free time because there is so little of it! Not to mention the guilt associated with having time to spare and not using it “productively.” but here, I have learned that some “wasted time” can be extremely productive and essential to development. Not just sitting around, watching TV, but actually tapping into your own mind and thinking about your self – the self I mentioned earlier. Writing in your journal. Analyzing your feelings and your environment. No wonder no one knows what they want to do with their life when they graduate high school – they have been chasing their own tail in circles trying to make plans and get into this school and that school and make money and be popular, skinny, and beautiful. You need free time to figure out who you are, and what you want out of your life. Enjoy something every single day. Do something that gives you satisfaction, even if it’s not necessarily “productive.” Take care of the SELF – that’s when you find out who & what you really are & how you want to live your life.