The end is in sight!

Today I am going to leave the philosophical shenanigans aside. Not saying it is subsiding, but I’ll try a more factual, informative approach this time.

I feel like there’s really not much new here, which is amusing because I’m still new here! Ha! But things here are becoming routine and I’m adjusting really well. I have a report card to prove it! Last week they gave us a true report card, scoring us in different areas to make us aware of our progress in adjustment to Kenyan culture and lifestyle. Mine was great, I’d give it an A+ overall, but the one comment that really stuck out to me was that it said I dress like a true Kenyan woman! Funny, because I still feel like a tourist a lot, but the Kenyan trainers graded us and they really are sticklers for the dress code, so I felt really good about it.

Things here are getting busy, though, with the hustle and bustle of getting ready for not Christmas, as all of you at home are, but rather our swearing-in ceremony. We had our practice-mock-LPI, which I wrote about in my last post. This past Friday, we had our official mock LPI. The set up was very similar to the one I already described, but this time the interpreters were replaced with a video camera. We signed up for the interview times the day before, each of which lasted 15 minutes. Claire and I chose 10:15 and 10:30 so we could sleep in and walk to class together. So, on Friday, we walked to class – left at 9:20 – to find out that everyone else came at 8 (the usual time) to practice. I didn’t feel nervous at all, but then felt worried that maybe I SHOULD be nervous.. regardless, too late now.

Claire went first, said it was fine, nothing to be worried about. I went in and sat opposite of Carol – after being told to take off my sweater (I said they were sticklers about the dress code) and spit out my gum (which I found odd, too, because you use your hands, not your mouth…). We started with the usual small talk – then she asked if I was ready to begin. I thought we were already filming, so whatever. We started over with the camera on this time.

It was the same kind of conversation, but this time I had more to say. It was nice. I made a few mistakes, like asking “sign what?” when I meant “sign name what?” but I remembered the correct “and” and “with” (which I had marks for being incorrect on the practice) and I used the right signs for my school and site this time instead of fingerspelling words. I even remembered the sign for “kicked out” when describing previous work at Pressley. Nice! I knew a few errors I made, and I know I need to focus on making my sentences rather than jumbling together a bunch of signs. At the end of the interview, we were joking about bribing her to come visit me and my kids by cooking her dinner. It was nice to be able to joke – just like chit chat – in a new language.

Afterwards, I felt great. We went into town and I mailed a few (7!) letters – so keep your eyes open! Then exchanged some cash and the bank. I see our economy is still struggline – the USD fell this weekend! Then we went to Naiva’s to eat at the new café. We had free time from 10:45-2:00 and it was raining, so options were limited. While at Naiva’s, we met an Australian guy working for the Red Cross here in Machakos. He ate lunch with us, then Ethan, Claire and I went to see his apartment. He lives a much different life from us! It was pretty shocking – a true reminder of what we left behind. Then we returned to MSD for the afternoon and anxiously awaited tomorrow for our mock LPI results.

Saturday, class began at 10 instead of 8. We negotiated this because we go to Loitokitok for training the week of Thanksgiving, and with training every weekday from 8-5, then again Saturday – and leave for Loitokitok Sunday – when will we do laundry and pack? So the idea was to do it Saturday morning, followed by class 10-12.

So, that’s what I did. I got up at 6:45, ate some bread and peanut butter and began my laundry. I only selected the essential items to wash because it’s been really, really rainy lately. Like, more than it rained the last time I complained about the rain. In fact, I’d love to have those days back. At least then it only rained til noon! Now it’s an all day thing.

Anyways, it wasn’t raining when I started my laundry. I had my underwear, some socks, my beloved North Face Fleece pants that I put on every day as soon as I walk into the house. The must-haves. I start with my whites, but throw my undies in first thing because I feel like it wouldn’t hurt them to soak a little extra since I’m no expert at handwashing clothes (yet!).

Since no one else was outside, I decided to enjoy some of my own music from home – the Avett Brothers. My family thinks they’re extremely unusual – we listen to hip-hop (we actually get BET, and my brother is a DJ at a club) or traditional Kamba music. So, that banjo sounds a little out of place. But it makes me feel good inside and feels like a little piece of home. After a few shirts and socks the sprinkles began. Great. Just after 7 and it’s already starting. So, I moved my laundry station under the awning – where stagnant water sits and smells like barf – to finish my laundry before class.

There’s just something insanely rewarding about handwashing your clothes. I highly recommend doing it, although I seriously doubt that anyone at home will feel the same appreciation that you do here, when you have a machine that will take care of it using zero energy for basically free. I know I wouldn’t be scrubbing the crotch of my underwear every Saturday morning if I had any other option. Anyways, there are a few things I appreciate here that I’d like to share with you, and just write it so I don’t ever forget it.

1. That water was clean, and I just ruined it. Water is precious here, and you waste as little as possible. Last week, I did my laundry Saturday morning, as usual, then suffered later that night because I didn’t plan ahead properly and therefore had no bathing or drinking water come evening. The rain is unreliable, and water doesn’t stretch as far as you would think. Even with all of the rain we have been having, our tank is nearly empty and our house workers have been fetching water every day to do our household chores and feed our animals. So, today I had set aside water before starting my laundry, but it’s still interesting to see that water you just ruined by doing something essential – like washing your clothes.
2. I just got all of that dirt out of my clothes using my hands. It’s funny, because I don’t go rolling around in the field or frolicking with wild animals. I’m really not a slob! But after washing even those few items, you see how necessary it was, and you appreciate the fact that you just did it “the hard way” using your own hands.
3. How can I re-use this left-over water? Like I said, the water is dirty. Like, dark, muddy, can’t see the bottom of my basin dirty. But you don’t just throw it out – there’s always some way to make use of it. I always try to find ways to make it stretch as much as I can. Today, I decided to scrub up all of my shoes (since I will be packing them in my suitcase for LTK anyways), then I used a little to scrub the toothpaste out of the sink in my bedroom since we don’t have running water in the house, and finally I wiped the floor of my bedroom before putting it in a bucket for flushing the toilet later. Good use!
4. Just feeling productive, in general. I think that one of the best feelings I have here is the feeling of accomplishment after doing these routine tasks on Saturday mornings. I wake up, wash my clothes as early as possible so they can dry before dark, then purify my water and find as many ways as I can to make use of my leftover water. It just really makes you feel good, and it sets the bar high for the rest of the day. I love it. I think even though I dread doing my laundry, I love the accomplished feeling afterward. It always puts me in a fantastic mood, even if it is pouring rain.

So, after washing my clothes with the Avett Brothers in the rain, I tried to find a place to hang all of my stuff near my window, in my bedroom. I have a picture of this, actually, that I will try to upload when I update my blog. It was amusing and made my room smell amazingly clean! Then I dressed and met the group to walk to class. I decided to wear a skirt, even though we are allowed to wear jeans on Saturdays. As much as I would LOVE to wear my jeans (or just anything with pant legs, actually) I know that I will be wearing them next week in LTK and need them to stay clean, because jeans are probably the most miserable thing to hand wash and line dry. So, we got to class, and most trainees were wearing jeans. American jeans (for girls) are tight. Fact. Trainers mentioned that tight jeans were inappropriate to wear at a school and that we should be more cautious next time. This led to a 45 minute debate about how one can determine which jeans are acceptable and which are not. Fun. The line is really fuzzy, but it is what it is. Then we cleaned, sweeping and mopping again – but the atmosphere was really tense. The debate kind of spoiled everyone’s good mood. But knowing that our scores were going to be announced after cleaning gave us a little motivation.

The trainers split us into our clusters and gave us all our evaluation individually. I don’t remember anything other than the word “INTERMEDIATE.” Yay! I did it! We are required to score intermediate on our final LPI in order to be sworn in as volunteers on December 14th. I am still shocked, but I really did it and I’m right on par – scoring wise – for Kenyan Sign Language. It was one of the best high’s I’ve had here so far.

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