Hello everyone! This will probably be my last post from Machakos. Crazy to think that I’m already near the completion of my Pre-Service Training (PST)! Wow! They weren’t kidding when they said that the training would fly by. Overall, I think it has been a lot of work but absolutely worth it, and there has not been a second where I thought I was here by mistake. In fact, I can say that I have not wished to be home even once throughout my entire stay in Kenya so far.
Today marks my two-month mark for living in Kenya. It’s hard for me to believe that I have made it this far without any major complications or shock. Even though it is a lot different here, I haven’t really felt major struggle or difficulty. Funny, because before I left I was preparing myself for the absolute worst case scenario, thinking I would want to come home every day and that I would be tempted to give up. Not the case, I am happy to say.
This being said, last week was my most difficult week here. Challenging, for sure, but even then I feel good about being here and am glad I am here. Last week was model school, and it is exactly what it sounds like – fake school. About 25 of the kids stayed an extra week after classes let out for us to mock teach them and learn how to manage a classroom. All of the trainees were assigned two lessons per day, for Classes 4, 5 & 6. It doesn’t sound like a lot, and initially I was not stressed about it, but oh my goodness… it was hell week!
My first class was “simplifying algebraic expressions” for Class 6. I feel like I don’t really need to say any more. It was as horrible as it sounds. Other classes I taught included: factors promoting and undermining peace, bisecting lines, KSL (x2), Life Skills(x2, Healthy Relationships and Gender Roles), Wildlife and Tourism and something else that I can’t remember. I improved throughout the week, but it was still extremely difficult. The most challenging part is teaching in KSL. I feel pretty good about my KSL, not totally fluent or anything, but pretty good. And it is just so stinking hard to explain and describe using KSL only! It’s an entirely different language, using hands instead of voice and a completely different sentence structure. It’s a big challenge.
in English: “Yesterday, we went to class and then had lunch at the TOT”
in KSL: “WE GO FINISH CLASS THEN FOOD NOON TOT PAST”
Pretty difficult to really describe accurately, and that may not even be 100% correct but you get the idea. This makes teaching English particularly challenging. Imagine trying to explain the word “the” or “as” to someone who has never heard spoken English. Or the difference between “can” and “may” seeing as “may” really isn’t a concept in KSL. It’s going to be a challenge. I think that I will learn a lot more once I get to site and begin interacting with my own kids, but overall, this week was pretty discouraging. Just when you think “hey, I’m getting it, this is totally for me!” another obstacle arises. But that’s ok, I know it’s normal and not impossible. Just a challenge.
Nothing else really epic going on here. I love getting emails from my mom every day, especially this week since it was so frustrating. I went to the real market this week, after class on Friday. My friend, Sara, has been talking it up a lot and I’ve wanted to go, but I knew it was a really happenin’ place with LOTS of people, so I had been hesitant to try it out. It’s kind of hard for me to force myself to go places like that when I’m already a spectacle, plus I know essentially no Kiswahili, which is a little embarrassing. But, thank the good Lord, I finally gave it and went with her Friday afternoon. I told her I wanted to buy a few Christmas presents and she knew just the spot. It’s something I can’t really describe, but I have two pictures I managed to sneak while I was there, and since this is my last week here, I have decided that I will take all of the pictures I want. We are strongly discouraged from getting our cameras out in public because it makes us a target for theft (I have probably mentioned that before), but since I’m getting ready to relocate, I figure it won’t be too detrimental to my safety to take a few of Machakos before I go. I will get a few more of the market this week, because as I was saying, it was awesome! I was hesitant to go because of all of the people and also because I have been dreading haggling. Bargaining. Whatever you want to call it. Or as Kenyans say, “bar-gain-ing” emphasis on the “gain.” The great thing was, even though I only made purchases from two vendors, they weren’t ridiculous and were totally reasonable. And they understood our English perfectly. It was great. One lady didn’t even give me a jacked up price, just the real deal, and Sara’s aunt came along and agreed that they were fair. I can’t tell you what I bought, though, because it is would ruin your Christmas from Kenya!
I think it will be sad to leave Machakos. I really do like it here, and I’m becoming very familiar with it. People in town recognize us, and even the matatu driver we chatted with yesterday said he saw four of us walking every morning and every evening. Going to the market, we weren’t really taken advantage of because we are integrating into our community. People here understand that we aren’t tourists, here to exploit their culture. In fact, this week while walking home with Sara, we saw another group of white people. It was embarrassing. They were loud, obnoxious, wearing “normal” clothes that I would now consider to be disrespectful – especially in this culture. It’s like we are finally beginning to blend, even though we still stick out like a flamingo in flock of geese. Sad to go, but excited to continue adapting in Siaya.
So, here’s the game plan. On the 11th, which is a Sunday, my group will go to Nairobi for our supervisor’s workshop. Here, our headmasters from our sites will come for a few days to work with us about our upcoming transition to their school. On the 14th, we have a big swearing in ceremony and leave for site. “TRAINEE FINISH, TEACHER VOLUNTEER START”