New Year Post (little late)

I had typed this up, and forgot to upload it, so here’s a flashback of my first Kenyan New Year:

Happy New Year! It’s my first one being away from home, and even though it wasn’t really epic, it’s going to be memorable. Claire and I met up with a few people in town to have lunch and do a little shopping. We ate at the Green Garden, and shared a few different entrees – including hummus & pita, chips & guacamole and a few unusual pizzas and an eggplant dish. Kind of like food from home, but at the same time completely different. I checked on the progress of my banjo order, and they gave me a number to call back on January 3. Then we went to another hot spot – Laughing Buddha – for dessert. Hot fudge brownie with ice cream – YUM! We made it home before dark, around 6:30.
Once we got home, we shared a little box of red wine and listened to some music for the rest of the evening. It was pretty tough to stay up till midnight! Around 11 we put on Beauty and the Beast and watched it until midnight, then called it a night. Overall, not a bad way to spend the last day of 2011. It’s hard to believe that 2012 is already here, and on top of that, we are bringing it in on a different continent. A little shocking, if you sit and think about it.
Tomorrow I go back to Siaya. It’s a really strange feeling, because I want to go have my own place and do my own stuff, but at the same time I’m totally comfortable here and having a lot of fun having a “roommate” and sharing these experiences with someone I can really relate to. It will be so hard to totally be on my own. It’s something I can’t really describe to you all at home, because you really aren’t ever totally on your own at home. There are always people who speak your language, who you can ask for help or directions..people who will listen and understand. Even if they’re not your best friends, when you go to the mall, you’re never really alone. It’s just going to be new and different for me, and I know I’ll get used to it and meet those people who I can trust, but it’s just a wee bit stressful to knowingly dive into something like that.
Last night Claire and I were debating about whether we would really be able to let our guard down. When we got home from town, we were both completely exhausted. It’s pretty draining to be hyper-alert, aware, guarded for an entire day. From the matatu ride to wandering the streets, negotiating prices and getting fair treatment– it’s exhausting. It’s different from home. Once we got home, we just sat here and zoned out for a few minutes before we could really muster up the energy to do anything else. But at the same time, going into town is one of my favorite things to do. It’s’ fun to see everyone else, to feel anonymous..to see other white people even if you don’t talk to them. Just to know that you’re still you and that there are other people in the same boat.
I hope that when I get to site tomorrow, I have some mail and packages waiting! I know there are some in transit, and it would be AWESOME if they were already there, waiting for me to open. It will be like Christmas all over again, the American way. I am also really excited to see what’s in my house and find out exactly what I need to get to make it my home. As soon as I have that figured out, and a precise schedule of when our breaks are, I will be begging for some visitors from home! So make that your new year’s resolution – please! To come visit another country and live a week without electricity or running water. I think it sounds reasonable. In fact, it would be kind of awesome if you just tried to do it for a day at home. Just to see what some people deal with on a daily basis.
Last night Claire and I talked about the difference between people from home and people who live in Kenya. It was a pretty fun conversation, because there are MANY differences, but one of the most blatant ones is the lack of embarrassment or shame when it comes to certain issues for Kenyans. It really resonated with me while I was riding in a matatue yesterday from Claire’s to Mbale (her banking town). It was packed, as usual, and they insisted they had room for two more. So Claire hopped in and made her way to the furthest bench in the back (there are only 4 rows, each row has two bucket seats on the driver’s side and one seat on the other, and an extremely narrow aisle separating them. But they conveniently keep a small piece of wood under the seat to bridge the aisle and create a bench for extra passengers. Genious!) So Claire was bridging the gap in the back, and the tout was shoving me in, so I said “Here I come” and backed it up right onto Claire’s lap. I sat on her lap, bent over with my head pressed in some woman’s frizzy hair, bumping my head on the ceiling as we flew over every speedbump. I thought “man, bet I look like an idiot.” But that’s normal, you see this all the time with Kenyans, they just don’t think it’s as funny as Claire and I do. They aren’t embarrassed or ashamed because that’s pretty much survival. If they don’t sit on that lady’s lap on the matatu, that might mean they don’t get to work or catch their connecting matatu or whatever and hence no money, no food. Same with chasing after matatu’s – they aren’t afraid to run full speed after a matatu and jump on the back. It’s just different. That would be humiliating at home, but here, it’s just normal.
Anyways, I could probably write an entire blog series on matatu experiences. I’m getting used to them, and even starting to enjoy them a little. It’s always more fun when you have someone to share it with, because most of the stories are unbelievable if you don’t have a witness. It’s going to be a little stressful for me to be catching my own matatu and arguing for my prices when I’m by myself though. Another thing I will have to get used to. I can’t wait to read these posts after about 6 months at site…. I will probably think “I thought those matatu experiences were bad…” The other day, the sliding door of a matatu my friend was riding in fell off while it was moving. Another friend said her matatu hit a cow. Fortunately, I haven’t been there yet, but I assure you when it happens you will all hear about it.

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