Sawa Sawa (Feb 1)

I know it is long overdue, but here is the latest from Nina:

I’m adapting to live hakuna electricity fairly well. I no longer cry when my phone or laptop dies, which I see as an indication of definite success. In fact, I have a fairly reliable routine for keeping my things charged most of the time. I now have two cell phones, my fancy phone and my nokia, that I use alternately. The nokia holds charge for almost a week, but no internet access to check my email. The fancy phone is primarily used to communicate via email and facebook. It only holds charge for two days tops, so I keep it off most of the time. I realized the importance of having a functional cell phone last week when someone tried to break into the dormitory (unsuccessfully) beside my house in the middle of the night. All of the commotion, and screaming and crying, at that moment I decided it would be nice to have a cell phone in case something serious WAS happening, or if the burglary was my house rather than the dormitory. So, rest assured that will not be happening frequently. And I’m talking about my phone running dead, but hopefully burglaries as well.

So, after the burglary, the very next day in fact… giardia got the best of me. I will spare you the details, but just let me say that all of you back home should take a moment to honor and appreciate the porcelain throne in your house. It would have been very accommodating last week.

After a round of some meds, I am recovering and pretty much feeling back to normal. I started running in the mornings, and by running I mean walking quick enough to get both of my feet off the ground for an instant. It can hardly be called running, compared to my kids. But beginning this week, I have been waking up at 5:47 to get ready to run, and I go out before the sun even comes above the horizon. The sky is just a tangerine glow, and it’s so quiet and peaceful. I have been on a country kick, so I listen to the Dixie Chicks while I run in the mornings. It reminds me of home.

I’m finally beginning to find my niche in teaching. Thanks to a really inspiring talk with my friend Sara, I now use flashcards for almost all of my lessons. In math, we are still working on associating the word for the number with the digits, and in science we just finished health education, which I might add is extremely different from health education in America. One of our lessons was why it is important to use a latrine or choo rather than pooping in the bush. The next day, I had the privilege of demonstrating proper technique for cleaning the choo., which was very necessary after my bout of giardia. After a few minutes, one of my class 3 kids took the brush from me and schooled me on scrubbing the choohole.Quite an educational experience. I think it was more to my benefit than the kids, but believe it or not, no one complained. There are only 4 kids, 3 boys and one girl, and they all helped and offered to pitch in. Not even a negative non-verbal. It’s amazing. In fact, yesterday we didn’t have a science lesson, and they asked if I would let them clean my choo again. Ha. I take that as an indication that I did my lesson well, even if they were the ones teaching me – as is so often the case.

I have assumed the role of school nurse here. Everything I mention here I swear, I could right an entire blog on each topic, but I will try to keep it brief. One of my kids, Alphonce, has a mystery wound on his foot. Other kids say he was playing with someone’s bicycle at the borehole and the pedal jabbed him, but anyways, nothing serious – maybe half an inch gash. It went untreated for a few days, so it was kinda nasty by the time I saw it, so I took a pitcher of water and scrubbed it out – with an audience of kids – then applied a band-aid. He needed it. So for the next hour, kids were knocking on my door, showing me scrapes, old wounds, scars, everything to try and get a band-aid. There were a few that I distributed, but I’m pretty stingy with them. One kid had an old wound, said it happened weeks ago, and it was about the size of a nickel on his anklebone. It was very swollen and gross, I was pretty shocked. He hadn’t shown anyone at all. I don’t even know how it happened, he didn’t say, but it was the worst one I saw, so I cleaned it, and it began to bleed. Then I can’t help but think about HIV/AIDS…. And it’s just so strange, because I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have it, but it is just like my blood. You wonder, this very blood that’s keeping these kids alive, it could be killing them at the same time. I have a hard time explaining it, but even the kids I’m not that close with, I feel such a responsibility for them and I just want to protect them and keep them safe. I don’t want anything bad to ever happen to them, and seeing his blood and knowing that there’s a chance he will contract HIV/AIDS. It was a little eye opening. Anyways, he got a band-aid.

Today after school, I went to the market in Uhuru with Dorine. I can’t remember what I have told you via blog and what I have written in letters, so I apologize if it’s redundant. Uhuru is my nearest market town, and it is about a 30 minute walk out my dirt road, past Nina if you are traveling from Siaya town. Last time I went to this market, about 2 weeks ago, I was also with Dorine and we stopped at a tailor’s to have one of her tops fitted. While we were there, I spotted some pink fabric that would make a very Kelsey skirt. So, today, thanks to Dorine, I will have one made. She was able to talk them into finding more of the fabric that I fell in love with, and by this time next week I should have a pink Kenyan skirt. Can’t wait. While they were taking my measurements, Dorine said something in Luo and they all laughed, so afterwards, I asked what was said. She said that she told them to add an inch for “when she gets fat.” Nice. A little additional incentive to keep running in the mornings.

Anyways, the market was great. I bought 3 avocados at 7 shillings each. I also bought two bunches of bananas, the tiny little ones for 5 shillings per bunch. It’s pretty astounding how cheap it is in comparison to America. I bought two tins of beans (by tin I guess it’s about the same as a can at home, but that’s how they measure dry things here) for 30 shillings. And lastly, but most importantly, I bought some sim-sim for Dorine and myself. I absolutely love those things! Little balls of sesame seed goodness.

When I got home from the market, I unloaded my things and put some water on for my bath. While I was waiting, I decided to make an attempt at repairing my mosquito net that collapsed last night. I’m sure that would have been an amusing thing to watch. Of all nights.. I swear. But last night, I took a late bucket bath and when I came in from bathing, it was dark, and I couldn’t find my flashlight. So, I simply used my lantern for the evening and went to bed. I’m getting pretty good at going to the choo in the dark, and the moon here is so bright you don’t even need a flashlight for the walk. So anyways, after going to the choo, I crawled back into bed under my mosquito net that I had rigged up myself without any professional expertise, using thumbtacks and ponytails. Should have seen it coming. About an hour after going to the choo, it collapsed and startled me so much I nearly fell off of my bed. My thrashing about jerked the other corner loose as well, so now one entire side was laying on top of me. Good night to lose my flashlight. I just rolled to the other side of my bed.

So, today, after going to the market, I asked Ochieng, one of our workers at the school, if he had a hammer I could borrow to try and hang my mosquito net up properly this time. This was after I tried to use my vitamin pill bottle as a hammer and the house mom came to see what the commotion was. Slightly embarrassing. Instead of just giving me a hammer, he came in to help me fix it. He came into my room and I caught him smiling. I guess I would have been smiling, too – my net sagging all over my bed and one corner knotted with ponytails and tacked to the wall, the other tied with about 3 feet of yarn to a string holding my curtains up on the other side of the room. It was like a disastrous circus tent. Crazy mzungu. Within minutes, he had everything completely rearranged so it actually covers my bed and I don’t have to duck under the string tied to my curtain every time I enter my bedroom. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but to me, it is a major accomplishment. When will I learn that asking for help actually helps?

Lastly, I would like to ask if anyone at home knows of a card ministry or something similar that I could write to. I really enjoy writing, and I think that it would be a good use of my time. I know how much I appreciate getting mail here, and I imagine there are a lot of people in hospitals or nursing homes and such who would also love to receive mail. If you have any ideas or contacts, I’d definitely be interested. As far as things I want or need, rest assured that I can find everything I need here in Kenya. I am becoming more acclimated to my village and community, and everything I could possibly need is here in Kenya. As far as my school, any school supplies would be put to good use and appreciated beyond your imagination. Particularly the essential school supplies, such as pencils, erasers, sharpeners and paper.Zipper pouches for the pencils would also be extremely useful. Padded envelopes are best for shipping since they arrive very quickly (within two weeks usually) and are the cheapest for me to pick up at the posta. I can’t thank you all enough for the things you sent at Christmas. I’m seriously in awe of how much support I receive from home; it’s so meaningful. I still have spots here and there, when I get discouraged and feel defeated, but overall I have not had a single bad day in Kenya. I know that it would be so much more difficult if I didn’t have so much support and encouragement coming from everyone back home, and I hope you all know how much I appreciate it. Just saying “thank you” feels so inadequate, but I am so grateful for having family and friends who care so much. Ero kimano!

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