It’s crazy how awesome things can be here. Lately, I’ve been appreciating the little things more than usual, and it makes things seem much better. First of all, I absolutely love my kids. To be honest, I’m not a kid person, and in the beginning I wondered if I would ever really be into my kids like the Peace Corps predicted. Even though I’m not as involved with them as many other volunteers are, I’m really loving their company and hanging out with them, and they are a huge motivator when I have rough spots. Yesterday, I was waiting for all of class 2 to finish their English assignment so I could start math, and while I was waiting, I called Valary, one of my class 2 girls who had already finished, to come play with my hair. She came and gave me a few plaits while we waited, and it was just nice. Before long, there were three girls braiding my hair while I waited.
Speaking of my hair, it was getting long and pretty dead on the ends. I trimmed the front, and asked Anjeline, our house mom, to trim the back for me. Just a little, I explained MANY times. So, she was really excited about cutting my hair and three days in a row she came to my house and asked me if it was time. Finally, yesterday morning, I had time and took my leso and scissors to the kitchen for my first Kenyan hair cut. I kind of wish I could take it back. So, I sat down and wrapped my leso around my shoulders and heard the scissors severing my golden strands. After a minute or two, she said “which length?” referring to my layers. I told her just to trim a tiny bit off of the longest one (for the millionth time). About 5 minutes and 3 inches later, she was finished and I was shocked. I hope it grows quickly.
I went to the Omala market yesterday, the same market I went to with Dorine last week. On the way, we stopped at Jacki’s house, our secretary. Jacky just had a baby on Monday, and I was dying to see her. Her name is Quinn Frida, which I was absolutely stoked about because I suggested a few names for her, and Quinn was one of them! So, in a way, I named a baby in Kenya! She was absolutely precious, I took so many pictures – they thought I was crazy. In fact, Jacky doesn’t even have a picture of herself while she was pregnant. I thought that was interesting, because at home we take pictures throughout the entire process, including the birth. Not the case here.
The experience of seeing the newborn was very cultural. First of all, Jacky is the second wife of her husband. Her husband stays with the first wife in a separate house, which is actually in a different town (the husband traditionally has several houses within one compound for his wives, but lives in the house with the first wife). He came to see the baby immediately after birth, but is now back at his home. So, Jacky is home by herself with the baby, which I know doesn’t sound like a big deal – but here it is. Why? First of all, the birthing process is much more gruesome here. No pain meds while giving birth, and then even the stitching afterwards – no numbing. Just sew you up, like a torn dress (like the visual? I’m being mild. I wish you could have heard them explain this to me). Then, after having the baby, she either walked or rode a piki (motorbike) home. Imagine sitting on a piki after that experience, with stitches. So, she gets home, and it is just her and the baby, and she still has to fetch water and go to the market for food, the choo is across her compound, and cook – all of this while still dealing with the pain from delivery and a crying baby. I was shocked. Normally, they have a house help do these things for them (even if they don’t have a newborn), but for some reason Jacky does not. It’s so much different here, and writing it out – I think “oh that doesn’t sound so bad” but actually being there yesterday, and watching her limp around her house – I thought “there is no way a baby will ever be coming out of this girl.”
So, another culturally different observation, the baby laid on the couch the entire time. No one held the baby – not even the mom. She just laid on the couch, and when we came in, we didn’t sit on the couch or go admire her, we sat in different chairs and chatted for a while, then finally before we left we got close to the baby and commented on how beautiful she was. At home, we fight over who is holding the baby – the baby is never just alone… not the same here.