This week I’m in Nairobi for IST (In Service Training). Last week was pretty insane, we hosted sports, which was awesome but a tad bit stressful. Things were pretty hectic but everything worked out and went smoothly. The weather was even cooperative throughout the week and it only rained at night. In fact, the we were worried about too much rain and making a mess of the grounds, but we actually lacked rain and ran out of water on the last two days. But, fortunately, I’ve been pretty careful about using my water and everyone else took advantage of it, so no one went thirsty.
Some of the challenges that I faced seemed monumental at the time, but looking back, they really weren’t so severe. As I mentioned, the water situation was stressful. I was extremely worried about having enough water for my visitors and all of out baths, as well as my washing before departing for nairobi on Sunday morning. Initially, I had been told to refuse sharing my water with anyone not staying in my house. I’ve been practicing with my workers and kids at my school, so for the first half of sports, no problem; i just kept the knob to the faucet in my house. But later, after the water ran out in the borehole and in the big black tanks scattered about the compound, people began to get creative and find ways to open the tap. After discussing with Ambalo, he instructed me to share with the workers so that they can prepare the food. Ok, that’s fine, so I gave my workers the knob and thought that would be the end of the issue. They didn’t really seem to be quite as concerned about my bathing or my washing as I was, and therefore they neglected to keep the knob hidden from the public. Before long, there was quite a line of people waiting by my house for water, so thankfully one of my PCV friends approached the people and explained the situation: if you want food, you can’t have water from this tank. True. If that tank ran dry, then the cooks really would have been in a pickle. Then, we decided to park our chairs under the tree next to my water tank to police the usage. It’s kind of funny to think about now, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. And, I had enough water to wash my clothes before coming to Nairobi.
I also struggled maintaining my privacy throughout the week. Even when I was just hanging out with my friends in the house, others seemed to be constantly intruding. This was mainly because I had solar power, and EVERYONE wanted their phones charged. I only have 3 outlets, but I swear I probably charged 100 phones throughout the week. It doesn’t sound like a horrible problem, but it was constant. Just knocking on my door, and sometimes they just walk in after knocking, and sometimes they would just peek in my windows or shout in my windows to get my attention. It was really annoying. I couldn’t get a break. Even just walking around, watching events, or hanging out with other people under trees – people would come drop off their phones with me and just expect me to take it to charge right then. It was frustrating. And one night, people came knocking on my door to retrieve their phones after midnight, even though we were clearly in bed – all lanterns and lamps out, curtains pulled, and I even ignored the knocking for about 5 minutes – but they just pounded harder. I answered the door to try and keep my visitors from waking up, but how inconsiderate. Same issue in the mornings – coming to ask for things (like chalk, pencils, tape, etc) or to retrieve/charge their phones, before 7 even. I was running on fumes by the end of the week. It’s a lot more exhausting than I can really describe, but just bridging that cultural barrier and trying to accommodate my colleagues and their guests while maintaining my sanity.
So, there were so many good things about this week, too. Writing this post at IST, after being here in Kenya as a PCV for 6 months, I want to try to be more helpful to future volunteers, so I hope that those experiences are useful for anyone thinking about the Peace Corps. I was able to practice my sign a lot throughout the week – in fact, I think that I improved my signing more this week than the rest of the entire term. It was so helpful to be around people with other signs and to really use your sign in conversations, not just to explain a sentence or a topic in class. In class, I sign, but it’s not necessarily normal discussions. This week was incredibly beneficial in that aspect. Also, it was just awesome to be around people who understand my struggles. When my friend went to confront everyone using my water, it really meant a lot to me. I was overwhelmed and just couldn’t really take much at that time, and for them to step up and help me out really meant a lot. And, just having people witness my problems so when I feel frustrated, now I can call them and they will truly understand what I mean when I say people keep bothering me. And, another positive thing is one of our kids is going to go to nationals this week to compete in netball. Pretty cool.
So, after everyone went home, I was able to relax. Teachers for the kids chosen to go to nationals stuck around, so there were about 100 people still on the compound. It was nice to feel free for a while. Then I got sick, again, but this time only a fever. It was pretty miserable, of course, no fever is pleasant. That was Saturday. I had to leave on Sunday and still had TONS of stuff to do. But did I do it? of course not. I left my house in shambles, dirty dishes and all, but at least I was able to wash my clothes. Fortunately, I was feeling much better the night before I left. I packed in the dark that night and made arrangements with Ambalo to drive me into town in the morning since I had luggage. It rained all night, so I was a bit worried about the trip into town, but fortunately Ambalo is an amazing driver. Well, just an amazing person in general. I gave him a 5:30 wake up call, and then around 6:00 he came over with a boiled egg, tea, and a chapati – how thoughtful. Then we hit the slip & slide in his Toyota and made it into town before 7. I then realized I had forgotten my wallet, and went into panic mode because the bus left at 7:30. But, no fear – Ambalo is here! He rushed back to Nina to get my wallet while I waited outside of the bus as people boarded. While I was waiting and the bus was filling, one of my students came to board. I was so shocked to see her outside of school, I really had to stare at her for a while to make sure it was actually Quinta and not just some random Kenyan kid. She was also going to Nairobi to meet her family. While the man accompanying her explained to the driver that she was deaf and where she was going, the driver looked at Quinta and signed “SCHOOL WHERE?” I was SO shocked!!! So, after she boarded the bus, I took that opportunity to buddy up with the driver. His dad actually used to teach in a deaf school, and that’s how he knew sign. Then, I was able to convince him to delay the bus for just 10 minutes while I waited for my wallet. It all worked out, and Ambalo brought my wallet and we were on the road before 8. Claire joined me on the EZ coach bus for most of the trip. We listened to music and dozed most of the way.
Fast forward about 8 hours. We wake up, and Claire says “I think we’re in Nairobi!” and so we gather up all of our stuff and get off of the bus with about half of the passengers. We go stand beside the bus where our luggage was tucked away underneath, and finally a man came and asked if we needed our luggage. We confirmed. Then he asked to see our tickets, which we showed him. He says “Are you going to Nairobi?” and we both said “yes,” and he said “this is Nakuru….” HA! So, we went to the bathroom and boarded the bus again.
Fast forward about 4 more house…
We arrive in Nairobi, it’s maybe 5:30, we were supposed to be there at 5. We had requested to be dropped off right at Afralti, but they forgot and just dumped us in the middle of town. So then we tried to find our way to Afralti by foot and found a nice Indian man to help us out. Luck.
Here I am, second day in Nairobi, back with the whole group. None of us have quit, no one in the whole group. It’s been great so far. More later. I’m about to indulge in some American style delivery pizza!