Today was my first day back to teaching after my therapeutic visit to Nairobi. I was a little worried about my transition back, because last time I went to Nairobi (for IST) I had quite a traumatic transition. But, thank heavens, this time it was much less stressful. In fact, today was pretty epic and I haven’t felt so at home since I arrived in Kenya.
I actually arrived on Saturday afternoon, after spending a night in Kisumu with Claire. The trip to Kisumu from Nairobi took over 8 hours, and we didn’t arrive in Kisumu until almost 9pm. We went straight to our hotel, which PC booked for us, then rushed off to the Green Garden for a bite to eat before bed. We lazed around the hotel in the morning and went out for lunch and a few items at the supermarket before departing for our sites. One thing I am absolutely sure of: stressful situations shared are not only easier to deal with, but create more meaningful learning experiences. I am so fortunate to have such a friend, to go through all of the bizarre high’s and low’s not only of that particular situation, but of my entire Peace Corps experience. I can’t even imagine my life here if I had to do it on my own, or with someone who didn’t experience these feelings to the same extent I do.
Ok, so enough of that sappy stuff.
I actually had to wait for a matatu at the stage in Kisumu for the first time ever. I guess because it was a holiday weekend, everyone was out and about, including myself. So, I had to wait for about 20 minutes for a matatu to come. I enjoy these times when I’m forced to wait in public, though, because it gives me a good excuse to just sit and people watch. Sometimes I am so busy trying to get wherever I’m going I forget to look around and see the world. As soon as a matatu pulled in, they gave me front seat. Maybe I’m getting spoiled, but I see it as they are getting to know me. There have been a few times I will wait an hour for the next matatu if it means I will get front seat. I munched on some sim-sim with headphones plugging my ears and enjoyed my celebrity status until we were exceeding the seating capacity and ready to roll.
Between the driver and me sat a baba with a very ill baby girl. The baba smelled of nicotine and had a tremor to his hands and the little girl might have been 3 years old. She had an extremely distended belly, open ulcer-like wounds covering her arms and legs, and a raw patch of skin under her nose from excess drainage. Baba bought her some sweets while we waited for the matatu, which I found to be encouraging, because normally people ask me to buy the sweets for their kids. He was really concerned about making baby girl comfortable, but the poor thing squalled most of the trip. It was an emotionally challenging trip. I asked about the wounds and tried using my Luo to advise treatment for them. It was so difficult, wanting to help while truly feeling like there is nothing you can do. Help how? Give them money? Baba smelled like last week’s ashtray, two guesses on how that money would be spent. But then I think, “maybe this is an exception, maybe he would buy things for baby birl.” Maybe he’s a good guy, I give him money to get by for a month or so, then what? Maybe I DO manage to help them, right then, but who is to say that I am really helping anything at all in the long run? I’m just another mzungu giving handouts on a matatu. And I get mad because people ask me for sweets and money… it’s such a sticky situation. I left baba and baby girl with a bottle of soap and a box of cereal I purchased while I was in Nairobi. I decided if they use the soap and cereal now, it’s sure as hell not going to hurt anything. Sorry to the mzungu this guy asks for money next week.
So, anyways, after that I found my way home to the only compound full of kids excited to see me who didn’t call mzungu. Seems like there are always kids here excited to see me, but my heart goes out to the ones who don’t scream as I pass by. It was such a sweet welcome. After unpacking my things, I decided to go for a walk to Uhuru market, where I bought some mangos and bananas. I returned in time to heat my bath water on my new propane burner and pop some popcorns. Then, I did a little stretching and slept like a baby. It was the best sleep I have had in months, kid you not. Amazing.
Sunday was spent adjusting, relaxing and getting caught up. I walked to Dorine’s house before going to Omala market to buy bread and more bananas. I’m trying to create a routine of going out in the evenings to help my evenings be less mental. I spend way too much time thinking, which may not sound like a bad thing, but you really just can’t imagine. I even took a walk tonight, just a nature walk towards Uhuru market again.
I am feeling so much more comfortable here now, much more confident. I greet the mama’s and even some of the children on my walks. I haven’t been overcharged at either market since I returned, and I just generally feel fine being on my own. It’s actually becoming MY home, too. I know I will never truly fit in here, but I feel like I’m becoming accepted. Maybe it’s been like this the whole time, but being away makes me appreciate home so much more.