So, it’s Saturday the 11th and I’m back at Nina after quite possibly the most eventful week of my life while living in Siaya. Yeah. That much has happened. I will start out with a list of things I’m going to touch on so you can kinda get a feel for if you wanna read it all or not:
- My second term as a teacher for deaf kids in Kenya has come to a close
- My aunt, uncle and cousin came to see my school, home, and SOOOOO much more here in Kenya
- Appreciating my network in Kenya
- Lessons learned about me
OK, so that’s for starters, here goes on the details.
First, I will talk about the end of the term. It already feels like that happened so long ago, but final exams were just two weeks ago – the 31st – 3rd, and then the kids went home on Tuesday the 7th. Exams were much better this term, or maybe they just seemed better because I had more realistic expectations and I knew what I was doing. It wasn’t as stressful, and I knew my kids and what they were capable of, so it was much less disappointing to mark all of their papers. In fact, little Valary and Alphonce in my class 2 got above a 50% on math, which was truly an accomplishment. I bought both of them chapati for tea. I was thrilled. Otherwise, there really weren’t any major improvements or success stories, but I was incredibly proud of those two.
I had all of my exams marked and averages totaled before meeting my family in Kisumu on Sunday, which takes me to my second bullet. They arrived via EasyCoach bus on Sunday (the 5th) evening. I was crying before they even got off the bus, but we didn’t have much time to waste because we had to get to Siaya before dark. Before they arrived, another bus pulled into the station and let a few passengers off, and one came and sat right next to me – despite several other empty stadium seats lining the sidewalk. He asked “are you meeting your parents?” After telling him I was (I was the only mzungu there) he said that they would be there within 30 minutes – he met them at the stage in Nairobi and chatted with them for a while before he departed. In fact, his name was Richard and he grew up in Siaya, but after completing secondary school he went to America and has a family in Richmond, Virginia. He comes to Kenya a few times a year just to visit family here. Small world, huh? So anyways, once he told me that they were so close, it was pretty hard for me to listen to much else he had to say. Bruce, Terri and Bobby arrived within minutes. Richard helped us by securing two tuk-tuk’s (at a Kenyan price) for a trip to the stage, where we would catch a matatu to Siaya.
We arrived at the stage and managed to be the next-to-last passengers to fill the vehicle. Bobby squeezed into the back row, Bruce bridged the gap in the aisle of the row in front of Bobby, and I bridged the gap in the row right in front of him, beside Terri. We were off in only minutes, with luggage stuffed in the back and in our laps. Fortunately we made it to Siaya in record time – it only took 1 hour and 20 minutes. Unfortunately, it was due to the fact that NO ONE at all got off of the matatu between Kisumu and Siaya, so by the time we arrived, we were rather stiff and uncomfortable from sitting on boards and hunching our shoulders to keep our heads from bouncing off of the roof. Regardless, we made it, and the matatu dropped us off right at our hotel, where Mr. Ambalo met us.
We reserved two amazing hotel rooms for 2,500 shillings each (breakfast included) and went to the roof to meet Ambalo for dinner. Bruce, Terri and Bobby had spent ALL DAY on the bus and hadn’t eaten anything since morning. The shock of actually being with people I knew from home, and who knew me, and had white skin and didn’t just stare at me and I could talk normal to was insane. I mean insane. It was like I couldn’t even process it, to be honest, I knew they were coming and I knew it was going to be shocking, but it was so unreal to be sitting with FAMILY at a table in my home with my headteacher. I wish I knew how to explain it better, but it’s just impossible.
Anyways, we ate and visited, everyone was tired and we went to our rooms, planning to meet Ambalo in the morning to take us to my school.
After breakfast, Ambalo arrived around 8 and ferried us through the village to my school. When we arrived at the school, the kids opened the gate and waved as we drove to the center of the compound. We got out of the car and the younger ones swarmed to get a better look, but they were so well behaved – unlike most excited children. They each offered their hand for everyone to shake, and I tried to introduce a few that I know I have mentioned throughout my blog and stuff. Then we moved into my house and I showed them where I live. It is so crazy, even just thinking back that I really showed my family my home! They were here, in my house, in Kenya! Ah!!!! It was so awesome. So, anyways, this was the last day of school for the kids – their parents were coming to pick them up tomorrow. And, on top of that, we were starting the construction of our new classrooms the same day! So Ambalo asked Bruce and Bobby to help with the groundbreaking, and we had a little ceremony where they broke the ground for the new classrooms using our jembe (hoe) and everyone took pictures. Then, we made sure to get a few pictures with all of the kids where the new classrooms should be standing within a month. Afterwards, we spent the afternoon storying with the kids, jump roping and storying in my house. It was just unbelievable to share this with my family, people who understand and relate to how I perceive things… it was amazing.
The school prepared a special lunch for my visitors and everyone ate it like a champ! I was thoroughly impressed with their willingness to try new food and eat with their hands, because when I first came, I wasn’t having it. Nope, not for me…. But they tried it and everyone was so thrilled that they were even having seconds of the sukuma and ugali. After lunch we had a brief ceremony for the kids, where we presented the top of each class with a little ribbon and some motivating words before they went home. Then I packed a few things, we hopped back into Ambalo’s car and headed back to our hotel in Siaya.
After returning to Siaya, we decided to take a little tour of Siaya. We bought a few fancy mangoes and went to the Mwisho, another hotel in Siaya that has awesome food and occasionally live music/dancing. We tried a few more new foods, including chapatti and samosas before going to Ambalo’s house to meet his family and have hot chocolate. After all of this, we went to the hotel for our last night in Siaya.
Tuesday morning we woke up early to catch the bus to Kisumu. We walked and wheeled our luggage to the bus stage at 7 and departed for Kisumu at 7:35. Once we arrived in Kisumu we stopped at a bank to exchange a little money, then caught tuk-tuk’s to go to Kiboko Bay. Kiboko Bay is a beautiful resort skirting Lake Victoria. We had reserved two tents, accommodating two people each. However, each tent was much nicer than my own home and had wood floors, a hot shower, refrigerator and a toilet. It was heaven. Both mornings, we woke up to the sounds of hippos grazing right outside of the tent by our heads. Claire joined us while we were in Kisumu, We ate at our favorite restaurant – the Green Garden – and visited the best souvenir market for tourists – the Masai Market. We haggled and bargained until we were out of money and energy, then we went back to Kiboko Bay to relax for the evening. It was awesome for Claire to meet my family, and for my family to meet someone who has become such a huge part of my life. She stayed with us at Kiboko Bay and helped us get to Kakamega Rainforest the next day. We managed to get a cab to take us all the way from Kiboko Bay in Kisumu to Kakamega forest, wait for us, and drive us home. It was a pretty packed day and we were all exhausted by the end of it, but the scenery was amazing and we even got a few pictures of monkeys on our nature hike.
After the big trip to Kakamega, we returned to Kiboko for our last night together. We had a ncie dinner on the lake and caught a few glimpses of the hippos before going to bed and again when we got up in the morning. We packed our things and called the cab. Tears were rolling before the cab came… saying goodbye never gets any easier, but the only thing I can really say is I love my family and I am so grateful that they were able to share such a special piece of my life with me.
So, that was my visit with my family. After they left, I had to spend a couple hours at Kiboko pulling myself together before I went out in public. That is something that has taken some time for me to get used to, but attracting so much attention from strangers makes these stressful situations where I feel drained extremely uncomfortable and tiresome. While I was still crying in the lobby with my luggage and souvenirs, the waiter (whom I had buddied up with during our stay) brought me a cold Stoney on the house and gave me some pretty thoughtful worlds of encouragement. It actually meant a lot, especially since I am now aware of how uncomfortable public displays of emotion makes them feel. For him to even approach me at that time was risky for him, and I really appreciated his sincerity.
Once I felt stable enough to show my face, my new friend called a tuk tuk for me and I headed straight to Claire’s, which brings me to another lesson learned this past month: I have awesome, amazing friends.
I made it to Claire’s with all of my luggage and emotions and just totally hashed out everything going through my head. It was so relieving, and then when I couldn’t talk about it anymore, I went and laid in her bed until another eruption of confusion and emotions exploded in my head. It was so great to have someone here to let me be me, listen, and understand how complicated this experience is.
Which brings me to now, back at my house, here in Nina. Claire came home with me to help me get ready for camp GLOW (girls leading our world) which is next week in Kisumu. I’m almost back to normal now, as far as my feelings go anyways – normalcy has never really been my thing… but I went through almost an entire day without any tears, and can’t wait to see everyone again. So, this is basically a novel, pole sana for the unnecessary details I felt were necessary, but that’s the latest in my life. I’ll try to update again at the end of Camp GLOW so that the next one isn’t as lengthy.