My second (and last) year in Kenya has officially begun. Today was my first day back to school with my kids since Thanksgiving, and wow… I can’t believe where I am, who I am, and what I’m doing. It’s still unreal to me, and every day I’m surprised by something new, whether it is truly a new experience or even just a new awareness of something that I have become rather familiar with.
For example, I have now had 4 first days, one each term I have taught here in Kenya. Each term begins the same way – kids trickle in for weeks, books are rehabilitated and distributed, classes begin (sorta, if the teachers come). It’s the same every term. But the “new” thing about this term was how comfortable I feel with this routine. The books are always in utter disrepair, beyond help of even duct tape. I’m always distraught while distributing books, fretting over their terrible condition and feeling embarrassed about even expecting the kids to look at the filthy pages. But this time, no problem, they can’t read anyways (joking! Kinda… ) – just slap some tape on there and we’re good to go! I even brought my handy dandy little notebook with me for recording the book number, or in the case where books had no cover and therefore no number, making one up and writing it on the first page, the one most likely to be torn off next. I even squeezed in a couple of lessons while darting back and forth amongst the classrooms with books and tape. Extremely successful first day back to school.
This afternoon, I helped distribute more of the mattresses purchased by folks back home. We already have 4 new students this year, and several of the returning students have pathetic mattresses, so we replaced over 10 today. My entourage, 4 little nursery girls who used to cringe at the sight of my “fish belly” skin, assisted me with moving the mattresses and helping make the beds after we stripped them. It was precious.
So, that was my first day back to school. I know it’s been quite a while since I have updated, so I’m sure there are many things I should touch on to catch up. I’ll start with covering the holidays. As most of you know, I made a trip back to the states to surprise my family. It worked, they were surprised. Even though time was short and adjusting was rather overwhelming, it was absolutely the most memorable, meaningful Christmas I have ever had in my 25 years of existence. You’ve heard it before, and I can confirm: absence makes the heart grow fonder. Best part of being home: family. Seeing my friends. Sitting with my mom and my sisters and new baby nephew in laura’s apartment, on the couch, under a heated blanket while watching a movie and eating popcorn. Simple as that, no questions asked.
Before I came home though, I made a trip to the coast with some friends. That was another huge bonus, although I wish it had happened after going home. I was so excited to be home, I don’t think I was even able to enjoy it to the full capacity, so I am planning on making a trip back, if time (elections) permits. We stayed with a PCV friend in Kilifi, at her house. It was such a beautiful town, with such a local, community feeling. The town was amazing and I only heard the word “mzungu” once, while we were walking on a beach packed with small kids. Otherwise, I felt like I just belonged there, like it just a typical vacation at the beach and I was the lucky tourist.
After the coast, I came home for 2 weeks. I returned to Kenya on New Year’s eve and brought in the new year at Ken Con in Nairobi. The next morning I headed west, back to Siaya. Ambalo was waiting for me here at my house when I arrived at dark, and we went out to dance and “bring in the new year properly,” which I must say made a rather memorable new year. I spent one night at my house in Siaya before returning to Nairobi for mid service medical. Like I said before, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and again, it is tried and true. It was phenomenal to be back with my group after not only being in another country for a few weeks, but also because I hadn’t seen them in several months. I had a great time getting caught up with old friends and even making a few new ones from the newer groups. It’s unreal that I am now part of the “old group.”
Now that I have caught you up on the past and the present, let’s try to predict the future. The only thing I can think about (and I’m confident that most PCV’s would agree) is the upcoming elections. Elections, elections, elections. I know that I’ve mentioned it several times before, but in case you’re just joining me, the presidential elections are scheduled for March 4th. In 2008, right after elections, Kenya fell apart and violence erupted everywhere, resulting in thousands of deaths. Everyone is on edge about this election, and if it happens again, PCK will be evacuated. However, I want to stress that the PC has a very detailed, elaborate plan for consolidating all PCV’s before elections, and therefore we are not at any risk whatsoever. None at all, so don’t be worried about us – be thinking about our friends and family, colleagues, kids and loved ones here in Kenya. These are the people we live with and love, the people who make our time here worthwhile. PCV’s can (and will) get out if it gets rough, but our loved ones here stay here. It’s a really stressful time for everyone, especially family and friends at home… but it’s hard to face the truth: I can get out of here if it gets crazy, my friends can’t. It’s tough. So even though I know you’re worried about your PCV son/daughter/sibling/friend/lover, keep Kenyans in mind and send some positive thoughts this way ☺