Here are just a few pictures from my last week with my kids. Tomorrow is my official last day with them, so I will have more pictures then. But in the meantime, enjoy these ones!
As the end of my service approaches, what am I thinking?
“Just one of those days.” Whatever that’s supposed to mean.
As soon as I got back to my house today, this thought immediately crossed my mind: “one of those days..” even though I’m 100% certain I’ve never had a day quite like this. Here goes.
This morning I woke up way early, which is pretty typical for me. It’s Eid Mubarak, so we don’t have classes. That doesn’t really mean too much for me, since I live with the kids on the school compound, so as usual I could hear them up and about before the sun could even light the ground. I untangled myself from my mosquito net and stumbled through my dark living room, into my kitchen to put water on for tea and try to find something to eat.
Last night the girls got into a fight in the dormitory, so I spent most of my evening over there settling things down before taking the culprits into my house (per the housemother’s request) to do some late night therapy. The spotlight of my torch really set the mood – I actually felt like a cop. First shining it any myself while I try to sign “Nefrine, tell me what happened,” and then shining it right on her while she signs her side of the story. Back at me, “Why did you do that? That was wrong.” Back at her for her explanation while the other fighter, Judith, sat in the dark observing until it was her turn. I imagine that’s what it was like in the old days; a dramatic crime/thriller movie set in the 30’s, with a police officer interrogating suspects in dark room with one-way glass. Anyways, point is that I didn’t get to eat dinner last night so I woke up starving with no eggs (my staple breakfast food), no milk for tea and no sugar or splenda. This creates a tricky situation for breakfast. And a very grumpy Kelsey. After scavenging my shelf one last time for any hidden remnant of something quick to eat, I decided my only option was lentils and black tea, no sugar.
While I was waiting for breakfast, I sat in the dark in my living room. I realized I was completely out of airtime for my phone, which prevented me from checking emails/facebook or contacting anyone outside of the compound. That rarely happens… but today was just “one of those days. “ Someone came pounding on my door, which I answered dazedly without any pants on. I peeked my head through the crack to find Nefrine, saying they didn’t fight any more last night. “Nice,” I signed before shutting the door and digging around in my dark bedroom for anything to cover my lower half. Did I mention I was out of candles, too?
Once breakfast was ready and pants were on, I brought Debora inside to play with the stuffed animals. She cried when I told her to go to the dormitory after dinner last night instead of letting her come back in to play, so I was sure to let her get an early start today. She came and started dressing them in my scarves and headbands while I went to wash my dishes, glad I could trust her to play by herself in the living room.
After dishes, my shoe fundi called saying my shoes were ready. I had placed an order for a pink pair for myself as well as 2 pairs (different colors) for my friends. He said “but only 2 are ready, the other 3 will be ready tomorrow.” What? 5 pairs of sandals? Huh? Yeah, apparently he made 3 of the same exact style for me…. As well as the two different ones for my friends. I guess you could call that a convenient miscommunication… I do love his shoes.
After hanging up the phone, I realized there were visitors outside. I simultaneously realized that Debora had become fascinated with my dental floss and unraveled the entire thing and strung it around my living room – through my shoes, around the stuffed animals, around my candle holders that weren’t actually holding any candles, through the handles of every mug I own… basically through and around everything in my living room. Cool. I kicked her out and decided to wait until someone called for me to come greet the visitors. In the meantime, I decided to go for some popcorn.
This was when I realized that there was a wasp in my living room. Usually I just nip it in the bud and whip out the can of Doom, but for some reason I let this one go. Mercy. That’s what it was. I let him buzz around, just watching him from the couch as I snacked on popcorn and occasionally swung my oven mitt at him when he got too close. When I had finished my popcorn, I decided that Mr. Wasp had worn out his welcome and went to get the can of Doom from my bookshelf. As I reached for the can, the wasp dove at my head, causing me to thrash my arms in the air wildly, hitting myself in the head with my big can of doom while knocking half of my bookshelf’s contents to the ground. I ducked down and looked around above me for the monster producing the hellish buzzing…. The wasp was stuck in my dreads. I jumped up and flipped my head over, shaking it like an 80’s rockstar while scrambling to my bedroom where I have a compact mirror. Freaking out, my judgment might have lapsed slightly and I began spraying my head with the Doom. Probably not the best idea… but who wants to get stung on the head? He fell out and I quickly calmed down to see the visitors standing right outside my window. Huh. Hope they missed my little show.
I quickly patted down my hair and spritzed a little body spray before going out to greet them. Jacky, our secretary, explained that they are here to talk about circumcision and that they would like for me to interpret for the boys. I said, “umm it’s a little early for that, don’t you think? And today is a holiday…” But they were pretty adamant about it, and said they only had 15 minutes before they had to move on to the next school. Ok. So I rounded up all of the boys and signed “penis” and “snip snip” more than I care to repeat. They snickered and giggled, and the ones who have already been circumcised stuck their chests out and strutted away. The few, the proud, the circumcised.
Once the visitors left, I asked Jacky to call Ojwang to carry me to Siaya (since I didn’t have any airtime). I wanted to buy a fish for supper, as well as airtime, candles, breakfast stuff. When he arrived I grabbed my sweater from the hook in my living room before heading out. We stopped to pick up his wife, which was a bit uncomfortable. Me, sandwiched between him and his wife on a bike. Cute. Once we reached Siaya, I dashed around to pick up everything on my list before calling him again to take me back. Again, he and his wife came and I hopped on the back this time before we took off. A quick stop at the butchery to pick up some dead animal and we were on the path back to Nina.
“Pssshhhhhhht….” That’s our tire going flat, right as we pass a herd of cows. Being on the back, I’m supposed to get off first, but these cows have huge horns. After they all passed, I alighted, followed by the wife and finally Ojwang. Cows are everywhere, herds of them going in all directions around us. I huddled up close to Ojwang and the bike with my bag of fish and eggs. About 20 minutes later, another bike comes and Ojwang tells me to use this one. He’s wearing a Santa hat. Awesome. So I get back to school without breaking a single egg and collapse as soon as I enter my house. My mom, Bruce, Terri & Bobby might be the only ones who understand how taxing it is to go on these excursions. Another wasp is buzzing around my chair. I don’t waste any time blasting him with Doom. I unload my goodies and change into my “play clothes” when I realized that there is actually a wasp nest on the back of my sweater. Huh. At least it wasn’t in my hair.
TGIF! And unlike most occasions which one might utter this phrase because the week was long and drab or somewhat unbearable, this time I only say it because I’m looking forward to a great weekend to top off an awesome week. This week was my first week back at site after consolidation, and to be entirely honest with you, I was not looking forward to my return to the village. In fact, I didn’t even anticipate returning to site after consolidating – I fully expected to be returning to America, due to civil unrest after the Presidential Election. Fortunately, that was not the case, and I just finished another amazing week hanging out with a group of phenomenal kids at Nina.
Allow me to elaborate on the seemingly insignificant events that made my week in Kenya awesome. I say seemingly insignificant because from your perspective, my fellow Americans, perched on a leather sofa with your laptop between you and the LCD TV while waiting for your dinner to heat up in the microwave, my stories might not seem as impressive, or brag-worthy as I imagine.
First of all, I managed to successfully facilitate 2 detention sessions this week. Yes, detention. And yes, that is the high point of my week. And no, not because I hate children and want to punish them and witness their suffering, because if that were the case, I would do absolutely nothing at all to amend the punishment system here.
On Monday, several of our kids were called out during assembly for refusing to run in the morning (all students run 10 laps in the morning and evening to prepare for upcoming athletic competitions), falling asleep during reading hour, and not helping wash dishes. Understandable crimes, typical kids. Usually on these occasions, where the kids actually “deserve” the punishment, I simply take leave and hand out sweets later. But since I’ve returned from consolidation, one teacher has been whacking the kids while playing volleyball if they have a bad hit, or if they are too slow – silly things that beatings certainly won’t improve. Enough is enough. Anyways, on this morning, 3 teachers took turns beating the kids, which happens to be illegal in the new constitution. (I did make a point of subtly reminding all students and teachers of this throughout the day: Teacher: “good morning, Adhis, how are you?” Me: “Fine. Well, I was fine… until teachers decided to ignore the new constitution and beat the kids this morning. And you?”)
So, after spreading the good news of our new constitution all day long, I talked with the older kids about the recent punishments. They are (and have been) well aware of my stance on corporal punishment. That’s one benefit of being the third volunteer – the kids know that 1. white people don’t tolerate beatings and 2. they can’t run fast) They requested my company while reading in the evening to ensure that no one would be in trouble the following morning. Since I couldn’t sit with the boys and girls at the same time, I told them to start giving me the “naughty list” and I would try to find a better way to punish, since they hate the beatings, too. Surprisingly, I received the naughty list 2 days later (I had offered this before, but they thought I wouldn’t actually punish them so they continued giving it to the disciplinarian). I spent the morning pondering on how to handle the trouble makers, and considered how they would be dealt with back home. Detention. That was the answer. And, for my benefit, cleaning the choo. Ha. That will teach them. So during assembly, I called out the naughty kids and asked them to meet with me before lunch. They eagerly found me before lunch, curious about how I would handle the situation. I had them each bring a chair and sit it under my window, next to my house – out of sight from the rest of the kids. They sat here for the entire lunch break, no storying, eating by themselves. The other kids, teachers, and workers passed and asked why they were sitting at my house, and all seemed to agree that this was a great idea. However, they suggested withholding their lunch, which actually caused Johnnie to cry. I explained that starving kids normally doesn’t improve their behavior, though I’m no expert. After school was finished, I gave them the supplies to clean my choo. Spotless. Such angels. Hopefully they get in trouble again soon.
My next major accomplishment was initiating a garden project. We have tried this before, but this time, I have another teacher backing me up, so I expect this attempt will be more successful than the last (i.e. we will actually plant seeds, rather than just digging up a plot of land for new grass). On the same note, I’m also witnessing the tangible outcome of the grant I wrote last term. The cow shed is developing more and more, with every cow-cart of stones unloaded by hand on the compound.
Otherwise, the company of my kids has just been amazing. I wish I knew the words to say. Every single term just ends up being better than the last. I keep thinking I’m at my full potential, my full capacity, fully adapted and adjusted to my life and community here…. and then something unexpected happens and I realize I’m handling this situation way differently, and way better, than I would have even a month ago. It’s a never ending process.
Help my school raise money for two milk cows