So much has happened, so quickly.. it’s hard to believe that I’m already finished with PST and moving on with my life, on my own, to Siaya. It’s shocking, really, and I have such mixed emotions – sometimes I think I’m ready, other times I still feel like a tourist just dropped from the plane. I really do think I’m ready, but I’m pretty nervous and know that I will have some challenges. Duh. It will be a challenge. I’m in Kenya, ha.
I just arrived in Nairobi. Yesterday morning, the Peace Corps picked my luggage up from my home at 8:10am. They showed up while I was drinking my third cup of tea with Mami & Baba. We loaded the car with my five pieces of luggage, I cleaned my room and stuffed the last few things in my little back pack from Pac-Sun that has become my most prized possession. Sara met me at the house and took a few pictures of me with Jen & Mami, then we left. It was hard. I appreciate them so much, and everything they have done for me. It was such an amazing experience. They really opened their home and their hearts to me, and it’s an experience that will never be forgotten, and it really helped me grow as a person. I know we will keep in touch.
After leaving home, Sara and I met Claire and walked into town. Sara and I went to the market and picked up two new skirts I had made – just for me! They are true Kenyan fashion. I picked out the fabric earlier this week and they took my measurements – and voila! I’m practically a Kenyan. Ha. One was supposed to be blue and gold tie dye, but apparently that didn’t work out… for unknown reasons… but when I came to pick them up, it was mulberry and gold. Oh well, it’s still made for me. I love it. I will get a blue and gold mountaineer one later.
Then we went to class for about an hour, which was a waste. We cleaned the room. Blah. Last day and we are cleaning a classroom, but at least it was the last time. We met at the Tea Tot afterwards and had a free lunch (Thanks Peace Corps!) then hung out in our rooms for the rest of the day. That afternoon, Sara and I went back to the market because we have been so busy we can’t stand having nothing to do. I bought a handmade basket/bag that has a name I don’t really know. We bought some passionfruits and wandered around town aimlessly for a while before going back to the TOT to watch “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” It was such a taste of home, I forgot little things about home. It was kind of shocking to watch, actually. It made me homesick, and at the same time, glad I was not home. But I loved it and copied 5 episodes from Sara to watch once I get to site. Nice way to end the night, last night in Machakos.
Today, we woke up and had group breakfast, followed by packing – again. Our families arrived at the TOT around 11 for our Host Family Appreciation Ceremony & Luncheon. My family, much like my American family, showed up an hour late. But they only missed tea, so it was alright. A little awkward to be the only one sitting at my own table in the dining room, but glad they showed up. We then had a nice ceremony with a few goofy skits and a speech, followed by a nice lunch. My family has been so kind and accepting, just unbelievably generous. I love them. I really thought I wouldn’t have any difficulty leaving them, but it was tough. The hard part was just trying to tell them how much I appreciate them and everything they have done for me. I still don’t know if they realize how their generosity has impacted me. It will stick with me forever.
After lunch, we began packing the matatu with our mountain of luggage. Then we hit the road to Nairobi. Here I am, back at Afralti – where it all began. We made a full circle, and now I’m supposedly ready to live on my own. I think I am, I’m just nervous about the unknown. Just like I was before I came to Kenya – getting ready to take a leap, but this time I’m a little more prepared. Or a lot more prepared. Yeah, I’d say a lot. I know how to bathe from a bucket, how to cook a Kenyan meal, how to poop in a choo. That says it all. I’m basically Kenyan already.
Hello everyone! This will probably be my last post from Machakos. Crazy to think that I’m already near the completion of my Pre-Service Training (PST)! Wow! They weren’t kidding when they said that the training would fly by. Overall, I think it has been a lot of work but absolutely worth it, and there has not been a second where I thought I was here by mistake. In fact, I can say that I have not wished to be home even once throughout my entire stay in Kenya so far.
Today marks my two-month mark for living in Kenya. It’s hard for me to believe that I have made it this far without any major complications or shock. Even though it is a lot different here, I haven’t really felt major struggle or difficulty. Funny, because before I left I was preparing myself for the absolute worst case scenario, thinking I would want to come home every day and that I would be tempted to give up. Not the case, I am happy to say.
This being said, last week was my most difficult week here. Challenging, for sure, but even then I feel good about being here and am glad I am here. Last week was model school, and it is exactly what it sounds like – fake school. About 25 of the kids stayed an extra week after classes let out for us to mock teach them and learn how to manage a classroom. All of the trainees were assigned two lessons per day, for Classes 4, 5 & 6. It doesn’t sound like a lot, and initially I was not stressed about it, but oh my goodness… it was hell week!
My first class was “simplifying algebraic expressions” for Class 6. I feel like I don’t really need to say any more. It was as horrible as it sounds. Other classes I taught included: factors promoting and undermining peace, bisecting lines, KSL (x2), Life Skills(x2, Healthy Relationships and Gender Roles), Wildlife and Tourism and something else that I can’t remember. I improved throughout the week, but it was still extremely difficult. The most challenging part is teaching in KSL. I feel pretty good about my KSL, not totally fluent or anything, but pretty good. And it is just so stinking hard to explain and describe using KSL only! It’s an entirely different language, using hands instead of voice and a completely different sentence structure. It’s a big challenge.
in English: “Yesterday, we went to class and then had lunch at the TOT”
in KSL: “WE GO FINISH CLASS THEN FOOD NOON TOT PAST”
Pretty difficult to really describe accurately, and that may not even be 100% correct but you get the idea. This makes teaching English particularly challenging. Imagine trying to explain the word “the” or “as” to someone who has never heard spoken English. Or the difference between “can” and “may” seeing as “may” really isn’t a concept in KSL. It’s going to be a challenge. I think that I will learn a lot more once I get to site and begin interacting with my own kids, but overall, this week was pretty discouraging. Just when you think “hey, I’m getting it, this is totally for me!” another obstacle arises. But that’s ok, I know it’s normal and not impossible. Just a challenge.
Nothing else really epic going on here. I love getting emails from my mom every day, especially this week since it was so frustrating. I went to the real market this week, after class on Friday. My friend, Sara, has been talking it up a lot and I’ve wanted to go, but I knew it was a really happenin’ place with LOTS of people, so I had been hesitant to try it out. It’s kind of hard for me to force myself to go places like that when I’m already a spectacle, plus I know essentially no Kiswahili, which is a little embarrassing. But, thank the good Lord, I finally gave it and went with her Friday afternoon. I told her I wanted to buy a few Christmas presents and she knew just the spot. It’s something I can’t really describe, but I have two pictures I managed to sneak while I was there, and since this is my last week here, I have decided that I will take all of the pictures I want. We are strongly discouraged from getting our cameras out in public because it makes us a target for theft (I have probably mentioned that before), but since I’m getting ready to relocate, I figure it won’t be too detrimental to my safety to take a few of Machakos before I go. I will get a few more of the market this week, because as I was saying, it was awesome! I was hesitant to go because of all of the people and also because I have been dreading haggling. Bargaining. Whatever you want to call it. Or as Kenyans say, “bar-gain-ing” emphasis on the “gain.” The great thing was, even though I only made purchases from two vendors, they weren’t ridiculous and were totally reasonable. And they understood our English perfectly. It was great. One lady didn’t even give me a jacked up price, just the real deal, and Sara’s aunt came along and agreed that they were fair. I can’t tell you what I bought, though, because it is would ruin your Christmas from Kenya!
I think it will be sad to leave Machakos. I really do like it here, and I’m becoming very familiar with it. People in town recognize us, and even the matatu driver we chatted with yesterday said he saw four of us walking every morning and every evening. Going to the market, we weren’t really taken advantage of because we are integrating into our community. People here understand that we aren’t tourists, here to exploit their culture. In fact, this week while walking home with Sara, we saw another group of white people. It was embarrassing. They were loud, obnoxious, wearing “normal” clothes that I would now consider to be disrespectful – especially in this culture. It’s like we are finally beginning to blend, even though we still stick out like a flamingo in flock of geese. Sad to go, but excited to continue adapting in Siaya.
So, here’s the game plan. On the 11th, which is a Sunday, my group will go to Nairobi for our supervisor’s workshop. Here, our headmasters from our sites will come for a few days to work with us about our upcoming transition to their school. On the 14th, we have a big swearing in ceremony and leave for site. “TRAINEE FINISH, TEACHER VOLUNTEER START”
Today I am going to leave the philosophical shenanigans aside. Not saying it is subsiding, but I’ll try a more factual, informative approach this time.
I feel like there’s really not much new here, which is amusing because I’m still new here! Ha! But things here are becoming routine and I’m adjusting really well. I have a report card to prove it! Last week they gave us a true report card, scoring us in different areas to make us aware of our progress in adjustment to Kenyan culture and lifestyle. Mine was great, I’d give it an A+ overall, but the one comment that really stuck out to me was that it said I dress like a true Kenyan woman! Funny, because I still feel like a tourist a lot, but the Kenyan trainers graded us and they really are sticklers for the dress code, so I felt really good about it.
Things here are getting busy, though, with the hustle and bustle of getting ready for not Christmas, as all of you at home are, but rather our swearing-in ceremony. We had our practice-mock-LPI, which I wrote about in my last post. This past Friday, we had our official mock LPI. The set up was very similar to the one I already described, but this time the interpreters were replaced with a video camera. We signed up for the interview times the day before, each of which lasted 15 minutes. Claire and I chose 10:15 and 10:30 so we could sleep in and walk to class together. So, on Friday, we walked to class – left at 9:20 – to find out that everyone else came at 8 (the usual time) to practice. I didn’t feel nervous at all, but then felt worried that maybe I SHOULD be nervous.. regardless, too late now.
Claire went first, said it was fine, nothing to be worried about. I went in and sat opposite of Carol – after being told to take off my sweater (I said they were sticklers about the dress code) and spit out my gum (which I found odd, too, because you use your hands, not your mouth…). We started with the usual small talk – then she asked if I was ready to begin. I thought we were already filming, so whatever. We started over with the camera on this time.
It was the same kind of conversation, but this time I had more to say. It was nice. I made a few mistakes, like asking “sign what?” when I meant “sign name what?” but I remembered the correct “and” and “with” (which I had marks for being incorrect on the practice) and I used the right signs for my school and site this time instead of fingerspelling words. I even remembered the sign for “kicked out” when describing previous work at Pressley. Nice! I knew a few errors I made, and I know I need to focus on making my sentences rather than jumbling together a bunch of signs. At the end of the interview, we were joking about bribing her to come visit me and my kids by cooking her dinner. It was nice to be able to joke – just like chit chat – in a new language.
Afterwards, I felt great. We went into town and I mailed a few (7!) letters – so keep your eyes open! Then exchanged some cash and the bank. I see our economy is still struggline – the USD fell this weekend! Then we went to Naiva’s to eat at the new café. We had free time from 10:45-2:00 and it was raining, so options were limited. While at Naiva’s, we met an Australian guy working for the Red Cross here in Machakos. He ate lunch with us, then Ethan, Claire and I went to see his apartment. He lives a much different life from us! It was pretty shocking – a true reminder of what we left behind. Then we returned to MSD for the afternoon and anxiously awaited tomorrow for our mock LPI results.
Saturday, class began at 10 instead of 8. We negotiated this because we go to Loitokitok for training the week of Thanksgiving, and with training every weekday from 8-5, then again Saturday – and leave for Loitokitok Sunday – when will we do laundry and pack? So the idea was to do it Saturday morning, followed by class 10-12.
So, that’s what I did. I got up at 6:45, ate some bread and peanut butter and began my laundry. I only selected the essential items to wash because it’s been really, really rainy lately. Like, more than it rained the last time I complained about the rain. In fact, I’d love to have those days back. At least then it only rained til noon! Now it’s an all day thing.
Anyways, it wasn’t raining when I started my laundry. I had my underwear, some socks, my beloved North Face Fleece pants that I put on every day as soon as I walk into the house. The must-haves. I start with my whites, but throw my undies in first thing because I feel like it wouldn’t hurt them to soak a little extra since I’m no expert at handwashing clothes (yet!).
Since no one else was outside, I decided to enjoy some of my own music from home – the Avett Brothers. My family thinks they’re extremely unusual – we listen to hip-hop (we actually get BET, and my brother is a DJ at a club) or traditional Kamba music. So, that banjo sounds a little out of place. But it makes me feel good inside and feels like a little piece of home. After a few shirts and socks the sprinkles began. Great. Just after 7 and it’s already starting. So, I moved my laundry station under the awning – where stagnant water sits and smells like barf – to finish my laundry before class.
There’s just something insanely rewarding about handwashing your clothes. I highly recommend doing it, although I seriously doubt that anyone at home will feel the same appreciation that you do here, when you have a machine that will take care of it using zero energy for basically free. I know I wouldn’t be scrubbing the crotch of my underwear every Saturday morning if I had any other option. Anyways, there are a few things I appreciate here that I’d like to share with you, and just write it so I don’t ever forget it.
1. That water was clean, and I just ruined it. Water is precious here, and you waste as little as possible. Last week, I did my laundry Saturday morning, as usual, then suffered later that night because I didn’t plan ahead properly and therefore had no bathing or drinking water come evening. The rain is unreliable, and water doesn’t stretch as far as you would think. Even with all of the rain we have been having, our tank is nearly empty and our house workers have been fetching water every day to do our household chores and feed our animals. So, today I had set aside water before starting my laundry, but it’s still interesting to see that water you just ruined by doing something essential – like washing your clothes.
2. I just got all of that dirt out of my clothes using my hands. It’s funny, because I don’t go rolling around in the field or frolicking with wild animals. I’m really not a slob! But after washing even those few items, you see how necessary it was, and you appreciate the fact that you just did it “the hard way” using your own hands.
3. How can I re-use this left-over water? Like I said, the water is dirty. Like, dark, muddy, can’t see the bottom of my basin dirty. But you don’t just throw it out – there’s always some way to make use of it. I always try to find ways to make it stretch as much as I can. Today, I decided to scrub up all of my shoes (since I will be packing them in my suitcase for LTK anyways), then I used a little to scrub the toothpaste out of the sink in my bedroom since we don’t have running water in the house, and finally I wiped the floor of my bedroom before putting it in a bucket for flushing the toilet later. Good use!
4. Just feeling productive, in general. I think that one of the best feelings I have here is the feeling of accomplishment after doing these routine tasks on Saturday mornings. I wake up, wash my clothes as early as possible so they can dry before dark, then purify my water and find as many ways as I can to make use of my leftover water. It just really makes you feel good, and it sets the bar high for the rest of the day. I love it. I think even though I dread doing my laundry, I love the accomplished feeling afterward. It always puts me in a fantastic mood, even if it is pouring rain.
So, after washing my clothes with the Avett Brothers in the rain, I tried to find a place to hang all of my stuff near my window, in my bedroom. I have a picture of this, actually, that I will try to upload when I update my blog. It was amusing and made my room smell amazingly clean! Then I dressed and met the group to walk to class. I decided to wear a skirt, even though we are allowed to wear jeans on Saturdays. As much as I would LOVE to wear my jeans (or just anything with pant legs, actually) I know that I will be wearing them next week in LTK and need them to stay clean, because jeans are probably the most miserable thing to hand wash and line dry. So, we got to class, and most trainees were wearing jeans. American jeans (for girls) are tight. Fact. Trainers mentioned that tight jeans were inappropriate to wear at a school and that we should be more cautious next time. This led to a 45 minute debate about how one can determine which jeans are acceptable and which are not. Fun. The line is really fuzzy, but it is what it is. Then we cleaned, sweeping and mopping again – but the atmosphere was really tense. The debate kind of spoiled everyone’s good mood. But knowing that our scores were going to be announced after cleaning gave us a little motivation.
The trainers split us into our clusters and gave us all our evaluation individually. I don’t remember anything other than the word “INTERMEDIATE.” Yay! I did it! We are required to score intermediate on our final LPI in order to be sworn in as volunteers on December 14th. I am still shocked, but I really did it and I’m right on par – scoring wise – for Kenyan Sign Language. It was one of the best high’s I’ve had here so far.