I don’t know what to call this post. It’s really hard for me to capture how I feel right now, because I don’t even know how I feel, which makes it impossible to try and explain to someone else. But I do know this: I love my friends here, and saying goodbye to Mr. Ambalo, Dorine and Mr. Sirawa is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. One of. It’s tough. Like, really tough. Tougher than coming to Kenya. Anyways, I just wanted to brag on them a little and tell everyone back home about how awesome they’ve made not only my 2 years in Kenya, but especially these intense, stressful few weeks leading up to my farewell. There’s gonna be a sappy post about it coming soon, so just consider this one as the preview.
My last shopping trip in Siaya.
Last time getting my own fresh milk from our backyard.
Bags are packed… Country Roads, take me home!
Partying with Dorine on my very last night in Siaya.
Dancing with Ambalo on my very last night in Siaya.
This one goes out to the amazing man who kept me in Kenya for 2 whole years!
My dance partners in Siaya
Last song! Last dance in Siaya. Such great company! I’m going to miss these nights.
In the morning, before leaving Siaya, I had to get a good picture of a butcher to show everyone at home. Here it is!
Lunch on the lake with Ambalo in Kisumu! They wash your car while you eat, whether you want them to or not.
So how did you spend your Thanksgiving? Eating turkey, watching football, dozing on the couch? I plan to do the same next year (minus eating the turkey), but this year, my third and last Thanksgiving in Kenya, I was fortunate enough to spend it at Obama’s grandmother’s home! Ever since I found out while staying in Machakos over two years ago that I would be coming to Siaya, I was bombarded with Obama enthusiasm. Finally, 26 months later, I have seen the home for myself and met Madam Sarah, Obama’s grandmother. Here are a few pics marking the day:
With Mama Sara Obama.
We brought a gift for her orphanage, 10kg of sugar.
With Sirawa, standing next to Obama’s father’s burial site. In the background you can see her new house.
Touring her garden. The grasses are grown for her dairy cows.
She is such a wonderful woman. So down to earth and genuine. So many people go crazy when a sack of money falls from heaven, directly into their empty lap, but Mama Obama has maintained her Kenyan lifestyle and given almost everything right back to the community. Obama has assisted her financially since he became Senator. He has even visited the home a few times before becoming president. The first thing she did when she received money from her grandson was purchase iron sheet for all of the houses in her village. She now operates a few orphanages in her community and continues farming and gardening within her original family compound. In fact, until just recently, she even stayed in the same house. Recently a new one was constructed directly behind the original, and it is still very modest. It was such an honour to meet her and hear her tell stories about when Obama’s father was young. Such a memorable Thanksgiving 🙂
Before I went to visit Obama’s place, I was surprised by 2 of my students, Rehema and Alice, who came knocking at my door early this morning. It was actually perfect timing, because I had just completed my millionth trial pack and had eliminated a few more things from my suitcases – which I bagged up and sent them home with. Here is a picture of me with Rehema’s family:
OK, so just a few more pictures of how I’ve been spending my final days in Kenya. As I mentioned yesterday, I went to the border of Uganda yesterday with Mr. Sirawa. He lives in Busia, the city bordering Uganda on the Kenya side. We took a short stroll from his house to the border, where we had a few interesting conversations with the police, snapped a few photos and skidaddled back to Siaya. Before coming home though, I met his beautiful family and had lunch at their home. It was a pretty awesome day all around. Memorable, for sure 🙂
Above: with my awesome headteacher, Mr. Ambalo. Thanks to him for all of these pictures! (and for explaining to everyone there that calling white people “mzungu” makes them feel bad)
Above: Greeting one of the adorable little boys from the wedding party. He was following me around and hiding every time I looked at him – too cute!
Above: with the best man (left) and groom (right)
Above: with the cute little kids from the wedding party. They were trailing behind me, too shy to actually talk to me, so Ambalo asked them if they wanted a picture and they all came RUNNING! I squatted down and they all grabbed a wad of my hair before he snapped the shot. So funny!
As the end of my service approaches, what am I thinking?
Well… for starters… “has it already been 2 years?!?!” which I immediately chase with “it’s about freaking time.” Then the more meaningful, complex thoughts begin emerging, which if left unattended will absolutely consume my mind and my thoughts. So, then, what am I thinking? What’s for supper? What am I gonna wear tomorrow? I wonder if it’s going to rain… then I’ll have to wear my sneakers. Maybe Ambalo will be late so I can wear leggings. I hope we have mandazi at tea break. How did I gain 10 pounds?
So basically, coming home isn’t something I’m giving much thought. It’s going to be tough.
But since I’m not really into thinking about that, and I’m not really into boring you to death either, I’ll talk a little about how things are going at school.
Class 8 (8th graders) just finished their KCPE – possibly the most important week of their lives, marked by hours of sitting in a classroom with an armed police officer guarding the door and 3 adult teachers sitting and staring at them as they select ABCDE for 50 questions, 6 exams. It’s a pretty stressful time for all involved, but thankfully it’s now finished and they are preparing to go home. All students will be going home this Wednesday, November 20th. Parents will come in the morning and have some meetings, receive their children with report forms in tow and vanish into the village until January, when school reopens, sans Kelsey.
But now I’m getting ahead of myself again. What else is new here…
Both of our cows have now given birth! As many of you may have seen on facebook, the first to birth was Lucy (the mean one) on November 8th. In fact, I went to the harambee with Mr. Ambalo, and when we returned we immediately went to check the cows. It started raining and we became stuck in the cow stable, waiting for the rain to stop, when we realized that Lucy was going into labour. Baby Kelsey was born before dark with no problems at all. Here’s a cute picture of our new baby girl:
Today, at 4:07 this morning, Michelle gave birth to another baby girl.
So now we have 2 baby girls and 2 big mama’s to milk. I help our worker, Christopher, with milking every morning and evening. Michelle turned out to be a little sassy, but I think that she’s settling down now. The kids are all thrilled to be able to drink milk every evening after supper, and since school is getting ready to close we will be making quite a bit of money selling the milk every day. Lucy is producing about 15liters every day, and today being the first day we milked Michelle, we can’t really guess how much she will contribute, but I’m expecting her to surpass Lucy. We’ll see. Either way, it will help offset expenses for the parents who can’t afford to pay school fees! THANK YOU to every single contribution! You guys are the ones who put these cows here – thank you a million times over!
In other news… all of my kids are healthy and strong. Denis came back to school and is putting weight back on. He finished his exams last week and has been helping take care of the cows. None of the kids have started milking yet, but they all pitch in when it comes to bringing water and working in the garden where we grow grasses to feed them. In fact, today all of my kids helped dig flower gardens along my house and the office. We worked on it this morning and even lined them with small rocks collected from around the compound. I’ll add a few pictures for you to see.
While Denis was at the hospital, I met a man who worked there and knew of another deaf child staying at home in his village. He was curious about what services were available, or what people do with such children, so I explained that normally we treat them like humans and educate them. We exchanged info and on Monday of last week, Ambalo arranged to have him brought to school. He’s a feisty little thing, terrorizing all of his agemates, but it’s good he came this term to adjust to school life so when he returns next term it won’t be so shocking to him.
So, that’s life at Nina. Let’s have a countdown:
5 more days with my kids
6 days until my farewell party
16 days until I leave my home in Siaya (to Nairobi for close of service procedures)
21 days until I am no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer
30 days until I say goodbye to Kenya and hello to Vietnam
55 days until my feet touch American soil for the first time in over a year.
Hey folks! Check out my latest – and possibly my last – project as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya. It’s not completely finished yet, but it’s a good start for recruiting new students and sharing the latest news from Nina. Enjoy 🙂
Finally, one of our cows has given birth to a beautiful baby girl named Kelsey! I was able to help with the delivery and see her first steps – and even give the udder the first squeeze 🙂 Here are a few pics from her first few days.
Last week, early Monday morning, I woke to a knock on my door. Everyone’s been sick lately, so I can’t ignore these early morning calls anymore. I rolled out of bed and stumbled to the door to find the headgirl explaining that Denis is weak. She only said weak, not sick, and when I asked her “problem what?” she said that he was beat by another teacher on Friday, and perhaps that was the cause. Denis has never complained, and I have never known him to be sick, so I knew something was up. She said she thought he might have been vomiting during the night. I proceeded to get dressed and have some tea before making my way through the mud to the dormitory with my bright pink pitcher of oral rehydration solution.
I found him in the housemother’s quarters, perched rigidly on a bench as Anjeline darted around the room in search of something. Without greetings, she said “Full, this boy is so sick,” which is pretty significant from our staff here. Anjeline continued talking and searching, telling me to determine where he hurts, what his problem is. I greeted him, and he responded with “fine,” so then I asked him “problem what?” and he said “fine” again, and again, and again. I got a little closer and began feeling him – he was hot. I gave him a cup of the drink, still observing him, and as he lifted it to his face his arm jerked and sloshed the entire drink onto himself and the floor. Alarmed, I grabbed the cup and helped him get his shirt off. He was fumbling with his buttons, arms still flailing around. Once the shirt was off, I started questioning again. This is when I realized he couldn’t see very well, and was pretty disoriented/confused.
I called Ambalo and told him to come immediately, mainly concerned about the convulsions and fever. Apparently he began complaining about the eyes on Saturday, along with the fever. He was taken to the dispensary and tested for malaria, which he did not have. They gave him drugs (I don’t know what) and was being given meds for the fever.
I got a few small sips of the drink in him, we put dry clothes on him and helped him to bed, where he rested until Ambalo arrived.
As soon as Ambalo arrived, he roused Denis, who immediately spewed vomit everywhere. We changed his clothes again, packed his things and put him in the car with Anjeline to go to the hospital.
I came to my house and had a little meltdown. Less than a month ago we buried another student after a very similar illness. I waited until after 11 before going to Siaya myself to visit him at the hospital.
When I reached the hospital, I found that they had just discharged him. Apparently they released him with Anjeline, saying he should go home to rest. This didn’t sit well with me at all, so I had a my second meltdown, which had better results than the first and led to someone going for Anjeline and Denis, bringing them back to the hospital.
They arrived about 10 minutes later, Anjeline leading a stumbling, disoriented Denis by the arm. I tried signing with him, and he was able to respond, though it was awkward, like he wasn’t recalling some things and said he didn’t know people, like his aunt, who was now present. I suggested the doctors have another look at him, Anjeline immediately agreed. She said he was still fevered and unwell, so we requested our friend, Dr. Osore (he came to Nina last year to learn sign language) to please have another look at him. Dr. Osore took his temperature, which was high, and agreed to admitting him. Relieved, we went into a small room to begin the paperwork. Anjeline stepped outside to talk with the family, who apparently wanted him to come home for “traditional treatment.” After a few minutes, she came back into the room and said that they weren’t going to admit him.
Bring on meltdown number 3. I called Ambalo, spouted off a little steam before giving the phone to Anjeline and proceeding with the admission process.
Once admitted, they lead us to the male ward. The mother still cannot be reached, so it is just me and Anjeline with Denis. He lies in one of the beds and eats a few bananas before they request to relocate him to a different bed, closer to the desk (since he is deaf). During that transition, he begins violently vomiting, spraying it all over the windows, walls and mosquito nets. I rush to the desk and ask for a basin for him to vomit into, and they tell me I should have brought my own – that the hospital doesn’t provide them. So there he is, just spraying all over the place. When it stops and he gets settled into the new, now drenched bed, I start looking for drinking water. It’s 4pm and he hasn’t had anything to drink since this morning at school. I inquire the desk again – this time for water – and again, they tell me I should have brought it from outside. The hospital does not provide drinking water. That’s a first. So now I send someone to get water from Siaya.
Jeph, one of the other teachers at Nina, joins us at the hospital around 5. She immediately begins chasing down the mother and whipping everyone into shape. Thank God for this woman. Within an hour, the mother is at the gate of the hospital and Denis is sleeping under a blanket and mosquito net with a basin under the bed. We stay until 7:30pm.
The next few days are sheer hell. I can’t even tell them apart. He went into a coma for 2 days. They inserted a feeding tube (after another epic mzungu meltdown). No one wanted to use the feeding tube, so I stayed in the hospital from 8am to 8pm to help. My colleagues were amazing and came every day long to check on him and help with his treatment and bring him things to put in the feeding tube.
I cannot even tell you how difficult this whole process was. I wish I could. I just can’t. It’s impossible. But the bottom line is that today, 8 days later, he was released from the hospital, and he’s going to be fine. We still don’t have a specific diagnosis, and he was treated for a variety of things I’m not convinced were necessary, but he’s ok and hopefully will be coming back to school in a week.
In the meantime, we have sent 7 other kids to the hospital for similar illnesses, though fortunately none of them have been as severe as the case with Denis. I keep a pitcher of ORS ready and a mattress on my floor, and the kids are knocking on my door from morning to night reporting the sick ones. It’s a nightmare. It’s the kind of thing they make horriblescary movies about – the movies I refuse to watch, but now am forced to experience first hand. But at the same time, I know I need to be here and that now is when I’m going to make the biggest difference. It’s hard to feel good about it right now, but I know I will NEVER forget the moment Denis sat up in bed. Right then, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. When he stood up for the first time, I knew I made a difference. And when I go to the dormitory every night with my ORS and flashlight, I know that I’m at least making memories for the kids and setting an example.
I can’t tell if it’s a good note or a bad note to be leaving on, but regardless, it’s going to be meaningful farewell.