Tag Archives: Volunteer

I did it!

It’s official. I’m no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer. I can now join the elite club of RETURNED Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV). That part of this transition is way awesome. But the other part is still pretty scary. I feel like I owe everyone who’s been riding along with me for the past 2 years an update on how my service closed, so here is my first attempt. The truth is, there are way too many feelings, thoughts, ideas, concerns involved to really go into much detail about what it’s really like to complete your Peace Corps Service. Anyways, I’ll skim over the big ones and then we can chat about it in person in a month 🙂

First: I DID IT! Yay me!! It’s still, to this day, 27 months after the heart wrenching goodbye the night of my sister’s wedding, impossible for me to fathom that those 2 years have already passed. In a way, I feel like I’ve been here FOREVER. On the other hand, I just got here yesterday. The days drag, but the months fly. To be honest, coming into something like this you really don’t know if you will make it. As an American, we are cultured to believe that anything is possible, shoot for the sky, the sky is the limit, etc etc etc. So coming into this, I thought “why not?” It never hurts to try… and if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Guess what? I tried, and I succeeded. Pretty crazy, huh? And to be honest, I can only recall one point where I was actually low enough to consider making that phone call which would land me with a ticket home. That was the only time I really had any doubts. Of course there were other challenges and difficulties, but never anything devastating or upsetting enough to actually persuade me to leave Kenya. And I want to add that those challenges and difficulties probably would have been a lot worse if I didn’t have so much support and love coming at me from all directions – from my family, my friends, Peace Corps Staff, my counterparts, and even just my acquaintances here in Kenya. Without all of you, this wouldn’t have been possible, and I wouldn’t be here in Kenya today, wishing for just one more week. Thank you all so much for the gifts, cards, emails, messages, etc. I can’t thank you enough, honestly. Until you live in another country, away from all that you know, you won’t understand how special a direct facebook message just saying “hey, hope you’re doing ok” really means. Even if I didn’t always have the chance to respond, those messages meant a lot to me. Thank you.

About leaving: It’s so bittersweet. I feel like I’m having to leave right when I’m really getting the hang of everything here and feeling comfortable. I know the learning process is never ending, and even if I stayed for 5 years, I would probably still make the same argument. Regardless, I think that now is when I’m making the most out of living here. Maybe it’s because I know I’m going home and I’m letting all of my guards down and really pushing to make these precious last days count, but maybe it’s because now I know better ways for communicating and utilizing my time/resources effectively. Idk. But either way, these last weeks have been so awesome, and I’ve really enjoyed my time with my Kenyan friends and counterparts. I’m going to miss them all so much.

You know me, and I love making lists. So here is one I’m going to leave you with:

Things I’m going to miss:
Market day! buying awesome second hand clothes from piles on the street, getting fresh produce from local mama’s for 5-50 cents.
Bargaining. I’m going to miss hunting for the best deal, and if I can’t find it, give someone else the task of finding it for me.
Transportation. I know this is a funny one, but it’s kind of nice to NOT have to drive (sometimes) and it’s awesome to just wave someone down and they take you to your door.
Cooking with my jiko. I’ve developed a special relationship with my charcoal stove, and cooking without it just won’t be the same.
Forced creativity. In the beginning it was a pain, but now I enjoy having to come up with a new way to cook onions, tomatoes, and the “daily special” (potatoes, eggs, fish, squash, beans, lentils, etc)
Tea. Not just tea, because I know I can get that back home, but the concept of sharing tea with my friends or “tea time.” Some of my favorite memories are just having tea in my house with Mr. Ambalo late in the evening, or going to visit a friend and the first thing they do is whip up some milky chai. It’s the social factor that I’m going to miss, even if there’s not a lot of talking going on, it’s just special.
Appreciation? I don’t know exactly how to phrase it, so I’ll elaborate. Back home, we take things for granted. We all know this, and I knew it when I came, I know it even more now. I’ve lived 2 years without electricity, running water, a toilet, internet, freedom to talk on the phone any time, TV, driving, personal transportation, going outside at night, cheese, ice, etc. When I get to Nairobi, I’m ECSTATIC about having a toilet and shower. Even more if that toilet really flushes and the shower has not-cold water. I appreciate these things and look forward to them. I get excited about them. They aren’t a right, like most Americans are raised to believe, they’re a privelege. I know when I get home, it’s going to be something I take for granted once again…. but I really have enjoyed looking forward to those treats and I’m going to miss how much I appreciate them, if that makes any sense.

There are many, many more, but for the sake of time and your sanity and my need to not start missing them already, I’m going to stop there.

In the meantime, I”m soaking up the sun in Diani, South Coast. I’ll be here until Zach arrives on the 11th, and I think from there we’re going to visit Nakuru for a few days. Vietnam on the 15th! Woo Hoo! Home in one month, so I’ll be seeing all of you soon!

Are we there yet?

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: 
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Today, at 4:07 this morning, Michelle gave birth to another baby girl. 
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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.
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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. 
 
OMG! OMG! OMG!
 
Soooooooooo, what am I gonna wear tomorrow?

We’ve got MILK!

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.

Newborn baby Kelsey!

Day 1

Milking on the second day

WIth Christopher, the cow worker

Hospital.

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.
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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.
Denis, sitting up in bed to greet me on Saturday morning.
Denis, sitting up in bed to greet me on Saturday morning.
Denis and his mother after he brushed his teeth on Saturday morning.
Denis and his mother after he brushed his teeth on Saturday morning.

This and That

Fire Prevention Week (October 6-12, 2013), Kenyan Style

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GIving fire safety lessons before practicing escape routes.
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Assisting the girls with exiting through the rear window of the dormitory during our first fire drill.
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The boys practicing exiting the dormitory through the rear window during our fire drill.
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The girls running from the dormitory to our “safe place” meeting point.
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During one of our later drills, while we were timing their escape, the girls even began using 2 windows to exit the dormitory.
Fire Prevention Week (October 6-12, 2013), Kenyan Style
Running to our “safe place” meeting point after escaping the dormitory during our fire drill.
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Discussing the drill with the girls afterwards.
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Giving feedback to the girls after they were all counted at the “safe place.”
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Now, last time, from the beginning! The girls would go pretend to be asleep in the dormitory and the house mother would wake them with a whistle and flashlight to start the drill.
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After a day full of running and squeezing through windows, the kids deserved some Kenyan style Kool-Aid (“quencher”) and biscuits.
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Nina Special School for the Deaf! Congratulations on your first (of many) fire drill!

One of those days..

“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.

Napkin Notes

Today I Like: writing on napkins, navigating Nairobi via public transportation/matatu, greeting people in Swahili, asking for (& receiving) excellent directions, walking with purpose, being offered a ride by a friendly British-Indian, diverting from said excellent directions (intentionally, without getting lost) & stumbling across Barclays ATM (the only one that takes MasterCard) & a supermarket, spotting potential dinner options (Chinese, Ethiopian & Japanese) near our new Peace Corps accommodation – Methodist Guesthhouse, finding the matatu stage & asking for/receiving friendly help to Westgate, sipping tea& playing with my Kindle in an uncrowded Java House, my yellow sweater, new yellow beaded necklace from Westgate, watching a movie in the theater at Westgate by myself, finding my own way home & submitting a grant for my school. Image

Term 2

“My roots are grown, but I don’t know where they are.”

That pretty much sums up how I feel right now. Nairobi was awesome, Nina is great, but it’s absurd how complex my feelings can become in such a short period of time. Especially when it’s just me, in the absence of any modern distraction, including lights, music, sound in general, phones, or even just food…. sitting in the dark, staring at a wall for hours in my house at Nina. Wow. I almost wish someone could take a glimpse of what goes through my mind on these nights, but the better part of me knows that if that were possible, I would be institutionalized and friendless. Ha. But seriously….

So, Monday night I came back to Nina. I actually returned to Siaya on Saturday and spent my first night at home, on my lonely compound with only the company of our new Mr. Nightwatch. Ambalo came through that afternoon and insisted I come stay with him since Nina was so lonely, so he left me with his cell phone (mine was lost in transit) and made me promise to use it to come to town on Sunday. I agreed. Sunday morning was spent trying to clean my house, organize my thoughts and sift through my emotions. Of these tasks, the easiest and probably even most enjoyable (which was honestly NOT enjoyable at all, but more so than the mental bologna) was housework. I had really left it a wreck after sports, before going to Nairobi. It was embarrassing. After a lot of sitting and staring at my wall and a little cleaning here and there, I packed my bag and headed to Siaya. That was around 4, before the rain, before organizing my thoughts and sifting through all those emotions that seemed to be multiplying. I was able to go to the cyber that day, but forgot to do most of the things I intended to accomplish during that time. I also forgot to lock my door when I left, but lucky me- our new Mr. Nightwatch checked it out, put his own padlock on it and then tattled on me to Baba Kelsey, which resulted in a mini-lecture… but good to know they look out for me.

After spending the night at Ambalo’s, where I forgot my phone (but I did remember to purchase a new SIM card phone line) he brought me back to Nina. It felt good to be home, but at the same time, it was slightly depressing to feel so disconnected from everything again. Unfortunately, Mr. Nightwatch didn’t decide to clean my house while inspecting my locking habits – so it was still trashed. My solar has been functioning properly only about 40% of the time, and this week, it absolutely refuses to cooperate at all. In fact, when I arrived home on Saturday, the battery was gurgling and spewing everywhere. Needless to say, it now fails to be useful in any form at all – I can’t even do practical things, like sit my plates on them while I’m cooking or use it as a shelf anymore, because of the acid spray.If it’s not going to light up my house or at least power my outlets, it should be good for SOMETHING… I’m ready to dump the whole thing down my choo – if only that battery would fit through the hole. It would be a goner. Anyways, shortly after returning home, all electronics were dead/lost and I was cut off from civilization. A few kids (and workers and teachers) trickled in on Monday, and the numbers continued increasing throughout the week.

In fact, I had a sleepover with little Lavenda from class 1 on Sunday night. Sweet girl. She was the first (and only) child to arrive that day, so she came and stayed at my house. We watched Despicable Me and drank hot chocolate before bed, then had a dance party in the morning and spent hours chasing a bouncy ball from Jeff and Renee around my house. One of my favorite days at Nina so far, actually. It’s weird how much you can love some kids, just flat out weird. I never would have imagined being that type of person – the kind of person who just loves kids for no real reason at all.Miracles happen, I suppose. I offered to let her stay, but I know it wouldn’t really be fair. She even cleaned around my house while I was at a meeting with Mr. Ambalo. By cleaning, I mean moved everything from my lantern table to my bookshelf, but it was still sweet. I’m still finding little surprises tucked away in funny places, like my nail polish in my shoes, dental floss in my bag of yarn, and a pen in my thermometer case. Cute little things.

Wednesday, Dorine and I searched the village for deaf children. Ambalo had heard through the grapevine that two young girls arekept at home rather than sent to school due to shaming the family name. We knew the villages in which they live, but other than that, had no idea where the homes were located. As we roamed, we asked passers-by and residents if they knew where the deaf kid lived. Some were compliant and helpful, but others demanded to know why we wanted her. A stigma still exists about deafness here, and like I said, it is often kept a secret.

The first home was in the bush, a true Kenyan village. We squeezed between overgrown bushes and shrubs, down a narrow mud path, past small gardens and mud houses with thatched roofs. We passed chickens, cows and goats and sheep. Children/adults alike stopped to watch the parade of strangers with a mzungu passing by. At the very end, we came to a small mud house with thatched roof with another structure made from reeds next to it. Several small children ran out of the tiny mud house, the last being about 2 years old (just toddling) and stark naked. Dorine made the introductions in Luo and we were welcomed to sit in rickety chairs under a tin roof in the reed structure. Children surrounded the structure, peeking through the gaps in the reeds, curious about the visitors, whispering, “mzungu!”

Dorine forced the young deaf girl onto her lap and began making her pitch to Mama. Baby girl sat still as a statue the entire time, not even looking at me when I held her hand or stroked her arm. Not so much as a smile or even pulling away.Same reaction to Dorine’s attention – just staring away, at nothing, no change in facial expression at all.Soon, Baba came, too, and Dorine continued explaining why it is important for baby girl to be in school. Naked baby climbed up on Mama’s lap, pulled her breast out of her shirt and began nursing. Chickens were darting around our feet, and another baby started crying in the house. Baba agreed to bring baby Immaculate to school the next day, and even provided the neighbors phone numbers, should we need to be in touch.

Next stop, Omala. We stopped at the market to ask where the deaf kid lived and thosemamas made it clear that deaf kids don’t live in these parts (actually, at least 46 of them live less than 20km away). Our friend, Ojwang, split from me and Dorine to try and get more information, since here, men are normally taken more seriously than women. Anyways, you just never know about those wazungu- always suspicious, nosey, up-to-no-good kind of people. He had better luck than we did, so before long, we were on another narrow path through the bush, passing bigger shamba’s and larger mud houses with thatched roofs. Tethered cows blocked our path, causing several diversions. About half an hour later, we arrived at a cluster of the mud/thatched houses. Puppies started barking as we approached the homes. Mama and Baba invited us in. This home was much nicer than the last home and we sat on wooden couches with cushions, much like my own at Nina. A baby girl shared a bowl of rice with a puppy on the floor between us and Mama and Baba, sitting across the room.

Apparently, Baba had inherited his second wife, meaning he had been married once, and then simultaneously married another woman. That woman, the second wife, passed away, therefore he inherited her sister as his next “second wife”, who already had a child. That child, the one that is not biologically his, is the baby girlwe were looking for. So, after this long discussion he informed us that he is unable to make any decisions about her life because she is not his. This is a big Kenyan lie, because in this particular region of Kenya, what baba says – goes. No questions asked. “Baba may I?” He just didn’t want to accept responsibility for the child he has been neglecting for various reasons.

He continues to invent excuse after excuse as to why baby girl cannot go to school. All of his other children (including his children with the inherited wife) are attending school (and paying fees), but blah blahblah, can’t pay this, can’t pay that, transportation, school fees, mattresses, uniforms, boarding, etcetc. I eventually took everything off the table, saying he didn’t have to pay a damn thing – just send the kid to school, I even offered to take her. That was when he passed the responsibility and sent us to meet the inherited wifein Ng’iya (after asking me to pay his fare to that location).Had I known Luo, or the man understood English, we would not have stayed for nearly so long, enduring so many meaningless excuses. After an hour of arguing amongst those speaking Luo, we decided to go look for the child in Ng’iya – about 5 km away.

So, now we get to Ng’iya – Me, Ojwang, Dorine and Baba. He takes us to the house where his wife is working as house help (which is a nice apartment, by the way, with electric, a TV and refrigerator, and a sink with a tap) then bails – pretty sure he just wanted a free trip to Ng’iya. After introductions, baby girl comes right up to Dorine and I, so inquisitive and outgoing! She came right up to me and we started slapping hands, tickling, etc. Such a doll, I immediately fell in love. Mama listened to Dorine, and finally asked about expenses. Dorine assured her that baby girl could come as is, only bring a school uniform, hygiene supplies and a blanket – since mattresses have been purchased (thanks everyone!). Mama quickly complied and said she would be there the next day.

That was yesterday. This is today. And we don’t have any new kids. I guess I should have known not to get too excited, but it just means we will have to pursue. It’s a shame for them to be sitting in a home where they cannot communicate whatsoever. I hope to make a trip Saturday, if the weather cooperates.

Today, I decided to actually do my job here and teach. It was kind of shocking, to want to do your job, and I still don’t really know how I feel about it or what came over me, but I figured I’d give it a shot. It was bizarre, I just woke up and thought, “I’m going to go to class today and give my kids something to do,” even though 1) they aren’t all here yet and 2) no one else has started teaching yet. In fact, I could easily get away with doing absolutely nothing until Monday. But sometimes you just have to give into these crazy feelings, especially when it’s doing a good thing, like teaching. So, as crazy as I was already acting today, I decided to tape up pictures from coloring books on the board upside down and make them draw them the right side up. Sounds stupid, it is, but it also forces their brain to do acutely abstract thinking. They really thought I was nuts when I taped the third one upside down. It was pretty cute, they all started giggling like when a girl comes out of the bathroom with her skirt tucked in her underwear… I played along like I thought they were the right way for a while, but then I explained the assignment. Surprisingly, all of them understood the assignment after the first explanation (there were only 5 kids). It was successful. There will be repeats, until I come up with new “crazy” techniques that make everyone around here laugh. I’m trying to accept that I probably really am weird, it’s not just that they don’t get my culture. Eh. They’re weird, too.

I storied with Sarah, a class 7 girl who is probably 16 years old for a long time today. Normally, I don’t particularly enjoy storying with the older kids, because they sign so much different than I do, which makes me feel inadequate. Plus, I never really have anything to talk about with them, but the little kids, on the other hand, are fun and easy to story with – lots of jokes, lies, tall tales. So, today Sarah came to story at my desk with me – and 2 hours passed before I decided to start my bath water. It was nice, I would say an improvement over last term already. I feel more confident in my signing ability. My time in Nairobi helped, as well as signing with other adults/kids during sports before break. It feels good to know you’re improving.

I also had my house cleaned today, from tin roof to cement floor, and all of my clothing washed, including sheets. I had 2 sets of sheets waiting to be washed, the latter set due to a lizard I found under my pillow – AFTER I woke up in the morning. Yeah. That was fun. I actually didn’t find him til the following night. Around 10pm, I spread my mosquito net and tucked it in all around my mattress, crawled into my little net cave (having only my torch) and rearranged my pillows when I spotted it – a giant lizard, under my pillow! At least 6 inches! I shrieked and slammed my pillow back down on him, then scrambled out of my mosquito free, lizard infested not-so-safe, safe-place. Debating about how to handle the situation, I paced my livingroom. Finally, I decided it would be too stressful to mess with that thing tonight, I would just sleep on the couch. But then I started thinking (which never leads to anything good), if that was a big lizard, maybe a mama or baba lizard, there are probably other lizards lurking around – and on the couch without my net, they might not just be under my pillow – but on my face… So, I needed to find someone to help get rid of the little devil hiding in my bed. Fortunately, as soon as I opened my front door, Mr. Night Watch was coming towards my house (shining his torch at me, saying “loud”). I tried to explain that there was a monster in my bed. Judging by his mild reaction, I’m pretty sure the language barrier prevented him from getting the true severity of the situation. I then grabbed him by the arm and led him to my bedroom, saying “lizard” and “assist me” repeatedly. He probably thought I was going to rape him, looking back, just grabbing his arm and pulling him through my house, straight to my bed. When we got to my bed, I pointed and shone my flashlight on my pillow, shoving him in front of me. He reached forward and yanked my pillow up quickly. Little lizard man just sat there – and then the smell revealed he had passed away. I’m no expert, but I’d say at least 24 hours ago, probably suffocation (I’m not that fat). It was raunchy.

Mr. Night Watch performed the burial while I rearranged the sleeping quarters. I stripped my bed, flipped my mattress, then slept with my head at the foot of the bed without a pillow. And I had to leave my window open, because the smell was nauseating. The whole situation was weird, and knowing that I slept with a lizard under pillow kind of freaks me out. I mean, teeth are one thing, but lizards – dead or alive – are entirely different. Ew.