“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.