Friday, November 12, 2010

Halfway Through PST

Hello everyone! I apologize for the lack of updates. The internet cafe is here, though a little slow, and we have electricity most of the time, I am just so busy I have no time. Everyday I have 4 hours of language training. It is pretty intense, one teacher, four students. I am finding the language extremely difficult, but today I had an oral test and I am now "novice high" in proficiency. That is only one level below where I need to be to pass. Final test is in four weeks. After language, I go to lunch with friends, it is usually rice and beans (wali na maharague). Lately we have been going to this field where there are really dirty sheep and chickens. We lay in the grass in the sun and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then we have class in the afternoon where we learn about Kenya and how to be teachers here. There is only one of us who was an actual teacher before Peace Corps. After class, I go home, help Mama cook, watch terrible mexican soap operas dubbed into kiswahili, and then go to bed early. I am on the malaria meds that sometimes keep me awake at night, and sometimes make me paranoid, or anxious. Mostly, the drugs give me incredibly vivid dreams. This can be a very good thing, or a terrible thing. Last night I had a dream that half of the people in Loitokitok were trying to kill me. I was terrified. But those dreams are thankfully rare. And at least I won't get malaria!

We have lost two people since the beginning. One went home the first week, and another just last week. It was pretty sad. Our group is so incredibly close, it is amazing to think we have only known each other for a few weeks. We all have been having ups and downs. I am feeling really good today, but the past few days have been pretty frustrating. It is very, very hard for me to live in this fishbowl. Everywhere we go we are yelled at and asked for money or sweets. At home, my family thinks I do not know anything. I have yet to wash my clothes without my 15 yr old brother telling me I am doing it wrong. And yesterday, Mama told me she was worried because I didn't know how to cook. I had to explain that I actually do know how to cook, I just don't know their recipies. I proved it by getting up early to make pancakes. I burned them... but the fire was way too big and they use a spoon as a spatula. My knuckles are also burned. But in a different place from the blisters I got while washing my clothes.

On a positive note, I get up every morning to go for a run (I am training for the Losai marathon, during which we get to see lions) and I am up before the sun rises. As it does, the clouds which sank into the rift valley overnight are painted pink and orange. It looks like heaven. As the clouds float up and the sun gets higher, Mount Kilimanjaro is dyed pink. If it has rained recently (which, it being the raining season, it always has) the whole top of the mountain is covered in snow. It looks like a big pink cupcake. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my whole life. In the evening, when I am walking home through the most mud I have ever seen, I can see the rift valley spread out in front of me. My Baba says that after the rains, hyenas come up from the plains and we won't be able to go out at night. Also with the rains, come the elephants. I can't wait to see them.

Speaking of animals, everyone is asking what I have seen so far. On the drive to Loitokitok from Nairobi, we saw a couple giraffes, some antelope, and a herd of ostriches. The first night in Loitokitok, we were higher up on a hill, and we could hear elephants in the early morning. There are also beautiful black and white colobus with long bushy tails in the trees. The birds here are also incredible. Bright irridescent blue or dark blue with gold wing tips. Even the insects are pretty. There are huge horned beatles and these flying bugs with a bright metallic red bow on their backs.

I will end the post there for now. Mama wants me home early so I can learn to cook Ugali and Chapati (the first is a bland, white lump made from maize flour, and the second are sort of like thick tortillas). Next time I will talk about my site where I will spend the next two years. It is called Marsabit and it is extremely remote. While most of my fellow PCTs are placed on the coast or near Lake Victoria (one is even in an 8 room house!), they call me and the others placed near me the "northern frontier pioneers" because it is so rare for them to send people up there. In the history of PC, there have been 4 people placed that far north. I am extremely excited. But I won't get into that now.

Please send me letters and packages! Even if I don't know you, mail is very exciting to get. I wish I could tell you everything I see and do. I am taking hundreds of pictures and will post them when I can. Have a great weekend! I will be going to the market to practice my bargaining skills and then I am going to learn how to make a skirt. Yay!!


Jesse said...

Congrats.. Kiswahili is not the easiest language and so I think you'll be able to pass. If you get to Nairobi any time soon, the bookstores have some great resources for learning. When I was a missionary in Kenya in 2004, I found "Teach Yourself Swahili" was super valuable. You can also check out Kamusi Project, which has a KiSwahili dictionary and is excellent as a resource. Keep learning vocab and you'll pass. It get's better after PST.

Jesse, PC South Africa

Katharine Keith said...

So good to hear from you! The description of the landscape are beautiful. About the malaria meds, I've heard from many of my State Department Foreign Service friends and colleagues that the meds cause crazy hallucinations! But definitely better than malaria! Can't wait to see some pics and videos!

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