Monday, November 22, 2010

A Perfect Weekend... sort of

So Kenya and I have been having a battle. It has been trying its hardest to get me sick, and so far I have prevailed. But on Thursday, Kenya finally won. Mama had made the usual Thursday night dish: Ugali (like a cross between instant mashed potatoes and Playdough, but with less flavor). She did it with a twist though, instead of overcooked beef chunks, she made goat. It was very tasty, and a weensie bit more tender than the beef. She also replaced “Black Night Shade” (which sounds like poison but is actually just a chopped, bitter, type of green) with Sukuma wiki (a nearly identical chopped, bitter, type of green). I really enjoy this meal normally and this time was no exception. After dinner, I went to my room to relax and avoid watching Kiswahili- dubbed, Spanish soap operas by pretending I had homework. After chai, I started to feel a little nauseous and took both Pepto and some anti-nausea pill from my handy-dandy first aid kit. Neither worked; I lost dinner, and the pepto, and any vestiges of lunch. I vomited at least once an hour all night. And just for fun, I had a terrible migraine, body aches, and a mild fever. At eight in the morning, I called Medical and they helpfully told me that it must have been something I ate. She asked if I had an indoor toilet (of course not), said that she would move me to a hotel, and told me she would keep in touch. 20 mins later, there was a guy at my door with a car. I was wisked off to Kilimanjaro Guest House where the Host Family Coordinator met me with actual anti-vomiting drugs and ginger ale. I had a very nice room with a great view of the mountain. I slept all day in peace, I had a hot shower, and a western toilet. It was heaven. It was the first time I have been actually alone since arriving in Kenya. I was only disturbed for dinner and chai. It was heaven, I just watched movies, read and slept. And by evening I felt fine and asked if I could go home. I was told I was not allowed to leave, and I stayed the night. Did I mention it was heaven? Almost worth getting sick. Later Saturday afternoon, I met up with some other PCTs and we had a big, American lunch. It was incredible. Curtis made spaghetti sauce and garlic toast. The rest of us made Chapati- burritos with beans, rice, guacamole, and pineapple salsa. For appetizer, we had toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. All was cooked on a jiko (small, coal-burning, stove-thing). It was the best meal I have had in forever. Yum, yum, yum! It was also a lot of fun. No Mama looking over your shoulder telling you that you are doing it wrong and that you will most likely die from starvation in Marsabit.

So, that was my weekend. And now we are in week six. Tomorrow we are doing a language exam, which I am confident I will pass. Wednesday is Hub day! Which means medical sessions and no language, it is a wonderful day. Thursday we are tested on our ability to cut vegetables, mop a floor, wash clothes, and light a lantern. It will be another easy day. Friday we are celebrating Thanksgiving by going to Outward Bound and having traditional (well, as close as we can get) dinner. We also get to stay the night in tents. No 6:30 curfew! Then is week seven, which is model school (I’ll explain that later), then final language test in week eight, then done with PST! It is so close I can taste it! I already have my shopping list for Nairobi (wine, books, coffee, etc).

I should go home now. Being sick all weekend did have a downside, I didn’t do any laundry. I am off to my home to wash clothes. Kwaheri!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

T.I.A. (This is Africa)

Hey everyone! I have been so busy and yet I feel like I don't have much to say. I will start with the title of this entry. T.I.A. It is what we say after almost everything. Example: "A swarm of two-inch long, winged termites invaded my kitchen", "Oh well, TIA, pull off their wings so they can't fly into the chai." Or "I spent 3 hours on a matatu meant for 20, with at least 40 people on it, leaning against Sarah with a Kenyan sitting on my shoulder" "TIA, at least you didn't have giardia at the time."

This weekend we went to Kibwezi for HIV/AIDS education. We sat through some pretty boring lectures and it was very hot and rainy. But I didn't care, I got to see my deaf-education friends from Machakos! It was a great time. Karl even brought us cheese!! We did get to meet some teachers who are living with HIV. And we were entertained by some old women at and HIV support center who did some local dances. We even attempted to join them. They were not impressed when we broke out the Electric Slide.

Now I am back in Loitokitok. I did not miss the mud at all. Or the children screaming "how are you! How are you!!" over and over again. I am really looking forward to getting to my site. Speaking of which, I promised I would tell you about it.

Marsabit. The best description I have found is in the Lonely Planet Guide to Africa. I won't write it here, but go look it up. Marsabit is in the far north of Kenya. My Baba, when I told him where I was going said, "That's not Kenya, is it?" and another Kenyan said that I would get to be a Ugandan. Lucky me! The town is located in a shield volcano, and surrounded by desert. They do not speak Kiswahili there, so I will have to learn another language. It will be either Kisamburu or Kisomali. There are many camels up there (I am hoping to get one as a pet). Marsabit town is a microclimate. It is surrounded by desert but has an almost rainforest ecosystem. I don't know how close my house will be to the rainforest or the desert. But the rainforest is known for its elephants with giant, mammoth-like tusks. There is one famous elephant who had ten foot long tusks and was followed around by armed guards for his whole life to prevent poaching. He is gone now, but his relatives are still around. I was told by someone to never pay for a safari, because everything you would want to see will be in your backyard. The North of Kenya has the worlds largest population of Grevy's zebras. People also get eaten by lions a lot. I will try not to do that.

As far as the school goes, I will be teaching in a girls boarding secondary school. I will teach Form One (Freshman) Physics and Form Four (Senior) Biology. My principle is very environmentally excited and recently planted hundreds of trees on my campus. He is really receptive to having me implement environmental clubs and programs, which is awesome. I will not live on the school compound, but 3 km away in a Catholic church compound. I hear the monks are real party animals and drink a lot, and are also very friendly, which will be nice. All in all, I am really looking forward to it. No complaints!!

That is all for now, I will try to write again soon! Kwaheri!!

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!!