Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving. I am sitting outside my hotel room in Nairobi watching the rain. I had pizza for dinner and a Spanish omelette for breakfast. I am waiting to get on a matatu that will take me to Loitokitok where I will be helping the new Peace Corps trainees. I had planned on being in Mars by myself for the holiday so I couldn’t be happier. I will get to spend thanksgiving with PC volunteers. I have never met them and they have probably never heard of me but since we are all peace corps, they are part of my extended family and I am very happy that I will get to spend Turkey day with family. There won’t be stuffing, or turkey, or cranberry sauce, but at least I will be with family. I left my village so abruptly that I didn’t really have time to mentally prepare. I know it sounds strange, having to prepare to go to someplace as innocuous as Nairobi but I have been living in Mars and it really might as well be another planet. I hadn’t even been to Marsabit town in weeks and weeks. I just don’t like the hustle and bustle of town life. I like to stay quiet and easy in my little village. The last time I went to town was to pick up a package from the posta. This being a very small village, the guy at the post office saw the package and told his daughter (who is one of my students ) to tell me to come get it. Also, the posta gave a notice to a man who drives a truck for a local NGO who came to Dirib and gave the letter to my neighbor who gave it to me. My principal also knew. While I appreciate the efficiency of the ‘word-of-mouth’ system, the problem comes when the people in charge of opening my mail to inspect it write a detailed list of everything that is in the box on the notice slip. So everyone in my village knew that I was getting shoes, snacks, and a sampling of small liquor bottles. The customs guys were very thorough in writing exactly what type of alcohol (three bottles Smirnoff, Jose Cuervo, Malibu, Jack Daniels… ). By the time I got the box I had at least five people who asked me to share. That day, I also went to town to stock up on food. The rains had stopped for two days which was long enough for a truck to get through and bring bread back to Marsabit. I visited my fundi (seamstress) because she is also one of only two or three places I know of that sells Kenya souvenirs. I bought a bunch of handmade jewelry for future Christmas gifts. I felt like I spent a lot of money but then I realized that I bought gifts for every friend and family member and I had spent less than 10 bucks. Converting to America money always slays that buyer’s remorse. I also went to the area of the market where they sell spices to buy some incense. I was tempted to buy some of the traditional medicines that are sold in small piles all over. They look like piles of kindling or bundles of sticks or even piles of ground colorful powders. I asked what each did and some are for ulcers, some are for arthritis, and some are for malaria. They are all taken by boiling into a tea which is drunk by the patient. While I was tempted to buy some, I figured it was probably useless at best, and dangerous at worst, so I walked by without purchasing. Last Tuesday, I went to school to invigilate an exam. On the way, I had a conversation with a Borana woman. I am very excited and proud to say that it was my first real conversation in kiborana. I can officially communicate in three languages (four if you count me being able to say three full sentences and a couple of swear words in Kenyan Sign Language). The convo was pretty short and nothing impressive but I am still going to be excited about it. There are some days when my life feels almost normal. I get up, get dressed, make coffee, commute to work, etc. And then there are other days when I realize “wow, where do I LIVE?” One day last week, when I arrived at school, the teachers were all excited because they had killed an “olokhe”. They didn’t know the English or Kiswahili name for the animal. They proudly walked me over the hole where the creature had gone to die while regaling me with their stories about how the animal has been prowling around at night, digging holes everywhere, and finally they were able to kill it by stabbing it twice with a spear. When I saw the animal I realized that the olokhe was a spiny anteater ( I think, its head was pretty deep in the hole). And it was HUGE. It was the size of a dog and had human looking feet that could fit into size eight shoes. The body was flesh colored and had sparse, bristly hairs all over. Its tail was long, thin and hairless. If I didn’t know better I would have said it was an “el chupecabra” (google it). I accidentally taught Galgallo, the adorable three year old, how to swear. He now knows “dammit” and “ass”. I am usually pretty good at controlling my language around Kenyans. No one here swears, its very strange. I have been replacing many swear words with the word “awful”. It works to replace $h*t in sentences like“I feel awful”; and it replaces the F word nicely too “I feel awfully awful”. But when I am in my house and talking to myself (yes, I talk to myself), I use the opportunity to get all my swears out. It used to be fine around Galgallo, he was too shy and young to understand what I was saying. But now he is at the age where he repeats everything people say. It is fun to hear him learning three languages at once. But when I kick over my water jug and swear, he is always in my doorway to repeat the word with a big giggly smile on his face. The taxi is on its way to come get me and take me to a matatu headed for Nairobi so I am going to go. I wish everyone in America a Happy Thanksgiving. And Family: I miss you guys so much and I think about you every minute of every day. On holidays, I think about you twice every minute. Love you! One last thing: the best student answer for final exams was from a Form One student who, when asked about the definition of temperature said: The higher the temperature, the cooler the terminology

No comments: