Thursday, December 18, 2008

Swiftly Tilting

I am in Nairobi, unfortunately I broke my tooth on a rock in my Githeri( bean mixture) so I am going to the dentist today. I am staying in a nice part of Nairobi and it is quite beautiful. Right now I am at the Peace Corps office so I am able to load some photos. The first one is from Independence Day ( tree planting) my family along with another Trainee's family. The second one is the village where I live (the constant rain allows for spectacular rainbows!). The third is another view from my walk to and from town. The last one is my sister and I inside the gates of my shamba (farm) and that is Kilimanjaro behind me!

In other news I am very excited to be Auntie Africa in the near future! My only sadness is that I will be so far away, but I guess I'll have many things to teach my new niece or nephew ( KSL, Kiswahili, and perhaps how to purify their own water, or check to see if they have malaria?) . Jokes aside I am overwhelmed with joy!


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cause = Time

“A movement is only composed of people moving. To feel its warmth and motion around us is the end as well as the means.” - Gloria Steinem

One month has really flown by! The rains have slowed down and have been replaced by heat—puddles sucked dry by the suns intensity. Training is continuing and routine is settling in.

Friday was Independence Day and Peace Corps asked us to invite our family to plant trees at the local primary school. They also asked for our families to provide tools to plant. My Mama told me that we had no jembay so I should bring a panga, I had no idea what either were so, I agreed and was given a machete or panga as it is known here. How I was to plant trees with a machete was one thing, but I have an hour walk into town- as a foreigner with a machete? I did not think that would be received very well. I complied and met up with another trainee close by, he also had the same problem no other tools, but a machete. When we expressed concern our mamas decided we should wrap them in plastic bags, obviously a machete but perhaps not as hostile? So we walked into town machetes in tow! Once we arrived at the school my younger sisters picked out two saplings and I picked a spot and I began to cut the soil with my machete, until another trainee's family let me borrow their hoe (they laughed that it would take me all day). Kilimanjaro was out from behind the clouds, and provided a spectacular view while planting. I really enjoyed planting trees and I revel in the thought of knowing I contributed the already existing beauty of Kenya.

This week we were joined by a former Deaf Ed Volunteer, after the evacuation he began service in Zambia. He brought a friend, a deaf Zambian who is being sponsored to study in the states next year. During one of the life skill sessions (where we learn to light a jiko stove and clean the house) we chatted a bit. I found out he was born hearing and was for a number of years, he then became sick and became deaf. I asked how he felt the when he lost his hearing, expecting to hear a negative response or how he struggled, he simply signed he thanked God, and that there is a time in life for everything—it was time to be deaf. He has now teaches the deaf community in Zambia about HIV/AIDS, has meet many different people, and knows a new language. This sense of optimism and peace has served as a source of comfort for me. It is time for me to be in Kenya.

I find out my site (the place I will live for 2 years) in a few weeks. This is the first time the PC has not done site visits so all of us have no idea what to expect. Initially I was very nervous about my job, but as time goes on I am extremely excited about working as a teacher for the deaf, and I know wherever I am it is time for me to be there!

Thank you to all of those who have written me, it truly makes my week. I guess I should also extend seasons greetings—although I have to remind myself in the heat of the sun that it is Christmas time. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Loitokitok Life!

Habari Yako? Hello from Loitokitok Kenya! Loitokitok is beyond ideal. The area is located in what is known as the Rift Valley province, I am very far south, I can literally see Tanzania from my home. The ride up was on a dirt road with land as far as you can see, the Peace Corps driver joked that we were on the road to heaven because the road extends and has no end in sight!

Arriving in Loitokitok is an experience within itself, the land is Massai land and you can always see herds of cattle accompanied by a Massai warrior. Arriving in town I am greeted by Kilimanjaro, the male and female counter parts loom over the skies of the town. The beauty of this mountain is not without its counterpart to the north. The land is thick with Acacia trees, rolling hills, and clouds. Its as if you can see for days. It is the rainy season so the land has a life of its own, even the air is thick with rain. Looking to the north yu can even see where it is raining, in the distance, Millions of words could never do it justice.

My home and family, I live in a house with all females, my Mama is Dorcus and I have 3 sisters. Everyone is still very shy and I think their favorite thing to do is watch me! They enjoy writing new phrases in Kiswahili and their language Kikamba, and laugh when I mispronounces them. My house is a small farm with no electricity or running water it is located on top of many hills. Another trainee in my group lives very close to me and we walk to school together. It takes about an hour to get to school everyday, I wind through many hills and absolutely stunning trees drenched in purple flowers, along the way I am greeted or stared at, or both but I don’t really mind it now.
School has been a challenge, we had some lessons in Kiswahili so now our instructors will say something in Kiswahili and we have to respond in KSL, or sometimes we say something in English translate that to Kiswahili and then sign it as well. It is quite hard not to be overwhelmed, but with situations like this I know the hard work will pay off.
Some other challengers is the mud, I call it high heel mud because as you walk you become taller because you are carrying the earth with you! Not to mention it is slippery and I happened to fall while in town in front of everyone! People came up running saying POLAY POLAY POLAY which means sorry, I wanted to run away! Another challenge: my roommates the bats, my family laughs at me for even noticing them but it is something I am just not accustomed too. I also really want to fall into a routine, and begin to really feel at home with my family.
Everyday I am astounded with the beauty and the charm of Loitokitok .

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The New Old Adventure

I have made it home! I left Tuesday for staging and was very anxious about my decision and as we flew to Holland but when I arrive in Kenya it as if all my anxiety melted away! Africa excites me and of the places I have been in the world I believe it is the most beautiful and the most challenging. Kenya is no exception. The deaf education volunteers where separated from the other 36 volunteers in order to experience deaf schools on the coast. So here I am in Mombassa an island off the Indian Ocean!

Peace Corps Kenya is in a new and different situation, due to the upheaval surrounding the election in December PC evacuated. Hundreds of volunteers left 25 returned in June. Kenya is one of the PC oldest programs so it was a devastating blow! We are the first group back, trying to rebuild the program.

Life as a peace corps trainee consists of waking up at 7 to eat, Kenyan Sign Language Class from 8:30 until 10:30, medical session ( which includes pricking our fingers to collect blood for malaria testing) from 10:30 until 12:30, then visiting deaf schools until 5:30. I am still adjusting to the time difference so I normally fall asleep at 6 pm!

The need for deaf education is so great here. We've had the opportunity to visit schools and speak with current volunteers and I have learned so much already. The deaf community is large due to childhood illness and lack of hearing aides, therefore of the 42 major tribes in Kenya the Deaf are known as the 43rd. Many times parents believe there deaf children are dumb or someone has placed a curse on them, often times taking them to witch doctors for cures, in extreme situations deaf children are raised with animals-- because of this Deaf schools try to promote awareness to the parents as well. Imagine never being able to communicate with you parents or your child, this is what a deaf child faces, so often times teachers must demonstrates what the concept of language is.

With that said many of you know that I do not know Kenyan Sign Language! The intense immersion classes are helping a lot, the teachers are very nice and know a lot about the material. I somehow was moved into an advanced section of KSL, they believed I was good enough to be in a class with a trainee who is a ASL interpreter in the states, and a deaf trainee, needless to say in this class I am the slowest, but I believe I will learn more this way!

The people of Kenya are very friendly and many greet you with Jambo the typical greeting to Mazungos aka foreigners. They all love Obama, I hear America Obama or Obama is my cousin a lot around Mombassa! I think my appreciation and understanding of the people will only grow from here and I look forward to what I learn!

On Friday we will travel to our home Loitoktok on the base of Mount Kilimanjaro! There we will meet our home stay families. This is the first time Peace Corps have been located at this site, so the families have never had volunteers before-- I may even be the first non-African they have ever seen! I was told to be ready for no electricity and no running water--quite the stereotypical Peace Corps experience, with that said ...PLEASE SEND ME MAIL! My access to internet will be few and far and I would love some letters to read!

I have many adjustments in the next 27 months, at times it can feel overwhelming to learn 2 languages and adjust to lack of the familiar but my time here already has breathed new life into my soul, and I feel alive with curiosity and happiness.

I miss everyone and wish to someday show you Africa!

Monday, November 10, 2008

And the world spins madly on

"I can't really say
Why everybody wishes they were somewhere else
But in the end, the only steps that matter
Are the ones you take all by yourself
'Cause you can't go back now
Walk on, walk on, walk on"
The Weepies

One more day. The time has finally arrived for me to pack up my life for 2 years and say goodbye--and while I feel hopelessly sad about leaving loved ones, I feel a renewed sense of self.
Africa is a place I feel most alive, its an environment in which I feel I thrive, and as sappy as it may sound it is a place that I feel connected to. Few other choices in my life have felt this right. Since my time over two years ago in Ghana as headstrong 19-year-old, I have fallen for this place, for the people, and for the person I am when I'm there. So much of who I am today has been shaped by my experiences abroad, and few compare to my time in Africa. One day left and I sit here on the cusp of the new and the old, but life would be nothing without challenge and the Peace Corps has offered me that.

Challenges-- my family and friends. I have been extremely blessed with dare I say the most caring mother in the world, who never ceases to amaze me with her love and devotion to her family. Everyday without both my parents constant support will be difficult. My friends in the past few months have shown me what true friendship is, and although I know I will be far away, I know with certainty that friendship does endure time and distance. I am preparing myself for what I am sure will be the most rewarding, lonely, independent, hopeful, peaceful, chaotic, and truthful journey of my life and all I can do at this point is just let go.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Peace Corps Kenya

Welcome to my blog. I have created this space in an attempt to share my thoughts and feelings while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Although I do anticipate internet access from time to time I am sure it will not be frequent, so I hope to use this as my main avenue for communication. I invite everyone to participate in this adventure with me, I would love to hear your thoughts on what I write and what is going on in your life as well.

The Peace Corps has always held a place in my heart and as a second generation Peace Corps Volunteer I feel incredibly humbled by the opportunity to serve. My assignment is in Kenya, located in East Africa. In 25 days I will leave to serve as a Deaf Educator/Behavior Change Communicator I will be returning sometime in 2011.

My assignment is to work with deaf Kenyan students, youth, and adults to create an environment where they can function productively and independently as possible in their communities and families.
Goals include developing techniques to expand their knowledge on the Kenyan curriculum. Finding inventive and creative ways to educate the Deaf community about HIV/AIDS, and to collaborate with the community to establish support system, share educational resources including the a wider dissemination of resources about HIV/AIDS.

Being abroad before has provided with me with some insight into living abroad-- although I do not presume to know fully what 27 months away is like. Things I do know for sure are the smallest thoughts and gestures can bring worlds closer and the importance of an open mind and heart. Lastly I would like everyone to know that every time I am away I think about everyone at home, and that although I am not directly involved in your everyday life, I hope that I am able to remain apart of your lives.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Love Letter to West Africa

Wrote this about 2 years ago, after my return from Ghana. I sit here-- a college grad, few short months from returning to Africa, as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

It hits me sometimes at six in the morning. The familiar look of a few faces- a look of hope, a sunrise that sets the sky ablaze, a smell of a lone flower that only penetrates when I am inches away from its secret; and I am thrown back in an African moment. Filled with hope, fear, anxiety and all the rest, 6 am is when I am in it the most.
The streets are mostly empty and the big city is tamed to a small town-- deserted. My mind wanders across the Atlantic to a place where all my dreams take place, where I can stretch my legs and run free in the sand, where I can scream with happiness, or learn a new value of silence. I can feel the warmth of the sun and appreciate the protection of an ancient tree. A place where every gulp of water was a silent prayer of thanks.

I long for the mystery of the open road, the comfort of unknown, the “live for the moment” spirit of a backpacker. The excitement of making every place home.

I know every bump of these Richmond streets, I know when to walk, I know what route to take to avoid trouble. Everyday I am hear a voice inside get quieter and quieter. It speaks so softly sometimes I wonder if was ever there. I know it is, I am waiting for a time when it can come back once more and lead me to a place where things are peaceful again.

I want to go back.