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.