Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The victim of a circumstance

The minute the two pink lines revealed themselves on the thin strip all I could do was review the events that led up to this day, this moment, this test.

Several weeks ago the school term began and all our students were back. Up to this day they have come every day, all except one. For weeks I had been asking where she was.  “She’s sick.” As another week came and went I asked again. “She’s sick.” Another week came, knowing that anytime a student has been out for more than a week the other students tell us they are married or pregnant, I lightheartedly asked if she had run off to get married. The response this time hit me like a heavy wave crashing down. “No, but she’s conceived.”


As the day went on all I could think was how badly I needed to get to her. To see her. To talk to her.

The following day I walked into the dark classroom that I used to call my own where my supervisor sat with her own students. I approached her, as I always do when we need to discuss something serious.

“I want to talk about C.”

Her face made a small and subtle change. It became solemn.

“Yes, it’s as if she’s ill. Her sickness has continued, but I’ve been calling her mother.”

“I heard she’s pregnant.”

Not knowing how I heard this information, or that the information had reached so many people already, she told me she had not confirmed the rumors. Being a mother herself she had noticed enough changes in C that she was suspicious and spoke to her mother. She told the mother to bring the girl to Sega and have her tested and report back. It’s been over 3 weeks and we hadn’t heard a single thing from her mother.

Today I scarfed my lunch down wondering what the afternoon would bring. As I saw my supervisor walk across my yard I grabbed my bag, slid into my sandals and locked the door behind me. We walked to the road in almost total silence and flagged the first matatu that came our way.

My supervisor was constantly giving specific directions in mother tongue to the driver until finally the vehicle stopped and we alighted. We walked to the first home we came across and asked where we could find C. We were already on her family compound we just had to walk out further and turn to the left. As we approached the next house we asked again. “Yes, she lives that way. She’s here, she was just carrying water.”

We entered her compound and were greeted by the woman we refer to as her mother but is actually, as I came to learn, just a guardian to C. I did a scan around the area. I did not see the familiar face of my student. We were told she was making a second trip for water and so we sat under the tree on her compound and waited. The longer we sat, more people surrounded us, two of which were children not younger than 10 or 12.

“Why aren’t these children in school?” I wanted my supervisor to ask and then interpret for me what the woman had answered.

“This one has started late and is only in class 2, so he doesn’t go back in the afternoon.”

I sat silent. The boy, from the looks of him, had no reason to have started school so late.

And then she came. My eyes opened wide, scanning her body trying to determine if she was, in fact, with child. She came up to me and as I gave her a sideways hug I could see below 2 layers of thick baggy sweaters she had gained several pounds.

We asked her to bathe and put on her uniform.

Again we sat. Waiting.

Under the shade of the tree, I thought to myself “maybe it’s just the sweaters that are making her look that way.”

But, as she returned in the uniform I’ve seen her wear day in and day out at school for 2 years there was no mistaking the way the fabric stretched across her distended belly. I was thankful to be outside, wearing sunglasses as the tears welled up in my eyes.

As we boarded another vehicle with C in tow and walked all the way to the dispensary, time moved in slow motion and I gave her as many reassuring smiles as I could muster.

We entered the somewhat dark building and while I sat next to a girl who had no idea she was pregnant I looked outside and noticed the dark ominous clouds. My supervisor disappeared into the back of the dispensary and returned with an empty pill bottle. Handing the bottle to C we explained what she needed to do and she walked away from us towards the latrines outside. She returned with the pill bottle in hand and we were immediately taken back into an office with a hospital bed in it.

The nurse wiggled her fingers into latex gloves and tore open a small packet containing a narrow strip of thin paper. She showed me the wrapper and as she opened the pill bottle and the smell of urine wafted quickly through the room she explained, “one strip means not pregnant, two means pregnant.”

Again, we waited. The room turned dark and the rain came down heavily outside.

She removed the small strip from the urine sample and laid it onto the empty packet.

“Two red strips.”

She laid it in front of me as if it were my own or as if I didn’t believe her. I didn’t believe her. I was staring down at the two pink lines myself and I still couldn’t believe her.

C laid on the hospital bed and waited as the nurse palpated on her stomach. She again turned to my supervisor. For a minute or so they spoke in mother tongue. The nurse then sat back down at her desk, looked me in the eye and said, “4 or 5 months.”

At 24 years old I have a solid 9 more years of life under my belt and stand approximately a foot taller than her. Today I felt like a small child. I wanted to tell her what I knew, tell her what would happen. I couldn’t tell her because I don’t know. The girl that has sat in my class every day for 2 years is now in a situation that would devastate me to my very core and all I can do is smile at her reassuringly.

Together the 3 of us walked back out to the road. I felt dazed, as if I were in a dream. We waved goodbye to her as she boarded a vehicle home. Turning back towards Sega it was just the 2 of us now left to discuss what we would do, what would happen to this girl who lives with a woman who didn’t even care enough to have the girl under her protection, her supervision tested when she was obviously well into her pregnancy.

Trudging through the mud puddles and wet grass to get to our homes my supervisor said to me, “she’s the victim of a circumstance.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Wishin' time would stop right in it's tracks"

Hey kids!!

Here’s the news!  You’ll all be thrilled to know that I do not have any strange or exciting tropical diseases. In the last week and a half or two I’ve been in 3 hotel rooms, 4 different houses, 5 different roommates, accumulating well over 50 hours of travel time. (Surprising I haven't had an illnesses, actually)

Though it’s been completely exhausting to be on the road so much and living out of a suitcase it’s been great to see so many people that I haven’t seen in a while. With all the rats my house doesn’t really feel like my home anymore anyway (which puts me in a funny limbo-like mental state).

So, speaking of the rats, here it is.

I have now waged war on these rats. While in Nairobi I was unable to find the rat poison suggested to me so during a trip to Busia I was able to find the off-brand.  During this war I’m hunkering down at a friend’s house as I wait for results. Monday I laid out plates with slices of bread sprinkled with this black poison… presentation is everything, right?

I returned on Tuesday with a certain amount of pessimism…. And fear.

I should tell you before I get into this; I met the newly arrived Germans this week. This time its 3 girls are they are all incredibly sweet but I’m pretty sure they think I’m a crazy person that lives in filth because my life revolves around these rats right now.

So upon arrival on Tuesday I greeted the Germans and told them I was going to lay more poison and get rid of any dead critters if there were any and one asked if she could come see. My condition was yes, as long as you don’t judge me by the current state or smell of my house.

As I turned the key in the lock I cringed in terror expecting to have either nothing or 50 rat bodies lying dead. The door opens. There aren’t 50 dead bodies so I enter with extreme caution with one of the Germans following close behind. My eyes first scan the plates where the bread once was. Gone. All of it. That’s a good sign. Then I see him. My first victim lay dead at the foot of my bed on the floor. GROSS GROSS GROSS GROSS GROSS, yes I believe those were my exact words.  The German found another dead on my cooking table. GROSS GROSS GROSS GROSS. That’s it, just 2, I can do this. I mean, I can’t, but I will…. Eventually, I will work up the courage to do this.

I grabbed two plastic bags and nested one in the other (just in case) and put on my last latex glove and stood for a moment of silence, not for the rats but for my own personal sanity. With the German cheering me on I marched (in slow motion of course) towards my first victim. I kneeled down. I’ll grab him by his tail. The minute my fingers his tail I thought “Nope, not gonna grab him by his tail, nope nope nope.” So I reached through the outside of the plastic bags and quickly grabbed the little corpse and flipped him into his body bag. A sigh of pride and total disgust.

On to victim number 2. I grab one of the now empty plates and slide the dead critter off my cooking table into the same bag with his family member. I proceeded to tie the bag shut and decide I’ll throw them in the burn pile with the rest of the trash. Holding the double bags as far away from my body as my arm would allow (in case of an critter resurrections?) I walked out to the burn pile and gave them the heave hoe. Bye little guys! Your friends will join you soon!

I laid out more bread with more poison and will be heading back over today to see the damage and hopefully start cleaning up the aftermath of their invasion.

Needless to say, rats are a large part of my life right now. However, I do have other things going on.

The teachers in Kenya are currently on strike for their 3rd week and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. I’m watching my last term of teaching fly by without actually teaching.

Last term. My time here is starting to feel more and more final. Every time I see an African sunset I think, I have less than 100 of these left. Every time I see someone I wonder if it’s the last time I’ll see them, ever. This country has been my life for 2 years and it feels beyond strange to think that I’ll just be leaving. Leaving my home, my friends, and my students.  A piece of my heart will always remain here. Kenya will be a part of me forever.

In almost no time at all I’ll be packing my house and saying goodbyes. What gets me through is knowing that once those things are packed they’ll land with me in a place where I feel overwhelming love and understanding.
More to come on rats and the final months of my Peace Corps experience.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 10, 2012

I can't get no ratisfaction

Hello world!

As promised, I will now regale you with my rat story. The real one. My last blog was written before I realized the gravity of the ratuation.

Not long after I finished typing up my last blog, jet lagged, I decided to try and get some sleep, knowing full well that I probably wouldn’t sleep that night because of the rat. I passed out for approximately an hour before I was awakened by the sound of rats scurrying around my house IN THE BROAD DAYLIGHT. It becomes increasingly apparent to me throughout the day that they have set up some kind of semi-permanent residence. I am somewhat less than amused. The majority of the rest of the day included bouts of sleep interrupted by rats and crying in total despair. I have an infestation. No joke.

Still during the day time I witnessed 2 rats hanging around on my dresser as well as one running down the hanging light switch approximately one foot from the head of my head. It was awful. They have completely taken over.

After approximately 7 mental and emotional breakdowns I called Peace Corps to alert them of my newest roommates. They instruct me to lay down poison. I tell them that I’ve used poison in the past and it took several weeks and only slowed the rat down so I could catch it.  (And that was ONE rat) Oh no! There’s a fancy black powder rat poison that I apparently need to put Viper and I in HASMAT suits before I can lay it down. It’s incredibly potent and will kill them in 24 hours. This will be my Vietnam. I am not great with dead things… or rodents…. I’m especially bad with dead rodents. I do not feel qualified to accomplish this task. I also know that I will be leaving for Peace Corps conferences in 2 days so by the time I find the poison, lay it down, and wait 24 hours I will be on a bus somewhere and I will come home to 50 little decomposed rat bodies that I have to peel off my floor. No thank you.

So, until I can get home and get this poison down, the rats remain. I thoroughly cleaned my house and removed anything they’d want to get their grubby little paws on. I also read somewhere that cayenne pepper repels rats so I put that everywhere. As of when I left my house smelled like rat shit and cayenne pepper. Obviously, I have already alerted Yankee Candle of this new discovery.

In other news, since I’ve been back it’s just a buffet of Peace Corps stuff. I have already completed our close of service conference. As of November 28, 2012 I will be a  Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and will be landing on American soil December 18th. Exciting! And stressful! The conference was great and incredibly informative but I think at one point information started to ooze right back out of my head. Good thing I took notes.

At this very moment I am sitting on a bus on my way to Nairobi for the close of service medical exams. What does this include you may ask. It includes me giving Peace Corps any and all bodily fluids I am willing and able to part with.

If you do not want a total information overload, skip the next paragraph.

In addition to bodily fluids, PC would love nothing more than to get some shit samples. I don’t know how many people reading this have actually had to go through this process but I will go ahead and explain it…. Do not expect it to be classy, folks. So basically they give us this clear hard plastic tube with a screw on lid that has a cutie patooty little dairy queen spoon attached to it. The general strategy (if you do not have explosive liquid diarrhea at the time) is to wrap approximately half a roll of toilet paper around your hand, shit it in and scoop some out for the offering. At this particular medical check we are required to produce 3 separate samples… in 2 days. If we are unable to produce that much shit in that period of time we must bring the tubes back to site, shit in them there and mail them back. Fishing for poop anyone? (shout out! You know who you are)

Many of you may be thinking, when is this girl ever going to work again??? Eventually. Obviously I won’t make it back to teaching this week with all the travel and sample giving I’ll be doing. Additionally, teachers in Kenya are on strike… again. School officially started last week so we are now on week 2 of the strike with no indication as to when it will end.  Whether teachers win or lose I still get paid the same. I can say I’ll definitely be ready to see my kiddos by then. It’s been way too long.

That’s it for now; if I’m diagnosed with any cool foreign/tropical disease in the next few days expect an update, otherwise, probably not until I’m back in Sega with Viper fighting the war on rats.

Thanks for reading!
Also, sorry for the wonky formatting.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Journey Home: First class to drowned rat

Maybe you’re expecting a blog about all the wonderful things I did (and ate) in America. Nope. This one's gonna cover my journey home to Kenya because you already know what America is like, I don't need to tell you.

I left with my Mom (who is currently up for sainthood) for Dulles International at 4:50 a.m. on Tuesday and we hit major unexpected traffic but still made it on time for my flight and just in time to be standing in line in front of two people having the most inane conversation of all time. I had just enough time to get through ticketing and security and make it to my flight where I realized I DID NOT apply enough deodorant that morning. Hmmmm.

Turns out they sell deodorant in the airport. Overpriced deodorant. Worth it. Problem: they don’t sell ladies deodorant, they sell men’s deodorant so I went the remainder of my trip smelling like a 40 year old man (no offense to all you 40 year old men out there, just I’m a 24 year old female and prefer to smell like one).

Luckily my flight to Ethiopia had an empty seat between myself and the man in the other end seat who had the unfortunate task of speaking with marbles in his mouth... I never saw them but they had to be there. YES! Sleep! Not enough, obviously, but more than I got on the flight to the U.S.

Upon landing in Ethiopia I learned this airport, without a doubt, has the dumbest most ridiculous absurd frustrating set-up for an airport that ever existed on the whole planet. Everyone on my flight was lost. I saw several people several times going several different directions, because I was doing the same. It took me 25 minutes and 4 different airport personnel to figure out how to get out of the arrivals and into the departures. Finally! Found it! Found my gate, no problem. Okay, one problem. The set-up of this particular wing: ALL the gates are on the left side of a very large hallway separated by an incredibly tall glass wall. On the other side of the wall you ask? Bathrooms, food, and shopping.  I need to be over there. So I started my journey. This wall must end somewhere. NOPE. Had to walk around until I found a break in the wall where I walked backwards through a security check to get to the bathrooms. To get back to my gate on the other side of the brick wall ( WHERE I HAD COME FROM ORIGINALLY) I had to go back through security which took approximately an hour.... you know after we let in a group of 8 or so businessmen in front of us claiming they were late for their flight but they sure did have enough time to hit up the duty free stores.

My landing in Nairobi was smoother than anticipated. I was off the plane and through customs within five minutes and was anxiously awaiting my luggage to try and make the 1:30 flight to Kisumu. As my bag came around it was 1:00, I booked it to domestic departures and begged them for a ticket. They only have business class tickets available. How much is it? Ridiculously expensive, that’s how much. How about the 4:30 flight? Also only business class. Okay, well if I’m paying that much for either flight I may as well grab the 1:30. Ooops, no can do that flight is closed. So I hang in the Nairobi airport until my fancy business class flight to Kisumu at 4:30.

Fasten your seatbelts kids, I’m nowhere near done yet.

I’ve arranged to stay with a volunteer in Kisumu since it will be dark within an hour of my arrival. The Kisumu airport does not allow entry to Tuk Tuks (which is my preferred mode of transportation) so I need to walk about ¾ of a mile out to the main road to get one. There aren’t any when I get there so I call one and begin patiently waiting for him to arrive. It’s starts to drizzle. I’m slightly less patient. It’s pouring. I call the driver again. On his way. It’s windy and pouring and cold. I call the driver again. On his way. Once I am completely soaked from head to toe with not a dry spot on my entire body my driver arrives (feeling not so business class anymore). The seat of the tuk tuk is basically a giant puddle… but what do I care, I’m already soaked. Anyway I safely arrived to my host volunteer’s house with my soaking wet clothes and my hair stuck to the sides of my face.  Oh yes, I wish there were pictures too.

I slept somewhat intermittently and then caught a bus back to Sega in the morning. However, not before getting a matatu into Kisumu town where they threw my suitcase on top and just hoped it’d stay up there. I’m anxious to be home and also afraid because on my outgoing flight from Kenya I realized I forgot to take out my trash. I was expecting the worst, or so I thought.

Once I arrived and opened my garden gate I was welcomed by a giant fallen tree blocking almost my entire entrance. Hmmmm. There was a very happy to see me puppy though! I walked in and checked the trash first, good sign there’s not maggots or flies or dead rats or anything. Whew.

After getting the story about the fallen tree (it was distracting. Distracting to who? We were afraid it would fall on a house) and being handed my laundry line with the few clothes pins I left I headed back home to really investigate.

Everything on my dresser was knocked over and there are rat feces all over my house. They have set-up some kind of semi- permanent residence. I threw on some gloves and cleaned until I felt like I was gonna pass out, so I did. I was awakened by the priest yelling my name. There was a man there to cut up some of the tree. He came, he chopped, he left, I slept. I woke up to the sound of mice running around in my belongings. So it begins. There’s one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom. I opt to go for the one in the kitchen. It escaped. I decide to remove all my drawers from my dresser and stack them in the middle of the room with my suit case on top. Rats have lovingly pooped all over my clothes. The bottom drawer is stuck in the dresser so I leave it.

After a while I decide to cook up some pasta and as I reach for the bag I hear something, there, right where my pasta was is a mouse… staring at me as if I can’t see him. I see you! I open the door, grab a bucket and bang the shelf until the mouse jumps off at which point I scream and Viper comes to my rescue and chases it into a drawer which was entertaining but not at all successful.

Once I got my pasta cooking on the stove my electricity went out. Welcome home.

I will be cleaning for the next 3 days most likely.

Anyway, long story short? I’m back safe and sound and overall happy to be here. For all the ridiculous things that happen to me here, there’s a part of me that finds it hysterical that I can never anticipate anything that’s going to happen. It’s definitely different from America but I don’t think my trip could have been better scheduled. I feel like I can truly appreciate my 100 some odd days left in this country but I also feel mentally prepared to return and be like everyone else…. In enormous debt. Ha!

To everyone that I was able to see in America, it was so so wonderful and I felt very welcomed and loved. To everyone that I was unable to see in America, it’s a bummer, but you’ll be first priority when I get back. Two weeks flew by.

Thanks for reading!
(This one took me a few days to get posted because of internet issues, but expect another gut wrenching rat update in the very near future!)

Friday, March 2, 2012

A spider in the shoe is worth 2 in the bush?

Hello All! Happy Friday, and Happy March! Another month bites the dust. Not too much to share this week....

No pocket problem

Several weeks ago a politician sent his troops into our Unit to measure all our students for new uniforms. All the kids were thrilled by this and the girls were constantly asking me if their dresses would have chest pockets. I told them, no probably not, but they had a pocket in the skirt so I wasn't sure what they were complaining about.

The uniforms were finally delivered and the kids were ecstatic.... until they got home and did a full inspection. The next morning I arrived at school welcomed by an angry horde of girls who not only didn't get a breast pocket, they didn't have any pockets! The boys didn't get back pockets, it was a true disaster. Most of our kids are still wearing the old uniforms but one by one they are cracking under the pressure of that beautiful new clean fabric mocking them at home.

Today 2 more kids showed up in the new uniforms, one girl and one boy. The girl's dress flowed all the way down to her ankles and the sleeves came down to her elbows. The boy's uniform had shorts so long that it looked like they were sagging off of his rear.... quite gangster.... I hid my money.

No respect for the peaceful

Most days I write this blog to entertain people. It is in no way an outlet for me to vent, but things here aren't always rainbows and sunshine.

Caning is an issue in Kenya that I don't think I've mentioned in this blog before. I've been trying to combat it for my entire service but to no avail. Even though caning is now against the law, I'd say the majority of schools still use it as a valid punishment. Because I work in a school that still implements caning I find it hard to earn respect from even our students, let alone the thousands of other kids I come in contact with in Sega town.

I've been here for about a year and a half and every time I walk to the market I still get rude comments from kids, or I get laughed at, or they yell “Mzungu, how are you” in the most obnoxious high pitch that ever existed. Sometimes I come back with a smart retort just to entertain myself, most days I ignore and other days it makes me so angry that I can hardly stand it.

If you have no cane, you have no authority.

In relation to that....

I decided to listen to music on my walk to and from town the other day to drown out the “how are you” remarks and as I was almost home, one of the kiddos that participated in the art exchange program changed my day and possibly my life. An American at heart I just can't seem to drop the habit of saying “what's up?” Especially if the kids just come to my desk and stand there, looking at me. I find “what''s up?” more polite than “What do you want?”

this habit rubbed off on this kiddo and as I passed a group of kids expecting to hear several disrespectful remarks I heard “What's up?!” The best part is, it wasn't said in a joking manner, he had no interest in making fun of me he was just sharing cultures. It's the little things.

Tid Bits that don't belong

-The other day as I was carrying home my groceries, a giant cow came over and sniffed them. She seemed interested but luckily did not try to eat them, if she had I probably would have just surrendered.

-A few mornings ago I was getting ready for school and I shook out my shoes because I knew there'd be dirt in them.... yep, a spider fell out. Awfully glad I didn't put my foot in.

-I got new sheets!

-Now that I have someone cleaning my clothes, I never know what to wear because my options aren't so limited by procrastination.

School Progress

As far as progress on the school we just picked up the money we need to pay for the physical planner. Hopefully we'll be able to withdraw the rest from our account and get it paid for early next week and start on a plan for building the toilets.

Oh the rain!

Last year this time, we hadn't seen a drop of rain and wouldn't for at least another month. It was miserable and all any of us talked about. Rain came early this year and I am THRILLED! It's been raining everyday for almost 2 weeks now and it has started to really cool off, granted I'm not running around in pants and scarves but I'm not sweating my butt off from just sitting anymore.

I have a new found love and respect for rain that I hope stays with me forever! It's beautiful, it clears everything out and makes it fresh and cool and crisp. Let it rain! Let it rain! Let it rain!

That's all folks! Like I said, not a ton to report this week.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I am the chalk monster.

Hello world! I hope everyone is doing well and ready to read two weeks worth of blog stories!

Cindy vs. Rat
You will all be happy to hear that I am FINALLY getting some sleep at night. That's right the rat is gone. Dead and gone to be more specific. I laid out poison several nights in a row before it started to actually take it's toll on the little rodent. In the early evening I was sitting on my bed when I heard something rustling around near a plastic bag. I decided not to investigate, until I heard it a second time. I walked over there to realize that it was our little rat friend slowly making his way around my house. I captured it under a cooking pot while I tried to find something to slide underneath of it to carry it outside. Thinking ahead, I also tied up Viper so she couldn't sink her teeth into our poisonous little friend and opened the garden gate door for easy access. I found a hunk of cardboard and decided to try and slide that under the pot, however I lifted the pot a little too far off the floor and the rat sprung back to life and ran around my house hiding in a tight corner between a chair and a water tank. After much consideration and ideas of plans I knew would not work, I decided to call in back up. At the promise of one million doughnuts I begged and pleaded at the Germans door for them to come help. This was not as much help as I had hoped. He ended up chasing that rat around my house for close to 30 minutes before he eventually captured it under a bucket and hit the same creative wall I had hit about an hour before. He went with quickly sliding the bucket from inside my house to out on my step where we again stopped to discuss our options for several minutes. At this point Viper is getting curious. We decided to slide the rat out of the bucket into another bucket but in the process the rat escaped!
Viper pounced.
I screamed (no doubt waking anyone who dare be asleep at 8:30) and hit Viper with a bucket until she released the rat from her death grip. I held her back as the German bravely scooped up the now dead rat and carried it out to the woods.
What a night!
I slept like a baby.

Oh the Art Exchange
The majority of last week was spent on this project. I heard about it through Peace Corps and decided, “Why not torture myself!?”
To explain, this is a program where schools from around the world have 25 students create 25 pieces of artwork representing the culture and life of that country, send them to America and in exchange you receive 25 pieces of artwork from around the world. Great idea right?! Right! I thought so too. I figured this was my chance to bond with the hearing kids to a degree.
Monday- 28 kids show up. Good, cushion
Tuesday- 13 kids show up, 4 of which were there on Monday to hear the instructions
Wednesday- 17 kids show up, some were there Monday, some were there Tuesday, some are brand new. I've handed out 60 pieces of paper (that I paid for) and have approximately 4 completed pictures, at which point I lecture the kids present that if they don't return the next day to finish their pictures I will hunt them down and make them finish.
Thursday- Most of them returned and some were hunted down. I ended up with 27 completed pictures by the grace of God.
Needless to say this project was painfully time consuming, but I learned we have several very talented artists within our school.

Stir Crazy
I've finally gotten to the point where being in my house makes me crazy. I haven't decided yet if this is caused by just being there or if it's caused by my house being the size of a large cardboard refrigerator box. Either way, I decided it would be a good idea to move some furniture around. Due to the interesting size and set-up of my house I have few options when I do something like this, so basically the only thing I accomplished was to move half the stuff on the front wall of my house to the back wall and half the stuff from the back wall to the front.... oh and making a HUGE mess. It took me a total of 8 days to get everything in it's place again.

Suds and Students
As most of you know, I will do almost anything to find someone to wash my clothes for me. I hate doing it. Also, my clothes never actually get clean because I'm happy if they even come in contact with soap at all.
One of our students disappeared a few weeks ago. Rumors were that she was married and/or pregnant, which tends to always be the rumor if you're absent more than a week. The true story turned out to be that she was chased out of the home she was living in and was forced to move in with her step mother who found it a waste of time to send her to school when she could just have her working at home. When the guardian found out about this she pulled rank and moved the student back into her house and came to the Unit for our advice. The issue is that the guardian lives too far away for the student to walk and she can't afford to send her here and home on a matatu everyday.
The solution?
Someone doing my laundry!
Basically the breakdown is that I'm paying for her to come to school everyday on a matatu and she does my laundry.
We just started our deal yesterday and she was pretty mortified at how dirty my clothes were. Probably not because they were dirty from wear, but because they've essentially been collecting crud for a year and a half with a couple rinsings here and there.
Moral of the story? No matter how good you are at washing clothes, Kenyans are much much better. My clothes are twice as clean and she used half as much water.

Breakfast Burritos
I am one of the luckier volunteers (depending on how you see it) because I don't really live in the village. Sega is a town, surrounded by villages, and even better, other towns. This means better food.
There is a town nearby, it's about 5 minutes by matatu where I can meet up with other volunteers out in that area (who actually live in villages) and have a pretty decent meal. The place we go is actually an extremely overpriced hotel in a town smaller than mine with a pretty delicious restaurant. In my constant search for food that maybe tastes a little bit American, we have discovered we can make breakfast burritos! Last weekend I perfected the order. It must be ordered this way....
“You can make scrambled eggs and just put cheese on top yes?”
“okay, I will have that and also a side of bacon.”
some writing happens... short hand doesn't exist here
“I will also have a chapati, but not cut, just the chapati whole”
BAM 2 hours of waiting later we have our some assembly required breakfast burrito! I will be meeting a volunteer there again this weekend and we will be trying for hash browns and salsa to get added to the burrito situation. We would also like it to be on the menu, named after us. I'll let you know how it goes.
Moral of the story: It's important to set goals for yourself.

Peace Corps Goggles
Quite the opposite of BCG's for you military kids out there! Peace Corps Goggles is a reference to how our standards for who/what we would date deteriorate over time. Yes, it's an exact science.
For the most part, the rule is you assign a number as to how many months (or weeks, depending on how far into service you are) it would take before you would find a particular person attractive.
I have self restraint, but I have realized I have my own distinct form of Peace Corps Goggles and this time instead of referring to people they refer to fashion.
Yesterday I walked by a skirt that by anyone else's standards would be considered truly heinous and out loud remarked “oh, now that's cute.” I did a double take. It was a navy blue skirt that looks like something my kindergarten teacher probably wore in 1992. Heck! Maybe it is the navy blue button down free flowing skirt my kindergarten teacher wore in 1992.
I'm still trying to decide if it's one of those “everything comes back into fashion eventually” things or if I have just been here so long that I truly have lost touch with what normal people wear in society.
December 2012: Possible fashion disaster coming your way, America! Look out!

Cindy vs. Goose
I get along with animals much better than this blog lets on. The animals here are just pure evil, except the lovely Viper, of course.
I haven't updated about the goose lately. We still don't get along and now they've had a baby which is now grown to full size and has the same full size hatred for me as his dad. Now instead of one goose chasing me extending it's neck and hissing like a pissed off cat, I have two. The female goose has no interest in me, it's kind of nice.
Maybe someday I will write a truly terrifying children's story about this goose.

Dream Weaver
For weeks on end I can go without remembering a single dream and then BAM! I have a few days where I dream very vividly and remember almost every detail when I wake up, and then of course immediately report it to whoever I think would enjoy it's bizarre nature the most.

-Animal mania
The other night I dreamt my Mom was helping me clean my house (which at the time desperately needed it, obviously my subconscious knew that) and she was re-affixing my fabrics to the ceiling when she ran across one that had come unattached on one whole side and said “ew, there's scorpions in there”
I was not phased by this one bit, which is odd because I've never seen a scorpion in real life and if someone reported there being several in my house, I’m pretty certain I would react.
After a bit more cleaning I decided to check the situation. It ended up being 2 cats and 2 dogs. Yes, I know dreams are weird. I rescued them from the fabric hanging down from the ceiling and then sat in on the couples' therapy session of the two dogs. They discussed their fear of being sent to two different owners because they didn't think their relationship would withstand the long distance aspect.
I later found myself on a couch asking,” Does anyone want any cats or dogs? I have two of each but if you take one dog, you have to take them both, because they're dating.”

-Baby mania
The night before last I had a dream I had a baby. Not just showed up walking around town with a baby, I had a dream about the actual birthing process. It was awful. The baby was a boy and his name started with a J, I can't remember the name but I remember not particularly liking it so I'm not sure how the kid got named that. I also refused to use any kind of carrier or stroller, I just threw that thing on my back with a hunk of fabric Kenyan mama style and I was on my way.
It was a confusing time for me, and I'm pretty sure I brought him to a bar.

To teach is to change a life forever
This is true, though I think it means your own. Just like when you send a soldier off to war he/she will never be the same when they come back. Once you teach, you will never be the same. I will always think differently. I will always wonder what crazy project I can make out of bottle caps or empty water bottles.
I don't think I understood the importance of teachers until I started teaching. I never realized how much effort and creativity was put into teaching me when it was happening. It takes a special and slightly insane person to be a teacher, and a mostly insane person to be a good teacher. I don't know where I fall on the teacher scale, but I do know that if someone can correctly answer a multiplication problem I would probably give them a sack full of golden bricks.
I also always thought (always being, a year) that teaching students that are Deaf was far more difficult than teaching hearing students, WITHIN PEACE CORPS WORLD. At least with hearing students if they aren't looking at you, some of the information is bound to ooze into their little brains. Also, there are no language barriers and their vocabulary isn't so limited. I pretty much thought teaching hearing kids was a total breeze. NOPE. They listen worse than my students, they understand me less than my students and the information does not just ooze in. I learned this during my art exchange.
So, although teaching my students takes a special kind of nuts and requires a lot of drawing and running around looking stupid, it turns out, I'm much better at teaching this way. Hearing kids don't think it's funny when I dance for no reason.
To all the teachers out there, regardless of what hearing status, mental status, behavioural status, age, size, gender, or colour of your students, a big thank you for being crazy enough to educate our world!

I do believe this concludes today's blog, as always thanks for reading!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thanks for the scissors, Peace Corps

Hello all! Hope everyone had a wonderful, productive, rat free week! Here's what I've got for the week, enjoy:

The miracle of water
I realize most people probably don't know my water situation. Neither do I. As most know I was pumping and carrying water. Just before the last set of Germans left, we got running water.... sort of. It's been an on and off thing ever since it was set-up. Note, I am not complaining, just stating the facts. Now if all the stars align, I get water, in my house! Now, if you saw my house video you know I have a bathroom style sink in my house. My current method is to leave a pot in the sink and always leave the water on when I'm home just in case it decides to come on. When it does come on, I cancel everything I had planned for that day until I collect all the water I can get. Recently I've been getting it about 2 times a week and it's usually 2 days in a row. Its strange and I don't understand the system, but I am thrilled to say that it's the dry season and I haven't had to pump and carry water yet!

Thanks for the scissors, Peace Corps
So, upon arrival in Kenya we were provided with a small briefcase full of all the medications and various medical sundries we would need for the next two years. Included in this pack was a pair of medical scissors. Those scissors are a daily staple in my life. They've saved me, helped in arts and crafts projects, cut open packages and performed a few basic open heart surgeries. Okay, I was kidding about the last one, in 16 months, I've actually never used these scissors for their intended use.
Monday they were given new purpose.
For the last few weeks I have been really struggling with my hair situation. It's been growing now without a hair cut for over 2 years and no matter how many gallons of conditioner I put in it it is ALWAYS ALWAYS tangled now. For fear of going bald by brushing out all of my hair I decided something needed to be done. I MUST TAKE ACTION!
For anyone that's ever been in a car with me and said “Do you know where you're going?”
and my response was “ Well I've been there like 6 times, but I've never DRIVEN there, someone else was driving and I didn't pay attention.”
You will appreciate this story.
I have now learned that not only do I not pay attention when people are driving me places I also don't pay attention when people are cutting my hair.
With my freshly brushed wet hair I reached for the red handled dull medical scissors and boldly went where I've never gone before. Snip.
It's cut. … well, trimmed. I am not sure if I cut it straight but I know I'm eternally grateful for having curly hair. For those of you who are worried, I only cut about an inch and a half off the bottom
Dear future hairdresser,

Things rats like to eat.
Yes, my little roommate has become a permanent fixture.
-cotton swabs
-rat poison which turned out to be rat candy, as the little turd ate the whole bag and is still instigating late night all out till the death human vs. rodent wars. (I need a vacation)
-wooden drawers
-hunks of cardboard
-bags, paper and plastic
-ommena (small fish that I feed the dog)
-bean sprouts

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder
Since I've moved to teaching the Class 2 and Class 3 group I've also moved my desk into the other classroom. The students in class 1 who I struggled with to pay attention to me during any lesson now swarm to me any time I walk into the room. Every time one of them hugs me or wraps their arm around their shoulders I ask myself, “when did these kids start liking me so much.”
Though, I have to admit, it's kind of nice to get hugs just for walking into a room.

Juma's school of driving
The other day on my way into town I walked across a fairly entertaining scene, that included one of the nursery school teachers learning how to drive a piki and Juma standing to the side grinning from ear to ear as he saw me approach. We exchanged pleasantries and he began explaining the this was a piki lesson.
“This is driving school, I'm the headmaster”
“Yes, I have 5 clients so far.”
“You should advertise, put up a big sign that says 'Juma's school of driving'”
“I'll just paint it on my forehead!”

Yep, so that happened. About 35 seconds later I was walking the dirt road to the market where I saw a piki nearly take out a cyclist which stopped all the people on the street, naturally. I ran to the man and yelled “Juma's school of driving, down the road take a left!!”
OK, I made up that last part but I would have yelled that if he had even slowed down after his almost collision.

Tid Bits- the little ones that don't belong
I've decided to let Viper in the house. Before, I had a very strict “you stay outside” rule, mostly because she drags in so much mud... she apparently also drags in fleas, I'm rethinking the decision.

After being in Sega for over a year, people are finally getting used to the thought of me being here. I don't get strange looks when I take the dog running on a leash, and people in the market are nicer to me.

I suppose I should include something about this stupid rat. Here it is: I'm sleep deprived, most of my crap in internally displaced in my house which I think confuses the rat, but really just confuses me. It's become a very stressful situation. Hopefully this weekend I can buy better rat poison. There is a recipe for it in my cookbook but it calls for cement, which as you can guess I don't just carry around in my back pocket.

OK folks, after racking my brain, I think that's all I've got for ya this week!

Come again! AND Happy Valentine's Day!