Monday, August 22, 2011

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Hello All! I'd like to start by wishing my Mom a Happy Birthday! Sorry I'm gonna miss this one.

I'm sure you're all just on the edge of your seats to hear about my vacation. Buckle up! This will probably be one of the longest blogs yet!

So in a very serious attempt to save limited vacation days I chose to fly from my side of the country out to the coast to meet my visitors from America. It was a very nerve-wracking trip as I've never really had to navigate any Kenyan airports. I survived though. I arrived way before I needed to at the Kisumu airport which is approximately the size of my gynecologist's office and waited patiently before it was time to walk out about the distance of a football field to board the aircraft. I will say, the Kenyan flight attendants give the most accurate demonstration of flotation devices and such, so I appreciated that.

In true Kenyan style, we left late which means we arrived late. Originally I had a 40 minute layover in Nairobi before my flight to the coast to pick up my checked backpack because the airport staff in Kisumu didn't think the bag would make it on to my next flight in time. When we landed I was 15 minutes into the boarding of my next flight. I anxiously tapped my foot on the floor to will my backpack to show up on the carousel and once it finally did I grabbed it and ran like a maniac and immediately boarded my next flight.

Once I arrived in Mombasa I had about an hour before the other flight got in so I sat down and had a sandwich and admittedly went to the bathroom and primped so people wouldn't know I came straight out of the village (not sure it worked, but the effort was there).

Their flight was delayed. Big surprise.

After about 2 hours their flight landed and I was the first person lined up outside the international arrivals door as people flooded past one by one reuniting with family and friends. I continued to wait as the flow of people came to a slow trickle, convinced every person coming through the door was there to see me, but none of them were. The airline staff came and closed the arrivals door. I literally had no words,I just stared at the door in enough shock that it made the man ask me if there was a problem. I looked up at him and asked “Is that everyone off the plane?”
“Yes, ma'am”
“Everyone? Like, there is no one left?”
“Yes, is there a problem?”
“Yea, my friends were supposed to be on that flight”
“From Ehtiopia?”
“Yes from Ethiopia.”
So I sat for a hot minute thinking of what to do since I have no contact information for anyone and just as I give up hope they came walking through the door. Apparently, one of them had left duty free alcohol on the aircraft and needed to go back and get it. I won't mention names.

Anyway, I brought them to one of the fancy (and by fancy I mean a total dump that is affordable to volunteers) hotels in Mombasa for the night and we toured Ft. Jesus which was pretty interesting.

The next day they got their first taste of Kenya, we ventured out with all our luggage to find a matatu to bring us to the resort they had reserved which none of us had a clue to it's actual location. Turns out there are about 80 roads that lead to this place and 2 different signs. We learned fast from our mistakes.

The resort was beautiful, but we spent most of our time out and about so they could get a feel for what Kenya is really like. We did snorkeling in Watamu and took a trip to a local town so they could try Ugali and Sukuma. We were also able to take a quick trip and visit a friend of mine in Kilifi and have dinner on the Indian Ocean. Overall, that week went by waaaay too fast. I probably could have just lived at the resort. It had a bathtub! And two bathrooms! It was wonderful and I was not too thrilled to leave.

When we did leave, we took a luxurious (and by luxurious I mean crappy) bus to Nairobi. I think in total it took us about 10 hours and a ton of music to get there. On the bright side, I haven't heard much new music from America, so Steets was nice enough to let me listen together with him on his fancy whatchamacallit that's a phone and a music player and I'm not sure what else, but I asked and it does not make belgian waffles which was a pretty big disappointment.

That night we ate a famous restaurant called Carnivore which is a lot like that brazilian place where they basically just walk around with meat on sticks and plop it on your plate. YUM! We had tons of different kinds of meat including camel, crocodile, lamb, pork, chicken, ostrich etc. Regrettably we all ate way too much but it really took it's toll on the two of us girls since neither of us were hungry when we showed up. We paid for it later. Actually, in the middle of the night Lindsay got in bed and said, “I just threw up 3 times.” In the morning we were trying to decide if she had thrown up or if she had dreamt it. Apparently, it did in fact happen because Steets checked the door and all the locks were locked by the door wasn't shut all the way.

We started the next day bright and early... earlier than planned actually. The safari was due to pick us up at our hotel at 7:30 and they called at 7:00 to tell us they were waiting outside. Lindsay and I were still moaning and groaning in bed. After shoving everything in our bags and shuffling outside we headed off for our safari!

When we arrived at Masaii Mara we had an hour to settle in to our tents and meet back for our night safari. The tents were very spacious and by very spacious I mean not spacious at all but surprisingly no one in our group complained... including me! It was basically I small army looking tent but they set up real beds in it which really cut down the space, but we were able to throw stuff under the beds.

Luckily we were teamed up with 4 real cool Canadian kids who have been volunteering here for about 6 weeks and were about to go home. By the time we left for our safari it was raining which made it really difficult for picture taking, but we did see a myriad of animals including lions! Yea, we practically stalked them.

We started our full day safari the next day and saw tons of other animals. The weather was absolutely beautiful and in total we saw all the big 5 except for the leopard. Also, since it's August we're in the midst of the Wildebeast migration so there were MILLIONS of wildebeast just hangin around all the time. We also came right up on a cheetah that was just chillin in the sun. We were about 10 feet away from it in our vehicle, apparently though, the animals are so used to the safari vehicles coming through that they just act like giant house cats... though none of us ventured out to pet it or give it kibble.

After a morning safari the next day we headed with a different group of people for a short excursion to Lake Nakuru which was absolutely beautiful. The views were just beautiful and there were monkeys all over the place. We actually witnessed a woman get bit by one which was probably the highlight of the day. Do not feed the animals. Monkeys are cute, but i'll be honest, they scare the ever loving shit out of me. They are bold, and carry rabies ya'll. I'm not taking any chances thank you, I'll keep my distance and use the zoom on my camera.

And so we started our travel back to Nairobi and before they could even leave I missed them. I begged them to stay. They declined, but did offer me a space in their giant yellow suitcase in case I wanted to escape, I declined. They also both vowed they wouldn't eat Chipotle until I got home which I thought was a very sweet gesture because misery loves company :-). Maybe it will be even harder for them since they actually have access to them? We'll see.

Anyway, we ran into a few volunteer friends of mine in Nairobi and went out for Ethiopian which turned out to be a bigger hit than I expected... thankfully.

The following day their flight went out in the afternoon, so before they left we squeezed in breakfast and a trip to the giraffe center. I got a kiss from a giraffe! I was told that was a possibility but I kind of just thought they loved humans so much they'd just lean over and kiss me, but there's actually quite a bit of bribing involved and you have to hold a pellet of their food between your lips and they grab it out with their enormous sandpaper tongues. They were soft and looked just like the one from toys r us. It was wonderful.

I left the two of them at the airport after several more failed attempts at getting them to stay and headed to the train station for my ride home.

Now. I've never taken the train before and new forms of transportation make me anxious (which won't be an issue anymore now that i've traveled by every means possible in this country) and therefore didn't really know what to expect or how long it would take. The bus takes about 9 hours so I figured the train left at 6:30 pm and we'd be there pretty early in the morning. I was wrong.

I decided to travel first class which is something I never do, but I figured it'd be a nice way to end my vacation. It took me about 20 minutes to get myself on the right part of the train in the right compartment and it's not like there's anything to do so I just kind of sat there... with the door like half open. I don't know the protocal, obviously. Anyway, the train manager came in to inform me it would be 15 hours of travel and dinner would be served at 8. Thanks. I did everything I possibly could to keep myself awake until 8 which turned into 9 which turned into me almost smacking my face into a plate of food out of exhaustion. After I made it back to my compartment and got the door locked I slept pretty well except I kept dreaming the door kept sliding open and shut because the lock didn't work (which was not true, it was pure paranoia). We also stopped at every single station between Nairobi and Kisumu which made sleeping slightly difficult but I did feel somewhat refreshed when I woke up. I was able to walk from the train to the bus station and catch the next ride to my site.

Finally, i'm home and I haven't done hardly anything. I thought I was kidding when I told my friends I was going to sleep for a week after I got back. It took me almost twice as long to get about half of my laundry done because there was so much of it. Beyond that I haven't done much that I would categorize as “productive.” Oh well.

The running water here is still non existent which is confusing considering how much it's been raining, but those 2 months of running water were wonderful while I had them. I have just about 2 weeks before school starts again and I'll be spending another week out of site for a language immersion that I'm actually pretty excited about, except for having to be away from my site... again.

Alright well if you made it through that whole thing without sleeping, congratulations and as always thanks for reading!!!

Also, thanks again to Steets and Lindsay for coming to visit, I had a great time and I'll see you at Chipotle in a year and a half!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Yep, I'm still in Kenya

Um, hey! So I am still alive! Again, i've been collecting blogs like smashed pennies and here they are, most of them are short. I've got another coast vacation coming up so stay tuned, i'll try to document this one better, I promise! Hope everyone at home is enjoying your long awaited beach time!
Bathus Interruptus

Since Viper technically belongs to the Catholic Church, the cook on the compound normally brings dinner for her between 8 and 9. I either bath before or after this hour so I can be ready when the cook comes to open the garden gate. The other day I chose to bathe early around 7:15 because we lost electricity and I didn't think we'd get it back. Once my hair was fully shampooed and my face was fully face washed, I hear Viper making her usual ruckous because the cook had arrived with her food. I threw a robe on and proudly walked out covered in soap so the dog could have his dinner. I went back to bathing in the dark and about 20 minutes later the electricity came back on.

Land ho

So our little Unit was able to buy the land we wanted! On the last day of school we took the kids on a field trip to check out their future home. It was so exciting for everyone, it was like watching dreams come true. This is such a huge step for the Deaf community in this district and I can't wait for further progress! To finally have a place to call our own I think changes everyone's attitude about things. They've told me they're going to name a dorm after me... I hope that's not true. I've heard tell of one girl who had her whole face painted on the side of a building. I'd rather not deal with either of those things.

Grey Goose
The goose and I are still not seeing eye to eye. That's all I'll say. I'm the bigger person.

African Sunset
So I have the pleasure of seeing the sunset in Africa everyday, because, let's face it... I cannot drag my butt out of bed early enough for a sunrise. Normally in the evening I take Viper out for a jog and once I get about 2 kilometers out of town we take a turn onto the path that goes around the airfield. In the distance are the most beautiful mountains being lit by the most beautiful sunset.
It's tough to be here, but everyday that something bad happens i experience at least one beautiful or awesome thing that turns it around again... just like anywhere I suppose.

Another compromised bucket
Normally after bathing I bring my bucket inside, but for whatever reason last week I left it in the bathroom. I was extremely grateful for this laziness on Thursday because it was the first time in a very long time that i've needed a toilet and a bucket at the same time. Yet another bucket compromised. P.S. i use the previously compromised bucket as a trash can now.

Shout outs!
To Aunt Janice: Thank you so much for all the cards and pictures! I love them! Some of the pictures in the last batch I was thankful for the commentary on the back because they kids have gotten so big I didn't even recognize them. Anyway, it always puts a grin on my face to open my mailbox and see a few letters from you! Thanks for still writing and keeping me updated!

To Niki: I LOVE the postcards! i think I'm going to hand the MD one in my classroom so everyone can see it. I appreciate your constant and truly entertaining letter writing. I thought my life was ridiculous. I have nothing on you.

To Bev: Thanks for all the reader's digest pages. I cut out the quotes I like and cover my bookshelf with them! Also? I've already started using the things you sent me, the tote and notepad and such!

To Mom: I miss broccoli salad, and chocolate chip cookies and hot taco dip.... and YOU of course. Thanks for all the good stuff that you can send!

To Steets: Thanks for spending a probably absurd amount of money on calling cards to listen to me talk about how insane my life is.

To my church at home: Thank you again for everything you've done for my students! Everyone here, including me is overwhelmed by your generosity. You made a difference that will last long after i'm gone.

To all my readers: Thanks, as always for still reading!!!