Friday, November 18, 2011

Just another day in paradise

Hello all!
So I've decided to try and avoid getting so back logged on my blog... blog-logged if you will. I'm going to jot down things I'd like to include in it, add to it through the week and try to post on Fridays.
This way I don't forget about all the smalls things that I don't mention once I wait a month to update everyone! It's a win win and I'm going to give it my best effort!

Cindy Cow
This giant pregnant cow has been grazing all over the church compound for several months, she literally would take up my entire house if I could fit her through the door.... or my window, once she tried to eat my curtain through the window.
Last week she gave birth to two beautiful calves (which will eventually grow older and be ugly normal cows, but for now they're REALLY cute), one boy and one girl. I have been informed that the female has been named Cindy. I now refer to her as Cindy cow so people don't think I'm referring to myself in the third person when I talk about how much weight she's gained.
I had the pleasure of meeting her about 16 hours after birth, that's right, she still had birth gunk on her rump!
I'm her namesake indeed. She is extremely stubborn and loves to eat.... she got a hold of my skirt, which I'm glad to say survived.
Since then, I have spotted the man that cares for the livestock have to physically pick up Cindy cow and move her to where he wants her to go because she simply won't go somewhere just because someone smacks her rear and yells a little. When I see this man struggle to carry this calf, first I smile, because it's just delightful, then I think, I wonder how much longer he's gonna be able to carry that cow. Finally, I wonder, how does he still have all his clothes? I met her for ten minutes and if she'd had her way I'd a left that place naked.

Word Seepage
Although I will be the first to tell you.... scratch that the first to tell you would be my Kiswhaili tutor, I'd be the second to tell you I am not fluent in Kiswahili, or the local language here. Even though I am not fluent doesn't mean that some things don't just seep into my normal conversations anyway. When I write emails or talk to people from home I analyze almost every sentence before it comes out to make sure it doesn't contain Swahili or some other interesting lanugage mannerism i've picked up since being here. These things most often include the word “pole” which means sorry and truly covers the whole spectrum of things from tripping on a rock to the death of a loved one or spilling your milk. It's a great word and eliminates any feelings of awkwardness or inferiority when faced with a situation where you just don't know what to say because you can't relate.
Another thing, I hadn't even picked up on until one of our new trainees realized it is ending almost every sentence or question with “yea?” When he said this we happened to be eating breakfast and quite honestly I kind of blew him off and thought, “i've never heard myself do that.”
…. fast forward about 8 seconds.... I turn to a fellow volunteer, “So it was just the math science people that met for that yea?”
As soon as the word flopped out of my mouth everyone realized how often we say it without even realizing. My current theory is that we are misunderstood so many times that we want to check for understanding or at least make sure a person realizes a question has been posed. Since then I've realized sometimes I give them both options, I'll pose a question and end with “yea or no?”
This is a very limited list of the words that have “slowly by slowly” oozed into my normal speaking patterns and I know I won't even pick up on most of it until I'm back in America saying things like “even me!” or “I'll just pick it later.”

Future Careers
Due to the way our school schedule is set up it allows me quite a bit of free time which I suppose is a blessing and a curse. Based on things I do in my free time and things I do during my school day I believe I would be able to move very laterally and smoothly into the following careers, mind you these are in no special order:
Movie critic
Food critic
Some type of warden at the loony bin
Some type of resident at the loony bin
Corrections officer
Body double
Secret Agent
Designer of skirts that never come higher than two inches below the knee

Dead body day
Okay, maybe not the most diplomatic way to word that, but I found it the most entertaining. Living in a big town has its perks... as i've already mentioned, cereal, and also we have a mortuary. Now I haven't been to a Luo funeral as of yet but I know that they are quite an affair and I know when they come pick the bodies. Friday. The day that normal marks my weekend and puts a smile on my face because I have time to clean and cook good food... on my way home from grabbing groceries or sometime during the school day or even when I'm just at home I can hear them coming. Usually it is one or two vehicles full of the men and women that cared about the deceased blaring music, singing, and beating tamborines to no specific rhythm. They back their truck up into the mortuary (We have a sign coming into to town boasting “Sega Mortuary with freezer”) and retrieve the body. During the process, onlookers crowd the street to watch the transfer until it's complete or until they grow bored and go home. The truck with its singers and professional tambourinists then leaves and carries the body to it's eternal resting place.... actually I think it makes several stops first.

Character Synopsis
I realized I've been here a year and very rarely mentioned the people that play a daily role in my life here. Therefore, I've decided to include a character synopsis each week.
Juma is the cook on our church compound... the cook and so much more. I don't know his job title but he does pretty much everything. He is also more than willing to help me with anything that I need or answer any questions that I have. Also, he brings food to Viper every night. This man is always smiling and always in a good mood and making jokes. I am more than appreciative to have him here because he's the last person I see in my day and he is just so friendly and can usually say something ridiculous enough to make me laugh. He also finds the saga of Cindy vs. goose extremely entertaining. I'm not sure if this story has been told but in the first few months I was here, this is an exact conversation I had with him:
“Juma, that goose is evil and it hates me. I named it Satan.”
“The goose? It doesn't like you?”
“No, it chases me. I think you should kill it and feed it to the priest for dinner.”
“I can't kill it. It's here for security.”
“I thought that's what we had all the dogs for..”
“Yes, but the goose is meaner than any of the dogs.”

Enjoy your weekend and Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Scrambled Eggs

I worked on a blog several weeks ago and never posted it so here it is, followed by my new blog. It's been a long time this time.

I remember being a kid. People would say, “I wish I could bottle that energy” or, “If I had even half that amount of energy.” I thought that energy would last forever, as if it were some gift that only I was blessed with. I was wrong. Dead wrong. I find myself wishing I had as much energy as my students... or even half as much... dare I say i'd like to bottle it! What's next? “Because I said so.” I know it's coming.

Shoes... not so helpful
So, several months ago I broke my sandals playing with the kids and began wearing my beaded flip flops. In an intense unit wide soccer game I broke my flip flops too.... worth it (my team won).
I went hiking with a few fellow volunteers 2 Sundays ago. It was a good time but regrettably I fell like 6 times. Tennis shoe traction isn't all its cracked up to be I guess.
On the bright side, all my shoes are fixed now. Thank you, Kenya for being able to fix ANYTHING.

Monsoon run
I went running with Viper a few days ago and left about a half an hour later than usual but thought it would be fine since I didn't see any sign of rain. Well.... about a half mile from home it started to drizzle a bit but I didn't sweat it because normally it drizzles for a while before the real rain comes. Well.... it didn't. It drizzled for about 3 minutes before just letting it's bottom out. For half a mile Viper and I ran through torrential downpours and returned home soaked to the bone. I literally had to ring out everything I was wearing when I got home. I was pretty okay with it but Viper was a total diva about it. She kept shaking off and making this whining noise. She tried to run underneath of bushes to shelter herself from the rain. Since my Ipod did not get water damage, i'd say it was an amusing and kind of fun experience except the rain pelting against my face and eyeballs didn't feel good and my shoes took days to dry. In the spirit of optimism 2 days later I left almost an hour earlier for a run with Viper ad we not only got hit with rain but with hale.... It's hard to escape this type of preciptation when you're in the middle of nowhere miles from any kind of shelter. Ow.

Exciting new things.
1)There is a new flavor of Sunlight washing powder, mixed berry. I bought it!
  1. A new sponge
  2. Different brand of soy chunks... a lot better!
  3. Chicken flavoring powder is now sold in my banking town except going all the way to Kisumu
Overall, yay for all these things.

Random tid bits:
The man at the post office is out to get me
The right burner on my stove doesn't work. Hasn't worked for months. I tried to fix it several times, by fix I mean set myself on FIRE.
My sheets will never ever be clean.
I will punish any future children of mine by making them wash their sheets in a bucket.
I make a to do list everyday and maybe 1/3 of it gets done.
I feel like all I ever do is dishes.

On to new things:

Out of the closet fan
I've always been a fan of Celine Dion... a lot of people probably don't know this about me, but it's oh so true. In America you are kind of a disgrace to admitting to Celine Dion fanhood. Things are different in Kenya, they worship her here and it's thrilling. I am very out loud about my love for Celine Dion.
When I was in college and would drive home I used to turn on a Celine Dion CD at the Bay Bridge and then I would get home just before the CD would end. Now everytime I hear one of her songs I am reminded of being on my way home and the bridge I've crossed oh so many times and the convenience of driving my own car. I love Celine Dion. Judge me if you dare.

The power of scrambled eggs and toast
As far back as I can remember I had scrambled eggs and toast everytime I was sick. My mom made the best scrambled eggs they were fluffy and buttery and filled with love and pity for her sick child. Anytime I've been any kind of sick here in Kenya (including being home sick) I make scrambled eggs and toast.... still works like a charm.

Matatu Anatomy
I know i've mentioned matatus a few times and any volunteer in Kenya can probably tell you hundreds of matatu related stories. For my next story to make sense however you'll need to know the basics of these matatus. First of all, they are different everywhere you go but here in Nyanza and Western provinces we are known or overfilling them to the point where people are hanging off on the outside which is such a common site that it doesn't even phase me anymore. Generally speaking though, in my area our matatus have the two seats next to the driver and then seperated by a bar is the first row of 3 seats followed by another row of 3 split so there is an aisle to get to the seats behind. The one seat closest to the door is generally off limits because that is where the tout/conductor/the man that snaps his fingers at you for money sits. If you are lucky enough to be sitting in the aisle sometimes they'll give you a board to lay across the two actual seats you sit between to rest your tooshy on, if there is no board you just spread your butt cheeks as far as you an in order to have a part of each one on a part of the seats you sit between. Pleasant. The very back where you lift up what Americans would call a trunk is referred to as the “boot.”
This past weekend I had the pleasure of travelling to a fellow PCV's site for a student's camp to spread our knowledge about various topics. On my travel back I was on a matatu that was what we refer to as a shuttle, this means it has the first row of 3 seats and then the second row of the seats is uninterrupted but the seat closest to the window lifts forward to allow access to the last row of 3 seats. I was lucky enough to be seated as the 4th person in this back row of 3 seats. Once we started moving I realized the tout was nowhere to be found. Odd. Maybe the driver would be collecting our money once we reached our destination? I leaned forward and rested my eyes for a few minutes when I heard a tap on the ceiling... usually a sign it was someone's stop and they wish to alight. I looked around and realized the person who had tapped the ceiling was indeed the tout who had apparently been lying down in the boot of the shuttle the whole time and I just never realized.

So our term is coming to a close. This week I'm off everyday but Friday so the class 8 students can take their KCPE. Next week we will have exams and call it the end of a school year.
I hear a lot of people say they feel like they aren't making a difference or they aren't really needed but I can truly say that in one way or another all of my students have improved since the day I met them. This doesn't mean all of them will be passing this year, but even behaviorly they have come a long way.
I can't believe I've finished an entire school year. It blows my mind that this time next year i'll be packing my bags and saying my goodbyes. It's going to come faster than I realize I'm sure of it. Whatever happens I can say I will never regret being here and when I leave I will always miss it. I will undoubtedly leave a piece of my heart in this house and with those kids.
It's also an interesting thought to say this will be my last Christmas in Kenya. Once we get past Thanksgiving I will have only one more of each holiday in Kenya and when I think of it that way it doesn't seem that long at all.

As I write this....
I used to have this wonderful wicker chair. I loved it and sat in it outside to do work and just relax. Viper also loved this chair.... so much so that she sat in it enough that her evil talon like claws wrecked it completely and it is now missing all the wicker where my butt would be. At the moment I have a cushion from another chair in my house on it.... however I've just realized the back part is just as broken as the butt part. Tragic. My butt hurts.

The major supermarket here in Sega is called “Mamalizz.” Mama Lizz and I have been on good terms since I arrived in Sega. I am always welcome in her store and greeted by her and everyone on staff by my name which is nice. Mama lizz has been expanding her store and has recently been getting in some exciting new products. Within the past few months I've seen the addition of red bull, powder deodorant, chocolate bars, and now that's right CORNFLAKES. I HAVE CEREAL.
The cornflakes just showed up yesterday and I bought them. She asked if I liked them and since it's some weird Kenyan brand I told her I didn't know but I would try them. I was in town today again so I dropped in just to pick up a few unnecessary items and mentioned how nice the cornflakes are. Mama Lizz proceeded to tell me she just wanted to see if she could sell them but if I'm buying them she will keep them in stock.
I've told various people, I think she keeps track of what I buy and for several items in her store, I think I might be the only person in town that buys them... after today however, I may be wrong. One other person in town bought a box of cornflakes.
Any way you slice it, I'm thrilled at her expanding, I'm needing less and less things from the city... and have now gotten to the point where there is almost nothing I can't get in her store... except for white person hair products, none of that YET.

That's all for now, I hope everyone at home is doing well and I am going to make a conscious effort to blog more, especially since my internet has become more stable.