Ok, my apologies for not actually posting every Friday, however in my defense I wasn't around a computer most Fridays. But now I have plenty of time to update you and then try again for the every Friday thing since I'll be around Sega for a while now.
I did try to attach pictures but they were taking FOREVER, so those of you that are my facebook friends you can check them out there or bug my mom to show them to you!
So I traveled out to Machakos again to help out with training. One of the most stressful weeks of training is model school where a few poor unsuspecting kids at the Deaf school are forced to stay at school an extra week and let a bunch of brand new volunteers teach them. There were four volunteers "supervising" this week while the trainees taught. All in all it turned out to be a pretty good week, all the trainees did really well and all of them ended up swearing in!
The most exciting part of the week was definitely getting to stay in the dorms in bunk beds trying to fashion round mosquito nets into something that would fit on square bunks. Oh it was a hoot! I'd like to include for anyone interested instructions for using the bathrooms in the dorms at Machakos School for the Deaf:
Step 1: Hold up your skirt or it will get wet
Step 2: Step carefully into the puddle also known as the bathroom floor.
Step 3: Turn around and go back to the dorm because you forgot to bring toilet paper
Step 4: repeat Steps 1 and 2
Step 5: Choose a stall that doesn't have shit all over the floor
Step 6: Hold the door closed with one hand and simultaneously pull down your underwear and pull up your skirt without getting it wet.
Step 7: Hold the door closed and squat over the hole in the ground, don't let ANYTHING touch the puddle on the floor.
Step 8: Try to hold your skirt off the ground while squatting and get the toilet paper out of the hand that's holding the door shut (because you forgot to put the toilet paper in the correct hand to start with, oops) without letting the door open.
Step 9: Enjoy the cold breeze blowing in under the door.
Step 10: Cleverly stand and pull up your underwear and still hold your skirt up at the same time.
Step 11: While holding skirt up to avoid the floor/puddle cautiously step out of the bathroom
Step 12: You did it! Run a victory lap!
Straight after training we hired out our very own matatu and headed in to Nairobi for our mid-service (YEA THATS RIGHT MID SERVICE!) medical checks.
You know when you go to a fancy wedding and you check into a hotel and the reception desk gives you a welome bag from the loving couple?
It was just like that but instead of a goody/welcome bag it was a bag for us to shit in. Isn't that nice?
Through the night we considered several options for getting out of giving samples including but not limited to melting/smashing chocolate bars in the containers, and swapping samples.
I'll spare you the tutorial on this, but my sample was a success. Actually our medical team was thrilled to see us with our little brown lunch bags full of our crap in the morning.
Anyway I got as clean a bill of health as possible for being me. Mostly it was a lot of sitting around talking about our crap samples and talking about what we would eat the rest of our time in Nairobi.
Most of you know by now, one of my closest friends here in Kenya is Ryan who lives way up in Marsabit which is practically Ethiopia as far as I'm concerned. She got to come back to site with me and visit for a week! It was great to have her around, and since there's not a ton of exciting things to do here we taught Viper some new tricks and had several movie marathons including a Harry Potter marathon which quickly turned into watching the first 1.5 movies and then skipping to the last two. We also had a one arm movie marathon... this only included 2 movies, but hey, we did it and I thought it was worth mentioning.
At the end of our week together we traveled to Kisumu and ate delicious Indian food and then parted ways so I could go meet my MOM!
So the plan was for my mom and I to meet in Nairobi and fly directly to Mombasa. Now the last time I tried this my visitors' flight landed like 3 hours late and I almost lost my mind. This time I ended up landing in Nairobi about 15 minutes before my mom, so I hurried to get my luggage and headed over to international arrivals to be crowded by a bunch of Brits who apparently have no respect for personal space. Of course, thanks to customs the arrivals just trickled out of the doors about 2 every 5 minutes, but eventually Mom came out and after elbowing some Brits out of my way we were finally reunited after 15 months. It was wonderful and we had plenty of time to catch our next flight to the coast.
Hot. Wow, so very very hot.
We stayed again at Sarah's house in Kilifi and did a shopping day in Malindi where we almost melted. We did dinner on the Indian Ocean and just caught up on life.
The following day we snorkeled in Kilifi which ended up being really great! We were the only people on the boat and the boat staff were great.
With great enthusiasm we left the coast with lots of souveniers and heat rash and got a night train to Nairobi.
Luckiily we had smooth travel (with the exception of all the luggage we were carrying at this point) from Nairobi to Naivasha where we planned to meet with Ryan, whose travel unfortunately was not as smooth as ours so we headed on to our campsite out near Hell''s Gate.
Upon arrival we found after lugging all our crap down this mountain that we had to go to upper camp which you guess it is UP. Luckily we were so pathetic looking at this point that one of the staff members carried two of our big bags for us to our cabin. God bless him, it was a real hike getting up that thing, but the view of Lake Naivasha was just wonderful.
Don't worry, Ryan didn't die, she arrived shortly after us, equally as exhausted.
Late to bed and early to rise we did way too much work and biked to the gorge at Hell's Gate which was beautiful. We hired a tour guide to get us through the gorge who did a great job considering our lack of skill at climbing anything. He had this fantastic walking stick and he kept throwing it in terrifying places and once the stick was thrown you had no choice you were climbing up it or down it. More than once this man actually grabbed my feet and shoved them into whatever divot in the rock they were supposed to be in but I just couldn't find.
After catching our breath we biked the 5 km out of the park where we quite luckily spotted giraffes gazelle and some very territorial zebras.
All in all one of my favorite things I've done in Kenya so far and I was thrilled that Mom was able to see it with us!
I almost don't want to write about this one. Sometimes I come across people that make me rethink almost all of my choices regarding Peace Corps.
We were paired with two Kenyan families both with young children all around the same age who made it their life's work to annoy me to the ends of the earth. My favorite part was when one of the kids kicked my shoe out the door for it to become lion food. Luckily they were cheap and already falling apart, but still it was my shoe!
Beyond that the safari was good, we saw all of the big 5 which was extremely lucky and our driver was just fabulous and just as annoyed at our being paired up with these families that refused to speak to us as we were.
Towards the end of the trip we were able to hook up with some older kids from Nairobi at dinner and taught them to play spoons which was really entertaining, even to the people just watching.
Our last morning was peaceful as it was an early morning safari and optional so it was just mom and I with the father of one of the families.... until we got stuck. VERY STUCK. We spun tires for a while and a few safari vehicle came and took pictures of us because apparently we fit right in with the wildlife? I'm not sure.
Anyway, we got to beebop in a few different vehicles until ours got unstuck so we met some french people and then hopped on a giant party bus with people from all over that was pretty cool and a nice break from our other safari company.
More traveling! My Mom has become an honorary volunteer at this point. We dealt with several terrible and very long matatu rides and I think I complained more than she did, probably because she grew up with six siblings at the beach in a station wagon lots of sand and bathing suits... you get the jist (especially if you're one of the 6, Hi Heberts!).
After arriving in Kisumu we hit up Laughing Buddha and we had the famous sizzling brownie which in America is probably nothing special but here its like Christmas on a freakin plate, yo!
The following morning Ryan met up with us again and we did the Impala park which was FABULOUS! I've never been before but it turned out to be like a really low security zoo. After bribing some of the staff (story to follow) we got to pet a cheetah!
Now by bribing I mean here's the conversation
Zoo man: Hello
Me: Hello, I want to pet a baby cheetah
Zoo man: Well thats the baby, it's pretty grown now
Ryan: Can we still pet it?
Zoo man: Let me confirm
(Zoo man leaves, all 3 white people have a fit over the possibility of petting a cheetah)
(Zoo man returns)
Zoo man: Yes its ok, you can just come
(Arrive at gate to the cage)
Zoo man: Normally we accept a donation. Its not required but it's 500 ksh
Me: If that's the price then it sounds like it is required
Zoo man: Well we are volunters and we appreciate tips
Me: We are volunteers and my kids dont show up and give me 500 ksh to teach them every morning
(Discussion amongst white people as to how much we'll pay to do this)
Me: We'll pay 200 each
Zoo man: Let me confirm
(Zoo man leaves and returns and leads us through the gate)
We then walk into the gate through the cheetah display and just go pet a cheetah! They were pretty much just like giant house cats except you know, they could have eaten us.
We continued our journey and found some very unsecure monkey cages so we held hands with them and one of them tried to steal Ryan's sunglasses which was pretty entertaining.
As we hit the heat of the day we decided to do lunch and then head back out for hippo watching in the afternoon. Luckily the boat people remembered me from the last time i went and they cut us a real break on the price and they were excellent sports about dealing with our sarcasm (by ours i mean mine). I was almost successful in convincing them that Queen Victoria's actual first name was Lake and that's why they called it Lake Victoria.
What an excellent end to the trip! Ryan, Mom and I headed out to the border to do some white water rafting with a bunch of volunteers I've never met before. True to Peace Corps form, most of them were nuts so naturally we all got along great.
The night of our arrival they required we sign up for bunjee jumping if it was something we were interested in, so apprehensively I signed up and figured I probably had time to get out of it. NOPE! We were up bright and early ready to jump just moments before hopping on the bus and hitting the rapids. Nuts.
I'd never bunjeed before and now that I'm practically a pro I can assure you the most horrifying part is when they write your weight on your hand with a marker.
Of the 17 of us only 4 of us jumped 3 girls and 1 boy. I went 3rd and ended up being the only one that made any noise during my actual jump. In the moments leading up to the jump I was eerily calm as I watched everyone else lose their cool. It was bizarre.
When my turn to jump came here's how it went:
Me: Please tie that thing really tight around my ankles, I don't care if I can't feel them
Bunjee man: Do you want to touch the water?
Me: Uhm, no. I'm having a pretty good hair day and I'd like to keep it that way
Bunjee man: Are you going rafting?
Bunjee man: You're gonna get helmet hair later anyway
Me: Every moment counts man!
Bunjee man: is there anything in your pockets?
Me: Just my pride and self respect but I'm fully prepared to lose those
Bunjee man: Ok then, grab on to the yellow bar and shimmy to the edge of the platform
Me: This is not a bar, it's an extra piece of metal that is extremely hard to hold on to
Bunjee man: Are you going to heckle me the whole time?
Me: Yes, I'm sorry, i can't help it.
Me: My mom is here, so if I die today you guys are in BIG trouble
Bunjee man: Ok, remove your hands from the bar and give a wave to your friends
Bunjee man: Cindy? Remove your hands from the bar
Bunjee man: Don't look down, it won't help
Me: It's not making it worse
Bunjee man: Ok you need to jump off the platform like a belly flop
Me: I have to JUMP? I thought I could just kind of fall off
Bunjee man: No, you need to jump. Ready?
Bunjee man: Ok, ready?
Bunjee man: 3... 2...1 BUNJEEEEE!!!
Me: blood curdling scream
Me: My neck didn't snap!
Me: Ok, I'm down now, can I wipe my weight off my hand?!
Now knowing how smooth a fall it actually was I would do it a thousand times over. The only unnerving was not knowing if my neck would snap off, and it didn't it was really smooth sailing.... and oh yea I guess its kind of horrific to jump off into nothing, but they really attached that bunjee safety line well. They definitely listened to my recommendation because by the end while I was hanging upside all the blood rushed out of my feet and the cord cut off my circulation and my feet started shaking, and apparently to onlookers it looked like my feet were going to fall out.
I'd tell you how many rapids we went through but I don't remember. I will tell you that the first rapid we went through I was at the back of the boat and all this water came rushing into the boat and I felt myself be ripped from the boat.... and then felt myself flailing like a mad woman on top of my mother and then I was in the water, swallowing lots of good ole Nile water. Finally reaching the surface and catching my breath I found the boat and looked in to see how many other people had been taken hostage by the rough seas.... uh... no on. Just me. I felt overwhelming gracefully as my 7 other teammates pulled me into the boat asking what the hell happened and how I ended up out of the boat on the other side. I have no actual excuse for this but I blame our boat guide who I think was trying to flip our raft but actually just ejected me out of it, there is no other explanation.
Our 2nd rapid was slightly more violent than the first and the entire raft flipped over. Now, the object of the game is when the raft flips to hold onto this rope on the outside of the boat, however, the way my brain works is "I've hit water, I must let go of everything except my paddle, it will save me!" So when I felt air on my face I looked around to find lots of little red helmets (I assume with bodies attached) floating all around and my boat several yards away in the middle of the rapid. Looking around I did find a teammate and being smart I told her to grab onto my paddle so we could you know, die together, she obliged.
Conveniently they have ridiculously strong Ugandans floating around in trick kayaks which just look like mini kayaks that are there to save you from drowning. One of them found the two of us and instructed us "one get on front one get on back." By "get on" he does not mean get in the kayak, he means hang on to the front and back (which we had been taught to do in the tutorial prior to starting). So, very ladylike I am holding on to the front of a kayak with my feet wrapped around the top of it looking at the kayak man as he says "hold on, we'll go through another rapid." Being an intelligent person I refused to do this. Being a not so intelligent person, I had no choice, so straddling a kayak taking desperate gasps for air everytime I felt it on my face I braved the rapid, which ended up being pretty small, and pretty exciting to go through hanging on to the front of a kayak.
We eventually ended up back in the boat and didn't flip anymore for the remainder of the day. Overall I'd say it was a success.
Sega and a Farwell
We finally returned to Sega to meet a few of my kids and just see what my life is like here. Turns out my life was like making a ton of banana chocolate pancake batter and then running out of gas and none of the surrounding towns having any. It was relaxing to just be back home in my own bed and see Viper again.
A few short days later I said my goodbyes as Mom left from the Kisumu airport. Although it will be less time between when she left this time and when I see her again than the 15 months we were apart before it didn't make it any easier to say goodbye. There's something comforting about having a parent around, especially when they give you clothes and cookies and stuff! Honestly, it was a joy to have her here and share a big part of my life with her. I tried to get her to stay but I guess she doesn't love me enough (KIDDING).
And back to my life again
School is now underway. We are now 4 classes and 3 teachers which surprisingly leaves me with a very smiliar schedule to what I had before but now I'm teaching classes 1, 2 and 3 which is really great and I feel generally happier and more fulfilled when i leave for the day.
We have officially entered the dry season and it's pretty much just hot dusty and kind of miserable, but it's my last dry season here so I'm making the best of it.... by praying for it to be over. I will mention, when it is over I'll be almost at the end of my service and wishing i hadn't wished my time away but itsn't that just the way it always goes?
I'm not positive how much news reaches the U.S. and my family and friends at home, but I know some leaks through because sometimes I catch the articles. There is a lot happening here as far as safety is concerned but there haven't been any security issues in my area of the country and my dog is a total bad ass. For all that are concerned Peace Corps is on it and we are following strict safety measures. Doesn't that make you feel better? :-) Really though, I'm safe where I am.
Special shout outs!
To Aunt Kathy: I handed out lots of new pencils today and the kids and teachers were thrilled! We don't have to wait for kids to share pencils to finish their assignments anymore, Thank you!!!!
To Aunt Janice: As always for sending cards and adding a little more decoration to my house each week. It never fails when a volunteer comes in my house for the first time they always say "wow, you have a TON of cards, people must really love you"
To Mom: Thanks for coming to visit! and thanks for leaving me stuff! and thanks for being a good parent and not a real whack job!
To Niki: Woman! I don't think one holiday has gone by that I haven't been able to decorate for thanks to you! It's wonderful and it makes me very anxious to hang with you when I get back!
To Bev: Thanks for also still sending stuff! Alot of things I clip out of your clippings and hang around my house or use for bookmarks and such!
And to all of my other readers however many or few you are, thanks for reading and thanks for your patience on this one and sorry I used the word shit twice (... well thats three now)
Hope everyone had a great holiday! See you next Christmas!