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!)