I apologize for my lacking communication skills! It has been far too long since my last blog post. So let me tell you about my last two weeks of practicing patience and flexibility in sections.
Part One: The Time I Flew All The Way To Kenya And Ended Up Doing Something Completely Different Than I Had Planned
So the title of this section basically explains everything. I was supposed to work with an organization that focused on empowering people living with disabilities. Although it is an incredible organization full of passion and commitment, I found the organization without funding and leadership. On Tuesday I recognized that the organization would not work and I was out by Wednesday afternoon. For the time being, I was in No Man's Land. I spent a lot of time at the FSD office hanging out with the fantastic site team. They even included me on a field visit to a fellow-intern's organization to observe a community assembly addressing corruption issues.
The whole coming-and-realizing-it-absolutely-wouldn't-work thing was a bit difficult for me to swallow at first; but then, after Peter's wise words of “Relax!” and “Welcome to Africa!” I relaxed and embraced the African practice of flexibility. So that Friday I began at my new organization: Africa Canada Continuing Education Society. Here, their mission is to foster social and economic development through education. Some of the projects they embark on are building primary schools for orphans and children of very limited means, providing health and gender services to these children and the community, providing scholarships for certain students from these schools that will enable them to continue on to secondary school, providing scholarships for college and university students with very limited means, agrobusiness income-generating activities that are focused in the communities surrounding the ACCES schools, and vocational training. So basically, it's the breeding ground of truly amazing and inspiring work.
The only issue is that there has been a nation-wide teachers strike. Public school teachers—and now some national school teachers—have taken a stance against government, arguing that they need to be paid more. Which, by the way, I totally agree with. Because of taxes and such, teachers only actually bring home a small portion of their paychecks to support themselves and their families. However, for a week now thousands of schools have been at a standstill while millions of students are forced to stay home. Even some boarding schools have sent their students home. This has even spread to the ACCES schools, which has inhibited certain work from being done. It does not seem like there is an end in sight, but I am hoping with all my might that the government and the teachers will come to some sort of agreement soon so students can return to their educations.
Nonetheless, so far I have sat in on a meeting about the basic terms of quality needed for orphans and vulnerable children to be successful, I have assisted the Community Health Nurse de-jigger a man (a jigger is a nasty parasite that lives in the soil and makes its way into a person's feet and then multiplies and can even get in the way of a person's ability to walk), and visited the one ACCES school that remains in session called Shavagala. I have really been enjoying the people who I am working with. They all have such high spirits and love to laugh and joke and learn. It's great!
So despite the slow-downs, it's been a great experience so far.
Part Two: The Time A Puppy Was Brought To The Office
One of my coworkers (we'll call him Joe) bought a puppy from another coworker's sons. This puppy was delivered to the office today by the son and holy moley it's the cutest puppy! Everybody was surprised at me when I held the puppy and it started falling asleep in my arms. They were even more surprised when I took it outside to relieve itself when it wouldn't stop barking. I love the puppy. Joe left with the puppy. But now I just want it back. **It is also important to note that this co worker Joe has three main goal professions: to be a businessman, a professor, and a politician. Already, he's basically all three of those, but he wants them on a more grand scale. Today he told me that I he has observed that I have certain qualities of a good politician (I have no clue where he got that one, but I'll take it) and said that he wishes that I'd stay so that we can make a political partnership and change the lives of Kenyans. NOTE: These are his words, not mine. When he was saying this, a picture of Obama dancing into his arrival in Tanzania was sitting between the two of us. Joe said “Like Obama!” We then decided that we would cut Obama in half: Joe would be the right side, I'd be the left. Does it make sense? No, not really. But don't be surprised if I end up staying in Kenya in order to be Obama's left side.
Part Three: How I Came To Be Very Close With My Host Sisters
I am not quite sure how it happened and I am not sure how to explain it. But for no good reason, I could not sleep last Tuesday night. For the weekend before, I was feeling very homesick and a bit out of it...just not myself. Then Tuesday night came. The second I laid down to sleep, I was wide awake. I kept feeling more and more energized and could not figure out why. I tried watching a movie, I tried planning next summer's internship, and I tried reading (by the way, if you're reading this Christian, I'm sorry but your copy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next has gone through a lot of wear and tear). But no matter what I did, I could not lull myself to sleep. Then I realized that something about that night had snapped me back into being my normal self. I was feeling more social, more excited about the smallest of things, more me. Ever since that fateful night, things have gone incredibly smoothly. Everything has been so easy with my host family and coworkers. There was one night last week where the three of us (my two host sisters and I) were all just sitting on the extra bed in my room, hanging out and talking. Just like three sisters normally do (or what I'd expect them too...it's been far too long since I've been with just my two sisters COUGHsadCOUGH).
Part Four: The Most Slippery Walk In The Dark
This past weekend I made my way to Kakamega Rainforest with the 12 other interns. The rainforest is situated about 20 kilometers from Kakamega town, but because of the bumpy dusty roads, it took us about forty minutes to an hour to get to our guest house. We stayed in two different types of buildings: one was outfitted with a large eating/sitting area, a kitchen, and three bedrooms while the other one was a large round boma filled with enough bunk beds to house about fourteen people. So the thirteen of us ate our yogurt, our avocados, our incredibly surgary peanut butter sandwiches, and our pre-packaged tea muffins without the tea and sat around, talking, and laughing and learning about one another.
The next morning we rose at 4:30 AM in order to meet our rambunctious guide Abraham for a nice stroll in the forest. I was so smart when I was packing for the weekend: Oh, we're going to be hiking in the dark? Of COURSE I don't need my flashlight! Umm what? I was able to mooch off of other people's lights a little bit, but for a lot of it I was just convincing my body I knew where I was going by trudging through the forest with confident steps.
We made it to the top of the tallest hill in the forest just about fifteen minutes before the sun rose over the surrounding hills. It was hands down the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. The fog that licked the tops of trees, the orange-red tips of the tall grasses, the sounds of the forest animals waking up...it was wonderful and a little bit surreal how perfect everything was while I was just munching on my bag of breakfast peanuts.
We remained on the hilltop for a while before we hiked back down the very treacherous hill—by the way, how did we not realize how steep it was on the way up? We made a pit-stop in a cave to get attacked by bats for a hot second and then continued on our way back through the forest. The entire hike ended up being about 15 kilometers. Yep, 15 kilometers of beauty in nature. I was a pretty happy girl. Also, somehow I made it through without falling down! I slipped probably five times in two minutes at one point, yet I never fell. (Which is a good thing because I took a tumble down some stairs the day before and let's just say I have the worst bruise I've ever had. Baby's a little tender.)
So fifteen kilometers, too many slips, and a handful of baboons later we were back at the lodging area, exhausted and ready for our welcoming beds at our home-stays.
Part Five: Now I'm Not So Sure How To End This Post
So there you have it. That's a slight overview of what my life has been lately. I know it was a lot, but that was just the surface, trust me. Every day something a little odd happens—for example, I was on the bus back from visiting Shavagala and a man decided to stand up in the front of the bus and preach the word of the Lord. In Portland, most people would have gotten annoyed or impatient. But on that bus ride, people either politely ignored him, bowed their heads in thought, or even raised their hands and joined him in prayer. Huh.
There's that little snippet for ya.
I can't quite think of anything else to put on here without reporting every detail of every day. Just know that I am doing well. This trip has been quite the roller coaster so far. The dips are tough, but the high parts are what make this experience fantastic. I know that I don't realize it as much as I will in the future, but this is an experience that will prove to be invaluable. I know it. It may not feel like it right now, but it will. And I'm grateful to be here and to share this opportunity with some truly great people, whether they are here in Kakamega town or back home in little sunny Auburn or wherever you may be.