An Afternoon in Kitale

This past Sunday I went with Kristiana and Joshua to a “nature reserve” outside of Kitale.

We had been told me were going to some sort of domestic animal freak farm where they had a cow with 3 horns and other unusual animals. However we came to discover that was only a small part of our adventure.

Joshua having been to this place several times decided to wait for us while we went with a guide through the park. Our tour began with a walk through  the botanical gardens which other then trees had a large population of mosquitoes. Neither of us had brought bug spray because we thought we were going to a sunny farm.

As we emerged from the garden we saw before us Jesus crucified on the cross and several other biblical displays. Krisi and I just looked at each other–What did we get ourselves into? I gentleman came over and explained to us that they had built 10 mountains representing different stories from the old and new testament.  As we were told the stories of each mountain I  couldnt help but reflect on the strangeness of the situation. I had come thinking I was going to a freak farm, but turned out I was going to a nature reserve with biblical statues.

After the man finished telling us about the mountains we continued on to the nature trail where we were met by a swarm of mosquitoes and lots of stagnent water. As the usual afternoon storm began to creep in we finally made it to the freak farm part of our tour.

We saw a dwarf cow, a cow with 4 horns and 4 eyes, a sheep with 4 legs and several other unusual features.  Some of the animals I wanted to just kill to put them out of their misery because it was clear they were suffering.

Sunday evening Krisi and I brought our iPods down to girls group and had a dance party. The girls taught us some local dance and we taught them how to line dance. It was the best part of the whole crazy day.

New place, new challenges

I have really neglected the blog since coming to Kenya, so I wanted to give everyone a new update. There is too much going on to share here, but I promise to tell all when I get back.

I left Mama na Dada about 2 weeks ago for my current placement at Common Ground (Not related to Search for Common Ground that I interned with in DC).

I am living 30 min. from the city of Kitale in a village called Keminini. The placement I am currently at includes several projects: a primary day/boarding school, water filtration factory, and an organic farm and training program.

I sleep in a concrete hut that is furnished with a bed, table and cupboards. Unlike the other places I have been I have access to the internet about every other day or so.  There is another volunteer, Kristi,  here with me from Canada, so I have someone to talk and hang out with.

Like Emmanuel’s we eat meals with the family in the house. I have had the most variety of food here including fried/stewed chicken, chips, cabbage, french toast, fried egg, and beef that taste like cows from home. The best is when we have fresh mangos.

We live in a compound that contains the school, our house and the farm. Everyday like clock work it rains. I thought it would be a nice tropical rain, like in Hawaii, where you can still do things outside, but its not. A few drops come down and then it just pours and the temperature drops at least 10 degrees. Within an hour you go from sweating like a pig to needing a jacket and maybe pants.

I am doing several different projects here including teaching English, Health Education, and facilitating a girls’ leadership group.

I teach English Mon., Wed., and Fri. in grades 6, 7 and 8. The students here are more advanced then the public primary school I taught at in Kunya, but there is still work to be done. They speak English very well, but their compositions are just as poor as some of the public school students.

Tuesday and Thursdays are my community outreach days where I go to public schools and do health education. The Kenyan school system includes life skills (HIV/AIDS, STI’s, hygiene) in the curriculum, but most teachers do not feel comfortable talking about these topics, so they do not teach beyond what is in the book. Our goal is to go beyond the book and make sure the students have all the information they need to protect themselves and those they love.  For example, the book tells students to wear a condom when having sex to protect against HIV, but most of the students dont even know what a condom looks like outside of the packaging, let alone how to put it on properly. Kenya has the 7th highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world and the 2nd highest rate of AIDS orphans after South Africa. I think it’s time to teach young people how to put on a condom incase they decide not to abstain. Kristi and I are also going to try to get the mobile testing clinic to come and do testing at the schools for those who want it. Many of these students have been orphaned because of HIV/AIDS and they don’t even know their own status. They just assume that because their parents had it they do too.

For 2 hours on Sunday I facilitate a girls leadership group for 7th and 8th grade boarders. Last week we talked about characteristics and attributes of a leader and this week we are talking about setting and achieving goals. I asked the girls during our first meeting if there was any topics they were interested in covering, so future topics include female reproductive system, hygiene, and self defense. It has been wonderful getting to know the girls beyond the classroom and learning about their lives and dreams.

Other Observations:

* They love watching Spanish soap operas dubbed in English. The most popular show is called “In the Name of Love

* Many of them think this is the first time we have seen a black person. A director of another school told us ” you are very lucky to travel because it allows you to experience new things like meeting black people”. We had to explain that we have black people in North America.

Amosi from Kunya

Amosi is “I greet you” in Luo.

I am now living amongst people from the Luo tribe or aka Obama’s tribe. Luo is a difficult language to pick up because the words are very long with sounds that I am not accustomed to making. I’m trying to learn 2 Swahili words a day because it is much easier to learn and more widely used.

I live in Kunya village on the edge of Lake Victoria. I have a cement hut with a nice big bed and electricity. I am supposed to have running water for my toilet and shower, but that hasnt happened yet, so Im still using a latrine and bucket bathing. The food is delicious, but we dont have as many vegi’s as I had at Emmanuels and we eat ugali on a regular basis, which I am not a big fan of. Ugali is mashed up corn that mixed with water makes this sold consistence and then they role it into a ball and eat it.

I am teaching English at Kunya Primary School 3 mornings a week. I enjoy working with the students. On Friday I introduced them to the concept of getting stars and smiley faces on their  work when they do a good job. I couldnt believe how excited they got, one would think it was Christmas morning. Next week I am bringing stickers!

Although I loved seeing the students smiles and bright eyes, it did not last long. Hitting children with sticks as a form of punishment is still used in schools and right after I was finished teaching another teacher came in and smacked kids with a stick on their hands, legs and butts for forgetting to bring their school fees and firewood. I wanted to cry and I had to leave the room or I would have screamed at the teacher. We have been told by our program to walk away from things that we are not accustomed to but are a regular part of Kenyan life, so I did. But later when asked I told the teachers that I would never use a stick on a child and explained to them how we punish children back home.

The other two days of the week I work at the dispensary/clinic weighting patients, dispensing meds and other office tasks.

I have so much more to write but my escort to Kisumu has already finished her time on the internet and I dont want to keep her waiting.

Despite the school incident with the stick I am loving my stay in Kunya.

Internet in Kericho

This is my first internet access since Nairobi. I am currently in the city of Kericho which is about 2 hours or so from the village I am currently living in. I have only been here a few short days and already of have exprienced so much.

The food is delicious. We eat a lot of squash and vegi’s with rice or pasta, fruit (lots of pineapple), and either steak or beans for protein. The volunteers live in cement huts with bunk beds. Emmanul has 4 precious children who love to color and play soccer. Most of Emmanuls family lives around him so there are always cousins and other children over in the yard playing too.

All the children in Kenya have a school holiday this week because of the vote on the constiutional referendum. Everywhere I go I see vote YES promotions- I have only seen vote NO in the papers. The students will be back to Emmanuls school on the 5th so then we will be able to start teaching. Right now we are just getting the new boys dorms cleaned and the bathroom built.

Saturday we attended a Maassi wedding with lots of singing and beautiful bead work. The bride was 6 hours late, but no one seemed to mind.

Later in the week we are going to a Maassi warrior graduation that only happens every 7 years, so I cant wait. We have to dress in traditional outfits and beads.

See this link for info on the Warrior Graduation