Friday, September 29, 2006

The Joys of Ughali

"Ughali tastes like this place smells... and that ain't good"

I finally tasted Ughali tonight.... the quote says it all, ewwww. The dogs got the rest of it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

yaaaaay pictures

Yaaaay I successfully added a picture!!!

This is Kim. He was Sarah's favorite kid. I like him alright, but I never pick him up.... he pees on everyone. Poor kid. It is potty train or wet. They take the diaper away at a certain age whether you are ready or not.

Just a wonderful example of my balloon animals. Don't they just look so happy and sweet? Okay, happy atleast

This is Mamma at church. She loves to sing and dance in church. Actually they all like to sing and dance in church. They do say Amen a lot, but not like they portray in movies. The first hour and a half is singing. The second is the preaching part. I usually sneak out and go to Sunday School with the little kids at that point.

Annoying Tests and Ridiculous Tasks

"All work and no play..."

Makes Carolyn one frustrated girl.

So, we had tests today, and tommorow, and Friday. But, we had tests today. I was in charge of various classes to watch and make sure, they dont cheat I guess. I was not really told what I was doing except passing out and collecting tests. I was told the times to start and stop, but I was not given a watch.... So I waited until someone came in and told my class they should have stopped 10 minutes ago. Then I collect their papers.

The frustrating thing was not just the lack of organization, but the lack of silence. These poor kids are handed a test to take for an hour. The problem is, apparently not all of them are taking these tests. Half way through the last test of the day, kids are running around outside being loud. I go outside to hush them and there is two classrooms worth of them, without, of course, a teacher in sight.

Apparently they were doing their daily cleaning of the classrooms. At the same time that half the school was taking their tests. As many times as I hushed, you just cant keep watch over one class taking a test and two classes cleaning.

Not very good planning, if you ask me. Of course, no body did.

Which brings me to the issue of cleaning the school. MAN! if there ever was a useless taks, this is it.

These kids are charged with the job of cleaning the floors and steps of the school with water and rags. As I see it, what happens is the kids get a bucket of water. They dump that rag (which is probably already dirty) in and out of the water to clean off these steps and floor, which kids are walking on directly after walking in mudd or dirt that surrounds the school.

So, you watch these kids doing the most pointless cleaning I have ever seen. They are pretty much just making the floors wetter, none the cleaner. So I must wait to play with the kids until this task is complete, when the floor is left just as dirty.

And, I am left bored out of my mind.

It is like I never left Libertyville

"There are mothers everywhere. Just because you are away from the one who raised you, does not mean you will not end up with another who will try to pick up where yours left off."

Even though I have been here for four weeks, Mamma continues to remind me that I should lock the door to the guest house when it gets dark. Which I have done, every night. But, Mamma likes to be safe, and will even check and make sure I lock the door the second the sun dips below the horizon. She is so careful about it, infact, that one night I got locked out.

I was in Mamma's office talking to my parents. And, the sun had set. Mamma assumed, since my door was not locked, I had already fallen asleep because she had not seen me (she does not go in her office at night, she is usually looking after the kids). So, she sent up Rahema to lock the door for me. Which effectively locked me out.

Unfortunately, Rahema had left for the night by the time I got off the phone. Fortunately, Mamma had an extra key and let me upstairs, and sat their until I locked the door from the inside.

I do not know why my mother was ever afraid of me coming here. She was basically sending me into the care of a Kenyan her.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Americans must be Crazy part2

"How uncultured are we today when our kids do not know International Holidays like Talk Like A Pirate Day?"

September 19 was officially International Talk Like A Pirate Day. This was something I definately had to share with my eighth grade English class. It turned out to be instance number two of "Are Americans really this crazy?"

After our regular lesson plan. I asked everyone if they knew what today was. Everyone answered September 19 (well almost everyone, one person said sept 16... but anyway). I then asked them if anyone knew what international holiday was on September 19. I got nothing but weird looks as an answer.

Assuming that meant no, I wrote up on the board "INTERNATIONAL TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY."

I turned around expecting the kids to be excited or laughing or something. Again, I got nothing but raised eyebrows. I tried again.

"It is International Talk Like A Pirate Day," I announced in my most enthusiastic voice. Still, nothing. "Has anyone ever heard of a Pirate?"

Well, there was the problem. They did not know a thing about pirates. So I went into a brief description by drawing pictures on the board. They still were not excited. Not to be discouraged, I started with my pirate talking lessons.

We went over the basics "Arrrrr", "Booty", "Scaleywag", "Wench", "Ahoy", "Matey" and other such common terms Pirates use.

I felt that by the end, they were getting in to it more. They were at least laughing (and while it may have been laughing at me, at least they were laughing).

Unfortunately, I did not hear the use of their new language as I saw them throughout the day. Maybe they just did not feel confident enough in the new langauge.

...or maybe I should have tried it with a younger class.

The Americans Must be Crazy

"If you are a pet and your owner suggests that you wear a sweater, suggest that he wear a tail."

I have managed to convince my eighth grade class on two seperate ocassions that Americans are truly insane.

The first episode I was going over a practice test they had done earlier in the week. It took a lot less than the 40 minutes I had to teach and the Head Master had not given me the book I was supposed to teach from. So, I was a somewhat of a loss. Luckily I had another project for them that was not related to English class at all.

I am working with a woman in the Bronx to create an art project between her eighth grade class and mine. She wants them to draw things that remind them of the Home or of Kenya. So, to help them along I had them brainstorm in class what those things might be. I started writing their ideas up on the board.

Somehow, along the way, we got into what types of animals were found in America, and then, what types of pets Americans keep.

These kids were shocked to learn that people keep such things as snakes, lizards, and rodents as pets. They were even more baffleled by the fact that we pay to purchase these animals. And, they were completely blown away that we pay for things like crickets and mice to feed these animals.

I guess I never really thought of that before. I mean, I know how rats and snakes can be a weird pet to keep to some people. But paying for crickets, that is really odd when you think about it.

A few of them offered to bring some mice and bugs to class the next day for me. I declined.

My cat likes dry, immobile food.

Bring in the Clowns

"It's amazing what you can accomplish with an overwhelming confidence and little talent."

I discovered an amazing thing the other day. I can make balloon animals. Yes, dogs, swords, crowns, and flowers all made out of balloons. The kids here are obsessed with balloons. They see a white person and they say "how are you?" and then "Balloon?"

They honestly do not even need it made into anything, but after one kid gets a dog, they all want a dog. And, for having so little, they can still be very picky. They want specific colors! And specific balloons. Some kids like the ones they can blow up themselves (just the round ol' balloons). They quickly discovered (after not listening to me) that they could not blow up the balloon animal balloons on their own. And, handed them back to me for me to take care of.

So, there I was surrounded by kids jumping, whining, yelling, caving in on me, and shouting, "balloon, balloon, balloon!"

So I made balloons, as fast as I could, but those things really are hard to blow up. My cheeks are still sore from it three days later.

Then, the worst thing ever happened, I ran out. So, I had to run away so the kids who did not get one did not stampede me.

I think I figured out what I am going to do for a job when I get back to San Francisco, make balloon animals at Fisherman's Worf.

So many posts, so little internet access

sooo the internet has been on the fritz lately... something about Kenya not paying off it's debt to Israel???? I dont know really, all I know is getting online is a matter of being on at the right time of the day on the right day.... so I have sooo many things to share... so beware.

I have also been working on a lot of projects lately. The main one being the website. Please check out and let me know if you have any suggestions.

Additionally I have been fixing up the guest house. I built a spice rack and am now working on a bookshelf. Ahhhh the rewards of building with just wood, nails, and your own two hands. :-P

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mosquito's and Sarah

"If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito"

When I arrived in Kenya, I was armed to the teeth with mosquito netting, bug repellent, Malaria pills. You name it, I had it to keep the mosquito's of me.

But when I got to the orphanage, the other volunteers assured me they had been there a month and never once been bitten by a mosquito.

So, I think good, I will still were bug repellent, but I need not bother with the mosquito netting. Which was good, because I could not seem to set it up just right. It would have been the same end result if I just slept with the mosquito netting wrapped around me. But, then of course, I would forget to put on repellent, thinking eh it's ok.

But, somehow, out of all the volunteers I have met, I am the only one who manages to get bitten. And, not just once. No, no, no... I have countless numbers of bites that are HUGE. On my hands, neck, legs, arms. I am a regular mosquito buffet.

Adding to my misery... Sarah left the day I left for safari. Sarah was there right when I came up to the orphanage, bubbling over with excitement and showing me everything. She taught me the ropes. She really made me feel welcome and not so nervous about people not liking me. She helped me see, volunteers come and go a lot around here, so who cares if most of them like you or not. They will probably be gone in a few days.

She broke me in to her eighth grade class so they would not intimidate me when I took over for her. And she made me feel very comfortable with them, especially because even after working with them for four weeks, she still forgets their names. I am sure I will do the same.

But, now she is gone, and now I am sad. But, I will carry with me all she taught me until I leave. Especially that it is ok to take Saturday off and sleep.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Lions and Tigers and Bears OH MY!

"Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew, and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water."

Ok, so there are no bears, or tigers for that matter. But, there were lions, cheetahs, and elephants OH MY! As well as numerous other animals that I hunted down with a camera in my hand. So I am very disappointed to report that animation many posts ago, is incorrect. Tigers are not in Kenya. I think I need to write the creators.

My safari took place in the Masa Mara, which is a protected area that the animals migrate to after the winter from the Serengeti.

It was a very cool place. The long grass of the Savannah reminded me of that end scene in Gladiator, where the main guy is dying and floating over a plain of long grass and everything is sepia and blue toned. It really looked like that, but with more sepia and less blue tones.

So, in a van flying through the Savannah at 80+ km/hr. We spot a zebra and halt to a stop. We all ooo and ahhh about how pretty they are. Same thing happens with a lioness. Too bad they were both so far away, it was hard to get a picture.

Little did we all know (well I'm sure the guide knew) we would see hundreds more zebras, wildebeest, gazelle and giraffes. As well as dozens more lions. We even got to see some lions hunt, which when I look back at the pictures I do not know why I took them. They are really bloody and disgusting.

At times, like the lions hunting, there were five or more tour vans around. It was like the tour vans were a heard of animal all their own. They were all the same style van and all were white. One person on our tour asked if the animals think the vans are just a bigger animal that hangs around. And, you sort of have to think about them that way. In such a place otherwise untouched by man, you start feeling very intrusive and wrong being there unless you think of these vans as animals. At times I would even find myself watching the vans and how they moved together and would heard around a kill (a good photo op).

Though, I took no pictures of the vans.

Pictures Apology

So due to the fact that internet connection is so slow in all of Kenya, I have not been able to post any pictures or even send them to PJ through email so he can post them.

So you will all just have to wait until my return in October to see my amazing pictures.


Bad luck comes in three's (and sometimes two's)

"Depend on the rabbit's foot if you will, but remember it didn't work for the rabbit."

Charlie and George are two of the newest volunteers here at Huruma. They are very sweet, just eighteen, coming from England. Their first day they were eager to go into town to buy water so they would not have to keep drinking mine.

They were so eager infact, that they were prepared to go on their own for their first trip. Sarah and I convinced them to wait until after my class and I would take them. Unfortunately, I managed to twist/sprain my ankle and had to keep my leg up and iced for the rest of the day. So, Sarah and I convinced them to wait one more day.

The following day we headed out to the Matatu stop (uphill downhill uphill again).

Usually, we have to wait a max 25min for a Matatu empty enough to stop. Unfortunately for Charlie and George's first experience we were waiting over and hour before one came we could squeeze in.

We arrive in Ngong (the transfer point before town) and had just as much trouble finding a Matatu. We finally got in one.... (which in retrospect when two guys decided to get out before we left we should have as well). And, they decided to take some back road way to get to Karen.

40 minutes later (the drive from Ngong to Karen is usually 15min), The Matatu breaks down and we must walk the rest of the way to Karen. Poor Charlie and George had the worst first trip on a Matatu you can.

Poor Charlie and George I thought... until I realized it was them. They were awful bad luck. I went on Safari with them a few days ago and in the middle of our 5 hour ride to the park, our van breaks down.... okay, maybe it is just a coincedence that i have not had this much trouble in Kenya except when with them.... except... On the way back from the safari.... Our van breaks down again.

I will never get in a moving vehicle with those two again if i hope to ever reach my destination.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sumi would hate it here

"There may be many bumps along your road, but sometimes we need a few bumps to make us appreciate the smooth roads when we are on them."

Driving in Kenya. I do not drive, obviously. But, I have to get around some how. Otherwise I would be stuck eating Ughali and cabbage at the orphanage daily. Even then, I had to get a ride from the airport to the orphanage.

The first thing that strikes you, are the random speed bumps in the middle of the road. They are not potholes or just random bumps. There are real, honest to goodness, knock your head on the ceiling of the car, speed bumps randomly placed all along the main roads. Of course, this does not stop people from driving like maniacs and slamming on the breaks just before you hit these speed bumps.

There are a few ways to get around Kenya.
1. The City Hoppa: This is a form of transport I have not experienced just yet. It is a city bus that stops at major towns (Major being any town with a store). Usually they pass us by, being already filled with people.

2. Taxi: This is the most expensive form of transport around here (save renting and driving your own car). But, it is the quickest and most comfortable way of getting anywhere. Unless of course the driver smells, and the windows are broke so you cannot roll them down. I have had the pleasure of using a Taxi three times already. It is good to get all of our groceries back to The Children's home, because the bus stop is a mile up and down and up again a hill from the home.

3. Mtatu: By far the most "cultural" way to get around. This is how most people do it. The travel books have a blast describing this form of transport. Their accounts vary from, exciting to dangerous. It is a van, pretty much. With 4 rows of three seats. So, it should fit about 12. Usually there are more (up to 16 once). So you sit, crammed in to a van. Music blaring, smoke coming from who knows where on the van, hoping it does not break down before your stop because, you already paid.

I get around by Mtatu mostly. It is very inexpensive, and kind of like riding a roller coaster, minus the safety bar. They have two speeds, rolling to a stop and pray to God speed. They are very intent on getting places fast. So, on the roads, barely big enough to fit the cars going both ways, they frequently pass people. Sometimes you see a car headed straight at you, and you just close your eyes until you know it has passed.

Surprisingly enough, I have not seen any accidents.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Is anybody out there? Can anybody here me?

Actually, it is more like can anybody understand me?

I am living amongst many different people from many different places. Kenya, Canada, Belgium, Israel, Amsterdam, England. And somehow, I am the only one that understands everybody.

S: I have a lot of Pictures
J: Sisters? Really?
Me: P I C T U R E S

MT: How are you doing in this morning?
G: What?
MT: ::repeats::
G: What?
Me: She wants to know how you are doing.

P: My name is Poisey
D: Po... What?
P: Poisey
S: What?
Me: Poisey, it's like flowers.

There is more, but I will not share it all.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Like a cool breeze in.....

"The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are."

Sarah took me to Kibera on Tuesday. She has two friends that live their that we took out to lunch and they showed us around their area.....

Kibera is referred to as the slums of Nairobi. The area just outside the slums, they refer to as New York City. I am not quite sure why. I think it is a way to poke fun at tourists that come to see Kibera.

As we walked through "New York City" I was thinking to myself, this isn't as bad as I imagined. It was by no means nice, but it was comparable to Nairobi itself, just smaller. The children were just getting out of school and running around in their uniforms. They are all so friendly. I think the first English words children here are taught are "How are you?" Because that is the greeting we get from every child we see everywhere.

George, the friend that lives in Kibera, then took us down a hill and across some railroad tracks. Below us was Kibera. It was not what I expected, again, it was worse. Even though Sarah had prepped me and described it to me, you just don't get it until you see it.

The houses were merely huts made out of tin sheets, or cloth, or whatever they could find to cover their heads. There were probably thousands of these huts crowded in the area of a football field. There were little trails between each quad of huts to get through the town. It was very difficult to walk through these trails, physically and mentally. There was trash and human waste everywhere. After a while you just give in to the fact that you are going to get your shoes and pants dirty as all hell with you do not even want to know what.

This is where our friends live. After about 45 min of walking around and taking in everything, including the smells, we came to George's place. We turned the corner into the hut quad, where George lived, it was like we were in a whole other place. George and Simon (another friend who lives in one of the huts in the quad) had planted flowers, plants, grass was even starting to grow. There was no waste of any kind anywhere.

It was a cool breeze in Hell.

His place was the size of a dorm room, smaller than the one I had in College. That was his house. He fit in a bed, a couch, and a little night stand. Nothing else could fit. And there was very little room to stand.

I was not as emotional or affected at the time as I am now, describing it. I had the luxury of hiding behind a camera and looking at everything through a lens, which filters out a lot in places like this. Behind the big lens, you don't feel scared, or sad. You are not concentrating on anything besides the picture you are taking and it's composition.

It is not until later, now, that I took time to stop, think, and feel what I saw. For me to see what was really there.

The English epidemic

"The acceptance of the English names represents a movement towards civilization to the people."

Most of the children I have met so far probably have Kenyan names, but they all introduce themselves by their Christian/English names. I have to admit, while their use of English makes things a lot easier on me, I am somewhat let down. I really expected to pick up some Kiswahili while here, but I have not had the chance. I feel silly using their language when they do not even use it.

And, there are so many children (150). If you know me, you know how bad I am at remembering names. It has nothing to do with some of them being hard to pronounce. I think it might be easier if I knew their Kenyan names. Then they might stick out a little more. But, I am left with learning the names of 150 children who all wear the same uniform and sometimes the only way I know if it is a girl or boy is that the girls wear skirts.

I hate not being able to remember their names. Even the little kids that hang on me all the time. I remember one of their names, but I can never remember which one he is.

It is no fair. They have only one or two new names to learn. I have 150+.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Living and breathing in the thin air up here

"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate; our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who are we to be beautiful, talented, brilliant. But really, who are you not to be?"

I made it. Today is my first day (awake) in Kenya. I have already had some wonderful, and terrifying experiences. True, most were in transit to Kenya, but still.

On the first leg of my flight, I was very disappointed with my movie choices. There was RV, Inside Man, which I saw the night before, and have to agree with Burke's Review. And, Akeelah and the Bee.

I decided to watch Akeelah and the Bee, unexcitedly. To my surprise, it was very good. I know you probably will not take my advice, but you should watch it. I laughed I cried, I cried some more.

Then, my second leg of my flight, I felt like I was going to cry because damn British Air only lets you take one carry on. Despite me having two very small bags, I had to check one of them. Which meant, I had to go through customs, recheck in, and go through security again.

The line was so long.. If it had not been for the random kid from NY who kept me distracted by talking (and talking and talking) about his travels around the world, I would have cried I am sure. But, thankfully, we made it. I found out, we were both headed to Kenya on the same flight. Sadly, not really (he talked a lot), I did not see him after we boarded the plane to Nairobi.

Next, I arrived. I made it through all the people trying to trick me to use their transportation, and finally found the people who came to pick me up.

I fell asleep right when we got to the orphanage and had a surprisingly good night of sleep. Bug Free!

Today I toured the orphanage and the surrounding area. I have already met some of the other volunteers. Two of the girls, Sarah and Freya have made me very thankful for my amazing boyfriend. They both have boyfriends back in their countries (Toronto and Belgium). And, apparently their men are not as supportive as they would like. Freya has been dating this boy for 6 years and is on this trip for 6 weeks as well and is not sure the relationship will last when she returns. Both boys are not happy about the girls' choice to travel alone, and to Africa.

I am very thankful that I have the people who care about me the most being as supportive as they are. I do not know if I would have made it here with out that support.

So, Thank you to all of you.

It is tea time now.

Hakuna Matata
(they actually say that here!... Though I have been told to be weary of that phrase because if it is used, it means there probably is a good reason to be worried.)