Friday, January 18, 2008

Coming Home

If you are shocked by the subject of this e-mail, then you are just beginning to feel the rollercoaster of emotions that I have had over the past week. Due to the civil unrest continuing in Kenya, Peace Corps has decided to send us home. The original idea of finding new sites in Kenya is not looking very hopeful as the violence is not calming down. The travel situation in Kenya is limited and they can not confirm new sites for the 60 volunteers in Western, Rift Valley, and Nyanza provinces in a timely manner. They do not want to hold us in limbo any longer as they try and figure out what to do next with us. There are road blocks in the streets, food shortages in the western parts of Kenya, and we heard yesterday that people are still dying. The situation in Kenya is extremely upsetting. When I left my house for Christmas vacation in Kakamega, I never thought that I would never be going back. I don't even have pictures of my small village or of my house, so I am returning with just my memories. I also don't have the majority of my stuff, and this has all been a real lesson about not holding on to materialistic things. I just finished making an inventory of the stuff that I want sent to me from my house. I am allowed just 100 pounds of stuff that will be shipped to me once they are able to send a driver out to my site. Most of the PC drivers are Kikuyu tribe so they will not be able to get to my site easily having to drive through Luo land. So, I have no idea when I will see most of my stuff again. I am learning to let that go and am just going to start fresh.
They are sending us home with the possibility of later having sites in Kenya open up. They are concerned that they still won't be able to offer everyone a site considering that they are only going to be using about half of Kenya to place volunteers and they may be considerably shrinking the PC Kenya numbers. I also think they are worried about how long this political situation will continue as no resolution has been made yet between the 2 political parties.
I have such a mix of emotions, but I do know myself and know that I can't sit and wait around for an indefinite amount of time. Even if they do come back and offer me a site it may be months (I know at least 1-2 months) or I may wait around to find out that they don't have a site for me because they are reducing the volunteer count. So, I have decided that I am going to just pick up and move on with my life. Now, if I get home and find myself really desperate to get back to Africa, then I will look into other options but as of now I am planning to just take it as it comes.
The plan as of now is: I am hoping to move to DC and find a job there. I really love DC and hear there are lots of entry-level jobs there. I am hoping to crash on a friends floor until I find a reasonably priced place that I could afford. If you happen to have any suggestions or connections in the DC/Virginia area, I am definitely interested so let me know!
Also, I do not have any phone numbers as my American cell phone is in my house in Kenya, so if you can e-mail me your digits that would be great!
I will be on a plane heading back to Florida on Sunday night, so feel free to give me a call later this weekend or next week. I am excited to be back and see friends and family, but am also really sad that this ended so quickly. I am nervous about my next step but know life is an adventure. I am also anxious about returning to America because I had just become so used to the Kenyan culture here. It's going to be a tough adjustment, but this is part of the adventure.
I look forward to getting in touch with you all once I return and hope that you all are well. Let me know if you have any helpful suggestions or advice in the DC area (actually, really anywhere), because I will take anything I can get.
Thanks to you all for your continued support, e-mails, packages, etc over the past 4 months. Hope to hear from you soon.
Take care,

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania - By the Sea

So, I am sitting here at a beautiful beach resort about 17 kilometers away from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Every morning I wake up and see the beach as I walk downstairs to the breakfast buffet. What a great way to start the day.

None of this beauty comes without the emotional stress that me and the other Peace Corps volunteers feel on a daily basis. Questions about if we are going to be able to return to site, return to country, if we will like our new site, how long we will be held here continuously run through our minds. While this is a nice vacation, this isn't the reason that all of us joined Peace Corps. As I sit here and pass the time, I am thinking that I could have all of this and my friends and family close if I just returned to the States. We are definitely losing the momentum as we stay here longer. Don't get me wrong, Peace Corps has been really accommodating to the situation with a great, relaxing resort, air conditioning, food, etc. but it's hard when you don't know what's coming next.

Up until Tuesday things had become much calmer in Kenya, but President Kibaki announced his cabinet on Tuesday afternoon which did not include any of Raila Odinga's party. We had been hearing that Kibaki would agree to a "joint" government, but then made this move to not include any ODM representatives in his cabinet. This made Kisumu erupt in riots and violence again, and one of our volunteers heard that many areas of Kisumu were on fire. So, the situation for western Kenya is not looking very hopeful.

Hearing some of the stories of my fellow volunteers is astounding. One of my colleagues in Migori saw a man get shot right in front of him. Another near the Uganda border witnessed another man shot dead after stealing 2 loaves of bread. Resources such as food, clean water, and medicine are not reaching the western part of Kenya and we read that people may begin dying because of dehydration and lack of food. I am hoping that the situation will resolve itself soon, but I am not so sure of that. There is a safety and security team flying out from Washington to check on the status of Kenya. They are hoping to be able to relocate us to different sites before pulling us out of Kenya. The team from Washington will be looking at the resources, transportation, future safety, and if our job still exists at every site in western Kenya.

This state of limbo is really unsettling and while I am at a relaxing place, I would rather just know what is going to happen to all of us. I think the general consensus of the volunteers here is that we never thought this would happen in Kenya, one of the most stable countries in Africa. While I don't feel like I have experienced a lot of trauma, I definitely have been exposed to things that most Americans may never see or hear in their lifetime. To hear gun shots as you are falling asleep at night, seeing the local shop that you just bought eggs at burn to the ground, tear gas, etc. is crazy. I am fortunate that I didn't have to see as much of some of the other volunteers.

I will say that it was a really eventful plane flight out of Kenya. We took a little 10 seat jumper plane from the gravel runway in Kakamega for a 15 minute ride to Kisumu. There we loaded a chartered plane to Dar es Salaam, and we were able to see the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro as we were flying into Tanzania. I have spent a lot of time on the beach the past few days and am just waiting to hear about the next step. We have heard that they are going to close all of the sites in western Kenya, so I am most likely going to be assigned to a new site. I will update you all more as soon as I know the status. Our country director is coming to fill us in on more details this afternoon.

Hope that you all are doing well and are enjoying being back to school and/or work after the holidays.
Miss you all,

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Who Knows What's Next?

First off, I want to let you all know that I am safe here. I will be evacuated tomorrow to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania by private plane. I am with a group of 12 others in Kakamega, in western Kenya, about 1 hour from Kisumu and 1 hour from Eldoret, and we will be traveling tomorrowby tiny little 7 person planes to Kisumu, then flying from there to Tanzania. Let me get to the political stuff later...

So, Christmas was amazing. It was a very different Christmas then I have ever had before, but it was good. As a group we went to Kakamega forest and stayed in little thatched roof bandas. We got there on Christmas Eve and went on just a short hike that afternoon. There were small monkeys everywhere that would come and sit maybe 10 feet from us when we were at the camp site. It was awesome. On Christmas morning, we woke up at 4:30am and went on an hour and a half hike to the top of a mountain to watch the sun rise. It was beautiful. It really did look just like the sunrise in the Lion King at the beginning of the movie. We all just sat up there for an hour an a half and took in our surroundings. Breathtaking. I do have some awesome pictures that I took as well. After the sun rise, we began the climb down checking out a bat cave. Needless to say, I hate bats. There were tons of them flying around, hanging around. I didn't spend much time in there though... and am just thankful that the bat that used to live in my latrine is gone. We stayed there for just 2 days and then returned to one of the other volunteers houses in Kakamega.

He has an amazing set up with running water, electricity, an oven, 4 burner stove, etc. It's like little America. We have really enjoyed making some American food too- lasagna, bagels, cinnamon rolls, cookies, burritos, pizza, etc. It will be a shock when I get back to site and don't have any of these luxuries anymore. My mom asked me the other day the BEST thing I had cooked since being at site- I must say that it is definitely an egg sandwich. I haven't really spent much time cooking and making elaborate meals when I am just making them for myself and can't keep leftovers because they will go bad. So, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, rice, beans... that's about it.

New Year's was pretty uneventful. After sitting in the house all day hearing gun shots, tear gas canisters being thrown, and seeing fires, we made some party hats out of newspaper and celebrated with a dance party. There is this restaurant across the street from us that said we could come over, so we made a little dance mix and had a good time. Well the best you could have. No Kenyans were celebrating because of all the election violence, so it was just us.

So, the 27th was election day in Kenya. I am not sure how much you all have read about the elections, but Raila Odinga (from the Luo tribe) was trying to defeat President Mwai Kibaki. On the 27th the election was all showing that Raila was ahead, come the 28th it showed a narrower margin, yet the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) was delaying the announcement. This began the riots in provinces that supported Raila because they felt that the ECK was delaying the announcement because Kibaki lost. On the morning of the 29th the chairman of the ECK announced that he wasn't sure about the numbers and that he wanted to check the ballots for a recount, yet later that day he announced that Kibaki was the winner without a recount or anything. Kibaki was sworn in as president again within the hour, which is very rare. Usually it takes place at least 2 days after the election, but he didn't want the possibility of a recount or him not winning to happen, so he held the ceremony without any outside observers, no westerners, no witnesses from the opposition party. It's so blatantly obvious that there has been rigging when there are more votes recorded at a polling station for Kibaki then there are people even registered to vote at that station. Raila supporters went crazy after the election announcement and began burning homes and shops of any Kibaki supporters or Kikuyu tribe members (the tribe of Kibaki). There were fires that lined the street just a kilometer from the>>> house, gun shots that we would hear as we were sitting down to eat, tear gas, etc. Definitely not what I expected. Raila has been wanting to hold a rally, but Kibaki has not allowed that. He has also stopped all news coverage except for what he approves, so we are hearing most of our news from BBC and CNN. The rally was supposed to be held today, but there was rioting and tear gas thrown preventing it from happening. It is rescheduled for Tuesday. There could be an all out civil war between tribes if it doesn't settle down, but that is rare I think. I've noticed its calmed down quickly over the last day or so already. We went to the supermarket in town yesterday and it was as if people were preparing for a hurricane- purchasing whatever they can. Also in town some Kenyans said "you just walk free, it is not you we have a problem with, it's just the Kikuyus." Scary huh? Many many Kikiyus have fled the country if they were not living in the province where the Kikuyus reside in the majority. It's frustrating to see such corruption in the political scene here. It is also making the poor people here even poorer. So many families have not been able to go to the market to sell produce or have had their shops closed due to the violence, so they have no income and have probably not been eating.

This could also be bad since families have a hard time paying school fees for secondary school, so I hope I have a job when all this settles down. It's not a very good situation, but I do feel safe in little America here. Tomorrow we are being flown to Tanzania and will spend at least 2 weeks there. They are hoping that all of the violence will subside by then and that we can return to country. If it doesn't, then I guess I will be coming home. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that I may be coming home so soon. I don't even know what I would do. I am hoping that doesn't happen. I came to Kenya to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and I was supposed to have 2 years to think about that... we'll see. I am thinking it will calm down enough to return, or am hoping it will at least. Even if it does, the Luo people, where I stay will not be living the best life as Kibaki will really deny them financial resources for development as a way of getting back at Raila's people. Sad huh?

Anyways, I am off to a 2 week vacation to Tanzania. I am excited to see another country in east Africa and Dar es Salaam is very touristy and beautiful! It is right on the coast, so we will enjoy that as well. Too bad I only brought a duffel bag with me to live out of, since I didn't pack for a month when I left my home just for Christmas vacation. I will make do. I may be attending some sort of Peace Corps conference in Tanzania too while we are there. I will give another update once I get to Tanzania and find out the plan. Hope you are all doing well. I am safe- so don't worry! Hope you all had an amazing holiday season with friends and family. -Diana

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

From Kitui to Bande

Hamjambo! I can't believe it has been about 5 weeks since I have last written. I will go ahead and warn you that this will be a long e-mail. I actually made a short list of things to cover so that I wouldn't forget any good stories. I have been doing really well... I have fully recovered from my little hospital visit and returned back to Kitui to finish training. I had just 3 weeks of training left after future site visit and then we had swearing in ceremony. Before swearing in I had to pass my Kiswahili test... I scored intermediate low which was the requirement! Ninajua kiswahili kidogo. (I know a little Kiswahili). Kweli – really. There were some in my group who didn't pass and will have to retest at In-Service Training in April.
So, Thanksgiving was definitely different this year. I was on the Thanksgiving Committee which helped plan out our festivities. We also held host-family appreciation on Thanksgiving day so we found ourselves trying to plan for enough turkey and mashed potatoes for 150 people. There are some things that I will just never take for granted. Such as the ability to go to the supermarket and just purchase a turkey. We sat down as a committee and thought- "okay, so do any of us know someone who keeps turkeys and if yes, would they be willing to slaughter them for us?" If a Kenyan does have a turkey (bata mzinga in Kiswahili) it is usually just as a pet, and not to eat. Luckily we were able to purchase 4 huge turkeys and I was a little surprised when they were brought to me with the feet still on. I definitely laughed a lot and the other cooks in the kitchen (Kenyans) were laughing at my response to the feet. I just forgot that they see the feet as one of the best parts of both turkeys and chickens, so why cut them off? I would say we had a successful Thanksgiving with sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, apple and pumpkin pies, and green bean casserole. We just had to plan ahead and have some things delivered from Nairobi (such as pumpkin to make the pie from scratch) because they can only be found there. It definitely wasn't the typical American Thanksgiving, no pilgrim salt and pepper shakers or Thanksgiving decorations, but it definitely was exciting to celebrate.
The swearing in ceremony was memorable – but not because it was interesting. The ceremony was a very typical Kenyan ceremony where people talked for 30 minutes and we had no idea what they were trying to say. It was neat to have a representative from the US Embassy there as well as some from the Kenyan government.
After swearing in we went to Nairobi to depart to our sites from there. There are 4 of the new volunteers that live near me in Migori. I actually stay in a village called Bande, but Migori is the closest city to me. It is a good size with everything you need, and if Migori doesn't have it then you can take a quick matatu ride to Kisii where there is a Nakumatt, just 1 hour away. So, the ride to site was adventurous. Peace Corps advises us to not travel at night but when we went to buy bus tickets there were only tickets available on the night bus. We definitely needed to take the bus because it was the easiest way to travel with all of bags. Our bus was supposed to leave at 9:30pm , but of course we weren't ready to roll out until 11:30pm. We drove for about 5 minutes and then realized that we were stopped and people were unloading. Us 4 mzungos were sitting at the back of the bus completely clueless about what was going on until we heard that the bus was on fire and the cabin started to fill with smoke. It was then a mad scramble to get our stuff off the bus as I had visions of the movie Speed where the bus explodes. Needless to say we got all of our stuff off and the bus didn't explode or anything, but we did end up sitting on the sidewalk in downtown Nairobi at 12:00am in the morning waiting for the next bus to arrive. We ended up making it to Migori at about 10am the next day. So, we all learned our lesson and have vowed to never take the night bus again.
I have enjoyed getting settled in to my nice, VERY remote home in Bande. The market day in the village is on Wednesday and I went last Wednesday to try and buy some vegetables. I found that there are very few people in my community that actually speak English or Kiswahili. My village is so rural that most people only know Kijiluo- the mother tongue of the Luo tribe. I am going to try to get some lessons to begin learning Kijiluo so that I can communicate better with my community. My school doesn't actually begin until January 8th, so I am just using this time to get my place organized. My first week at site was... rough. I didn't have anything in my house, so I tried to get what I could in Migori before going to site. Unfortunately I couldn't purchase a gas tank or table top gas stove, so I went with just a charcoal stove. I found that the charcoal takes at least 30 minutes to light, so I quickly gave up on lighting it. My neighbor realized that I wasn't lighting my stove and decided to invite me for supper a few nights. She has been a real blessing (she is another teacher at my school) and has helped me so much already. I did make a pretty nasty meal of lentils and rice as my first meal on my charcoal stove – definitely room for improvement. I decided I hit an all time low when I ate 2 pieces of stale bread for breakfast one morning. I now have my gas burners and am loving them! Cooking is so much easier. I have also spent a lot of time cleaning, sweeping every day and mopping every few days. I wash dishes every morning and have become quite good at making a small amount of water go far. My neighbor has 3 beautiful kids who have helped me fetch water... I am not very good at balancing water on my head yet ( I tried it and ended up quite wet). I did some decorating this past week and put up a lot of pictures from home and it is definitely making my house feel a lot more "homey."
I purchased a bike and had a great time taking it out on a ride. The view is beautiful as I am biking down hill and can see Lake Victoria just ahead. I will say that I thought my legs were going to fall off as I rode home up hill. I will definitely develop awesome leg muscles if I continue riding. I am hoping to eventually ride to Migori one day, which is about 40 miles. I'll let you know when that happens....
My neighbor Jane came over one night to check on me and tell me that I needed to finish cooking inside because wizards come out at night. She told me that there are these wizards, also called nightrunners, who begin to do their exercise naked around the pond at about 6pm and then run around at night with hippos, crocodiles, and hyenas disturbing people at night. She says that they will throw rocks on your roof for fun but that you can never know who they are. If they catch you then they will make you dumb and unable to talk and you will follow them. In my mind I'm thinking- "what? You have got to be kidding me," but she was completely serious. I asked around about these wizards and everyone has told me their personal stories of them. Jane and I went for a walk yesterday and she pointed out some huts where wizards live... she made sure that I wouldn't share with anyone where they lived because then they might get me. I definitely find this hysterical... but I'll be honest, I am staying inside at night. Jane also told me about the witchdoctors here and their bewitching power. She told me that these witchdoctors can put spells on people so that bad things happen to them. Probably the most amusing was the story of the charm a wife can put on her husband so that he doesn't cheat on her. The witchdoctor has some sort of charm so that if your husband cheats on you with another woman, then he will actually get stuck together with the other woman. Jane said this actually happened to some people and that it was on the news and everything. I was just hysterically laughing and said that she must be joking, but she insisted that it was true. She also told me they have some sort of charm that will make you bullet proof... sounds like a big scam to me.
If you are still reading this then I applaud you for making it this far. I definitely have more to update you on, but will do that later as I don't want to bore you anymore! I will be spending Christmas with about 7 other Volunteers at a resort in Kisumu. It should be a good time! It definitely won't be the same without the ridiculous decorations, Starbucks holiday drinks, or cold weather, but should be fun anyway. I will let you know how Christmas and New Years were in my next update. I will be spending New Years with the family that owns the property that my friend Andrea lives on. They say that the big holiday here is New Years, so it should be fun to see how they celebrate.
Congratulations to all of my friends who just graduated!
If you get a chance to drop me a line, even just one sentence, I would love to hear from you and know what you are doing for the holidays. Best wishes to you all!
Love and miss you all - Diana

A Teacher's Life

Hamjambo! (the correct response back to this is hatujambo!)
It seems that I have experienced so much since I have last written, and in 4 weeks, I guess that is expected. The last time I wrote I had just been assigned to the all-girls school for school based training. I have finished my school based training and had an absolutely amazing experience. I taught Form 1 - (equivalent to 9th grade) math and biology to a class of 52 students. They have 6 math lessons a week and 4 biology lessons, so I was with the girls for 10 lessons each week and really had a chance to get to know them. The girls were so enthusiastic about having a mzungo as a teacher and I found that they responded really well to me. It is interesting to hear the teachers talk about the good and bad students in the class and then see how the typically bad students were performing really well for me. In math I taught them about the Cartesian plane and plotting points and equations on a graph, and in biology I taught on lipids, proteins, and enzymes. The girls were so eager to soak up anything I had to say about America, music, my hobbies, my family, etc. In fact, some teachers just wouldn't show up to school some days for class and the students would come and retrieve me to just talk with them during that class time instead. I spoke at a science congress club meeting (basically like a Science Fair project club) and really encouraged the girls to continue pursuing science if that is what interests them. The girls are raised in general with the concept that the math and science field is for men, so I did my best to explain to them that they can achieve anything if they put their mind to it. It may not be easy, but they can do it. I had one student (also named Diana) who was 1 of 12 children in her family and just wanted me to encourage her to continue school because she was feeling very discouraged and the cost of secondary school was really weighing on her family. It is opportunties like those that remind me why I am here.
I also really enjoyed the teachers that I worked with at Mulango girls and had a chance to educate them on healthy water intake, wrestling (they love it here!), and the use of birth control in America. Needless to say I had many interesting conversations with them.
We had a Halloween party one night which was pretty hysterical and interesting to see what costumes people could come up with. I made guacamole for the first time in my life and we enjoyed that with some chapati chips. Chapati is the american equivalent to tortillas, and it was nice to enjoy a little taste from home.
On October 28th we all went to Nairobi to have our future sites announced to us. I am right near the Tanzania border and Lake Victoria at a small school called Bande Girls Secondary School. I will be about 1 hour and 20 minutes from the small city of Migori and will live on the school compound. There are only about 37 girls at my school and only 8 other teachers. I will be honest - when I was dropped off at my school last week I thought to myself "you have got to be kidding me." I am really in the middle of nowhere, but I think it will be a great experience and that I can do a lot because the school is so small. My little house has 2 bedrooms, a "kitchen" (just another room that you specify for cooking, there are not any utilities or anything in it), and sitting room. I have a pit litrine and bathing room out back and no running water or electricity. It should be a good experience! Our water source is either a rain catcher or a 15 minute walk to the pond. When you stand outside my house you can see Lake Victoria on one side and the rolling hills of Tanzania on the other. It is absolutely beautiful out there. The school is really struggling and needs so much, but I am idealistic that I can really help them there. I took inventory in the lab and realized that we do not have anything. The physics teacher told me that they have to teach theories because they can't really perform any of the experiments since they have no supplies. They do not have a library or computers at the school either, so the students can't really do any kind of research. I was spoiled by having my school based training at Mulango where they had everything.
On my last night at site visit my fellow PC trainee who is about 8km from my site got very sick with a bacterial infection. We had to take him to the local hospital to get an IV and then I escorted him to a good hospital in Kisumu. Just when I was feeling lucky to have not picked up whatever he did, I came down with the same thing. I ended up throwing up on a bus on the way to Nairobi and then had diarrhea about 14 times in 3 hours. I couldn't keep anything down so I was put in the hospital on an IV and given lots of fluids, anti-spasm meds, antibiotics etc. When I was at the hospital with my friend a young girl was brought in who had performed her own abortion. It really upset me to see that, and my supervisor told me that that is unfortunately very common here. She was a secondary school girl, and I am just hoping that I will never have to deal with that at my site. Also, when I was in the hospital I was in the general ward for the first night and it was very sad to see some of the other sick women there. They have us all in one big room and some of these women had malaria, typhoid, etc. I was moved to a private room the next morning as PC likes us to be, which was better as it was really upsetting me to see them.
So as of right now, I am just hanging out in Nairobi before I return to the land of squatty pit latrines. I am enjoying the luxury of a toilet and a hot shower for just one more day here before I go back to Kitui for 3 more weeks of training. I will be sworn in as a volunteer on November 29th and then will come to Nairobi before heading out to Bande Girls school. I have to furnish my own house, so I will have to pick up a lot of that stuff in Nairobi as some of it is not available in Migori. They have this store in Nairobi called Nakumatt which is the Kenyan equivalent of Wal-mart.... it's fantastic. We have also enjoyed Java House while being in Nairobi which satisfies the Starbucks craving. It's funny to hear the list of places people want to go when they come to Nairobi- pizza, italian, coffee, etc. There is such a difference in how developed Nairobi is compared to what it is like out in the villages. I think that is something that surprises me most about being here compared to in America where everywhere you go there is a Wal-Mart and a nice supermarket.
That's all I can remember as of now, but I would love to hear how all of you are doing in the states or wherever you are!
Since I will be moving soon, my new address if you would like to mail letters (which I'm sure you do!) is:
Diana Tavares
Bande Girls Secondary School
P.O. Box 55
Migori, Kenya

Can't wait to hear from you all and keep in touch!

At home in Kitui, Kenya

Hamjambo friends and family-
Thank you so much for all of your responses and support. As I sit here in the internet cafe on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, I realize that there is no one in line behind me for the internet and I can actually sit down and update you all on my last 2 weeks.
Where do I begin? I will start by telling you that I will never take a washing machine for granted ever again. I spent an hour and 20 minutes this morning outside cleaning my laundry and putting it on the line. When Mama Florence showed me last week how to do it, she definitely tricked me into thinking it wasn't too bad. Needless to say, it was quite a project for me. In fact my sister Agnes came home from church briefly and asked "you are STILL doing your laundry?" Let's just say that I am learning... not quite sure I got all of the soap out of my clothes but I will just take that as some built in perfume. Yesterday I mopped my room early before heading to Peer Teaching technical training. I taught a 10 minute lesson on graphing, which will be my first lesson that I teach in the classroom.
I have been placed at Mulango Girls Secondary School for 3 weeks of School based training. I will be teaching Form 1 Mathematics and Biology. Originally I was supposed to teach JUST math, but I think they had it wrong, so they added biology on there as well. This first week I will just observe and then begin teaching next week. Mulango Girls is a boarding school and there are about 560 girls studying there. I am excited to meet the Form 1 Red class tomorrow morning. I will write more about how that goes later.
Up until this week, we have had language training every day, with some culture and Hub days thrown in there as well. A normal walk to Language consists of 40 minutes on a dusty road with little school children running behind us yelling "how are you" and "gota!". Gota (not really sure what that means) is like the Kenyan version of a High 5. We also pass cows, donkeys, goats, chickens, etc. on our way to Language. This is all while dodging the crazy matatus that drive down Mombasa Rd. There are not any kind of street signs or lines in the street, so cars drive wherever there are grooves in the dirt.
Speaking of matatus- Katie (my neighbor) and I have become quite the matatu pros. We are the only 2 who have taken them on somewhat of a regular basis because it is too far to walk to the Hub in town from our house. It would take 1 hour and 20 minutes to walk, so instead we walk 15 minutes to the "matatu station" (term used very loosely) catch the matatu to town and walk 15 minutes to the Hub (where we have all of the PC training as a group). Yesterday our matatu required a rolling start... it was a bumpy ride. There are also police check points on roads here. Police check points can be tricky. Yesterday the matatu assistant hopped out of the matatu, ran ahead of us, paid the police men, and then we drove by and picked him up. Usually you have to pay off the policemen at stops if your matatu is overstuffed. I am thinking that maybe our matatu was not registered, so the assistant basically paid the policemen to turn their heads the other way while we drove past. Shady? Possibly.
I have definitely experienced the fish bowl effect since being here - with me being the fish in the bowl. When I went to town with my brother Jonathan last week, he pointed out to me at one point that everyone was staring. I looked around and everyone had come to the door of their shops to look at the Mzungu (visitor.) I feel like that situation is getting better though. People are starting to recognize us and I am greeting people I see in Kiswahili, so that helps.
Last week I made my family peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to give them a little taste of America. I also played some music on my iPod for my sister and her son - there was a small little dance party. They definitely enjoyed that I had Sean Paul on my iPod as they are big fans. There are lots of Sean Paul stickers on the backs of the matatus here. My family also found out that I really liked watermelon so they purchased one for me in the market. I bit into a nice juicy piece of watermelon to find that it was rotten, but I still had to eat up because I didn't want to tell my family. In fact I had to eat 2 more servings of it... needless to say that I don't miss watermelon anymore.
Okay- that is all for now. Hope this finds you all doing very well, wherever you are. I'd love to hear how things are going for you. You can e-mail or snail mail and I'll respond as best as I can. Have a great day!

Welcome to Kenya!!!!

Hamjambo! I think I will begin this e-mail to give a fair warning that the backspace key does not work, so bear with me. I arrived to Kitui town on Sunday afternnoon after a 3 hour matatu ride... what an adventure to have MTV and BET on a TV in the matatu while driving in the middle of nowhere. Kitui is in the middle of nowhere about 80 miles East of Nairbobi,. It is a dusty little town, and I am actually living about an hour walk from town. This is my first time coming to town and having internet access! What a frelief to be able to hear from friends and family finall.y. I did receive some mail today and that was comoforting to hear from America! So far things have been good. I am adjustning to my homestay family, which I really do enjoy. I haven't had to help with the chores yet, but Mama Florence has informed me that that will start inext week. On Saturday she is going to teaceh me how to handwash my clothing, and I will have to sweep out and mop my room . We have had 2 days of training which included both language training and technical training where we learned about the Kenyan education stystem. Yesterday we also learned some basic life skills like how to light a juko (a charcoal stove), light a taa(lantern), mop the floor with a rag, and how to make chai tea. Chai tea is huge and is offered all the time. It is madee with mostly milk, chai leaves, and sugar.
I am adjustinmgs to using the choo (literally a pit latrine) that you have to squat over and taking bucket baths. It is quite different taking a torch (flashlight) with you outside to use the choo at night. My mama prepares a bucket bath for me every morning, which is a nice refreshing way to start the day. She then hands me a blue-band sandwich and chai tea for breakfast/ . A blue band sandwich is just butter in between 2 bpieces of bread. Blue-band is the brand of butter that tehey use here in Kenya. Yesterday we went to a samall town for lunch and I paid 30 shillings for lunch... that is about 50 cents for beans and chapati. Chapati would be somewhat similar to a totrtialla.
Okay, well I am running out of time and because it is 5:30 here and I need to catch a matatu home before it kgets dark. Because we are located near the qequator, the sun rises at 6 amnd sets at 6:30.
I would love to hear from you all soon - I should be able to come back to town sometime tomorrow to check back in. I hope this finds you all doing well too!
I miss you all and take care!
I apologize for how poorly written this e-amail was... I didn't have much time! Unfortunately there is inonly 2 pleaces in wtown with internet and lots of PC trainees who want to use it.