Sunday, October 4, 2009

September

Laughing out loud I will create my own destiny. Singing in the wind I will forge the river and be louder than the storm that howls about me. ~ S. Stauter

….

I know there are a lot of people out there who have been worried about me this past month. I thank you for all your thoughts and prayers! Here’s a quick summary of what happened:

On the 6th of September (the day before Term 3 started) I had a seizure in my sleep. Peace Corps flew me from Nairobi to Malindi. On Monday I met with a doctor at Nairobi Hospital. Tuesday (my 26th birthday) I had an MRI and went back to the hotel for a nap. When I woke up I had a fever of 101. Peace Corps took me to the hospital and I was admitted. They did a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to make sure I didn’t have meningitis. Tests showed I had an infection somewhere but they never were able to figure out what it was. I was put on antibiotics for the infection. I couldn’t get out of bed because the spinal tap caused me to have terrible headaches. Slowly during the week I was able to walk more and more. I was discharged on the 15th and given some pain killers to use when needed. Back at the hotel the headaches were bad enough that I couldn’t get out of bed and other volunteers needed to bring me take-out. I was counting down the hours so that I could take more drugs. On the 20th I was readmitted to the hospital and put on fluids and steroids. On the 25th I felt good enough to be discharged again. I spent a week in the hotel and then had a check up on Oct 2nd and was given permission to go back to Malindi.

Since the fever didn’t start until later they aren’t really sure if the infection is what caused the seizure or not. They also changed the malaria prophylaxis I was taking just in case my body had an adverse reaction.

But I’m healthy now! After 3 weeks stuck in bed, I have some strength to gain back. And I still need to avoid doing too much in the Malindi heat but I’m beyond happy to be back at site and going to school to see my kids tomorrow!

Thank you to all the volunteers who went out of their way to visit me in the hospital!!! All the concerned texts, phone calls and emails were much appreciated!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reward is such!

Some friends have said ‘You must have endured such hardship wandering in out-of-the-way corners of the earth.’ I have. But such count for nothing, since I have lived in Nature’s boundless halls and drank deeply of her pleasures. Where does hardship figure when the reward is such? ~ Ernest Henry Wilson

…..

It’s been too long…

The August break was fantastic!

School was extended for an extra week so that teachers could grade exams – which meant that I played a lot of games, read a lot of books and threw a lot of frisbee with my kids. It also meant that I had precious little time to prepare for my 2 weeks away from my house. (Mainly, try to make it inhospitable for the giant roaches that inevitably take over while I’m gone.) We closed school on Thursday. Saturday the water stopped working at my house and I headed down to a fancy hotel in Mombasa for Cross Sector Training only to be called by my neighbor and told that the water was back on and they could hear it running (and running and running) in my house. They turned the water off outside but that meant my neighbor’s water was off too. So Sunday I missed language training and took the 2 hour matatu back up to Malindi to check my faucets. The water was off again and when I tested one of the faucets you could hear the pressure so there is no way I could have left a faucet on. Sijui! If it was the toilet they’d just have to keep turning the water off outside. (Maybe there are benefits to holes in the ground instead of western choos.) But, luckily, there were no problems after that. 2 hour trip back to Mombasa and I made it in time for lunch!

Cross Sector Training is paid for by PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.) It was the best training we’ve had so far! Our counterparts joined us and provided good insight in discussions. One of the major factors we discussed about the prevention of HIV/AIDS is that in America condom use was already common before the AIDS epidemic really started. Now, in America, there are many other reasons to use a condom – reasons you probably consider before you even think about AIDS. In America, buying your first condom is proud moment. But, in Kenya, condoms seem to be seen solely as “AIDS preventers” and, therefore, are stigmatized. You’re ashamed to buy condoms (or even take them for free) because it’s often questioned, “Why does he need a condom? Does he have AIDS?” “Why do you want to use a condom? Do you think I’ve cheated?” etc. How does that change?

We learned a few games to play with our students to teach about HIV/AIDS, visited Camara and the Mombasa Trade Fair.

We also had a slightly heated discussion about the new Peace Corps reporting thing-a-ma-jig that seems pretty impractical. We’ll see what happens… Will Windows Excel macros work on a Mac? Sijui! Do I even know what I’m talking about? Hakuna! Does it even mater, if most volunteers (worldwide) didn’t bring a laptop and have to pay per minute to download/upload everything with extremely slow internet?

The food, the bed, the HOT shower(!!!) all added greatly to the benefits of going to another training!

And then, there was Zanzibar!!!

After training, Paul, Charlotte, Alyssa, Matt and I went to Zanzibar for a week of vacation! We spent 4 days in Stone Town shopping and eating; we went on a Spice tour and ate at an amazing outdoor seafood market – I had shark, octopus, many different kinds of fish, calamari, and sugar cane juice is delicious! Then, we headed to Paje Beach on the east coast for some major beach time at a nice little resort! We even had a bathtub!!! (Thanks for the bath salts, Ryan!) There were an amazing number of languages to overhear and it makes me wonder, what makes Malindi almost solely an Italian tourist destination but Zanzibar a universal tourist destination. Maybe it’s just because it sounds so cool! “Zanzibar! Zanzzzibar!” The beach view from our resort was definitely a picture you see on postcards but never actually get to visit! The flights to and from Zanzibar were on small planes that we walked out onto and made Paul feel famous but made me sick to my stomach. (They were worth it but, it’s unimaginable to me now that I once paid to do stunts in an airplane!) Is there a boat I can take back to the US?!

Now I’m back home. I’ve had a few different projects; evicting/exterminating the roaches, meeting with other PCVs, teaching sign language to VCT counselors, cleaning… but, I’ve also had a lot of time to relax.

I turn 26 on Tuesday. Not really sure how I feel about that. Here’s some new info about Virgos that I hadn’t heard before:

Your birth tree is

Weeping Willow, the Melancholy

Beautiful but full of melancholy, attractive, very empathic, loves anything beautiful and tasteful, loves to travel, dreamer, restless, capricious, honest, can be influenced but is not easy to live with, demanding, good intuition, suffers in love but finds sometimes an anchoring partner.

hmmm…

Just found out my house mama had a baby boy today!

Lots of pics as soon as I can get down to Mombasa!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

connected

With a nearly desperate sense of isolation and a growing suspicion that I lived in an alien land, I took to the open road in search of places where change did not mean ruin and where time and men and deeds connected. ~ William Least Heat-Moon

 

…..

 

One thing I like to do where I travel is find local honey.  (Although, I have yet to be able to accept the idea of palmetto bug honey that I saw at a shop in Gainesville. I don’t care what you say, they ARE roaches!) Honey is my latest excitement in Kenya! Because, not only is it local but also, you usually buy it from the person who made it! Sometimes I buy honey from the Kipepeo Project in Gede (which is a 10 min matatu ride south of me.) But, a few weeks ago, Charlotte (knowing about my fascination) bought me some honey from a man in Kilifi and, today, a teacher brought some to school to sell. These people don’t have labels made for their honey and they often use old soda bottles to send it home with you.  I’m in love!!!

 

The past few days I’ve had a few online and phone conversations with friends and family and I’ve realized that I should have a mini Kiswahili lesson for everyone so that if when I slip you’ll understand. I don’t know much but there are a few words that have found there way into all of my conversations and I really don’t know how I ever lived without them.

 

na – and

 

bado – not yet – “Kiswahili na Giriama bado”

 

bas – enough/that’s it/only – “I have one brother, bas.” (Almost always accompanied with the sign - even if I’m talking on the phone.)

 

sawa – okay – “I’ll meet you in an hour, sawa?”

 

I expect that by the time I come back to the US these should be catching on as slang…. So much better than “uber”!!!!!

 

…..

 

Here’s a mix I threw together about a month ago for my dog. (Sometimes I just need to get out of my head.) I haven’t had time to confirm but according to itunes these are all Track 05 songs. That’s significant because my dog is named Fiver (after a rabbit in the book Watership Down by Richard Adams.) Future cover art will definitely include a frisbee.

 

Hi, Fiver

 

Details Of The War                              Clap Your Hands Say Yeah         

You're My Flame - Feat. Sia                   Zero 7

Capturing Moods                          Rilo Kiley   

i thought i saw your face today            she & him

Josephine                                            Teitur

Octopus’ Garden                         The Beatles

Pictures In An Exhibition                    Death Cab for Cutie

Saint Simon                                         The Shins

Paper Bag                                            Fiona Apple

Stealing Romance                                  Portastatic

days that are over                             Sondre Lerche

august                                                  Rilo Kiley

No Other Way                                       Jack Johnson

Lonely Lonely (Frisbee'd Mix)              Feist

Someday                                              Strokes

she sends kisses                           The Wrens

Sailor & Widow                                     Keren Ann

Unpersuaded                                        Moving Units

Teeth in the Grass                           Iron and Wine

Measuring Cups                            Andrew Bird 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Are S’mores in the syllabus?

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer

…..

This week I’ve decided to throw out the syllabus!

I’ve come up with my ultimate goals for my 2 years of teaching. Everything I teach should:

1.     improve KSL conversational skills

2.     improve English vocabulary recognition

3.     be FUN!

So, we’ve been playing a lot of games this week.

During “Science” class the kids pair up, each team gets a card with 15 animals and they must match the animal name to the picture. I don’t really believe these children need to know what a platypus is but they love the game. After they’re through matching they get to draw the animals in their books and they always enjoy showing off their artistic skills.

For “English” class I use another game my mom sent me in which you pick a card and must decided the category it belongs in (Clothes, Furniture, Body Parts, Toys, Animals, Food.) I’ve altered Hangman slightly by actually signing the word and then they must guess the spelling.

In Maths (spelled correctly) class we do a lot of the normal problems out of the text book but I’ve also added games like (my favorite in Elementary school) “Around the World” with addition, subtraction, and multiplication and I’m planning on trying some logic games like Sudoku – my thoughts being that by discussing the logic and their reasoning with me the kids will improve KSL conversational skills.

In “Social Studies” today we looked at a new book about the world and I explained any picture my students asked about. My kids were appalled to learn that there is vessel in an Iranian temple that has been burning for over 3,000 years. I couldn’t get a clear answer as to why, but they decided that this was very bad. I made an Origami crane while looking at Japan. While looking at the page about Mexico I promised my kids we would try and make a piƱata. On the United States page there was a picture of an American family camping and I found myself promising I would try and teach everyone to make S’mores (there’s got to be marshmallows somewhere in Kenya.)

I’ve decided that I’m not really concerned whether these kids can write a grammatically correct sentence but I want them to be able to write basic sentences:

I like run. I run yesterday.

And, when they see a sentence:

Water will be off for the next 14 days.

They should be able to understand. (And, yeah, that sentence is true. I spent the last 2 hours filling every container and bottle that I have with water.)

So that’s my motivating week. Hopefully this will continue for a while!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Orphants

Orphan Elephants








Orphan Rhino









As Promised


My livingroom



My ceiling



One Love island


Waking up on One Love island


My student visiting Gede Special School


An old pic of PCVs

Sunday, May 17, 2009

fadhila kidogo (small favour)

My counterpart has been out sick since school started and had to have surgery last week. She’s home and doing better now but may not be back at school for a while so I’ve taken over her Standard 5 classes.

The kids are always fascinated when I tell them how I got to Kenya and how far away America is. About once a month, they pull out an old (1960’s or 70’s) Worldbook and have me show them where I’m from, where they live, and where the Italian tourists are from. My mom just sent me a book about time around the world and how, when you are at school, somewhere else in the world kids are going to bed or just waking up. So I want to do a unit on that. Then I got an idea that I need your help with…

Pictures!

Lots of pictures!

I want pictures of my friends and family showing that people of all different backgrounds/colo(u)rs/races live together in the US.

I want pictures of places you have lived and visited – other states and countries.

And anything else you might think my kids would find neat or strange or interesting.

The kids are always excited when I get mail and I open letters while I’m at school and then tell my kids if they’re from a friend or family member. Now, we can discuss where the letter came from, how long it took to get to Kenya, and maybe even figure out if the person who wrote it is sleeping right now. The kids will be even more thrilled that my mail is for them too!

I may not be teaching Class 5 by the time I start receiving letters but that’s okay. I’ll make sure all of the kids get to see and discuss the pictures. They don’t need to be quality photographs, of course, just print a few out if you can and I (and the kids) will be forever grateful.

Love and miss you all! And, yes, I know you want pictures too! Pole pole, pole! (Slowly, sorry!)

Erin

Sunday, May 10, 2009

PARACHUTE WEDDING

The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human difference.
~Ruth Benedict

April was my month off from school but I kept busy. I went out to visit another volunteer in Embu for a week and we discussed possible projects for AIDS awareness. Then the entire training group got together in Nairobi for more training. And, finally, a bunch of us had a mini vacation on the coast and spent a night on an island, had amazing calamari and pizza, and went snorkeling.

Now I’m back at site and back to teaching. Wednesday was my first day back at school and I decided that the best thing to do would be to tell stories about our time off. Here’s my favorite conversation: (The convo is in caps because it’s translated from sign language.)

Student: “YOU MARRIED?”
Me: “BADO” (not yet)
Student: “I SAW MZUNGU FALL WITH PARACHUTE. LAND OVER THERE.” The best part about this is that he acts the whole thing out.
Me: “TRUE?”
Student: “TRUE! YOU MARRY?”
Me: “HAHA! NO, I’M SCARED. NEVER JUMP OUT OF PLANE. AND ALL THE MZUNGUS IN MALINDI A LOT OLD FOR ME.”
Student: “BUT YOU CAME ON PLANE”
Me: “TRUE BUT DIFFERENT PLANE. NO JUMPING OUT. PLANE LANDS AND I WALK OFF. JUMP NOTHING.” I act this out.
Then we drew people jumping out of airplanes on the blackboard.
Me: “SEE HERE. JUMP FROM PLANE SCARY. THEN PARACHUTE OPEN. YAY! HAPPY! BUT ME NEVER BECAUSE A LOT SCARED. MAYBE PARACHUTE WORK NOTHING.” More acting.
Student: “FALL. DEAD.”
And then I drew the big plane that brought me to Kenya.
Me: “SEE MY PLANE. DOOR OPENS NOTHING. STAYS CLOSED. I SIT. WAIT LONG TIME. PLANE LANDS. I WALK OFF.”
Student: “MZUNGU MEN PARACHUTE A LOT. YOU MARRY.” I’ve yet to see or hear about anyone sky diving here. Maybe I’ll get him to show me some day.
Me: “BUT MZUNGU MEN IN MALINDI A LOT OLD. ME 25. MEN HERE 50! A LOT OLD! ME MARRY NOTHING.”
He seems to be satisfied with this answer but, I know it’s not the last time that I’ll explain that I’m not going to marry every mzungu my students see in Malindi.

Other things my kids find strange:
I’ve never had a baby.
I call my dog my baby.
I sleep alone.
I’ve eaten pig.
They’ve seen me in town wearing trousers.
I don’t like ugali.

I need to get organized. I have a lot of ideas for this semester and I’m excited. Most have nothing to do with the syllabus because it’s pointless to teach solely for a test that is impossible for these kids to pass. I will try to break the copy habit and try to work on games with fingerspelling and word recognition. But, mostly, I just want my kids to enjoy my 2 years.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

delicious ambiguity

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.
~Gilda Radner

For the past 3 weeks my students have been practicing for games; running, exercising, throwing rocks, speed walking, and sitting around telling stories. Since we have so few children we weren’t really able to participate in any team sports but then one of the teachers decided to invite the Deaf unit from another school to join us and learn a dance. So for the past 2 weeks the other students have been sleeping at my school and their PCV has been staying at my house. I’m enjoying the company and storytime with my kids may actually be more productive than some lessons. Tomorrow we’re headed to the district competition. School’s over April 3rd and I have a month off. I may be going to the Nationals competition if my students make it or going to visit other PCVs. I have In-Service Training in Nairobi and then all the non-coast volunteers want to do some swimming and eat amazing Italian pizza.

I’m getting really excited about decorating my house. My little palace! It may not be the biggest place any volunteer has, but it’s also not the smallest. And what I lack in rooms (which aren’t necessarily a good thing because then you’d need to furnish them) and privacy is insignificant when you consider my western toilet and shower that skyrocket this place into amazing! While searching for a place to make a cushion for the bench in my kitchen I discovered a really nice fabric shop that sells all kinds of lesos and other Kenyan wraps. The cushion turned out really cute so now I have a bunch of ideas about making pillows and blankets out of lesos. Lesos are pieces of fabric (about a yard long) that Kenyan women wear wrapped as skirts or dresses, use as baby slings, coil up to pad the 50 lb basket of mangoes balanced on their heads, hang as curtains, and so much more. I’ve only just started my leso collection but I have a feeling it may rival the weight of the couch I want to send back to American when I’m done. Ha!

So I’m definitely settling in and now that I’ve received some packages of school supplies from Mom I’m looking forward to teaching again.

I’ve also received some amazing packages and letters from family and friends! Thank you so much! I love you all!

Friday, February 20, 2009

hangs between

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus in a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the skeptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die; and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
~Alexander Pope

….

I know, I know - I’m not updating enough. But really there’s nothing that incredibly exciting going on. I know people want pictures too but that’s going to have to wait a while longer. I get online through my cell phone and pay by the bite (amount of info transferred) – pics would be expensive.

I’ve been teaching for 2 weeks now. I’m still experimenting with ways to teach these children and behavior is still a big issue. This week I tried to do a little experiment – wanted to see how my Class 2 and 3 kids compare to the older students abilities. I asked a couple Class 4 and 5 kids to write a sentence about something they like. “You like to run. You like school. Something.” Blank stares and then one girl started copying the days of the week off a poster hanging on the wall. A lot of the kids love math. It makes sense to me. Although, they don't really seem to understand what they are doing they love using the multiplication chart and were pretty excited when I showed them the lattice method for multiply large numbers. It's really the only subject that doesn't require them to read a lot of English. But my Class 2 kids can't even count yet. "Fill in the blank. 23, _, _, 26" Nope. I just don’t know…

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. (I’m actually out of books now until I can borrow more from someone or get my boxes that are waiting in Nairobi.)

Stones from the River – Ursual Hegi
Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke
Unbowed – Wangari Maathai
Can-Cans, Cats and Cities of Ash – Mark Twain
Kite Runner – Khaled Hossein
The Unheard – Josh Swiller

It saddens me that my kids will never enjoy reading like I do – never really have the opportunity to enjoy reading. But I don’t know how to change that even a little.

So, a typical day for me:
I get up around 6am and get dressed and ready. Around 6:50 I go outside and buy mandazi which I eat while I check email and Kenyan newspapers online. At 7:15 my counterpart comes by and we walk to school together.
8:00 – English Class 2 and 3
9:00 – Math Nursery Class
10:00 – tea and mandazi break
11:00 – Social Studies Class 2 and 3 (Mon/Tue) Environment Nursery Class (Wed/Thu/Fri)
12:00 – Lunch Break
2:00 – Creative Arts Class 2 and 3 (Wed/Thu/Fri)
3:00 – Class finished kids play, I read
I leave school at 4pm and walk home with my counterpart. As soon as I get home I jump into a cold shower because I’m hot a sweaty and if I sit down to relax for even a second I’m not going to enjoy the cold water (of course, that’s only if the water is working.) The rest of the night I eat a snack (either cinnamon “toast” or fried potatoes,) check blogs, read, etc. For dinner I usually have a peanut butter and banana or peanut butter and honey sandwich. Although, I did find some avocados at the market last weekend so I had more variety this week. Around 9pm I go to bed.

Friday, February 6, 2009

struggles and experiments

So, I’ve been back at school for a week now that the strike is over. I wouldn’t really call what I’ve been doing teaching though – more experimenting, trying to find ways to work with these kids; figuring out what they know and even what they understand is expected of them at school. Behavior has been a major issue for me, especially with my nursery students that have no language skills. All the children know how to copy from the blackboard though. So “fill in the blanks” are copied word for word, blank line and all.

My latest experiment was a book (of course.) On Wednesday I got the kids in a circle and read them a book. A simple book, really only one word - hug. The pictures tell more of the story. After I read the book I had each of the kids read the book to the class. 6 kids! 6 times to see the same story! But it worked! They enjoyed it! And even the child that has no language (and is usually kicking and throwing things at the other students) tried to tell the story and sat the entire hour! Unfortunately, I don’t have enough books to do that everyday or even every week but it’s a start.

My first week I struggled trying to get the kids to be creative. Draw a cat, the sun, yourself – they just wanted to copy what I did on the board or copy out of a book. But this week a few have gotten excited about drawing. So that makes me hopeful.

It’s really a mess of emotions, being worried about how I’m going to teach these kids one moment and excited about trying to find ways the next.

As of Monday, I have 23 months left in Kenya. Seems insane to me! Both the thought I’ll be here for 23 more months and the idea that I’ve already been here for 3! I hear that the first 3 months are the hardest (not including the 2 months of training, so still 2 hard months to go.) Then, after in-service training in April, it gets easier/goes faster. We’ll see…

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

more moon

I see the moon and the moon sees me
And the moon sees somebody I’d like to see
God bless the moon and God bless me
And God bless the somebody I’d like to see
(song from childhood)

New address! Love me further! Love me faster!

Erin Mercer
Takaye Primary School
PO Box 287
Malindi, Kenya

Sunday, February 1, 2009

the ants go marching

(written last Wednesday but unable to post)

And so the strike continues into the second week. This morning the teacher’s union had a meeting with the Parliamentary Committee on Education. I have yet to hear the outcome. At first I welcomed a few extra days to settle into my house and work on lesson plans but now I have too much time to think and second-guess everything. I guess I got what I asked for - more time. But this isn’t the kind of time I wanted, so last Thursday I went out and bought a dvd to occupy some of my thinking time. On this one dvd there are about 15 movies supposedly pertaining to the theme of the 80th Annual Academy Awards, although I seriously doubt either of the two Steven Seagal movies won any Oscars along with a number of other questionable movies. But in the past week I have enjoyed The Golden Compass, Juno, La Vie En Rose, Michael Clayton, and The Assassination of Jesse James. I don’t think Butterfly on a Wheel won anything but it was adequate entertainment. Today however I decided to watch one of the lesser promising movies In the Name of the King (it actually has quite a few recognizable actors.) I was reminded that I paid the equivalent of $5 for 15 movies when randomly in the middle of a major battle scene the audio switched to German voice-over for a good 5 minutes. I still have The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and No Country for Old men to enjoy. I can also watch Atonement and Sweeny Todd again. And there are always the Steven Seagal movies.

But I haven’t only been watching movies throughout my time off. I frequently walk to town, to the pier and along the gorgeous beach. I’m trying to visit a different restaurant each day I go to town – even if only for a soda. I also visit fellow teachers and this past weekend I (and another volunteer) took a trip to Mombasa to visit the Deaf Ed volunteer down there. While in Mombasa I was able to pick up a few supplies I haven’t been able to find in Malindi, get some tech help, enjoy a good Wimpy burger and some good Kenyan Chinese food, test out the Likoni ferry, and share stories, thoughts, hopes and worries with my friends. (Check out Paul’s blog for pics.) Returning home I was greeted by thousands of ants making nests in the corners of my house, on my curtains, and even on my ceiling. I’ve won a few battles but the war continues. I ran into my supervisor in town today and he took me to the Malindi Police Department to introduce me. After trying both Monday and Tuesday, today I was finally able to buy a fan for my house and I look forward to a sweat-less night with dry hair! There are plans to go to Mombasa again this weekend for a volunteer’s birthday; stay at a hotel and go swimming and dancing. I’m excited!

I wish there was more to say about working with my students. Hopefully soon! I also want to look into some environmental projects around here like the Malindi Green Town Movement.

Hold all letters and packages for the moment - I’m going to see if I can use the school’s PO to receive mail, because that would definitely get to me faster.

UPDATE: As I was heading to Mombasa on Friday I found out the strike is over. I will resume work Monday.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

i love pizza in malindi

So this morning I woke up early and started washing my clothes. Since I haven't washed clothes since Loitokitok, there were a lot! Even though I wear skirts and pants 2 or 3 times. Ugh! And they were dirty!!! Loitokitok dirt followed me here! Had to change water 4 or 5 times - should have changed it more! Pain in the butt!!! I need to find a nice old Italian couple that have a vacation house and will let me use their washing machine!!! Haha! And dryer! Things take forever to dry and I'm worried when I wash my sheets that I won't be able to use them that night. Anyway, I was not in a very good mood this morning but it was something that needed to be done and I'm happy now it's finished. What put me in a terrific mood today was...

First, when the girl came with my tea and mandazi, I had ice and made iced chai and it was delicious! And I didn't start my morning already sweating profusely.

Second, I had a nice walk to town. It's pretty far and I could take a matatu (taxi van) but I wanted to enjoy the 40 min and really appreciate where I am. There are bright gorgeous bougainvilleas everywhere!!! So I walked all the way to the beach and went to I LOVE PIZZA. Delicious!!! I had the 4 cheese pizza (mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola and I forget.) Had 2 glasses of passion fruit juice with crushed ice (!!!) that was also delicious! I could have sat there forever! But I didn't, I walked down to the pier and just looked out at the Indian Ocean for a while. Sun was bright but there's a great breeze today. Headed back into town and bought food at the gas station since all the shops are closed on sunday. Jumped on a matatu and headed home. Since I had such a big lunch, dinner will be a delicious peanut butter and banana sandwich! And I'm excited!!!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ciao!

I bought a fridge today! I'm like a little kid running over to see if it's cold yet. Not exactly the ultimate Peace Corps experience but, with the level of humidity and the number of bugs at my place, I decided I couldn't do without one. Now, when my neighboor brings me hot chai in the morning, I can make it iced chai!!! Beyond excited about that! I'm actually going to have ICE!!! Tomorrow I'm going to do some major grocery shopping, now that I have a safe place to put it. Hmmm... wonder if I can make some bourbon slush...

It's funny, Malindi is a major Italian tourist area so the "howareyou!" of Loitokitok has been replaced by "ciao!" and sometimes even "ciao, bella!" I tend to ignore the shouts because, first of all, I don't really know what they expect me to say in response (the expected response to "howareyou!" is "fiiiiiine," saying "good" was usually met with blank stares and disappointment) and, secondly, I do not want to further their idea that I am an Italian tourist. One thing that should separate me from the other "mzungus" is that they all seem to be in their 50's and 60's. But perhaps that's just a seasonal thing since it's not really vacation time.

There is a nation wide teacher’s strike planned to start on Monday (but some teachers started practicing last week.) I’ve heard varying opinions about the expectations of what may happen and it seems that there are varying degrees of seriousness across Kenya. In other parts of Kenya there will be demonstrations and Peace Corps volunteers have been told not to go to town. But here on the coast I think we just stay away from school and relax. Malindi teachers are so relaxed about the strike that I’ve heard teachers from places father west and more serious about the strike may come to our school to make sure teachers don’t work and perhaps even try to start a rally. As with most things in the Peace Corps, I’m not allowed to have an opinion (not that I feel qualified to make one after teaching for less than a week.) Most people I’ve talked to here think that it will all be over as quickly as it starts but other areas in Kenya may feel differently. As with everything in the Peace Corps, only time will tell. I wonder what they’d have us do if there was another strike like in ’98 and teachers were out for 3 months.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The things I miss the most

My puppy dog!!!
A well-stocked and easy to use kitchen (I can do without a microwave easy, I’d just like to not have to worry about bugs so much)
Cinnamon (I brought some with me but haven’t gotten a chance to use it yet)
Ice
Being able to go out after dark
Concerts
Surfing on etsy and craft blogs (allowing pics online costs too much but I miss daydreaming about where I’m gonna move to and which bloggers I’ll meet and what I’ll sew/knit/create when I get there)
Furniture (I’m collecting “pole pole” (slowly))
An endless supply of drinking water
Sleep (Always want more!)
Bourbon slush (at home it’s just something we have during Christmas but it’s freezing cold and delicious and would be so good right now)
Not feeling sweaty
Clean feet
Washing machine
Time (no matter how early I get up and how late I go to bed there just doesn’t seem to be enough – not enough time after school to go to town and get supplies, not enough weekend, not enough time to think about how long 2 years is)
Letters from you (I know my mom loves me!)

I’m sure this list will change in the future – things will be added and taken away. A lot of this stuff I was prepared for but I miss them just the same. Despite this list I am happy and I’ll do a positive list (The things that excite me the most or something) soon.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

First Days of Fretting

A person needs at intervals to separate from family and companions and go to new places. One must go without familiars in order to be open to influences, to change. ~ Katharine Butler Hathaway

So, here I am in Malindi, Kenya. I’ve spent one night in what will be my home for the next 2 years and I’ve visited my school. My school is very large (about 2,000 students) but the Deaf unit only has about 22 children. Tomorrow I go to school to observe and decide which classes I would like to teach. 

My counterpart is very kind, lives close-by and has fed me 3 meals today and taken me with her to drop off her daughter at boarding school. I met with a current Deaf Ed volunteer who lives not far from here. We ran into each other saturday at a KSL class for teachers that she helped with and she came to visit me today and show me around town – the beach, the good shops, good food, etc. Still, I had my little freak out yesterday and this morning worrying about teaching and what I’m doing for the next 2 years and fretting over the roaches. (They’re much bigger here than in Florida!) But walking around town today I got excited about buying things to make this house feel like a home (and some bug spray.)

I’ll see what tomorrow brings (and what visits me tonight.)

Erin

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sites and Song Success

My home for the next 2 years will be in Malindi, Kenya!!! I'm very excited! There are a lot of us along the coast. Two of the other Deaf Ed trainees (volunteers tomorrow!) are pretty close and there's already one Deaf Ed volunteer at a school about 15 minutes away from mine. And there are volunteers from other sectors nearby, also. Tomorrow we swear in and become Volunteers! Then, we travel to our sites. My supervisor says he found me a very nice house with electricity and an indoor choo! I'll let you know more once I get there.

In other news, Paul downloaded a program that was able to get my music off my mp3 player. He has saved me from being medically separated for mental illness because I would become very stressed if I didn't have my music. You should still send me mixes though!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy Obama Year!!!

Before I post my planned entry I have a special request. Yesterday, on our way to Nairobi, the sound on my mp3 player went kaput. I have an ancient mp3 player and we're trying but, have yet to get it to work with anyone's computer. So it's now even more important that you send me some music so that I can put it on my computer. I have nothing on my computer because it's brand new! I can get some music from the other volunteers but all the local bands... I could cry!!!

.....

Deaf Ed celebrated the New Year by renting out 2 cottages at a local place and sharing music and laughter and making some “avocado smash” (our invented sign for guacamole.) I couldn’t party too much since I’ve been sick the past 2 days, but I had a lot of fun and the hot shower (instead my usual splash bath) and sit-down toilet made my week! No tv countdown and no fireworks, but waking up in 2009 under Mount Kilimanjaro definitely makes up for that.
A lot is happening this month! Yesterday we left Loitokitok and headed to Nairobi where we will learn our site placement, meet our supervisors, swear-in, head to our sites and get to work! I’m excited and nervous - I love the Deaf Ed group and will be sad to leave all my new friends, but I’m ready to get to my school and settle in to my home for the next 2 years.
Oh, 2009, please be good to me!!! My site, Obama… there’s a lot of potential!!!