The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love...Kenya

The contents of this website are my own PERSONAL opinion. They do not reflect the opinions, policies, actions, feelings, or eating habits of the Peace Corps, the U.S. Government, any government, shadow governments, or anyone else, for that matter, but ME.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


August 8, 2005

Ok, it has been AGES since I have managed to actually post. Just when all the interesting things are happening is the time when I have no time to compose a post. I'll try to do one big wrap up with absolutly NO theme, much to my internal writer's chagrin!

Well, IT IS OFFICIAL. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer. I took my oath in a Swearing In ceremony last Friday in Nairobi. We were sworn in by the ambassador to Kenya (a Bush appointee, so no comment). I was convinced all week leading up to the Swearing In that I wasn't going to be allowed to swear in. I generally had a bad feeling in my gut.

See, technically I should have been at an Intermediate Mid level with my Kiswahili, but there was no way on this green earth I was going to test in at Int. Mid. There are a lot of reasons for that. One, I suck at new languages. When you are as proficient at English as I am, and as verbal, starting a new language is frustrating. Two, due to the change in training centers for PC Kenya, there were an inordinate number of new language teachers not as familiar with the approach Peace Corps has to language instruction. Two-thirds of my language instruction was by new (but promising) teachers, so I fell behind early. And three, I will be doing my service in Lou Land (it is actually Nyanza Provence, but parts of Kenya are referred to by the tribe that dominates them). Most of the tribes' mother languages here are a cousin of Kiswahili, but not the Lous. Lous are Nilotic people who moved down from the upper Nile, so their language is not in the Bantu family. This means that their English is better than their Kiswahili. They'd rather speak Lou or English to Kiswahili. So, I tested in at Novice High and I was shocked I was that high. I plan to continue Kiswahili tutoring (how cool will that language look on a resume) and also try to learn some Lou (pronounced, again, Lou-O).

But, after all that, that bad feeling in my gut wasn't all for naught. I got really sick towards the end of the week. One of my closest friends and cluster mate spent 5 days prior in the hospital for pneumonia. I spent at least 60% of my time with her. Needless to say, I picked up a nasty bug. By the time Friday came, I had NO voice. Never in my life had I completely lost my voice. So, technically I didn't take the oath or swear in, but I did sign the oath, so they can take that PCV title away from me so easily.

I spent TWO days with NO VOICE at all. I was going out of my mind. I could whisper slightly, but when you are amongst a group as boisterous as ours, light whispers wasn't going to cut it. I learned a valuable lesson during those days, and it is that while I knew I was a vocal person, there are other ways to communicate. At my homestay, our Shamba Boy Juma was deaf and the Baba taught at the Deaf School. So, I had been picking up a few signs here and there. When a PCV from the Deaf Education came to speak with us (PC Kenya has the only Def. Ed. program in the world) I learned most of the alphabet and some more signs, and just in time really. So, between whispering and some KSL, I managed to get my point across. But, needless to say, I never want to loose my voice again. KSL is another language I plan to continue to learn, it really isn't that hard. The bad thing is, it isn't used anywhere but Kenya, I guess just another fun fact for the resume. Oh, and BTW, I do not know a bit of ASL, so don't ask!

For our Swearing In celebration, my group did the traditional dinner at Carnivores. It is a very famous restaurant that used to serve crazy meats, sort of a Brazilian BBQ, Kenyan style. They served zebra and warthog and other stuff until the government put a ban on game meat. But there were still some surprises in store. We had some great traditional stuff, beef, chicken, lamb. But most awesome part of the night was the camel. Now, I know you don't think that camel could taste good, but it was AWESOME. I think someone in the states should start farming it. I can't explain what it tasted like, but it was so tender and yummy. Hey Jeff, here is the next big thing! The other delicious part was the ostrich. I had had ostrich in the US, but they made these amazing meatballs that would make you want to smack your mama! The sad part was that they didn't have any goat on the menu. I bet they could have done a great job with that.

The last few days in Kitui were crazy. We were all trying to re-gather our stuff, as we had stored a large chunk so we didn't lug half the world to homestay. It was almost like Christmas again, to see all the stuff I had pack after a ten week absence. I don't care what advice all those other PCV's give, I am glad for every frivolous thing I put in my bags and I wish I had put more.

Per my normal role, I took it upon myself to organize transport to site for the 15 of us going to the west. This got crazy, but it was nice to feel useful and in control again. We all got to site with very few hiccups, surprisingly enough for Kenya. That is where I am writing this email from. I spent last night (my first night) in my house and loving it. I wasn't sure I would when, after it started raining a long millipede came in, but luckily the bug spray that is legal here makes Raid look like Lysol. So what if I'll grow a third arm, I'm sure I'll find a use for it. The spray is called Doom, and for good reason. I have no furniture in my house, just some stuff and a foam mattress on a concrete floor, it reminds me of college.

I hope to post some pictures in the next few months so you can see the lap of luxury I am living in. As I write that, I know y'all will think I am crazy when I say that adjusting to living without running water and electricity is not the hardest part about Peace Corps. I found myself saying the other night in a hotel that "I'd rather have a warm bucket bath than a cold shower any day." And I meant it. When it is your reality, it just is and you manage.

The next three months are spent on what is called community integration. I won't actually working on my projects, but learning about the people and becoming part of this new home. Although, another volunteer's project has presented me an amazing opportunity to put my past life's skills to work. She needs a producer, and I happen to be one. Yippeeee! (Yes, I thought it would take me longer to think that too, but oh well).

I have finally seen some cool animals, but only from a bus window, but it counts. Just roaming on the side of the road I have seen: zebras, warthogs, baboons, antelope and twiga (giraffe in Kiswahili and much easier to spell). Also I have seen MASSIVE floating pink patches in lakes that are flamingos!

Ok, now that I am here at site, I have some serious letters to catch up on. Lisa is still reigning champion of letter writing (so much to my complete delight). Soon I'll get these out to you. You might be wondering if I have a new address, yes, but it is not for public consumption yet, PC is still paying duty on packages and the like until mid-September, so until then, the current info is good.

I miss you all, and feel free to call me. Another volunteer says that the Sam's calling cards give a pretty good rate to Africa.


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