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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Time and missing you all


Finally IST (In-service Training) is behind me.  So my group met up as a whole (almost as a whole, as Willie had emergency business in America, and he was sorely missed) in Kitui and it was just like old times.   It was amazing to see everyone again!  Having my site in the west of Kenya means I am lucky in that there are lots of us out here, so there are a lot of people I see frequently.   But others I hadn't seen since we left for site more than four months ago.  Being back in Kitui also meant a return visit to the home stay family.   They are such kind people and it was very nice to walk the three miles out to Kavalula (the village) and see all my clusters families again.  They had just sent off another trainee to site who had been staying with them since September, but I will refrain from comment on his questionable behaviour.  Needless to say, I am still the angle in their eyes (if not in my own family's eyes back in America).   They only lived with me for 10 weeks; otherwise they would know the truth. 


So, the traditional post IST rafting trip was aborted once again, as its proximity to Christmas wasn't convenient.   So, I have yet to shoot the Nile rapids, but we have re-scheduled for St. Patty's day, appropriate way to celebrate considering my Irish heritage don't you think?


After IST I spent a week in Nairobi with another Volunteer.  We are working together on a project and were doing research with various groups based there (and hemorrhage money, because it is expensive to be in Nairobi).  We hope to bring a satellite version of a well-run gender violence program from the Nairobi Women's Hospital to the Kisumu Province Hospital (and maybe to my District Hospital as well).   Rape is frightening anywhere, but here it is shocking.  The laws of Kenya currently do not recognize marital rape or sexual assault against a male as even existing.   The trauma that a victim is subjected to by the system is simply appalling!  As a rape victim, when you report to the hospital (if you can) you may eventually get a physical exam, and even though PEP (Post-exposure Prophylaxes for AIDS) are supposed to be available, free of cost, often they are not there or some try to charge for them.   To even begin the legal process entails complications beyond belief with the police department.  And there is a cultural practice here, where a family may kidnap the rape victim and force her to marry her attacker, thereby protecting him from prosecution (if it were even to come to that) and potential community repercussions. Can you imagine being forced to marry the man who violently raped you?   And because there are no laws on legal age to marry, some of these girls are pre-pubescent.  The Gender Violence Recovery Center at the Nairobi Women's Hospital has a program that is amazing.   It keeps an OB/GYN on staff to care for the often traumatic physical injuries, expedites the police paperwork, gives individual and group therapy and has sensitized the entire staff (from the security guards and reception to the docs and nurses) on how to deal with the sensitive nature of rape victims and to protect them from further trauma by the system, their attackers or the public.   Kirsten and I don't pretend that what we are doing will happen quickly or at all.  You can't even begin to fathom the red tape and then there is funding the program to consider.   But, that is why we are here for two years now isn't it. 


Rape is one of the issues that I feel acutely sets me apart here.   I feel my most mzungu-ness (mzungu is the Kiswahili word for foreigner and is constantly used for a Westerner instead of even their name) when it comes to the issue of gender violence.   I, as a foreign woman, have in some respects more rights than a Kenyan woman.  I am quick to tell a man not to look at me in a certain way, or to back off when my space is invaded, let alone what I say when I am touched.   A Kenyan woman could come to great harm if she behaved in the same manor.  I know that in my head, and I have seen some minor examples of it.   But I come from a culture/background where such assertions of power are common and even respected to an extent.  Not so here, it is not respected/expected/tolerated/promoted, and that is just humbling to me.


So, Christmas is right around the corner, and what does that mean (for Misty at least) – A BEACH.   Yes, after only a one-year interruption in my traditional beach holiday, I am returning.  Three close friends and me have gotten a cottage on Tiwi Beach for Christmas.   The coast of Kenya is meant to have some of the nicest beaches in East Africa.  I'll let you know how they compare to my previous Christmas pilgrimages to Baja and Thailand.   I have to admit that I am really excited about this vacation.  After Christmas, a lot of PCV's from my group and others will meet in Mombassa to ring in the New Year properly.   For all you diving enthusiasts, I'll get you a travel report.  And if I spot Angelina or Brad, y'all will be the first to know about it.   


Just a quick note, how Kenyan's celebrate Christmas.  Well, you travel back to your home (usually in the interior) and then you go to church ALL day.  Then the teenagers go to town and drink publically (big taboo).  It isn't the over-whelming, all comsuing holiday that it is in America.


I hope you have a wonderful (if cold – Pole) Christmas.  I don't miss the snow one little bit, but I do miss you guys.  I better be getting some Christmas cards, or you are off the list whenever I get back to America.   And don't forget to dash off some pictures from your festivities


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