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, June 14, 2006

One Year Anniversary Lists

Ok, I promised a KUBWA (big) post talking about being here in Kenya one year.  I have been slow to publish only because I was dashing round Kenya showing my mom all the sights.  I don't really know why I went with the list format, it seemed the most organized way to approach the mass of thoughts going on in my head.  The list isn't in any ranking, it is how these things came to mind for me.  Even if I had ranked them, the ranking would change hourly anyway.  So, hope you all are looking forward to an amazing summer (it is summer there right, we don't really have seasons here, and you can sorta loose track sometimes).

What I love about Kenya


Fresh, whole pineapple for 65 cents (compared to $4-5 in America)


World Space Radio – Ok, not strictly Kenyan, but a beautiful part of my everyday Kenyan life.


Long and Short Rains – Our lives are ruled by the rains.  When is the last time you sat wherever you landed, to wait out the rain?   Or leave something early as to beat the rain home.


Roving Livestock – I don't know why but I adore the random, roving cows, goats, sheep and chickens as they meander through my yard or through town.


Chapatti – I love the chapatti (flat bread) and the chapatti mama show sells them for $.08 each.   Her hard work (I've made them, once, it is hard work) keeps my tummy happy.


Matatus – They are loud, crazy, comical, infuriating, life-threateningly dangerous, but they are never boring.


My Pee Bucket – There is nothing better to satisfy the lazy soul than shuffling 4 feet out of bed to pee at night.   Seriously, you should try it…so convenient.


Cement Floors – This should sweep America soon.  My cement floor means I never worry about how much water gets spilled, it all eventually evaporates.   No mess, no muss and no fuss!


The Full Moon – When the moon is full, it's like someone left a light on outside, is so crazy bright.  I never knew how dramatic the difference moonlight could make in the non-electrified night.


The Choo – In a country where plumbing, even if present, is usually faulty, the choo (or pit latrine) is very nice because "everything" just disappears down the hole.   Almost like magic.


Boda Bodas – These are bicycle taxis that litter western Kenya, and they are brilliant.  Have a new sofa to get home, hire a boda.  To lazy to walk 4 blocks to lunch – TAKE A BODA!  I want to bring these to America.



Things I, uh, "dislike" about Kenya


Self-imposed curfew of 7:00pm – When its always dark by 7:00pm, and the dark holds dangerous hordes, both real and imagined, you end up being in the house (if not in bed sometimes) by that time.   Will I ever recover from my fear of the big, bad dark?


"Give me 5 shillings, trip to America, etc." – Who wants to have such demands come at you from random strangers many times a day, every day.


Abuse – The old adage of "shit rolls down hill" couldn't be truer, especially here.  The hierarchy of abuse in Kenya breaks my heart.  The top (not hard to imagine who has the power) beat down each successive layer to the bottom.  Small children are even part of the pattern, as they are allowed to (along with everyone else) beat the animals.  It's a cycle of violence that no one acknowledges or even recognizes.


Resignation – If I could have a nickel for each conversation that revolved around resignation of the situation, impossibility of change, lack of hope, I'd be rich beyond my dreams.   This isn't an exclusive Kenyan application, sometimes it is more apparent within the Peace Corps Volunteer ranks (me included).


Grinding Pace of Bureaucracy – If you think American bureaucrats aren't extremely productive, come to Kenya and discover the real thing.   Getting a meeting, question answered, piece of vital paperwork, or an idea of who actually occupies the office, is a chore that could take weeks to accomplish (no exaggeration).  


Matatus – Yes, this appears on two lists.  If you've ever been forced to depend on them for general transportation, you know that it's a "hate-love-hate| relationship.   Plus, there is the whole "constant risk to life and limb" tat is involved every time you are smushed into.  Not to mention the revolting smells, oppressive crush of people and the evil, single-celled amoebas also called touts to detract from their already lacking charm.


Children – This isn't really Kenya specific, as I am famous for my lack of fondness for children world-wide.   Kenya simply hasn't changed that; it may have even solidified it a little more.  But Kenyan kids are, comparativly speaking, amazingly well behaved.  What American kid would sit on some strangers lap silently for a 5 hour matatu ride.


Gracious Hospitality – This may seem like a joke, but Kenya are such gracious hosts that I could scream.   If you visit someone they feel you should consume copious amounts of chai (sweet milk tea) and they want to cook you a massive meal.  My tummy can't possibly hold enough to make a Kenyan mama happy.


Maize – its corn's duller, less flavorful cousin (I was born in Indiana, we are experts) and it's the main staple (75% of food consumed).   Ugali, gatheri, muthiqui, mahindi choma, and nameless other dishes all consisting of ground maize, dried maize, roasted maize or boiled maize. And none of it anywhere near the tastiness of fresh July sweet corn straight of the grill.


Staring – There is no way that anyone but an extreme narcissist could enjoy being under constant surveillance.   All eyes seem to follow the "mzungu" once I leave the house.  That's not the worst of it; the staring is coupled with pointed laughter and giggles.   There is nothing that can upset most people faster than being laughed at, including me.  If I open my mouth to utter a meager Dhlou word, everyone in a 1 mile radius falls down in fits of laughter.   I can't wait to be anonymous again!



Things I have accomplished thus far as a Peace Corps Volunteer (hint: not much)


Book consumption – I have read 83 books in my first year as a PCV.  Maybe this just proves TV is inducing brain rot, cause I can't say I'll ever be able to achieve such lofty heights again in my life.   My reading has spanned multitudes of subjects and genres.  I've read some brilliant books and I've suffered though some horrible crap!


14 Kiswahili words and 5 Dhlou words – I have abysmal language skills.  I can only demonstrate this properly while trying to argue with street vendors.   I consider it an accomplishment that I even know the proper name of the language (Kiswahili, not Swahili and Dhlou and not Lou).  I can greet you in both languages, and luckily greeting is paramount in Kenya (plus English is one of the national languages…thank the entire divine world).


High Five – To avoid tough the grimy, germ infested hands of the two little boys on my compound I've taught them to give me a high five instead of the traditional handshake.   This comprises the third goal of Peace Corps, spreading your culture.


Sex Education – I have managed to convince anyone who will listen to me (especially girls, women and teenage boys) that westerners are obsessed with sex, or at least that's all they (westerners) seem to want to talk about.   This is a very conservative culture, so I am outstandingly funny with all my "family planning" talk and condom demonstrations (both male and female).


Answering Questions about America – This must be frightening to some of y'all out there, but to my circle of Kenyan friends and acquaintances I have become the voice of authority on all things American.   These are your tax dollars hard at work.


No Murders – I manage not to actually kill a matatu tout thus far.  If you could experience them just once, you'd be shocked and impressed at my restraint.   I make no such promises for the upcoming year.


Raging Feminism – My other pet topic that is only exacerbated by the inequality of Kenya culture is Feminism.   The guys I work with (and they are good guys) are good naturedly subjected to my rants about their misogynistic behavior many times a week.  The debates that ensue would make your hair set on end.



What I Miss About America


Efficiency – I know that you, state-side Americans, don't realize it, but the system that runs government, business, transportation and even casual interactions is supremely efficient.   Beautifully and gloriously so!


Pizza and All Associated – I miss pizza, hot and lovely from the oven with bubbly cheese and doesn't taste like cardboard.   I miss pizza delivery, free and within mere minutes from the time you place the call.  What a beautiful country!


Driving – Driving where you want to when you want to go and as fast as you want to go!   Alone even!  No squeezing 8 people into a Toyota Corolla (my current vehicle in America and a popular choice here, but no exaggeration on the number of passengers it carries…8!).


Friends and Family – That's a given.  I almost didn't list it because it's so obvious, but I felt that someone might have thought me negligent.


My Job – Whodda Thunk It?  Yes, I miss my previous (and next year, current) job as a Producer.   At least I've been reminded of how much, despite my pre-Peace Corps thinking, I liked my job!


Legs – I'm not being a fetishist, I don't care what peoples legs look like, and I just miss seeing them (and mine).   It is very taboo to show anything above the knee here for adults.  \When I wear my Titans boxer shorts in the privacy of my own home, I do a small happy dance.   I'm wearing shorts in December when I get home, and I hope you do too!


Casual Drinking – Long story short, women in Kenya (excluding Nairobi) don't drink, let alone have a casual glass of wine with friends at a pub.   When men drink here, they do it excessively, exclusively (not including prostitutes) and riotously.  I can't wait to have a luxurious cosmopolitan with Lisa or Sabrina at the new "hip" place in Nashville.


Girlie Things – I'm not really missing this because the pre-Peace Corps Misty didn't do "girlie things." But I am now excited about wearing my hair down (gasp), buying shoes not exclusively available at REI (double gasp) and even limiting my Jammi pants wearing to casual time and shoot days (continuous gasping).   No, seriously, just wait.  Ok, we'll see how long that lasts, but at this moment I am fairly sincere about it.


Phone Use – Using the phone in Kenya (mobile or landline) is expensive so we rarely speak on the phone and when we do it is in short, quick, staccato bursts.   I'm going to burn the lines up.


Food – I know pizza got its own line item, but that's just special.  I'd say PCV's spend 40% of their time talking dreamily about food.   Here's my abbreviated list in no particular order:  Taco Bell, BBQ, Thai, Sushi, Mexican, Basante's, Bread and Co. Creamy Tomato Soup, Hummus, Big Green Salad, Movie Popcorn with "Butter", Chinese Take Out/Delivery, Turkish place in Lion's Gate, Pizza King (specifically), Stone River Rolls, Alpine Sun Dried Tomato Bagel (I know they were bought out, but I gotta dream) with Cream Cheese, Chicken McNuggets with Hot Mustard Sauce, Bags of Pre-cut Carrots, Fruit Smoothies, Strawberries, Cheese (all kinds, even Velveeta, which might not be actual cheese at all), Italian, Baja Burrito, Sweet Tea, Apple Pie, Cheese Cake, Peanut Butter Fudge, Raferty's Hot Fingers, Hot Wings, Cheese Sticks, Vingrette Dressing (on a Big Salad), Doritos, Wine, Strawberries, Key Lime Pie, Grilled Chicken Anything (breast, sandwich, etc.), Caesar Salad,   Chicken Caesar Salad, Anything cooked on a Grill (Hamburgers, Hotdogs, Ribs, etc.), Strawberries, Reese Cups...and so much more.  What is so funny, I didn't really eat a lot of this when I did live in America, but you really can miss the crap we have so much abundance of!
Ok, that is my first year.  Wonder what I will be thinking this time next year.  Only time will tell.  I hope to hear from all of you soon.  I promise photos from Mom's visit soon (we went on safari).  Miss you and, I'm over the hump as far as when I'll be home.  Not quite a short-timer, but in the downside none the less (wish I had more to show for it).


  • At 5:07 PM, Blogger renee said…

    Misty...Do legs turn you on??? wait till you get back...I am sooo shocked to see the over abundance of legs now that it is summertime. And when my skirt flies up when the wind blows and exposes my knees....holy crap to I make an idiot of myself trying to cover-up! And I still can't eat corn...I kinda went overboard on the mahindi choma before I left...who can say no when they come to your window selling it.


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