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.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Deep (or not so) Thoughts

 
So, been kinda quite on this blog as of late, sorry.  Every time I think I will have a chance to put some thoughts together something goes tragically awry and my efforts are thwarted.   Well, it isn't tragic really; I am being far too dramatic.  The past few weeks in Oyugis have been really crazy, and add to that that the electricity has been more off than on in town, well, you get the idea.    So, the following will be a collection of fairly random thoughts and ponderings.  That's what I get for not keeping this thing up to date.

 

Well, first things first, the past week has been like my birthday, but in August.  I got four birthday packages ALL IN ONE WEEK!   My friends JP and Renee came through like champs, if only a few months late.  Well, I shouldn't imply that they were late (as my birthday is in May), but the Kenyan postal system felt I would need a little uplift and held off delivering my packages until just now.   So, last week I put great conditioner in my hair, nearly cried with joy as I inhaled Doritos dust, put on some flashy new jammie pants, cracked some amazing new books and generally basked in the attention of my friends from afar.   JP had mailed my packages in FEBRUARY!  In her letter she remarked that when I read this letter I would be 3 months closer to coming home…well, I ended up being six months closer to coming home.   It totally made me laugh riotously.  Lisa also wrote me (as she does faithfully) and also commented on my impending return to my beloved Nashville.  Hard to think about right now, being so close and yet so very far way from actually going home.

 

Life in Oyugis has been quite busy as of late.  My site mate Emily had a mini Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) last week that I helped out with.   You will be getting the full details of what Camp GLOW is in the future (with a shameless solicitation for funds, no doubt), suffice to say for now it is a gathering to empower girls in the areas of career, health, personal relationships, education and anything else we can think of.   No drama here, it is just amazing.  Well, at mini Camp GLOW I was brought in to talk about sex education and rape awareness (shocking, I know).  Emily is their teacher, so she thought it would be easier for the girls to talk to me (an outsider) about more sensitive issues.   The first thing you notice when entering a room full of Kenyan teenage girls is the absurdly painful shyness.  I cannot begin to explain how painfully shy these girls are.   Emily and I did a lot of motivation exercises, things like having them yell taboo words like: vagina, uterus, penis, etc.  In the talk on sexual violence we ran through assertiveness exercises.   This basically means having them yell for the first time in their lives that, "This is my body, you can not touch me," and "no" and something as radical as, "yes means yes and no means no everywhere we go!"   It was great.

 

My ultimate observation is that we should be teaching reproductive biology in PRE-SCHOOL!  The whole world over, as soon as girls can talk lets start teaching them how their parts work, what they are called and why we have them.   The questions I had to answer regarding basic female biology was mind boggling!  The boys had used and abused the girls' ignorance of their own bodies against them for malicious and selfish purposes.   Some of the things I had to answer included: boys say they can tell when they have made you pregnant, is that true; you cannot have sex during pregnancy because it will hurt the baby, right; what else can you do if it isn't playing (having) sex or smooching.   Emily had put up illustrations of female anatomy on the wall and walked more than one girl over to them and explained the basics of reproductive health.   People, let's teach our daughters right, if we don't someone else will and I really don't trust their motives!

 

I guess I have been talking about sex a lot lately.  I have been meeting with some mamas groups and talking about the Post Rape Care program and sexual violence in general.   It has really been an emotional eye-opener.  I love these women because even though I am not one of them, I am a westerner who has completely different sexual expectations and empowerment, they still open up to me.   They ask the tough questions.  They really want to know how to make life better for their daughters.  I never have any concrete answers, but it does a world of good just getting the conversation going.

 

So, the book donations have really begun to come in.  It is great being out at the school and seeing these kids expanding their minds with cool stuff that isn't required reading for the national exam.   I hope to have some pictures up soon of the mural the kids painted in the library room.  Thanks for all the donations, and remember it isn't too late.

 

Speaking of pictures, I am finally getting round to uploading safari pictures, random pictures, pictures from my friend's wedding and various snaps.   If you haven't been over to the pictures site lately, head on over for a more traditional taste of Africa .  I wish the safari pictures could have been better (and these are less than a tenth of the ones I took), but budget and time are always constraining factors.

 

A few weeks ago I got a lovely taste of costal life and lost my mind shopping.  I have started procuring the little (and totally inadequate) trinkets to take home for friends and family.   I have had amazing support with packages and reminders of home while I've been here.  I am having so much fun picking out little tastes of Kenya for the gang back stateside.  It sucks that budget even becomes a factor, but such is the life of the abject poor (at least the Peace Corps poor).

 

A few days ago I had this surreal Kenyan wildlife moment.  There are these birds called Marabou Storks.   These aren't the cuddly things that bring babies; these are huge meat eating birds that are massively imposing.  So, the compound (well, kinda my) dog, Poppy, starts barking his head off at around six in the evening.   He usually waits until about 2am for this kind of activity.  When I peak out the door to see what the commotion is all about, he is going crazy at the trees.  At first I just think he's just a little batty and pay him no mind (even though the tree is next to my house).   When I go take second look I see this flock of storks perched at the top of the trees.  Now, on land these things stand 5 feet tall, no exaggeration.   They have an expansive wing span and long beaks.  They have been known to attack children.  It is just so cool.   I am not worried because gathered around me watching the birds (and Poppy go crazy at the birds) are all the children, so by my sheer size advantage I feel makes me safe from a bird attack.   What is so cool is they stay stationed there, at the tippy top of the trees, all night.  They flew on their way around 7 the next morning.   I can bet that won't happen when I get back to Nashville.

 

I am in Kisumu this weekend for an event sponsored by, well, the embassy and Barak Obama's Senate staff I would assume.   If you haven't heard, Sen. Barak Obama is on a tour of Africa preaching his message of "African Self-Reliance."   The special Kenya connection is that his father is Kenyan, Lou actually, and the family lives in a village near the lake.   Kenya has gone crazy with Barak fever and it is quite funny.  There are t-shirts for sale here that say "Welcome Home Barak."   Well, it should be mentioned that he has only been to Kenya twice and that he was raised entirely by his white mother and white grandparents in HAWAII (I read the auto-biography).  So, I could go into the hilariously funny plans for his visit to his father's village, but I'll only ask you to endure one example.   Keep in mind the message that is the theme of this tour of Africa.  So, a few months ago they name this dilapidated secondary school after Barak Obama.  Since the announcement of his upcoming visit, this poor school that doesn't even have glass in the windows has been furiously engaged in building a "science lab" that is basically a room with the words science lab written above the door.   Now, could there have been a better use of funds than building a room that will house nothing but dust and termites unless some rich person from America (who happens to be a member is the US Senate) ponies up the cash to fill it?  So, I learned about some of the more outlandish absurdities on a series of reports on NPR.   I loved the reports because they had some classically Kenyan cries for money from these "family members."  The school children have been taught an endearing song (a re-working of " America the Beautiful" set to Kenyan landmarks) and the headmaster is hoping that Barak will leave "a little something."   Preach on Brother-man about that African self-reliance!

 

Ok, so that doesn't explain why I was there.  Why, what would be better PR than to have a gaggle of smiling Peace Corps Volunteers greeting this son "returned" at the airport.   Now, I don't blame them, in my former (and future) professional life I would have exploited it for all it was worth.  I just wish that they had put an hour or so into his schedule for an in-depth chat with a few of us on the ground here so that he would get a realistic picture of how that self-reliance thing is working out.   I know that the Foreign Affairs committee (of which he is a member) doesn't distribute funds based on developmental practicalities, it is based on bang for the political buck, but he should still use such a valuable, up-to-date and candid resource as the volunteer community.   We see the affects of the decisions they make, good and bad in our daily lives.  Oh, and I was really there to see if he might be in need of a resourceful television producer for his re-election campaign.   See Fletch, I'm always thinking ahead!

 

Ok kiddies, I am outtie for now.  I have bored you plenty nuff for one week.   I hope to keep posting pictures in the next few weeks, and also doing a better job updating this thing.  Still missing you, so give a shout out if you think of it.

 

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