To Kenya and back

This Blog reflects my brief journey through Kenya through the Peace Corps. **Standard Disclaimer--All thoughts, opinions, views, and other such stuff are purely my own original thoughts. They in no way reflect that of the Peace Corps or the government.**

Friday, March 24, 2006

Nairobi

So we gathered our luggage and managed to get everyone in the group together. Then they took outr luggage and placed them in these big trucks. Now, honestly. I was a bit freaked out. Really, if everyone else hadn't been doing it, I wouldn't have done it. Because from Day One, Peace Corps told us not to let anyone handle our baggage and that Nairobi was a very bad place where we will all get mugged and shot and killed and abducted. And yes I was that naive. But, I parted with my beloved luggage and borded the bus that PC arranged to pick us up.

I was a bit disapointed that we arrived at night. There wasn't much to see outside the windows besides lights, and I so badly wanted to see everything. But I didn't see much, and honestly, I was exusted. As we rolled through the city and made a few turns, we eventually made it to the hostel where we would be staying. It was a bit freaky, because there were these armed guards and a gate. Something that I defenetly wasn't used to at that time. Then came the tedious task of dragging out butts out of the bus. But there was food and it was great. I was not expecting the food to be that great, but it was soooooo yummy. After we ate, we chose roomates and got our stuff, checked into our rooms and made the exausting trip to our rooms (many of us were carrying two very LARGE bags). My roomat was Jen Lee, who I think fate brought us to room together those days.

That night I wrote in my journal about the trip. I was excited to be were I was, but I was so scared. I had never been away from home like that before and I missed so it much. After Jen got out of the shower (one of our last ones for a LONG WHILE), we talked till we fell asleep. But I really couldn't sleep that night, and started crying. Like I said, I was sooooo scared. I felt like I didn't belong there and all that stuff. But Jenly talked to me (I tryed to cry quietly, but it didn't work, and I was forced to talk). Eventually I calmed down and was ready to face another day. I am forever grateful for that.

So the next day we awoke to a misty rain. The trees were so green and it was so humid. We ate a great breakfast (the bread was so divine) and we met for a class. We were given a small tutorial about Kenya and we talked to the Medical Staff. We were given these breifcase sized first aide kits and got to enjoy a great tea break and lunch. We met again and were place into our language groups. We started studying lanugage that day with our first Kenyan words being "Hujambo....Habari Yako??? Nzuri Sana." My instructor was Henry, who is by far my favorite language teacher. He was so full of energy and said things like "getting jiggy with it".

Sadly though the good food didn't last. But on a good note the three days had passed and it was time to leave the "scary" city of Nairobi. We loaded our luggage (this time I wasn't so scared) and jumped in our bus. I sat next to Steve (one of the funniest PCV's I know) and soon we were bouncing our ways through the "mean" streets of Nairobi. There were people everywhere in the streets. Each one trying to sell their goods. There were also people looking in out bus, as though they had never seen so many "white" people all together. We bounced and bounced. And soon we were outside the Nairobi city limits. I felt very lucky to have the bus I did, because the driver was playing local Kenyan music and it really set the mood for the ride as we bounced through the Kenyan countryside.

It is one of the most memorable drives I have ever been on. I was so in awe of everything around me. I mostly sat back and tried to take everything in. We took a small pee break in Machakos and I believe we scared the town because there were so many of us and we moved in herds. Soon we were off again and bouncing off to Kitui. Every time we passed a town, I couldn't help but think that this is what my site could look like. Most of the people around me talk, but I have always been an observer. I took in so much. From the red color of the dirt, to the green in the foliage. I saw the way the dirt dusted each leaf of the trees that had the misfortune of being near the road. I saw all the people wave at us and the signs painted on the sides of buildings. I felt so at peace just driving like that.

After a few hours we arrived in Kitui. Kitui is a small large town. There are so many people, but the town itself is so small. There were gas stations and people selling papaya and mangos on the side of the road. There were people walking to and fro and goats walking as free as the people. We made a few turns and headed to the pastoral center where we would spend a week (or so, I can't remember the number of days). After a very scary ride down a very steep hill, we arrived in a smurf villiage of sorts. Every single one of the language/culture trainers were there. They greeted us, and I am sure I mumbled something in return, but, it feels like a dream now. I am sure we had another lesson and had some tea and at some point we got our roomates (my new one was Misty, who will always be my travel roomate) and moved into our smurf hut (though, unlike the smurfs, there were MANY more girls than guys). I am sure we ate and the food was good (though not as good as it was in Nairobi). I am sure that me and Misty talked long hours into the night, but like I said, it all seems so dream like.

The next few days we were divided up into new language groups according to where our homestay families lived (I had an all girl group, all of up just a hop, skip, and jump away from each other). We learned more, ate more, and got to know each other more. We were taught how to squat over a choo hole and how to bucket bathe. And soon, it was time to get out homestay families.......

Next time...Mama Becky (yes, I need a seperate entry just for this)......

Thursday, March 09, 2006

About Kenya....

So anyway, this blog is supposed to be about when I lived in Kenya, so I guess I will start with day one and move on from there.......

I was nervious as hell as I borded the plane and left everything that I knew behind. I cried as I left my parents at the Security check and boarded the plane for a dream that I was following. Being only the second plane ride I ever took, I tried to play cool on the plane and talked to a nice young man about the new security measures taken at the airport we were landing in. At the airport, I couldn't help but wonder if any if the young people whose faces I was looking in were going to be fellow PCT's with me. As I waited for the shuttle to the hotel and met some PCV's on their way to some latin american country, but still no one from my group. I checked into the hotel and was told my roomate hadn't arrived yet. The reality of everything was beginning to kick in. A wave a nausa and homesickness washed over me. But the excitement of everything was just to powerful. So I waited in my plush hotel room, which I must say for the Peace Corps, they know how to ease a person into the lifesyle that they will be living in during their time overseas.

Eventually my roomate, Tessa, came, an awesome girl from California. We spent all hours of the night talking, nervious for the next morning when everything would become real. That night I dremt of forgetting my luggage for the 100th time.

The next day, it was like some sort of college mixer in the lobby of the hotel. People were going up to each other and asking "Where are you going". The people going to Kenya grouped together, talked, and filled out paper work together. We were given games to play, that would help us get to know one another, and I am sure that we were all wondering...."am I gonna hate that person?" or "I wonder what that person is doing in a place like this?" and alas, I am sure most of us girls were scoping out any potential hotties of the group (I am sure the guys were doing the same).

So after a few days of lectures, videos (there was this one where the guy had kids throwing rocks at him in his bike helmit--so funny), and me stating for the 8000th time that I am deathly afraid of monkeys, we became familer with each other. We grew bonds that no one in the world would ever understand and started to get over the awkawrdness that we had on the first day. Granted, I think by the last day of staging, many of us wanted to just get the hell out of there and go, I know that many of us were also pretty scared (they told us stories to scare us about the evil city of Nairobi and all the bad things about Kenya).

That night we repacked (and somehow I lost all of my passport photos) and I am sure most of us didn't sleep at all that night. The next morning they loaded us in cabs and sent us to get the first of what would seem like endless shots. They gave us our Malaria meds and before we knew it we were heading to the airport. By this point we had already lost one of our fellow trainees because of a reaction to one of the shots.

I know that I have mentioned that the Peace Corps is nothing more that waiting and more waiting. The airport was no exception. There were 37 of us at that point, and we had to get us all through checking in and security. During checking in with the airline, we managed to lose another Trainee, bringing our number down to 36. So there it was, 36 of us, about to change our lives forever.

The plane ride was really uneventful, really it was just long. But I must say, it did seem like a party in the back of the plane. In Amsterdam, where we changed planes, I realized (with dread) that I didn't have my ticket to get my boarding pass to go to Kenya. But after I almost cried in the poor dutch lady's face, I was allowed to board. Then we waited, waited, and waited some more.

We loaded into what seemed like a much more crowded plane and once again began the party that I dont think has ever really stopped. We flew over the alps and I truely think that I have never seen anything more breathtaking than that. Soon, we came closer to our destination. The nerves were kicking in and many of us were wondering "what in the hell am I doing????". We changed into our "nice" clothes that were emphasized so much during staging. The plane landed, and I was filled with excitement, dread, fear, happyness, giddyness, EVERYTHING. We walked into the airport and were greeted by the APCD's, the CD, and a couple of PCV's. It was so surreal. After much insanity, we organized method of quickly retrieving everyones luggage and we were off.......................................

Friday, February 24, 2006

Malaria

So like I said in the last post.....I would talk about Malaria.

So anyway, when I left the Peace Corps, I was given a full medical evaluation complete with blood tests and all that good stuff (which I never did get the results on). After all that was done I was given pills to take to kill off any Malaria in me. Which was fine and dandy, untill I got home....and half the pills crushed. but I figured that all would be well. I mean really, could I have honestly been exposed to Malaria while I was in Kenya. I thought it was highly unlikely.

But I ended up starting to get sick a few weeks after I came home. Nothing to bad, just tired all the time. Every once in a while I would get a small fever. but really nothing that alarmed me. i figured I was just getting used to being home. Then I kept getting sicker. My fevers would last longer and I started getting the chills. Having been told a million times by Medical that these were they symptoms of Malaria, i was pretty sure that I had it. But I couldn't get in to see a doctor, because there are mostly PA's in this area and even to see them it was hard. When I finally did get in to see a PA, he really didn't do much. I tod him "I have Malaria. I got it while I was in Kenya. It is most likely Cloroquine resistant." But instead he tried to make me pee in a cup.

That night I got home and I felt fine. But then had the worst fever ever. My body started shaking and I ached everywhere. I kept hitting my head and screaming out. It was horrible. I kept seeing things and felt like there were people at my door watching me. My body was so cold and my head was so hot. I kept thrashing around and everytime I felt like I had get up, I fell to the ground.

The next morning my mom was going to take me to another doctor, to see if there wasn't something else that could be done. When she came to wake me up however, my skin was pale yellow and I couldn't move. As I struggled to get dressed (I kept falling over), I started feeling nasous. Somehow I managed to run to the bathroom in the nick of time and threw up whatever I had in my tummy. When I was finished my mom said screw the doctor and said I was going to the hospital. I had to hold myself up against the wall because I couldn't stand up on my own.

The whole way to the hospital (45 minutes) I threw up. It was mostly a daze for me. Once I got to the hospital they pumpd me up with morphine and ran a TON of tests. I had no clue what was happening to be honest. Afer being in the ER for a few hours, they relesed me to the care of my mother (who is an acupuncturest and nurse). That night was horrible and if it wasn't for the pain killers, it would have been a lot worse.

The next day I somehow managed to get myself up and to an interview (I got the job), but that night I kept itching like crazy, which turned out to be an allergic reaction to the pills that they gave me in the hospital. Eventually things got worked out and in the end I managed to fully recover.

So I learned to religiously take your malaria pills while in Africa and that malaria is a real threat and a nasty disese.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Home

Well, alas, my peace corps journey has ended. I have returned home or ET'ed. It was an increadible journey and I truely miss it and cherish every moment, but I know this is where I am supposed to be.

When we arrived in Kenya, so much was going through my head. I was nervous, excited, everything. But soon after getting to know everyone, my fears went away and soon I began the hard-core training. It seemed as soon as we touched down in Nairobi, we began our language and culture lessons. Soon we were taken to Kitui, where we would spend the next few months training for the next two years. We spent the first few days at the pastoral center while they prepped us for homestay. That's where most of us got to know each other. Then it was off to our homestay families. And that is where I began to have my first doubts about being there. I'll admit it was mostly my fear of my new "family", but after a few encouraging words from some of my best friends and a phone call home, I was ready to face Peace Corps Kenya.

My homestay mama was nothing like I expected her to be. She was a very strong woman with a gigantic heart. My siblings were the cutest things ever. My closest PCT was a girl that I became good friends with. We were in a all girl training group with one of my favorite trainiers Sam (it didn't hurt that he was cute, but alas, married). And as the weeks went by, I began to love Kenya.

But then I started feeling depressed. When I was at my house I wanted to be with my friends. When I was with my friends, I wanted to be at my house. When I was alone I wanted to be with tons of people and with people I wanted nothing more than to be by myself. I had so many conflicting emotions and soon it seemed that everytime I called home, all I wanted to do was go home. I was crying myself to sleep everynight and when I would fall asleep, my dreams would be horrible and realistic. Some of my closest friends were wearing on my last nerve. I know now that many of those syptoms had a lot to do with the Malaria Prophalaxtic I was taking, but I also knew to reconize when some of those feelings were my own.

However, I didn't want to appear to be a failure, in my own eyes as well as my family's eyes. So I hung in there. I switched my Malaria meds and sucked it up. i knew I would regret leaving if I didn't make it out to site. And finally it came. I was so nervous when we got our announcements and even though I was placed at a great site with an awesome group to work with, I cried. I knew then that I didn't want to be in Kenays no more, even though I loved the country. So I went to my site, and I tried to find reasons to go home. My house wasn't that good, the group didn't need me, whatever I could. But in the end I realized that it was me and not the site at all. So on the way back to training, I thought long and hard. I weighed all my options and knew that deep down, my time to go home had come.

My first instinct was to just leave and not tell anyone. I didn't want to be seen as a quitter by my peers or anything like that. But the bonds that I created with my peers was much stronger than that and before I knew it, I was crying on everyones shoulders and having a hard time saying good bye. I gave a tearful speech to show my appreciation to the trainers and my respect for my fellow volunteers. But in the end, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

I traved to Nairobi the same day I announced my decidion. I spent three days there and was very much relieved to have a close friend of mine there with me (she needed to be with medical staff). And as the plane finally arrived in Denver, I knew that home is where I was meant to be.

So now I am back home, and I have a great job. I am planning a trip back to visit all my friends and some days I miss Kenya terribly. But I believe that all things happen for a reason. I know that Kenya will always be a part of who I am and my experiences there have shaped me to the person I am, but for now, this is where I am supposed to be.

Next time......my experiences with Malaria......

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

*WOW*

So three days left. THREE DAYS!?!!?!?!? Time has flown by so quickly, it the only way it knows how. Though I know I am leaving, I have the plane ticket inches away from me, it doesn't seem real yet. I have packed and re-packed and packed again. I have walked around my parents ranch with my backpack and other luggage, and yet, it doesn't seem real. I have said some goodbyes and enjoyed my going away party, and still hasn't hit me yet. I have eaten a TON of food and drank with some good friends. . . and yet. . . . you get the picture. I am so nervious, happy, sad, confused, worried, excited, scared. . . everything. I din't think this was even possible. I keep thinking that this isn't happening. That there is no way that I could EVER do something this life changing. And here I am. Doing it. I still haven't decided if I am brave or just crazy. . . maybe both. But whatever the case. . . . HERE I GO!!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

And I am off. . . .

Well Three weeks left. I have my plane ticket, I have quit my job, and my travel itinerary. Scary to think that I am really leaving. I mean, I have always wanted this, and I know I would be devestated if I didn't get to do this, but the reality is totally sinking in. Before I got my ticket, it was like surreal. Like I would never get to this place that I am at now. But here I am. I still feel like I have a million things to do, a million people to see. My room still needs to be cleaned out (forever the procrastinator) and the more I think about packing, the more I don't want to take. Such limited amount of space to pack. I feel crazy thinking about it! I am a big box of emotions too. Sometimes I want to cry, because, no matter what, two years is a LONG time to go without seeing one's family. And I worry about things happening to my family when I am gone. And what everyone is going to look like. . . okay, I am sure everyone will be the same, but still. Then I worry about whether this is real or not. Like I am going to get to DC and they will be like. . . hahahaha, just joking. I have constantly been reasured that this is not likely to happen, but since I have waited for so long, it seems like it could happen.
On the other hand, I am so excited. I can' wait to meet all the new people, and actually see what the people I have chatted with on-line really look like. . . .hmmmm. I so can't wait till I get to Kenya too. Everything I have heard about it, makes it seem so exciting. All the animals, the history, the people, everything. I can't wait.
On a side note, I am so excited, because next week (already?) I am going to one of my best friends college graduations. Another BFF from high school will be comming in from florida. I am so excited to see them. I am so proud of everything they have accomplished and am very much looking forward to seeing them (and hanging out with) them again.
Then the next week my sister gets married. I can't believe it. . . hopefully she won't have any kids till I get back (sorry mom, you will have to wait for grandkids:)
So much going on.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The List

Okay, I decided to post a "rough draft" of my packing list. . . not quite the PC list, but my list. Any sugesstions, gifts, or otherwise would be very helpful.

Clothes
2 nylon slips
1 nice dress
4-5 long skirts
3 tee shirts
4 button down shirts
2 pairs of jeans (hoping to get the chance to wear them)
2 pairs of nice sandals (Teva/Chaco type)
15-20 pairs undies
8 bras
1 sweat shirt
1 rain coat
2 pairs of socks
1 pair of sneakers
1 pair PJ bottoms
1 pair shorts
1 pair of nice dress shoes
1 baseball cap
1 visor
2 bathing suits

Hygene and Personal Care
Tampons
3 month supply of hair prouducts
soap
sunscreen
lotion
toothbrushes
toothpaste
dental floss
mouthwash
deoderant
comb
hair ties
3 nail clip
nail file
nail polish (okay, not necessary, but I NEED it for my sainity)
razor
Chapstick (tons)
solar shower (just to be on the safe side)

Entertainment
CD player
CD's
shortwave radio
8 or so of my absolute favorite books
deck of cards
art stuff (paints, brushes, paper)
2 cameras and film
2 journals
tent (for camping)

Other stuff
sleeping bag
favorite blanket
2 fitted full size sheets
favorite pillow with case
sleeping pad
1 nalgene bottle
1 camelback
potato peeler
1 nice knife
2 non stick pans
spices (including red chili powder)
mesuring spoons and cups
leatherman
bateries
head lamp
flashlight
2-3 pair sunglasses (I lose them so quickly)
duct tape
ziplock bags
herbs and vitamins
alarm clock
address book
US stamps
towels
fleece
money belt
prepaid credit card
debit card from us account
seeds
herbal remedy first aid kit (if I can get it together in time)
gifts for host family
salt and pepper in grinder
calender
poster or two
tape recorder and cassets (good to help learn the language and send home)world map
map of africa
map of us
english dictionary and thesarus
stickers (for the kiddies)
scissors?


I hope that is everything. . . I also hope this is equal to or less than my eighty pound limit. But than again this is my "Rough Draft"