Thursday, August 21, 2008

kwa heri (for now)

As I am leaving Kakamega in 24 hours, and may not be on the internet until I reach America, this is the last post from Kenya. I promise to write up my last two weeks shortly, but for now, this is good bye. Kwaheri. Nitarudi, Mungu akipenda.
And Jambo, Amerika!

Friday, August 15, 2008

a crazy/pensive sunday

14 August 2008
Well, I've definitely been lax with writing this week. But I've been taking it easy in other areas as well. I think I left you up-to-date on Saturday, so it remains to tell you about Sunday and about my week. The week may have to wait because this already looks to be a long post.
On Sunday I traveled to Malava with my co-workers Mirriam and Gladys to meet their mom. This journey ended with me walking the streets of Kakamega with a hen under my arm. But first, the trip. I was supposed to meet them at 9 at the end of the hospital road (the road I live on), but in true Kenyan fashion, they didn't show up until almost 10. I had a lot of time to observes the traffic (such that it is). I saw a man carrying 20 chairs on the back of his boda (the funny thing was is I was on the receiving end of this the next day. I watched matatus drive back and forth. I will have to bring a picture of one back, because there is no other way to explain matatus. They carry 6, 8, 11, or 14 passengers and are somewhat similar to the love child of a minibus and a minivan. They are usually painted white and yellow, but most of them have additional detailing and paint with references to pop culture or God. In Kakamega, there is a whole chain of matatus that say Xzibit on the back. I've even seen a Barak Obama matatu. But my favorite is a little maroon town service (6 passenger) that runs from Kakamega to Amolemba and just says "I ATE" on the back. It begs the question, "I ate what?".
While I was sitting at the end of the road waiting, I hear music and see a crowd coming toward me. The previous day I had been caught in the middle of a stampede of yelling, waving men while I was taking my boda-boda to work. I think it's the only moment where I have felt scared the whole time I've been here. But it turns out I was in no danger: the men were just coming cheering from the early-morning bullfights that the area is known for—I didn't know this, but Tom informed me later...apparently it's in the Lonely Planet guidebook?
So I see this crowd and her music and, wait a minute, it sounds like a marching band…because it is a marching band! Probably a 40-piece band marching down the road in matching white uniforms, waving a flag that says something like "Kakameg Corps". And behind come some more people including two wazungu. I think it was actually affiliated with some church in town, but I can't be sure.
So I'm still waiting, and I remember my new motto for Kenya: hakuna haraka, hakuna matata: no hurry, no worry.
A little bit later I hear my name called, and see Mirriam speed by on a boad, followed by Gladys. They're both yelling something like, "Bee! come on!" and I am seriously confused for an instant. But apparently they had hired a boda to carry me, because this guy stopped and waited for me to hop on. Today I am actually wearing jeans and a t-shirt for once because Mirriam says trousers iko "smart", but I still sit on the boda side-saddle out of habit, until we get to the speed bumps on the path and I dismount. I don't think I had ever straddled one before, which tells you how good I've been about wearing skirts.
After the bodas dropped us at the SomKen petrol station, Mirriam hired a town service to take us to Malava for the day. It's about an hour or so from town down the highway the opposite direction from Kisumu—toward Webuye I think. We get to the town, stop to get groceries at a little duka, greet some people Mirriam knows, I get stared at, and then we continue down the dusty dirt road to her family's compound. Unlike the house I live in in Kakamega, this one is a concrete box with an aluminum roof and no electricity. But like every Kenyan family I've met, there are no apologies, no complaints about poverty. They live with what they have, and make it the best place they can. Inside, the house is spacious, and the furniture is covered with crochet rectangles about 2 feet by 1 ft in a neon orange yarn. Even when the colors are eye-assaulting, I still know I will miss having so much color when I am gone.
First, I met the mama and some of the myriad kids that always seem to be around here. The youngest two were called Eric and Pamela, and I think they were Mirriam's niece and nephew, but I can't be certain. Mirriam's mother was a wonderful lady, but I think she spent most of her time in the kitchen preparing lunch. Tom had mentioned on Friday about how the women in his family cook over a three-stone fire or a low table in the dark kitchen hut all the time, and I have a feeling Mirriam's mama does just the same, because she is permanently stooped over.
First, we had chai and Blue Band sandwiches (margarine and bread). Since it is Mirriam and Gladys' permanent goal to make me fat before I leave (and they're running out of time), there was to be no refusing of food. I think I had 4 Blue Band sandwiches (if not more) and two cups of chai. By the time I finished the second cup, the big table had been cleared, although we ate sitting on the couches with sort of stool-coffeetables to put the food on. Nearly as soon as my second cup of chai disappeared, Mirriam began carrying out the dishes for lunch. Ay! So I was faced with a heaping plate of mchele, ndengu, and nyama to finish. They had also bought sodas.
By the end of lunch, my food total stood at 4 Blue Band sandwiches, two cups of chai, 500 ml of Coke, and a heaping plate of rice, lentils, and meat. Mirriam was unsatisfied with how much food I had put away, but I assured her that if I ate any more it would be an unpleasant matatu ride back to Kakamega. And I had to get back fairly quickly because I had a meeting scheduled for two to go over information for the boda-boda training on Monday. Shortly thereafter, we had to take leave, but not before we had taken pictures, said many goodbyes, and Mirriam's mother had given me a hen. I had a feeling this was partly my fault because I had mentioned my cock at the office. I tried to tell Mirriam I didn't need a hen, but she assured me her mom wanted to give me one: "She doesn't have anything to give you, so she's giving you a hen". I am reminded once again of how selfish we who have so much can be, while those who have little give it all away. Then we piled back into the matatu with a multitude of produce from the family shamba, one hen, and somehow the two children and Mirriam's brother. But it turned out that we were just taking them to the church so we could say goodbye to Mirriam's father (I never actually figured out if this was Gladys' family too or not).
At the church I got plenty of stares. I should mention that most churches outside of Nairobi are little more than a concrete or brick building, with grating at the windows (no glass) and benches. The multimedia displays and praise bands that have become so pedestrian in Western churches are conspicuously absent. I think that Friends Church (Quakers) of Malava may still be the most beautiful church I have ever been to. It's a hexagonal concrete building, with wrought iron grates at the windows. It's mainly open to the elements, but under a metal roof, and the concrete is formed like rafters to leave a sort of tall, open area under the roof. The worshippers sit on wooden benches facing a raised platform out of the concrete floor. It was just so simple and so pure, commonplace and unadorned, yet beautiful, the way faith should be. The only other church I have felt this way about is St. Paul's cathedral in London. It's someplace where you walk in and feel, this is a church, this is a place that makes it easy to feel something about God.
After bidding goodbye to the baba, we got back into the matatu and headed back to Kakmega. By this time it was nearly two, so I SMS Stella (the facilitator) to tell her I'm running late, but I arrive back a respectable forty minutes after 2. This is Kenya: hakuna haraka, hakuna matata.
There was no time to go home, so I tucked the somewhat disgruntled hen under my arms and walked off to town to meet Stella at her office.
When Stella let me in, it took her a moment to say, "you have a chicken". I explained to her and gave my apologies, but she seemed to think it was quite funny. Our meeting didn't last too long, so a little after 3 pm I began the walk home. I cause quite a stir. Imagine me walking the streets of Kakamega in jeans and a t-shirt with a hen under one arm! I heard a lot of whispers that contained "mzungu" and "kuku". When I got home, my mom thought it was hilarious, but she was glad to receive a good hen for our growing poultry operation.
For dinner that night we had kuku, again, but I'm starting to get used to it. Luckily, Gwen the hen was not on the chopping block (I need to work on mom letting me name them).
The rest of the week will have to wait.

Monday, August 11, 2008

in which a week goes by without a blog

10 August 2008
Warning: long post. It's been an entirely hectic week, and I haven't felt like writing at all. I know I won't remember everything.
I had my grant-writing workshop for the management yesterday. It started almost 2 hours late, and there were only 6 people in attendance, plus two of the other FSD interns. My supervisor wasn't even there. But the workshop itself went really really well. I doubt myself a lot as a teacher, but I had done enough preparation that I was able to handle it. And we went through the different parts of the grant by applying them to a potential project that KES could do, and people were really involved in asking questions and suggesting ideas. I think it was so good that they now want to do the imaginary project we were doing. That was a really encouraging thing. One Monday I have my last boda-boda training, and then I am D-O-N-E done! I'll be spending the next two weeks much more leisurely.
I was really burned out at the start of the week, so I tried to take it easy, and mostly succeeded, but I still felt busy. I didn't go in to work much. Tuesday it rained from 8:15 to 11 am, and I couldn't get to the office. Then I met Brenna in town for lunch and a chat before we both went to work so she could assist me with the grant packet. Wednesday I didn't go in because we had a meeting for FSD and I had a bunch of errands to run in town. Thursday I was out of the office a lot because I met with Enock of ACCES to review the material for the grant. Friday I took most of the day off: I went to Kisumu with Alice in the morning to do some fabric shopping (her project is making bags out of a cultural fabric called a lesso that the mamas usually wear wrapped around their waists—their really beautiful, and we've all become a bit lesso obsessed). I went in for the afternoon because I thought I had a meeting with my boss, but he went off to Kisumu without stopping in, so instead I just finished the materials for the grant. On and off this week I've also been working on my departure packet for FSD—I can't believe that…it's so soon.
Outside of work I got to spend more time with my family this week. The kids have been out of school for almost two weeks, and Alvin got back from boarding school this week as well. Also, my host dad has been in from Nairobi for meetings of a school board he's on, so it's quite a full house. I feel like a little bit of a burden because the five of them sleep in one bedroom now since I have the other. And they've been so good to me. I've been inaugurated into the family this week: my mom is now ordering me around just like the others—I love it.. I brought them some loose-leaf tea from America as a gift—one hibiscus herbal, and another Earl Grey since those happen to be my favorite, and they've quite enjoyed it. Mom asked me where she could get some more, and yesterday she had me make some more Earl Grey for her. Every day since I got back from Kisumu a week ago we've had kuku for dinner. I thought maybe we were celebrating something, but when I asked my mom she laughed for a long time before she said there were just too many jogoo—cocks—in the henhouse and they were beginning to cockfight. Of six jogoo, four were destined for slaughter. Last night we started on the third, so there's still one to go. Luckily, I like chicken, although last night's was a bit tough.
Because I've been home so much this week, I've gotten to play with Garry and Betty a lot more. One day we played out in the back yard—hide and seek and a sort of variation of hopscotch. I have several mbu (mosquito) bites to show for it, but it was great. Maybe inspired by the unique chicken situation, they ply a game called cockfighting as well. Both players crouch on their calves and bounce up and down while batting at each other with their hands. After each bout, you jump from your crouch around in a circle once. It's quite hilarious to watch. Garry also likes to color a lot, and build with Legos. He's been drawing, working sums on paper, and one day we spelled out all the letters with Legos. He just likes to have someone comment on what he's doing.
Since Alvin's been home, we watch more Western TV. Apparently the first season of Heroes is on Tuesday nights, and yesterday I caught a bit of Smallville! This week I'm going to borrow some movies from Brenna for us to watch. He really likes movies, and we've had several conversations about them.
Also this week, I bumped into this great English guy in the cybercafé on Tuesday. His name is Tom, and he's a medical student here for six weeks working at the hospital. He's been able to hang out with us some this week, and I've been showing him the ins and outs of Kakamega. One funny side effect for us interns after being here for seven weeks, is we feel kind of territorial about Kakamega. When Alyssa sees other wazungu on Amolemba by her house, she wonders what they're doing on her stretch of road. It's also funny to see people and try to guess why they're here, or to be able to identify that they just got of the bus. The biggest part of culture shock I think for me will be going back to the Midwest and wondering what all those white people are doing there. I've been really inspired to get more involved with the international students on campus after this experience, now that I have a little sense of what they go through. I'm really hoping we have someone coming from Kenya or Tanzania so I can practice my Swahili!
I went to the market yesterday to take some pictures, but I still feel so much like I'm invading, even after I say, "Ningependa kupiga picha. iko sawa?" I now owe about half a dozen people prints, and once I do \I'll have some lifelong friends. I hope to go back on Wednesday, the other big market day, and take some more. I really want to capture the colors of the market to have with me when I go.
Last thing to mention, Friday nights are all-night prayer meetings at the corner church. It was really amusing to wake up at 4 am and find them still going, singing "Deck the Halls" of all things. Made me think of my two favorite roommates and their coincidentally similar love for Christmas.

Monday, August 4, 2008

in which we go to Kisumu

4 August 2008
What a weekend! It was a little more wild and crazy than I’m used to, but fun and full. There is no chance I will remember everything that happened, but here's my best effort at an overview.
I got off work at 12 on Friday to run some errands before heading to Golf Hotel to say goodbye to Walker and James, who by now are back in the US. About 3 or so we went to the matatu stage to take one to Kisumu for the weekend.
The ride, as matatus go, wasn't bad: relatively fast and uncrowded, but I was sitting in the back seat again, which mean that I had little head room for my abnormally long torso. In Kisumu, we checked in to the Hotel Palmers, which was nice and clean, with friendly staff and enormous (king size) double beds. We rested for a little bit and then went to the Green Garden Restaurant for dinner, which was like an oasis in Kenya—real Western food and an extensive menu! Pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, cocktails, and SALAD!—I ended up ordering a Dijon pork that was delicious. We ended up just eating dinner and going back to the hotel for the rest of the night. It was a good night's sleep, on a mattress that was completely flat, but I still woke up before 7 the next morning. We ate breakfast at the restaurant, ran to the ATM, and then headed to the Masai Market for some shopping. I really wish I could have just bought everything—the crafts here are so amazing! textiles, scarves, soapstone and wood carvings. And we got to meet most of the artists, who were manning their own shops. Several of the booths were fronts for organizations who work with battered or disadvantaged women and children, so it was really neat to see what they were doing—some of the crafts are all from recycled materials—and to see the results.
After that, Angie and Joel went back to Kakamega, and the five remaining interns, all from my arrival group, dropped our purchases off at the hotel before heading down to the waterfront on Lake Victoria for some local samaki (fish). There's a row of "hotels" or restaurants on the beachfront where the locals go, so you know it's good and the fish is fresh. The samaki (freshly caught tilapia), mboga, and ugali were delicious and really hit the spot, but I do have a huge love for fish.
From lunch we headed to Jomo Kenyatta Park for the all-day reggae festival that was going on. It's worth noting that the reggae scene in Kenya is very different from the US—there are actually quite a few Christian reggae songs. The music itself was not fantastic—most of it was DJ'd. But it was really relaxing to just lounge in the park and take a breath for a few hours.
Before we sat down, I had an experience. Walking through the crowd, I felt something hit my butt, and turning around I saw a kid with a stick, who was maybe 12. When we got to a standing spot, I turned to Brenna and Jordan, and said, "you'll never guess what just happened". About the time I finished telling them, I got tapped two more times, and I turned to see the kid had followed me. Apparently I now had a Kenyan boyfriend. He just kept hanging around and was trying to dance with me to the music, but he only came up to maybe my shoulders. Brenna and Jordan were dying with laughter at this point, and I couldn't help but smile because it's too ridiculous, and this would only happen to me. Brenna gave him a little more encouragement, and I was just trying to stare him off. It was too funny. Thankfully, the rest of the time we were in the park, no one really bothered us except for a couple of adorable kids.
When we left the reggae festival, we went back to the hotel for a bit. Brenna and Alice took a nap, while Alyssa, Jordan, and I went out for a little bit. The five of us returned to the Green Garden for dinner and drinks to celebrate Brenna's and my birthdays. I had a large Margherita pizza (which happens to be my favorite). Everybody else shared food, but I ate the whole thing myself! We stayed at Green Garden for a couple of hours enjoying the atmosphere. Then we asked our waiter, who had been really good both nights we were there, where a good place to go after was. He recommended the Octapus Room, which had pool tables, foosball, and dancing. We took a tuk-tuk from the restaurant (we'd actually been traveling by tuk-tuk the whole weekend: having five people in one is really an experience) to the Octapus Room, and felt really silly when it turned out to be just down the block and around the corner. But it was definitely a safer choice to be in a vehicle rather than footing at night. When we got to Octapus, it was still early, so there wasn't much of a crowd, but it picked up as the night progressed. One thing that might surprise you all is that I love dancing, but I am so bad at it that I need a lot of encouragement before I will go. You're probably in shock right now, so take a minute to process that before you continue reading (yes, Jared, I dance…I'm not as uptight as you thought).
So we spent a lot of time dancing. Kenyan guys are a little bit pushy, but with four girls dancing together, they didn't really bother us much, and Jordan was there to come to the rescue when we needed it, which happened once. Several funny tings happened there. One, there was a guy wearing a shirt that just said "cancer sucks." I think I may have them made for CAC. Two, Jordan made friends with this guy named Edmund who turned out to be really nice and really cool. Three, as it got later, the entertainment showed up—in the form of a Rasta guy who danced, did acrobatics and juggling, and ate fire to Jesus reggae music. He was probably at least 40, had long dreads and a reggae headband, and was dressed in a polyester jumpsuit that read "RASKISS". Karibu Kenya. I'm still trying to imagine what he does for a day job. Well, after that had gone on for a good hour and showed no sign of stopping, we were bored with it and ready to leave. By the time we were stepping out of the tuk-tuk at the hotel, it was late enough that we were proud to have stayed up so late, since most of us go to bed at around 9 during the week.
It was so hot in our room, and we now had three people in it to cut down on costs (the bed was that big). With the mosquito net on, it was unbearable hot, and I was really regretting I hadn't brought shorts to sleep in. Then we turned on the fan—it was a little sketchy because it sounded like it would fly off the ceiling at the lowest setting—and we opened the window, and I was able to get to sleep, but it was probably after 3 am before I did. I still woke up at 7: Kenya has really helped me to be early to rise. We woke up, had breakfast, went to the cybercaf, headed to the Kisumu market for some last-minute shopping, and then gathered all of our stuff to take the matatu home. Thankfully, this time I was in a much better seat: I was able to put my bags on the floor and still have room for my legs. It ended up being the most crowded matatu I have ever been on. I'm so glad I had a seat, because if we had gotten into an accident, it would have been a disaster. At its peak, I think we had 21 people (three of them watoto, children) on a 14-passenger van. Talk about a clown car experience: 21 people and their parcels. The thing about matatus is that you can ride for the whole route like we did, but many people pick them up on the side of the road and get off two villages later, so you do a lot of stopping. And then there are the stops for police checkpoints as well. If you are on a really bad matatu, it can take twice as long: the ride to Kisumu wil be 3 hours instead of one and a half.
Still, we got home by one, so the trip wasn't too bad. I dropped my purchases at home and talked with my family, and then went to Amolemba to talk with Angie for a little bit. While the weekend was great, I'm still really burned out with traveling and working so much, and I needed to talk to someone for a little bit and offload. Talking with Angie was extremely helpful, and she suggested I take some time off this week to spend with my family now that the kids are out of school. Then I was able to spend the rest of the day with my family, and I got to bed right after dinner, forgetting to set an alarm, so when I woke up the next morning, I felt the happiest and calmest I have been in a while.

Friday, August 1, 2008

the boda-boda/micro-finance roller coaster

30 July 2008
Today was a flurry of activity. Tomorrow is the first training for the boda group, so I had a lot of planning to do. I drew up an agenda for the meeting to set down the topics we should cover and made some paperwork for the members to sign. Tomorrow I am supposed to meet with Enock at ACCES to get his input on the packet. But first I have to have the packet together. Also tomorrow I have a meeting with Stella, who works for another local micro-finance organization called K-REP. We are hoping to arrange the facilitation of the group business training with her, hopefully for next week. Things are moving along so quickly! Looking back at my work plan, it's amazing how much has changed since that second week at work! To end the day, I met with my boss, co-workers, and the micro-finance person to go over the agenda and topics for tomorrow's training. My boss had some really good input about the order, and he suggested doing a needs assessment as well, which I am grateful for because it is really crucial to have the group's input and I had forgotten to include that overtly. The micro-finance person also received a list of the information she should have for tomorrow, so I feel like we are on our way to being prepared. There is still a lot to do before the meeting begins, and I have supplies and refreshments to purchase in the morning after my meetings. Today was an extremely productive day compared to last week.
31 June 2008
I have certainly been on the receiving end of the African concept of time today. My 7 am meeting started at 7:40. Still, it was good. He had a lot of input on the packet and a way forward from here. So then at 8:40 I met with Stella at K-REP to discuss the business training. We covered the basics, the supplies, and her fee, but I will know more after meeting with the bodas later today. Then I went to the bookshop to purchase supplies for the workshop and met my friend Alyssa to get her camera for today since I forgot mine at my house early this morning. At this point I thought I was running late because the boda drivers were supposed to show up at 9:30 and the meeting was schedule for 10. I'm not in the office yet, it's 9:30, and I still have a ream of paperwork to prepare for today's meeting.
I get to the office and there are no bodas yet, so I go in and start prepping. Meanwhile my boss keeps throwing more information into the packets, I have to arrange for snacks, and I still have to get exercise books. I'm a little bit stressed and I've been going since before 7 this morning, but hey. it's Africa, so I have a little leeway with the time, right? Well, about 10:15 everything is pretty much together, and a couple of the guys have arrived. But for some reason my boss and the other facilitator are in a meeting. It's 10:30, 10:49, 11:00 and no boss. Now I'm frustrated. It's one thing to say time is a loose concept, and another to keep people waiting an hour after a meeting has been scheduled. Especially since we are trying to teach these guys about responsibility, and bottom line, teach them how to do business. But they can't work because they are waiting, and the longer it goes, the more it cuts into their prime time for doing lunch-hour business. They could be out making money instead of sitting around outside waiting for us. If it was me, I would have been out of there, since these people obviously do not care enough to show up on time. To their credit, they all stayed, which was encouraging. They really are committed (or they just had nothing better to do)
At about 11:30, we are able to move to the meeting venue: me, Mirriam, and the bodas. I hand the materials out and make a little bit of small talk. Shortly after that the other facilitator shows up and we get started, but the agenda is shot to hell. Finally my boss comes, and it ends up going really well. He's a really good teacher, so he was able to engage them and get them involved in the learning process. We also got to hear their ideas for other businesses they would like to do, and that was probably the best part of the day for me. The variety was astounding, although the cost of capital is so high they certainly won't be able to do much toward that right away. the idealist in me is pleased that maybe someday this little project will have made an impact, and these group members will be raising kukus, farming, driving a taxi, barbering, or getting further education. In the end, they were able to begin forming their group and elect their leadership, so all in all it was a successful training.
I began the training on a sour note, but it went up from there, so my feelings about the day are mixed, but I was emotionally and physically exhausted by the end of it. It was good to see the men so engaged and laughing at jokes. But all the same I was extremely frustrated with the whole situation. It's one thing to keep me waiting around the office, but you don't do it when you have another 20 people waiting on you. And you don't hold a meeting when you've already scheduled another meeting. It reflects poorly on our organization and says we are not serious about this, it makes us in a sense hypocritical. And it makes us just like everybody else, reinforcing the position society puts these men in, saying, well you aren't that important to us, either. Why should they participate if we can't even treat them with common decency and respect? Ahh! I'll tell you, I rarely curse, but today I just felt like spouting off a strem. Mirriam asked me around 10:49 if I was angry. I said, well, yes, and explained why. They started laughing and tried to explain, well, this is Africa. "In America you value time? time is money?" I tried to tell them, no, I get the cultural difference, and I thought I was handling that particular one pretty well, but that's not the reason this is a problem.I need to discuss with my boss tomorrow (also because he is trying to take off in a different direction with the business training). When he's in the office, it seems like heads are always rolling for the little inefficiencies that characterize work here. He and the chairman have both harped on this topic: streamlining operations, ensuring efficiency and accuracy. Well, tomorrow, his head will be rolling, because the situation today was unacceptable. That's not how you do business. I don't care who or where you are.
1 August 2008
A quick note before I head off for the weekend. We had a member come in to the office asking about the boda group. It seems he came last week and talked to the chairman about enabling a group of bodas from his church to start with the piki-piki (motoboda). He has a group of 20+. I talked with him for a long time about what we are doing and how it works and sent him away with some information. He was very positive and upbeat, and said he will discuss with his group on Sunday. So already, unlooked-for, we have the beginnings of a second group for this program. That's exciting! And talk about a jack-of-all-trades. This guy owns a piki-piki, works with the government empowering poor people, is an agricultural consultant, and owns a shop in town. Plus he pastors that church. Like everybody here, he does everything he can and works as hard as he can. It's really amazing to witness.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I've got the cooking bug

29 July 2008

Apparently it is a goal for every Kenyan woman I work with to set me up with her single male relatives. Mary, the secretary, is trying to make sure her son comes into town before I leave. Eliza, who works in the office next to ours, is determined I get to know her brother. And Mirriam suggested her cousin. It's a funny thing.

This evening was incredibly rainy. Between when I left work at 4:40 to use the internet and when I went to meet my friends at Walia's (supermarket, bar and restaurant) at 5:20, there was a torrential (or so I thought) downpour that started just as I got past the market on the way to the cybercaf√©. After I left Walia's (meanwhile impressing my boda driver with my Kiswahili), it began to rain just as I walked up to the house. This amplified into what really was a torrential downpour (sometimes, you know, it just drizzles), eventually cutting out the power in the middle of making dinner. Surprisingly, it came back on quickly. Which reminds me that I am very grateful that we have not had a water shortage this week (I say that now…).
As far as the cooking escapades go, tonight I learned to cook kabechi (cabbage) and mahisi (I think that's what they're called), which are a kind of sweet-ish dough similar to a sweet roll that are fried. I haven't yet learned to cook the mahisi because my mom informs me that they take a long time to make.

One thing I've been thinking about for the past few days is how strong Kenyan women are, at least the ones I know. They do so much for themselves and their families, my Kenyan mom being one of the best examples of this (Moms are like that, aren't they?—a shout out to my real mom, whom I love and am so grateful for—thanks for being so wonderful about me being here). I don't know but there's a lot of chatter about women's empowerment in developing countries; let's face it, women have it kind of rough here. But watching my mom, I wonder if it doesn't take a stronger woman to walk to your own rhythm on the path forged for you instead of breaking away completely and forging your own path. Which I guess is my way of saying that I think there can be more validity in fulfilling a woman's traditional roles in your own (empowering) ways rather than tossing it all away to be a militant feminist.

Another thing I've been thinking about is how resourceful people here are. Sometimes I find myself so dependent on technology that I find it hard to organize and process information without my computer (take this blog as an example). Here, you find people taking their available capacity and really making use of it. This struck me this morning when I saw a man transporting a tower of milk crates taller than himself filled with loaves of bread on the back of his bicycle to all the little shops on the hospital road. Well, there aren't enough vehicles, and people can't afford to have everything delivered by truck, so many things are carried around on the backs of bicycles: people, chickens, cooking oil, food deliveries, other bicycles, and even coffins.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

in which I get a grant!

29 July 2008

I just wanted to send out a quick note to let you know that I got the grant money! So it's full steam ahead on the project, and things are starting to shape up.

In other news, yesterday my cock woke me up at maybe 5:30 with his crowing because he was still in the house in the box we transported him in by virtue of the rain when we came home the night before. But thankfully he was out of the house this morning, so I woke up with my alarm instead. Today is my friend Brenna's birthday, so we are all getting together in the time between work and dark to celebrate for a bit. And we're celebrating because we all got our grant money. Yay!