Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Super Somali September Birthday weekend

In case you wanted to know what I did on my birthday, I went with my friend Nimo to visit her friend Hafsa in Nairobi. They are both Somali so I got a taste of Somali culture and what they do for Ramadan. Click here for the pics: Birthday weekend

Monday, September 29, 2008

Idioms, phrases and slang, oh my!

Though I'm not completely fluent in Kiswahili yet, I've managed to catch at least the Kenyan English lingos and other idiom:
  1. Water the Nation - an euphemism....er...for... releasing...umm... ok its basically just peeing outside since you can't find a toilet anywhere when you're traveling to these remotes places. We "watered the nation" many times during our trip to Northeaster Kenya. I suspect they should be drought-free for a while at least.
  2. Water the Desert - See above; this happened once we got into Chalbi desert.
  3. Looking smart - to look good, stylish, dapper, etc.; I didn't know if I should've been offended when I was told I looked smart because I assumed I looked dumb the other days but I finally got it.
  4. Take - By this I mean I use "take" instead of "have"; I now "take" lunch and I don't "have" lunch
  5. Kenyan Water - Tusker Beer
  6. Chips - Fries
  7. Roasted potatoes - Bigger fries
  8. Good day - Have a good day
  9. Now - Later
  10. 1:30 PM - Tomorrow
  11. Top-up - To refill credit on your phone

Friday, September 19, 2008

So I forgot to mention

...One thing I forgot to mention about our trip in Moyale…so while in Moyale, Ethiopia (during the 2 week project trip), our driver notices this same boy at a local restaurant all the time when he makes his trips to Moyale. He finally asks the local people the story behind him and finds out his dad died in the tribal battle and his mother died of an illness. The boy, Getu, of about 10 years had been living on the streets for who knows how long. And like that, our driver, Kenyua, decides to “adopt” Getu and take him back to live with him. None of us knew he had done so and thought the boy was just accompanying a man hitching a ride with us (it’s pretty common to here to give people lifts since transport is hard to come by). Finally, Kenyua tells us he decided the kid needed a better chance at life than what was offered and knew he had the capacity to help (along with the assistance of the NGO he worked for). And like that, he took on the responsibility of another life. I was floored…like mouth-gaping, wide-eyed, “are-you-serious” floored. I know I sometimes feel good about spending time with the local kids or teaching them some basic math or English skills but I was completely and utterly humbled at this act of kindness. I don’t know if I would have had the guts to do that. I was completely excited, though, that this had happened and wanted to get involved. So when everyone went to dinner that night, I spent some time with Getu trying to talk to him (he speaks Ethiopian, barely any Swahili, and some very broken English). Needless to say, it was an interesting endeavor, but I did come to find out this boy is really, really clever. First of all, I offered him some chocolate wafers and asked simple questions like his name, age, etc. When the whole verbal communication thing wasn’t working so hot, I turned to writing and drawing pictures (and yes, using my very animated face and gestures). We wrote our names, drew pictures (well, he just copied what I drew) and tired some simple math and English. Considering he hadn’t had consistent education, his basic education skills were fairly decent. We then proceeded to watch WWE on tv (don’t ask me why they show wrestling here) but the reception was bad. Being the little engineer that he was, he got up on a chair to re-connect the wire, re-position the antennas, and to clean the tv to better the reception. Once he found out the remote wasn’t working, he decided to rotate the batteries in the remote. I was surprised at his ambition and knowledge. More so, I was encouraged at what seemed like a precocious mind. I then showed him my digital camera and he went nuts. He wanted to take pictures of everything and everyone. So we had a photo shoot outside (note the Marsabit pics in the links below). I told Kenyua later that day I would love to mentor Getu on the weekends if it was possible. Unfortunately, I have been traveling during the weekends these past weeks and haven’t see Getu yet but hope to do so soon. Anyways, I thought that was an amazing story and just wanted to share. I definitely know I be less skeptical of random acts of kindness. Who would have ever thought that our driver would just up and adopt a kid without even thinking twice? I am humbled and hope I have a heart to do something similar.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Home sick.....home ill.....home everything!

So I'm gonna be honest, these past weeks have been tough! This is rather atypical of me since I usually love traveling, meeting new people, exploring, etc etc. This time around, its a bit different. Maybe its because of my small town, my all-in-one bathroom/toilet/shower, abandonment of my vegetarian ways, lack of football/basketball. Well, really its just the isolation and loneliness. I am staying at a guest house (actually its a Boy Scouts Guest House created by Dutch scouts...don't ask me how/why...I just live there). The monotony of life is setting in: wake up, breakfast, walk to work at 7, walk back at 5:15, jump rope and do push-ups, eat dinner, play scrabble, watch tv, repeat. I've sought advice from other vols and it seems the 1st month is always really tough and critical to get through. Basically you just have to go day by day and things usually end up getting better. I hope this is true! I am fortunate enough though to have met a girl staying here at Scouts who is on rotation at the hospital. We at least can have dinner together and play scrabble. Also, my colleague at work, Cate, has been a great person I can confide and share my feelings with. I've really learned to take joy in the small things of life. It may be just taking a walk, a smile, saying hi to a person, etc. It also makes me realize how my life in the US was so full of distractions. It was so easy not to face challenges or do things you didn't want to because there were alternatives (like my sports, numerous restaurants, a car to drive places, cultural events in Houston, etc.). Since I don't have those things here, its kind of a rude awakening. It has been a long time since I've actually just been alone....really alone...and just really see yourself. Its both interesting and difficult to see who I am ...alone...out of context...out of my comfort zone. I hope this slump turns for the better as time goes on. At least that's what most people say.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Over the hills, and through...who knows where!

Hello! Well I've made it back alive from my almost 2 week trip in northern Kenya with my project team, APHIA II and the Kenyan Ministry of Health (MOH). This past week has been in-your-face,-up-close-and-personal training. We went through what was the roughest parts of Kenya (basically off-roading since roads are not quite developed yet in most places). We literally got lost in the desert for an hour or so (no joke, we're talking no land marks, just dry, parched, cracked land speckled with camels and ostriches). I was slightly scared but realized that a nearby nomad may consider me to be about 10 camels worth as a bride and I could live happily in the desert forever. Right. I gave the driver a 'if-you-don't-get-us-out-of-here-soon-I'm-gonna-go-ballistic-on-you" look. We made it out eventually.

Anyways, I've lost many precious brain cells jolting in our SUV for a week. Moreover, I think my head is more loosely connected to my body. Awesome. Basically the purpose of the trip was to see the issues these district hospitals, dispensaries and health centers were facing. Apparently, the data quality my team has been receiving hasn't been great or consistent. Plus, much of the northeastern part is disregarded in terms of government aid since not many people are there and its not really a thriving area (e.g. it isn't a profitable place for the government to invest at this point). I could see why since about 3 hours out of luscious green Embu, we hit dry. flat, rocky no-man's land. Kenya is a land of contrast to say the least! Pics from our trip are located here: