Hi everyone! Please check out my new article posted on Global Glam Magazine!
You can find it here:
Please comment and I hope you enjoy!
Hi everyone! Please check out my new article posted on Global Glam Magazine!
You can find it here:
Please comment and I hope you enjoy!
I had such an incredible day today. Maybe it’s because I’m finally getting comfortable with the kids and I know what I’m doing at the school. But today I was sitting in the courtyard thinking about why I’m here and the experience I wanted to get and everyone back home. I was thinking about everything I was missing out on by being here, it’s mom’s birthday and while I got to talk to her this morning it is the first birthday in 24 years that I won’t be spending with her. And then I started to think about something a friend of mine said. He told me he is jealous of where I am and what I’m doing. At the time I was really missing home and feeling bitter about my living situation. I told him there is nothing to be jealous of, I wish I could be home. And then I started thinking about it today, I am so lucky. I’m having the kind of experience many people crave but don’t have the nerve to seek out.
I have the opportunity to meet so many new people and learn about different cultures, not just the Kenyan culture. I have been blessed to meet other volunteers, people from such different backgrounds and from different parts of the world. And I have had been able to experience that while we are so different, we are also very much the same. I am so immensely lucky for this opportunity. It took me two weeks to realize it, but better late than never. I am ashamed of telling my friend not to be jealous because there are so many things that break my heart to see, things I never wanted to see, but it is the most wonderful, annoying, crazy, saddening, incredible experience I could have hoped for.
I step out of my epiphany to take pictures of the kids. I’m smiling and laughing and have finally become completely immersed in the experience I am having here. I don’t think I have smiled that much in a long time.
It is dirty here, and the streets are unpaved and lined with trash, but I’m falling in love with the people here. Their positive outlook is unparalleled and contagious.
We played with the kids all day long and took endless pictures. It is pure fun involving piggy back rides and throwing the kids up in the air. They enjoyed most of all getting their pictures taken and taking mine. I’ve never seen so many kids enamored by a camera, but it was amusing to me that they all knew how to use it perfectly. Children somehow never cease to amaze me.
When the kids go down for naptime us volunteers made our way into the storage room where we spend most of our time. Virginia pulled out a guitar that she brought to school and insisted on singing. She asked Ian to teach us a song which he refused so we ended up singing the same four lines we all knew to Galway Girl.
“And I ask you frien, what’s a fella to do.
Cause her hair was black and her eyes were blue.
And I knew right then I’d be takin’ a whirl
‘Round the Salthill Prom with a Galway girl.”
The end result… the song was stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
After naptime I decided I wanted to do something special for my momma on her birthday, even though I was so far away. So we all went to Class One where I filmed the kids singing happy birthday to my mom. My favorite part was when the kids started singing “Are you one, are you two, are you three, are you four, are you five…” We couldn’t do that forever so finally Virginia stops the class and yells “No, she is 50!” The kids burst out laughing and wouldn’t stop, it was contagious.
After walking the kids home from school the four of us decided to do some vendor shopping. The girls leave tomorrow and I’ll be so sad to see them go. They made the hardest days enjoyable, but we will keep in touch and with any luck I will see them next year.
Life is improving here, the family is very considerate and have started cooking things I like for dinner. This means a lot of pasta, but I’m not complaining, at least I’m eating. My stomach is shrinking I think, I don’t require much food now which is fine and I’ve come to realize I like Rose a lot more after 10 a.m.
Things are looking up and I’m feeling good. Let the good days keep on coming!
I didn’t sleep well last night. As a result of seeing the cockroach I had constant, vivid nightmares; I woke up throughout the night terrified that bugs were crawling all over me. After a restless night’s sleep I wake up to Rose turning on the lights, talking in the room, being in and out and leaving the door open so I can hear the music from the kitchen loud and clear. I am beginning to put her on the same level as the rooster.
It’s an easy day at school today, as me and the girls have decided to leave early, around 1 p.m. to take a short trip into the city. We are plus 1 today as we received a new volunteer from Ireland last night. So it goes like this, I finish taking my shower and come into the living room to find our new volunteer looking roughly 20-years-old sitting on the couch that no one ever sits on. I say hello, take my seat and pull out my book. Its Jane Eyre I’m reading this week, but I can’t focus because he is asking me 20 questions; none of which I can fully remember because his accent had me stunned. Having never heard an Irish accent before I am floored, and that doesn’t happen often. But after my childhood obsession with Harry Potter, this is really no surprise.
Our trip into the city is fairly quiet with the exception that we can’t stop talking. Everyone wants to know about the new kid. In order take the bus into the city it costs 50 shillings which is equivalent to 50 cents; everything is so much cheaper here for us. I saw laptops today selling for 18,000 shillings which is 180 USD.
After an hour ride, we are finally in the city. We do a lot of walking around and are supposed to go to the masai market, but after finding out it’s only open on the weekends, we settle for walking around and looking at the shops.
The city is much cleaner than in Kibera where we live. The sidewalks are not ideal with potholes scattered throughout and the pavement risen in places and after my third time tripping Ian smirks at me and tells me I’m about as graceful as a Giselle.
We walk along the streets and look through the windows on the right while on our left people are lining the sidewalks selling all things from jewelry to books to fruit. People shout at us to buy their products and at one point my hand is grabbed by several men and I have to pull away to get them to let go; shortly after that Lydia, Virginia and myself are whistled at. I guess they are trying to make us feel right at home.
It’s lunchtime in the city and I am relieved to have so many options that don’t consist of rice, ugali or cabbage.
After lunch Lydia and Virginia declare they need to go to the store, so we walk in a massive grocery store that is four levels tall. There are no escalators, only ramps to get from one floor to the next.
Back outside there are bookstands laid out every half block, it is a bookworms dream. And for those of you who know me, yes, your suspicions are correct, I bought a book. I couldn’t help it. Yes, I know I have an illness; because who goes to Africa and buys a book? Oh yea, I do.
The way home is quite eventful as I get to know the new volunteer. I am getting to learn a little about Ireland and he asks plenty of questions about America, (Its surprising how similar our countries are) and we start to swap embarrassing stories. It soon becomes a competition of who can level the playing field with the more embarrassing story. At one point I mention my record player and Polaroid camera and he starts laughing and tells me I am a hipster. I begin to argue that I am definitely not, but I think I am losing this argument. I tell him, “I just appreciate older things and don’t conform to mainstream technology and everything.” He starts laughing and says “you literally just explained what a hipster is!” Apparently all that combined with my love of travel, used bookstores and writing a blog make me a hipster.
Two hours later we finally stop in Kibera and get off the bus. Realizing my shoe is untied I step off to the side to tie it. People skirt around me and without paying much attention to where I am walking, I stand up and take one step forward before slipping and landing right in the deep puddle I was trying to avoid. Dirt, water, and I’m sure some diseases shoot up my leg covering me in this smelly substance. Ian shakes his head and starts laughing “Like I said, graceful as a Giselle” he says. What a fabulous end to the day.
Finally, some semblance of normalcy today. The rooster gave it a break this morning, hopefully he made himself hoarse and lost his voice yesterday.
We have a variation at school today, we only have to do arts and crafts until around 11 a.m. At that time we are asked to take the kids outside to practice for graduation. Five kids are chosen from each class to do the catwalk and the children walk up and down the “runway” and strike a pose while the other students clap and chant their name. It’s adorable to see them act like any other child I’ve interacted with, they have fun and put a little sass into their routine. It’s touching to know that not much changes between cultures; sure we speak different languages and look different, but when you get down to the core, we are all inherently the same.
While we are practicing for their graduation, kids from the area stop to watch. Their clothes are in poor condition. One girls’ stockings are so visibly old that her toes are no longer covered and holes are scattered throughout revealing her skinny legs. All of the children are dirty, their clothes tattered and torn, they sit and watch us and I can’t help but wonder if they look upon our students with envy. They don’t appear to have much other than the clothes on their back and an old basketball they kick around as a soccer ball.
There is an old abandoned, beat up car that sits in the side alley next to the school where we are practicing for graduation. I look behind me and the kids that previously were watching us are now climbing on the car, using it as their own personal jungle gym. It is incredibly sad to watch these kids get so much enjoyment from an old abandoned care because they have nothing else.
I’m losing weight drastically here and it’s no wonder why. At lunch time the other teachers are getting worried because I won’t eat more than a banana. I don’t have the heart to tell them that it’s because I’m squeamish about flies in my food, I feel like that might offend them. They constantly ask if I’m okay or tell me to eat or ask if I’m hungry. I figure the best answer is I’m not very hungry, I just like bananas for lunch.
I’ve been here a little over a week now and when I get home it’s time to do laundry and oh, is it an experience! There are no washing machines her, everything is by hand. I really give the people down here credit, my back is killing my back is killing me by the time I’m done from squatting hunched over a small plastic basin.
The process is time consuming, everything takes a little longer down here. Lydia and Virginia were kind enough to show me the process and laughed when I gave them an incredulous look at the effort it takes. We have to fill one basin with cold water and pour detergent mix in before mixing it around in the water. We put a few items in and scrub them and then put them in another basin to rinse off the soap and then hang them on a clothesline to dry. The problem is it’s the rainy season and I’m just praying that my clothes dry before the overcast sky decides to let the rain fall.
So now I wait until my clothes dry, and let me just say, I am NOT pleased about my undergarments being out there for the world to see.
Tonight is bible study for the family and since I’m trying to be engaging more, I sat at the table to work on my blog, however, it is near impossible to sit in a room and not hear what they are saying.
Near the end, Barnabas begins talking about our sins and says to not become a drunkard. He says (and I’m paraphrasing) that “those who partake in drinking will die young, go to hell, and your soul will belong to the devil.” So, bad news for all of you out there who enjoy a good drink, you will live a short life and go to hell apparently.
Every night after writing my blog in my journal I go to bed with my phone and type the blog up on my phone. It is usually a two-hour process in all but tonight I am hindered by an unexpected guest in my room. I am walking toward my bunkbed when something small crawls out from my mattress. It looks kind of like a stinkbug, it takes me a minute to realize it is actually a cockroach when Rose walks in. I begin hyperventilating and yell at her “what is that!?” She starts laughing, grabs it with her hand, throws it to the ground and stomps on it with her bare foot. Laughing, she says “It’s just a cockroach.” I respond with “Oh is that all!?” I miss home, I did NOT sign up for that, on second thought, I guess I kind of did.
It’s my 8th day in this poverty-stricken country and the power has now been out for the past two days. Even the slightest drizzle of rain causes the WiFi to shut down and the power to go out. It poured all night and it was so loud that even my ear plugs couldn’t keep out the sound. It doesn’t help that I was in bed by 8:30 p.m. like some old woman.
After a fitful night’s sleep I wake up to the rooster directly outside of my window. He must have been angry about the weather because he is LOUD and instead of going off every 15 minutes, it is more like every 2. I strongly am considering finding a gun and putting the annoying bird out of his misery.
After getting to school and setting up shop (we are still making letters and pictures for the kids) I finally have realized where the terrible stench in the courtyard is coming from. I’ve been smelling it for a few days and didn’t realize the toilet the kids use is in the courtyard, right next to where we’ve been working. Although, I use the term “toilet” loosely. It is a small area about the size of a broom closet. There is a wooden door that only locks from the outside and I have seen several children go in to use the toilet at the same time.
How is that possible, you might ask? Well, the toilet is not a conventional toilet; it is a hole in the ground outlined with a plastic rim. A couple times a day a teacher or a group of students dump a bucket of water down the hole, for what purpose I have no idea. All I know is I have to sit in the room right next to it and smell it for 7 hours a day.
I do feel bad for the children, not only do they have to use a substandard toilet, the food we feed them is hardly nutritional. They eat the same food every single day without complaint. We feed them tea and bread in the morning and for lunch they get a small portion of white rice with watered down beans and cabbage. They actually put extra cups of water in the beans to make it a soup-like substance so there is more to go around.
On the side, they get a small slice of banana or watermelon but when I am finished serving the food there is always some pieces left. Carefully I take the tray to the baby class first but the children swarm around me. They all want the extra food I have to offer. Their hands are in front of my face and I raise the tray high above their heads for fear of them knocking it down. They yell “Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!” hoping I will hear them and put a morsel of food in their tiny, outstretched hand. The little kids tug on my shirt to get my attention since they are not tall enough for me to see them.
I can’t imagine being so young and having to fight for food because I’m not sure when my next meal will be. The best part though, is these kids have such high hopes for the future. When you ask them what they want to be when they grow up you don’t hear the things you’d expect of a 7-year-old. When I was little we said we wanted to be a ballerina or a champion figure skater or professional baseball player. These kids tell you that they want to be a pilot or a lawyer, a doctor or a pastor; proof that they are reaching for a brighter future.
After getting back to the house the power was out again so I decided to take another nap. I know, I acknowledged already that I nap too much out here. Half an hour later I’m waking up to Lydia at my door telling me the water is back on and I can take a shower.
Due to the power being out I haven’t been able to shower for a couple days and between you and me, I’m starting to smell like my roommate. So I jumped (literally) at the opportunity. I launch myself out of bed and run to the shower, just as it starts to rain again. Even though I really want to soak under the water, two things prevent me from doing so, the small trickle of water coming out of the spout and the fact that I am afraid the rain will cause the water to shut off while I have soap in my hair.
It’s amazing how one day can make any sort of difference in how I feel here. I’m beginning to get more comfortable, instead of hiding out in my room all night, I hang out in the living room with the family. Instead of writing my blog in bed, I sit at the table and write. It’s a very interesting scene with Lydia and Virginia on my right talking in German, and Mila, Rose and Joseph on my left speaking in Swahili. I’m beginning to think I’m not cultured enough. Every country in the world makes their people learn several languages. In America, most of us only know one. I’d like to become more cultured. There are so many opportunities available to us, why not take them?
I’m beginning to lose track of the hours; it has only been a week but the rooster is no longer loud enough to wake me up. I don’t know why, but I am much more tired here than when I am at home. I have been taking a nap after school every single day, something I never do at home. But perhaps that’s because at home I don’t slow down enough to realize I’m tired.
I shouldn’t feel so exhausted here, I’m not doing any strenuous work. In fact, I hardly feel like I’m being used at the school at all. I came down here wanting to make a difference and impact someone’s life, yet I really don’t feel like I’m doing that.
Today the children have exams so all Virginia, Lydia and myself do is draw pictures for the children and spell out words for the kids to learn next year. We sit in the back office, which is really the size of a closet and draw and color and hardly talk. When this all started out I was told that I would be working in an orphanage for 3 weeks and the hospital for 3 weeks… I am not doing any of that at all. The school closes next Friday and I don’t think they know what to do with me. The other volunteers tell me they thought they would be doing something completely different too. I can’t help but feel I am wasting my time.
I know I sound like a whining child, I should be taking notice of the poverty around me and being appreciative and doing what I can to help. It’s hard knowing that I was promised to be doing so much more than sitting in a back room drawing. Part of me thinks I came here at a bad time though, maybe I should have waited until after the holidays and the kids would be in school learning; but I suppose I am still trying to get the hang of things.
After a long 8 hours, we walk the students home and then make our way for the house. The power went out last night around midnight, so I plugged my phone in just in case it came back on. I get to the house to realize that the power is still out, guess I’ll spend my downtime catching up on some reading then. I brought 5 books with me and I’ve already finished one, so I move onto Jane Eyre, a classic.
The family arrived home today and Rose comes over and gives me a big hug. “I missed you” she says in my ear. It almost makes me feel bad for being so happy she was gone all weekend. Almost. She’s really sweet, but she still smells.
Since the power is out, that means dinner by lantern and candlelight, reminding me of the times as a child when the power went out. My parents would lay out blankets in the living room and light some candles and we would have a starlit dinner. The rain is coming down in droves and it’s bittersweet, bringing back these memories; it would have been nice tonight had it not been for not being able to contact my family all day. Being able to stay in contact with the outside world is probably what keeps me sane.
It’s hard to believe that one week ago, today, I was leaving the States to come live a life I knew nothing about. I’m learning a lot and trying to keep an open mind. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but this life here is nothing like what I expected.
It’s so quiet this morning since Rose isn’t here waking up at 5 a.m., turning the lights on and playing her music so I sleep in until 11 a.m. before slowly getting out of bed. I walk into the dining room to see Lydia and Virginia sitting at the dining table in silence, just enjoying the quiet morning.
After breakfast I get dressed and we make the mile and a half walk to the Nakumat. Shops line the streets selling clothes that look like they’ve been handed down and come from other countries. They sell for so little, jeans are priced at about 1 shilling.
Once we’re at the Nakumat we decide we want to eat as much good food as we can before the family returns from their trip.
We buy frankfurters and I buy ketchup and am lucky enough to find some presents for people back home. After that we walk over to the market to buy fruit for a fruit salad. We only get fruits with a shell to keep the flies away from the good stuff, this includes pineapple, mangos, apple-mango and watermelon.
There are mini busses called Matatu’s that we can take back to the house for a shilling, but I request we walk. I know the sun is hot and our bags are heavy, but I miss running and my body aches for some form of exercise.
Our 3-mile round trip walk takes a little longer after having to dodge obstacles such as cars, people, gaping holes in the ground, pipes, goats, garbage, chickens, and every half block jumping a drain that is actually a deep trench dug horizontally in the sidewalk. We have to watch where we are walking for fear of spraining an ankle or getting hit by a car.
The whole way home people sitting outside their shops or huts shout out to us “How are you!” We don’t respond because getting pick pocketed is a big problem in Kibera. When we don’t answer they yell “Mzungu!” meaning white person. Adults and children alike do this, and some shout “Mzungu!” just because they think it’s funny that we don’t respond.
People seem to approach me more than the girls, at one point a man runs up to me and asks me to take a sip of his water. It could be because Virginia and Lydia seem to fit in here more, or it could be that I am wearing a NY Jets hat and a finals blowout t shirt from college, looking like a typical American.
Twenty-five minutes later we arrive back at the house, sweating and out of breath. I think the walk made Virginia sick because she goes to lie down and Lydia and I begin making lunch. I feel like royalty looking at our spread of leftover pasta and vegetables and our fruit salad and frankfurters. There is so much food and I don’t know where to begin, so I dig in and even go back for seconds.
The rest of the day is spent relaxing and I figure out how to use a VPN to access my Netflix account which feels like a real achievement. While the girls play on their phones I am hit with fatigue and go lay down. After a small nap I am called to the table for dinner. Still half asleep, I sit down, glad to be eating a good meal for the second day in a row.
It is our goal to eat all of the food we bought before the family gets home for fear of them eating it, so I’m told to have a second helping. I don’t feel guilty about eating so much, knowing the next day will most likely be Ugali and knowing I will probably go to bed hungry.
We wash the dishes together and then sit in the living room and just enjoy the silence. There are two kinds of silences, awkward silence and comfortable silence; this being the latter, I sit back and enjoy the tranquility.