Saturday, May 7, 2011

Officially Day One

Friday, May 6, 2011

Jambo!! Today was a wonderful first full day here in Kenya. A and I woke up around 8:30AM after sleeping for about 12 hours (thank you Tylenol PM)... oops! Our first challenge of the day... the shower. There is only one handle which could only mean one thing... cold was going to have to be the new hot. I volunteered myself to go first with the door cracked open for moral support. F.R.I.G.I.D. At least it was only a trickle so the most effective strategy was head in, body in. Yes, I know, extremely innovative. The best part about the whole experience, is that just now, as I write at 10:30PM, we were informed that with a simple flick of a switch, we could change our showers from cold to hot. We had no idea. We were prepared for a month of rationing showers and continued strategizing.

Anyway, clean from our chilly morning showers and ready for the day, we stepped outside to greet our animal neighbors who had been consistently reminding us it was time to get up. Henry the rooster casually crossed our path followed by some female friends. We said good morning to the goats, our favorite of which we named Eleanor (Ellie for short). She's a catch. I was able to take a few pictures of where we live!
This is our little building, our apartment door is the first one (all the way on the left).

Me in front of our apartment at the CYEC.
Directly to the right as you step out of our apartment. The short walk to the center of the CYEC.
The view from our apartment door.
Also directly outside our door, the rabbit coops and goats live just on the other side of the fence. This picture is slightly to the left of the one above (to give you a better idea of the full picture).
I hope these pictures give you a little bit of a better idea of where I am :). So, moving on... I have noticed that every time you greet/are greeted, a handshake is involved. Whenever you see someone during the day, whenever you say hello, goodbye, etc. you hold each other's hand as you come together/part. I think this is such a nice habit – to acknowledge the other person with such a personal and focused interest.

We had some tea (chai with goat's milk) and some sort of pastry which was very tasty. Kenyans never drink tea without milk and if they MUST, they are not shy with their sugar. “True tea,” or tea without milk, is considered a sign of poverty. After morning tea, around 10:15AM, we located the small computer lab here at the centre where we were able to access the internet to send a quick message home that we made it in one piece. We should be able to blog every few days, but I will be putting the date at the top of each as it may be a few days off from the day I actually wrote.

We hurried out to be ready for our 10:00AM meeting. Now we were warned about “Kenyan time,” but were unaware of the full extent. Things move much slower here, something quite foreign to an American. In the US if you say 10:00AM, it usually means 9:50AM. In Kenya? Funny. While we waited, we spoke with Caroline, a volunteer visiting from Denmark. We also spoke with Tara, a Penn Stater who came with an engineering group last summer, but was on her own visiting for 10 days. She is leaving tomorrow to get back to her job on Monday. As we sat outside, a very young girl (maybe three or four years old) came and sat by me and A. Most all of the 150 children who live here at the CYEC go to school during the day until around 3:30PM, but a few that are new to the centre and those who are very young stay behind. This little girl slowly scooted closer to me and put her head on my arm. I put my hand out to her and she played with my ring that I always wear. She interlaced her fingers with mine and just sat with us for a while.

While we continued to sit and wait for all to arrive for our meeting, we met Alex who was one of the first children taken in by the CYEC. We talked for a while until finally at 12:00PM, everyone rolled in for our meeting/presentation. It's all good :). We were set up in a small meeting room above the main office. L, A, and I were seated in the front, faced with the educational and social work staff of the CYEC. We were also accompanied by the centre nurse, Daniel. We essentially explained each lesson, our intentions, and that we were hoping for any input – good or bad!

The curriculum was welcomed with open arms and A and I were asked to actually teach it. What an opportunity!! The staff also wanted to participate, not only to learn in order to make the program sustainable after we leave, but also to learn for themselves. So... on Monday at 7:30PM we will begin with Lesson 1... with about 45 students. We will also be teaching the staff on Monday at 2:00PM to work out any immediate red flags that may present themselves, etc. Jane, Issa, and Duncan will be working with us specifically on this. So exciting. A member of the Ministry of Kenyan Youth (not sure of the exact name) was also in attendance. He expressed his genuine thanks for all we are doing and explained his long-term hopes to extend the curriculum to other communities and children in need. Everyone was in agreement that they believe our curriculum will make a positive impact in the lives of these children.

Following this meeting, A, L, and I met to go over some specifics. It looks like we will be teaching three lessons next week, four the next, and three again the one after that. We will be doing our research interviews on our “off” days. Busy busy girls! Just how we like it. We scheduled dinner with Jane, L (and husband), Duncan, Mwenda, Daniel, and Mwangilla in town at 5:30PM... Kenyan time naturally translated into 7:00PM. Before dinner, we stopped quickly to grab a few groceries, consisting mostly of canned food due to our lack of cooking supplies... we are working on it. Jane ordered some traditional Kenyan meal for us – ugali with beef. Ugali is made from Maize and had a potato/rice kind of feel. The meal was delicious – Jane said she would teach us how to make it one night during the next week or so. I'll share when I find out :).
Out to dinner! (Mwenda took the picture) From Left to Right: L's husband, A, L, Daniel, Jane, Me, Mwangilla, Duncan
Everyone is so welcoming, we are beginning to get to know people. We are determined to learn Kiswahili. So far we have a limited vocabulary, but we are trying! Habari – How are you? Yako – you, yourself. Mzuri – I'm fine, Sana – very, Mambo – Hi, what's up? Poa – good, Tosha – enough, Sa sa – Now/hi, Asanti – thank you. Also, I have never been so aware that I am a mazunga (white person). Literally A and I are the only wazunga (plural). It doesn't make me feel uncomfortable at all, just more aware. We just smile, say “Mambo!” and continue on our way :). Sorry for the side note!

On our way home to the centre, Mwangilla thought it would be hilarious to race down the narrow terrain park that are Kenyan streets. Bumping along, secretly praying we didn't die, A and I could not stop laughing. We are making friends :). We met a few more centre kids on our walk back up to the apartment, but we are hoping to spend more time in the next few days when they are not in school. Hoping to post sometime tomorrow. Hope all is well all the way back in America :). Mzuri sana, Goodnight!

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