Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Are you American? I love you."

Real question I got the other day

I have lucked out and have electricity at my site. Most of the time. It goes out randomly. Which is not a real problem for me, I usually just use it as my excuse to go to bed (it makes it sound better than saying "I went to bed at 8:00 because I'm tired"). It really worries my family, I live on their compound, about what I do when it goes out. They also worry about what I do for water, cooking, traveling, washing, living, etc. I'm pretty sure they wake up each morning surprised I survived the night. This often leads to them requesting (demanding) that they do stuff for me. I've tried to let them know I'm pretty self-reliant and have thus far been able to survive on my own, they usually just stare at me and start talking in dhluo really fast to each other (which means they don't want me to know what they are talking about.).

Food continues to be an issue with me. My whole day pretty much revolves around it. Thinking about it, making it and/or eating it. I even dream of food. Some people get really vivid nightmares from mephlaquin. I dream of food and peace corps. On a positive note, I have about 10 pounds of groundnuts (peanuts) that different mama's have given me.

I helped set up my first VSLA (Village Savings and Loan) today. It's pretty much a group that gets together and pays shares each meeting (social fund, development fund, shares), money is then loaned out and saved, either for personal use or for group use. Obviously there is more to it than this, but that is the gist of it. Hopefully all will go well, it's with my catering group and they are a pretty driven bunch.

I also have been going to church. Yes, church. A Catholic one. I figure it's good for my rep (also, one of the mama's in my community called me out the 2nd week I was here, wondering why I don't go to church) plus it's a break from my daily routine of: washing, reading, cleaning, washing, sleeping, eating, cleaning, watching movies. And it's near my house so I can walk. It's pretty interesting. For one, it is all in dhluo. Luckily, I've been to mass enough that I can follow along (see family, I do pay attention). Second, they have dancers and the choir does that undulating sound that I think is pretty cool (both things that would definitely liven up any mass). I also tend to attract a crowd, of kids. While this is not abnormal, this is the only place I spend 1 1/2 hours getting poked, touched and smelled. I try to shoo them away, but that just draws attention to my hand, which they then want to hold.

Got to meet with the health center today, hopefully I can get them to let me do my secondary project there. I miss health.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Adjusting to site and other such (in)conveniences

So I made it to site. And there were fireworks. Literally. Though not for me. My first night I went to a funeral and they had fireworks. Please note on the scale of awesomeness, it ranks pretty high. I expect fireworks at my funeral.

It's been awhile, I haven't had access to the internet, so this is a long one.

Some info about my site. According to Peace Corps I live in Kadongo, in Nyanza south of Lake Victoria (googling it does not really provide any information. It's small, I can almost walk across town and hold my breath). My nearest big town is either Sondu or Oyugis, both cost about 50 KSH (less than fifty cents) and take about 30 minutes to get to (less if I wasn't riding in a matatu, which stops every 5 minutes to cram 26 people, goats and chickens into an 11 person van. "Mzungu, you have two Kenyans on your lap" is an actual quote I have heard. Though generally try to draw the line at people sitting on my laps). I actually live in Oriang' (Oh-ree-angwah). Which consists of a Catholic church, one duka (small shop that sells random items) and a boarding school. It's not really a town, more of a collection of houses and said shops/businesses.

I live on the compound of a family here, Baba and Mama Dok. She works north of Lake Victoria during the week and comes home on the weekends. He is retired but sells Mpesa (a phone/money business through cell phones). They have two adult children, the girl lives in Tanzania and the boy has a house on the compound, but does not live there. There is also a family, we share the same building, that lives here (dad, mom and cute little 18 month old daughter), they do my family's house cleaning and cooking. (I do my own chores) My house (well, really it is connected to the outdoor kitchen, a storage shed and the house family's room. So it's more of an apartment?) is small. It was one room, but the Dok's partitioned it off. In total it's about 16' by 16'. But I do have electricity! For now I have running water, we use rain catchment and it's rainy season. Once this ends there is a well outside my door I can pull water from. I also have an indoor toilet! I have to manually pour water to flush, but no more pooping in holes for me!

My job is interesting. I work with four different groups in the area. One makes probiotic yogurt, one makes ceramic jiko's (stoves), one caters events and the other is a self-help group. I'm working with them to help them strengthen their groups, strengthen their businesses and network. All groups have a goal of helping to provide for the orphans and widows in the community (there is a lot of orphans in the area. Mainly due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Pretty much every group member is raising at least one orphan. Most are children of relatives, but others were found wandering around the market). I'm also working to help organize the groups under one network (Ruwonet), which I hoping to help develop. We'll see, things run in African time around here. Which means, schedules are not really kept, time is not really observed, the PCV spends a lot of time reading while waiting for people to show up for things.

I attended a graduation ceremony this past Monday. I had to give a speech. I did not know anyone graduating and it did not really have a lot to do with my job, but I was invited. I also had to preside over the cake cutting ceremony. It was odd, really cool, but odd.

The area is really cool. It's really green and these beautiful hills are all around. Sweet potato, maize, sugar cane and pineapple are mainly grown, but there are plenty of other veggies and fruits. Guava is a weed here and grows in abundance on the side of the road.

Something else that is in abundance on the side of the road: children. At least they are when they see me coming. I have yet to get one to call me "Cory" they prefer mzungu. Apparently, it is the same in dhluo as it is in kiswahili. I have made one child scream in terror just by walking by him. Score.

I promise to update more often.

Please note, when sending things:
-US Postal Service, while slowest, is the cheapest. Especially the padded envelopes. You can fill those suckers up with a lot of things.
-Write a bunch of religious sayings and bible verses on the package. Less likely to get opened or stolen
-Don't declare anything of value. Feel free to state it is books or such
-Don't send anything that you would not send to your grandmother. I most likely will have to open the package for inspection and Kenya culture is very conservative. I have a reputation to uphold (the weird mzungu who walks everywhere and speaks funny, but still I would rather be the weird mzungu than the possibly shady mzungu)
-Things could take up to 2 months for me to receive, so don't worry if it takes me awhile to confirm that I received anything.