Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bad karma and the results

Bad Karma and the results

It's been a pretty eventful past couple of days.  So I have running water, three months of the year, when it rains enough to fill the tank.  We have not had running water since August, though we have had some rain (this will be explained later).  I apparently had left my tap on this weekend, though in my defense there was no reason why this would have brought up a red flag for me.  I come to my house on Sunday and my house is flooded.  Half of my living room, half of my bedroom and my whole kitchen is covered in water.  It turns out Tanzania baba had turned off the water for our building, so main baba had water.  This means that Tanzania baba did not have to manually fill the tank.  I do not mind pulling my water so this was not an issue, but it explained how I never had water even when the tank was full.  At least I do not have to mop my floors for awhile.  Things are not so bad.

Sunday night my gas jiko (small, small propane tank that I cook on) goes out, mid meal. No biggie, I borrow Meredith's.  I go into Oyugis, my market town, and buy a new one.  Gas is cheap right now, it cost me 1250 KSH (about $11), plus the 140 KSH it takes to get to Oyugis.  I get home and want to warm up my leftovers.  The burner will not screw into the tank.  Crap.  So I go back to Oyugis, another 140 KSH.  I bring it back home.  It does not work.  And it is too late to go to Oyugis.  Well this sucks but it is not the end of the world.

Monday night the power goes out, which is not unusual, if it rains the power goes out for a bit.  I use my computer until it gets down to 2% power.  Just as I am about to go to bed the power comes back on.  I briefly consider plugging my computer in while I sleep.  Probably the only good thing that had happened in these two days was the fact that I did NOT plug it in.  About an hour later the transformer blows up, causing loud sounds and bright lights.  Things are a little shady now.

Today I took a cold bucket bath and decided to go back to Oyugis.  Thankfully the voice of reason, ed volunteer MR, suggested I call them to make sure they were open.  I finally got a hold of someone and they said no, the place does not open until 9 AM.  I had to be in Kisumu at 11:30, so this was not an option.  I have been assured that I can, yet again, exchange my non-working tank for a working one.  Giving this is Kenya, I do not have my hopes up, but I will not go down without a fight.

So today I, as well as 8 other volunteers, had a lunch date with the new US Ambassador to Kenya.  It was held at the CDC compound in Kisumu, which is a pretty awesome compound.  The lunch was great, it was a great combo of volunteers and meeting with the ambassador was great.  He was a great guy and was interested in our work, our opinions and our thoughts.  It was also great that he spent most of his time with us.  Things are starting to look up, maybe the world is not against me.

On my way home, I see a double rainbow.  It's awesome.  I also learn that the power is back on.  Even better.  I get home without incident.  That is until I look for my Nalgene.  I left it in the matatu.  Damn you Karma!!!  

So my number one wish list item is a new Nalgene bottle.

So things look like they might be getting better, but who knows.  TIA.

for some good websites to check out, go to the following:

1) Mr. Burns is a ed volunteer here in Kenya.   He's awesome and is a great person.  Lots of the cartoons he makes is a pretty good representation of things I go through/feel/see.  Check out his stuff.


2)  What should Peace Corps call me?  This site is pretty right on to issues that any PC volunteer faces and goes through. 


3)  What should Africa call me?  I am pretty sure this person is from East AFrica probably either Kenya or Tanzania based off of the language.  It again rings true to my stay here.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Finding me a husband

"Ing'eyo dhluo?"
"Ang'eyo matin"
"You are not a real white person."
(looking at my arm) "Really, why?"
"You know dhluo, you are Kenyan."
"Thank you."
"I'm not a millionaire, I do not have money.  I want you to marry me."
"Listen Victor, I can barely afford to take this matatu to town.  20 ksh (about 20 cents) is too much."
"That is fine, we will still get married.  You can raise my goats."
"Goats are bad.  My dad requires a dowry of one elephant, one hippo and 13 very small giraffes."
"I will find."

This was my conversation with the matatu conductor today on my way back from "work."  If I wake up tomorrow and there is a hippo, an elephant and 13 teacup giraffes sitting on my front stoop, you'll have a wedding to come to.  

I've been trying to spend more time learning dhluo (the mother tongue mainly spoken in my area), it's getting better but there are always issues.  First, many people want to speak to me in english, they want to practice.  Second, I often will get yelled at by people who do not speak dhluo, and yell at me about assuming they know it (you are in Luoland.  It's a reasonable assumption).  Third, I visit other PCVs in the area and they are so much better than me that I get intimidated.  It's going well.  Another issue is, my kiswahili is falling by the wayside which I do not like.

Work is going well.  We're in the middle of planning our support day for the orphans, widows and widowers in the community.  I have been walking a lot trying to meet with ministry officials, community leaders, NGOs and such trying to drum up support and trainers.  The community has been pretty receptive which is great, my groups are trying to grow the support day to include more beneficiaries and trainings.  

It looks like in the next month we should have the resource center proposal done and hopefully will start construction on that shortly after.  Another project I am planning on starting with my PCV ed volunteer, a day camp for children in our village is in the planning phases.  We hope to make it a monthly adventure, fun, games and education.  

I have been traveling a lot here lately, though it's mainly been PC related issues.  Mid service medical, cross sector, consolidation exercise.  It's been tiring but it's been great.  For medical and x sector I got to see a lot of people I rarely see and eat some non-Kenyan food.  Consolidation was great as it was everyone who lives in Nyanza, plus a couple of wannabes (hehehe). It's a cool group of people and I enjoyed hanging out with most everyone.  

Other than that my days are the same.  Teaching the two year old new English words, debating on what to eat and working on my projects.  

Still have not tried omena.  Have not seen any rats in awhile, which makes me more nervous than relieved.  PC Ed, woke up with a rat on her chest.  This does not bode well.

One last conversation.

"Do you have a Kenyan husband?"
"No, I do not have a husband here in Kenya."
"Do you have a husband in the Netherlands (writers note: everyone assumes this is where I am from.  Apparently there are a lot of expats in the area, though I rarely see them)."
"One of my husbands is from there."
"How many do you have?"
"That is a lot of husbands, you do not need anymore."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Find though that she be little, she is fierce

Rawr. That's me being fierce. Okay, so in many ways I have not been fierce lately. My rat saga, sadly did not end. I probably am not fierce enough to deal with it, but I am smart enough to let things lie. It has not eaten any more of my food, nor has it tried to eat the plastic bucket that holds my food. It has eaten the rim off of my 75 liter water tank. I think it might be suicidal, that is the only explanation I have for why it would try to get in my water tank and not my food tank. I still hear mice as well, usually I hear them chewing something when I am trying to sleep. I just lay there and hope it is not my clothes. My friend Jill has been fierce. She has had a major rat problem, I can not complain about rats after hearing what she has gone through. She had rats living in her couch and openly flaunting their ratness. She bought some poison and killed those little buggers. Sadly they crawled into her couch to die. So, without power and after reading a dracula book, she opened up her couch and dug them out. My hat goes off to her. It was another Nanyuki weekend. I small girls weekend to help celebrate my birthday. It was fun, good food, good friends and good drinks. The only thing that stinks about Nanyuki weekends is the travel. To get there from my house it is an 11 hour journey each way. And it's not a smooth road. Take a dirt road, wash out at least 90% of it to create pot holes the size of Rhode Island and craters then make sure it doesn't rain so that there is plenty of dust. On the way back to my house I was sitting next to the window, my preferred seat since I can open the window and not vomit. Let me add that the majority of Kenyans I have contact with find 80 degrees to be cold, so they never open the windows and always have on jackets and knit hats on. I am always sweating. So I am sitting there, it's hot so I have the window cracked open at most 2 inches. The woman in front of me (IN FRONT OF ME) does not like this, so we battle each other for a bit before she turns around. Her: "This van is for Africans, people who really need it. You should take a taxi like the rest of you." Me: "What? I am not a tourist, I live here. In fact I am a volunteer, so unless you want to give me money to take a taxi I can not afford it." Her: "I will get sick, will you pay my hospital bill?" Me: "If I get sick at some point in my life will you pay mine?" She turns around for 15 minutes. Then turns around and starts craning her neck to look at Jill who is sitting behind me. Her: "Your sister is comfortable without her window open." Me: "I am not her, I am very hot and the window is only open a small bit." Her: "You will get me sick" Me: "You can not get sick from fresh air, and I have shut it when it gets to dusty. You are not yelling at anyone else in the van who has their windows open. Why?" That was the last of the conversation, I got to keep the window cracked open (except when it was dusty) and she gave me the evil eye the rest of the journey. Everyone wins. The trip was not all bad though, they took us past some animal preserve that they do not normally drive past. I was able to see some rhino and water buffalo which means I just need to see a cheetah to complete Kenya's big five (water buffalo, rhinos, elephants, lions). We also saw giraffes, gazelles and zebras. It never gets old, seeing all of this wildlife. I still can not believe that they are just roaming around and not locked up in some zoo. Here is a picture from my classroom at the local primary school. Here are some of the girls in my class, they were thrilled to get their picture taken. Though standing still in one spot is hard for them to do. If I took a step back in order to get everyone in the shot, they would all take a step towards me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Been a long time gone

One year in Kenya. It feels like just yesterday and a million years ago since I came here. We got our goats! As well as the largest chickens I have ever seen, at least here. They weighed about 10 pounds each. Everyone was happy. I even got a goat named after me. Apparently Cory is a popular name for livestock right now. My health club at the primary school is going well. We're discussing hygiene right now, everything from washing hands, food storage, teeth brushing and environmental personal health. I have discovered that if I bribe them with stickers they appear more eager to participate/volunteer in the class. I've also discovered another use for the fake blood I brought. (Yes I brought fake blood. Laugh all you want but who will you come to for Halloween if you need to make your zombie/vampire/mob justice victim look real). I've used it as paint to demonstrate how flies transmit disease. I've been doing a lot of traveling in the past month, last weekend alone in a span of 4 days I spent a whopping 31 hours on a bus. I went up to Nanyuki and Maua to visit friends and to participate in a murder mystery party. Everyone can relax, I didn't kill anyone. Though we did meet someone while up there who had just been arrested for murder (he was released until his trial). Needless to say, we tried to avoid him. Here are some pictures This is an oldie, from last December when we (RUWONET) held our support day for the orphans and widows in the community. My ceramic jiko mama's (and my counterpart) after completing our tree nursery This is part of my group, the chief and their goats

Monday, May 7, 2012


I've been living in a minor state of fear for the past day and a half. It feels like I'm in a horror movie, where I know my house is haunted and at some point I will wake up to the horrible monster staring at me from the side of my bed. But instead of a haunted house and a monster, it's a rat. I woke up yesterday to find that half a loaf of my newly bought bread was eaten, by what I assumed was a mouse. I had a mouse in my house in December before I vanquished it. Later in the afternoon I hear a noise in my kitchen. I go to my kitchen door and there, sitting in my sink is a rat. Kenya's version of Godzilla, a huge mutant rat. A rat the size of a St. Bernard and resembling Rattigan from "The Great Mouse Detective." (I might exaggerate, Imagination might have distorted what this rat actually looks like. It was probably more the size of a Boston Terrier). It was huge and looked like it could take on, not only a cat, but a car. I, appropriately, yelled "Ahhh, huge rat!" It jumped on the window sill and went around the wall (a wall divides the window, half of it is in my kitchen the other half of the window is in my bedroom) and into my bedroom. Things just got worse. I run into my bedroom, push aside the curtain and for a second I think it's gone. Then I see it's beady little eyes. It's holding on to the bottom of the window like some rock climber. I yell again and it disappears. I quickly close the window. I run outside and tell Mama Mary (Tanzania mama) about my harrowing adventure. We cautiously poke our heads around the side of the building to see if it is still around. It's standing on the wall, head facing the ground. Completely vertical. Great, Super Rat; able to climb tall buildings in a single bound. I grab a jambe (a hoe of sorts) and she grabs a stick. I would like to say I gave a moving speech like in Braveheart, but I don't have quite the swahili vocabulary to pull that off. Instead, we raised our weapons and attacked. The rat got away. So fast forward to this morning. I hear something in my kitchen. I see no rat and my windows have been closed all night. Now rats are pretty amazing, they can fit in small spaces, eat through concrete. So I know it could still get in. Plus there is a chimney in my house where a jiko should go (not currently used as the place is too small and carbon monoxide would kill me). I think nothing of it. I have a meeting this morning and afterwards I go back into my house and I hear it again. So I head outside and grab some sticks. My group is still outside doing their table banking so I get a lot of weird looks. I normally get a lot of weird looks, but this time I can understand why. I'm carrying two big sticks. I tell them "Panya kubwa" (big rat) and show them with my hands. Mama D tells me to take Jeff to kill the rat. I move some plastic bottles and sacks that I store underneath the chimney and there it is. Now it runs into my living room, we chase it. I see my bedroom door is open a bit so I think "I need to close that." The rat is one step ahead of me and dashes under my bed. This is not what I want, at all. So we run into my bedroom. It's under my bed, I'm on top of my bed, Jeff is on his hands and knees wildly stabbing under my bed with a stick. Luckily we scared it enough where it climbs up my curtains and on to the windowsill and runs into the kitchen. It tries to jump back up the chimney, but Jeff kills it. I run outside, arms raised in victory. The mama's cheered. Baby Mary kept repeating "Panya Kubwa agopa" (scared of big rat). Me too, Mary. Me too.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I believed I could fly

Getting away from site is easy. It's coming back from site that is the hardest. Especially with the last weekend. I went over to Jinja,Uganda with about 19 other volunteers. I knew it was going to be great, I just did not realize how awesome it would be. It's always good to get away and get together with some Peace Corps peeps.

I met up with some PCVs in Kisumu to make the trip over. I was traveling with a certain girl, E, who is my personal bad luck travel charm. Anytime I travel with her, things never work out. But it always makes for an interesting trip. The 5 hour trip to Jinja ended up taking about 8 hours. We finally get to Adrift and can finally chill out. Though due to an incident on the road I was a bit banged up and worse for wear. Nothing that Nile Special couldn't take care of. This beer is made with water from the Nile. Little did I know I would be drinking plenty of the Nile the next day. The beer tasted way better.

So on Saturday we rafted the Nile. Not floated, not canoed. We rafted the freakin' Nile. We met our guide Camo, whose name is not Camel despite the fact that my boat called him this for the first 15 minutes. I'm sure he loved us, despite the fact that he spent a good deal yelling at us to keep paddling (we would stop paddling anytime someone would talk, which was pretty much constant. Needless to say all of the other rafts went down the rapids five minutes before we even got to them.) Whether it was a passive-aggressive decision to kill us or he listened to our pleas to make this an epic trip, Camo agreed to take us on a Level 5 rapid. It was epic. Screw that it was EPIC!!!! We hit the first part of the rapid, I slam to the other side of the raft, taking out the girl who had previously been sitting there. The following are the three thoughts I had, in three seconds.

First thought: How am I still in the boat? (I might have had some curse words, but I'm keeping it PG)
Second thought: (I hear Camo state "Oh s**t she's in a bad place.") Hey there is Sarah!
Third thought: Oh crap (not real word), I'm about to die.

Well did not die, but I did fly. (Ha, rhymed) I am now under the rapids doing my best aquatic acrobatic routine. I had no idea which way was up. Finally I stop doing somersaults and let myself float up to the surface. I see no one, I see no boat. A second later I feel the boat when it hits my head. I duck back under water and let the boat pass me overhead. Camo comes, flips the boat and pulls me in. It took about 5 minutes for the kayakers to wrangle up the rest of my boat companions (we were scattered like dust in the wind).

It was awesome, while it was definitely scary it was the most fun I have ever had on the water (and in the water). The Nile is not the lazy river that people might think it is.

So Saturday did not kill me. So I decided to take it to the next level on Sunday. I bungee jumped, 45 meters above the Nile. I wasn't nervous before, but climbing the stairs and watching 5 others jump before me caused me to be as nervous as a loose woman in church. I get my ankles tied together am an told to bunny hop to a blue rope. After the blue rope they wanted me to scooch my feet to the edge of the platform, while not looking down. As an experiment go to a top step, close your eyes and scoot your feet to where your toes are sticking out. Without peeking, scary isn't it? Nothing about this is natural. The human body is not meant for this. I don't look down, at the suggestion of the british guy trying to push me off the platform. He asks me if I am ready. I say "No, give me a couple of seconds." Apparently he took this to mean that three seconds would suffice for me to collect my nerves. He counts down, and like Pavlov's dogs I have a natural reflex to someone counting down. Which is apparently to jump. This worries me that anytime someone counts down from three I will just jump. I don't really remember the initial jump, the only thought I had was "Wait, what? I just jumped? What was I thinking?" Coming back up I had time to realize what I had just done.

Later that day I went on an unofficial booze cruise down to the mouth of the Nile, where it meets Lake Victoria. I say unofficial booze cruise because this is what we called it, not what Gavin (who managed Adrift) called it. Once I get to Kisumu I will try to upload the video of my jumpint

It was awesome! A great weekend, with great people. Sadly it had to end, though not for my bank account. So contributions to my bank account is always welcomed.

Getting back to work has been hard. I am setting up a World Malaria Day in my community. While it definitely has been time consuming, it has been worth it so far. For those of you not aware, Malaria is a huge killer in Africa. 90% of all Malaria deaths occur in Africa. I will be doing a whole blog about this later this week.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cory, Vampire Slayer


So I have been busy. I went out to coast for the holidays, had a pretty good time. It is definitely a beautiful place and I loved hanging out near the ocean. The tide pools were definitely really awesome, we found Nemo, starfish, a sharks tooth and about five billion sea urchins. Luckily I practice safety first and did not have the joy of stepping on one. Unlike Sarah, but bad luck was apparently on her side as she managed to get jiggers and malaria while there. She took one for the team. While I enjoyed myself I did not enjoy the weather. I have experience 100% humidity in 90+ degree weather, it's called July in Arkansas. No thank you, beach and all I would rather just visit.

Work has really picked up. All of my groups have decided to undertake further IGAs and projects. Besides my ceramic jikos, yogurt, catering and farming. I am now helping to set up numerous other empires. So this means I am rushing to educate myself on poultry farming, goat farming, tree nurseries and paper beads.
Watch out Tyson, I'm going to take over.

I've also been doing trainings with area groups on nutrition, sack gardening and nutrition gardening. My trainings focus on child health and nutrition for people living with HIV/AIDS. I try to do demonstrations to help showcase how easy it is to grow and eat nutritious foods (not ugali). For the most part it seems relatively well received, though I have my doubters and finicky eaters. But you get those everywhere.

I spent today working with my goat/yogurt group build different types of gardens. A trainer with Heifer Project came to instruct. It was pretty good. Though I do have one complaint, and it comes up quite often with me here. No it's not the inability of people to keep time (you come to the meeting 2 hours late? All of you? No problem), I have gotten used to that. I have books. It's pretty much their opinion that I can not do anything, can not do anything for an extended period of time and tire easy. This means they often refuse to let me do a lot. Which brings out my stubborn side. So I throw myself in to the mix, even if it means I am sunburned, exhausted and have tons of blisters. I don't always choose the pain route, take today. My attempts at tilling the earth were cut short by the mama's refusing to let me handle any of the shovels or hoes. I was allowed to wield the machete to cut stakes. I made about 50 stakes, we only used 10. I can only assume the mama's are training me for some upcoming vampire invasion.