Friday, February 27, 2009

Drought, Famine, and Heat

I think the three words, drought famine and heat, best describe my life right now.

Term One of the school year began in January. The term has been very busy, hence my delay in updating. I am teaching 2 sections of Form 1 (9th grade) physics, 1 section of Form 1 biology, 2 sections of Form 2 physics, 1 section of Form 2 biology, and one section of Form 3 biology. So I have a lot of lesson plans to write as well as lessons to teach. I am also continually working on organizing the school library as well as helping with the after school clubs. Currently I am coaching cross country. Good thing I don't have to run with the students:) I just have to organize them. Organization skill I have, the skills to actually run cross country in this heat are lacking.

Okay, you are probably wondering why I have titled this post "Drought, Famine, and Heat". Let me start with the first word. Drought. We have not had rain since the one day of rain in November. All of the crops we planted in our shambas (fields) have totally dried up. We will not get any maize or beans from the plants. The lack of rain causes a lot of problems. One being the rivers never filled with water so there is no water in the area. I am amazed every month how my water situation continually gets worst. Now we are hiring trucks to carry water from town to the village for us. It is very expensive so we are very careful about every drop of water we use. Lack of water does not just mean problems for us but also problems for the animals. People are moving their animals from they area to places where they have rivers because if they keep them in our area they will all die due to lack of food and water. The lands is dusty and brown and it seems like there is little life surviving.

Famine. Because there was no rain to grow food there is not food in the area. People are depending on relief food from the government. Of course there is food in the shops that I am able to buy so I am not starving but the local people do not have money to buy the food in the shops because they have no crops to sell for money and most of the people in the area are farmers. It is a very sad situation to see people seriously starving. Small children dropping out of school to spend their days searching in the woods for wild rabbits or wild fruits to take home and eat. The problem isn't lack of food, because their is plenty of food, the problem is food distribution. The relief food that is brought into the country is only distributed in town and it is not reaching the people in the rural villages. It is sad to see but at the same time I wish these people could stop depending on others to give them everything. If I try to give them work so I can pay them so they can buy food they refuse the work, they just expect me to give them food or money because of my skin color. It is very frustrating to see the famine in the area.

What makes me the most sad about the drought and famine is the number of students dropping out of school. Primary school is free but students are dropping out to make money for the family or to collect food from the forest. Secondary school is not free so students are dropping out because they do not have the fees to continue. Thanks you to those of you who have donated for my students to remain in school. I have been able to keep 5 of my students in school through the donations I have received. A few weeks ago I had my best form 2 boy stop me on my way to school. He gave me some papers and asked me to take them to the teachers at school for marking. When I asked him why he wasn't in his school uniform he told me he was dropping out of school because there was no fees but he wanted to still learn so he was wondering if I could bring his papers to school for marking and return them to him so he could learn from home. This is a boy that has a lot of potential in life. He is so determined and definitely has very good grades in school. I was so happy I had found him a sponsor because I could not imagine this boy dropping out of school. If anyone still wants to donate money for a student send my mom the money and she will put it into an account for my students. For a secondary school student to attend a day school for the whole year it is $100.

Heat. It has been very hot here and there is no escape. It isn't like home where we get into an air conditioned house or sit under a fan when it is 100 plus degrees. Here we are in the heat all day and all night. The heat has gotten to be a struggle for me. I really wish I could drink cold water or drink carmel coolers from Carribu Coffee. I keep hearing about the snow at home and it makes me miss winter.

Besides the drought, famine, and heat things are going well here. I still love teaching at the school. My students are wonderful and they always make me smile and laugh. I really love spending time in my village community and working the the fields with the mamas. I know the next 9 months are going to go by quickly. I am sure the second I arrive in MN, in December, I will be ready to come back to the heat of Kenya.

I will warn you now that my next post probably will not be until April when we are on school break since I am planning on remaining in the village until then. Those of you that see my mom should ask her to see my pictures. I sent a bunch of pictures home and I will try to update you with a few more pictures in April.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

An end to an unbelievable year

Me cooking my lunch on my jiko

One year ago election violence broke out in Kenya. I spent the days after Christmas waiting for things to calm down so I could travel back to the village and begin the school year. Only teaching for two weeks before being sent back to America because of the political tension in Kenya I was not satisfied or finished with my Peace Corps experience so here I am again back in Kenya, this year with a much happier end to the year.

Since it has been a long time since I have updated I will start in September. September began term three at school. I taught form 1 and 2 and physics plus 7am physics to make sure they covered their syllabus. It was a busy month of teaching and brick making in the community. I also went on a weekend trip to Kitui to visit my host family again.

Me, Jessica, Mary Beth, and Heather at the Equator

October was a very funny month at school. My students defiantly kept me laughing during October. I will just share one story today to keep it short. I usually attend CU which is the protestant devotions at school on Friday. The students were trying so hard to sing an English song for me. So they sang "Winner, Winner Jesus is the winner, oh yes Jesus you are my winner" but instead of pronouncing it winner they were pronouncing it wiener. During my school mid term break I went to a training in Nanyuki which is at the equator and the base of Mt. Kenya. The spent three days at Mt. Kenya Organic Farming training site. I learned about permaculture and organic farming at a beautiful farm at the foothills of Mt. Kenya. My favorite part of the training was composting and natural pesticides. After the training I went on a weekend vacation with a few other volunteers to Lake Nakuru National Park. Lake Nakuru was one of the most beautiful places I have seen in Kenya. We hiked to the top of Menengai crater. Lake Nakuru had over 100,000 flamingos and wildlife everywhere. It makes me sad that due to deforestation the lake probably will not be there much longer. October was a month of extreme water shortage for me but I made it through the month. We were also busy in the shambas in October cutting down the pea trees and corn stalks trying to get the fields ready for planting when the rains come. Working in the shamba here is all done by hand.

My Matungi (water can): The amount of water for one week (20 liters)

November was suppose to be the month of rain but unfortunately we only had one weekend of rain. As soon as it rained we all went into our shambas and started to plant our mahindi (corn), Ndengu (green grams), Ntho (chickpeas), Marahagwe (beans), kitungu (onion), Nyanya (tomato), and green peas. Unfortunately the rain never came and we lost almost everything in the fields. In my area we usually only get rain October-December which means this year we only received around 4 days of hard rain and maybe 10 days of light showers. The place is very dry and I am sure in the upcoming months I will see the affects of drought. People will not have school fees so children will not be in school, young children and elders will die due to lack of food, and animals will also die. There are food banks and relief food in the country right now due to the food crisis but the problem is the food is distributed in the towns and never reaches the villages. In November Obama won the elections and Kenyans celebrated. There is now a national holiday called Obama Day. Still almost 2 months later people come up to me and tell me they are Obama's cousin, everyone here thinks they are Obama's cousin now. Schools closed November 19th. The end of the year was great. My students performed well, especially my girls. The girls had an amazing improvement, it really is amazing what a little encouragement can do to a students grades. Because schools closed so early I spent a few weeks in the shamba, visiting people in the community, and visiting my students at their houses. At the end of November I travelled to Lamu Island for a vacation with my Peace Corps friends. Lamu is an island that has true Swahili culture and amazing fresh fruit juices. We went on a dhow trip and snorkeling one day and basically just relaxed for the weekend.

Everlyne and Me working in the Shamba

Now it is the end of December and it is hard to believe the year has come to an end. The first week of December I spent in the village trying to save the pea plants in the shamba since it is the only thing that had not dried up. I worked on my chicken shed and did little projects around the house. I baked a few cakes and visited my friends in the village. The second week of December I was in Nairobi for Peace Corps training. Last week I spent the week on vacation with a few other volunteers. We started our vacation by climbing to the top of Mount Longonot. The Mountain is a crater in the middle of the great rift valley. We hiked the entire rim of the crater. After our hike we went on a bike trip through Hell's Gate National Park. It was amazing to be so close to all the animals on a bike instead of in a car. The geological formations in Hell's gate were amazing. We also hiked through Hell's Gate Gorge which was pretty amazing. We camped at Top Camp which is a beautiful place up a hill with a great view of Lake Nivasha. We went on a boat trip on Lake Nivasha and saw hippos and lots of birds really close. After we spent a few days in the Naivasha/Rift Valley area we headed to western Kenya. We pasted through all the tea and coffee plantations on our way to Kakamega. In Kakamega we stayed at Kakamega Environmental Education Program bandas. We did a sunrise hike to the hill in the center of the forest and went on a bird hike through the rain forest. It was an amazing vacation and Christmas. Now I am in Nairobi and on my way down to Loitoktok which is at the base of Mt. Kilamanjaro. I will spend a week down there training the new volunteers and getting them prepared to go to their sites. School starts January 6th, it is amazing how filled my 6 weeks of vacation were. I am defiantly excited to see my students and start teaching again. I am sure in April, our next school holiday, I will take another adventure somewhere, maybe this time out of Kenya.

Me biking with the zebra in Hell's Gate

I hope all of you have a wonderful New Year! It is hard to believe it is going to be 2009, the year I return back home. I know it will be sad to leave but I will be happy to see all of you!

Me, Heather, Kristy, Avery, and Jessica with Santa

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Finally A few Pictures!

Cynthia, JoRae, and Me.
For those of you wondering why the baby's name is JoRae instead of JoAnne it is because after I left they decided that the baby needed to be named after me. The baby fears almost everyone but when I went to visit she came right to me so they say she remembers me taking care of her when she was a baby. Because they already have a Kali in the family they had to use my middle name.
My students hanging out at my house on a Sunday afternoon. I usually have a compound full of students on Sundays after church. Usually they want me to bake them cakes or to play hacky sack, but we usually have a good time.
On my safari in Tsavo National Park.
My friends looking at the elephants at the waterhole. Tsavo has so many elephants, but we also saw water buffalo, lions, warthogs, dikdik, gazelle, zebra, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, and many species of birds

Pictures continued

My mama and baby JoRae on my visit to Kitui
Elephant in Tsavo National Park
My students on our school trip to Mombasa
Water buffalo at the waterhole
Sorry I could not post more pictures and that I don't post them often. It is very difficult to do since it takes so long so I can't do it at the cyber cafe. It took me 2 hours to post these 8 pictures and it is 3 am in the morning so the Internet is not so busy. I am sending a picture CD to my mom so ask her to see more pictures if you see her. Otherwise I will continue to try and post a few pictures once and a while.

Friday, September 5, 2008

56 village students in the big city!

Last week was our big school trip to the coast. 3 teachers and 56 students travelled to Mombasa. We boarded the train at 2am. As the train travelled along my students could not take their eyes off the windows even though it was dark. One boy very innocently asked me "Madam, what is that?" (in reference to the lights) I had to explain to him that it was called a town. At this point I realized that this trip truly was going to be great exposure and experience for many of the students.
We arrived in Mombasa at 10am on and began our tour of Mombasa. We showed them ocean and they were totally amazed by such a large body of water. We took them across on the ferry and many of the students were fearing the water but I held their hand and we made it across. We did a walking tour of Mombasa and went to the historical site called Fort Jesus in the afternoon. We stayed in a nice school in Mombasa. We slept in the classrooms and the girls insisted that I stayed with them because they were fearing the boys. I had to laugh a little because I don't think any 9-12th grade students would be begging their teacher to remain in the same room as them. It just shows a big cultural difference as well as their learned behavior to fear males. The first night the girls wanted to lights to be left on. I thought it was because they were scared but then they told me "Madam, we want the lights on because we have never slept in a place with lights and we want to enjoy them as much as possible, so please let us sleep with them on." I knew it was a waste of electricity but how could I deny them, so we slept with the lights on.
On Friday we took the students by local matatu to Halla Park. The students loved bargaining for the matatu price and they were so excited about the ride. I seriously think it may have been some of their first times in a matatu (vehicle). They were telling me it was so enjoyable yet I don't know what is enjoyable about having 21 people in a 13 passenger vehicle. Halla Park is a local park with a lot of Kenyan wildlife. It is not quite the same as seeing them in Tsavo National Park but it was good to teach the students about the ecosystems and the animals. In the afternoon we took the students to the beach. It was all of the students first time to swim in the ocean. It was challenging to convince the girls that it was okay to go in their shorts and t-shirts. They were so nervous about the boys seeing their legs. They are a bit more conservative, but once I got them used to the idea of going out "naked" we had a great time. Most of the students tried to swim. They other teachers had to drag me and a few other students out of the was like we became fish. Some of my Peace Corps friends meet us at the beach. The students were so surprised to see how white my friends were. I taught a few of them how to sign their names so they could communicate with my friends. They were a bit shy at first but after we left they were asking me so many questions about Deaf culture and how to sign things. It was great exposure for my students. Now they are trying to sign to me across the school yard and it makes me smile.
Saturday we went to Kensalt, which is a salt factory. We saw how they make salt from the brine and how they processes it and package it. Then we went to see the harbor and the ships coming in at the docks. From there we went to the Mombasa Agricultural Show, which is basically like a state fair. On Sunday we took the students to a large city church and then to the supermarket. The students were totally amazed by the supermarket. Some of them starring at their receipts for 10 mins trying to figure it out. They had never seen a store with so much in it. In the village we only have very small dukas (shops) or we go the market.
We arrived back home on the train at 4am Monday morning. I rested on Monday and school started on Tuesday. We all began term 3 slightly exhausted but the trip to Mombasa was excellent. It was great exposure for the students, we had a lot of fun, and we learned a lot. Term 3 had now begun and I know it will go fast. One week has already gone by. This weekend I am at a volunteer celebration in Nairobi, next weekend I am going to one of the teachers homes, and the following weekend I have immersion Kiswahili class.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

August Holiday

The month of July went very fast and August is almost over as well. I have been in Mombasa for the last week attending a HIV/AIDS conference. Tomorrow I am going on Safari in Tsavo National Park and then it is home to Kativani because I have school on Monday. Even though it is the vacation the children are in school. The last week on August we are taking 50 students to Mombasa for an educational tour. I will be in charge of the girls, 25 village girls in the big city...could be interesting. Thank you to those of you who sponsored a few children, they are super excited about the tour!
July brought a lot of school strikes at many schools across Kenya. I was very fortunate that our students were disciplined enough to not participate. The students went on strike for various reasons. July was a busy month at our school with end term exams and setting up the library. Thank you to those of you who have donated novels for the library, the students were very excited to take home novels over the break! For those of you who have been asking what they can do or send, I would love to recieve some reference books or textbooks so I could add them to the library as resources. It is great to have the students see pictures of things in the textbooks as well. Also, I am trying to sponsor a few students school fees so if anyone is interested in sponsoring a childs school fees let me know. Many students miss a lot of school or do not even attend school because they do not have fees. I continue to hear their stories and they break my heart. I am so thankful I grew up in a system of free education and where I had a supportive family.
It currently is pea season so when I have free time I love going to the shamba with my students and picking peas. I love that we go to the shamba together to collect our food and then we sit in a circle and peel them as a community. I love the concept of growing our food as a community and preparing it as a community. Water is still a problem but I am managing.
I went to Kitui to visit my host family there. The children are getting so big! JoAnne (who has been renamed JoRae) is 10 months old and walking. Kali and Cynthia have improved their English so much. They told mama to stop speaking to them in mother tongue so when I visit they can communicate with me. Kali and Cynthia also convinced mama that JoAnne needed to be named after be because she fears people but as soon as I walked in the door she reached for me so they are saying that she remembers me caring for her when she was born. So they actually changed the birth certificate to JoRae.
I need to keep this short and without photos again because I need to catch my matatu out of Mombasa. But I will try to update again soon and add pictures.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

journy to the coast

Happy Independence Day a day late!
I traveled to Mombasa to see my volunteer friends and to spend the holiday with them. Yesterday I stood at the main roadside for over an hour trying to catch a bus. As I stood there I saw many mzungus (white people) passing by in empty matatus with only one or two of them in it. Private matatus...that is one way to travel around. However, I was happy I travel like them because I was traveling like a true Kenyan. I boarded an overcrowded matatu and road to Mombasa like the locals.
On my journey to the coast, I passed through Tsavo national park where I saw all the usual animals as well as entire family of elephants (9 of them). After traveling through dry Tsavo, the country started to turn green, the houses were constructed of different materials since the rock of the area was no longer clay but rather granite. Some of the huts were constructed out of grasses. I loved seeing how the shelters changed according to availability of materials. Once I was at the coast it like I was in another country. There is water here!
This week at school some crazy things happened! I became the girls handball and volleyball coach...yep don't even know what handball is. We also got a generator and watched a shakespear play. All the teachers canceled class and we had 200 students and 8 teachers in a room watching this horrible tape version on an 18 inch TV. They told me they wish TV could be there hobby and I was so happy that TV is not available here. I am so glad it was a special treat to be able to watch this play and TV is not a hobby!
Life Skills Club update. This week I have started to hear horrible stories about HIV/AIDS and what the people think about the disease. I have heard when someone finds out they have HIV/AIDS they have sex with as many people as possible because they do not want to die alone. It is such a sad concept that makes me cringe. The phrase here is once you have decided to have sex, even if it is when you are married, you are accepting the fact that you may die with AIDS. I am working on educating them on HIV/AIDS but it is very difficult.
Teaching is still going well, I brought the students to the lab this week and we did a lot of work in there...which was disastrous at first but by Friday they were understanding the lab a little better. We received a box of posters this week so we hung them and the students were so excited to have "learning aids." My community is awesome and all is well. I will try to update you again soon (maybe with pictures) but it might not be until my next trip to Mombasa in August.