Sunday, November 29, 2009

Siku ya Kushukuru (Thanksgiving)

Happy Thanksgiving friends and family! Over on the other side of the world, we were lucky enough to have our own Peace Corps Thanksgiving celebration …turkey and all! Using the ingredients found at the local market, we cooked sausage stuffing (mom’s recipe), spinach, mashed potatoes, rice, 3 chickens and a turkey. The poor turkey was still alive when we got to the Outward Bound training site. Somehow seeing a live animal before you eat it makes it much less appetizing. But, the food was delicious and we were completely stuffed, just like a Thanksgiving at home!To add to the cultural exchange, we performed a reenactment of the first Thanksgiving for our language trainers (complete with pilgrim hats and Native American headdresses). We then made hand turkeys, said what we were thankful for, and played pin the gobble on the turkey. Our holiday ended with a bonfire (but sadly no s’mores, no one here knows what a marshmallow even is!!!!) and some Tusker beer. All in all this was a Thanksgiving to remember.

And even more good news (that maybe tops a Thanksgiving feast) is that I found out where I will be living and teaching for the next two years. I will be in a rural town located outside of Kisumu. Located in the Nyanza province, Kisumu is the third largest city in Kenya and is near Lake Victoria and the Ugandan border. Lucky for me I will be eating lots of samaki (fish) in the next few years. I will be teaching Biology and Math at a small all girls school. There are only 92 students and 7 teachers. The school is new ( next year will be the first year that there are students in grade 12) and therefore has relatively few resources compared with an older school. I will be living a few kilometers from the school on a compound with another family. I will have electricity and a well to get water from. I’ll be living in a 2 bedroom house, with an outdoor choo, and indoor bathing area. I hear there is a veranda as well! While I am a bit nervous to be living on my own, I am very excited to see my future home for the next two years.

I am still studying Kiswahili on a daily basis and learning a lot from my everyday interactions with my host family and neighbors. Last week I took my first Language Proficiency Exam (LPI) and scored Novice-high! I only need to improve by one level in order to fulfill the Peace Corps' language requirements. If/when I do pass the LPI I will start studying Luo which is the language spoken in the Nyanza province. It is quite amazing how many languages are spoken here. With 43 tribes the number of languages heard on a daily basis is overwhelming! Lucky for me, English and Kiswahili are the national languages so I will be teaching in English.

The weather here is getting colder and everyone here is thankful for the rain. As my mama says, no rain no food. When it rains here it REALLY rains. The rain brings out the “mdudu” or the insects which some people here catch in the air and eat! I have yet to try this Kenyan delicacy and am not sure if I will. Speaking of food, my mama here is very happy that I have been eating more. I am now getting used to the giant Kenyan proportions and can now eat 3 chapati when only a few weeks ago I could only finish 1!!!

I am now pretty adjusted to the lifestyle here. The bucket baths, choo, and hand washing of clothes no longer are shocking experiences to me. I am starting to understand more and more Kiswahili which has in turn made me more comfortable in my environment. While I have not been too homesick, I do miss my friends and family back home. Hopefully some of you will be able to come visit me next year. On a sad note, Tootsie had to be put to sleep…she will be greatly missed. Please send me an update on your lives when you get a chance, I’d love to hear from you!
Hugs from Kenya,

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Here are some of the Peace Corps Math/Science volunteers Stacey, Whitney, Christine, Margaret and me walking on the road to my house. We usually get chai and chapati at a restaurant in town after a long day of Swahili class and technical training.

And this is a very happy picture of me…why? Because Stacey and I just cooked fajitas and guacamole. It was delicious! Although, my host family was not as excited about it as we were. They thought guacamole was “interesting.” Haha. Tomorrow I am going to make spaghetti for them to try…maybe they will like it better.

This is the beautiful view of Mount Kilimanjaro that I am lucky enough to wake up to every morning. Loitokitok is very close to the Tanzanian border and is at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Hopefully, when Mom and Rob come to visit me next year we will be able to climb up it (it takes one week to reach the top!).

Where ever we go, there is sure to be a swarm of Kenyan children. While they are cute, the incessant screams of “Howroooooo?”( “How are you?” screamed as one long high pitched question) does get annoying. This is a group of children that followed us as we went on an evening walk.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hatua kwa Hatua

One full week of living the life of a Kenyan has passed by. And I have really learned a lot. A typical day for me is waking up at 6:30 (everyone else wakes up at 5am!), I take a bucket bath, eat chapati (like a tortilla mmmmmmmm!) and some fruit and drink chai (tea). Then, during the week, I have Kiswahili class from 8 am to noon. My language teacher, Mugo, is amazing and incorporates lots of different learning styles into our classes. For instance, we went to the market and learned about asking for prices, bargaining, and types of food.

After language class, I have lunch with some other Peace Corps volunteers in town. There are a few restaurants that I’ve tried so far- but watamu na chapati (beans and chapati) is my favorite meal. Then, in the afternoon I have cultural or technical training with the whole Peace Corps group. We’ve learned about the Kenyan school system which is MUCH different from ours and will begin observing classroom teaching on Monday. After a long day, I walk home to my host family house and study for a bit. My host sister, Maureen, has been a big help in teaching me Kiswahili. They are so nice and have been very helpful in teaching me everything I need to know in order to eventually live on my own.

I’ve learned how to get my water for my bucket bath, purify my water (which is such a process it takes almost an hour of filtering and stirring!), cook githeri (maiz and beans), make chapati, and , finally, I have mastered peeing in a choo! (This may be my biggest accomplishment of the week!). And, my Kiswahili is slowly coming along. I can easily greet people and am beginning to pick up words in conversation….not bad for one week! This week has been a learning process, and as a popular Kenyan saying goes, it will all come together, hatua kwa hatua (step by step)..

What tribe are you?

On any US roadtrip you may expect to see some roaming cows, wandering horses, and maybe a few beautiful birds, but on our journey to Loitoikitok yesterday zebras, giraffes, and ostriches lined the roadside. Loitoikitok, located on the border of Kenya and Tanzania is a beautiful town with a spectacular view of Mt. Kilamanjaro (or so I’m told, as the clouds have yet to part). The one paved road is bombarded by children yelling Howroo?” over and over again.

My host family consists of baba Macharia, mama Jane, Robert (17), Maureen (13), and Morris (5). My baba is off at university for another month though, so I will be spending most of my time with the mama and kids. They are all very welcoming, helpful, and curious (the children seem to stare at me all the time). On my first night, while talking about America, my mama asked me, “What tribe are you?” and my response was, “Californian?” So there are some definite changes in life that I will be getting accustomed to in the next few weeks, starting with learning the tribes of Kenya.

While the language barrier is not a big problem (because some members of my host family speak English), the use of the choo (toilet) seems to be my biggest challenge. A Kenyan toilet, or choo, consists of a tiny hole in the ground. For someone with years of practice, aiming into said tiny hole would be easy. BUT for me, who is not trained in such an art, it is quite a challenge. I’ll spare you the details, but you try peeing into a 3 inch hole.

There are times when everything seems like a challenge. Take for instance, walking 30 minutes home in the rain. While in the US this would be no problem with the aid of an umbrella, walking on the dirt roads of Loitokitok pose a serious problem for the slightly unbalanced. The rain turns the roads into a muddy mess that cakes to my shoes making me wobble more and more with each step. Thankfully, my host family has been very helpful in my adjustment here, teaching me how to remove inches of dried mud from my shoes with a machete and reminding me to take my rain jacket.

As the week goes on I’m mastering the art of peeing in a choo, eating ugali with my hands, avoiding and killing the giant bugs and spiders that appear in my room, and absorbing as much Kiswahili as possible,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Karibu Kenya!

Hey all,
I'm safe and sound in Kenya after waaaaay too long of a flight. I definitely am familiar with JFK and zurich airports now! Anyways, I am now staying at a compound right outside of Nairobi. There are 27 volunteers in my group- we are a mix of Math, Science, and deaf education teachers. We will be here for the next few days doing Health/Safety training (Don't drink the water!, take your malaria meds!,don't look like a tourist!, etc. etc. )
On Saturday we are off to Loitokitok where we will meet our host families for the next few months. I'm getting a little nervous about learning Kiswahili .... we have to pass a proficiency test and I heard that 4 people from the last group went home because they failed :( So far I know two words (jambo and Karibu = welcome)it's a start, right?
Ok, well the internet here is quite slow. I'll let you all know more once I get to our pre-service training site. I updated my mailing address so start writing to me please!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Jambo (hello) family and friends,
As I prepare for my 27 month stint with the Peace Corps in Kenya, many emotions have been running through my head. Excitement (yay, travel!), worry (can I really pack for 2 years?!), and a whole lot of nervousness (No Sweet Peas Chicken Pesto sandwiches for TWO years?!). But I think the most overriding emotion has been thankfulness. I am so thankful for the opportunity to live and work in another country. The Peace Corps combines volunteering and travel, two of my most beloved pastimes. I am so thankful for those who have supported me throughout the long application and decision process. And, in this last month, I have been incredibly thankful for the opportunity to spend time with my family in Hawaii and California and my best girlfriends in Vegas. Family and friends are definitely what I will miss most.
So to keep in touch, I am starting this blog. I’m not sure what my electricity/internet situation will be like. But I’ll try to update and let you know that I am alive whenever possible. I’ll also leave you with my address in case you want to send me a chicken pesto sandwich! ( Just kidding, packages take up to 3 months to get to me!) Here is my address while I am in training for the next three months:
***************EDITED ADDRESS*************

Jenny Nakata
US Peace Corps
P.O. Box 698-00621
Village Market
Nairobi, Kenya

If you get a minute, write to me. I always appreciate snail mail : )

*NOTE ON PACKAGES* Do NOT value package at more than $100.00 on customs form, do NOT write food, electronics, or anything expensive on form. DO write vague descriptions such as education materials, used books, used cloths, personal effects etc. And DO NOT send porn (not that any of you were going to) apparently it's super illegal here... and I do not want to be jailed for possession of pornography :) DHL and UPS are expensive, regular mail is fine to use. Apparently things get here pretty quick (2-3 weeks).

Much of this process has flown by, a whirlwind of applications, travel, and last minute packing. But for those of you that are curious, here is what I know so far about the upcoming months of my Peace Corps journey.
At this moment I am on my way to Philadelphia where I have “Staging” my quick four hour training and registration in the USA. On November 3rd, I embark on the journey to Kenya (JFK-> to Zurich -> Nairobi). I’ll be spending a few nights in the capitol before taking a 8 hour bus ride to the southern border to a town called Loitokitok. Here is where I will live with a host family for the next three months. I’ll be learning Swahili as well as some technical, health/safety aspects of the job. Then on January 7th 2010 (my 23rd birthday!), I’ll be moving to my site where I will live and teach high school science for the next two years. Writing about this makes me excited to meet new people, try new foods, learn a new language, and travel another country. Hopefully, I’ll soon be a Kenya expert and can give those of you that come to visit me a tour of the country ;)
Ok, check back later for updates!
Much love,