Great news! I passed my LPI (language proficiency exam) with the score of intermediate mid. The Peace Corps only requires intermediate low in order to move on. So, beginning next week, I’ll be learning Luo. Luo is the local/ tribal language predominately spoken in the Nyanza provice (where I’ll be working in January). Apparently, Luo is a hard language to learn since it’s tonal, meaning that saying words in different tones changes the meaning….great.
I also found out that I was selected to have the honor of giving our swearing-in as speech in Nairobi. (We will have a ceremony to celebrate being done with training and finally becoming volunteers). I’m a little nervous since it will be at the ambassador to Kenya’s house. And , a bit more nerve-wracking, I’ll be delivering it in Kiswahili! Yikes!
Anyways, it has been a busy past week. On Thursday, we had a simulation to test our household skills such as cutting vegetables, lighting a jiko (a charcoal stove), lighting a lantern (most volunteers won’t have electricity at their site), hand washing clothes, and scrubbing the floor. We also did a simulation on how to deal with everyday Kenyan experiences in Kiswahili such as how to bargain in the market, submit a police report, brave a matatu (have I talked about these yet?), and survive a bar (and accompanying marriage proposals). The simulation day was fun and I was amazed to learn that after only one and a half months, I feel prepared to live as a Kenyan.
This weekend has been very busy. This morning the other volunteers and I planted acacia trees in a nearby garden. Acacia trees are a giraffe’s favorite food. Then I went to the market, did a little Christmas shopping for my Peace Corps secret santa (got him some awesome sandals made out of tires!), went to lunch, learned how to play the card game hearts, washed some clothes (all by myself!!!), and then had chai with some friends .
I’m busy working on making Christmas presents for friends and my host family. But it does not feel like Christmas season at all! For starters, it is very hot and dry and dusty (not at all like a California Christmas). And there are no Christmas carols on the radio, or Christmas movies on TV, or even Christmas trees! Therefore, in my mind, it does not feel like Christmas in Africa.
Anywho, this is a short post because tomorrow morning I am off to Makindu for an AIDS conference. I’ll be there for the next few days, before returning to Loitokitok for Christmas. We’ll be traveling by matatu which is Kenya’s most common form of transportation. It basically is an old rickety van that crams as many people as possibly in to it- a bit unsafe and a bit scary, but very convenient. It will be a true test of my matatu skills as we have to get to Makindu all by ourselves! Ok, I’ll put up pictures soon.