Friday, December 25, 2009

A Kenyan Krismasi

Krismasi Njema (Nice Christmas) family and friends!

This has been an interesting holiday season for me. For one thing, it does not feel like Christmas at all. The lack of Christmas carols, changing weather, and buying of presents really diminishes the Christmas spirit. But, I have managed to not be the Grinch / Ebenezer by being creative…. I just finished decorating wrapping paper and wrapping small presents for my friends and family here. Some Kenyans do celebrate Christmas, but my family doesn’t really celebrate holidays. So, I’m blasting some Mariah Carey Christmas songs to get into the holiday mood! Also, this is my first Christmas away from home…..I’m all grown up, at the age of 22!

Later today we will be eating a rooster that was just slaughtered (and that had been acting as my alarm clock for the past few days!) I refused to watch its beheading, despite my baba;s (dad) protests. In these moments, I really miss store bought frozen shrink wrapped chicken breasts. No blood, no feathers, and no loud crowing. This morning I helped prepare the food by peeling carrots and potatoes. I showed my mama a potato peeler that I brought with me from the states…and she was amazed! It really makes me think about all the things in the US that make life so much easier (slap chop, Panini maker, george foreman, etc). My mama laughed out loud when I tried to explain a dishwasher to her….she though I was even crazier when I explained leaving cookies for santa on Christmas eve. She said she would rather eat them instead :)

I just gave me host family their presents and for the first time in my life, I can truly say that I was completely content with only giving and expecting nothing in return. I was especially moved by the house boy’s reaction to the deck of cards I gave him (wrapped in some pretty beautiful hand drawn Christmas tree wrapping paper, I might add). He kept saying asante (thank you) as he went through the entire deck of card feeling each card and looking at the pictures. I am constantly humbled knowing that he works 100x harder than I ever have (and quite possibly ever will) for 2000 shillings a month (roughly 30 US dollars). He and the house girl, who are from Tanzania and who have become my personal Kiswahili tutors, wake up at 5 am wash clothes, milk the cows, clean the house and cook all day for the monthly salary that many Americans earn in less than an hour’s work. Seeing how happy he was with one small gift, made me smile and reminded me why I am here.

Why am I here, you might ask. And sitting here, slightly sad that I am not with my family for the holidays, and slightly happy that I’m not smothered by the sometimes over-the-top American Christmas spirit, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the reasons:

1. I want to make a difference in someone else’s life and education, especially in an area lacking qualified teachers, is one way to do so
2. I really love to travel and feel like a part of a community abroad. Living in a foreign country somewhere for two years is a way to accomplish both.
3. I don’t really know what else I would be doing in the states. Maybe not the best of reasons to join the Peace Corps, but I do see this period in my life as a transition into learning about what I want to in the future.
4. I’ve wanted to join the Peace Corps since the 8th grade when Mr. Laird told me about his experiences with the organization
5. I want to learn more about myself and gain confidence in my independence. Living alone, in a foreign community, speaking a different language, and not knowing a lot of the cultural norms are ways in which (hopefully) my independence will manifest.
6. I wanted the adventure. Trying new foods, seeing new sights, meeting new people is kind of an addiction of mine. I can’t stay put in one place for too long with out feeling anxious.
I’m sure this list will be fluid and will change in the near future when I actually start my job. But for now, these are the reasons why I came here and why I am happy to be here (even despite the 5 am rooster alarm clock)!

Well, marafiki na jamaa yangu, I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas! Know that I am thinking about you all the way on the other side of the world.
Merry Christmas and much love,

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