I know I have said this is the past, but whoa is Kenya an emotional roller coaster. Let me tell you about my day today. The day didn’t begin with the best start. I was awoken by my neighbour’s blaring alarm clock at 5 am. Normally, I would have slept through this, but today, for some reason, the Kenyan version of yodeling music came screeching through my windows. I then woke up did the normal routine and started to get a migraine. I know I do not deal well with pain (ask my mother), so I popped a strong painkiller. I was feeling much better, but 45 minutes later when I reached school the nausea/ drowsiness kicked in. To rid myself of the awful mental forecast of barfing up partially digested sukuma wiki and ugali, I asked my principal if I could rest in her house.
Right as I was drifting into my painkiller induced sleep and away from its nauseating side effects, a fellow teacher barged into the house. Her darling newborn daughter Mercy just would not stop crying in the staff room so she brought her to rest in Matilda’s house. My colleague urged me to continue sleeping, but the wails of her newborn were not exactly reminiscent of a soothing lullaby. So, begrudged, I sat up on the couch where the teacher joined me. She began breast feeding her daughter (which thankfully meant the screaming stopped). But, to my shock and horror, I was soon being squirted all over with breast milk because apparently, baby Mercy cannot handle a fast stream of milk. Rather than yell my initial reaction of “Oh my god this is disgusting!” I tried my hardest to mask my insensitivity with just a slight grimace. The teacher’s apology of “Oh sorry, sorry, now you’re going to smell like breast milk” really did not make me feel better. So I returned, still nauseas, still headache-y, still tired, and newly smelling of breast milk, to the staff room. One of the teachers used the phrase “It’s as easy as beating a woman” which spurred the one sided debate of why, indeed, it is easy to beat women. I did not have the energy, patience, or self control to argue at that point. I knew that if I opened my mouth a river of culturally inappropriate things would flow out (why the patriarchal society clearly is not working, why polygamy is ridiculous and killing Kenyans with increased AIDS transmissions, why it is unfair that women work so hard, why Kenyan men, in my opinion, are completely and utterly useless beings) So I kept my mouth shut. As I sat holding my throbbing head I really wished I had Dorothy’s sequined ruby red slippers. Not just so I could add to my tiny shoe collection, but to tap my heels together and go home. Ok, maybe not home, but anywhere BUT here-where men think it’s okay to hit their wives, where a mountain of papers need grading, and where I reek of breast milk.
I put my head down, powered through my paperwork, and miraculously finished my work in order to leave my staff room and regain my sanity. But as I was giddily putting on my backpack to make the trek back home, I felt a raindrop on my head. I look up just as the sky turns black, lightening begins, and thunder roars off in the distance. Great. As the rains pour down, I return to my desk to wait it out. I was wishing for all sorts of magically powers during that time- a teleporter, a magical bubble to protect me from the ferocious Kenyan rain, a flying avatar like bird that could fly me back above the clouds to my house. But, alas, my fantasies and wishes did not come true. And when the rain finally did stop, FIVE hours later, I trudged through feet of mud and forged newly formed rivers to arrive home. And as I sit here, half amused at my misfortune and half seething with self pity, I wonder how people come out of the Peace Corps after riding this emotional roller coaster. Am I going to have some weird Mefloquine induced form of bipolar disorder? How can one day be so wonderful and the next so disastrous?
I know tomorrow’s sunshine will dry the rivers and ease the mud, a good nights’ sleep will appease my headache, and some serious bucket bathing will get rid of the strange smell of breast milk. But what, I seriously wonder, can realistically change the Kenyan male’s view of women? How can a culturally, religiously, socially ingrained opinion of females be altered? While behaviour change, unlike my moods, cannot be drastically transformed overnight, I wonder if two years is sufficient time to make some difference. Because tomorrow, as my one-woman car goes up the emotional roller coaster, I’m returning to the staff room fully armed, headache free, to argue with these men.