Monday, July 12, 2010


Dear friends and family,
Sorry I have not been updating you all lately. To be honest, I haven't been as happy here as I used to be and I don’t want to bore you with my complaints about the little things that annoy me and have me wishing I could teleport back to California. It’s the little things that add up over time, making me burst out in an angry rage at the smallest provocations. I’m now used to the lack of running water, inconsistent electricity, and lower standards of personal hygiene. But what really gets to me is the everyday occurrences ( people always asking me for things, or assuming I have a ton of money, or calling me mzungu (I have a name!) )that truly get to me.

I also think my frustration stems from the fact that I feel like I’m not doing enough here. Sometimes the problems just seem too enormous to even fathom conquering. For instance, when I first arrived and school fees seemed to be a major issue, with your help, we were able to at least partly solve that problem. However, when you add the other common struggles of hunger, rape, gender inequality, AIDS related deaths and so many other awful consequences of poverty, it makes conquering any task seem impossible. I understand that I’m not here to change the world, or even change Kenya, but is it too much to ask to be able to change something?

Maybe it’s my own expectations that create this discrepancy between what I can and cannot do. I knew coming here that I was going to be a teacher and that was going to be a full time job. However, some days, I feel like I should be doing so much more than just teaching. It’s been six months that I’ve been at site now and I feel like I should have more to show. I realize that education is not immediately tangible, but I still have a hard time grasping just how measurable of a success my time is supposed to be here.

I’m not regretful about my choice to join the Peace Corps, I guess I’m just at a stage where re-evaluation is necessary. I’m taking a few mental health days in town to get a massage, maybe a manicure or a movie, and definitely taking some time to think about what I want from this experience, what is indeed feasible, and what will make me happy.



  1. Your contributing more than you realize Jenny. We live with you in our thoughts each day. Your struggles and accomplishments are carried in our hearts and educate us as well. We are proud of you Jenny......Stephanie, Gary, John and Max

  2. "Can one act of friendliness start to generate peace? I believe it can. Peace begins with one person but spreads like warmed syrup. When I connect with my neighbors, they return it in kind." -Ivory Harlow

  3. Jenny

    To say i totally understand your frustration is not totally true, but i think i can to a degree. You are right, there are so many things to be done and so many that could and should be done, but we are just one person. I know we have been told that we can't expect or hope to see all of the benefits/progress we have made while we are here. I agree this is frustrating; not seeing results yesterday. I also for close to a month, i thought about packing the bags. I got encouragement and words of wisdom from friends--it helped a great deal. You are also right in going to take some medical days and relaxing.

    PCVs-- we are in the same boat or just were. I think it is a repetitive cycle. You are a strong, independent and intelligent women and what you are doing as a PCV is worth the frequent headaches that occur.


  4. Hi,
    I actually just came across your blog because I had forgotten where my friend had told me that Laughing Buddha was here in Kisumu. I've spent some time living in a village, and it seems like the living situation was somewhat the same, I was a senior secondary school teacher in northern Ghana. I knew a lot of current and returned PCVs, and most everyone gets to the same point that you are at. I think that talking to your fellow PCVs will really help you feel like you are not alone in all that. All this said, it's easy to concentrate on the huge problems of poverty, HIV and let's be charitable and say "intersting" viewpoints on gender issues. Think about the little things that you are doing every day that you may not even think about, the relationships that you are building with people and the amount of awareness that you are building about Kenya with your friends and family, beyond the 30 seconds news bytes about violence, AIDS or safaris. A friend of mine who was national staff in a peacecorps office in Senegal told me once, that the biggest contribution that any peacecorps (or OSV or JICA, etc) volunteer can make is the cultural exchange,bring new ideas in from the outside may not make a visible difference to you now, but just by you living with people there, you are influencing their lives every day in way you can't imagine. Without influence from the outside, a society grows stagnant and begins to crumble, that's why in many tribal societies across Sub-Saharan Africa, the hunters were given magical powers and a lot of influence, they brought in idea from the outside world which enriched the culture, the same with blacksmiths, they also had mystical powers and always lived on the outside of town. So, you have a unique gift to give people, though being an outsider isn't easy. As for the people thinking you are rich or calling you Mzungu thing, that will come to a stop after a while as your community gets to know you, though it's very likely you will occasionally be offered a bunch of bananas for 500 Bob from time to time. :) Hope you have a great rest of your time here. When your time is up, you will look back and miss it, everyone does.