Thursday, December 23, 2010

A pile of puppies

After my travels with David and Peace Corp’s mid service medical examinations, (no parasites/TB/ African infectious diseases for this girl!) I rushed back to my site because my dog had given birth to NINE puppies. This large number would not have been such a surprise had my Kenyan vet told me that I could expect a litter of this size. However, he told me (after falsely diagnosing my dog’s pregnancy and telling me she was too young to get pregnant) that she would have no more than three puppies and I quote “but she will eat one so you will end up with ONE or TWO puppies at most.” Well, turns out that he, like most other Kenyans, told me what I wanted to hear, rather than the truth…funny how that applies to just about everything here from meeting start times, prices, puppy number, etc.

When I got the call from my neighbour that my dog had given birth to this abnormally large litter, she asked me, in all seriousness, if I would like her to “slaughter some puppies.”
“Um, what?!?!” I yelled into the phone
“Slaughter some puppies because there are too many”
That is quite possibly the worst thing I have ever heard. Who wants to be a puppy slaughterer? And if I agreed, wouldn’t I be accused of puppy manslaughter? So, I unequivocally refused to allow her to commit puppy murder (which in my opinion, is up there on the morally reprehensible crimes list) and that is how I ended up with TEN dogs in my house.

While I may have recently felt my maternal clock ticking, all wants of children have been completed abolished after caring for nine pups. I have not slept a full night’s sleep for the past two weeks (did you know newborn puppies do not sound like dogs? Rather they constantly make a squawking noise like a dying flock of seagulls), I’ve run out of pc money feeding Nala meat, milk, and fish to keep her healthy, and I constantly smell like puppy poop. I definitely have a new gratitude for mothers.

But the joys of motherhood, or in my case grandmother-hood, arise from the precious moments: a puppy falling asleep in my lap, seeing their eyes open, witnessing a wobbly first step. So, despite my constant crankiness due to lack of sleep and my empty bank account, I’m thoroughly happy with all ten dogs in my home. They are adorable beyond belief and I’m glad I get to witness their growth.

Nala is a great mother. She is dedicated as ever and very protective of her pups. Note her luxury dog bed that I transported all the way from Nairobi.

They all sleep in one big fluffy puppy pile.

Did I mention that the puppies are adorable?! Here, they’re spooning in their sleep!!

I’m busy looking for good homes for all the pups. Hopefully some pcv friends will take a few and I know a couple Kenyan families who will treat dogs well. But this one, Kibo, is staying with me. He’s my mom and brother’s xmas present and will be travelling to America in August. Hopefully they love him as much as I do. Isn’t he so cute?

Alright, I have to go, I hear the puppies squawking!

Friday, December 17, 2010

David's Visit

I’m incredibly lucky to have an amazing boyfriend who has flown to Africa to visit me, not once, but twice! We had an adventurous vacation to Zanzibar, an island off of the coast of Tanzania. It is one of the three Swahili ports of eastern Africa and is therefore an intriguing mix of cultures. It sometimes did not seem like we were even in Africa due to the Muslim influence, Islamic architecture, palm tree lined beaches, and tropical cuisine.

Here are some of my favorite snapshots from our vacation. Does it seem to you too that most of my blog posts are about traveling? I promise you I do work (!) and your tax dollars are not being used to fund my holiday excursions:)

Before we started our travels, David came to my site and was able to experience life minus modern luxuries i.e western toilets and dishwashers. You can ask him about his fond memories of using a choo. Here he is cleaning dishes with my Kenyan dishwasher i.e three buckets. Note the bright green polka dot cleaning gloves :)

We then made a quick stop at Lake Nakuru National Park famous for its hundreds of flamingos inhabiting the lake. We also spotted giraffes, water buffalo, tons of baboon families, two white rhinos, and much other wildlife. Here we are amiss piles of flamingo poop. Can you spot them in the distance?

On our flight to Zanzibar we passed the infamous peak of Kilimanjaro that has so haunted me since our August climb. I really did get chills thinking about the excruciatingly cold and miserable summit day. While Uhuru Peak(the tallest point in all of Africa) seemed to be smirking at me from a distance I did feel a bit of satisfaction knowing that I climbed that beast of a mountain (I can say that, of course, from the safe and temperature controlled cabin of an airplane).

We arrived in Zanzibar and began exploring Stone Town, the heart of the island. It has endless narrow streets that you could wander for days albeit many of them sell the same touristy items. We meandered through the streets, stopping for street food, fresh fruit juices, and the occasional reprieve from the heat in air conditioned shops. To me, the most beautiful part of Stone Town was definitely the intricate wooden doors. Isn’t this one just gorgeous?

Forodhani Gardens, a waterfront plaza, transforms into a seafood extravaganza at sunset. There were tons of vendors selling fresh seafood on skewers that they would roast for you and serve warm with delicious coconut bread. We indulged in “Zanzibari pizza” aka a banana and Nutella crepe like creation fried in lard. Artery clogging, but delicious.

We spent one afternoon going on a spice tour in which we traveled to a spice farm located in the center of the island. We learned about, smelled, and tasted all sorts of spices from pungent cinnamon bark to the exotic tumeric. Here is some raw vanilla bean. Did you know it takes weeks of intense processes to produce the type of vanilla sold in stores?

We then enjoyed a yummy home cooked and coconut infused Zanzibari meal before heading to a secluded beach to float in the Indian Ocean. Pure bliss.

After two nights in Stone Town, we traveled to the eastern side of the island to enjoy the serene and isolated beaches of Jambiani. Our hotel (despite its perpetually late, incompetent, and completely stoned Rasta staff) had an amazing location. We were literally on the beach and fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing which is quite possibly the most soothing sound ever (at least in comparison to my norm of rooster crowing and cows mooing).

We spent our time here lounging on the beach, eating delicious seafood (mmm coconut curry prawns), befriending adorable children, sipping cold Tanzanian beer, gazing at the spectacular stars, and watching the gorgeous colours of the sunrise.

Each evening, the tide would go out as far as you could see. We walked through the tide pools examining the many spiky starfish and hermit crabs. The local women did the same, except they were in search of small shells with some sort of meat inside that they would undoubtedly cook up for supper. The shallow waters made it look like we were walking on water, quite a feat for someone who had just consumed their body weight in delicious sea food :)

One fateful afternoon, we decided to go on a dhow (boat) snorkeling trip. While we should have been a bit hesitant due to the boats obvious sketchiness (it was only a foot wide!) we decided to go anyways. We sailed out to sea before emerging ourselves in the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean. I should note here that David has developed an irrational (well, maybe not so irrational) fear of water creatures. He would constantly spurt out facts about deadly sea animals citing shark attacks and other various recent and fatal tourist incidents. I assured him that nothing of the sort would happen here. However, not TWO minutes into our snorkeling excursion we were swimming through a swarm of jellyfish! I tried to keep my calm channeling Dory from Nemo (clearly David would be the terrified Nemo here), but alas, our trip ended with a slightly scared David and lots of “ I told you so’s”. While neither of us was stung by our jellyfish friends, I did spot a sea snake a bit later only to later discover it is one of the most poisonous snakes around! Yikes.

We returned from Zanzibar to spend an evening in the luxurious Fairview Hotel in Nairobi (thanks mom!) where we enjoyed all the Western amenities allowing David a mental transition before his flight back to America. And lastly, I provide you with a pensive picture of David possibly pondering his deep desires (whoa alliteration) to never again visit a choo, dreaming of America land of food sanitation laws, or most likely, he's just trying to have the camera catch his good side.

Despite our run-ins with deadly sea creatures, I thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Zanzibar. It was everything I could possibly want in a vacation: great company, beaches, relaxation, amazing food, and interesting culture. Thank you to an amazing boyfriend and a spectacular trip. And to any of you that have yet to visit Africa or East Africa, it has some seriously beautiful spots to explore. Karibu.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Thankful Thanksgiving

To all of you who are still reading my blog despite my prolonged absence my apologies for the delay. I’ve had a busy past few months and finally have some time/ internet access to reflect on the half way mark of my Peace Corps service. It’s been over a year now since I arrived in Kenya and that year has taught me a lot while testing my limits. I know that I have grown in certain areas and learned some valuable skills like independence (living alone in a Kenyan village miles from any other American has led to such) and adaptability (who would have thought it is so easy to live without running water/constant electricity?). But there are so many traits I still wish to improve on such as patience (I still cannot stand waiting hours for meetings to start!) and flexibility (a very true saying “This is Africa” in my mind translates to “shit happens, so deal with it”).

Thanksgiving (my favourite holiday!) gave me a chance to not only reflect on personal growth, but also what I’m thankful for. While I didn’t make a hand turkey to display my appreciation, I’ll tell you the things that make me especially thankful this time of year:
1. Family- both Kenyan and American who have been so supportive. My Kenyan grandma and grandpa have done so much to ensure my happiness and safety as have my American family who do the same by sending me parmesan cheese and flaming hot cheetos!
2. Friends- I’m so appreciative of all your letters and packages and visits. It seriously makes me week to hear from you. And my students who have you as penpals could not be more excited to have a friend in America.
3. Nala- My dog is the best company I could ask for. She makes my daily walks to and from school much more enjoyable. Plus, she is the perfect snuggler.
4. The opportunity to learn-I’m grateful to have a job/working environment in which there is so much possibility. Possibility to expand the school, possibility to start clubs and activities, opportunities to make a lasting difference in a students learning, etc. While this often translates to a lot of needed work and necessary motivation, I enjoy working in an environment conducive to change
5. The little things- I’m thankful for the little actions and moments that remind me why I’m here. A genuine smile. A true Kenyan friend. A perfect juicy mango. Sleeping in past the rooster crowing. An enthralling book. When the days are stressful and full of typical frustrations, it’s the little things that make a difference.
6. And lastly, I’m thankful for a delicious thanksgiving dinner. David and I cooked a fantastic Kenyan/vegetarian thanksgiving dinner complete with green beans, garlic cheese mashed potatoes, Stove top stuffing, and my all time favourite canned cranberry sauce topped off with charcoal oven cooked fudge brownies. Mmmm. It was the best dinner and company I could possibly ask for away from Los Gatos.

Completion of one year marks a big milestone in my Peace Corps service; I’m past the transition phase and beyond the adapting to the culture. But I still have so much to learn and even more to do! On my list are completing my school’s laboratory construction (be on the lookout for a donation email coming soon) and starting health clubs and life skills classes in the surrounding secondary schools. This next year will fly by much too fast. The best I can do is take advantage of my time here and be the most productive I can be. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.