To all my readers who have not yet given up on my sporadic, infrequent writing, I’m going to make you a promise that I will really try to keep: I, Jenny Nakata, will hereby write a blog post every two weeks. Feel free to call my bluff if I don’t.
Anwho, to recap last term, I would say that it was a relatively difficult one. You would think that after a year here it would just get easier right? Wrong! Things that I used to attribute to cultural differences ( treating women as inferior, caning, etc) I now have zero tolerance for. My bullshit-o-meter is honed to 0.00 and if someone tries to tell me that the bible says women should serve men and blah blah blah blah, I have absolutely no self control in holding my tongue. Also, if a matatu tout tries to overcharge me by even 10 shillings I go into a rant about serving his country for free, I’m poor, he’s a racist, etc, until he finally capitulates in sheer fear of the crazy mzungu lady who will go through the effort of fighting over 10 shillings!
You may ask, with all the things that make me want to pull out my hair and scream, why do I stay here? Good question. I made a list the other night and realized all of the things that I truly do care about here.
1. I absolutely adore my students. They make me laugh, they are inquisitive, and I want to see them grow up to be productive members of society.
2. I respect my principal and her vision for the school. I want to be here to help her achieve the goals she has strived so tirelessly for.
3. My village is beautiful. The stars are so clear at night, like I’ve never seen before. I can hike to see Lake Victoria. It’s green and lush and there are guava, mango, and banana trees everywhere.
4. There are adorable children everywhere. Where else could I go and pick up a random child off the streets without looking like a kidnapper? Nowhere. Some of my happiest daily moments are when my children friends greet me and walk with me on the way to the market or on the way home. They make me smile with their genuine curiosity and true happiness.
5. My dogs are happy here. They have open fields to run around and chase birds. They walk the two hours to school and back everyday and roll around in the mud. I couldn’t imagine a happier place for my dogs to be.
6. I appreciate feeling connected to my surroundings. I know that I used 30 litres of water yesterday or 1.5 buckets to cook dinner and wash my dishes. I know how many leaves of sukuma wiki (kale) I’ve eaten and I’ve picked the bananas straight from the tree that I’ll eat this week. Do you know how much water you’ve used today?
7. I enjoy teaching life skills. I kind of feel like the little elf inside of google’s search engine (there is an elf that does all that work, right!?) who smirks at some of the questions that people ask. “Madam, if you take birth control will you give birth to a cow? Can your vagina fall out of your body? If you sneeze in a plane will it cause it to fall from the sky?” I enjoy being able to answer questions that my students don’t have answers for.
8. People in the village know me now. They don’t ask me for money like they used to. Instead, I have enjoyable conversations with a good number of people every morning and evening. In the morning, I say hellos (yes, hello can be plural as Kenyan English has taught me) to the neighbors, the duku (store) owners, approximately 30 children on their way to school, the old women that sell fruit on the road and countless villagers along the way. In the evening, it’s a similar routine, many hellos, many handshakes, and then I meet and chat with my market friends: William an old friendly man, Dolphin who sells vegetables, Mama Beatrice, the butcher for bones for my dog, Rose who sells medicine, Lucy who sells omena (small fish) , and an elderly toothless man who fixes my shoes. On the way home, I often stop at my friend Emma’s house and stay there and chat before rushing home before darkness falls. Then I have a cup of tea with my grandma and grandpa next door. There are lots and lots of daily human interactions, something that I know I will miss when back in the states.
9. I love learning and practicing languages. I like being able to communicate in Kiswahili and while I still struggle with dhoLuo, what better place to practice than in a village of Luo people? Learning new words and phrases everyday keeps me on my toes.
10. Living here gives me an amazing opportunity to travel. Going to Zanzibar for a holiday trip or mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda for the weekend is something that I can only do while living in East Africa. I love love love to travel and living here has given me the chances to do so.
So when last term was really rough and all I could think about was going home (not having to eat ugali everyday? Yes please!) the things that I appreciate about living here became all the more apparent. While I do really really miss people, food, cleanliness and easiness of life in America, I do also enjoy living here. I also had a busy month of April away from site (blog posts coming soon!) which made me miss the routine and serenity of village life. So now as I am sitting here with my dogs at my feet, trying to finish this before my computer dies since there’s no electricity today, I feel comfortable and at home.