Thursday, September 29, 2011

What I'll miss about Kenya

One thing I’ve been incredibly grateful for in my time as a Peace Corps volunteer has been the opportunity for leisure reading. Prior to living in Kenya, I was always too preoccupied with a term paper, a reality TV show, or some other distraction to find time to sit down with a good book. Right now, I’m reading a beautiful novel now called “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and the opening lines struck me as especially symbolic:

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of site, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.” Zora Neale Hurston

So true, right?

Speaking of memories, last week, I attended my final Peace Corps conference, our Close of Service conference, and it made me recollect many of the experiences I’ve had over the past two years. While I have certainly had my fair share of low points on this emotional rollercoaster, when I think back, the amazing memories are what first come to mind. I am at a place where I can laugh at some of my most memorable misfortunes (falling in cow poop, being awoken by rats, attacked by fleas etc. etc) and fondly reminisce on the many fantastic experiences that constitute my Peace Corps service. In my present nostalgic mood, I’ve been thinking about all the things that I will so dearly miss once I leave the country in December. Here’s a list of all the things that I truly adore about Kenya:

The adorable kids: If you pick up random kids in the states, people think you’re crazy. Here, it’s normal for a complete stranger to hand you their child to hold for a matatu ride. I will greatly miss my village kids that greet me on the side of the road on my walk home from school.
Here's Peter Odhiambo escorting me home from school.

And these adorable boys that come to my house to watch me do whatever mundane chore they somehow find oddly captivating.

And Alice, my neighbor, who no matter what she is doing (even if she is mid-bath) will run to the side of the road to greet me in kiSwahili and shake my hand.

The mamas at the market: Women here are so strong. They are given an almost unfathomable workload from rearing their 10 children, collecting firewood, cooking, cleaning an ever dirty house, washing dishes and clothes by hand and more. I am constantly in awe by their fortitude and continual grace. Not only that, but many of my mama friends at the market are always smiling. How do you do that day after day of intense manual labor? I don’t know where they find the strength, but it’s beautiful and heartwarming. I will miss them kabisa (completely)

My students: I have said this before, but I would never be able to make it in the Kenyan education system. With a rigorous academic schedule, insane workload, and little sleep, it’s difficult to fathom how a student finds time to be a teenager. I am so grateful for my students who I’ve had the pleasure of watching mature and learn over the past two years. Little do they know that they give me so much strength and motivation. I know I would not have made it two years without them. Their laughs, their moments of understanding, their honesty, and keen discernment have given me the most fulfilling times of my service.

Here I am with my Form 1 students in front of their classroom.

My Kenyan family: I have been so blessed in my living situation. My nyanya (grandma) and babu (grandpa) next door have treated me like their own child. They introduce me as their lastborn child and have done more than I could ever expect or want. More than building me a western toilet and installing a rain water catchment so I don’t have to pump and carry my water, they have been my family. They are always there for me when I come home from a long day at school. They greet me with a smile, a warm handshake, a cup of tea and the chance to talk about my day. I am so lucky to have this extended family here in Kenya and I don’t know how I will ever be able to repay them for their generosity and for welcoming me into their family. I was a stranger to this community just two years ago, and without them I still may be. I am so thankful for my nyanya and babu and will miss them every single day that I am gone.

My Peace Corps family
: It’s really incredible to think about how fast friendships form here. During training bonds formed quickly over the shared misery of learning how to perfect choo aim, eat matumbo (intestines) without gagging and struggle through acquiring a new language. I’ve never before met such a group of intelligent, hilarious, ambitious people as I have here. Two years ago my peace corps friends weren’t even a part of my life and now I can’t imagine life without them. I know that we’ll stay in touch in the states, but not just living a matatu ride away is going to be a huge adjustment. I will most definitely miss the hilarity of certain situations that only another pcv can appreciate: having giardia 12 times, choo malfunctions, matatu experiences, a shared disgust for ugali and the self deprecating humor that is often the only the thing that gets you through the rough days. I will miss you all so much.

Shocking me out of my nostalgia is the fact that I only have 68 (SIXTY EIGHT!!!!!) days left in this country and so so so much to do. I still want to finish the laboratory, I want the market mama to teach me how to make sambusas (so I can make them for you all in America !), I want to paint a world map, and I want to take pictures of all the adorable kids. So much to do so little time :) I never thought I would be saying these words, but here it is... Two years have flown by too fast. And I’ll miss you Kenya, kabisa!

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