Not much time, so I can’t do as much updating as I would like, but here goes. At the moment, I’m not in our quiet little training village, but rather in the pseudo-metropolis of Machackos, just south of Nairobi. We’ve been here since Sunday for an HIV/AIDS seminar sort of thing. It’s interesting – since it’s “vital training,” I was worried it was going to be boring scientific stuff (not that the science is boring per se, I love it, but three days of “This is how a retrovirus works!” would drive me into the I-Already-Know-This-Stuff Coma O’ Boredom.) Instead, we’re doing a blend of field-based learning and lectury things. Yesterday morning, we listened to local NGOs teamed up with such power hitters as AMREF, KENEPOTE, and Dorcas International talk about the different kinds of community-based services available to people with HIV/AIDS. Conclusion: a lot. Way more than just VCT stuff. They talked about play therapy groups for orphans and assistance in development of agribusiness, etc.

That second aspect was driven home when we went for some field-based training: we actually went to the homes and farms of people “living positively” who had undertaken (with some seed money support from these NGOs) various income-generating tasks that were manageable to them. Economic autonomy is REALLY important to living well while living with HIV, but due to the ongoing stigma, a lot of people lose their jobs when their serostatus becomes known. This is illegal and discriminatory, of course, but it’s a hard case to fight, and most people can’t afford the lawyers for it anyway. We visited women who were helping themselves or raising their children with poultry projects, dairy-goat farming, and beekeeping. Go ahead … make your own Eddie Izzard joke there. I already used all of mine.

After that came lunch and more presentations: a teacher who is HIV-positive talked about his struggle against stigma, then discussed the HIV+ teachers’ union in Kenya and how everyone strives to support each other in this fight. We also heard from a woman who started her own textile business and a youth group that goes around to high schools and colleges doing skits about HIV. I wish I had video of that last: it was like a high school drama club ON CRACK with an awesome purpose and great acting. They performed a couple of poetry pieces, one narrative piece, and a short play about a girl who is orphaned by HIV and loses her social support network. Educational AND entertaining. I think even I learned something.

I’m pretty sure today will be more of the same, with an emphasis on Home-Based Care (HBC) education and more field work. I’m enjoying myself immensely. Machackos is a fun town – the actual seminar didn’t start until Monday, so when we got here Sunday afternoon, we had a whole afternoon to kill. Some of us went to the grocery store and bought cheese (which we haven’t had since the States) then sat around in someone’s hotel room singing along to guitar for a couple of hours.

We had dinner with a current volunteer, which is always fun and enlightening, then hung out on the roof. I talked to a friend about Dante for a solid 30 minutes and bless his patient heart, he didn’t try to push me over the railing. Peace Corps folks are great. Countdown to site: 3 weeks? Thereabouts? Finally, if anyone hasn’t been paying attention, the US was defeated by Ghana 2-1 the other night. Waka waka wa eh eh.

Advertisements