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I’m in Nairobi at the moment, lounging in the lap of luxury at a hostel with hot water and electricity. After eight very long and trying weeks in my dusty little border town, I completed Pre-Service Training and swore in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer.

It’s a weight off my shoulders, let me tell you.

In some ways, I suppose I’m ready for the “real” adventure to begin now – tomorrow I start the trip that will eventually lead me to my work site and my job for the next two years. The adventure of course actually began two months or so ago when I left New York and met the amazing crew of folks who I now may refer to as my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers. We boarded the flight at JFK as thirty-six, and thirty-six assembled today at the US Embassy to take our oath of post. To have 100% of your training group make it through the rigorous training is all but unheard of, but we’re special. Truly.

I’ll try to blog more when I get to site, but for now, I’m just going to close this entry with a little poem written by my fellow VOLUNTEER Louis. It summarizes our experience … with the requisite kiloton of inside jokes.

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Addressed to My Fellow Volunteers
by Louis Vayo
(Reposted with permission)

What do I remember most about Loitokitok?
The dust.
The dust from the ground rose like pillars of smoke
from a bonfire
When the motorbikes came flying by,
Kicking dust from their tires and into my eyes
I’m not much of a crier, but I’m not gonna lie,
All that dust made me pretty sad.

And you know what I don’t understand?
When the Kenyan teens greet me with a wave of their hand
they say, “Safi Kabisa” which means completely clean.
How do the Kenyan teens stay completely clean?

But nevertheless
In the beginning those overdressed, fat-cheeked kids were cute,
and with each “how are you?” those kids got cuter..
I don’t remember who I told
but I said to them,
“I don’t think those ‘how are you?’s’ will ever get old.”
..how naïve I was…
but everything was so new to me
there were so many things to learn, and so many things to see.
And I saw things I’ve never seen before
Like a goat in a crate, or a family of four
riding on a motorbike. So that’s what it’s like
on this African tour.

Still, It’s amazing all the things we’ve experienced,
From Kilimanjaro’s beautiful, twin peaks in the distance,
To our Kenyan Mamas’ constant and fervent insistence
to eat more, despite our resistance.

And those Kenyan Mamas, they are simply unreal
So hardworking, yet gentle, and with hands made of steel
That pot has got to be hot mama, can you not feel?
And the Kenyan men, so strong and so proud through & through
Still they are always ready with a smile and a greeting or two
To make us feel welcome.

But despite their warm welcome..
Adjusting to Kenyan life has not been easy.
Some days just had too much Blue Band, and Kenyan T.V.
But those few hot days in my business clothes, that was the worst situation
When the sweat from my head dripped off my nose, I think I’d smell ugali in my perspiration

We faced so many troubles, but all of you know
We battled spiders, bats, bugs and bad smells in the choo
We sat through hours & hours of church, still with hours & hours to go.
And we’d wait, patient, for Kenyan partner groups to show for a meeting though,
they were late, or they forgot, even though you watched them
scribble down the date

But hey, that’s just the Kenyan way,
An unwritten cultural rulebook we need to learn and obey.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Pedestrians yield themselves to cars
Women are seen as whores in bars
When we share, what’s ours
becomes theirs
And the locals charge expensive fares,
But only if your skin is fair.
Because here in Kenya, fair skin means money
It’s just like saying that the sun is sunny
well that’s funny because
that’s a stereotype we are here to correct, (I think) we’ll consider it a “win”
If we can gain our respect independent of the color of our skin…

I’ve also learned that Kenya is the land of many hidden children
We can’t always see them, but we always hear them
So we walk home to the sound of “Mzungu!, Mzungu!” their tiny voices screaming
And after thirty-six “How are you?s” in a row, it’s lost its meaning.
And I’ve been meaning to tell you, I don’t know if I did
But when Michael Smith flips out on that one, unlucky kid, Hell..
Michael Smith, sometimes i’m right there with you.

But seriously, together we can laugh and support each other
Each of you have become like a sister or a brother

And soon we leave Loitokitok, though the cows are still mooing
The roosters still crowing, and the Tusker still brewing
But will all that distraction, I forget what i’m doing here.
Can any of you relate? Do any of you agree?
Then I remember, I’m here to throw starfish back into the sea
One by one, and that’s okay with me
because when it’s done, if it’s one life we saved
One life we changed for two years we gave
..it’d be worth it
Because after two years, we’ll be rearranged,
Though I think all along we will have known
That life that has changed will be our own.

And for two years we’ll face all manner of trouble
From Malaria to funeral orgies, and with mephlaquin: seeing double
But let me tell you the real dangers
When returning to America, we’ll be the strangers
And we’ll think it’s strange: the roads are paved
the toilets flush, the furniture’s plush
they use microwaves

But we have two years to go ’till then
So let’s let the adventure begin.

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Apparently, there was some sort of minor change at headquarters such that now, PC volunteers will be arriving in Kenya at a time better coinciding with the beginning of the Kenyan school year (PC ships in people to teach science, higher math, or whatever else is experiencing pedagogical shortcomings in a particular region.)

In other words, I leave one week earlier than I was originally slated – May 24.

Which, incidentally, is less than two days after I graduate college.

Well. Ok then. That makes things a little more interesting. It was always going to be a tight squeeze to be ready, but now … huh.

My initial reaction was one of some shocked dismay (HOW WILL I HAVE TIME TO PACK UP MY APARTMENT?!) but honestly? I’ll figure something out. It’s just part of the adventure, right? Hell. I’m happy enough with my post that they could ask me to change out of my cap and gown in the security line at the airport and I’d do it.

If the dozen or so texts, facebook messages, and passing conversations are anything to judge by, some of you may be more aware than others of just what all this “MEGAN IS GOING TO KENYA ON MAY 31 OMG WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT” stuff is about. So here go the basics:

After a year of applying, interviewing, waiting, writing essays, waiting, getting poked with lots of needles, waiting, and then waiting, I have been issued an invitation to serve in the United States Peace Corps. I accepted this invitation on March 28th.

On May 31, I will be departing for my as-yet-unknown “staging” city, where I will probably get poked with more needles before finally being bundled off into an airplane for a smallish town in southern Kenya. I’ll be there for a couple of months brushing up my swahili (which, at the moment, is best described as … let’s call it “atrophied from three years of disuse”) and picking up skills to be better at whatever job they’re going to specifically assign me.

I don’t yet have my specific job assignment, but I know I will be an “HIV/AIDS and Public Health Educator.” This harkens to my skill set as having done prior HIV work in the African Great Lakes region, my “people skills,” my background in science and empirical research, my experiences teaching/tutoring, etc etc etc. Before I leave, I will definitely need to brush up on some stuff (developing world water sanitation omgwtf) but I feel reasonably confident that I’ll manage. I’m going to mess up a lot and probably humiliate myself every day for the first year, but hey, it’s part of the package.

My official term of service is 27 months. At the end, I’ll have the option to evaluate my placement with my country director and the possibility of extended service will be discussed. That happens occasionally. But right now, I’m just concentrating on those 27 months.

I don’t know how much access I will have to internet, phones, electricity, running water, Starbucks, post service, or anything else at this point. I’ll know more when I get closer to departure.

I created this blog half for my own purposes in documenting my experiences (I’m a chatty loudmouth who likes to write too much anyway) and half to keep in touch with anyone and everyone who’s interested in me or the Peace Corps experience. I do not know how often it will be updated – I’m a little busy currently, rushing to finish up my bachelor’s degree in the next 7 weeks – but I’ll definitely try to keep it pertinent and entertaining as my departure date nears.

Also, and most importantly, I am so excited I can barely maintain the composure necessary to type this little blog post.

Got more questions? I tried to anticipate some in the Frequently Asked Questions page – check the sidebar link to your left or at the top. If not, you can leave a comment on this post, or you can e-mail me at either of the addresses on the contact page.

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DISCLAIMER

The opinions expressed on this blog do not represent those of the Peace Corps, the United States government, or any other organization. The author is solely responsible for all content on this blog.
Yours truly