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Today is Jamhuri Day – or rather, YESTERDAY was Jamhuri Day, but no one was at work so we have to observe it today so everyone gets their requisite day off. Three day weekend! WOO! I’m thinking of making holiday-themed no-bakes today to celebrate, but that would require getting out of bed. It’s after 9:30 in the morning and I still haven’t even untucked my mosquito net, let alone brushed my teeth or done anything marginally useful.

If I have the time/energy later, I will try to upload some World AIDS Day event pictures and do a post about that later this week.


Yeah, life in the Peace Corps is a lot like this sometimes.

I have stolen this graph from the gut-explodingly hilarious blog Hyperbole and a Half. Read that post, and I promise you, you will find yourself nodding along. Or possibly being eaten by bearsharks.

When reduced to three sentences, my Saturday sounds familiar to the point of banality: I ran errands. I cleaned my house. I comforted a friend. But nothing is quite that simple in Kenya (as so few things in my life in general are), so I now reserve the right to bore you with my example of what a semi-typical Peace Corps Saturday is like. At least, for now. Schedules here are about as fixed as the goo inside a lava lamp.

My day started at 7:30, as it usually does on weekends, to the Screaming Child Brigade making a rather impressive ruckus outside my window. I tried to go back to sleep, but as the din outside was rapidly increased by the addition of “90s Songs You Wish You Never Had To Hear Again: The Techno Remix” blasting from someone’s stereo, that plan didn’t work out. (Kenya: where old music comes to die.)

In the States, I had a clock radio that was set to wake me up on Saturdays in time to listen to Car Talk and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, so after brushing my teeth and making some milky tea, I wrapped myself in a leso, popped in my earbuds, and did my best to recreate this little slice of my pre-Peace Corps life. It’s nice to take a break sometime. I sketched out a list of all the things I had to do – post office, groceries, bank, Safaricom dealer – on the back of a newsletter and eventually made it out of the house before the day got *too* hot. Ish. Sort of. It may be winter, but I still wander around feeling as though I might swoon from the heat in true Southern lady fashion while my coworkers are wearing jackets and huddled together for warmth. It’s all relative.

I’m in the rare “peri-urban” Peace Corps post, so walking to town is no great hardship. A few kilometers to the farthest point I could conceivably want to go. Post office: nothing exciting to be found (WHERE ARE THE LETTERS YOU ALL ARE SUPPOSED TO SEND ME, HMMMMM?) Safaricom dealer: the woman at the desk was so delighted when I greeted her in Kiswahili that she immediately started trash-talking the trio of waifish Italian tourists standing two feet to my left. “They never even TRY,” she said gleefully as she handed me my new sim card. Bank: DAMN. ATM OUT OF ORDER. This would bring all the rest of my errands to a grinding, screeching halt. Luckily, I recalled seeing a sign for another one somewhere down the road … I set off in search of it and quickly landed myself in the tourist end of town. The signs were in Italian, every other building advertises safaris to Lamu (really?), and you can’t throw a stone without domino-ing down a row of sheds selling the same wooden giraffes and improbable paintings of Maasai walking along the beach. I ducked into a little café for breakfast (my usual favorite weekend spot is closed for Ramadan) only to discover that the cheapest item on the menu – a crepe with whipped cream – is over 400 shillings. WHAT KIND OF HELL IS THIS?! After wandering far too long, I discover that their ATM was also out of order, so I hightailed it the zillion miles back to my side of town. And gladly so. That place ain’t right.

After getting the monetary sitch figured out, I made it to the grocery store. No, not the market. If there IS a market, I haven’t found it yet – every time I ask my neighbors they look at me askance and say “Why? Can’t you find fresh produce at Mama Lucy’s Supermarket? That’s where I go.” Clearly, this is big city living at its most exciting. I created a minor scene arguing with a Kenyan teenager who was angry I wouldn’t buy him shit (“You’re a MZUNGU! You need to buy this for me!” he argued in Swahili) which I may blog about separately later, but overall, market run = overall success. I schlepped all my bags home in the sun by myself, but at least I was feeling active. The large pack of small children that roves through the bush around my building, which has finally stopped screaming “CIAO BELLA” at the top of their lungs when they see me (opting for “SHIKAMOO MAMA MZUNGU!” which is all kinds of adorable), surrounded me and offered to carry my bags. Which was a nice gesture. I think. Maybe. Or they wanted to run off with my eggs and laundry soap. Hard to tell for certain.

I spent the rest of the afternoon blasting Capital FM (when in Rome …), sweeping, mopping, and being sweaty. BUT MY HOUSE IS CLEAN AHAHAHAHAHA (sorry, really excited about that.) My life is made slightly easier by the fact that I invested in a proper mop, rather than relying on the “bucket and an old sweater” method that I never entirely got the hang of while living with my host family. It strains the back to be bent over that long. (Yeah, yeah, I know. Spare me the innuendo there.)

Around sunset, a coworker who lives nearby came over and asked to use my cell phone. She said the battery in hers wasn’t working, as evidenced by her test-charging it in my sitting room the day before to see if it was a problem with the phone or her wall socket. Whomever she was calling didn’t answer, so she handed it back, kicked off her shoes, and sank to the floor. She informed me that her sister had died the previous day, and she was trying to get in touch with her family to make arrangements.

I wasn’t sure what to say, partly because matatu smackdowns aside my Swahili is only decent-ish, and partly because what passes for supportive here is a little different from back home. Hired mourners aside, Kenya’s not a big “public show of grief” culture. Nor is it a “bear-hugs-and-sobbing-with-your-friends” culture. “Comfort yourself, dear” tells to be the refrain of even the most compassionate sympathizers. So I just slid down the wall and sat beside her, on the cement floor, in my empty sitting room, as she reclined silently with her face in her hands for a long while. I think that was the right thing, more or less. She seemed to appreciate it.

After she left, I made Weetabix and hardboiled eggs for dinner (what? I didn’t feel like cooking rice) and rewarded my long day with an episode of Firefly. I also text-skyped with some friends from America, which was simultaneously enormously restorative and a little hard. As much as I am pleased to be here, I do miss you guys. Oodles.

Tomorrow, I have an incredibly busy day. I’m meeting one-on-one with the district chairs of some major community service providers – major as in international, multi-million-dollar funds like USAID and AMREF. Slightly nervewracking, but I’m excited to be building those contacts. They could be extraordinarily useful. All in the name of turning in the best CNA possible and, of course, figuring out where I fit into this great humanitarian puzzle.

Until then … I think it’s time for some more Firefly.

When I started this blog, I had visions of it being a factual, humorous window into the world of a post-BA Peace Corps volunteer, a way for my friends and family to stay availed of my whereabouts/activities, and to some small degree a place where I can jab at media portrayals of SSA by counterbalancing myths and stereotypes with realities and resources. I had – have? – no intention of making it into A Diary About My Feelings, indistinguishable from the thousands of emo kids on their DeadJournals talking about how despite all their rage they are still just a rat in a cage.

Well … that didn’t last long, did it? BECAUSE THIS IS AN ENTRY EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT FEELINGS. RUN! HIDE! SAVE YOURSELVES!!

I’ve started getting that typical question “Wow! You leave so soon! How are you feeling??” and I can’t quite answer honestly. This isn’t for lack of desire to do so, but because there is no answer that’s true now and will also be true in 10 seconds. Pick an emotion – ANY emotion – and you can be fairly certain I’ve felt that way in the last 72 hours at some point. And its polar opposite. And a half-dozen related feelings that don’t make any sense. Hell, I’m not even making sense *now*.

Today is the first real WEUjlqmwr439U3NW funk sort of day. I’m excited, I’m looking forward to adventures, I CANNOT WAIT to get the stress of prep behind me and meet all the FAAAAAAAABULOUS new people who have been poking their heads into my blog and facebook (and I in theirs.) Until this point, that soul-vibrating excitement, combined with the fact that I’ve been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest and ergo unable to sit down and think about what this all really means, has shielded me from the interpersonal melodrama of departure. However, as I cram four years of cards and letters and textbooks and memories into neat little cardboard boxes, I’m finally beginning to process the whole This Is The End For At Least Two Years Or Maybe Forever In Some Cases aspect of everything. I’m not particularly good with goodbyes. Bah.

The weather yesterday was breathtaking, so two very dear friends and I went for a picnic in a local nature reserve. Although it was never called “The Goodbye Picnic,” as we gnoshed our sandwiches and stared out at the Hudson River, there was a palpable feeling that this was the epilogue to something big. I mentioned my emerging apprehension, to which one friend responded with a quick story: when she was little, her mom used to take her and her siblings to the zoo. Rather than stay the whoooole day until they were all tired and cranky and sunburned and crying and being insufferable brats, they’d always leave when they were still having fun. The best time to go isn’t when you have 100% had your fill and are sick to death of a place, but rather when you’re still fresh enough that you’re sad to leave.

The mental characterization of my wild, whacky college as a zoo is actually pretty close to the mark, but even in abstraction, I like the metaphor. It’s somewhat comforting to think that the reason I’m kind of blaaah today is because I’ve experienced so much that’s so meaningful, it’s worth being sad to leave it behind.

Anyway, this entry is far too long, and I think the muffins I’m baking for my BFFs who are helping me pack might be burning. Better sign off.

Not a whole lot to report on the Peace Corps front at the moment. I submitted Final Paperwork, Round 32534982082 this week (and – inshallah – that will be more or less the last of it before staging.) There’s a zen to filling out visa forms in duplicate, to be certain, but other than that? All is quiet. I leave in 34 days. I told my Africana Studies professor about my impending trip and he immediately recommended ELEVENTY BILLION books I should read (God – err, Nhialic – bless him). Might be hard to get that done in 34 days.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming …

———————–

WORLD CUP, PART TATU (THREE)

And now, the part for which you’ve all been holding your breath … who am *I* rooting for? The answer may seem fairly obvious:

SOUTH AFRICA!

For one, I like it when host countries win. For another, I think it would be fabulous for an SSA nation to take home the big prize during the first African World Cup hosting event EVER. Also, I think they have a pretty good team, all things considered. And finally … they could use some national unity right now. Winning the biggest sporting event in the world sure as hell wouldn’t be a bad thing these days.

Failing that – or rather, “Teams I’m Rooting For That Stand a Decent Chance of Winning” – I’ll be happy to root for whoever knocks out Italy. I’m still a little sore over the 2006 World Cup, truth be told. I also would be happy to see England win. They’re my second choice. Spain number three; I keep hearing about how good a team they’re fielding, but I don’t know as much as I should. We’ll see.

Also … the US team? If it doesn’t lose in the FIRST ROUND like it usually does? I will be so, so proud.

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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