Monday, July 12, 2010

Back home

Hamjambo Marafiki - feels good to use Kiswahili again!  Just a note to let you know I am back in the US.  Too many things were happening back here and I decided to cut my term of service short and return home. I have been in Colorado with Rusty, Shannon, Lucy and Josie, as well as Betsy and Dave.  It has been good ad I don't feel like I have been out of the country for 20+ months.  I traveled to see my sister Sandie in CA and am heading for the NW tomorrow for a visit with Katie and friends.  I am "homeless" for now and retake my townhouse August 1.  I am looking foward to getting caught up with all of you once I return to Lincoln.  I do have a phone and my number is 402 613 6269.  Hope this finds you all well and see you soon!   Pat

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"I wanna hold your hand" -

I was SOOOOOOO very fortunate to be one of the 10 Peace Corps volunteers to see Vice-President Joe Biden address the American Missions in Nairobi this morning.   It was an incredible experience to say the least.  I guess a picture can speak a 1,000 words ---

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Where has time gone?

Dear Friends and Family - I just checked my blog and it has been 2 months since I have done any updating.  Pole sana.  I am not sure where time has gone, but we are now in the last week of May!   I will do a brief update on what has happened since March.

The rains returned - the second round of rains came sooner than expected.  It rained every night for over 2 weeks and flooded the shambas.  Many of the crops had to be replanted.  It was incredible to sleep every night with the rains pounding on my tin roof.  At least we could catch water, which of course is a process all its own.  We are back in the dry season and these extremes really makes one aware of water catchment  systems and how important they are.

Camp GLOW was an incredible success for the 28 girls and 10 counterparts that attended.  It was amazing to see the girls transition from quiet, shy and reserved to empowered young ladies.   The speakers touched on many issues of empowerment for the girl child including, self-defense, life skills, the value of education, starting and owning businesses and self-esteem.  They all had the opportunity to go to work for a day with a Kenyan, professional woman.  Other than us spending 10 hours on the bus transporting the girls, they had an incredible opportunity to see what they could be.  Sleeping in tents was a first time experience for many of them.  Food was incredible and the good news - it rained only the last night we were there!   It was definitely worth all the time, effort and energy spent to make it happen.

After spending 3 weeks in Nrb. for Camp GLOW it was a pleasure to return to site and my family here.  I was greeted by Sam and Mumo (ages 4, 2) running to greet me and wheel my suitcase down the dirt lane.  The suitcase was bigger than them, but they were successful.  I missed being called Mutanu or Obama and seeing all the now familiar faces of my community.

I managed to get a quick, long over due trip to Loitokitok in to see Hellen and her family.  She was my host family when we first arrived in Kenya.  It was to reconnect with her and see the town.  She definitely was a blessing and made the transition to Kenya easy.   The bara bara (tarmack) is almost completed between Emali and Loit. which made the trip 3.5 hours instead of the 8 hours it took a year ago!
                                               Hellen and Pat   BFF

I completed a quilt and it seems that everyone wants it.  (My attempts to teach quilting were a grand failure!  Too much work).  I gave it to the church I attend to auction/raffle/sell to raise money for their building fund.  NOW all the ladies in the church want to know how to make one.  At any rate, I hope it raises a pot full of shillings for them.

I have been needlepointing items for friends here.  (Thank you Diane for all the supplies).  Again, my attempts to teach the actual skill were a dismal failure.  Probably not too bad, as supplies would be impossible to get here.  As with the quilting, everyone wants to have a completed item, but the lack of free time makes it difficult to actually make one.  There is a quilting/needlepoint shop in Nrb., but the prices are incredibly high and only the very rich can afford the prices or time to quilt.

I continue to work with the nursery school on a random basis.  I miss the kids and seeing how excited they get when I come.  (They know it is "play" time with Mutanu and we do have a good time).

I will be spending 5 days in Nrb this week "meeting and greeting" the 40+ new PCVs that are coming to Kenya.  It will be good to re-ignited with the enthusiasm of the newbies.  My adventure has been the predicted roller coaster ride.  Incredible highs and dismal lows.  But how is this different than life anywhere?  I have enjoyed my time here and will miss my friends when I leave.

This is a quick update on my life.  Let me know what has been happening with you.

Love and miss you all.     Pat/Mutanu

Monday, March 15, 2010

Was I really in Kenya?

I spent an amazing 6 days in Nairobi!   I can't believe I am saying that as much as I dislike being there.  I arrived on Friday and met a friend to see the Kenyan Archives which was a great look at Kenyan history.  I later met more PCVs for a fine Indian dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the city.  Saturday and Sunday were  meeting days to plan for Camp GLOW and iron out many details.  We will have 30 campers from all over Kenya, 5 of which will be deaf, 10 counterparts to help out, 3 PCVs and 6 committee members.  It will be held at the DEPOT in the outskirts of Nairobi.  It is the site of the Rowallen Boy Scout Camp (which will be hosting an international scout event in June!).  The camp is based on empowering young girls in Kenyan.  Our chair woman, Tameisha, has been in contact with some incredible Kenyan women who will serve as presenters and mentors to the 30 campers.  Two of which I had the pleasure to meet.  Betty, who used to work in the corporate world has now become a well known Kenyan poet and has a troupe that performs her works through out Kenya.  She has even traveled to London.  This was one smart woman who has always been a feminist and leader.  I was in awe of her.

Wanjiku was the other impressive woman I had the opportunity to spend time with.  Tameisha and I were invited to her home for a visit and dinner.  She was the provincial commissioner in Isiliyo (an upper  level governmental position) and then with USAID for 16 years as their gender and development coordinator.  Either of these women would put Oprah to shame they were so incredible.

The best part of the week was being invited to Ambassador Rannenberger's annual International Women's Day dinner.  There were over 150 women of all walks and ages - what chance to meet some great people.  I put on my best Junior League manners and met as many people as I could.  There were several ex-pats who had served as PC volunteers years ago, an 84 year old American who has lived in Kenya for the better part of her life, an ambassador's secretary who has lived in at least a dozen different countries and so many more.  It was a great opportunity to rub elbows with some pretty fancy folk, especially for Tameisha who would like to stay in Kenya after Peace Corps.

I have no pictures of this event to share - but the food was great, the wine was good and the evening delightful.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mt. Longonot adventure

Friends, I have had another great Kenyan adventure. I traveled to Naivasha with another PCV, Paula, for a coupe of long overdue days of hiking.  This is the third time I have attempted to climb Mt. Longonot and the weather was never cooperative.  Even this trip was a bit iffy, but the rain gods smiled on us.  Friday (March 26) Paula traveled to Nguluni and we spent the afternoon walking about my community and greeting my friends.  Saturday was an early morning walk to Tala to catch the matatu to Thika.  Since Paula had not had the "pleasure" of traveling the back roads I wanted her to have that experience.  But darn! the road crews had been out and grated the roads.  So much for a bumpy ride.  We traveled to Thika and on to Lake Naivasha and Fish Eagle Inn, just in time to order a glass of wine and sit under an umbrella poolside before the rains came.  After a few glasses of wine and a so-so hamburger we retired to the dorms for a nights rest.  Got up early and headed towards Mt. Longonot.  It was a bit of challenge to find the road into the gate, but we did.  Had another 2 km walk to the base of the mountain and then the hike began.  Mt. L. is a volcano and it is a walk up the mountain, around the crater and back down.  The dark clouds were forming and I was fearing rain.  Some of the "paths" lead you up a small crevice and if the rains came one would be washed away so needless to say we walked fast.  Once at the top, we still had peaks to scale to get to the summit and some incredible views of the Rift Valley.  Nimechoka kabisa by the time we were done.  And for those who think I walk fast, Paula is even faster.  We did a 7 hour hike in 4.5 hours.  Once more, we dodged the rains and got back to the Inn just in time.

Mt. Longonot

                                                                                   View into Mt. L. Crater

Monday looked like more rain, so we decided to ride the matatu and travel to Nakuru and Nyahururu to see some country.  2 hours later we are taking lunch in Nyahururu and meeting Charles, a retired school teacher and environmentalist.  He drives us to Thompson Falls and shares a bit of local history.  He asks the matatu driver to stop at a certain point on our return trip to see the "best view of the Rift Valley" - and it was.  It had rained lightly all day, so we were glad to be in a matatu and not on the trail.
                                                     Thompson Falls

                                               View of Rift Valley from matatu

Tuesday was a hike into Hell's Gate, a trip down the gorge and back out on the Buffalo Circuit trail.  We were hiking for over 8 hours that day.  Once more, dodged the rain bullets and managed to return to the Inn before it started to rain.  We met 2 young girls from Holland - medical students working in Rwanda and had a great visit with them.

Wednesday was the return trip to Nairobi and home, to wash clothes and pack my bags for another most interesting work-week in Nairobi - my next blog.

I hope all is well with all of you - I know spring must be close and that any snow that falls will not last long.  Life continues to be good here.

Hugs and love to all - Mutanu (Pat)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What I am missing ---

This is not about Pat in Kenya, but what is happening back in America while I am here.  I do miss the 40+ inches of snow you all have had, but not the cold weather.  But the big news is how the Novak family is growing.  Josephine Grace (Josie) was born last Thursday (Feb. 18) weighing in 8.2 and 19" with a fantastic head of hair.

Betsy and David have announced September wedding plans.  Not sure how that will impact my PC situation, but will be there for the wedding for sure.

Life is good - traveled last weekend to the east of Mt. Kenya helping another PCV work with his group project and will have the opportunity for an actual holiday this coming weekend traveling to Mt. Longonot and Hell's Gate.  The weather is a bit tricky, the rains should be over, but they aren't so we shall see.

Anyway - here's the pics of big sister Lucy and Josie and David and Betsy.

Love and hugs to all - spring is coming!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Nimechoka na nimechafu sana - I am tired and dirty

Nimechoka na nimechafu – kabisa!  I am tired and dirty – totally.  I just returned from a 10-day journey to the Coast and I am exhausted.  It was a great trip in so many ways.  I started my journey on Tuesday, working in the PC office trying to get as much information re: GAD (Gender and Development) and Camp GLOW (Girls Leading our World) meeting on Friday.  I have a friend living in Nairobi so I spent the night and left early for Mikindu.  Since I had time to spare, I walked for over an hour from my friend’s house to the staging area in town (Nairobi).  I saw a lot I had whisked by in a matatu.  It took a bit to find the staging (departure) area as there are so many, and so many of the streets have no signs.  I knew it was by the Salvation Army and Tuskys (a grocery store).  Once found, I had an hour wait until it filled and then a 3 hour “bus” ride to Makindu.  Rafiki yangu (my friend) Paula is working there with the Makindu Children’s Center which helps find funding for OVCs (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) and their guardians as well as operate a primary school.  She truly has a job and works 6 days a week.  She is an AARP member of PC and the one I plan on hiking Mt. Longonot with at the end of this month.  I stayed at the Sikh gurdwara (hostel) which was incredible.  We took our afternoon chai and snack there as well.  The cost was merely a donation.  It is truly a sanctuary in the midst of the African desert!

Next morning I was up and sitting on a bus to Mombasa.  This was a 6 hour trip.  Fortunately the Mombasa Road is well paved and there was only one stretch of road construction.  Reminded me of home!  Once reaching Mombas I had to alight in town, find a matatu to the ferries, cross over, catch another mat to Mtwombe and my friend Jonathan’s.  The ferry is very controversible – several have sunk and during busy hours there are literally hundreds of folks pushing their way down the ramp to board.  My timing was good so I avoided the “crowd”, but it was still packed.  Felt like I was in a cattle herd and being pushed down the ramp.  Pickpocketing is rampant so I was extra cautious!  Once landing on the other side, it was another 15 minute ride to J’s site with is a NYS (National Youth Service) school where he is an IT person.  His house has 3 bedrooms, huge sitting room, kitchen, indoor toilet and bath!  A palatial estate and he has opened it up for PCVs who want to stay on coast. 

Next morning, another mat ride to the ferry, cross over, and then a 3 hr ride to Mswembenie and Jeff’s site.  He is with a camping group and ecotourism. The campsite is on a plot above the beach on the Indian Ocean.  The treat here was watching Jeff greet and interact with the locals in his community.  He lives in one room of compound/hotel.  Takes most of his meals out and the mama at the hoteli prepares dinner for him every night.  He has an hour ride to get to his posta and beinki.

Pat and Jay - Indian Ocean                                                                         Gede Ruins
On to Sharuimoyo.  We had to leave Jeff’s site by 6 to make sure I was on the early mat. to Ukunda to catch the bus to Mombasa in time to catch the matatu to the next stage!  Even if I was at the stage, we could wait for a period of time for the mat. to fill, or on the other end, it could already be filled and there would be no room for me.   Yikes, did I feel the pressure of what I had no control over.  The travel gods were smiling and all went well.  Five hours later I arrived at PCV Mary site late afternoon and had a 20 -30 min. walk UP hill to her housing.  She is a public health volunteer and often times they are placed in remote areas.  Her house is 2 rooms and a kitchen with sketchy running water.  But she has no stima (electricity) but she has adapted well.  Hopefully they will be able to hook up in the near future as the poles and lines are in place.  Mary is another AARP PCV so we had much to talk about.  Saturday we went to the Gede ruins near Watamu.  Built in 13th Century and abandoned 400-500 years later.  Traveled to Malindi for lunch, Kalifi for grocery shopping and then back to Shaurimoyo.  After a great meal, a bottle of wine, birthday calls from children it was a full day.  Sunday we went to Timboni beach with Jay, one of Mary’s Kenyan friends, saw another PCV site on the beach (ecotourism again), back home for an early start to Wongoni the following day. 
                                                         Pat, PCV John, John - Taita Hills
Travel to Voi was easy (4 hours) – the 2-hour, 24 mile ride to Wongoni was on the worst road I have ever been on.  I will never again complain about potholes in the US.  How the matatu driver made is beyond me, but I am glad he did!  We kept climbing up, up and view was incredible.  I am now in the Taita Hills.  PCV John works with another ecotourism group.  We walked around his village, truly a village with no stima at all, and saw the 3 hotelis, and small dukas (shops) ,one bar and many traditional African homes. The next day, we hiked for 8-9 hours in the Taita hills with one of his counterparts and Isiah, a friend and guide.  Unfortunately there are no trails and we got “off” trail only once and I was not sure what was going to happen.  It was a bushwacking adventures.  We talked about what they needed to do to make it a successful hikers destination.  My legs still hurt.  Next day, back down the hill (slightly faster), and back to Nairobi.

The adventure gave me an idea of what other PCVs are doing, how they are living and how difficult travel can be for some of them.  Me, I have it easy.  I have water and stima, easy access to food and travel and a paved road to Nairobi.  Everyone is having hiis/her own work and living experience.  This trip put a lot into perspective for me and made me realize how good I have it here.

It also made me realize how hard it will be to share my PCV adventure as so much of it is internal and personal.

I hope this finds you all well and enduring the winter in Nebraska.  Spring is just around the corner!   Love and hugs to all.   Mutanu (aka Pat)  

My Great Family

My Great Family
Katie, Shannon, Lucy, Pat, Russ, Betsy

Contact Information

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Pat Novak, PCV
        PO Box 539
        Tala   90131