Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sikukuu njema mwaka mpya mwema.

Holiday greetings from Nguluni to all my friends and family in the States.  I cannot believe this will be my second Christmas celebrated in Africa and that I am on the downhill side of my service to Peace Corps.  It has been an adventure in so many ways and one that I am grateful to have undertaken.  I have learned so much (mostly about me) and only hope to retain my insights when I return home.  My friends in Nguluni have helped fill voids, but there is nothing like being surrounded by family and friends during the holiday season.  I wish you all the best for 2010.

Our follow-up World Aids Day event is OVER and I consider it a success.  I think we reached over 500 members of the community and hopefully tested a large number of them.  We are waiting to find out how many were tested.  I am including only a few of the 100's of pictures taken.  I had 5 PCVs come from their sites to help and it was great having them here for moral support and just to help.  I cannot thank them enough.

2010 will be busy, which is good as it will help the months fly by.  Jan 3-6 I will be busy with the GAD (Gender and Development) auction in Nairobi to raise funds for Camp GLOW.  It will be held at the US Ambassadors house where the swearing in of the new volunteers take place.  The end of January I hope to travel to the coast (Mombasa) for a GAD/Camp GLOW planning meeting and to celebrate my medicare birthday with other PCVs.  February and March will be a long over due trip to Loitokitok to see Mama Hellen (my hostess for our 2 months training) and a trip to Mt. Longonot and the Aberderes with some other AARP members of PC.  I am looking foward to both.  April will be Camp GLOW for a week.  This is a camp for young girls (13-18) to empower them and encourage them in their life choices. I am really looking forward to this.  After that, who knows.

Sandwiched in amongst all of this I will continue to work with KVTC, the nursery school and the environmental club at the secondary school.  I have met some incredible people who give a face to the hope of Kenya.

Most of you know, Rusty (aka Russ these days) and Shannon (Baba and Mama Lucy) are expecting another baby in February.  I am saddened to miss the event, and only hope to make up for lost time when I return.  I was able to skype them last week and it was a treat to see Russ and Shannon and see Lucy in action.   Ohioan cousins, Dick and Linda were in Kenya last week on safari.  Fortunately they had a stay in Nanyuki at the base of Mt. Kenya so I traveled there to see them.  It was a great visit.   Besides, the Lodge was absolutely fantastic and the food was incredible.

I had mid-service medical and dental and all is good.   I am so grateful that I have remained healthy and have had no problems.

Life continues to be good here.  I enjoy every day and try to adjust/overlook those areas that would normally cause me stress.

So here are a few pictures of the WAD event to close with.  I do wish you all a great and happy holiday season.

Ninapenda wote Mutanu      (I love you all, Pat)


Monday, November 16, 2009

How to plant a gunia shamba - 6 easy steps.

In August at a permaculture workshop I learned how to plant a gunia (gunney sack) shamba (garden).  The purpose of this is a means to provide a ready source of food for PWLA (people living with aids).  If planted outside their home they can easily pick sukuma (kale) or spinach without having to walk any distance.  I planted one outside my door, with the help of some neighbor children.  We have taken 3 meals from my shamba - the deal is - my neighbors pick and cook, and give me kidogo (a little).  One more win-win situation in Nguluni!  I recently had the opportunity to share this with the new PCV's at their IST (in-service training) and decided it was time to share with you.  All it really is, is container gardening, Kenyan style.  I will be working with friends from the HCLC (support groups for PLWA) next year and try to plant several out in the interior for people in need.

All continues to go well in Kenya - the rains have subsided a bit which has me worried.  I am told they will continue.  It would disheartening to have a 3 month rainy season last only 3 weeks when the crops are looking so good right now.  Once more our town has failed to pay the water bill, so it is back to hiring someone to go to the well to fetch water for me.

We are moving forward with the follow up World Aids Day community event - a lot a work, but great fun meeting the "hoop-di-doos" of the community.  Hoping it is a major success.

Think of you all often - miss you all, but am so glad I am here.  Happy holidays - and eat some turkey for me.   

Mutanu (Pat)

Step 1 - Collect the stones to put in the bottom of the gunia.  Fill the center "pipe" with stones to help with watering.  The center pipe is removed and only stones remain - this filters the water to the sides.

planted.  Step 4: (below) plant the seeds in any broken basin, box or whatever!

Step 5: (Right) transplant seedlings to gunia and finally - a GUNIA with sukuma!  YUM.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Children of Nguluni

These are just some of marafiki zangu (my friends) in Nguluni.
Sorry about the placement, Siku moja (1 day) I will figure this out!    Mutanu


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

They call me "Mutanu"

A few folks have asked about the rains and the name Mutanua - so hope to clarify both at the same time.  We are now in the long rainy season for Kenya - September through December, but the rains are a month late and those "in the know" are predicting heavier than usual rains.  So just like any other drought, it is slowly coming to an end.  Unfortunately, there are very few ways to store the excess water that comes with these heavy rains.  Cachment systems are only for those with /= (shillings).  The fields are slowly showing new, green growth and the temperatures have cooled a bit.  People are frantically planting in the shambas (fields).  This is another blog as I spent part of Tuesday helping my friend plant mahindi and maharagwe (corn an beans) while trying not to get stuck in the mud!

Now for Mutanu.  That is my kikamba name.  Kikamba is the mother tongue of the people in this region, the Kamba.  I was given the Maasi name of Naishiba in Loitokitok by my host mama and it means "person who is always happy".  Mutanu is the same, only in kikamba.  Now for those who know me well may be thinking "This is PAT?"  Well, yes it is and for the most part I try to live up to my name on a daily basis!  There is so much to enjoy and treasure here that it is easy to do.  I have relinquished all (well, most) expectations from folks so do not get too upset when things do not happen as planned.

People have many names here Wambua - born in the rainy season, Mutua - people who have been here for many years, etc.   It is Mama Sam or Baba Sam, never Josephine or Francis, their given names.  I never know what to call any person.

Okay, short but sweet.  I am planning on updating on the weekends, so look look for the blog on my quilting class on Sunday.  Hopefully with any degree of regularity you will remember to check my blog to see what is happening in Nguluni!  

siku njema, kwa heri,   Mutanu

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Every cloud has a silver lining

I was supposed to travel with a friend to Mt. Longonot and Hell's Gate for a couple of days of hiking in the great Kenyan outdoors - but then the rains came!  I was planning on leaving on Friday about noon to ride a matatu to an area called 14 Falls and then onto the Lake Navisha region.  About noon, just as I was getting ready to leave for the staging area I received a phone call - "Raining cats and dogs here -what do you want to do?"  It had rained all night in Nguluni, but the day was sunny - I am thinking let's go - it will be okay.  Then I pictured the mud road to 14 Falls - the deep ruts would be filled with water and the solid soil would now be mud.  In a moment of sanity, I said "let's cancel and go after the rainy season!"  A smart choice.  It has rained every night - torrential downpours and the dirt roads are now mud.  But the fields are looking greener and the livestock have smiles on their faces knowing that there will be food for a while.  I guess I can sacrifice hiking for much needed rain!

As I was unable to be hiking yesterday, I went to the local secondary school and helped plant 400 trees on the school compound with the environmental club.  Barclay's Bank worldwide sent 30 representatives as part of their international "Make a Difference Day".  They had presenters talk about careers, motivation and of course HIV/Aids.  I met with representatives of the Green Belt Movement here and best of all I made 2 new friends - Edna and Grace.  Two Form 2 students.  We talked about their hopes and dreams and how they might achieve them.   There were over 200 students present for this event and it was great!  Hence, the silver lining in these here rain clouds!

I understand snow has come and gone - I hope it is not a sign of long, hard winter for you.  But boys and girls,  can you say "global warming"?  The rains are a month late in coming to Kenya and they are predicting major flooding in many areas.  Oh well, no controversial subjects in this blog.  

All in all, life in Nguluni continues to be good and a different adventure every day.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be here, but miss friends and family terribly.

kwa herini - Mutanu

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Kenyan Quilting Bee

Here are some photos of my students working on their quilt squares.  Note the iron box!  They manage to do pretty darn good work with little to work with.  Their squares are really turning out to be quite colorful as they share their scraps with each other.  These are great girls (and the token male) and a lot of fun to work with.

If you double click on the photos you are able to enlarge them.

For the past 3-4 weeks I have been working with the Garment Making students at Kenbric, attempting to teach them the concept and techniques of Quilting!  Since most of the students have limited English and broken Kiswahili and I have no Kikamba, you can imagine the challenges I am facing!  Even after showing them pictures of quilts I had made, and photos from magazines, they had no idea of what the purpose of this assignment was all about.  Finally, my counterpart came into the class room and talked about making bedsheets from scraps of material and how beautiful they could be.  Somehow he managed to get them to understand the outcome and now most are interested and curious about what we are doing.  

We started by practicing making small stitches - you can hear me say "kidogo, kidogo" a lot!  They are not used to 1/4" seam allowances or sewing with only one strand of thread so I am changing much of they learned!  But in the end, the small hand stitches will make their garment making even better. (I hope).  I give them quilting needles at the start of class, collect them when class is over - that way they are available for the next session.  They are amused to see me use a needle threader - but I will not give that up!  I bring 2 pairs of scissors  with me, the ones they use really could not cut the proverbial butter.  They measure using a ruler or tape measure, mark off the 1/4" for the seam allowance and I try to get them to sew along that line.  I have shown them the tape we use, but since it not available here they cannot use it.  It has been difficult to get them to cut exact sizes of squares or rectangles and to measure as they go.  With one iron box it is hard to kupiga pasi (iron) as each section is joined.  There will be a Kenyan style of quilting that will actually work by the end of this term.

I have taken to enlarging the patterns (good friend Nancy J sent a calendar of 365 squares) and coloring in the various pieces.  Trying to make step-by-step instructions on paper so that this project will be "sustainable" (A BIG PC word).  I have to make each square ahead of time so that I can make sure my measurements are accurate.  That is my task for this afternoon.

Most of the students are really enjoying this new skill, a few absolutely hate it.  It takes too much time and patience for them.  Not much difference between students here and in the US.  I am hoping that soon the students will be able to put enough squares together to actually have a small quilt to take home with them.  With any luck, this class will continue with the new term that starts in January and the first years now can help the new students and life will be easier.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why am I here?

After struggling for many days (and even weeks) asking myself the age-old PC question "Why am I here?" I think I finally heard an answer.  I was sitting outside my compound visiting with Mama Sam and answering her never ending questions about this very issue and I heard her say "You will make such a difference in the children you are working with.  You cannot leave because now people are starting understand why a mzungu would come to Kenya with no pay to help our people.  They will understand that we can help each other too!"  

As I think back on my 9 months at site and what I had hoped to accomplish and compare it to what I have actually accomplished I have two totally different lists.  I came to my site knowing I would make a difference - I would bring the accounting records of my school into the 21st century, and I would figure out ways to improve the bottom line of this business and solve all their financial problems and I would influence the students to LEARN and know the value of learning!  Boy was I wrong.

I have computerized the financial records, but to what avail.  The drought is impacting everyone in this area so no one is able to pay their school fees, so there is very little money to account for.  I plan on working on the computer, but in Kenya Powers' plan to ration electricity, this is the day they shut off power in my community!  My students, as great as they are, have limited English and a moderate level of Kiswahili and therefore speak mostly in their mother tongue - Kikamba.  I roll my eyes, and continue on in my Kimuzungu (part English, part Kiswahili) and hope they understand just a bit of what I have been saying.  Karibu Kenya.

I walk to work from my humble home and am greeted by dozens of school age children saying "Obama" and extended closed hands to meet mine.  One little runs hears the sound from afar and actually runs the equivalent of several blocks in her bare feet, over rocky, dirty streets to greet me.  That is why I am here.  I visit my ex-neighbor who is "bankrupt".  Her husband is another city going to teacher's college, she is left with her two children and no money.  It's okay because they know they will be better and are willing to make the sacrifice now.  I buy unga, mafuta, sukari, kabichi, viazi, vitunga (flour, fat sugar, cabbage, potatoes, onion) and have her cook chapati and cabbage for me.  I leave 2/3s with her family so they can eat.  They are so grateful.  That is why I am here.  The children in my compound have improved their math skills by playing simple games, tossing bottle caps into rings (drawn with chalk) and scoring their points.  That is why I am here.  My 11 year old neighbor needs help with math.  She is a good student, but struggles with math.  I invite her in and tutor her and dividing fractions and working with decimals.  (Granted, I needed to take a quick look at the book to review!)  That is why I am here.

So maybe, it is not what I planned on doing that is making a difference.  Maybe it just the fact that I am here that is making a difference.   I don't know, and may never know, what kind of a difference I have made in anyone's life, but I hope that there is even just a little.  

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mt. Kenya Adventure

View on descent from summit
A view of our "destination" - the summit
Sunrise from the summit
Sunrise from the summit
Where we went!
Camp Moses - first night on the mountain
First of 4 nights on the mountain  w/friend Allen
First day's hike - uphill all the way

the PCVs + guides + porters + cook = successful journey!

August has been an incredibly busy month in Kenya – and a lot of fun!  Hopefully I will be able to update you on the most difficult adventure I have ever had – EVER!  The week of August 15, 8 PC volunteers climbed Mt. Kenya – a height of 4,985 M or 16,355 feet.  I thought I was in good shape, but the high altitude kicked me hard.  But we all made it to the top to see the sunrise, even if it meant leaving camp at 2:30 in the morning!  We were on the mountain 6 days, sleeping in tents and being well taken care of by our porters and guides.  I was the only one to hire a personal porter – how the others toted their 30-40 pound packs is beyond me.  I am grateful to have had Robert carry mine for me!  I am just going to include pictures to give you a taste of the adventure.  Even the photos do not do the scenery justice, nor do they show the difficulty of the “hike”.  I am so grateful to have done this adventure.  Once more, you can see I have not figured out the photo situation in the blog, but you can get the idea of where we were!



Friday, July 17, 2009

Nyumba Yangu (my house)

My Bedroom & Mosquito netting
Tinroof ceiling (noisy if and when it rains)
Precious jerry can
My kitchen sink
My Kitchen

My sitting room (Note Yoga rug and chondos (baskets)

Corridor/Laundry room of my compound

Well folks, this is the best I can do today.  Will work more on layout another time.  But this is how I am living these days.  LOVE IT.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kazi Yangu (my work)

  July 7, 2009  (as a heads up, some test photos were put on my last blog, LUCY, my house, kids lighting jiko) in case you were wondering where they came from.  This has been a interesting learning experience!

Here we go folks – my first attempt at putting some photos on this here blog.  I finally bit the bullet and purchased bamba-net, an internet connection so now I can be oneline without having to go to the cyber cafĂ©.  I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, but hoping it allows for better communication with folks back home and staying more current with this blog. 

Things are going well at school and we are hoping to host a World Aids Day (Dec. 1) event in the town, focusing on youth and prevention.  Hopefully we can organize it and make it happen.  Finding time for my counterparts to work on it will be difficult as they are usually busy in the classroom and dealing with all other school issues.  I hope to involve some of the other HIV/Aids groups to share the work load and involve as many folks as possible.

My first attempt at photos will be focusing on the school and the students.  I will give you a brief update on the “sewing supplies” adventure.  As many of you know, and some of you actually participated in it, 2 giant boxes of sewing and craft supplies were sent.  At first it presented a dilemma, how to best distribute them to make sure the most people got the most of them over the longest period of time.  I finally came to realize it DIDN’T MATTER and turned over the majority of the sewing supplies to the school.  I have been the monitor of them – had to count (220) zips, 200+ spools of thread, and sort and tie together buttons.  Each day students will come and get what they need for the garment they are making, return unused thread at the end of the day so it will be available for the next days class.  I sometimes think – “I have 2 masters degrees and I am counting thread  and sorting buttons!”, but then realize it is a perfect opportunity to interact with the students and get to know them better.  In reality, it has been fun.

Don’t want to make this a long dissertation, but hoping to successfully post one photo to test the waters.  Let me know if this works or not!  

As always, thinking of you.  Just to make it interesting – it is COLD here.  Had 2 long sleeved shirts on today and am sleeping in my down sleeping bag!  Enjoy the summer heat and humidity in NE.



Sunday, July 5, 2009


The door to my nyumbani ("house")

Neighbor kids jiko ("charcoal stove")

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My Great Family

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

Contact Information

My email address is:

My snail mail address will be:
Pat Novak, PCV
        PO Box 539
        Tala   90131