Wednesday, February 25, 2009

more news from Nguluni

February 25‐ Much has happened in the past 3 weeks, although it seems like nothing has happened. Two weeks ago, the younger brother of Mr. Mwema (carpentry teacher at Kenbric) was killed riding his bicycle along with another young man. The driver (possibly a DUI) lost control of his vehicle and hit the 2 boys. It has been very sad around the school. Saturday we traveled as a “family of Kenbric” to visit the family. There were many people there, and I understand in this culture, those who visit bring maize, beans, flour as well as some funds. This helps the family pay for the funeral and provide food for the many visitors. This will go on until the actual funeral. The funeral is this Thursday, and we will attend as a group. I think the students will also be attending and so it should be a very interesting experience. We did not have school on Thursday or Friday because it was mid‐term break. I ended up walking to Mr. Kelly’s shamba (farm/garden) with him and his wife Veroncia and baby Felix. It was about a 45 minute walk. We harvested the little maize that was there. We were picking the smallest cobs – those that we in America would not bother with, because as Mr. Kelly said: “there might be one kernel” there and that is food. There is a definite food shortage in Kenya, and his expression really hit home. Several weeks ago, the government was offering relief maize. Their office is right by mine, so I could see many people lining up a 7 am, waiting patiently until 11 to receive a small bag of maize. It progressed in an orderly fashion and the patience of the people really impressed me. I feel somewhat guilty being able to splurge on peanut butter, fruits, vegetables and what ever I want. PCV are on a very tight budget so I really do watch my shilingi! I have not had to purchase anything of great cost yet, so I am trying to save for that day. Once I start to travel to different spots, it will be even tighter. The city of Nguluni neglected to pay its water bill, so the entire town has had no water for almost a week. People have being going to a nearby well to fetch water. I have about 20 L left, but my landlord is going to have his wife bring me some from the well today. I will pay her 20 bob (10 cents) for her efforts and it will be worth every penny! There has been a procession of people going to the well with every imaginable container every day. I was told the well would not go dry – I only hope that is true. Just another touch of reality of life in Kenya. We are all hoping water returns soon! Sunday, I traveled to 14 Falls near Thika with my new friend Alan. I walked to the college where he works and we went on to Tala for Chai before catching a matatu to Thika. We were early and got to ride in the front seat. It was a 90 minute, not too bumpy ride. More chai, but now with chapiti as we waited for Alan’s friend Steve, a local, to meet us. We then walked to 14 falls (about 20 minutes) and had to pay 300/= ($4) to get in. This was a lot more than either Alan or I expected to pay. The falls were nice, the water really dirty, so any thought of jumping in was quickly dismissed. It was just pleasant to sit outside and listen to the water falling. I had fun listening to Alan ad Steve talk in KSW and was pleased that I could pick up more

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Novak in Nguluni - Day by Day

JANUARY 31 – Just a quick update on life in Nguluni. I am finally settling into my work, although at times there isn’t any! You know me, I don’t sit well doing nothing. I am trying to take advantage of that time to learn a new word or two. I have put the schools accounting records on Excel spreadsheets and am trying to keep them updated on a regular basis. I just helped develop a budget for the school for 2009 – should be interesting to see if they can reach their enrollment goals with the Kenyan economy in such dire straights. I am in the process of writing an Introduction to Business class for the students, paring down those debits and credits to money in and money out! Forget the concept of time value of money, depreciation or even bank statements. I will teach this class to all students and help them with a business plan for their specific vocation.

The teachers in Kenya are on strike, the government is not paying them, and in some areas it is becoming violent. I need to listen to BBC more and find out what is going on. My Ksw tutor is a primary school teacher so I am sure she is happy to have the extra income working with me. We have about 20 PCV teachers across Kenya, and they are NOT allowed to work because of the potential violence. I will try and communicate with them to find out what their take is on the strike. I am taking advantage of Mama Sharon and having my KSW lessons in the morning. At least my brain sorta functions then! Yesterday she went to Tala with me to help make some big purchases for my home. White skin = $$$$$, so it helped to have her with me to barter down the prices.

I met Allen, a VSO who is actually teaching computer classes at Holy Rosary College and met one of the accounting instructors as well. He lives on campus with the nuns and seems to have it fairly cushy. I am really settling in to my 2 little rooms, crying babies and fun neighbors. I am woken every morning about 5 by the Muslim call to prayer. Interesting way to start my day. This is when I am trying to “calm” my active mind and meditate. Not very successful so far, but am NOT giving up.

I stocked up on fruits and vegetables, peanut butter and jelly and even oatmeal! Fifty cents for a FRESH pineapple, 25 for a large mango and carrots and onions are literally a dime a dozen. I think cheap, Kenyans think expensive. The other day I brought 3 oranges to my compound to share with my neighbors – they never eat fruit, mostly beans & maize or ugali (basically water and flour). I am going to have them re-enforce my charcoal jiko cookig skills so I can make chiapti. Chipati is like a fat pancake, but if you are clever, you can use it as a wrap for stir fry veggies, put veggies in the dough, or just PBJ. For breakfast, fry an egg (very expensive) and have a breakfast burrito.

I am eating Githeri (beans & maize) for lunch daily at the school. Imagine what that is doing to my system! And Kenyans don’t fart! It is very filing and actually quite nutritious. After school I head for home and my bag of Kenyan made potato chips. You can also buy some pretty good boxed cookies. Bread is AWFUL, which is one reason to make chipati.

Last Saturday I went to a small village where Mr. Kelly (one of my bosses) was doing a small ceremony in paying for the dowry for his wife. Most people there spoke Kikamba so even if I tried KSW it was challenging. Once I was introduced (3 hours into the ceremony) people actually smiled at me! It was a long, hot, interesting day.

I had a great discussion on why there are no longer dowries in the US, basically because women no longer feel the need to be bought! A good chance to exchange cultural values while respecting each other’s culture.

Quick update – had trouble putting this online Saturday. Made two trips to the Cyber CafĂ© and both times had difficulties. Will try again on Tuesday. Picked up a lot mail and one package today in Tala. So at least here it is coming to me. Will savor those letters tonight with my chai. Think of you all often - miss you

My Great Family

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

Contact Information

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