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 Café 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