Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A very belated update - Pole Sana

June 7, 2009

It has been over a month since I have updated this blog – pole sana. It just seems like the days fly past and I have nothing accomplished! Much like life in the US. Today is Lucy’s first birthday, so I thought it fitting and appropriate to write an update. I cannot believe I am missing her first birthday, but know all the other grandparents will take good care of her. When I was in Nairobi I found 2 story books which have great drawings and are written in both English and Kiswahili – Know they are a bit old for her now, but will enjoy reading them to her when I return. I baked a chocolate cake today and will celebrate Lucy’s birthday from Kenya with my neighbors. I had the compound kids draw birthday cards for her which I hope she enjoys. I know the kids had fun drawing them. They kept singing “Happy Birthday to Lucy” as they worked. So darn cute.

Life just continues on – we have not had city water since mid-April and the wells are running low. I had 100 L delivered last Sunday and will need another 100 today. Good thing I don’t mind wearing my clothes several times before washing. As always, drinking water is first! The bad thing is the crops are failing and food prices are rising. I marvel at how people feed their families on so little. I am grateful to be able to buy whatever I need, and often times just what I want.

I am settling into my work schedule and finding outside opportunities. Right now I am teaching an Introduction to Business class once a week and will start quilting classes soon. I will eventually take over the “Reproductive Health” class – whatever that means. Sure hope they provide me with a curriculum! You are not even allowed to mention the word condoms in classes unless students bring them up. A large focus is on making good choices, HIV/Aids prevention and just growing up. Not too different from the classes in America.

I have started to attend some HCLC (Health Center and Community Link Committee) meetings which consists of 12 groups and/or representatives concerned with HIV/Aids. We traveled to Athi River last week to have a joint meeting with their HCLC and went door to door asking if individuals had been tested or knew their status. The stigma of being HIV+ is HUGE and is a real deterrent to being tested for many. I learned how much I have to learn about Aids in Africa. I am hoping to do some home visits with Marita, a friend from Nguluni and learn more about what is happening around my community. There are so many stories – some disheartening and others incredibly uplifting. There are many individuals living with being HIV+ and leading normal/healthy lives. There is hope. I will be attending a support group meeting for guardians of children orphaned by Aids. I am hoping that in some small way I will be able to provide help to them. Many need to develop “IGAs” – income generating activities – and maybe this is where I can help them find a way. Peace Corps did a great job educating us in this area – now it is just being clever enough to implement what I have learned.

World Aids Day is December 1 and it would be a great opportunity to organize a community awareness day and educate the community about the importance of being tested. We shall see.

I need and want to thank all of you who contributed to my “clean out your sewing basket” campaign. I have received the first box and was amazed and delighted at what I found inside. (Not to mention the M&Ms which I did NOT share). Kenbric VTC trains tailors and dressmakers, but the students have few supplies so when I asked Karyl Newman to organize a collection she did and you all came through with flying colors. I am trying to decide how to best disburse the items, so that the students will be the main beneficiaries of your generosity. I am also thinking of ways to utilize some of them for IGAs with the HIV/Aids support groups. I will keep you posted on how they are used.

The M&Ms by the way – were consumed in a couple days of “stress” eating – Not a good thing. I continue to cook relatively healthy foods, but there are days a greasy hamburger sure sounds good. Next trip to Nairobi and Java House – Burger, fries and milk shake! I make chapatti when I crave bread, but only make 2 or 3 at a time. So good with peanut butter and jam! I actually found popcorn at the supermarket and popped some today for an extra special treat!

I have been trying to keep up with Kiswahili lessons, but my tutor and I are both getting busy and finding it hard to find time to meet. She loaned me several storybooks to read and one of the teachers at school is good enough to listen to me read out loud (without laughing too much) and correct my pronunciation. I read one to my 7 year old neighbor, she will be a good mentor (not too judgmental about my pronunciation) and the plus side is she enjoys being read to. I have yet to figure out how they string 4 or 5 words together into one 15 letter word! And then remembering e’s sound like a’s, and i’s are e’s. And nya---, mbo--- and ng’---- don’t make any recogonizable sound to me at all!

I spent a weekend in Machakos for a Kenyan Sign Language workshop. A PCV is at the school for the deaf there and we worked with her students and PC KSL educators. It was a great deal of fun, and then she reminded us of the importance of knowing some basics in case we encounter a deaf individual who is in need of help. It really put things in perspective for me – and the importance of being able to communicate wherever you are, being deaf, or American in Kenya, or Kenyan in America and how frightening it must be to not be able to communicate. It seems like opportunities for learning and growing are everywhere – it’s just taking the time to recognize them.

There is not much exciting news from here so will close for the time being. It may be several days before I can get to the Cyber CafĂ© to post this. Just know I think of you often and wonder how you all are doing. Just take care of yourselves! I do not miss not knowing the news or listening to the political commentary – I catch snippets on the BBC and am pleased that Obama continues to have integrity, character and is working hard to improve America’s image. You all take care, continue to stay in touch and keep me posted on what is happening in your daily lives. Nashukuru.

Siku njema na kwa hereini. Ninakosa yote sana. Mutanu

My Great Family

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

Contact Information

My email address is:    p_novak@hotmail.com

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