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!



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