Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What is the What

So at the exact second that we began our walk into town, the weather changed from a beautiful sunny hot day, to a down pour. We could not wait to go into town because if we did, we would not have returned home before dark. With no other choice, we made the 50 min hike into town and got soaked on the way. There are no trees here to hide under, so we became soaked instantly. The rain here is very cold and has huge drops. The roads all turn to mud and it becomes difficult to walk!
Today I was able to buy more textbooks thanks to the people from home who have donated! Because we have bought so many textbooks (nearly 230 plus the few that past volunteers brought) we have ran out of shelf room and have had to build book cases! I used the skills i learned in Mexico to help build these. All we have is a very old, rusty, bent, dull hand saw to cut the wood for these three shelf's. This is very difficult and I wish we had a better saw. The wood that we have is warped, split, and in horrible condition. We have somewhat successfully built two of the three, and are now hiring out for the third one because we ran out of time.
Last week I had the privilege of buying to bags of Maize (corn) for two very needy families. In order to save room, I will just tell you about one of them. This family consists of a single mother with 5 children. The father died 5 years ago of AID"s when the wife was pregnant with their youngest. The wife is also HIV positive and transferred it to their daughter Brenda at birth. These two are very fortunate because they are receiving medicine for free, which is what has kept them alive this long. The mom is too sick to work, and therefore cant provide for the needs of her family. She also cant afford to pay Brenda's school fees. The mom is dying a slow painful death, and Brenda, assuming she lives herself, will soon be a complete orphan.
Tutoring Robnson is going well, but it's hard to know that the few days that I spend with him wont make that much difference. I am going to make a note to future volunteers and hope that they will continue to work with him!
Today, I had my class draw pictures and then write stories about the picture. Many had never had the chance to hold crayons, colored pencils, and markers. I wasn't sure if they would actually write stories, but they all did and they are great!! I am going to be sad to leave my kids and all the students at school.
Right now I am reading a great book that my host brother Peter loaned me. It's called "What is the What" and I highly recommend it to all. It's a true story about a boy who was 7 when the civil war started in Sudan. His family was killed and he was forced to live in refugee camps with 40,000 other Sudanese, many of which were young orphan boys. He saw thousands of people die during his child hood, and saw even more suffering. I think everyone should read this as it's a great book, and it's recent. He eventually was able to move to the US, and it's interesting to see his experience there.
We are starting "store" at the school that the kids can earn stars and use those to buy things. So far we have bought pens, exercise books, and a few small things for it. We are hoping that future volunteers will continue to buy things for it.
Last weekend Meg and I went with Margaret to visit her family. I talked about her slightly in my last blog, but want to add more about this magnificent women. The father of her two boys began drinking and started to abuse her and her children. She had no choice but to leave him and move back in with her mother. He pays no child support and doesn't help out in anyway what so ever. Right now Margerat is making about $10 USD per month, $5 of that goes to send her oldest son, Staron to school. When we arrived the boys were in clothes that looked like rags. We took them a few things that people had donated to me to bring. I also just bought each of them another shirt and am going to buy Staron some exercise books for school. Margaret wants to go to college to become a teacher, but on her salary, this is not a possibility. She uses the little money that she has left to buy food for her family. When we were there, both her boys were sick, and Staron hadn't been to school for a week because of it. I have to wonder if he had an appropriate diet if he would be healthier.
We leave on Friday to go on our safari. I can't believe that my time here is almost up. I really want to thank those who have made this trip a possibility. So many people donated not only to send me here, but also to help out the people I have been working with. Thank you to Nick for supporting me in my decision to come. Thanks Mom, Paul, and Grandma for all your donations. Thanks to the Arndts, Shmitz, and everyone else for your donations of text books and Maize. You have no idea how much these things will help! And finally, thanks to everyone who has been keeping up with my blog!
Love you all,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Monkey Attack!!!

Meg and I eating our bowl of cereal out of the only bowls we could find. We were wet cause we just walked to the store in a rain storm!!
Meg and I out on the beach trying to keep dry from the rain!!

So last time that we were in town, we each bought 10 liters of water to take back with us. These are about the size of the water coolers people have at their office. We decided to spend the extra money to have a taxi take us home rather than walking thr 40 mins with these huge things. The taxi took us about 100 yards further than the Matatu would have taken us and refused to go any further. We therefore had to walk home, each carrying huge bottles of waters!

Last weekend Meg and I met Kate, Raychel, and Heinz in Diana beach which is just south of Mombassa. It was a long journey to get there. We had a 40 min walk, 15 hour bus ride, 15 min Matatu ride, 15 min ferry ride, 40 min Matatu ride, and a final 20 min Matatu ride. We were exhausted by time we got there, and didn't want to even think about doing that again in a few days to get home. We stayed at a decent hotel that was $6 USD per night per person which was right on the beach, had a kitchen, and not only running water and electrity, but also hot water!!

We had two chickens ride the bus with us for the 15 hours. (there is one in the box as well)!

One of the first things I noticed when I got there was a sign saying "Don't feeed the Monkeys." We were also warned to not only close our doors, but to also lock them because the monkeys know how to open doors and will come in, especially if they smell food. So the four of us decided to go take pics of the cute innocent monkeys while Meg was changing. As I was taking a pic of one, it started chasing me, and Heinz had to scare it away with a stick. Shortly after, Meg comes running out to where we are in shorts and a sports bra and she had the look of terror in her eyes. She yelled, while holding back the tears.. "Guys I know I look ridiculous and that its not appropriate to be out here in this, but there are monkeys in the kitchen eating our bread and I ran out here and left the door wide open and now they are probably eating the rest of our food." We all sprinted back to our room.

The monkeys were gone, but so was 2 loaves of bread, a mango, and a jar of peanut butter. We went back outside just in time to see one monekey finish the last piece of bread and to see another open the jar of p.b and eat it. We were very upset. There were probably 4-5 different types of monkeys, and near 50 in all. There was even a heard of baboons, which freaked us out because they are known to be aggressive. We picked up rocks whenever we saw them!

This monkey looks evil

This is a Colombus Monkey
This is the type of Monkey which chased me
Baboon... look at that nasty but!!

The next morning, I was trying to get a bowl of cereal and a geiko jumped out at me. I freaked out and wouldn't go back into the kitchen until Meg woke up and determ
ined that it was gone. We saw a huge spider that must have been the size of a baseball. It made tranculas look tiny. I also rode a camel on the beach which was pretty cool. It was so scary when they sit up and down. They are huge animals.

It was really scary when it sat down!

Look at Megs face!!!

The beach was pretty and had white sand. Unfortunately since it's the rainy season, the water was kind of cloudy and we couldn't go snorkeling.

We rode one Matatu that would die everytime it shifted out of first gear. We therefore couldn't go very fast, which is unheard of by Kenyians. The driver thought that the safest thing for us to do would be to drive in the ditch so that others could pass us. This makes since, until I add that he was driving on the wrong side of the road and would swerve back over to the correct side of the road at the last min when on coming traffic was approaching. The other drivers didn't know what he was doing, so they would try and swerve around us, resulting in nearly crashing several times. Anyone whos been to a foreign country knows how close these drivers can get, but this time was by far the closest to having accidents that I have seen!

Meg and I spent one day in Mombassa which was neat. We checked out Fort Jesus and Old Town Mombassa. We went to a market where slaves used to be bought and sold. We also walked down the same streets that slaves did before they boarded the boats. This was very fascinating, and I had an interesting conversation with my host father about the slave trade last night!

Our personal tour guide! She followed us through all of Fort Jesus from start to finish!!!

Meg with John the tour guide

Meg and I in a Tuk Tuk
This is an old market where slaves were bought and sold!!!

I just bought over 70 text books for our school and Meg bought a bunch as well! Thanks Mom and Paul for your help purchasing these. The children here love to learn and read, and I know they will be very excited to have these! This weekend, Meg and I are building a new shelve to hold all the books on! It should be interesting and I am hoping it won't break!

Me handing out the books to the kids for the assembly
Mama was so excited to have new books!!

Mary and Sharron hugging the new books for their classes!
All the kids in classes 1-7. Preunit, Nursery, and Baby Class didn't come to the assembly
Wisdom holding a Pre-Unit Math book!

The teachers collecting the books after the assemblyThis is just the first set we bought, I went back the following week and bought 50 more!!

Also, this weekend we are going to buy 2 bags of Maize (corn) and give them to two needy families in the community! One is a widow who has 6 young children. Thank you to those who have donated money for me to buy these! Each bag should last them a while and really make a difference in their lives!

Pastor told me yesterday that the yearly school fees for the school that we are working at is $50 USD per year, which includes all uniforms and everything! It's amazing to think that this is way out of so many peoples reach. One of the hardest things to see while walking to or from school is children who are not able to attend because their parents lack the financial means.

The maid at our house has an amazing story as well. She is the oldest of 7 children, and has 2 boys of her own, 3 and 5. Her father recently died, so she was not able to go to college. She decided to take the job with Mamma and Pastor to help send her younger brother to school. She has left her boys with her mother and only gets to see them once a month for 2 hours. We only live 20 mins away from her home, but she is to busy to go there. She works so hard and is the nicest person. We helped her do the families laundry on Monday which was a chore. It took the 4 of us 3 hours to was 14 peoples laundry by hand. My arms and back were killing me when we were done. I'm not sure how she does it by herself!

Teaching is getting a lot better! I really like my class and they are finally starting to like me! I'm not sure how much they are learning, but at least we are having fun!!
Me and my class!

I began tutoring a boy named Robnson this week. Robnson and his brother are complete orphanes since their parents died of AID's. His father was also an orphan, so they didn't have very many people alive to take them in. The boy moved in with their elderly grandma who was very poor. They had to drop out of school, (until Pastor decided to waive their school fees). Because of this, Robnson never learned to read. He is the smartest one in class when it comes to Math, but doesn't know what sounds each letter makes. I am going to continue tutorimg him while I'm here, and leave a note for future volunteers asking them to help him as well. He is a great and bright kid, but just needs a little help!

This is Robnson, the boy I tutor!!

Love you all, and see you soon!


Monday, June 8, 2009


So a lot has happened since I wrote last. I took my first bath since I have been in Keumbu on Saturday. This was a very interesting experience. The house I am staying at has no running water or electricity. Therefore our bathroom is a pit toilet, which is a hole in the ground that we hover over. It isn't too bad to go pee in, but a bit awkward when you have to poop. There are always a ton of flys, so you have to try and swat them away while your doing your business!

Any way, back to the bath. You shower in the same place that you go to the bathroom. I unfortunately asked Margart the house keeper to warm me some water right before a thunder and ligtening storm happened. This was a bit scary since the shower is a small metal shack. I had a 5 gallon bucket of water, a small pitcher, and a bowl. I stood next to the bucket and used the pitcher to get water all over myself. It surprisingly worked quite well. Before I got in the shower, I was admiring how tan I had gotten since I arrived. However, after looking at the black water in the bowl when I finished, I realized that I was still as white as ever, but just govered in dirt.

Yesterday we went to visit Mama and Pastors eldest daughter who is in a boarding school. There were 9 of us cramed into a small 5 person car for a 1.5 hour drive each way. The girls there were so excited to see us and kept stroking our hair and asking us to take the to America. As we began to leave, a huge rain storm started. The road we were on was all dirt and had huge pot holes in them. At one point, the road was washed out and it was basically a river flowing beneth us. The taxi we were in was not able to make it, so we all had to get out and push the car. It was raining so hard that we were instantly soaked. We were all still in our church clothes, so you can only imagine what 4 soaking wet white girls in skirts and flip flops looked like pushing this car on the road. We do have pictures and videos of it! The taxi continued on for a few houndred yards after it got unstuck, and so we had to chase after it.

A little later, there was a huge hill and the taxi again could not make it up. We got out and tried to push with all of our might, but we did no good. The taxi backed down the hill to try and take a run at it. We continued to walk up the hill, but had to jump into the ditch because the taxi came flying at us and was out of control. To make the story even better, Ashley was wearing flip flops and could hardly walk. She also had left her glasses in the car so she was pratically blind. We were covered in mud from the car sparying it up at us and from walking up the hill. This was the second bath that I have taken since here, however I think I ended up dirtier than I was before, but at least the sweat was washed away. The car bottomed out at least 30 times if not more. Each time, us white peopl flinched, afraid something would break, but the others acted like it was no big deal.

Teaching is going ok. I taught math for 80 mins and english for 40 mins this morning. It's hard cause the kids just stare at you blankly and you aren't sure if they understand what you are saying or not. They always say they do, but i'm not sure. The kids are really respectful and stand up everytime you enter the room. Also, if you are in the room before you, they ask permission to come in. When ever they answer a question, they always stand up. It's also difficult because I have no materials to help me teach with. There is only one text book per class, so the children can't read along with you. We are going to the book store after this to try and buy more. We would like each student to have one to take home and to follow along with in class. I believe this would greatly improve their education.

The children aren't like the ones in America, they truly want to learn and have a desire to do good in school. School is a huge privilege here. Most of the two hundred children that attend her are orphans. Many have never seen a world map, so I am going to try and see if I can find a laminated poster in town to take to them. They have no posters or visuals for these children. Many don't have backpacks, pens, pencils or paper. We are going to try and get these while in town today if we can find the store. Many of the childrens uniforms have huge holes and tears in them. These children are lucky to eat one meal a day.

Where we are staying, we get three meals a day, but we are getting really sick of them. Breakfast is one peice of bread and tea (not even toast, just bread). We bought some peanut butter to put on it to make it a little better for us. Lunch and dinner is either potatoe or bannana soup. Potatoe is pretty good, but I don't really care for the bannana. Plus there is only so much you can eat of these, and it gets old when you have the same thing twice a day. We occassionally will get fruits with dinner.

Now for a little back ground on the family I am living with. They have 3 of their own children, Daffine, David, and Daisey. They have also taken in several orphans. Mary was the first. Pastor first noticed her when she was four. She always came to school and was very skinny. She informed him that she was lucky if she ate oncce a day. Her parents died when she was 3 month old from AID's and she was taken in my relatives. They were abusive to her because they were afraid that she might as well be HIV positive. Pastor swears that if he hadn't of taken her in, she would have died soon. She has been tested 3 times and is HIV NEGATIVE!!! She is now doing great and loves school.

Next was Dalvine, who was dropped off at their door step. She is 6 now and also doing great. There is also Sharron who showed up one day with her luggage. She is 7 and loves to read. Then there is Lilian who Pastor took in when she was in class 4. She is now in class 6.

Finally, there is Peter who is 17. His parents died a few years ago of AID's. He was forced to drop out of school and move to the Great Rift Valley for work. However, because of the post election violence, had to move back to Keumbu. One day at church, he came up to pastor and asked if he could work on his farm in exchange for room and board. Mama and Pastor agreed. Shortly after, one of their volunteers asked Peter if he wanted to attend school. He had been out for 5 years, but really wanted to. He is now in, what we would consider, his freshman year of high school and hopes to become a journalist for the UN writing about the issues in Uganda and Somalia. That volunteer sponsors him and pays $400 USD per year for all of his school fees and uniforms. That $400 will really make a huge difference in his life.

Mama and Pastor would eventually like to take in more children, but right now don't have the finances for it. Their son David will be going off to secondary school soon and hopes to become a Pilot. He is one of the brightest kids I have ever met. I really hope that both of these boys fulfill their dreams. Right now they are looking for a sponsor for David because they want to send him to a national school since he is so smart. There are also many kids in the community who are out of school because their parents can't afford it.

I did my first load of laundry by hand this weekend. I washed a pair of shorts, and then Mama asked me if they were clean. I assured her that they were, and she asked to see them. Right after she dunked them in the water and said that we white people dont know how to do laundry. We are not allowed to do chores where we are staying, and they get offended if we try to help with laundry. I went back to my pile to wash my shirt, and found that it was missing because Margart was already washing it.

There is a lot of racism here, however it's not the way you would think. People here almost worship white people. When going through a police check, if they see a white person in the car, the police will let the car go by because they don't want to cause us any trouble. If it was a car full of black people, they would be pulled over and eiter arrested or forced to pay off the police officer even if they didn't do anything. People her pray that their children will be as "chocolate" as possible because the lighter the skin the better. When in the slums, people want to touch us because we are considered so good. I can't even explain how weird it is to be treated like this. They say that we are perfect and can't make mistakes. We try to insure them that this is very false.

Where I am staying is near where Obamas grandma lives. We have been asked so many time to tell him hi for people. They think that we know him personnally. On the way here, we passed an Obama Cafe. You see his picture everywhere, on signs, shirts, ect. They keep telling us that he is their president as well.

Love you all and hope you are all doing well!