Thursday, November 12, 2009

Safari to Maasi Mara!

I'm not sure what took us tso long, but Sara and I finally made it to Maasai Mara for safari. Our guide was Mike, a very talkative and determined Kenyan. We were accompanied by Kate, a friend of Mike's, and Adam, a 19 year old volunteer from SanFran. It was a good group. This sounds funny, but I liked having another American with us. It was weird at first because I'm not used to the accent (yes, it's an accent) anymore but its nice having someone who understands you all the time so there's no need to constantly elaborate (though I still love our Germans : )). We decided that between the Germans and Kenyans, we're destroying our good English. Just today Sara turned to me and said, "We go." instead of "We will go." It's bad.
Anyway, the vehicle we were in was a van with a roof that popped up so we could stand and take pictures. The very first thing our guide asked us when we started our safari on Friday was, "What animal are you most excited to see?" I immediately answered that it was the giraffe and it was the first animal we saw Friday night! On Saturday morning Mike was trying to find a lion for us and I totally spotted one laying in the bushes. I've always said I have the best eyes in the family and now I have proof. My favorite part of the day was when we were watching some elephants wash themselves when Mike suddenly yelled out, "Rhino and a baby! Rhino and a baby!" He literally put his foot down to the floor and gunned it down the hill to the Rhino. It was pretty funny because you could see other vehicles racing to the same spot from all over the park. I love it. Besides the millions of zebras, gazelles, and wilder beast, we saw cheetahs, hippos, rhinos, crocs, ostriches, and lion cubs. I definitely took the most pictures of the babies.
The scariest moment was when we saw a lioness and lion on honeymoon. They got up from where they were lounging and walked right towards all the vans and passed between them. It was crazy how close they were!!
The place we stayed was also really nice. They were permanent tents that had electricity, running water, a toilet, and HOT showers. Basically everything we don't have at the project. We were so pumped about the showers, we took four of them! Anyway, a great weekend away!
Michel, one of our colleagues from the project, left last week. He dressed in a Shuka (which is pretty much a dress) to take pictures with all the kids. We, the volunteers, gave him a tree to plant as a goodbye gift...and made him plant it in the traditional Maasai dress. : ) It was entertaining.
A new volunteer, also from Germany, came on Monday. It's really nice because the kids have exams next week so we need all the help we can get in preparing them for it. I've been working on math with the three older girls; Mary, Mary, and Agnes. I've seen some actual progress with them so I'm really excited. It's certainly an uphill battle trying to teach multiplication and division when they don't know their basics. BUT, that's good for me! The whole reason for becoming a teacher was so I could see the Aha moment a kid has when it suddenly clicks. So, I'm exhausted, but really happy. : )
Pictures are coming soon!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The IDP Camp and Lake Magadi

Well, it's been a really busy week! Over the weekend, Sara, Jakob, and I went to an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp. A couple of weeks ago, Sara and I met Izzo, a Kenyan who works with an organization for volunteers. We exchanged numbers and he agreed to take us to the camp. There was a total of 600 families that were displaced after the election violence in January. We met up with a doctor who put us right to work taking blood pressure, giving pregnancy tests (my job), and handing out the medicine. It doesn't sound chaotic but for a good two hours, it was. I think I could be a pharmacist now because I had to pick up the lingo real quick and learn to read a doctor's messy handwriting. : ) I enjoyed it!
After we were finished with the doctor, Izzo took us around to some of the surrounding camps to give out food. We had a ton of food with us. Our matatu was so packed, we almost didn't have room for ourselves! The food was definetely something I wouldn't look twice at in the states...or even here. But the people were very grateful. At times it was overwhelming. Izzo would give me some fruit to hand out to the kids or adults standing by and all I would see are hands in front of my face. Often, mothers would point to their babies and say, "Please, give him." And because I didn't know how to turn away, I did. Izzo said I had to be mean for the day, choosing who would get something extra (everyone got the staple foods; potatos, onions, and carrots). It wasn't easy but definetely a good experience. Hopefully, we'll have a chance to go back again before we leave.
On Monday, Michel managed to talk Sara and I into going on a motorbike tour to Lake Magadi. So, putting our previous experience behind us, where two out of three bikes crashed, we got back on. Don't they say, "When you fall, get back up again"? Anyway, we were glad we did because it was totally worth it. Sara rode with Michel while I rode with his friend, Bedin. They are two very capable drivers! The lake itself wasn't that exciting because its almost dried up, but we had a great time driving down and back through the Rift Valley. It was absolutely gorgeous! And Bedin was really good about stopping whenever he saw an animal or a great picture so I took a lot. When we got to the lake, we hiked all the way down to the water. Though, when I say 'hike' I really mean practically sliding. So while Bedin and Michel gracefully made it down, Sara and I were getting stuck on thorns, slipping on loose rocks, and bracing ourselves on dead, dried up branches. You can imagine how well that went. What really added to the atmosphere were all the dead cows and donkeys from the drought. It you stood in the right place, you had a great view of the lake....and then the stench of rotting carcuses.
Yesterday, John, one of the Kenyan workers, got married and we were all invited. Granted, it took place in Kenyan time...meaning about 4 hours late, but it took place and that's all that mattered to John. It took place in a government office because neither of them have the money to throw a big wedding. We bought a cake on the way there, cut it up, and everyone ate a piece in the office afterwords. A little strange but a lot of fun. Alice, his wife, is very nice and I think will be a good addition to the project later on when their house is built.
This weekend, Sara and I are going on safari. We're excited to take our first trip since coming to Kenya! I'll be taking a lot of pictures so I can report back.
Thanks for all your e-mails and prayers!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Snakes, Spaghetti, and Safari

For starters, we just killed a Cobra next to one of our water tanks. Not cool. John (one of the Kenyan staffers) said we could eat it for dinner, and I said I was quite suddenly a vegetarian. I think I will sleep with Sara in the upper bunk tonight.
I cooked dinner Saturday night. The kids have their own dinner cooked by Easter (another Kenyan staffer) so we volunteers take turns cooking for each other. Now, I’m a decent cook. I’m no Emmeril but I get the job done and it turns out pretty good. Everyone was returning from Nairobi and busy doing other things so after Jakob thrust some pasta into my hands, I got to work. Keep in mind that all we have to choose from is pasta or rice as the base and then the only vegetables we have are tomatoes, potatoes, onion, avocado, and a little garlic. I decided on a simple tomato sauce with a little onion and garlic. It would have been decent too….if I hadn’t over cooked the pasta. I’m not really sure how it happened, but by the time I got Sara to help me drain the water, there wasn’t much left. In fact, there was none. The pasta was a mushy blob with zero flavor, like porridge as the Germans put it. When everyone came in tired and ready for their meal, and I pointed out what I had made, I could see them struggling not to grimace. Michael said something about hiring someone to bring us food, Sara said she wasn’t hungry, Maike said she could cook some eggs, Jakob ate two helpings (but the kid eats anything), and John took one bite before putting it back and eating a piece of bread. Last night, I offered to cook again but they immediately shot me down and said not to worry about cooking. I suppose, in a way, this is a good thing but I refuse to leave with the reputation of a bad cook! I will succeed! Feel free to send me ideas. : )
Yesterday, we took the children on safari (meaning vacation) to Paradise Lost outside of Nairobi. We left the project around 8:30 and got off the matatu in the park at 11:30. Because the children are not used to long car rides, along the way 8 kids got sick and 5 of them actually threw up. Luckily, we were prepared with bags. First, we divided the kids up and took them out for a boat ride on the lake. I was partnered with Sara and four of the girls. At the beginning, it was nice and easy with an occasional splash to the other boats (Sara can never pass up an opportunity to get other people wet, including myself). But after some time, we had to head back to the shore and it was against the current. It was a slow process with the girls shouting to go faster and Sara shouting instructions. On top of it all, my knees got badly burnt. I liked it though.
Then we hiked up to some caves for a tour and afterward, rode a camel. Cool right? Yeah, not when the camel looks like he wants to bite your head off. I got some great pictures of the kids because their facial expressions were classic! Sara and I got to go after the kids and it was fun….until the camel went down at the end for us to get off. I thought I was going to go head over Sara and straight into the ground. Of course, she seemed even more traumatized than me. We had a good time. And on the way back, only two kids threw up. Though, there were holes in both bags so that made for a really pleasant drive in the hot and crammed matatu.
Today, Sara is starting work at a clinic in Kisarian, about 10 klm away, so I am on my own in creating work for the kids. I’m trying to start a new system that is more organized and actually helps the kids learn something. They seem to be under the impression that they get a say in how things are run. It’s been pretty chaotic up to this point so I hope it works!
That’s all for now. I hope everyone is doing well!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Zebra Village

It’s been one week at the project and already I’m exhausted. Our mornings are generally quiet with the children at school so Sara and I spend that time making worksheets for them to do when they return after lunch. Though, we never seem to create enough work because all of the kids are really eager to learn. Just yesterday, John, one of the older kids, wanted me to teach him fractions even though his class isn’t doing them yet. I couldn’t teach fast enough for him! As soon as we touched on one concept, he’d want to move right on to the next. I think he’s one of the few who knows how fortunate he is to be getting an education. There are some older girls at the project who, if they weren’t staying and going to school, would be married off by their guardians. Some of the children spend all afternoon with us in the classroom doing flashcards or helping each other with homework. I wish the students at home would be so diligent!
There are some frustrations. We don’t have the resources to teach the children everything they need to know and with 60 kids in a classroom at school, I highly doubt they’re going to get it there. This is why Sara and I want to make sure we work with each kid individually on their homework. We figure they never get that and they love it. Often, we have to send a kid outside because we’ve been working with them for so long and the other kids are sitting around waiting. Very rarely they will say they are tired and want to go play.

Right when we arrived to the project the children hung around us. The first thing they asked was if we knew Obama or Michelle Obama. I think they were disappointed when we told them we had only seen them on tv. Sara and I are a bit of a novelty to them still so they are constantly clinging to us. Two kiddos in particular who do this are Joshua and Rashid. They are six and seven years old and follow us everywhere! I’ve decided that pulling my camera out is a nuisance because all of the children want to be in pictures, or take pictures, or see pictures…it drives me crazy. Also, I never see my watch.

Our colleagues are great. Three of them are German volunteers here for a year long program and two are locals whom stay with the children all the time. Many of our evenings are spent talking over chai so it’s nice. This weekend, Sara and I are back in Nairobi running errands and doing laundry (we don’t want to use more of the projects water than we have to). We’re glad to be back to a toilet and shower, if only for two nights. : ) Now we’re off to get some supplies!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Enter the Zebra Village, the Deaf, and the Monkeys...

The past two days have been a whirlwind!

We finally made it out to the project where we will be working. I don't think the word challenging quite covers what we will be experiencing the next couple of months; no electricity, a hole for a toilet, and a two hour commute to Nairobi. Eek! David has quite the vision for the orphanage! He took us on a tour of the land, which is about 20 acres, to give us an idea for what it will eventually look like. Given how passionate and driven David is, I believe he will accomplish it....but it will be quite a struggle. He wants to have solar power, water storage, animals, a garden, and much more. In order for them to become self-sufficient they will need a lot of money and a lot of help!

David took us to another project where he has volunteers working. It is an orphanage and school with up to 30 deaf children! I was so excited about this! I tried talking to some of the children but they were a little shy. Also, some of the signs were different. When they introduced themselves I thought they said, 'My name is not, so-and-so'. A bit confusing but at least my name sign (the name you recieve from a deaf person) isn't something embarassing. The children are brutaly honest about your looks and personality! From the moment we started our tour, to the moment we sat down to lunch, we had children hanging off our arms and grabbing our hands, smiling at us the entire time. Ah...I hope I can go back there again.

This morning, Julius and David took us to a local park where there are monkeys. David told us the monkeys would sit on our head, but we didn't believe him (just yesterday he told us he had seen a hippo on the side of the road and there wasn't). However, when David put a nut on Sara's shoulder, a monkey jumped right up there and ate it. To say Sara was surprised is putting it lightly! I happily took pictures while she stood with monkeys on her shoulder, grabbing nuts from her hand or her head. There were some classic facial expressions. The monkey's are forceful little suckers. One monkey pried my hand open and stole the entire bag!
Tonight we are staying with Julius' parents and going to church with him and his family. It should be fun even if it will be a 3 hour service. Then, tomorrow we head out to the Zebra village and get to work!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Arrival to Nairobi

After a rather stressful beggining, due to checking luggage, and close to 22 hours of travelling, we are here! We were picked up at the airport by David who took us to his house for dinner. Though we were well fed on the flights, we happily ate what his niece made for us and drank some "Blood Juice" (for more information on this, see Sara's blog as I'm sure she went into full detail...) We drank so much, I'm pretty sure I almost burst. And Sara was convinced we would pee red.
Later on we had to take our bags up 4 flights of stairs (this took a couple trips since we have so much) to David's office where we stayed just for last night. The first thing David said to us was, "You have a lot of luggage!" And we agreed.
This morning, David and Julius brought us breakfast and what they call English tea which is basically water, milk, and sugar. I actually liked it! We went to the store to get some essentials where David laughed at us for bringing coffee all the way here. Apparently they drink it here too! : )
This afternoon we will be doing a sort of orientation and hopefully make it to the orphanage tomorrow. More to come later. Sara's giving me the "Wrap it up, Mathiesen" look. Thanks for the thoughts and prayers! I'm really excited to get to work!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"The best way to find yourself is to
lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi