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!