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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Life Happens...


            Exactly two weeks before I left the LAX airport for Kenya, I sliced open my heel. At school, I was moving a big rolling bin down a hill and it got going too fast and cut my heel. Now, me being my traditional self, completely disregarded how much my injury hurt while subconsciously keeping in mind that I was leaving for Kenya for the summer in just two weeks. Instead of admitting that it was fairly deep, and that it hurt, I simply hopped over to the grass while sort of yelping “I’m wounded!”. Now, you need to understand that I say, “I’m wounded” when I have a paper-cut—I just really like that word… (I’ve never actually used the word wounded in the intense circumstances in which the word suggests—you know, like a gunshot wound or something). The only time I have ever used it in context, I said it so casually that no one (including myself) believed me. I laid there in the grass and asked for my phone so that I could take pictures of my wound, and avidly begged and tried to persuade my boss from forcing me into going to the doctor. I mean, I couldn’t walk, and I had a hard time hopping because I was so dizzy, but the doctor? Come on now, people only go to the doctor when they are badly injured, right? Anyways, I went to the doctor and they made me get stitches—which I also argued about… I was told that I could get the stitches out in 10 days, and that by the time I left for Kenya, I should be good as new. I didn’t blog about my injury before because it wasn’t a big deal… it was just a flesh wound! Haha
            So, I got my stitches out and still couldn’t walk, but I figured it was just bruised; therefore, I got on the plane and left for Kenya. While I was there, I had a blast I absolutely love Africa. My foot wasn’t healing though, so my doctor at home decided I may have hurt my Achilles. They made me come home, and even though it broke my heart, I believe it was a good thing. I got an MRI, and my Achilles is sliced in half. It is a 50% slice directly horizontal across my Achilles (meaning my Achilles is half as thick as usual—which makes sense why I can’t walk very well or run at all). I am frustrated that I am home for the summer instead of in Kenya, but at the same time, I am glad it is torn because I was starting to feel like a wimp because the doctors kept telling me that I should be fine and dandy.
            Well, there you have it. I am home. I am no longer in Kenya. And while I am distraught at this fact, I believe I am here for a reason. I know there is things I need to work on that I have been running from for years. I ran to Mexico to work in an orphanage, to Kenya to work at a school… and I always run to multiple jobs and friends and many other things when I feel like I may have to actually deal with my issues because I literally cannot run any longer.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

I love matatu riding.


            I am living with a host family. They are beyond amazing. Some of the cultural differences are odd, and some are hilarious, but I love them nonetheless. For example: when the family eats, whenever someone is finished, they are required to leave the table. It isn’t really an option. I don’t eat as much as my family does, so I am always done first, and they kick me out! They won’t let me stay and enjoy their company. They raise their eyebrows at me and say, “Kelly, you may leave.” When I protest, they simply say, “go”. Haha at first, I was taken aback, but it is normal I suppose.
            It is also a family tradition to sit on the couch and pick teeth with a toothpick. They sit in complete silence picking their teeth and occasionally spitting out things they have picked loose. So funny!
            I went to Kisumu by matatu (a mini-van type vehicle) on Friday. I have been watching the names of matatu’s for a while now—I am trying to figure out which ones are the best to ride. It is a tough decision… There is the “hot passion”, the “ghetto forever”, and the “passion for fashion”… It was a rough choice, so I just chose the “respect” matatu. Haha let me tell you exactly what the Respect was like. We got on the matatu in Kakamega and about 11 others got on with us, making it a total of 14 in our mini-van type vehicle. We began our journey, and my chair was broken/detached at the left side, so every bump we went over, the chair tipped and I almost fell off my seat. I got quickly distracted from this, when I felt something pulling my hair—I assumed that it had caught on the seat, but when I turned around, I found a person stroking it. And I don’t mean they touched it and then stopped—I mean, they repeatedly started at the top of my forehead and petted my noggin all the way down to the back of my neck. I turned around and smiled, and the lady said, “Your hair is good”. I said “asante” (thank you) and turned back around while trying not to laugh.
            The matatu was getting pretty warm inside—I was a bit worried about getting car-sick, but never fear, we stopped again to pick up more people. A larger amount of money is earned when a greater number of people smash into the matatu, so it makes sense that when we stopped, 11 more people smashed in. This made a total of 25 people in our matatu (not including the driver). I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been in a mini-van with 25 people—needless to say, we were getting a bit comfy with each other. (My chair wasn’t wobbling anymore though. In fact, nothing was moving very much at all—we were too packed in to have extra space to move around. Haha, which made me feel…um…safer). I got a lot of stares for giggling—but realistically, there was no alternative… the different situations were so funny!
            We stopped to drop off some of the people, and a man carrying 7 live chickens hopped in. He casually set them on the floor around people’s feet while the birds squawked and we continued on our journey listening to music and chickens. We arrived in Kisumu after about an hour and a half. It was an awesome experience! Haha I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

First Week In Kakamega


            Before I left Nairobi for Kisumu, there was a race for charity. When there are races in the states, the roads are closed and there are people watching others run, right? I had absolutely no idea there was a race going on. I couldn’t figure out why some people were wearing similar green t-shirts and running through the streets. I finally figured out it was a race for heart disease—but the roads had not been shut down, so the runners were just running around the cars! I think that’s a liability, but it made the runners more agile!                       
            On the way to the airport, Aga (our driver) was going 110Kilometers an hour while listening to reggae. We nearly hit a whole group of people crossing the road, and at that exact moment, the music said, “life is not a game”. Haha
            I have been in Kakamega since last Saturday, and I am learning all kinds of Kiswahili. I thought I was doing well, until yesterday when I said to my teacher—Pollyne—“I feel like I did better today”. Her only response was… “You sure?” Haha well… I suppose she didn’t think I was doing better. Learning Kiswahili has also gotten me into a significant amount of trouble. Apparently, people here don’t talk about the same subjects as at home. (I realize I tend to talk about odd things, but it isn’t usually offensive.) For example: here, bellybutton is mataco. I thought it would be fun to say, “I like your mataco” You know, I like your bellybutton. I just wanted to see the reaction. Well dear goodness, I got a reaction. Apparently, mataco means not only bellybutton, but also butt. So I told a stranger that I liked her butt. Whew… that was an embarrassing walk home…
            Also, I was watching an inspiring music video and I am still unsure how I am supposed to react to it. Obviously, I reacted with uncontrollable laughter, but I am not sure it was appropriate. Here are the subtitles to the Kiswahili song:
            “Oko come and wipe my tears.
            Am totally rejected.
            My eyes are wet with tears.
            My father is now upset.
            Am totally rejected.
            Am tired of this world.
            My father is now upset.
            Am totally rejected. Am bored and frustrated.
            Oko, come and console me.
            Am totally rejected.”
I realize these lyrics are depressing, but on the video, the actors were smiling and dancing to bongo type beats while the singer was crying. In addition, these were the only lyrics and the song was more than 6 minutes long. So while I felt like a horrible human being, I simply couldn’t resist laughing.  I begin my internship on Monday!
            I texted a friend on my new Airtel phone this morning. Here I can just buy minutes, and after sending the message, it said: “Your call cost 1.00 KES. Dabbing toothpaste on a pimple makes it dry out faster.” I wish my phone at home gave me practical advice every time I sent a message!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Lion Hunt


          Once again, there I was sitting in the back of a matatu (van) driving across an endlessly bumpy road while giggling like a maniac…
            We were on a lion hunt. After hearing they were somewhere in the bush, we took off across the red dirt road searching for a tan lump in the distance (which we assumed would be a lion). Can I just tell you how hard it is to look out the window and scan the horizon while looking for something that stood out to me (as I was told to do)? First of all, knowing me, the wildflowers are what stand out in my mind. I scan and pause when I see pretty flowers (not when I see a tan lump that I hope is a lion). Secondly, when my rump is literally leaving my seat every few seconds, I have a hard time focusing on scanning the horizon. But alas, my job was to find the lions, so there I sat, bouncing around in my seat, attempting to scan the horizon (when in actuality, I was about to pee my pants I was laughing so hard). How everyone else was so serious, straight-faced, and focused at the task ahead of us, I have no idea. We never found the lions while we were looking though. We found rhinos, ostriches, giraffes, some random birds, wildebeests, gazelle, and a few others, but no lions. Right before we quit, we were driving back home and saw the lions. Of course we saw them when we weren’t looking…Haha

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

After a long long flight...


         
I arrived safely in Kenya. Oh golly, the flight was super long—however, it was like returning home. I absolutely love it here. I love the people, the smell, the roads and ways of driving, the public transportation, and lastly, but certainly not least—I love the bird that woke me up this morning. The bird had a sharp whistle, almost exactly like when someone whistles at a super attractive person (you know that one with two different notes? Yep, that’s the one!) I know I sound like I am exaggerating or being sarcastic, but I am not. It is such a different world here, and it is so difficult to explain, but I love every moment of it.
            I had Kenyan tea and bread for breakfast, and then we went on an adventure to the store and to Kibera slum. I can’t get over how the meat is sold here. It is the funniest thing ever. We went to a “pork place”, and it had a pig hanging there in the window (which made the flies super excited). We told them how much we wanted, and the man proceeded to cut the meat off of the pig and place it onto a scale. Once he weighed the proper amount, he slid it out of the bowl and into a black plastic grocery bag. We said “asante sana” (thank you very much) and left happily with our BAG of meat.
            Everyone that knows me at home has accepted that I smile almost non-stop. Well, here, people just say hello to me because they think since I am grinning directly at them, I must know them (or at least that is what Aga said.) I don’t mind at all—I love when people say hello!
          We went to the Nairobi National Park today. As one of the guys I had breakfast with today, "are you excited to let the lions see you"? In America (at zoos for example), the animals are in cages and the people are free. Here, the people are in cages and the animals are free to roam. Odd, huh? I forgot how crazy bumpy the roads are here (especially in the park). We had a time where the road was literally at a 45 degree angle--I thought our van was going to tip over!
 I think Rhinos and ostriches may be two of my new favorite animals. Especially ostriches. They are so funny looking. Look at the black one's legs!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Learning to be loved? Who, me?

For my entire life, I have been an expert at loving people and not allowing people to love me back. I am passionate about doing everything I can to make everyone feel accepted and completely loved. I have never before, though, let anyone love me. Being an RA has changed my life. I was blessed with the opportunity to love on these beautiful women that I was "in charge" of, and they loved me back (which isn't anything new). What changed my life, though, was that they taught me to accept compliments (most of the time). They taught me to love myself, and they taught me that I can't get away with loving people and not wanting anything/or allowing anything in return. When they were vulnerable with me and told me the things they were going through, it taught me that I could do the same. They taught me to allow people to love me. I have never had a hard time saying goodbye to people, but this past week was tough. Not only did I cry when (or right after) I said goodbye, I cried in my room once the dorm was empty. I never cry. You lovelies changed my life. Thank you.
 



And my fellow RAs, you also taught me a lot about myself. You allowed me to be myelf--no matter how harsh that was at times. You allowed me to be blunt and to state my mind while calling me out at times. Thank you for everything. 

15 days until I leave for Kakamega, Kenya! I also got my placement a few days ago. I will be working with the Daisy Resource Centre for Handicapped Children. This centre supports children with handicaps resulting from birth defects, debilitating childhood diseases, accidents, and abuse. It seeks to provide for these children through: primary school, physical and occupational therapy, medical care, vocational training, and counseling. I am so very excited for everything this summer will entail. It may be difficult to leave after the summer because of my new ability to love and be loved, but it will teach me so very much that I will not trade it for the world. 




Monday, April 15, 2013

Leaving in less than 5 weeks


I am unsure if I have ever--in my entire life--been as busy as I currently am. It is not a bad thing; however, as I have chosen to be this involved. I am learning how to say no to extra activities; but it is a slow process. Everyone knows I would much rather go outside and play than do any homework or mandatory activities. I am learning as the picture above states, to not necessarily be happy in the state I am in, but to be content. To be content during the journey, and content at whatever the state I arrive in. 
                       
I have been back from Vietnam for almost one month. The country was absolutely amazing. It surpassed my expectations and then made me feel silly for even believing that I could mildly predict what I would experience. It was an excellent lesson in traveling. I have so many stories from that trip that I cannot even begin to express. The people rode on mopeds--up to five people at once on a single moped. It was wonderful. When we visited Halong Bay, a friend and I had a conversation about how blessed we are. So many people are born into situations we can only imagine--like the fishing villages in the Bay. These people are born on boats in this village, grow up on the boat, get married and get a new boat. They do not usually leave the area; and here we are--over in the United States, with every opportunity to travel and to see the world. We receive the chance to see how the rest of the world operates--to see cultures that are so very different from our own. We have the opportunity to tell stories of what we see to those who are not as fortunate as us. We get to tell stories of the other cultures and to share how blessed we are in this country. We have the opportunity to become storytellers. 
Kenya will be a wonderful opportunity to grow in every sense of the word. I am blessed with the ability to become a storyteller once again. I am excited to explore a new sense of solidarity. There is a huge difference between going to another country expecting to "change" it--expecting to impact it for the best, and knowing that I am receiving the chance to simply live side by side with these people. I am not expected to change their lives in any way other than loving on them--which is what I do best. I am passionate about showering love on people. Solidarity for me means to love and to expect absolutely nothing in return--to not expect them to change the way they are living. I am excited to return to Kenya--where I feel the most at home--simply to love on more of our beautiful
world.