Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Home Before Dark, Folks ...

You do not want to encounter an elephant in the dark,” said one of the Peace Corps Staff about Loitokitok.

Loitokitok, the mud capital of the world (and destination of arguably some of the worst roads ever to exist), the teensy weensy town at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, on the border of Kenya and Tanzania is where some forty-odd of us call home until early January.

I am now sitting at my desk in my room, drinking the umpteenth cup of tea (seriously, Kenyans love their tea, preferably a little of tea with their sugar), trying to write about the past couple of weeks, and the only way to start is with the welcome to Africa that we got when we were on the bus from Nairobi going to Mombasa. We were going down the main highway (and basically the only road going from Nairobi to Mombasa) when we were blocked by a herd of giraffes crossing the highway. We were all, dude, we are definitely in Africa.

Training officially began in Mombasa with the 9 of us Deaf Education Trainees completely jet lagged and showing evidence of 24 hours of travel within a space of 72 hours, as well as an eight-hour time difference. I was surprised that the current Volunteers and staff that we met that night actually recognized us as fellow human beings.

Mombasa is a city on the shore of the Indian Ocean, buzzing with energy, which we sorely needed, as we were not able to stop and rest. We jumped right into the immersion week with KSL classes, a series of workshops on a variety of topics, from home stay families to malaria care, a few visits to Deaf schools in the area, and meeting the Deaf Community at several Deaf events. Throughout the week, we had a great group of current Volunteers bombarding us with much appreciated and needed tips, advice, information, what to expect over the next few weeks, and guiding us in our clumsy attempts of bridging the cultural gap.

In a flash, the immersion week was over, and we packed up and traveled to Emali where we were picked up by Land Cruisers. After a two-hour stomach curdling rollercoaster-like drive, we arrived in Loitokitok, which was a perfect contrast to Mombasa. While Mombasa was hot and humid, densely populated, and a tourist destination, Loitokitok was cool and dry, very rural, sparsely populated, and has gorgeous views of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Each of us got picked up by a Mama and joined a family for the rest of training (to learn about Kenyan culture, food, and just to pick up whatever we can), as well as continuing KSL classes for most of the mornings, and adding technical education classes in the afternoons, our brains are sure to be kept busy (when we are not looking out for elephants…).

On that note, before ending this entry, I want to wish my American readers a fantastic and a very happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

it's all cosmic!

So, the previous blog entry probably gave a bit of a hint of what is coming next.

Two dates - exactly two years apart, but very different from each other.

November 14, 2006 – I came home from one of the most emotionally draining days at work. There were no interpreters for the managers / assistant managers meetings for the second or third time in a row. Throughout the day I alternated between feelings of anger, being at the verge of tears, and being amazed at the callousness. I arrived home, ate dinner, had a couple of beers, and decided to sit at my desk and complete the Peace Corps application I started a couple of months beforehand, and after three hours, it was sent across the airwaves. I think my roommate at that time took one look at me, and decided to stay the hell out of my room while I finished it up. I went to bed tired, but still angry, one of many nights I would go to bed angry throughout the winter and the following spring.

November 14, 2008 – I am scheduled to start training in Kenya, after arrival on the 13th, as a Peace Corps Trainee.

What a difference two years makes – the beginning of that two years period forced me to realize what values I had regarding my job, regarding treatment of the people I worked with and loved, the anger I felt when the clients and the staff were not being treated as I thought they should have been treated, the disappointment in myself when I realized that there was not much, if anything, I could do to help out on that front.

The second part of those two years was amazing. I took the Year Off, worked at an awesome winery, skied a couple times per week for six months, went on a road trip up north via the Pacific Coast Highway, stayed / worked with the brother and sis-in-law and developed a relationship with them (and many of their animals) that I would not have if I did not stay with them for two months.

I am at the point where I am excited about Peace Corps for the right reasons. When I first applied, I realize now, it was to escape the situation at my old office. Now, after two years, the reasoning shifted to being genuinely excited about being pushed to exercise my mind, to having my ideas actually used, to travel and see new places, and just basically to have a bit of an adventure.

So, like K said – it’s all cosmic.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I am an American and proud of it. I do not remember the last time I felt this way - definitely not in the last eight years.

This election was a very timely one for me - after taking the year off and seeing a good chunk of the country, I came to the conclusion that we had a great country, a gorgeous country ... and it is even more gorgeous now.

My faith in the United States has been restored somewhat. Americans elected Senator Barack Obama regardless of all the racism in this country; we elected someone who I will not have to cringe every time he speaks, who has respect for the other people in the world, and someone who I can actually respect.

Regardless of this - I feel a twinge of sadness that in this historic election, when we elected the first African-American to the highest position of our country, we continue to discriminate by voting in several states the definition of marriage as one man and one woman. In the future, as those laws are overturned, as our generation understands that love cannot be defined so narrowly, history will look back at this as an embarassing part of this election.

I look forward to seeing Barack do some good work - let's undo some of the damage of the last eight years.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote! Vote! Vote! Vote! Vote!

On an election day like today I am reminded by two scenes from Gangs of New York -

The first one is William (Bill the Butcher) Cutting smiling and looking at New York, saying -
Bill: It's Election Day!

The second one mirrors my feelings that a wide margin has to be the case....

Killoran: Monk's already won by three thousand more votes than there are voters.
Boss Tweed: Only three? Make it twenty, thirty. We don't need a victory. We need a Roman triumph.

Folks - head to your polling place and for the love of FSM, VOTE!

I leave you now with more words from Bill the Butcher - Bill: This is a night for Americans!


This blog consists of my personal thoughts and opinions. It does not in any way reflect the position of the United States Government or the Peace Corps.