Monday, December 29, 2008


M texted me on Christmas afternoon about the goat that he killed. Video evidence has been made, and while he said he drew the line on eating all the things that his family wanted him to, he was happy that he was able to at least kill the goat and appease his family.

My goat was killed by our family farmer and served up to all of us without anyone seeing the mess - apparently part of the tribal culture is that women are not to be involved in the killing of animals, so that was that for me (and apparently for all of my family, as nobody was involved in the procedure).

The goat, I agreed with M, tasted delicious.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

‘Tis the Holiday Season … or is it?

Sitting here in the dark (we’ve been without electricity for the past six hours or so, with no knowledge of when it will come back on – probably not any time soon), I realized that one of the only ways I know that it is actually the holiday season by opening up a newspaper and seeing advertisements with a skinny young black man sporting a clearly fake white beard as Santa Claus. Indeed, tomorrow is Christmas, a day of feasts for many of us, and a really bad day to be a goat.

You would not know that it was the day before Christmas if you walked through Loitokitok – there is no Christmas decorations (except for a couple of strands of Christmas lights at the local bank), no Christmas music blaring out of shops (as reported by the other trainees – tho one of the corner shops continues to blare its customary bad American music), and for all I know it could be a normal day in April, except for all the talk about killing goats.

As I said, tomorrow is a very bad day to be a male goat (according to Kenyans, the male ones taste better). Most of our families plan to slaughter a goat tomorrow morning, and cooking up a huge feast. It is considered an honor to be the one to kill the goat, and this honor usually belong to the oldest son at home – which many of the male trainees are. So – this poses an interesting challenge to many of them.

One particular fellow was told that he was expected to kill the goat, eat the tongue, liver, heart, the testicles, and parts of the head cooked in its own blood. This is the same man who felt dizzy and a little faint when a volunteer spoke about killing a chicken. All day today he was like, this is the first Christmas that I am really dreading.

So, yeah, we’re eating a goat tomorrow. I am not exactly sure what my role in the whole slaughter business will be, but I am extremely happy that I have a brother and sister-in-law who did a great job of preparing me for whatever I will have to deal with tomorrow. A full report of the festivities will be sure to come.

Speaking of festivities, last Saturday I went to my Aunt’s house to celebrate the graduation of Mama and Aunt from a college in Uganda. It was a very traditional Kenyan celebration – which means a lot of singing, dancing, and speeches, and that it will run about two or three hours past the expected end time. It was fun to watch a traditional Kenyan and Maasai (Mama and Aunt’s tribe) celebration.

As for New Year’s, the Deaf Ed trainees plan to reserve a couple of cottages so we can spend the night exchanging photos, music, watch a few episodes of The Office, and basically have a very traditional American New Year’s Eve celebration.

On that note – I want to wish all of you Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, a fantastic New Year’s, and may 2009 bring good health and fortune!

Mailing Address / Contact Information

For those who want my mailing address – it is as follows:

PCT Charlotte Lewis (as of Jan 8th, PCT changes to PCV)
c/o Peace Corps
Po Box 30518-00100
Nairobi, Kenya

I still do not have the address or any knowledge of where my permanent site will be, but all mail sent to the above address will be forwarded to me. As soon as I know the address, I will post it up. As for packages – the first three months I will not have to pay duty – so a good idea for the following 24 months would be to put down “donated school supplies” (which probably would be the majority of the packages, methinks).

If you want my mobile number – let me know and I’ll email you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Farmer and Sandal Tans Galore

Being just south of the equator and employing proper Kenyan dress expectations causes some of us Americans who are mzungu (white people) with interesting tan lines. We are starting to look like a bunch of farmers (who wear sandals, tho, the tan lines on our feet is debatable as we are not completely sure whether it’s because of the mud or the sun) which works perfectly in this area as everyone is a farmer or has an association with a farm. Kenyans are very conservative in their dress, even for men (it is almost like an obsession – even in hot and humid Mombasa you rarely see men going shirtless), and it is proper to wear short-sleeve or long sleeved shirts, rarely anything without sleeves, with trousers (don’t use the word pants unless you want the kids to giggle at you – pants is what they call underwear) or skirts past the knees. Even the music videos that my sisters and brother play all adhere to the dress code – it is definitely a little jarring for me to see the well known singers wear shirts up to their neck, with skirts down to their ankles and singing like there’s no tomorrow … I wondered about how the videos of Britney or Madonna would have gone over here!

This week we had a volunteer who was evacuated from Kenya during the election last year and moved to Zambia to finish up his service come in and we did a few sessions on how to teach the Deaf community about HIV/AIDS. We went over many of the challenges that the Deaf have (access to media / information, communication issues, language barriers, etc). All the information will most definitely be useful throughout our service. We also were really happy to see a new Deaf person – and to practice our KSL! Unfortunately the poor guy learned Zambian Sign (which is really similar to ASL), and we were going back and forth with all the various languages – KSL, ASL, and Zambian, which were pretty funny.

Last night I was cooking dinner with Mama and my sisters, when Loitokitok lost its power (which is pretty typical out here in Kenya, even if this was the first time it happened), so we set up candles around the table, the kitchen, and I went in my room and came out sporting my new nifty headlamp, and came in the kitchen to see my sisters collapsing on the floor in peals of laughter. They thought that me wearing the headlamp was the funniest thing they have ever seen – they said that the headlamp was a very practical thing for a person, especially for a Deaf person who signs, but they associate headlamps with miners, or people doing major cave work, so it was really funny for them to associate me with being a miner. It is always funny to see how little things really show huge differences in Kenyan and American cultures.

It is difficult to believe that training is more than half completed, so we are all excited about finding out where we are headed, going to Nairobi for the swearing-in ceremony (which is supposed to be this huge thing according to the current volunteers), and basically getting into the real deal.

I have gotten a few requests to post pictures, and I just wanted to say pole sana (many sorries) for not being able to upload pictures via the internet access on my phone [okay, that’s a lie, I’m able to upload pictures, but dude, it takes forever], so bear with me until I get to a bigger town where they have broadband internet access, then pictures will definitely be posted!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A slice of Brooklyn in Loitokitok

As we were leaving one of the places that we meet up to have a soda (seriously – that is the woah thing to do out here in Loitokitok – grab a Fanta or a Coke!) we bumped into a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) who worked in Loitokitok during his service and was back in town visiting his old friends. We were introducing ourselves, and he mentioned he was from New York City, and I told him that I lived in Brooklyn for six years. He then said that he lived in Williamsburg, and after some discussion, discovered that we lived only a few blocks from each other (tho in different time periods). Who would have thunk that I would meet a Brooklynite, much less someone who lived in the neighborhood that I lived in and loved, in a teensy weensy town in Kenya.

After a couple of weeks here in Loitokitok, regardless of the beauty, the past week of fantastic weather, I now realize that Loitokitok is less than ideal for training for the Deaf Education program. One of the biggest challenges that we find is the dearth of Deaf people in the area. We had a few Deaf kids come in for us to practice teaching, but some days a few kids would come, other days only one or two, so it was tough for us to get any sort of consistency. School closed on the 21st of November (which was why we were sent off to Mombasa to visit the schools before it closed), so it was strange for both education programs (Deaf Ed and Math/Science) to have training during this time period.

We all also had a conversation with the person who is responsible in picking our schools / sites, and we discussed what we wanted, what we did not want, and we would probably find out where we will live for the next two years by next week or so, so it is an exciting and anxious time for all of us.

This morning I met up with the only other person in our group that knows ASL (a girl who went thru the interpreting program and works as an interpreter) and we tried to sign only ASL, just for a break from the intensive drilling of KSL throughout the training, and we found that we could not do it. Some KSL signs snuck into our conversation like it was just natural. I was reminded of the time I met the other Deaf Ed volunteers in Mombasa, and they were totally into the KSL mode, I wondered how long it would take me to get to that point, and apparently it did not take as long as I thought it would.

Time is a funny thing here – time goes really fast at the same time it goes kind of slow, so training is going pretty quick, but some aspects seems to want to just plod along. We are all enjoying spending time together and becoming pretty tight, but we are all also ready to move to our own place, start working at the schools we will be assigned to, and just basically settle in for the next couple of years. We will see how it goes over the next few weeks!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Revelations in the Bath Room

Whoever said that people do their best thinking in the bath room is onto something. To clarify - in these parts, the toilet is called the choo, and the bath room is exactly what it is - a separate room in where you bathe (usually using a basin).

Anyway - last weekend I was in the bath room and I was thinking about the next day's activities (we were planning on meeting up to practice KSL, and do some homework together), when I stopped with a start and realized that I was thinking in KSL rather in ASL. I then started to think about which signs I was thinking about and how I thought - at this point, it's still a mixture of KSL, with ASL and English filling in the blanks.

There are some signs that I really like in KSL that sends across the message so much better than anything that ASL has, and other signs that just feel so unnatural and makes me cringe, and it's a really interesting process of trying to use KSL rather than ASL. It also does not help that some of the signs in KSL is influenced by ASL and many Deaf people here in Kenya have a bit of an ASL accent in their KSL.

I definitely still have quite a bit of language work to do!


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.