Friday, July 31, 2009

Random Loitokitok Photos

Here's me in the traditional Masaai outfit that my home stay family gave me at the end of the two months training period.  I'm in the front of the house that I lived in for PST. 
My homestay Mama.

My homestay cousin, brother, and sister.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Final exams, woo hoo!

Kenyans have a deep appreciation of exams. 

They take the examinations extremely seriously.  As you can probably surmise from the previous sentences, this week is the final exams week (and not a week too soon, regardless of the improvements I have made in myself as a teacher, the increase of confidence and all that jazz, I’m totally ready for a few weeks off). 

During morning assembly every morning they would ask for the kids that needs medication or infirmary attention to head over and wait for the house parents to dispense medications or figure out what kind of medical attention they will need.  Yesterday morning, when prompted, the kids all claimed that nobody is sick, and it took some serious wheedling and dealing to get the right folks where they should be.  They did not want to miss an exam. 

Yesterday morning, when I entered my KG-1 classroom with the telltale brown envelope, and then confirmed that it was indeed exams, my students, twenty-three of them, more or less burst in applause. 

When I talk with the other teachers during the tea break, I talked about the American fear and distaste of the exams week, and I described the lengths that some people I knew of (friends of friends, naturally, grin) went to in order to avoid exams, and some teachers were shocked.  Others thought that it was hilarious that a bomb threat would have been taken that seriously (they refused to believe that the police would actually come with bomb-sniffing dogs when a bomb threat was called in).

Now, for a country that basically hinges their lives on exams such as KCPE and KCSE, the teachers I have worked with shocked me with the lack of studying skills they taught their students.  A couple of teachers and I exchanged our examinations concepts and studying skills, and we all thought it was funny that American model would be study like hell for exams, and then try to get out of it, while the Kenyans says, oh well, I’ll get what I’ll get on the exam, and then seriously live by the results. 

As a result of this conversation, I have been working with the Form One students over the last few days and evenings helping them study.  We talked about how to review and pick the most important parts of information they need to remember, we practiced a few ways of quizzing each other, gave them a study guide for the English and Computer Studies classes, and went over the vocabulary for questions to ensure that they understand what each question is asking. 

I see a tremendous interest in this information, and I think I will continue working with these students on these skills during the midterms and final exams, and hopefully they will feel or become more comfortable with taking examinations.    Well, maybe not more comfortable, as it is so steeped into their culture, but have more confidence in their performance one those examinations. 

Monday, July 27, 2009

You know you’ve been in Kenya for a while when ….

Just thought I’d like to post something light, and just shed a bit of light on a few of the funny cultural differences I’ve experienced out here. 

… a family of four on a motorcycle doesn’t shock you anymore.

… bado, bas, and sawa (see Erin’s entry explaining Kiswahili vocabulary) become permanent fixtures of your vocabulary.

… Tuesdays and Thursdays become synonyms for no electricity.

… you start asking for seconds of the scalding hot tea on a 95 degree day.

… you’re surprised when you’re in a matatu that haven’t wired their horn to the high-beam flasher. 

… you wonder where the three inch wide spider that you’ve become used to sharing the bathroom has disappeared to.

… you start picking up Britishisms – oi, hallo, mum!

… detailed discussions of bowel movements with other PCVs becomes appropriate dinner conversation.

… you give up on trying to explain that WWF and WWE are totally fake.

… you start dreaming about washing machines.

… machetes are considered more as farming implements rather than something out of a Rambo movie.

… you understand and adjust to the hierarchy on the road – the right of the road belong to the biggest animal, person, or vehicle. 

My fellow PCVs – please feel free to add onto this list!  

UPDATE: Check out Nic's blog for a few great additions! Thanks, Nic! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Birthday Cake

Our Lady Of (Drown Your) Sorrows Cake With Heavenly Frosting

Yield: Enough for an army


3 Milky Way bars, cut into small pieces (we used Mars bars instead)

3 Three Musketeers bars, cut into small pieces (we used Twix bars instead)

3 Snickers bars, cut into small pieces

½ cup butter

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 cup sugar

½ cup shortening

3 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 by 13- inch baking pan. Melt the candy bas and butter in a saucepan. Blend. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar. Then mix in the shortening and eggs. Beat well. Slowly add the buttermilk, beating until fluffy. Then add the vanilla and candy-bar mixture from the saucepan. Beat well. Pour into the pan, and bake 60 minutes until done. When the cake is still hot, ice with:


1 bag marshmallows, cut in half (unfortunately we did not have any marshmallows (we didn't get a chance to go to Nakumatt [Kenya's answer to Wal-mart] – and the shop had just ran out of gelatin so we couldn’t make homemade marshmallows – next time for sure!)

1 cup chopped pecans (couldn’t find pecans so we went with macadamia nuts)

2 cups shredded coconut (freshly shredded coconuts that we overpaid for!)

1 box confectioner’s sugar

4 tablespoons cocoa

8 tablespoons heavy cream

4 tablespoons butter, softened

 Place the marshmallow halves, sticky side down, on top of the hot cake. Scatter the nuts over the marshmallows, then a layer of coconut. In a bowl, whip the confectioner’s sugar, cocoa, cream, and butter. Pour over the hot cake. Serve when cool.


There's a picture of me with the cake on someone's camera - I'll be sure to post it as soon as I get it.

We baked this cake on the stovetop using a large pot with a layer of sand, and then another pot with the cake batter inside it on top of the layer of sand, and then a lid covering the whole shebang.  It basically created an envelope of heat around the inside pot. 

Regardless of the fact that it was a little burnt on the sides, it had to be one of the best cakes I have ever eaten.  I was glad to celebrate the beginning of my 29th year with this cake, and with a group of really cool people. 

It’s a good start so far.  

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Random Deaf Ed Picture

Ginnie, Erin, Matt and me at Fort Jesus, Mombasa during our travels after IST back in April.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Night Duty

Under the full moon, I started off for school, for the rotating weekly night duty.  Walking across the football field, I was amazed that after eight months of residence in this country I was becoming used to walking in the dark, not completely comfortable, but comfortable enough that I do not feel I need a flashlight. 

Reaching the dining hall, I encounter a few students finishing the dishwashing and looked into the hall to ensure that all the duties were attended to.  After the floor was swept, I herded the younger children into the hall, spoke with a few, laughed at a couple, told a few to stop fighting, and played for a few minutes.  Greeting the houseparents who were dispensing medication to some students, getting word that all’s well so far, I took off to check the upper classes as they were supposed to be studying or doing homework.

Class 8 was first, I entered the classroom, greeting the head boy and head girl, as well as the bell ringer (yes I know – a bell ringer at a Deaf school – let’s just not go there), I asked if all was well, and they answered in the affirmative.  Heading into Class 7, I was encountered by a barrage of questions about a vocabulary list, and I spent a bit of time with them going over some of the words.  After exhausting the list, I moved onto Class 6.  The following classes asked me a few questions each, and then I headed to the dorms.  Checking the dorms and sending the few stray students to where they were supposed to be, I reached the end of the school campus, and turned back, passing the school chicken house, through the halfway functioning playground, and then to the temporary Form One classroom.  I looked into the classroom and saw the signs for “problems none” from several students, smiling, I flashed them a thumbs up sign, and then headed to the library to do a bit of work.  I dove into the world of books for an hour or two, organizing the books and jumping back into my childhood with each familiar title. 

Snapping out of the book-induced work haze, I realize that it was time to get everyone back to the dorms as it was getting to the kids’ bedtimes, so I repeated the tour, sending the kids to the opposite direction.  After getting the all’s well and sawa sawas from the houseparents, I set off back across the football field for home, stopping to admire the full moon for a couple of minutes.

All’s well, indeed.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Slight Drop in the Temperature + Socks = Happiness

You know those things that go on your feet before you put on shoes?  You will need to excuse my memory as until a few blissful weeks ago, I have yet to wear socks at home.  Yes, you read that correctly, I’ve been living here since January 9th, and aside from the trip to Nairobi, I have not wore socks up to a few weeks ago. 

So you can imagine my excitement when I realized that it was a tad chilly one night a few weeks ago… just chilly enough to wear socks to bed!  The amount of time I took in picking the pair of socks is a little embarrassing, so let’s not speak of it, and just revel in the fact that it was actually cold enough to wear a pair of socks to bed.

Amazing how such little things like feeling chilly enough to wear socks can make you extremely happy.  


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.