Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Amazin' Zanzibar

After working for GRO, accompanying my kids back to Mombasa and dropping them off, I was ready for a true vacation.

By that, I meant a true vacation, not the PCV share a bed with two other people way, backpacking it through the coast, but a true vacation. And a true vacation we got. I met Paul and Erin at the tail end of their Cross Sector Training in a very fancy hotel, starting off the vacation in a nice way, a great and air-conditioned room (ah, air conditioning, how I miss you …), a nice night out with a few of the other PCVs, and just a good way to relax after a good and intense week.

Paul, Erin, and I then headed down to Paul’s house in Mombasa and started thinking about buying the bus tickets to Dar-es-Salaam, and after talking with a few other volunteers who visited there, and thinking about the eight hour bus ride, then the three hour ferry ride … we started looking at the plane tickets available, and the thought of an hour’s flight to Zanzibar rather than something like 12 hours of travel appealed greatly to us. We awaited the arrival of Alyssa and Matt who had taken the overnight train that took 20 hours rather than 12 (par for the course), and after twenty hours on the train, they were in agreement, so we excitedly bought plane tickets, like little children in a candy store (speaking of candies, GRO staff gave me some American candies for volunteering to help out, and this was excitedly shared amongst the travelers, so I guess you could say we were truly kids in a candy store). Below is a view out of the first plane I have been on in 2009.

Arriving Zanzibar, we headed to Stonetown where we stayed at a decent hotel, did a lot of walking, a lot of eating of amazing seafood, and drank some fancy cocktails. We also checked out the spice tour as well as slave caves, and enjoyed the artichecture of Stonetown. We also checked a couple of beaches, saw a gorgeous sunset from a happy chance of being at a bar on the roofdeck. Playing cards and reading were also on the programme, as we were serious about relaxing, and relax we did!

After four days, we headed to Paje, a beach on the eastern coast of Zanzibar, and it was amazingly gorgeous. A few of us caught the gorgeous sunrise the first morning we were there. More great seafood, fancy cocktails, books, naps, walks along the gorgeous beaches, bodysurfing (where I had an unfortunate wave steal my sunglasses), and exploring a bit of the reef when the tide went out a couple of kilometers awaited us for the next few amazing days in Paje.

Returning to Mombasa early in the morning yesterday, I was refreshed and relaxed, but I was also ready to head home to Kilifi. I wanted to chill at home for a few days before my next trip, do some laundry (which I am doing in between writing blog entries), and just be home. After a week in luxurious (by Peace Corps standards) settings, it was a bit of adjustment to return to Kenya, where orders get mixed up, encounters with street kids addicted to glue in Mombasa, the hustle and bustle of cars and people in Mombasa – needless to say, I was ready to get to the peaceful campus of my school!

Matt, Alyssa, Erin, and Paul – thanks for being great traveling buddies – I look forward to our next trip!

Global Reach Out

As exams drew to a close, teachers started planning various projects for the August break, a few going to Nairobi University, others in Mombasa, and one in Uganda, a few wanted to focus on their shambas, and a variety of other things. I had a few things on my programme, Global Reach Out, a trip to Zanzibar, hopefully a trip to Lamu (that is still in the works), and a few days at home before the school term starts again in September.

I had volunteered to escort two of my Form One students to the Kenya Youth Leadership Camp in Nairobi, sponsored by Global Reach Out. You can read about them here, and look at the blog for the Kenya 2009 Program here. The basic idea is to bring American and Kenyan people between the ages of 18 and 29, and have these two groups of people work together to create a five-day leadership style of camp for the secondary school students, two chosen from each secondary school in Kenya, modeled on the Youth Leadership Camp in the United States.

Traveling with two students to Nairobi, a city that I don’t particularly like, for a number of reasons, was an interesting experience – the kids were great, and had no problems, but I found myself unable to relax (traveling is usually a relaxing experience for me, for some weird reason), being responsible for them, and just dealing with the Kenyan transportation system which had us arrive Nairobi two hours later than expected (or maybe we should say, just as expected, grin), and it was just a bit of work working out all the details.

When we arrived the campground, called the DEPOT, it was great to be back in the camping mode, it was really interesting to see the American delegates go through the same mind process I went through during my first weeks of PST, and it really threw me off, the fact that I have been in this country for nine months, and I have become much more familiar and understanding of the variety of cultural conflicts. The two groups worked together, regardless of all the cultural conflicts, the choppy KSL that the Americans picked up, the fact that the summer camp concept is extremely foreign to Kenyans, and developed a great camp.

My kids loved every minute of it. I saw both of them grow, their confidence building, and their communicating skills leaping in bounds. They were surprised, and then very proud to discover that everyone that works for GRO is Deaf. I think that this may be one of the first times that they realized that they could actually amount to something, just like all the Kenyans, the Americans, and the admin staff who were also Deaf.

We played all the classic games, steal the bacon, capture the flag, had an Olympics type of day with crazy ass relays running in lesos and a variety of other things. We also had team building activities with the kids, trying to encourage them to have an opinion, and develop leadership skills. At the end, the kids complained that it was just too short, which made all of us proud that they really enjoyed and learned a lot during this week. The result-oriented Americans complained that they did not see much difference in the kids but we talked about the slow process in Kenya, and that our impact in this camp would not be felt for another few years when these students grow up and start working in leadership roles.

I was worried that seeing the Americans would make me homesick for ASL, for the US, for the American Deaf community and my friends that I am missing tons, but strangely it did exactly the opposite. It only strengthened my resolve that I was doing the right thing by being in Kenya and serving in the Peace Corps. Seeing the Americans were fantastic for me, a boost and a reminder of home, but at the same time, also making me feel good about what I am doing here (but oh my goodness, the s’mores rocked – that’s definitely one thing that I missed about camping back in the states!).

I am excited about GRO for next year, and I hope to be again involved in some capacity, working with another two great groups of Americans and Kenyans.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mepho Dreaming

Mepho is the anti-malaria medication that I am taking, and a side effect of this once weekly pill is very weird and lucid dreams.  Don’t go to the wiki page because Mepho sounds like the boogeyman drug, but I have not had problems with it up to now (knock on wood).  I decided to write a few of the dreams that I have had in only one night (that I have been able to remember, at least), and each time I wake up with a start, wondering if it was just a dream, or if it really did happen.

Dream #1: I was talking with a meter tall chocolate bunny about investigating a crime involving another chocolate bunny.  We went to the hutch with search dogs, but the dogs kept eating the chocolate bunnies, so we had to have numerous burials for the bunnies we accidentally killed with the dogs.  After a while, one of them woke up and their ears poked out of the freshly dug grave like a zombie would in a zombie movie, and started helping us solve the crime. 

[Note: I had just finished the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I think that may have something to do with the ears poking out of the grave …]

Dream #2: I was dancing with another PCV when we started melding into one person.  We fought about which site to return, where to travel, who we wanted to talk to, who we wanted to see, and just basically everything.  We were like two people in one unambiguous blob.  It all got so intense, and the blob heated up so much that it nearly burst in flame. 

After that dream, I woke up in the middle of the night with a start, and for a few moments, I was horrified and thought that it had really happened.  After a minute or two, I realized that I was not in a blob, but under my mosquito net, and that I was laying on my bed, in my bedroom, in my house.  You can imagine the relief I felt.  While it was not necessarily a nightmare, it was just really weird.

Dream #3: I was teaching my KG-1 class, and the kids kept flying around the classroom.  I was nearly at my wits end when I started zapping the kids with a stun-ray type of device and they all started to fly lower and lower until they finally settled in their seats.  At that point, all the kids lost their flying capabilities. 

There were several other dreams that night, but I could not remember them.  These kinds of dreams usually occur the night of the weekly dose, or the next night.  I have heard stories of the medication affecting a person so much that they have to switch to Doxy or Malrone.  I hope to avoid the switch to Doxy because Doxy makes you extremely sensitive to the sun, and that’s not a good thing if you’re living in a costal area right on the equator. 

At this point I am just enjoying the vivid dreams, so hopefully that will still be the case when I COS.  


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.