Monday, December 20, 2010

Here It Goes, Here It Goes

Hello Loyalists!

So I’ve decided to start up the blog again. I guess it makes sense with going back to school there and so people can keep tabs on Small Planet Big Plans.

Speaking of SPBP things are going really well in that area. Most of you probably heard my interview with WBEZ (if you didn’t you can find it on there is a link to the podcast) and because of that we hit our $10,000 goal which means we can buy our pump! It also gets our kids a year through school which is a huge weight off my shoulders. If we can have 6 more years like this we can finish our project.

As amazing as this is I’m having difficultly being excited. Actually all I feel is…scared.

I usually try and make these blogs inspirational and a bit humorous but I keep finding myself coming back to fear. More like terror.

It’s like that feeling I used to get before I went to a scary movie when I was younger. I was really excited until I sat down but then I became really afraid of being afraid (powerless, I know). I would dread the feeling and how for the next couple of days my skin would crawl and then when the music started playing and you knew the 25 year old playing the 16 year old was about to get it I would think…

I can’t do this.

I always made myself sit through it because I never want to look weak but it would take a lot of determination to keep sitting. This is a really painful way to have spent the last few weeks.

Everyone keeps telling me how happy I’ll be once I get there and how I felt like this before and blah blah blah but they really have no idea how bad it is.

The problem is that this time I KNOW how terrible and hard it will be some days and I KNOW how much it will hurt to give all this up. I can already feel that first night again when I was practically hysterical and I don’t want to go back again.

I forgot how nice it was to fit in back here. I used to think I was kind of a misfit and weird etc (teenage angst and such) but the truth is that I have a lot of friends here and as much as my past here hurts, there are also so many amazing memories.

I hadn’t realized how amazing it is to be in a place where people speak your language, look like you, dress like you, get your references and generally are all the same as you. Even though we don’t want to admit it, as Americans we are all a lot alike. And that’s comforting to me.

I also have regular old going to university fears such as will I make friends? Will the work be too hard? What if I hate it?

And one of the worst parts is how final this all feels. With school there being year round and ticket prices being what they are who knows when I’ll be back? It could literally be years before I see any of my childhood friends again. The same goes for my family and that makes me feel ill. And teary. But I’m not crying, my tear ducts have just sprung a leak (stiff upper lip and such. Be a big girl now.)

And you know what really sucks? How unexpectedly (at least for me) and amazingly successful I have been in raising money since I got home. I mean 10k? I never even imagined that.

What’s so bad about success you ask? Well….

Now the stakes are higher. Now 10k is the floor. My projected trajectory is much higher and thus failure means a much longer fall.

I have no idea how to keep this momentum going. I have no idea how to ever raise this much again. It’s almost like now I have even more pressure because this kind of success which feels like a complete fluke to me is expected. And that terrifying. I thought I was scared when I started this, but I had no idea then.

I just keep waiting for someone to stand up and shout WAIT she’s only 19! This girl has no idea what she’s doing! And it will all fall apart. This whole thing feel so fragile and I’m scared to make a move because that will break this amazing accident and the miracle will be over.

I’m so determined to finish this project; I want this done more then anything. I just thought that it would be easier by the time I got to this point.

God I am so stopped at the idea of going back. I have nightmares about going to the airport and seeing my mom cry again and being alone again and being harassed again and having to be on my toes again. It’s enough to make me want to go to sleep for years.

I wonder if my parents can write me a note to get me out of college…

I have no choice at this point but to man up and do the damn thing. But that kind of resolve sounds exhausting.

I just hate this feeling of losing control of my life, like I’m being pushed in a direction that I’m unsure of all of a sudden. And the weird part is everyone else feels so sure.

It’s strange but getting what I wanted my whole life has suddenly made me miserable.

I’m just so scared.

But ready or not here I go. So welcome back boys and girls. We have returned to the roller coaster. Buckle up and keep your arms and legs inside the compartment because we are in for….well who knows?

$10,000 raised. $60,000 to go. 1 girl. 1 mission. And 13 days until we are back in country.

Well fuck.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kwa Heri kwa ajili yangu

Hey all.

So I’m sure by now you have heard the news about me contracting typhoid (see below) and some of you might also now know that due to this I will be leaving Africa early.

Like really early.

Like the day after tomorrow.

I guess that means it’s time for me to write the finishing up blog.

I’ve been thinking about this particular blog for awhile. What will I write in it? Who is it for? Is it the last one I will write or will this be a brief hiatus?

Usually when I write these posts I imagine myself writing a letter to you. I imagine the people who read these were, or are by now because honestly if you’ve read these you know parts of me that were unchartered mere months ago, intimate friends. This imagination allowed me to be completely honest and allow myself to write about what I loved and what I feared and what I wanted more then anything. It allowed for honesty I can be proud of and some of the purest, most raw, best writing I have done in awhile.

But this blog isn’t for you.

This one is for me. Because this is my time being finished up, my era ending, my closure needed; I need to write for myself this once. Welcome to my inner monologue of goodbye.

Of course this leaves questions of how will I write this? Will I address you or me? I suppose this will just flow.

So here I am, and how do I feel?

Well it’s a mix.

I can’t deny an ecstasy at knowing I am going to go home (of course I have started referring to coming back in January as “coming home”). Suddenly I am much freer with my thoughts and feeling about this place. For example I am now able to admit that I hate chipatis (a nasty thick fried tortilla), that I despise hand washing my clothes, and deplore almost everything about living in the bush (i.e. no running water, the heat, and the boredom). I can do this now because it’s okay to hate them because it’s all almost over.
When I had months left it was dangerous to admit how much I hated these things because it would depress me. If I had admitted to myself how hard this was on me and how much I hated so much of it I would have been crushed under the depression of months more to go. but now with only hours left I can breathe a sigh of relief and admit that my skin is a mess, my hair looks awful, I desperately need a manicure and miss wearing stilettos more then anything because it’s not for too much longer. I get to go home now.
On the other hand it has also brought into sharp focus all the reasons I have stayed. There is more love here then I have felt in a long time. I am near tears thinking about days (MONTHS) without the family I have here.

Today I learned to make Mandazi (kind of like a fried African doughnut) with Mama Michelle. We laughed and discussed church and played with Michelle and I was given (even more) dating advice as we mixed the dough and suddenly I wanted to sob as I felt a rush of love for this place.

It’s the same washing over feeling I get when I eat at the Father’s house or watch Madame Grace make Ugali (because she will never let me help). And it is a stronger force then I could have expected.

But it’s more then the people. It’s the smell of the air that always has the scent of cut grass and nature. It’s the sky that I swear to God is bluer then any sky I have ever seen in the states. It’s the fact that here I can see more stars then I knew existed.

A part of me dreads going back to the states where it will be loud and aggressive (and cold!). I can’t imagine going to a grocery store in the states and just putting things in a cart and leaving. Not seeing each particular woman I buy each particular different vegetable from and not calling her “mama”.

It also exhausts me because I know the work is no where near over. Being here sometimes it seems like the point was just to identify the projects. There is still so much money to rise, so much to do, only $3,000 has been raised and I want $10,000 by the end of the year more then anything.

This train of thought always brings me to the dark part of my mind that thinks I am a failure (compounded by the fact that I am wimping out and leaving early. Noticed I think elliptically?). I am honestly disappointed with myself that I wasn’t able to get to $5,000 before I left and that I have spent my last days here lying in a bed wishing for the sweet release of death.

But I will raise the money. I don’t know how ling it will take, but I will.

So I guess now it is time to start thinking about my life after this. What’s next for me?

I suppose next is university in Nairobi. But my oh my can you imagine what that will be like?

But the most nagging question is who am I now?

I thought that would be clear after six months here (god knows why) like this experience would mature me to a point where I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted; like my life would stretch out in front of me in a long highway instead of a series of corners I can’t see around.
Rather then looming in front my life is now on a blind curve. But I like it this way.

I don’t know who I am- although I have learned some things about myself- and I definitely don’t think I am an adult now.

But this decimation of who I thought I was and the lack of format for who I am now are good. Now I have a bunch of raw materials to piece together and make myself. I have time to learn and change and experiment.

I think that we’re all kind of like puzzles and the problem with most people (myself included) is that we more often then not don’t want to put the work in to discover who we are and what we really want. Rather then finding pieces that fit we find pieces that look close enough and try to force it all together, like a child trying to force puzzle pieces together. The problem is we usually break the piece and then get upset. Few people want to put the work in to figure it all out. Or else we might concentrate on one part of the puzzle and forget to look at the big picture. We get one part together perfectly but forget to put the rest together so we end up with empty spaces.

But as I sit here and write this I think that maybe the puzzle will put itself together, smoothly the way it’s supposed to be, if we just let it. If I walk away from the table and forget about the puzzle I’ll still be a person right? It’ll get put together and I’ll have room to surprise myself. Perhaps trying to figure yourself out all the time forces you into a box of who you think you should be not who you are and causes even more frustration (I guess that’s trying to force the wrong piece in).

So instead of figuring out who I am I’m going to work on figuring out the world (as best I can).

So here we are with a girl who doesn’t know herself (and isn’t sure she really wants to), bounces between self-respect and self-loathing, and is not at a crossroads so much as in the middle of the spaghetti bowl (that’s what my father calls the loop when all the roads intertwine together). All the paths lead somewhere and run over each other but they are hard to distinguish.

So although I sort of know where I am going (USIU!) I’m not sure how that’ll look or if it will work out.

This has also taught me that sometimes you simply can’t do something. Sometimes you bite of a piece too big for you and you can’t finish (just yet) and that there is no shame in that. I might not last very long at USIU. I might miss home too much, or decide I want to live in a place that only speaks English, or it might just not be the right fit but my oh my isn’t it exciting to try?

That’s really the best part. Knowing you tried something crazy and scary and hard and insane. Knowing that you did something most people wouldn’t do in a million years. Succeeding is a nice added bonus but knowing you have the guts to have tried is really the best part.

That’s what I hope everyone reading this can get one day. I’m not saying you should all move yourself across the world to someplace you don’t know anyone (of course it is fun) but I am saying that doing something you’ve always wanted to do but thought you were too (and excuse my French) chicken shit to try is an amazing feeling.

It’s beyond self-expression, it’s beyond adventure; it’s allowing yourself to be yourself. It’s giving yourself permission to live beyond what you only thought was your capacity and saying it’ ok to fail because the ride down is great.

I guess I’m sort of rambling now.

The thing is I am suddenly overcome with excitement. I suddenly can’t wait to go home and see friends and live life there and then come back and see friends and see what happens here. It’s like that feeling in the pit of your stomach you get at the top of a roller coaster right before it goes down.

Anyway I think that this blog is going to stop for awhile. I might right one and what it’s like to be home and how things differ but I’m not sure. I don’t know what’s going to happen to it. Do you guys think I should keep writing in it?

I suppose, like all other things, we shall see.

Anyway love to all. State side on Wednesday (flight leaves on Tuesday)


Friday, October 22, 2010


Hey guys.

So I have talked a lot about the water project, and thus a lot about this sickness called typhoid, but I seem to still be lacking in donations.

So because I am incredibly dedicated I thought to myself “how can I convince people how vital this is?”

So I got myself some typhoid.

Ha-ha just kidding guys. But in all seriousness I did get typhoid. So I thought it would be good to give you all an in depth description of how this feels. I want you to keep in mind that 20 people a month here get this from contaminated water, most of them being children, and the strain I picked up was strong enough that I got it even though I took a vaccine meant to last me four years.

So first off was some crippling stomach pain. At first it came in short bursts I thought I could ignore and fight off with some Pepto-Bismol. I was really committed to this plan until Wilson found me in my room curled in a ball half in tears. He wanted to take me to the dispensary right away but first I had to vomit until I was dry heaving.

Then came on fatigue; I felt like my actual life force had been drained out of me. As I half walked/ was carried back to my room a fever began.

I was sick enough to legitimately scare Wilson so he called deacon and I was moved to the Father’s house.

There I was forced to eat, exhausting me more and hurting my stomach immensely, because the antibiotics I was given cannot be taken without food. I went to bed shortly after and that’s when the fever got really high.

The stomach pain probably would have kept me up if not for the exhaustion from the pills and the movement. I felt like I could have slept for a million years but the fever was now high enough to make me half delirious and give me awful fever dreams. I can sort of remember that night and the following day, but I can’t establish what really happened and what didn’t. The only concrete evidence I have of anything that happened that night is looking at my call history. Apparently I called my father sobbing and also at one point talked to Wilson rambling enough for him to call the Father to make him check on me.

The next day the fever seemed to break. This should have been a blessing but now I was fully aware of the awful pain I was in.

Imagine being kicked in the stomach with a steel toed boot as that creature from alien rips its way out of you. That’s how my abdomen felt.

As an added bonus my head hurt so much I could barely finish a thought.
The good news was I didn’t have the diarrhea that is common with typhoid. The bad news is the reason I didn’t have the diarrhea is because I was one of the lucky few who react to typhoid with constipation.

Top it all of with some nausea and there you have a nice bout of typhoid.

So that’s how I felt.

Now here I am a 19 year old girl with lots of people around me and the ability to get myself to a hospital if anything really goes bad. Or even back to the states.

So imagine how small children must feel. Imagine 5 year olds, even 10 year olds, contracting this and having to be home alone well they have it as mom and dad need to work. No real medical care is available except for whatever medicine can be scraped up and there is no one to make sure the fever doesn’t climb too high.

Imagine that this happens to 20 people a month.

Imagine that most people don’t have the money to pay for the needed medicine (it cost me over 500 shillings, that a lot of money here)

Imagine that this is all completely preventable with some education and some money.

Now I suppose you don’t need to imagine why this is so important.

So here is another plea. Please donate.

I’ll write more later as for now I am exhausted from sitting up. but I wanted to get some out well I was in the throes of it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Unvarying Melancholy

What shall I write for the blog?

So 19 more days until I come home. wow. I can’t believe I’m leaving.

As excited as I am to come home and see everyone (and eat a bagel) I am so scared and sad to leave.

I’m scared because I feel like there is still so much left to do. I have a little more then 3,000 right now but I want more then anything to get up to $5,000 before I leave. I feel like if I can do that then all this will have been worth it and I can really be proud. My friend ATL keeps telling me to come to Nairobi early and leave the mission because I’ve already raised enough. Partly that’s because he can’t understand how someone could stand living out here but also because I don’t think he understands how important this is to me.

I’m not sure why the water project became so important to me, why it became my “thing”, but it has. And now I won’t be able to rest until I can get it done. I feel like if I can get to $5000 I will be able to take a deep breathe and calm down a bit, but I’m not sure what to do next or where to turn for this last bit. I’ll take any suggestions.

And then the reasons I am sad are probably pretty obvious.

Just like it was hard for me to imagine moving out of Chicago and living here it is hard to imagine not living here anymore. I remember when I left Chicago I sort of felt like that with me gone my home town would just freeze over until I came back, so I guess that’s how I feel now.

I think that’s because as we get older and move into the newest phases of our lives we become afraid of losing the people and the places we loved so much and kept us so comforted. Maybe it’s not a feeling so much as a hope. I hope that the mission will freeze over so that Mama Michelle will always be here making Mandazi, Madame Grace will always be around for sage advice and Ian will never get any older (he is turning 6 this week).

When a place becomes your home like this it’s hard to separate yourself from it but more so it’s hard to imagine anyone else separate themselves from it. Sure there are people on the mission I might not like, some kids I think need more discipline, a cook I could live without, but I don’t want anyone to leave. I want to keep this place I have loved so much exactly the way it is with everyone just as I left them so I can return to it whenever I need to. When the world becomes too much I want to be able to return to my home the exact way I left it—full of love and comfort and laughter. Whether it’s here or Chicago I would like to superglue everything in place. I never want my parents to get older and I never want the seasons to change on the mission.

The problem is that things do change. They always have they always will. In this world, even in the parts we love so much it hurts us, nothing is static. A few years from now Father Patrick might be at a new mission, the teachers will have scattered and Peter and Ian will be on their way to secondary school.

That’s why people say you should always keep people and places in your heart so you can return to them mentally, and although it’s not the same it is helpful. For better or worse Madame Grace will now be the voice in my head telling me something is bad manners, Mama Michelle will be the laughter I associate with tea and Mandazi and peter is as much a member of my family as anyone else.

So here we are stuck between two worlds and pushed forward at a terrifying momentum. I saw "we" because this describes me perfectly but I think it also describes most of the people reading this. Whether it’s my parents being forced to deal with their upcoming “empty nesters status” or the friends who are around my age on their way to moving out; we are all being propelled forward. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m not sure if I’m ready.

Except that’s not true. I am sure I’m ready (or at least as ready as I will ever be) and that I have been well prepared by everyone in my life for this new phase.

Thank you friends, parents, uncles, priests, seminarians, animals, sisters, brothers, students, ex-boyfriends, cousins, aunts, grand parents, teachers, and all others, thank you to strangers who showed kindness and friends who turned out to be less then honest. Thank you to all I have ever encountered because everything we did together has prepared me for the next moment of my life.

So although I’m sad because of the firmness with which you have been set in the past I am excited for the next phase. I am excited to turn back to the time when I thought I would die of heart break when the next boy shatters my heart, to remember the first days of our friendship as I reach out for new ones, to be comforted by our memories as I tread lightly into a new world. I am excited to hold hands with my past as I move into the future and really realize how important it is.

So what does the future hold? For now it holds a month back in Chicago and then a return flight to Nairobi. Some school registration and a few gen ed classes. Otherwise who knows?

For now I will concentrate on raising money and moving forward.

Remember, you are the pinnacle of all history at any given moment. The entire universe has led up to you.

Love you all!


P.S. I know this is kind of like the last one but it’s all that’s on my mind now a days.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Redo and Revisit of Countdown

Hey guys!

So I decided the last blog I posted was kind of lame cause I was distracted talking to my dear friend and apparently avid reader Alameen (Thanks dude! Miss you!) so I wanted to make up for that.

Anyway today I have exactly one month left here on the mission, so what does that mean? How have I changed? What do I have left to do?

What it means is sadness, a profound melancholy I did not expect. I have created for myself, or more likely it has been created for me, a family and a home. Yesterday the kids, about 200 of them, some watchman, some teachers, and I were watching TV as it was a Friday after all. The show we all like is an English dubbed Spanish soap opera called “In the Name of Love” and when it started everyone tried to sing along to the theme song in Spanish and half way though the younger kids fell asleep, and watching them made me realize how tightly knit all the lives on the mission are. How much love I had for the girls asleep on the floor. It made me want to cry when the kids sang along to the credits.

It also means that a new chapter of my life is about to begin. This time on the mission has felt like a prologue for the rest of my life. It has allowed me to do a lot of good for others but more so for myself. I have grown in ways I never expected and it makes me excited to start the next chapter. Also it has made me feel like I am actually living my life, not waiting for it to start as I felt for many years. I think a lot of people my age feel that way- particularly in high school- that they are waiting for their life to really begin and that it will after college, or when they have a job, or when they’ve moved out or whatever but now I feel like I am constantly living in a present that excites me. It’s an unfamiliar feeling, this sort of happy every day thing, and although a part of me waits for it to fall apart I know it won’t go anywhere if I don’t let it.

Which I guess brings me to how have I changed? Well first off I see an expansive future for the first time. My dad always talked about “ripples”. He was talking about the little things you do and how it can radically change the lives of many others. I understood this logically when he talked about but now I see it in action. When I watch the kids here whom we’ve (we’ve including all who’ve donated) helped it makes me want to scream and run and jump and cry out in joy for the future. I wish I could adequately explain how the world has changed now.

Peter, the boy from Loita who used to walk 30 kilometers through jungle to school, has gone from 27th in his class to 16th in less then 2 months. He keeps telling me he will be second in a few months. Yesterday he told me all about his plans to go to university and get a job to help his family, to get a job to help his tribe, to get a job to help all of Kenya. We even talked about presidency.

I am closest with Peter but I see the change in all of the kids brought here. Davin, for example, who used to talk to no one, has become a talkative and popular girl. She also finds herself in a bit of trouble every so often and although others see a disobedient girl I see the beginnings of a strong young women who is going to question and change what she sees fit. Ian and Junior are too young for my untrained eyes to see much but who knows where they could lead now.

I guess the change in me is I know live what I talked about when I spoke about the interconnectedness of everyone and everything. I can now see it the way others can see math or others can see physics. It is alive and real and physical to me.

I also understand responsibility now. Yesterday Peter asked me how long I would help him, when I asked what he meant he told me that he was scared of having to go home after class 8 because he couldn’t pay for secondary school. I told him that as long as he kept his grades up and stayed in the top 5 of his class I would be helping him. the relief on his face was obvious as was the tension in mine. This is an awesome responsibility I feel heavy on my shoulders. Yet the rewards are so great I finally understand why my parents never kicked me out during my rebellious stage (thanks guys).

I have the privilege of being intimately connected in a young person’s life, and of seeing the possibilities for them they cannot imagine. I can sit around for hour’s fantasizing about they day they graduate from University (hopefully on full scholarships). On their way to some school. I can almost taste the tears that will run down my face the day I hold hands with Madame Grace and Ian graduates and it seems as if it will happen tomorrow, because time is much faster and less forgiving then I ever imagined when I was younger.

Another change in me is I can feel the physical ache of a hunger for life. I sort of felt it before but it was a part of the waiting for my life to start feeling, but now after tasting a bit of what I always wanted the feeling is different. It makes me want to run towards the unknown at a sprint, arms open to whatever I can touch or feel. It’s sort of like I climbed a small mountain in Colorado and now my goal is Mt. Everest because why not?

But also I understand now that I don’t need to be high speed all the time to be living all there is to live. I am just as alive when I am cooling Ian’s tea in the morning, or buying clothes for Peter, or just staring at a sky I swear is bluer in this part of the world. There is no need to be afraid of slowing down, a lower gauge is just as nice every once an awhile.

What I have left to do? Everything.

In the larger sense I have the whole rest of my life to live, and everything left in the world to experience. It’s the less cosmic more physical sense that is killing me.

I still have so much money left to raise for the water project. If I could just get halfway through phase 1 ($5000) I think I might be able to be happy cause then I’d be half way to a healthy community with clean water.

Some of you might be a little sick of me talking about the water project but I don’t know if I have ever explained it in fact so here it is.
The Mission Well Project is vital and practicable. Working together with the Regional Water Commissioner and the Mission Manager, I have figured out how to get to the water and how to store it. More importantly, I have solved how we could provide the water to the rest of the town. I could share with you stories and pictures of puddles you and I would not step in, that young children drink directly from on the side of the road, but I trust you grasp the seriousness of this without a lot of drama and hysterics. It is simple, children get sick and children are dying. This one project will eradicate the 20+ reported cases of typhoid per month as well as the countless cases of cholera, Amoebiasis, Hepatitis E and other water borne pathogens.

Besides the health benefits the economic benefits are enormous. Right now any people go to the river and not only gather the water but sell it to the town. If the mission was able to access the water at a higher rate then they could employ the now impoverished and unemployed women of the town to sell the water at a reduced price, making money for the women and the mission pushing us towards further self sufficiency, not to even mention the immense building progress that could take place in the town as it is a documented fact that with water access comes higher prosperity in small towns. If this happens, and the town expands then the government might start paying more attention and pave the roads, help fix the public school, help…..who knows? The ripples of this could be huge. Will be huge.

But again my eyes glaze over in fantasy.

Man, I can’t believe I come home in a month. See you all soon!
Everyone can start calling my US number around Nov. 10th!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Hey guys,

Sorry I know it’s been awhile, I’ve just had some stuff in my own life to finish up. For those of you who might have missed the post, although I’m sure ALL of you are avid readers, I will officially be starting school here in Kenya at USIU in January. The third to be exact.

More crazy news is that I leave the mission in 33 days. That’s really hard for me to deal with actually. Even though I am so excited to go home and see everyone and eat chipotle I’m so sad to leave. I’m also scared that it’s so soon because I have so much left to do.

What I really want to make real headway on before I leave is what I’ve been calling “The Community Well Project”. I’ve talked a lot about how important this project is but I don’t know if I’ve explained it any sort of detached factual way because I am so passionate about it.

Basically this project would save lives. But that’s not the half of why it’s so important. Nobody in the town besides those of us living on the mission has clean water. There are 20 cases of typhoid a month in our dispensary alone because of this. The public school which the majority of the small children in the town go to has no water at all. It has to send the kids off during the school day with small containers to either risk the rushing river or get water from stagnant pools of bright green liquid.

But besides the health aspects of the project it actually has the capability to lift the town out of poverty. Father Patrick has said that he would hire the no impoverished and unemployed women of the town to sell the water at a reduced price from the people who sell the dirty water to the town. This would give countless families monetary support.

And then when suddenly there is clean water the town can grow exponentially. It is a documented fact that when a town can suddenly access a precious resource like this the economy booms. Imagine how the school could expand, imagine how many more people could pay for teachers at the public school, imagine how the government might pay attention and pave the roads, imagine….

Sorry. My eyes glaze over a bit when I start to think like this.

It’s the time that’s killing me. I have $3,000 now so I need at least $7000 more to really start the project. The problem is I only have a month left and I’m starting to feel out of options. And yet suddenly this time crunch is making me feel more invigorated and determined. I will finish this. I will get this done. I want it done in thirty days. If not then I will get it by the end of the year (I hope).

I’m just not sure how to go about raising this kind of money though. I’ve never asked for anything like this, I had trouble asking for five dollars back home—now I’m asking for five thousand?!

But this is just so important. I was in Nairobi over the weekend and I went out to this bar where I met a guy from Atlanta. He is living in one of the richest neighborhoods in Nairobi with his wife and three kids and we talked about what it is like to be an American in Kenya. When he asked me what I was doing out here and I described Mulot he looked at me and said

“oh, so your living in hell?”

Now although I do think this is a little bit extreme I will admit that I am missing some creature comforts here. He asked me if I was out of my mind coming here on my own, living out in the bush, and starting these projects. I told him some things are just more important than yourself. So he said “oh you are insane”

Maybe this is why I’m having so much trouble getting the money I need together, but I really do believe that this is more important then me. It is more important then most everyone I know. I don’t mean to offend anyone, please try to understand I love you all dearly. But still can you understand what I mean? What could be more worth sacrifice? Worth time? Worth Bucket Baths? Worth the same food every day for 6 months?

My answer is yes…if I succeed.

It’s hard for me to talk to people about this because I feel like this is so obvious. Like of course you should help me because look at how amazing and important this project is. I really have a difficult time understanding people not wanting to help— but maybe I’m biased a bit.

I just hope I can do this.

See you all in about a month!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Sometimes I just feel so overwhelmed.

I honestly don’t believe I am going to accomplish everything I want to here. The water project is always on my mind but what scares me more are the students in need of scholarships.

Sure I have the money for this term but what about the next? And after that? Do I seriously think I have the ability to put these kids through school? (No.)

I often feel like I did something wrong taking these kids on. I know I’m not following the normal NGO or charity template when I do this, the PaciCorp might even condemn what I want to do here calling it destabilizing, and that embarrasses and shames me. I mean who the hell do I think I am that I can do something major and long running charities won’t or can’t do? Who the hell do I think I am that I am going to be able to keep these kids in school? That I am somehow ready to be responsible for lives.

That’s what scares me the most, the fact that I am no responsible for the lives of these students. My failure here means what I fear might be the deconstruction of their life.

It scares me so much I am exhausted. Just thinking about it hurts and makes me wish violently I hadn’t insisted on doing things my own way or going down my own path and I had just gone to college and followed the same path everyone else had. People talk about the pain of conformity but do they truly understand the terror that comes with doing things by yourself?

I mean sure I’m not completely alone. I have the support system of many people back home and I have been able to raise some money but…I often feel alone.

I don’t know how to explain this panic that keeps me up at night. I literally can’t breathe when I think about it. I sometimes have to fight the urge to hide from Mama Michelle when she asks me for school fees or from Peter when he comes to tell me he needs school supplies. Instinct tells me to run away, hide under my bed, and do anything to keep from facing this.

Of course I don’t. I feel compelled to put my head down and push myself forward throughout this, but it’s a painful compulsion.

I put everything I have into this but I know it’s not enough. I need the help of other people but I am ignored. I have been turned away by every rotary club, every church, and every major corporation I have approached. I am in this with myself and a few others and I am suspicious none of us have any idea what we are actually doing. This makes me feel like I am drowning.

I want to succeed here, but to succeed is to be responsible for these kids for the next, what, 12 years? It is to somehow stumble upon $70,000 or even just $10,000 to provide clean water to the surrounding town. It is to spend next 10 years of my life picking and choosing who to help and whom to let suffer. I want to say yes to everyone but knowing I can’t makes me want to turn everyone away.

I know a lot of my panic is illogical but still. It’s there. Also anyone who knows me knows I’ve never been super confident in myself. This means I am constantly questioning everything I do out here. Am I making the right decision? Am I moving in the right direction? Am I completely fucking over small children and ruining lives? Could I possibly be doing things correctly?

I look around the town I live in and wonder what I have really done. I only have 46 days left here and I feel like I am going to leave ashamed and secure in the knowledge that I have made no real impact.

I wish more then anything I could just get the water project started well I was here. As if I could magically come across $10,000 so we could get the tank to supply water to the town. If I could reach this benchmark then maybe I could sleep.

This fear of failure is so strong it’s hard to look at myself. I am already convinced I won’t be able to get these kids through school, let alone start putting in a water project, and it makes me kind of disgusted with myself. It’s hard to look at myself in the mirror without a bit of detest for the lack of action on my part. Luckily Madame Grace and I don’t have a mirror in our house.

What am I doing here? How can I still be asking myself these questions this long after my arrival?

I thought that I would know myself at the end of this project. I thought that the mists would suddenly clear and my life would appear before me as a straight line after this. Call it wishful thinking but I thought I would be a grown up. Someone who knew what it was they were doing.

The problem is I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing but now it’s at a higher level of game. Me not knowing what I’m doing means a lot of trouble for a lot of people.

I try to portray a confidence to everyone here. I act as if there are no problems and we are moving smoothly forward. I act unafraid. This makes me feel like someone who not only has no fucking clue what they are doing but a shameless liar. I don’t want to talk to anyone about it here, although I have poached the subject with Wilson, because…I guess because I like the way they look at me here.

I don’t even want to post this because I want everyone to think I’m running smoothly here. I want everyone to keep thinking I’m like, I dunno, a superhero or something. Taking on the world at 19 saving Africa one orphan at a time. I like the reaction people have to me when I act strong and as if I am unbothered and unburdened. When I pretend nothing is wrong hard enough sometimes I can believe it too. I can believe I am going to be able to do this. And I like the way that feels too.
On the other hand if I don’t write this out and tell somebody then I probably will have a mental break down.

I question if this show of weakness will make people hesitate to help me. But the truth is very few people are helping me and anyone who uses that as an excuse wasn’t going to help me in the first place.

The thing is I do have a plan. I have many plans. I have them all neatly organized on Microsoft excel sheets prettied by calculations and estimates and plans. I have plans and estimates from the school, from the water commission, from the companies that would put the system in. I have estimates from students, from teachers, from everyone I can think of. I have all the plans. I know how much I need. The problem is I just don’t have it.

It’s just not there.

Well okay. Now that I have written out some of my hysterics I can be more rational. Some of it is there. I have about 3000 which isn’t too shabby. My dream is that I will find a company to match me at 5,000 so we can start the water project. And that when I turn over this 10,000 to the school it can be in the name of the students who are being scholar shipped to cover their school fees. Then there will be constructions, and tanks, and clean cool water. And then when people come to the mission to buy the water, when the clean liquid is brought to the public school and the kids can stay in class, when people aren’t sick and dying all the time, when the mission is making money selling the clean water and the now unemployed women of the town are being employed by the mission to sell and carry the water, when this godforsaken little town expands and grows with the water until the government pays attention and brings other amenities, when we have gotten enough money for solar panels and the kids are taking hot showers for many of them the first time in their lives then I can think; Damn. I helped make this happen.

My eyes sometimes glaze over when I fantasize about this.

I have other fantasies too. I dream about watching Davin or Peter graduating from high school and on their way to university. Or a few years forward and Ian is on his way to medical school. Or law school. Something school. That sort of manic hope for the future parents have for their kids before they can walk and talk and sully the plans with their own ideas. I actually gave Peter a stern talking to about his hopes for the future when he told me he wanted to be a driver, telling him he was too smart to think small. I am pushing him towards politics, but I’m not stuck on that.

Speaking of Peter, I bought him his first pair of pants a few days ago. I’m serious. He wore short pants to school back in Loita and couldn’t afford any clothing besides his school uniform so the jeans I bought him were his first. Kinda mind blowing. Not to mention the belt and polo. (He looks so cute in them!)

It’s that kind of moment that makes the panic worth working through. I just wish I could stop thinking I was doing everything wrong. I wish I could banish my self doubt and move forward. I want to stop letting myself be infected by other people’s views on how I should do things or how this should look but I keep thinking that I have to be wrong.

Oh on a side note of daily life here—

I try to go jogging around this acre muddy field at least four times a week. The problem is the mud is so think during the raining season I get stuck and fall. I took my 3rd fall in about a month yesterday and it was pretty nasty, I actually had to go to the dispensary and when the doctor tried to touch it to rub some diclomed into it I screamed and attempted to kick him in the face. This lead to a small intervention being held where the people on the mission asked me to stop running as they are legitimately afraid for my well being. Wilson asked the same thing, I tried to tell him my clumsiness was endearing (well wrapping my sprained wrist from falling off a motorcycle) but he disagreed. He claims it’s more frightening.

Anyway I guess that’s enough for now. Thanks for reading guys!


Monday, September 20, 2010


So lately I’ve been thinking a lot bout reconciliation.

By this I mean I’ve been considering how to resolve who I think I am, who I really am, and where I live.

Before I came to Kenya I thought I had a pretty clear picture of who I was and what I wanted. I was known for my sarcasm, a bitter wit, I didn’t like kids, there was almost nothing about me you could call conservative and I had a lot to say. I mean honestly did I ever shut up?

So am I still that person? The answer is no. I am definitely not the person I knew 5 months ago. But now I’m not sure who I am or what I stand for.

The reason this distresses me and I have spent so much time thinking about this is because I kinda liked the person I was. I liked the image I had of myself as a tough sarcastic in your face kind of girl who dressed how she wanted and did what she liked. I was pretty invested in the image I had made for myself.

On the other hand I like this me too. I like this quieter more thoughtful sincere version of myself. I like the work I do, I like hanging out with the women at church, I like doing some simple labors, and I will admit it- Betty Friedan forgive me- I even like cooking for my boyfriend.

So how do I bring these two self’s together? Sometimes the harder version of myself comes out whether or not I like it like when I push a guy down for grabbing at me or tell someone bothering me to fuck off. And I can’t deny that I have some very sarcastic and blasphemous thoughts in church- in the church painting Mother Mary has her eye brow raised like even she can’t believe what’s going on in church.

Now that I have decided to move here permanently I have been forced to consider what things and what’s really important to me nowadays.

An example of this is my Judaism. I mean any one who knew me would tell you I was never a religious person or in touch with my “Jewish Soul” but that was when I was in a Jewish community and I never really had my “jewishness” questioned. Recently I have felt my Judaism under attack and discovered that a lot of my identity is rooted in this faith and that this history is incredibly important and meaningful to me. Maybe my faith isn’t under attack, people have pretty much stopped trying to convert me, but it is not understood (case in point trying to explain the event as well as the significance of the Holocaust to Wilson yesterday)

But on a baser level I struggle with my identity as a “sweet girl” here. I mean sweet? I don’t think anyone has ever used that adjective on me before. I like being a sweet girl but the not so sweet part of me rages against this identity.

I feel quite empty now a days. Not like a painful empty but a noticeable absence of understanding is constant.

When I was in the third grade we all had to do space reports. I did one on sputnik, a Russian satellite, which wasn’t that interesting. The reason I remember this report is because of a space encyclopedia I looked at for the project. The book had a sort of fold out map that outspread to show the 9 planets in an attempt at a scale picture. That night at home I went outside and looked at the night sky and realized how big the universe was. As I pictured the nine, I guess now eight, planets and the billions of stars and the trillions of molecules I felt small. I didn’t feel small in a bad way but in a way that let me know I was a minor component in something much bigger then myself. I felt how little I really knew and how big the world was and how ignorant I was to so much of what was around me. It wasn’t unpleasant but it was sort of…jarring.

That’s the feeling I have now, except turned inwards. It’s as if inside of me has become an empty space I have suddenly become aware of and I don’t fit quite right in my skin anymore. It’s slightly uncomfortable.

I mean I worked really hard to become the person I was, and now that feels useless but maybe that is just a part of growing up?

Or maybe I never really knew myself. Maybe we are incapable of seeing ourselves in any sort of clear light and only others can truly know us.

Or maybe we are just so moldable and changeable that there is no true self but a constantly in motion and changing core acted upon by the environment. Perhaps there is no self for me to know.

And, finally, perhaps it doesn’t matter one way or the other. If I just keep moving forward and making myself happy and moving in the direction I want then there is nothing to reconcile. There is just a love of life to embrace, and a love of people to be enfolded in.

There is no need to struggle for my identity because it will constantly change. I am not the person I was 5 years ago, or 6 months ago, and I will not be this person in a few short years. Maybe this constant struggle for identity is what keeps people from moving forward, and if we allow ourselves to be more fluid we can become people and do things we never imagined.

I mean if I wasn’t fluid minded then I would never have ended up on a catholic mission. I might have ended up somewhere else and still have been happy, but I wouldn’t have this happiness, and I really like this happiness.

So I guess I should stop struggling for who I am because parts of it will be created for me- let’s not kid ourselves for the next couple years I will probably be known as “the white chick” or “the American” or in the community of dancers I’m being introduced to “Wilson’s girlfriend” which is weirdly the one that bothers me the most- but other parts I will create myself and those parts will grow and change my whole life. I kind of feel like if I find a stagnant identity then it means I’m dead, because the only part of my life I want stagnant is my death but that’s only cause there isn’t much choice there.

So I’m not going to worry about it. I’m going to be like water. Water changes shape to whatever container it is in but it is still constantly water. So that sounds like a plan.

Anyway I am home in 49 days!
see ya’ll at the airport?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Caterpillar Questions

Hey guys!

So in case you are wondering Wilson’s mom nixed the whole moving in together plan, thank god, so awkward situation avoided. Kenya is weird sometimes.

I’m glad for a lot of reasons one of them being I wouldn’t want to leave Madame Grace and Ian. I love living with them. I love coming home to find Madame Grace making Mandazi and Ian with 6 friends sitting around the table. I love having a home where people stop by all the time. I love the crazy religious decoration and the plastic bottles we have collected to hold water. I love having an alarm clock of Ian getting ready for school.

I love leaving the house at 8 every night to go watch English dubbed Spanish soap operas and coming home to dinner.

I love the freedom it gives me to wander from house to house in hopes of getting fed. I can wander into the father’s house for dinner, Mama Michelle’s for tea, the staff room etc. It allows me to move around and see all the people I have come to love.

Besides, he can just come over for dinner.

Like last night. Wilson stopped by my office to say hi since he was dropping his sister’s off at school. He of course could not leave the mission without saying hi to Madame Grace so we wandered over to my house insisting he had to leave soon.

We came in to find Madame Grace making fish (SO EXCITING, a rare delicacy) and Peter, the boy we brought from Loita, and Ian doing homework.

We sat together discussing crazy mike the “house boy”, of course he is more like a house man considering he is like 27, and his most recent antics. I asked Wilson if he wanted to leave as he just haaad to go which, of course, upset Madame Grace.

“no” she announced “He will stay and eat”. So he did because you can’t really say no to Madame Grace. As we ate Wilson made fun of my squmaweki, a vegetable they make here that is quite difficult to make, Madame Grace and I discussed how to avoid having the school take our chairs and we all tried to coax Ian into eating. Then Wilson saved me from a spider the size of my hand that caused me to fall into a near hysterical panic- although he was laughing too much at me to do it very gracefully. Thankfully the boys were there to do such helpful things as laugh and point and tell Madame Grace about my near panic attack.

Later that night as we were getting ready for bed I mentioned to Madame Grace how glad I was that Wilson stayed to eat with us; she agreed that it was good he could come and be a part of our “ever growing family”.

And that is really how it feels to me all the time. It’s as if I am always picking up people to become a part of some strange cross cultural hipster semi catholic family. it’s kind of that feeling you have about the friends you had in high school who you swore, and still swear, you are as close to as your family- closer sometimes.

When I first decided to stay in Kenya and attend USIU I was scared I was signing up to years of being an outsider but I realize now that that’s not true. I am signing up to increase the family I have here.

The thing is sometimes I feel caught between two worlds and I feel exhausted with having these two families. A part of the family here are the kids who I have decided to take care of. This means having to watch their clothes for wear and tear, make sure they are fed, keep them clean. I’m also exhausted by the 2 or 3 adopted mothers I have here who all have their own opinions and ideas about what my life should look like (not to mention the fathers and worse of all adopted older brothers).

Sometimes I also get scared of losing who I was in the U.S.A. because I am certainly changed. Do I betray my Jewish upbringing when I cross myself in church? Have I lost the biting wit that people loved so when I have almost completely honest and sincere conversations all the time? Am I a poser when I download African bongo music?

I suppose the questions come down to if you are created by your environment and I keep constantly changing mine- then who am I? and who do I want to be?

I will take any suggestions.

See you guys in 55 days!

P.S. Confused about the title? Go read "Alice in Wonderland"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cross Continental Flirtation

Hey guys,

So a lot of people, myself included, made the assumption that I would remain very single and very very abstinent well I was here in Africa. Unfortunately, depending on your view of dating and relationships, this has not been true.

I am actually seeing someone here. His name is Wilson.

But this blog isn’t about him, it’s more about how dating works here and the difference between courtship here and back in Chicago.

How I met Wilson is probably the first glaring difference between courtships on our respective continents.

I was standing in the market smoking a cigarette yelling at an old drunk man to leave me alone (which is something quite possible in the USA). I had just pushed him down when Wilson sauntered on over.

Now back home is a guy checks you out he tries to hide it. He focuses on his drink or his friends or his whatever and stays in one spot well he tries to watch you without being seen. Here a guy will blatantly stare at you, unabashed, and might circle you a few times to check out all your angles.

This is what Wilson did about three times.

Now I am not used to being “picked up” most of the time any coquettish conversation I have had have begun by one of the parties finding a common ground- the same drink, a need for a light, liking an article of clothing- and striking up a conversation. Here the flirtation began with Wilson walking over and saying

“Hey girl I just wanted to let you know, you’re pretty fly”

Now the equivalent of this line in the USA might be a compliment on a girl’s hair or eyes or some other feminine feature. This is our cue to giggle and shake out hair a little bit well we lower our eyes.

Instead I kept my eyes level and said “gee, thanks”. As far as I can tell most of the girls here act as if you just stated an obvious fact- imagine a guy walking over and saying “hey the sky is up!”- And react with a polite smile.

After my attempt at a rebuff I grabbed my friend Lydia and tried to walk back to the mission. Now back home this sort of snub would cause a guy to go back to his friends, sip his drink, and complain about bitchy girls or claim I was gay. Instead Wilson followed me- or “escorted me” as he claims- and continued trying to talk to me, at one point introducing himself to Lydia as my future husband.

Alright so I can hear some of the girls back home going “ugh” from here. If a guy had done it in the U.S. I would probably be retching along with you but its different here. In Chicago a phrase such as that would drip with insincerity and probably beer and reek with a desperation covered by false confidence. Here it was actually quite smooth and stated like another fact, “you are fly” and “future husband” being equated with “Kenya is in Africa” or “I have two eyes”.

Wilson followed me back to the mission and asked for my phone number which I refused. He asked for my name to look me up on facebook and I told him only if he could spell it without my help.

Now most guys would have considered this a “shut down” and moved on, here this is considered normal practice for the girl. Girls are serious about playing hard to get here.

Anyway he ended up getting my number from Lydia and has sense called me every day seemingly never doubting the fact we would end up together. I of course acted like it would never happen up until the day it did. Which was three months by the way. Maybe this happens elsewhere in the states but in my neck of the woods I have never heard of a guy chasing a girl for that long.

The differences between the actual relationships astound me though.

Now again maybe this has to do with the weird town I grew up in but to me it seems like guys often don’t even like their girlfriends. They seem to avoid their calls, moan when they have to hang out and do something the girl likes and are often busy looking for a replacement. (That also might have to do with the age…)

Here Wilson calls me everyday at least twice…plus I call him, this is something I always thought I would hate but it’s actually incredibly nice. The security of knowing he is thinking of me is a nice comfort.

Guy’s here are also old fashioned in the way they take care of their women. The old rule of the girl pays for nothing is alive and well here. This extends not just to your girlfriend but to anyone one with the XX chromosome in your area. Wilson always brings me some small sweet when we see each other- which kind of makes me feel like a child- and he holds open doors and pulls out chairs.

As much as we girls in the USA say we don’t need these things it is very nice to have them even if the first time Wilson pulled out a chair for me my heart skipped a beat from shock.

The problem with all of these old fashioned manners is they come along with some old fashioned ideas. As the girl friend I am expected to clean up after the meals, allow myself to be pulled along by my arm, and happily sit in the chair that was pulled out for me even if I wanted to sit somewhere else.

The most infuriating thing is that men will often talk about you like you aren’t there and as if you aren’t capable of doing things yourself. For illustration- once I was with my friend William in Nairobi on my way to meet Wilson (I got a thing for Ws) and on the way their William spoke to me as an independent adult; this changed when Wilson arrived. I was passed off like a child between divorced parents. William informed Wilson that I had not eaten yet and that it was now Wilson’s responsibility to get me fed, ignoring my insistence that I wasn’t hungry, and then it would be his responsibility to make sure I could get to a Matatu safely.

Now can I get around Nairobi by myself? Not that well, so it is nice to have someone come with me to help me out. But feed myself? That I can do.

So I can get frustrated when I feel like guys aren’t listening to me. But I think I get the point across when I grab Wilsons face and speak clearly and slowly about how I’m feeling. Then he clues in that he might not have been listening.

Now I don’t mind carrying a plate to the kitchen but I think anyone who knows me can say I’ve never been much of a domestic and I’ve defiantly never taken on traditional female roles before. I mean I’ll make breakfast bust someone else is sure as hell doing the dishes.

So this is where our cultures clash.

And this is why Father Patrick has offered us a house.

Another thing about dating here is people don’t really believe in “casual”. All relationships should be working towards marriage to be working towards babies to be working towards more people to get married so they may have babies etc. etc.

I suppose this is why Father Patrick wants Wilson and I to move in together into our own “house”, meaning room, and live together to make sure we are compatible. He also made us promise not to get married until I was out of college.

You might be wondering how this conversation came about. You’re probably asking yourself “now how does a priest encourage two youngsters to live in sin on a catholic mission? And how would that conversation go?”

Well I will tell you.

Father Patrick called me outside to sit on the rectory steps well I smoked a cigarette. I could tell the conversation was going to make me extremely uncomfortable when it started with “Aliya is Wilson a serious man?” when I answered yes he asked me how serious. My brilliant response was

“Well he wants me to meet his mom…?”
Father declared that very good and that I should go meet his mom tomorrow if possible. He then talked to me about how whites really love people but Africans don’t so he wanted to look out for me and such. At this point I began to relax and asked father if it was alright for Wilson to visit me on the mission.

This is when the bomb was dropped but like the silence before a storm I had no warning.

“Aliya I want you and Wilson to live in a house together here on the mission. The problem I see is how will you cook?”

“That’s the problem you see?” I asked incredulous.

Father called Wilson to come sit outside with us and after a few invasive questions told Wilson his plan.

By this time I was chain smoking and was close to offering Wilson a cigarette even though he hates when I smoke.

Father Patrick gave us a week to think about it and talk to our parents but seem very keen on this plan.

Wilson and I are less so.

But if it does happen you guys will be the first to know!

See you guys soon,

Friday, September 10, 2010

Birthday Potatoes

The thing about life here is that things tend to snowball. Once people get excited about an idea they tend to run with it. This is how the first Rosh Hashanah occurred.

I hadn’t really realized it was Rosh Hashanah until that morning when I logged on to face book and someone sent me “Shana Tova” which is the greeting used on this holiday fyi.

This news of course upset me a bit because it made me think of what I must be missing at home- day of at school, a party the night before, some delicious Jewish food at my grandmother’s, and so I was kind of moping around when I arrived at Mama Michelle’s for tea.

Because Mama Michelle is highly tuned to my emotions and takes wonderful care of me she instantly asked me what was bothering me. I explained to her that it was the Jewish New Year in which case she immediately demanded we make the dinner. I told her the food I needed trying to explain how it was impossible but before I knew it she was off to Narok to buy the needed food.

I went to the father’s house to have a cigarette and called my friend Wilson. I explained the holiday to him and being the guy he is he first asked me why I hadn’t told him earlier so we could have stayed in Nairobi to go to the synagogue near the campus or so he could of stayed in Mulot with me so he could come celebrate and then decided he would celebrate the holiday with me the best he could by calling me at sunset and using the 3 Hebrew words I had taught him, meaning the only three I know, as much as possible through out the day.

After I hung up Moses, one of the seminarians found me outside and asked me if it was in fact a holiday. When I told him yes he asked if there was a meal. When I answered I was going to try he declared he would not eat lunch so he would have room for the food at dinner because of how much he loves Jewish food- this is because I made Latkes once.

This is when the panic set in.

Now I never came from a very religious family and I have certainly never put together any sort of Jewish dinner so I pretty much had no idea what to do when I realized it was suddenly up to me to make the dinner as well as create the ceremony that goes along with it. After pushing down the anxiety and hyperventilation I did what anyone else would do in my situation.

I hit the internet.

I wrote out some of the prayers- do things right and such- and set off for the rectory to make latkes. (Yes I know Rosh Hashanah is the apples one but Moses LOVES latkes.)

At first it made me feel kind of lonely to be making this meal. Nothing says I’m a lonely Jew like peeling and grating potatoes by yourself. I thought about home and everyone I was missing and just how out of place I was here. Well I mixed in the flour I realized there were some fundamental differences between me and the people here that no matter what I did we would never get over.

I sighed and left to go make a phone call and give my wrists a break from the peeling.

I called Wilson, (incase you guys haven’t put two and two together I call him a lot. We are kind of more then friends) and before I could say anything he was wishing me a happy new year and asking when I was going to recreate this meal for him. He was anxious for the next Jewish holiday to arrive so we could be together during it.

After I hung up with Wilson I walked back into the kitchen to find Mike, the house boy who is in all likelihood certifiably insane, and Angelia, another teacher, making the Latkes. Mike had figured out how to scoop them out and fry them- even if they were a bit thick- and had decided to take over latke making. I cut the carrots and celery to mix in with the boiling Nyama (that’s goat. Usually it’s fried but for once I put my foot down. It was awesome) well Mike tried to ask me how I learned to make Latkes. I tried because before I could even begin to answer he had already interrupted with another question. Mama Michelle walked into the house with bags of the food I had told her I would need. She stayed in the kitchen to munch on Mike’s thick Latkes and watch me peel carrots.

Angela set the table well I cut apples and honey.

Eventually it was time to sit down around the candles I had lit 18 minutes before sundown and placed on a white napkin- as we didn’t have a white table cloth- and I did my best to say the Hebrew prayers.

The meal was devoured within minutes. Pretty soon we all felt like we wouldn’t be able to leave the table from being “cabesa sheba” (completely full) which is how any Jewish meal should end.

“So” Moses said perking up “will you make Latkes for my birthday?”

“Sure Moses” I moaned from under the table as I had slumped down in pain.

“And next year in Chicago?” Moses said reaching for another Latke

“No next year in Israel”

Moses was quiet for a second.

“No, next year in Chicago, everyone should be together”

So I guess we all aren’t really so different.

I’m glad I have started the New Year here. It is the beginning of forever.
Miss you guys! Shana Tova!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Scenic Route

Hey guys,

So I have been trying to get a hold of some of you but to avail. No worries though I understand, it’s hard for us to communicate over seas. But because of this I guess I’m just gonna announce this here.

I’ve decided to stay in Kenya a little bit longer. Actually a lot longer. I’ve decided to go to USIU, an American accredited school, and move myself to Nairobi.

Now some of you might be asking yourself what in the hell am I thinking. Believe me I have thought that to myself a few times as well. The thing is I am truly happy here. I have created myself a life here- I have people I consider my family and friends whom I love just as much as I love all of you back home. I feel comfortable here and just like all of my friends who moved out and went to college it’s time for me to move on with my life too.

I love all of you. I love my family. I love my home. But just as the rest of my friends and classmates have moved on with their lives so must I. I feel like the best version of myself in Kenya and I don’t want to lose that just because it seems like I should go back to the states or because I’m scared of the adulthood this decision brings, or because I miss Chipotle.

Don’t mistake me, I am terrified. This is a huge decision that feels a little bit crazy to me as well but it stops feeling so scary when I think about the friends I have here. I miss everyone back home terribly and think of you often but the truth is we have all grown and changed into new people. I am not the girl you knew in high school or even 6 months ago, just like you are no longer that person either. We will never again live in the same cities, go to the same parties, or have the same ideas or feelings. I will love and treasure our friendships forever and look back on it fondly but now it is time for me to move on with my life.

Please don’t think this is because I don’t love the people in my life back home or because I love the people here more then any of you. I love some of you so much that it might terrify you. The ferocity of the emotion I feel for some of you back home can bring me to my knees when I think of how much I will miss you. When I imagine that I will not live down the street from you, I will not wake up with you, I will not drive to your houses in the middle of the night just for a cigarette, I want to cry. But the truth is I wasn’t going to do those things anymore even before I came to Kenya. That part of all our lives is over; me staying here just gave it some finality. The tears I want to shed are not just about missing you but about mourning our childhoods. It is mourning for the days in which our lives were ahead of us and we were unaffected by the logic and reason and extremities of the real world. For when we were naïve enough and our love was ferocious enough and simple enough for us to think those days would never end. For the days when we thought we were the person we wanted to be, not knowing that we would lose ourselves in a few meager years and would develop a soft moldable surface the world would act upon. Our evolution was shocking and inevitable. I love you all, old and new versions, but not more then I love me. Thus we all move on.

It’s not Africa that scares me so much but it is the fact that I will be an adult when this decision comes to fruition. It the idea that I am now old enough to start my life in earnest and am making decisions that will effect the rest of my life. Being in Africa actually makes it easier as I’m not going to be starting somewhere at this all new school where I know no one but in a city where I have friends and safe places to go and people who are incredibly invested in my doing well.

What’s scary is that I am no longer a child. I might not be fully matured yet, I don’t even really know who I am at this point, but I am now the person solely responsible for my life. I no longer have an excuse for my life not being what I want it to be because I have the power to effect it myself.

Although terrifying this is a glorious realization. I am completely free in myself and in control of my life. Me taking control of my life like this and not doing things the way they are supposed to be done because they are supposed to be done that way makes me truly belong to myself. My happiness, my victories, my joys, my sorrows, my everything is wholly mine because I have chosen and fought for it. I may stand on a precipice but I chose this precipice. I may fall into the valley but at least the rocks and sticks that I will hit on the way down will be of my own making. And if I don’t fall but I end up happy with all of my decisions then I can look anyone in the eye and declare myself the full owner of every choice I make. The worst thing I can imagine is looking back on my life and thinking that I wish I had been the one behind the wheel rather then letting conventions, or society, or others push or pull me in a direction I didn’t want.

I want to live a life of consequence. One that means something to not just to me but to others, one that in 50 years I can be proud of but more then anything else I want to be able to look you in the eyes and say I made my fate, not the other way around.

All of this feels more possible in Kenya then it ever felt in the USA. Here I have a peace that I never knew existed.

I am terrified. I am elated. I am humbled. I am sad. I am screaming. I am living in a glorious mix of emotions that reminds me of the wonder it is to be really alive.

I am ready to get started.

I love you all. I miss you all. I will see you all in 2 months. But then I will be leaving to live my own life, just as you will.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

COSMO! Bush Edition.

So when my family was here Jillian left me a few Cosmos (thanks Hun!) with lots of tips that would be super useful for any girl not living in the bush; so I thought I might make a list of tips for a bush beauty regimen.

Lets start with the basics…

1) Never skip the simple things like brushing your teeth and washing your face. Although sometimes you are exhausted and the idea of heating up water and walking outside into the cold to brush your teeth sound incredibly hard the momentary relief is not worth the gross feeling that will stick with you.
2) Wash your face AT LEAST twice a day. The wind buries the dust into your skin and causes a grimy layer on your face. Not cute. So I suggest exfoliating in the morning and a cleanser at night (of course you will have to buy those things in Nairobi)
3) Never ever ever ever ever ever ever skip on sunscreen. Particularly on your face. Even if it does make you break out. Just but a special face sunscreen and be happy your face isn’t red and splotchy. And painful. Again.
4) Wash your hair every other day and use plenty of shampoo. As much as you want you hair to be soft and shiny you want it to be clean more. So lather it up.
5) Remember the hair products are meant for a thicker hair then yours (unless you have horse hair like mine) so use less of the conditioner. If you have thick hair prepare to be amazed. I bought this thing called “nourishing hair food” and now my mane is soft and always smells like coconuts. Also use a shampoo and then a leave in conditioner. That way you use less water.
6) Everyone else has them, so you might as well. I know you’re a white girl but go ahead and rock the braids. It’s nice not to have to brush your hair. Can’t handle the ridiculousness? Keep in a French braid and forget about it.
7) If you want your hair to have nice curls here is a trick I learned at a salon- mix some salt in with some hot water. Tie your hair up in a few knots and then dip it into the almost boiling water. Let sit for a few and you end up with some nice curls.
8) Don’t bother painting your fingernails. They will chip and look gross. Just keep them clean and get the dirt out from under them
9) Always keep your toes painted though. For some reason that is super important here. You can even get a pedicure for 300 shillings in some places. Soooooo nice.
10) Never sleep without a mosquito net. They will bite you on the face just to spite you. You will feel gross, your face will be covered in bloody bites and everyone will have the oh so helpful comment of “whats wrong with your face?”
11) Use make-up sparingly. It will all melt off. Maybe some cover up if you want. A little bit around the eyes.
12) Whatever go ahead and do a full face if you feel like it. Just know you have to make that make-up last awhile and to check it around 1 o’clock to avoid that face melted off look
13) Remember the air is against you here. It wants to dry you out. Moisturize EVERYTHING. Everyday. And always use a lather when you shave or else the dry skin will make you want to kill yourself.
14) Exfoliate once a week but just make sure you have an extra bucket of water so that you don’t have the sand floating in the bucket of water your going to pour over yourself when you want to wash your hair.
15) Take extra good care of your clothing. Fix rips and holes immediately. Wash often. And remember these are the only clothes you have.
16) Give up the battle. You are going to gain weight. Just enjoy the carbs, know people think big is beautiful here, and try to get some yoga or a run in. if you don’t it’s ok. Your awesome anyway.
17) Seriously you are going to gain weight. Just be okay with it.

A couple make up tips

1) don’t have a mirror? Use a semi-dirty window or some water and put on only light make-up. You can apply your blush and lip stain or whatever with your fingers and feel your way around but don’t try to do your eyes without a mirror.
2) Subtly is key. You will look CRAZY around here if your make-up is super noticeable. Stick to browns and light pinks.
3) DENY DENY DENY you are wearing make-up. Otherwise others will want to borrow it.

And when it comes to getting dressed

1) Africans like you more when your in a skirt. Why? I have no idea. They just do. So have a few nice skirts all at least knee length and use them when you want something
2) Remember to think conservative
3) Those sexy clothes you have just incase? Save them for Nairobi and revel in the feeling of people’s jaws dropping when they see you.

Oh and with the cosmo man tips…..

Never give out your number. You will get some CRAZY text messages and be forced to change your number.

If you challenge the men here they usually get confused and leave you alone

Guy won’t leave you alone? Casually mention you will never clean up after a man or have kids. They will assume something is wrong with you in the brain and leave you alone. Unless they are the weird super determined ones.

The weird determined ones? Avoid. At all costs.

Creepy guy wink at you? Don’t put on your disgusted face (even if you can’t believe he did that weird stick his tongue out thing) laugh to yourself and turn around. That usually embarrasses them enough to leave you alone.

If you give in to one guy everyone will know. Everyone. So don’t.

And a couple last minute tips-

Looking good is really important here. So always try to look your best.
A few pieces of jewelry always make you feel put together
Always bring a jacket or a shawl because the weather is unpredictable
And finally
Pencil skirts and motorcycles don’t mix. Nothing will be left to the imagination when you get on. Go with a-line skirts.

I mean that last one. It’s pretty awkward.

Love you guys!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Leonardo Said it Best...

Hey guys

So today was another study in how lucky I am to have gone to an American school.

One of the girls here had a seizure today and as far as I could tell a pretty severe one.

Now about a week ago I taught a first aid class, nothing big just something on cuts and scrapes and burns, and I talked about the need for everyone to have this knowledge. People asked me why and I said because a medical emergency can happen at any time to anyone and we should all be prepared. Then it was decided I should do a class for the teachers at a later date. Oh the irony.

Anyway this morning I was sitting in my office when another teacher came in and gently knocked on my door. I invited her in and asked her what seemed to be upsetting her.

“Well” she quietly informed me “one of the girls has passed out or something like that. Can you help?”

Now as much as I wanted to slap the teacher for having wasted time and gone through pleasantries well a child was passed out I couldn’t waste that time and immediately took off running. After having to have explain to the teacher that “just there” isn’t telling me where something is I finally found the girl in the state of a rigid seizure.

No anyone with first aid knowledge knows there is nothing to be done for a seizure but try to keep the victim safe and treat for shock, so this is what I started doing. The problem is the other teachers couldn’t seem to understand that and seemed to think I could somehow make her stop.

For some reason I’ll never understand I had to argue for about 10 minutes- thus totaling the girls rigid seizure time to 40 minutes at their estimation (proving this was not a regular seizure and that we needed to get to the hospital faster)- for us to get her into a car and to the nearest hospital.

So we loaded her into the school’s vehicle (which just so happens to be an ambulance as it fits the most people) and at a speeding 125 kilometers per hour- which is FLYING when the roads aren’t paved- we were off.

In the car on the way she came out of her rigid state but remained unconscious with a few complications (such as not breathing)

Let me just take a moment to thank my father for having me take the class, Mr. Schauble for teaching the class, and Stevenson high school for providing the class, that made this next sentence possible.

I had to perform rescue breathing.

Once she started again her breathe seemed to be even and eventually we arrived at the hospital and were given the very comforting diagnosis of “I dunno”.

This incident has caused me to reflect on a few differences between here and the states in this kind of situation.

1) I would not have been the only person on the mission to know any sort of first aid had this happened in the U.S.A. State side we are lucky enough to have first aid courses available to everyone. If you’re reading this and haven’t taken a first aid course please go sign up for one now.
2) Within minutes of someone seizing in the USA an ambulance, one with EMTs not the school’s old used ambulance, would have been called. There would not have been a wait.
3) If she had stopped breathing in the USA I would have had the correct equipment to deal with the situation and the rescue breathing would have been preformed with a barrier rather then good ole’ fashioned pinch the nose mouth on mouth.

But on the other hand

1) People might not have given their jackets to keep her warm when I treated for shock.
2) Someone might not have been there to comfort her mother and pray with her the entire time
3) She might not have been surrounded by people who loved her

No matter what it is quite the story, eh? The definition of “ditch” medicine as my dad calls it.

I’m kind of exhausted form the whole experience and I’m not sure what to write for now. I just thought some of you might enjoy the mental image of me in the back of an old beat up ambulance performing rescue breathing on an eleven year old girl with women praying in the background and the car flying over rocks and bumps due to unpaved road.

This is Africa.

I love it anyway.

See you all in 2 months!

P.S. Incase you are wondering about the title it refers to Leonardo diCaprio in "Blood Diamond" when he said TIA

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Brush Your Shoulders Off

So I don’t know if any of you are thinking of ever coming to Kenya but let me give you a piece of advice if you do. Don’t pass out in public.

A few days ago in Nairobi I was at a stage called railways to catch a matatu (those mini buses) home. Apparently I stepped of the matatu I was on, told Wilson (the person I was with) that I was feeling kind of busy and then hit the floor. I don’t remember anything after that, probably due to the whole unconscious thing, but I’ve been told it was pretty much general upheaval after that and panic. When I came to in some stranger’s car that was about to leave for the hospital my first thought was that Wilson was hurt from the look on his face.

Before I continue let me tell everyone I’m fine. I promise.

Anyway after arguing with people for about a half hour I convinced everyone I did not need to go to the hospital. That’s when the tirade of calls began.

First Wilson called father Patrick to tell him what happened and I had to argue with father that I did not need to go to the hospital but it was too late. The phone tree had been activated.

Within 10 minutes I was receiving calls from Madame Grace, Mama Michelle, Lucy Ann (a woman who travelled with us to Loita and took us to the wedding), Some (pronounced som-a father Patrick’s brother who once let me spend a night at his house on my way to lotoiktoik) well trying to assure Wilson and his friend Vicky, who had apparently come running, that I really was fine.

After much argument on my part it was decided I would stay in Nairobi another night and leave tomorrow. Once we made our way back to the apartment I had spent the night in before a girl was nice enough to let me borrow some clothes of her as mine were dirty.

Anyway I may as well have gone to the hospital when Wilson wanted as within a few hours Lucy Ann had showed up and announced we WERE in fact going to the hospital and both Some and Father Patrick would meet us there.

After many hours at the hospital and a severely unpleasant CT scan the doctors confirmed what I had told everyone- dehydration. (Please spare me any lectures on drinking water. I got one from the doctor and my father and have had water poured into me ever since).

So in the end I am fine with nothing but a bruised ego and a dread of going back to railways and being remembered as that white girl that passed out (please don’t say fainted- it sounds so girly) and a realization of how loved I am here.

It makes it so hard to think about going home because it makes me feel the same way I felt leaving Chicago. Like I’m ripping myself away from my family.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place where I have felt so overwhelmed by love from people who seemingly have no business loving me. There is also the feeling of how much I love everyone here.

I want to write a blog about how easy it is to love here and how people become so important to you so fast but all I can be is sad as I think about coming home. Not to mention the terror I feel that has become a common theme in my life.

I usually feel like I haven’t done anything to earn the love an affection I get here. You guys want to know something? My hospital bill was almost 18,000 KSH. Do you know who paid that? Not me. Father Patrick did automatically and with no complaint. What have I ever done to make me worth 18,000 of anything to him? To anyone? When I take a cold look at myself I see a girl who runs away from the bush and to Nairobi at every chance she gets, costs the mission money and is getting people’s hopes up while unable to actually deliver. At all. I have received an immense amount of love and affection here and have had more fun here then I have ever had in my life but what have I done to deserve any of it? Maybe my nature is just neurotic and I will never feel good enough but most of the time I feel disappointed in myself and at worst disgusted with myself because I’m either not doing enough (or anything at all) or I’m not doing it the way a major corporation like the peace-corp. would do things. (I know I’m breaking every rule they ever laid out for their members) I just feel like I’m doing everything wrong sometimes.

Sometimes I wish I had just gone to college and never learned all of these things about the world.

And then it’s time to get up brush myself off and stop feeling sorry for myself. I have to remind myself that what is going on is just the African version of my irrational tendencies and it’s time to be rational.

I will feel much better if we can get some goddamned water here, though.

Anyway I’m kind of out of steam so I will update again soon. I miss you all and will see you soon.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jaded Hopefull Thoughts.

SO let’s write a blog.

So I have been here for a little over three months at this point but still tend to feel like I haven’t done much. I think it’s because most of what I have done has focused on the individual rather then things that are big picture. This is partly because big picture stuff is harder to get done and costs far more money so these projects, such as the water project and anything that has to do with the secondary school (which keeps me up at night), come to fruition much later. The water project probably won’t make any real steps forward until I leave. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t done anything really good or helpful because few have felt the impact. I almost always feel like I’m doing nothing and wasting my time here. I also have seemed to have developed a nasty habit of collecting kids and bringing them to the mission.

For those of you who don’t know my family came to visit me here and we spent a few days in VERY interior Kenya so we could go to a traditional Maasai wedding (which was BEAUTIFUL and also very confusing). When we arrived on the mission there was a small boy named Peter. To give you a little back round on Peter, he is 13 years old and lived about 50 kilometers from the mission. His mother is supposedly a sweet woman but his father is MIA which may be better for the family by the sound of it. Peter wants to be a priest when he grows up and thus WALKS 50 km through jungle and mountains, if you want to check it out go look up Loita Plains on a map of Kenya, to get to the mission. He is painfully thin, the oldest of seven and wanted to have as he called it a very serious and private talk.

So on our second day in Loita Peter took me aside and told me that he wanted to go to school in Mulot. Now you think by now I’d be used to this request and wouldn’t be so upset by it but I am afraid this is not true. My blood immediately began to pound behind my eyes well months worth of math figures and accounts began to swim in front.

“it’s not that easy Peter” I tried to say gently but what came out what a painful gurgle because as well as developing a habit of collecting kids I seem to have acquired some sort of horrific allergy to disappointing them. Luckily Peter took pity on me and left. I spent the rest of the morning going over facts and assured myself it was impossible. Beyond impossible. And with that assurance I went on with my day which was spent happily staring at Maasai warriors well they stared back and tugged at my hair.

It was later that night I made the mistake of telling my father about Peter’s request. It started as me lamenting that we could not bring him back to Mulot. I should have known much better.

Before I knew what was happening my father was convincing me about how it was not only possible but probable to bring peter back to Mulot. After 15 minutes of arguing in the back of a pick-up truck we had accidently driven into Tanzania Dad asked if we should talk to Father Patrick.

“Why did we ever pretend we weren’t going to?” I sighed.

Apparently Father Patrick and my father use some sort of different magical math full of good will and fairy dust rather then my terrible angry oppressive math because Peter was packed into the car the next day and brought to Mulot. Really is anyone surprised?

Anyway a little back round on Loita is needed at this point. Loita is the place where the world ends. There is literally nothing there. And when I say nothing I mean nothing. There are no lights, no roads, no cars, no stores, no towns, not even a donkey. The only things there are mountains and Tik Tik which are basically deer in miniature.

This might by why when the car arrived in Narok, a place I always thought of as pretty in the bush, Peter had to stand up out of his car seat so he could press against a window. This was a child who had never seen a car before we arrived let alone the hundreds in Narok. We went into a Naiva’s (Think of it like an Aldys or a Wallgreen’s) and it looked as if Peter might pass out in fear and excitement. I wish I had asked him more about how he was feeling but I was nursing a head injury brought on by the road, or lack there of, and could barely remember the day of the week.

The next day I slept and wore sunglasses inside well Peter wandered the mission. The entire time he was followed around by Ian (another student someone who shall remain nameless brought out of a public school *ahem*) and for probably the first time in his life interacted with 60 kids his own age as well as the rest of the school. It was also probably the first time he wore shoes that covered his feet entirely.

Later that night I was well enough to have my ass handed to me in a game of flowers (It’s the Kenyan poker. I’ll teach it to you when I get back) and peter came to the rectory where he saw Jillian on her laptop.

Please keep in mind here Peter had never seen anything remotely like a computer before. At all. Ever.

I did not pay much attention to what he was doing as I was concentrating on keeping from Brother Moses from winning his 3rd game of Flowers in a row but I did here Peter whisper wow in awe as Jillian giggled and showed him something. About a half hour later peter walked over with my computer (which I had opened up for them as it had more battery) and was shown this note.

“most kind Aliya thank you for bringing me to school and it is great and I will work hard forever to do well in school and be good and be greatful”

First off this note is pretty amazing for a publicly schooled child in class 6.

Secondly this note made me think that maybe the individual projects are just as important. Who is to say that the next president of Kenya didn’t just write that note? Who is to say what children are worth more or less and who deserves an education? Why shouldn’t I be just as over the moon about Peter being in school as I will be if I ever find the money to get water into this place? I mean there are of course some things that make the water project more important ( like the fact it would save lives and wipe out disease in the community as well as provide jobs and according to the water commissioner turn Mulot into a booming town of industry) but isn’t peter just as important?

No matter what I think now or have thought or will think in the moment I read that note Peter was just as important.

My only regret is that I wasted water by crying after I read the note.

So here is the count
Orphans at the school originally: 11
That debt: 157,000 Kenyan Shilling
Orphans Added: 2
Kids pulled from public school due to being first in class: 2
Amount of debt added by them: 1600 US dollars
Total amount of debt annually added by taking on scholar shipping all of these kids: at least 6,000 US per year for the next three years baring more orphans. (Which we shouldn’t)
Number of nights spent without sleep: Hundreds.
Numbers of lives affected: uncountable.

I feel like this would be a good place to end the blog but I am so full of fear and frustration and hope and emotions I don’t understand that I am going to keep writing partly to sort myself out. I could not post this stuff but I promised myself that this blog would be honest all the time and really let people into my life here so I’m going to keep writing. So go get something to eat and a glass of water, maybe turn off your computer for a bit and come back. That way it can feel like two blogs and not one obscenely long post. Sawa Sawa? (Okay?)

As happy as some of these numbers make me, and as happy as the money that has been raised thus far makes me it also terrifies me. My worst fear is that I will get these kids in school for a year, maybe two, and then the money will stop. $6,000 per year is a lot of money to raise and I don’t know if I’m strong enough or smart enough to raise it. A part of me wants to leave and run away and abandon the kids now because I am so sure of my failure but I know I can’t.

I have also just become so jaded and sure that people won’t help me. I have gone to so many people, so many club and sent out countless e-mails to ask for help. I sent our at least 50 e-mails to catholic churches and convents in the USA to ask for help scholar shipping the students and got no answer. Not one. And the only answer I ever received from a rotary club (clubs meant to bring clean water to places around the world) was a woman offering to charge us only half her usual fee to consult on the project to find money. I mean really?

If everyone at Stevenson high school (my old high school for those of you who aren’t alumnus) gave $12 the entire water project would be paid for. If everyone gave just $6 then we could pay for enough to get the water to the public school and surrounding town. I don’t think half the kids at Stevenson will give half that.

I have started to lose faith in the people back home. I feel like unless I fight on daily basis and argue and beg no one wants to help. I can’t understand how so many don’t want to help and how they make excuses and how they seem to just not care.

Don’t get me wrong some people are amazing. Some people are beyond helpful. Some people are beautiful and wonderful and I love them with all my heart for how much they have given ( That means you Angie and David and Donna and Marti) but so many other give me such paper thin excuses and let me down.

I guess some naïve part of me believed that people want to help and will given the opportunity. I thought that because I am here and all the money goes to the kids and because the need was so obvious and because the kids here are just as thirsty and in need (and end up just as dead) as the kids in Haiti or Pakistan people would be willing to give just a few dollars. It seems that I was wrong. The back of my mind has become jaded and bitter.

On the plus side this jaded sense of being has steeled me to fight harder for this then I have ever fought in my life. Nothing is more important to me then getting this water project done and I will stop at nothing to get this money. And believe you me I will lay down in the street before I let any of these kids be sent home because of tuition fees. I don’t know what will be asked of me in the future to get the money for these kids- who I will have to beg, flatter, fight and the paper work I will have to fill out on a mind numbing basis- but I do know with a clarity of which I know few things that I will do it.

I am also reflecting on the fact that I have to go home in about 2.5 months and that scares me for many reasons. Partly it’s because once I go back to the USA I have to start sorting out college and what I want to do with my life, I am so scared I have forgotten how to learn and be in an academic environment, but also because I’m scared I won’t be able to get things done here from the states.

Also as much as I love the people back home and can’t wait to see you all again I feel more often then not that Kenya is my home and I am just going back to the USA for an extended visit.

I really have a home and a family and a life here that I do not want to leave. From what I’ve read and who I have talked to that is a common reaction to Africa. It’s like once that red dirt gets into your system you can’t get it out. No matter what.

Some times I imagine staying here in a permanent manner. I wonder if maybe I could go to the University of Nairobi and stay here in Kenya. Other times that sounds insane but still. I don’t want to leave.

It’s what I tell my friend Wilson whenever he asks me what I am doing or why I’m disappearing all the time.

I really have no idea what I’m doing.

Anyway I think I should stop here as this has gotten obscenely long and you probably have things to do. I promise to update more often guys.

Love and miss you!