Thursday, September 23, 2010

Musings

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!

Aliya

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nymph

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?
Aliya

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!
Aliya




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,
Aliya

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!
Aliya

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 na├»ve 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.

Aliya