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!