Sunday, January 30, 2011


Hey Readers!

So school is beginning to pick up a bit. Sadly the reason school is picking up a bit is I’m stirring up a bit of trouble.

The interesting thing about being a white woman in Kenya is the paradox I am to many people. I am white and thus powerful but a woman and thus weak, so the compromise often made is that I must be rich but fragile. This is a theory I am constantly disproving through bumming cigarettes as well as slight fights.

Now when I say fights I don’t mean any sort of street fighting with punches thrown and blades out (although one guy did step into me); these fights are more along the lines of intense arguments.

I have found myself on the side of radical feminism in this country as I argue for more education as well as available contraception for women all over the country. Weirdly these are radical ideas. The men here find me as one said “a destroyer of the traditional family life and thus traditional family and societal values and thus society itself) because I said I wouldn’t was his underwear.

This seems like a strange argument but essentially this is a live action example of globalization. Kenyans want a globalized economy and technological industry but were unprepared for the flow of ideas. It’s actually fascinating to be in the middle of.

The really mind blowing part is when the girls over hear.

My argumentative friend asked why if women were so strong why men were able to keep them down. I made the radical (and I do see how it’s radical) assertion that it is because men are the weaker sex.

Cue gasps.

My argument was that men knowing they had less innate power then women intentionally kept women uneducated, ignorant and pregnant as soon as possible. As ignorance leads to early pregnancy and early pregnancy leads to continued ignorance as well as the ability to control a woman through her children. I claimed that women’s sexuality actually shaped most history (e.g. Anne Boleyn, Helen of Troy) and that when given access to education women are able to expand the economy in ways never thought possible.

At this point my friend left the table.

Now the point of this conversation wasn’t to change this man’s mind and force him accept equality (although that would have been nice) it was for the girls to overhear.
Because that’s when the magic happens.

Women made aware of their own power as a woman suddenly feel stronger then ever before. From there the conversation was able to grow into hope of building all girls schools in India, teaching sex education in the bush, opening clinics for poor young women in the city and from there it grew into orphanages, free schools, space stations. Anything we could think of. The world was ours to build and to create us merely required the ability to think it.

And this is what I love about living in Kenya. There is simply so much more world left to create. There are more views to argue, more experiences to be had. (Did you know you can go sky diving in Nairobi for 3500 shillings? That’s about $45.)

In a country that is rapidly changing and developing through things such as the new constitution and new schools and new immigrants we are at the center. We are the new change. Here is the new change. Africa is the new change.

Here is the final frontier.

Because this really is the unexplored land. It is mapped out (sort off) but it is unexplored. Right now each step taken in this country is new, each breath different then the ones taken before it, and everything is growing and changing in ways thought impossible. The moon isn’t where we want to go to learn who we are as humans or where the future lays. Africa is.

In many ways Africa is our last chance. This is our chance to industrialize without severe damage to the environment; this is our chance to create fashion embracing all shapes. This is our chance to create governments that are equitable on the first try. This is our chance to put into place all these beautiful ideas we discussed in our basements as kids.

I firmly believe that the entire future of humanity lays in Africa. These are some of the last world being built up and changed and grown and if everyone here and around the world works to protect these worlds from the economic hit men, and fascist puppet governments and if we all start to care about the fate of this continent then within a few hundred (decades?) years these will be the societies we look up to.

And that is what I feel apart of. That is what is bigger then myself. That is what is bigger then the mission and the kids and the water and the anything and everything.

That is the ripple in the pond.

The stars don’t have shit on us.

So everyone care. Do donate, do visit, do volunteer, do anything you can think of. Help your community but think of this as your community to. Think of us over here as your poor but very smart neighbor who you help put through school. Low input high output. High interest rates on your loans.

After all Carl Sagan did say we are all essentially the same as we are all made of star stuff

So I guess that gives space something

Love and miss you all

Aliya de Grazia

Monday, January 17, 2011


Hey all!

So I guess my life is only as messy as the average college students now days. The average confusion, heartbreak and general confusion; maybe with some extra dancing, I mean we are in Africa.

I can think of very little to say to you all right now. I guess I’m just like any other angsty college student. I feel a little scared, very lost, and very small.

I’ve been trying to do some soul searching, but the problem is I seem to have misplaced it.

Suddenly things that had ceased to bother me when I was dealing with problems on the mission have come back in full. Now that I’m not worried about water and food and school fees (as much) I’m again worried about sex and love and friendship.

I feel like I’m in sort of a reinvention funk. When I’m not Aliya-saving-the-world who am I? Who is College-life-Aliya?

I been feeling lately like someone cut off my connection to the earths center and I am sort of floating away. I’d hold onto the grass to stay down but touching it is a 2,000 shilling fine at USIU. As is littering.

It’s strange the areas in our life that make us feel a mess. I am, for all intensive purposes, a very smart and very successful young woman with an excellent charity who was able to live on her own for quite a few months in a foreign city.

Except I feel like a little kid whispering “Please like me”

Now don’t get all worried, I AM making friends and many of them great friends. But I can’t stop feeling like people don’t like me enough, or don’t want me around, or just don’t think I’m that interesting.

I don’t know what I was expecting but I didn’t expect to feel so upside down.

But this has to be normal for everyone who moves right? Do all new freshmen feel like this? Is everyone’s confidence fake?

On one of my last nights in Chicago Matt, D-kwon, my father and I got into a sort of pseudo philosophical argument. I had put forth my two bit 40 proof theory that although there isn’t a fate leading us there is a balance in the universe. This balance doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is happy it just means the universe is working at its most efficient. My theory was that each of us has an optimum path we can be on to help achieve this universal balance and when things in life suddenly start going well or going easy then you are on this optimum path.

Kenya felt like my optimum path at the time, which it still does, but whereas at the time it all seemed so clear my path has suddenly become hazy. I went from a corn field stretched highway to driving through the Appalachians. I just can’t see that far ahead. And now I have a nervous curiosity about the future. Like I’m walking along a ledge and need to inch slowly to get to the right place.

I don’t know. For now my “optimum path” is to go to all my classes, turn in my essays, and learn how to shake my ass like all the other girls here.

Miss you all and hope your not too cold back in Chicago!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Hey guys

So I’m sorry it’s been so long but I have been adjusting. It’s been a bit of work but besides having over 1000s mosquito bites (yes we counted) caused by a broken water pipe everything has been really great.

I’m adjusting to college the way anyone would I guess. Just in Africa. I have a core group of people whom I already love very much and have hit the club scene hard. According to my friend Oti this has caused me to “lose all my whiteness”.

When Oti said that I almost fell over with relief. I was so scared that school I would end up as “The White Girl” but as it turns out I’m just Aliya. Don’t get me wrong, everyone brings up my Caucasian aspects once in awhile (thus a 3 hour dance lesson from My friends Nonni and Charlotte) but I am not a token.

Suprisingly there is a clique known as “The White Girls” at the school who are girls from the US and Europe doing a semester abroad. They are never seen apart and appear to bother the hell out of everyone thus making people like me more. Isn’t that lucky?

I know I said I wouldn’t talk about SPBP as much in this blog but I am dying to get all this out this email I just got from Father Patrick-

I hope you have the
news that we TOPPED in this County which has three district and with
Narok South district having 254 primary schools. Our School had a
mean score of 357 out of 500. the number 2 school in our distict had a
meanscore of 337 followed closely by the number 3 with 335 marks.
Thanks for your kind thoughts and timely assistance especially to
those who are in desperate need of some one who can accord them their
hearts desires of a better and assuring education.
We have gotten a quotation from the Kenya Power and Lightning as
pertains to the power for the water pump and the power room or house
is being constructed. Pump testing was done and any time electricity
will come in as we have already paid for the power.

I don’t think I could be any happier!

It’s nice to know that the big and important things in your life can work out even as your personal life shatters and is gently put back together.

Shatter you ask?

Well I broke up with Wilson and it went far worse then anyone could have guessed it would. It went O.C., 90210, Melrose Place bad. Africa edition. This has caused me to lose any friend I made in connection with him.

But sei la vie (La Vie!).

And I have made many other friends. So thank god.

Anyway I have nothing insightful or thoughtful to say so I will sign off with promises of bigger and better.

Miss you all! Just not as much as I thought I would

Rocket Man

Hello Readers!

So here we are again in O’Hare airport waiting to return to Kenya. Deja’vu and such.

As I sit here I consider what it is waiting for me this time in Kenya; I know what to expect in many aspects (I have friends, the infamous Wilson, the Priests) but now at a time in my life when most people are almost halfway done with their schooling I am about to begin.

I’m excited to have a normal college experience but I’m also interested on an anthropological level about what the difference between an African school and American school will be.

I want all the parties and the great loves and the great disappointments that come with the experience but of course, being the Laura Croft wannabe I am, I want to have my own adventure. Something wild and crazy and that others will be jealous of.

So now I think there are going to be some changes to the blog. Knowing what I know now I think the blog will be less about discovery. As my loyal readers know I disregarded self discovery as a goal during my last trip, remember the puzzle piece metaphor, and I already understand a lot about African culture. I guess what I’ll discover now is how to be a normal college kid.

Also the blog will just have to be more about me.

How can this possibly be you ask? You WRITE the blog Aliya, you say, it is all about your experiences you exclaim!

Well yes, I admit, but to be fair I was also writing about the mission, and Small Planet Big Plans, and the kids and things much bigger then myself. I think as my life becomes more about me and less about the charity- I am handing a lot of responsibility over to the US side and we have the kids tuition paid up for a year- and more about me and what I am predicting will be a pretty humorous black and white indie movie experience. I think I’ll have more stories about misunderstandings on Matatus, language barriers, and such things that caused me to end up holding a chicken in a foreign country with no understanding of my surroundings.

Of course I will return to the mission and Kisumu so I will still have heart wrenching terrible stories of hardship and over coming impossibility and the shear joy one can experience just because they are alive and thankful.

Have you noticed how many times I’ve used the word “expierence” in this blog? Interesting.

God I’m excited. And terrified. And joyful. And sad.

I am leaving my home.

But I am also coming home.

Stay tuned boys and girls because this trip promises to be quite the experience. (tee-hee)

Anyway I will update you all once I am settled.

All the best readers,

P.S. JUST because I’m not as focused on my charity it does not mean I will stop harassing al of you for donations. Keep donating. It’s a new year and so we have started a new goal of 10,000 by 2012. GO TEAM.

 <3 . (tee-hee)