Monday, February 25, 2008


Well well well my faithful readers (hahaha),
I got my Peace Corps nomination! For those who don't know, the nomination is the 2nd to last step in the process of applying. It means my recruiter thinks I would make a great volunteer and has recommended me for a specific region and program.
I was nominated for Sub-Saharan Africa, to work on a Health Extension program. That most likely involves HIV/AIDS prevention/education. They gave me January 2009 as a likely departure date, right after my graduation like I wanted.
So now all I have to do is be medically and legally cleared. A kind of tedious process with lots of doctor appointments, tests, and forms, but I have no health problems so I should be fine.
Once all that is done I will hopefully (*crosses fingers*) get my invitation to a specific country and definite departure date!

Monday, December 31, 2007

annnnd 5 months later...i'm applying for the Peace Corps!

So naturally I decided to write one of the required essays about my experience in Kenya. I didn't expect to write anything particularly great, but once I got flowing I just couldn't stop and it ended up coming out as a really excellent summary of what Kenya taught me. So I thought I'd share it, in case any random strangers still check this. So here it is...

I had no idea what culture shock was until I went to Kenya. I realize now that no matter how much you've learned about where you're going, you'll never know how you're going to react until you get there. Riding on a cramped and bumpy bus through scraggly mountain coffee farms after flying for 20 hours and not getting any sleep, the only thought reverberating through my brain was that I was on another planet. I told myself that it was only my stomachache and tiredness causing me to react so weirdly, but it wasn't until finally getting off the bus and moving into our home for the summer that I began to feel a little bit calmer. Then something so awesome happened that I forgot totally about my nerves. We met the kids. In a dark little cement block dining room, the 45 orphans who we had come to help for the summer smiled shyly up at us, and then began to sing the most heartwarming song I have ever heard in their broken English "Our visitors! We are so glad to welcome you here today! We are so happy! We are very very happy!" they sang, and my fear melted away. All it took was to see their faces for me to realize that I was exactly where I wanted to be, where I had dreamed of coming for so long. Somewhere where I could make a real change. And I did make small changes, all summer long, whether it was by lifting one small cement block onto the walls of the new boys dormitory, or playing one game of tag with a beaming six-year-old girl.
The biggest changes came in me, however. I learned that you can build a dorm entirely by hand, that a smile means the same thing in any language, and that the most valuable things in life can't be bought with money. I adapted to living without air conditioning, cooking over a single burner, sharing a bedroom with bugs and lizards, and having nothing but a roll of TP when nature called. I learned that bus rides are more fun when shared with as many people and animals as possible (our record was 22 people and 2 chickens on one matatu). Sure, being in an unfamiliar culture was frustrating at times but I tried my best to take it all with a smile and chalk it up as part of "the experience." More than anything, I learned to listen. I listened to people talking and picked up more Swahili than I ever learned in class, I listened to orphans' stories and learned to never take my life for granted. And by the end of the summer, I listened to my heart telling me that this was it, there was no greater feeling in the world than to be in this place, so poor in possessions but so rich in beauty and spirit.

Monday, August 6, 2007

"All the days we've been traveling together..."

So guess what? I leave Kenya on FRIDAY! 4 days away! After being here for so long it's crazy to think that the end is that near. I think most of us are ready though. Vacation is great, but I actually miss working. The girls and I have been on the beach for the last 4 days and it's been great and relaxing but it's getting a bit old. Great to just swim and lie on the beach and read books and stuff for awhile, but I can't do it for too long without getting bored. Diani's nice, but I liked Lamu much better. This area is a bit too built for the tourists. The funniest thing that's actually happened twice since we've been here is having monkeys steal food from our house. Last time we accidentally left the back door of our cottage open then went into another room, then all of a sudden this HUGE monkey just strolled right in. You think they're cute and cuddly but they can actually be quite mean and scary. So we all slammed the doors of the other rooms we were in and started screaming hysterically and freaking out, until finally Bari saw it grab Lisa's cookies off the table and run back outside. It just wanted a snack of course, they're such scavengers. Anyway, we laughed about that for awhile then made sure to keep our door shut when we weren't in the room. We also met another group of volunteers our age from the US and Europe so we hung out with them one night. Last night we barbecued at our cottage with Jeff, the owner of this Internet Cafe I'm in who we've become friends with. He's a really smart, interesting guy so it's fun to talk to him. Tonight we're going out for a last dinner with just the girls in Diani so that will be nice. Tomorrow we leave here in the morning to meet Azim in Mombasa where the 5 of us will catch the overnight train back to Nairobi. Goodbye Indian Ocean! So we'll be in Nairobi Wednesday and Thursday, back with Diane, Alex, and PJ, and the other OCA Kenya group we went to Maasai Mara with. So that will be a huge last hurrah before our homecoming!!! I can't wait to be done with living out of a suitcase and all the nasty clothes I've been wearing for the last 2 months! And to walk into a bathroom anywhere and know there will be an actual toilet with TP! Hahaha. Really, it's not that big a deal because I've obviously adapted, but you do miss the little luxuries we take for granted in America! I know I'm going to get home and miss Kenya so much though! I really do love it here!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

still alive...

Jambo! I realize it's been quite awhile since I wrote. Life is busy here! In a nutshell, we finished up work at the orphanage and are now traveling! We were all very very sad to leave the kids at Huruma and are going to miss them a lot. It was definitely a life-changing experience being there and getting to know them.

Since we left Nkubu, our group's been dwindling a bit. 4 of the boys were planning to go climb Mt. Kenya but Chris threw his back out working so he and Dylan postponed that. We left Alex and PJ to go climb it (which we heard they did successfully) and they are now traveling to Tanzania to take on Kilimanjaro! Those boys are crazy-2 peaks in 2 weeks! And we definitely miss them! So on our first travel day the rest of us took a bus to Nairobi then an overnight train to Mombasa. The price was well worth the sleeping compartments for 17 hours-sitting on a bus would have been torture! We also went through Tsavo National Park so saw wildlife out the windows of the train in the daytime. The train was actually really fun; my first time on a long train ride. We're also going to take it back to Nairobi in the end. The 8 of us spent two nights in a hostel in Mombasa exploring the city a bit. Got my first look at the Indian Ocean! The coast is definitely tourist land, so it's been very nice not to be stared at and hassled wherever we go. Also there's pizza and ice cream around! Although the Swahili food on the coast is great and very healthy, so I've been sticking to that. It's a lot like Indian food, with tons of curry and stuff. We left Diane in Mombasa (she had other plans), and the now 7 of us took a 6 hour bus ride up to Lamu Island a few days ago, which is where we are now. I was so excited for Lamu and my excitement was totally justified. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT HERE. I think that it's probably my favorite place I've ever been in my life-so close to paradise. What it is is this awesome island archipelago right of the coast of Kenya which is considered one of the seats of Swahili culture. It's so unique because of the incredible mix of different cultures here. There are Africans, Indians, and Arabs who have all grown up here. Obviously, it's predominantly Muslim so we hear the "call to prayer" from the mosques in the morning and see lots of women in birkahs walking around. There are also lots of Rastafarian type people here who are all very interesting of course! The architecture of the town is just beautiful! These ancient open-air stone buildings with thatch roofs and carved wooden doors. We're staying in an actual Swahili house that they rent out to guests and it's the coolest place I've ever stayed in my life! I have lots of pictures to show when I get home of course. The beaches are also great here (although my sunburn's telling me otherwise right now) and yesterday we went out in a sailing dhow (old wooden Swahili fishing boat) for the day. Sailed around and stopped at another island beach, then had a wonderful lunch on the boat and swam around. Awesome. There are also so many beautiful things to buy here-great colorful fabrics and beaded jewelery and wood carving and everything! Yesterday the other girls and I all got our hands or feet henna tattooed. Hopefully it'll last until I'm home so everyone can see. So basically, I LOVE LAMU and I'm very very sad that we're leaving tomorrow!

But, there are definitely more adventures in store. Tomorrow we all take a bus back south to Mombasa, where Dylan and Chris will split off to go back to Mt. Kenya. (Chris's back is better thankfully.) Azim doesn't like the beach so he's staying in Mombasa, so it'll be down to just the 4 of us girls (Lisa, Bari, Kristie, and I). Those three happen to be my closest friends in the group so it's going to be an awesome time for us. We're going further south to Diani Beach and Tiwi Beach. Yep, we can't get enough of the beach. We'll be relaxing there for 5 days before we take the train back to Nairobi to reunite the group! All 10 of us will hopefully be back together for a couple days in Nairobi before flying home! August 10 is getting closer all the time and as ready as I will be to come home I'm going to miss Kenya a lot!

Salama rasta!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Maasai madness

Let me just say that this past weekend was INTENSE. We got up at 5:30am on Saturday to drive to Lake Nakuru. On the way we stopped at this gimmicky equator spot, and at Thomson's Falls, a beautiful waterfall in Nyahururu. Unfortunately both places were slightly tourist trap-y. But nice. Also our vans kept breaking down on the bumpy roads so we kept having to switch and stop and get out and everything. It was annoying. But definitely worth it once we got to Lake Nakuru and saw all the flamingos on the lake! Absolutely gorgeous. We also met up with Kenya I, the other OCA group working in Kisumu that came on the trip with us. It was fun to talk to some of them and see new faces, but our group is so much more tight knit than they are, that some of us kind of wished it was just us. You could tell that the other group was jealous of our hilarious group dynamic. They just have a lot of personality clashes and haven't been getting along well. Also, their leader is kind of high strung. I'm so grateful we have Chris as our leader, he is such an awesome laid back guy, always making sure we get things done but letting us have all the freedom we need to have a good time. Anyway, the first night in Nakuru we all stayed in this beautiful guest house in the park. Bari, Kristie, Lisa, Dylan, and I all grabbed the biggest bedroom and had such a good time just playing cards and laughing all night. The next day we left to drive to Maasai Mara and all of us got in the same van with Edward so that was awesome. It was a very very long drive, but we stopped at the Menengai Crater on the way for an excellent view of the Great Rift Valley. So gorgeous. We left there at about noon and didn't get to the Maasai Mara campsite until about 7 pm. We saw zebras, giraffes, impalas, and other animals just on the way there though, way outside the park, so that was cool. Also began to see lots of Maasai herders and villages. The campsite was great-nice permanent tents with beds in them that were actually more comfortable than the ones at our house! We ate a really late dinner and hung out for awhile. I shared a tent with Lisa so we got to talk a lot which was great because we hadn't really hadn't gotten to know each other as much yet. The two of us ended up hanging out with Chris, Kristie, Edward, and John (our tour guide) until way late at night and had a hilarious time. The next day was safari from 6am til 7pm, we went all over the park. Even got to cross into Tanzania! We saw tons of animals, but sadly the wildebeest migration hadn't made it there yet. Oh well, we saw a lioness with 3 cubs and 2 cheetahs about to hunt. And huge herds of zebras, elephants, wildebeests, giraffes, everything. So crazy. Unfortunately the next day I woke up with an upset stomach which made the ride home absolutely hellish. We left the park at 10am and didn't get home until 11pm between breakdowns, switching vans, stopping for food, and everything. It was seriously horrible to be nauseous for 13 hours on awful bumpy roads in a hot cramped van. The only thing that made it bearable was the fact that I love everyone in my group so much and we were able to laugh at the misery of our situation. But it was definitely worth it for the trip and all the good times we had. Thankfully I felt better today, it must have been something I ate. All in all an amazing 4 days, and brought us even closer as a group.

So we go back to work tomorrow and Friday then have a weekend around town, then one more week of work and we're done! So close! I'm going to try to spend as much time with the kids as possible in the next week and a half because I'm going to miss them so much! Travel week is going to be insanely awesome though, and then I will be home! I do really miss friends but I know that once I'm back I'm going to miss Kenya and my group just as much! The longer I'm here the more I think that I really would like to come back with the Peace Corps. Just as long as I'm teaching or doing community health, NOT manual labor like now, haha. I think it would be really great to teach English, that is if I continue with Swahili. Dylan's brother is in the PC in Uganda right now, and Chris is starting in November. We also met a Texan named Rob who's in the next village over. Everyone has only good things to say about it. Anyway, we'll see what happens, but right now I'm still having an awesome time!


Monday, July 9, 2007


Well well well. Kenya is still good, although at the moment I am ridiculously tired. Our weekend of staying in the village to relax was not quite relaxing enough. On Saturday we ended up meeting the construction workers at 10 to go see their houses and shambas (farms.) Turns out to get there we had to walk about 6km through the hills! So that was intense! Worth it though, since their homes were so beautiful! They're all neighbors with small farms (cows, chickens, maize, sugar cane, miraa, cassava, lots more.) One of the guys, James, has two wives, which is....interesting, to say the least. So we had tea and a snack then went off to walk down this steep trail to this gorgeous waterfall! Very pretty. Then 6km back home in the hot sun; needless to say, we were all exhausted when we got home. Relaxed for awhile, then at 4 we had to leave again to walk down the same road to meet another man for dinner! Thankfully we didn't have to walk quite as far. It was a really beautiful house too, the guy is really rich. He also had a tree nursery which was fun to see. They served us dinner and we tried to explain to them about snow, and skiing and sledding and all that. They just can't picture what our winters are like, it's so funny. They also invited a lot of their young neighbors so we talked to a bunch of Kenyans around our age. That was cool.

Sunday Chris and I went to church which was quite an experience. The service was in Kimeru, Kiswahili, and English. They kept switching back and forth and some translating. The songs were fun, although they weren't quite as lively as I had hoped. The sermon was good and enthusiastic, but the service was just so long! 3 hours! And of course we had to get up in front of the whole congregation and introduce ourselves and say what we were doing. It was a good thing though because just today a lot of people who saw us there stopped by the orphanage to say hi and see us working. We're hoping it might lead to some more funding for Edward and Huruma. Sunday night we just hung out and had a good dinner of spaghetti.

Today was back to work as usual, we're almost done with the walls of the dorm. I'm going back to the orphanage tonight to read and play with the kids. Bari and Kristie are cooking and supposedly they're concocting some type of dessert so I am excited! I miss chocolate!!!! We leave early this Saturday to go to Lake Nakuru (famous for rhinos and flamingos) and Maasai Mara National Reserve! Wildebeest migration and Maasai villages! And Edward, our host, is coming with us! So is the other OCA Kenya group (they're stationed in Kisimu) actually, so it will be awesome. Reunion of the wazungu! (the Swahili word for "white person" that everyone calls us). So yeah, working hard this week, then an amazing weekend! I can't wait!

Next post after I'm back from safari!

Friday, July 6, 2007

2 Ways To Know I'm In Kenya

1. Construction work at the orphanage was temporarily suspended today because of a huge mound of biting ants in the hole where we're building a wall.

2. This afternoon we stepped out of the town hospital onto the street and were immediately almost trampled by a massive herd of goats, cows, and bulls.

Oh my.

In case you're worried now, no one was bitten by ants or trampled by cows, and the only reason we went to the hospital was to get an earache prescription for my roomie. I just thought those were both funny examples of the fact that I'm actually here! Every now and then I have to remind myself again.

This week's been relatively normal, lots of construction, cooking/chores, playing with kids, teaching, and all that. The highlight was going out for a traditional Kenyan meal with our host for the 4th of July. The food was great, and everyone had an excellent time! Edward (host/orphanage founder) is one of the most hilarious men I have ever met in my life. He made Chris (our group leader) get up and give the whole restaurant a speech about what US Independence Day is. It seems like no matter how many times Chris has to get up and talk spontaneously he's always surprised by it, so his facial expressions are always priceless. After the restaurant we went to the bar and met 3 of the Kenyan construction workers doing the project with us. They're all great guys too. All in all an awesome night. Another highlight of work is playing with the 2 special ed boys at the orphanage while we do construction. The other kids are in school, but these two, Joel and John, are always around. They know limited English and have different mental disabilities (if i had to guess I'd say Joel is autistic and John has hardcore ADHD) , but they're so fun!!!!! They provide so much entertainment for us while we work, singing, dancing, stealing our tools, all this stuff. So funny, I love them.

We're staying around town this weekend, going to some people's houses and hopefully some of us to the Methodist Church on Sunday. I'm also looking forward to just sleeping in and hanging out as a group. Working and meeting people is great, but tiring!

We've made a basic plan for our group travel which I'm pumped about! After our farewell party on July 30 we'll be heading to Lake Naivasha in the Rift Valley for a couple nights, then straight to the coast! Mombasa and Lamu and that area for about a week, then Nairobi for two days before our flight! So excited for that and for Maasai Mara/Lake Nakaru next weekend! We're getting to see so much of the country in such a short time!

Well I must sign out, but thanks for reading, miss everyone!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

"The Real World: Kenya"

Hey everyone! So I'm at a different internet cafe and finally got this blog to work! Yay!
I can't write too much, but let me just say that Kenya is awesome! It's so different from anywhere I've ever been, it's like a different planet. The 10 of us in our group all live in this awesome little house on the grounds of a Catholic boys' high school. It's a pretty nice setup-4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, kitchen, common room, and porch. We take turns cooking on a gas burner and doing chores and all that. My 2 roommates, Bari and Kristie, are wonderful and hilarious and I know we're going to be friends for a long time after this. Work hard, play harder, that's our motto here.
We get up at 7 every day and start construction work at the orphanage at 8. We're digging ditches, mixing cement, carrying stones, and basically building a whole new dormitory for the boys there. It's hard work, but thankfully the Kenyan construction workers do all the skilled stuff and we're just the grunts. It's really physically demanding but we usually get done by 1pm. After lunch we have more choices of what to do; we can just chill at the house, go to the orphanage to play with the kids, go to Meru (15km away) to use the internet and do errands, other stuff like that. We also have lots of opportunities to visit the local elementary school and help out there. I've been twice and both times the teachers have basically just left us in charge of their classes! So I've taught first and second graders math, English, science, even some Swahili! Thankfully we have workbooks to use and aren't just coming up with it ourselves!
Most of the adults here are very welcoming and appreciative although we do get a ton of attention and weird looks and people hassling us for money being the only white people in the village. The kids, however, are completely amazing and I love them soooo much! They're all so sweet and playful and always smiling! I love just teaching them, playing with them, and taking pictures! The minute you bust out a camera they go crazy! Being with the kids is definitely the best part of the project, as I knew it would be.
This past weekend we went to Samburu National Park for a 2 day safari. It was awesome! We saw almost every animal you'd think of-lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards, baboons, monkeys, crocodiles, everything!!!! I got tons of awesome footage and pictures of the animals and the beautiful landscape. We stayed in tents right by the river and it was gorgeous. While we were on a drive baboons actually broke into our tent and messed up all our stuff! Hahaha, good think they didn't take anything, just made a mess. I'm learning to be much more adaptable to being in the wilderness, getting dirty, camping, lack of toilets everywhere you go, etc. Fun times, oh my. In a couple weeks we're going to Maasai Mara National Park for 4 days to see the famous wildebeest migration! I'm so excited! We're getting to do lots of travel on the weekends which is great! Tomorrow we're going out to dinner with our host and his family to celebrate the 4th of July. I taught at the school this morning, then jumped on a matatu (tiny bus) with Kristie to come here and email. We're going back soon and I think I'll go to the orphanage before dinner to play with the kids. The days are long but immensely satisfying! I do miss everyone but I am having the most eye-opening experiences here every day. Seriously, traveling is the best education you can ever give yourself.
Well, paying by the minute means I should get off but I miss everyone and will try to write more soon!
Kwa herini! (Goodbye!)

Monday, June 18, 2007


Hey everyone! Training is really great so far; everyone in my group is awesome. We have five guys and five girls, 7 of us are in our early 20s, 2 are in their early 30s and 1 woman is 52. She's brave! I'm sure some things will get on my nerves but they all seem pretty cool so far. We've just been getting a lot of lectures and stuff about multiculturalism. Useful, but I wanna get there! Really, there isn't much to say yet, so I will peace out and write in this next time from Kenya!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

leaving on a jet plane

There's a line of one of my new favorite songs, "Junkyard" by Page France, that's constantly running through my head lately.

"...And you were told to glow majestically and love until your hands bleed."

Wow. To me that's just the great commission right there in modern poetry. Beautifully true. It's a righteous idea, wanting to go and help people halfway around the world, but the closer it comes the more ominous it looks. I mean, if my back hurt after just trying on my 40 pound hiking backpack, how am I going to carry it up the second tallest mountain in Africa? How am I going to react to the kids who live with almost nothing? I guess the biggest thing I'm scared of is just doing a bad job. I'm afraid I won't be up for it physically or mentally, that I won't be able to keep up with the crazy pace and rustic conditions, that I'll realize this isn't what I'm meant to do. This is a huge experiment determining the direction of my entire future. When I think of that, I get terrified. But I know that everything is in God's hands. I'm going because He wanted me to. I just pray that I really can set myself aside this summer and pour my whole body, mind, and soul into helping these kids; they're the real reason I'm going. I'm trying really hard to remember that it's not about me.

Final preparations have been stressful-my video camera broke two days ago and I had to hurriedly find a solution for that. I was about ready to tear my hair out. Not a good sign for my prospects in Kenya if I get so crazed by something like that. Take it all in stride, that's what I need to do. Anyway, I'm mostly packed, and I fly back to Long Island tomorrow for a few days of training. I'm very excited to meet the group. I'm nervous about liking them although logically I know they all have to be awesome people to be doing Crossroads in the first place. It will great to be among my own kind, aka more world-saving hippies. I can't wait! So I will be leaving the country on Tuesday night-7 hour flight to London, then a 9-hour flight to Nairobi. Spending the night in Nairobi then catching a bus to Nkubu then next day. I'll post an address when I get it, I would LOVE postcards/letters. Also, if YOU would like a postcard from Kenya, kindly email me your address and I will try to oblige.

So this may be it until I get there, we'll see if I have time to update during training. I like blogging and I tend to ramble on, hopefully it will get more exciting but I apologize anyway. For now, please pray for my back because it really does have problems and it's going to be a long two months if it's hurting all the time. I'm a wimp, I know. I'll leave you with this from Switchfoot:

"The tension is here between who you are and who you could be, between how it is and how it should be. I dare you to move like today never happened before."