Several packs, Wishing to be polygamists, and Fatty legs

Posted in Kenya on August 5, 2013 by globalbumblebuzz

Hi hi y’all,

Back with some short but wonderful stories after my second week here in Nairobi. Many of these are from my wonderful friend who has collected these gems from work over the past few months.

Several packs

I love the way that different idioms translate. There was the case a few years ago when we collected stories of how the phrase “don’t bullshit me” translates into different languages (“don’t make me wise with blown up condoms” was the best).  Recently, I’ve been telling my coworker about a hot guy back home and she said, “Oh, I think he must have several packs”. Several packs? I asked her what she meant. She pointed to her abs. “A six pack?” I asked. “Yes, we call it several packs as opposed to just one pack,” which is apparently just a beer belly. What a phenomenal phrase.

“I wish to be a polygamist”

My friend’s job did an icebreaker activity at her work where each person introduces themselves and says one thing that other people don’t know about them. Similar to the icebreaker “two truths and a lie”. One of the quietest men stood up and said, “My name is X, and what you do not know about me is that I wish to be a polygamist”, and then sat down quietly. Best intro EVER!

Bad fringe and Fatty legs

I really like that most Kenyans do not have an hang-ups about commenting on your body or appearance (see “heavy bones” for another example). It makes for more honest communication and some great stories. My same friend was told at work that if she were Kenyan, she would be from western Kenya because she has, “nice, fatty legs”. Seriously? The girl is a runner and super slim and there is nothing “fatty” about her. The slightly nicer caveat that was added was that her legs would not snap if she tried to climb a mountain. This makes things slightly better, I think?

Last time I was here, I had an experience with bad fringe (bangs). I usually wear my bangs pinned back here as it’s a bit easier to manage but wore them down one day and my teammates told me that they  didn’t recognize me with my bangs and had no idea who I was. I found this most hilarious because most of the women in the office had changed their hair dramatically within the past few weeks. Like from short bob to long braids over night. The next day I wore my bangs back again and my teammates told me that they were so glad that I had fixed my hair this way again because I looked “so much younger and nicer without fringe. The fringe was not very nice.” Good to know. Needless to say, I started growing out my fringe a few months before departing on this current trip and have had compliments on my hair looking nice now 🙂

Yoga is like…

This past Saturday, Angela and I went to a community yoga class at the Shine Center through the Africa Yoga Project. The center runs smaller classes during the week and charges for them but on Saturdays they host a free, donation-based community yoga class. This class is open to anyone of any ability and usually has over 200 people in attendance.  I’d estimate that >80% of the class attendees are Kenyan and during introductions of new attendees, several people mentioned that they were from the big slum here in Nairobi, called Kibera. In addition to teaching classes at the center, this organization teaches Kenyans to be yoga instructors and lead classes in their communities; many of the teachers are from Kibera and teach in Kibera, which I really appreciate.

Now, frankly, I find a lot of people who are super “into” yoga to be obnoxious. SUPER obnoxious. But if all yoga is like this, then I totally totally get why people act that way. The class itself was INCREDIBLE. Super challenging and motivating and I felt phenomenal with every awkward twist and reach and squat and bend. There were many super hot assistants floating around and adjusting our sweaty selves, pushing us to stretch even further; even in a class of 200, this experience felt oddly intimate and Angela and I were both confused and enthralled. I can count the number of times I’ve tried yoga on one hand, so I don’t have a massive sample size to compare this to, but there was something really special about this class.  We were each asked to pick one one word to describe the experience at the end and I honestly picked “blissful”. Ugh, I am one of those obnoxious yoga people, but it was truthful.

The bliss, however, passed. RAPIDLY. The next morning I woke up and hurt ALL OVER like I have never hurt before. I could barely move my leg enough to roll my body enough to fall out of the bed. Using abs or arms to sit up was totally out of the question. I felt like I had been punched all over my entire body and was heavily bruised. It HURT. One hot shower later, I could move a bit, still without using my core, and then tied myself into a chair so that I could do work and sit upright without using any muscles. Today is now the end of Monday and it still hurts to move, and I have put a moratorium on anything funny in the house because my abs hurt too much if I laugh.

Angela was and is similarly in pain. She eloquently described the experience as follows, “Yoga is like… sex with strangers. You feel great at the time, but then you feel terrible afterwards.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Well, folks, short bumblebuzz this time so that I can get back to working on work work! I’m thrilled to say that after 2.5 years of trying we finally FINALLY got a small pot of money to start my PhD dissertation project and I’m ecstatic to be working towards the goal of enrolling!!!

Much love from freezing cold (aka 60 degree) Nairobi,

A

Baptist, Bedbugs, and Big Bones

Posted in Kenya on July 28, 2013 by globalbumblebuzz

Hey y’all,

Well, it’s been a fantastic first week in Nairobi and I am happy to say that I’m no longer backwards, jetlagged, or confused (well, no more than I usually am while traveling). I’m working like a madwoman on projects for work, but figured I’d share a few quick stories from week 1.

Baptist

I am thrilled that I didn’t write about this in January when it first happened because now I can write about it NOW and enjoy the thrill all over again! Most of you who have seen me since my trip in January know that I have become thoroughly obsessed with Baptist aerobics. Nairobi Baptist church is right next door to me (we are serenaded by very earnest and LOUD praising many times a day, many days a week) and they have a Ladies Aerobics Class that I started attending.

Now, I have to give a massive shout out to Kara, who turned me onto this fabulous community in January and has written far more eloquently than me about all the benefits of going to Baptist aerobics and even included pictures of our wonderful workout room with the “Jesus loves you” mural: http://karasinkenya.blogspot.com/2012/11/that-i-dont.html Now that we go to Baptist aerobics, it is much easier to answer the frequently occurring and never less awkward question of, “Mzungu, what church do you go to?” Yesterday, the taxi driver that helped us take our groceries home asked me what church I went to and I was happy to be able to tell him that I go to Nairobi Baptist, which is not untrue! I do go to Nairobi Baptist, just not for worship.

Many have asked, “what’s the difference between Baptist aerobics and non-Baptist aerobics?” Well, for one, there’s the music. We bounce around to Christian rock and a lot of it is sung with a US southern accent (which is humorous when the instructors repeat lyrics as part of our prayer-ful reflection period. They put a lot of emphasis on the word “ain’t”, which sounds far more lovely with a Kenyan accent). There is also a theme for each 2-3 month module, complete with bible verses and instructor teachings/insights. In January the theme was “I’m all in”. I actually liked it a lot and found it helpful as I committed to working 100% on my yet unfunded dissertation project. This module has several themes (I don’t remember all 5 of them) but I’ll update y’all as we talk more about them.

After we bounce around to 15 aerobics routines, we do mat work and work with really strong elastic bands. My arms and chest and abs were UNREASONABLY sore after our first session on Tuesday. This mzungu needs to get into shape!!!

At the beginning and end of our session we all pray together and take prayer requests (which Kara described beautifully in her post). I always try to avert my eyes and not get called on to lead the prayer, but in February I didn’t look away fast enough and the instructor asked me to lead the prayer. AWKWARDNESS ENSUED! I was a bit stunned and didn’t know what to do (the praying in Baptist aerobics is INTENSE and FAST and punctuated with a million “Oh, Lord!”, “Jesus, my lord and savior”, “heavenly father”, etc. and you can’t fake that stuff easily. After an awkward moment I said that I don’t actually know how to pray but could I listen this time and learn in the future? The atheist reveals herself! Oh no! The instructor was extremely gracious and had no problem with my awkward request. I have since not been called on to lead the prayer. Phew!

All of that being said, I think that Baptist aerobics is my favorite part about living in Nairobi. I really love the community of women (Kara and I were the only non-Kenyans in the group until my roommates joined), the diversity in age, body shape and ability, and the truly warm welcome and acceptance that this group provides. I have had 2 experiences in my life where I’ve actually looked forward to exercising; one was learning to run on the red dirt road with Karen in Ghana (which then translated to running on the red dirt road in Bondo several years later), and the second has been Baptist aerobics. In both cases, I was with strong, compassionate women who were encouraging and challenging and helped me feel great living and moving in the skin I’m in. Thank you, Nairobi Baptist Ladies!

Bedbugs

Yup, unfortunately there are some bedbugs in my life. Unfortunate, difficult to deal with, but not the worst thing that’s happend. I’ll try to upload a picture soon of the 60+ bites that I got on nights #1 and 3 of my time here. I do have to say that the management here has been super responsive and fumigated our place very quickly, so I think that everything’s under control now. I have never in my life been so thankful for anti-itch cream as I am these days. I slather that stuff on like it’s going out of style and am miserable on days when I forget to pack it on my way to work. Short and random story, but what is the bumblebuzz if not random stories?

Big Bones

At Baptist aerobics, our instructors have started doing fitness assessments including weight, height, waist-to-hip ratio and next week we’ll do push ups and sit ups. It feels a bit like elementary school gym class, which is actually pretty fun. I always enjoyed climbing the rope (but was also ashamed when I could not do a single pull up on the bar). We’ll see where my baseline abs are at and what they can do when I leave in September!

[I preface this part of the story by saying that it’s taken a few years and a few strong and inspiring women to get to this point, but I’ve finally come to be happy in my body. That transformation was mostly mental and I’m exceptionally thankful for the women who helped me get there. So, this next part of the story is not about body insecurity but rather about cultural differences and sheer hilariosity.] During the weight taking portion, the instructor weighed me and then looked at me and cried, “Ah! 53 kgs? You must have heavy bones!!” What is THAT supposed to mean? I told her that my bones were probably not abnormally heavy but that I do have a pretty massive butt. The ladies standing nearby found pretty hilarious.

Miscellaneous stories:

Food is good, but don’t feed a Kenyan man a meat-less meal. We’ve been eating some pretty delicious food since I got here. Buying food with my roommates and cooking whatever we feel like eating is awesome. Kara had me over for dinner on my first full day in Nairobi and we had absurdly delicious empanadas with butternut squash, kale, and onions; black beans in a coconut sauce; tilapia with pan-grilled tomatoes; and salad with a wealth of veggies and balsamic vinaigrette. It was unreasonably delicious. Last night I made Goan fish curry (but had no tamarind pods or green mango, which made it decidedly less awesome) and spinach, which was a fun experiment.

A few nights ago my roommate’s friend came over for dinner and I made coconut curry with cabbage, carrots, onions, ginger, garlic, lime, spices, etc. and some rice. Our guest informed us that we were pretty lucky because if you tried to serve MOST Kenyan men a meal without meat, they would walk out the door 🙂 He was pretty gracious and openminded for eating this rabbit food. I asked if things would be better if we added kuku (chicken). Nope. Chicken is basically a vegetable, he told us. But FISH, now FISH is a meat. Well, Paul, next time we will have a big ol’ platter of grilled meat so that you can stay for dinner 🙂

White people hit every beat. I had my first ever night out in Nairobi this weekend. All the gals here decided we needed a guy-less night and so we scheduled our first (hopefully of many) girls’ night out. We went to a bar/dance club place that was mad swanky. They had delicious chocolate cake and cocktails (my lychee mojito was kickass and Angela and Kristin’s espresso martinis were bomb). While we were working up the courage to go dance, one of the gals from our group told us how her coworker told her that all white people dance the same way. How is that?” Apparently, white people hit every beat of the music. We laughed a bit, not thinking much of the gross generalization, and then watched two white guys dance. OH MY GOSH. THEY HIT EVERY SINGLE BEAT OF THE BUMPING CLUB MUSIC WITH THEIR HEADS. It provided endless amusement throughout the night.

Chunks in cream (or milk) are never nice. Buying fresh dairy is a challenge that I’ve faced far too often in Nairobi. Milk from a bag, even after boiling, still tastes sort of gamey and fresh milk in a carton is highly questionable. My roommates bought some cream for their coffee and when they opened it, it was a bit chunky. No problem! Just shake it up and drink up! Angela kept saying how “nice” the chunks tasted in the coffee. They just made it taste so good! The next day they were both sick and blamed that chunky cream. Yesterday we went to the grocery store and Kristen bought some milk for coffee. Today she opened it up and found some chunkiness on the top. They debated shaking it up and trying it. No. The answer is NO. Chunks in dairy are NEVER “nice”. I offered to pour it out and upon turning the bottle upside down, a bit of clear liquid came out and then nothing came out. The entire bottle was a solid block of chunk. So, kids, the moral of the story is, chunks in dairy are NEVER “nice”.

That’s all for now, folks. Tune in next week for another installment of the bumblebuzz!

Much love,

A

Remember, we’re all backwards…

Posted in Kenya on July 22, 2013 by globalbumblebuzz

Hi Folks,

Looks like I have a few more minutes of awake time on this first day back in Nairobi for a quick post about my first day. The theme of today is that everything is backwards. I often forget this but am quickly reminded each time I come to Kenya.

My body is backwards because the time is exactly 10 hours different from Seattle. I arrived last night at the airport and after a good catch up with new roommate and new neighbor I fell fast asleep at 11pm. I was up at 2am with my body telling me that it was time to get UP! and be ACTIVE! and move AROUND! Hush, body, hush. You are backwards. My stomach was also confused. I was ravenous at 2am. Luckily new roommate had a tupperware of rice. A plate of rice and butter later, my body was even more convinced that it was MORNING TIME! Time for UP! UP! UP! Hush body, go to sleep, you are backwards.

The streets are backwards and I am nearly hit by a car as I walk to the supermarket. This is the fastest way to remind myself that I’m on the other side of the world. Nearly becoming roadkill has a way of hammering in a message that was previously overlooked. I also try to get into the drivers seat of the taxi at the airport and I try to walk on the right side of the sidewalk. Go to sleep feet, you are backwards.

The seasons are backwards. After sweltering days of near 100 degrees F and absurd amounts of humidity in Boston, which followed sweltering days and lots of sun in Seattle (SHOCKER! we actually DO get sun, but don’t tell anyone!), the temperature here is a nice chilly mid-70s. This is terribly confusing for my silly body which is used to sun dresses and ponytails. Get used to long pants and sweaters, body, you are backwards.

And despite all of this backwardness, I remember Nairobi and feel like I’m coming home after a week away. I remember the random corner of the grocery store where the powdered milk is kept, the shortcut paths from my apartment (even with the construction), the few Swahili phrases that I picked up in January. I remember the feel of the bumpy, red dusty roads on the way to the nursery, the way through the roundabouts to the office, the slight speech adjustments (whereby someone “picks you” from the airport instead of “picks you up”).

Yes, this is now backwards, but after a good night’s sleep I’ll be back right side up on a new side of the world and I could not be happier.

Looking forward to more bumble buzzing!

Much love,

A

 

On the road again

Posted in Kenya on July 22, 2013 by globalbumblebuzz

Hi Folks!

Has it really been nearly 2 YEARS since my last post? That’s just insanity. Clearly I’ve been globetrotting in the interim, but somehow I haven’t managed to write and post during those travels. I’ve started far too many posts and never actually finished and posted them. Let’s change that now.

I find myself back in the same place that I was when I drafted the below post in January. Back in Nairobi, Kenya. Back for 2 months again. For tonight, I’ll just post these two old posts. Hopefully there will be new stories and adventures to share as this two month trip gets going!

**Post from January’s trip**

I’m back in Kenya and have been enjoying every second of this two month trip. Despite having been here for 7 weeks now, I haven’t written any updates, which is quite strange for me. A few who subscribe to the bulblebuzz have asked about the radio silence and whether the subscription tool no longer works, but it’s really just a lack of posts.

This entry will be hopefully a bit of reflection on this trip and why I haven’t felt the need to post until now. I think it mostly boils down to the fact that life is easy in Nairobi; I have friends, food, conveniences, etc. that make life really easy and familiar. I find that the trials of day to day life, or the loneliness, (or sometimes just food) make me want to share stories, but when things are familiar and easy there’s not too much that I find share-worthy. Or maybe I just grew very very lazy since the last trip 🙂

Nairobi has all the food a girl could want!

While in Bondo I enjoyed trying all of the various ways a chicken could be cooked (roasted, fried (which is just fried a little longer than the ‘roasted’ chicken), dry fried, wet fried, with chips, without chips, etc.) and learned to eat green gram mindfully (to find the many small stones so that teeth were not chipped) and looked forward to deciding how my morning eggs would be cooked, here I can buy and cook or order pretty much whatever food I want. Nakumatt, the big grocery-store/superstore that is frighteningly similar to Walmart in its selection of additional stuffs to buy, has pretty much every food a girl could want. I was SHOCKED to find prewashed, organic lettuces for $1.2 USD (lettuce was a major no-no in Western Kenya), a wide variety of yogurts (I was able to find yogurt once in two months in Western Kenya), and umpteen types of CHEESE! (to be fair, all the cheese I’ve tried besides Brown’s cheese is truly horrible tasting, but Brown’s is delish!).

We cook all sorts of exciting foods here — coconut curry with chicken and every sort of veggie imaginable with jasmine rice and fresh lime-drenched salad on the side, homemade pizza with dough by Kristjana and all sorts of delicious sauteed veggies on top, fish with curry yogurt sauce and spinach (made twice due to popular demand), stir fried chicken noodles with eggs and peppers, beet and feta salad with vinaigrette, lasagna with hidden surprises, banana bread by Kristjana, and GRILLED CHEESE sandwiches (with Heinz, duh). We can also go out for dinner and find Kenyan, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Indian, Chinese, Lebanese, American, Korean, and Japanese cuisine. I’ve also mapped out all of the places along the way to work and the grocery store that sell roasted corn (nom nom nom) and fresh avocados. We can also eat (and do eat) all sorts of fruits: pineapples, mangos, papaya, tree tomatoes, apples, pears, oranges, litchis, bananas, yellow passion (fruit), black passion (fruit), custard apple, melons (thorny and smooth) and others that I’m likely forgetting a this time.

Needless to say, I am now well fed and happy.

But I did have a horror story worthy experience during the first week I was here. I attribute this horror story to the fact that I was alone as none of my friends from the US had arrived yet and I hadn’t met my friends at work. This is the story of the Rancid chicken:

Rancid Chicken

On my first trip to the supermarket (second day in town and so proud of myself for finding it on my own!) I decided to get a chicken to roast or make soup with and get some of the basics — fruit, veggies, cheese, milk, etc. I went to one of the meat counters at the local grocery store (not Nakumatt) and got a full chicken, some milk in a bag, and a danish gouda with cumin seeds. I was so excited! I returned to our apartment and unwrapped the chicken. An overwhelming stench of AWFUL filled the room. Ewwwwwww! Don’t be a spoiled American, Anjuli. It probably just needs a rinse and then will be fine. *Rinse chicken, sniff again, stench burns my nostrils* Nuts. Well, really it is probably just some bacteria on the surface, so why don’t I skin the chicken, rub some lemon juice on it, and see how it is. *do all those things, sniff again and wish I could die*. Darn, chicken is still realllllllllly bad smelling. Don’t give up, Anjuli. Don’t be a spoiled American brat. Just boil the chicken for an hour because no amount of bacteria can withstand an hour of boiling, right? (I don’t actually know if this is true but I tried to convince myself of it). *put the chicken in a pot of water and start boiling with a little salt, return after chicken has been boiling for 15 minutes to find thick grey brown foam covering the top of the massive pot and find the whole room REEKING of rancid chicken, try to skim off the foam but abandon project after determined foam stays in its pot and my gag reflex is too strong to stay in the room*.

I threw away the chicken 😦 I felt like a terrible terrible person wasting a perfectly good, moderately rancid, truly foul fowl. Little did I know that there was nowhere to empty the trash until someone came to pick it up on Monday morning (this was Saturday afternoon) so the partially cooked carcass continued to fester in the warm trashcan until then. Foul Fowl.

 

**Post from 2 years ago**

No Good, All Bad and Hella Ugly (aka This is How I Whine…) (Kenya IX)

Hey Y’all,

Today is dedicated to whining/bitching/moaning/just generally being negative. Jake praised me before for my ‘remarkable ability to pull the positive out of any situation’, which I appreciate and generally try to keep up. But sometimes the proverbial shit just hits the fan and I need to have a good cry and whining session. **SPOILER ALERT: THIS POST IS THOROUGHLY NEGATIVE AND HAS VERY LITTLE REDEEMING ABOUT IT. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SKIP IT AND RETURN TO THE BUMBLEBUZZ ONLY WHEN IT IS NICE AND HAPPY AGAIN**

Death:

In the past week I have seen and heard of lotsa death. First I saw the bloated, dead rat, floating in a puddle after the torrential rains. It was gross, akin to the bloated rat I encountered in India, and made me sad.  Then I was walking to work when I saw a roadkill dog on the busy road by my home. It’s body was there but it’s head was across the road. Gross. Also sad. Third was when I was walking home that day and got all excited because I saw a little fluffball of a chick on the path near my home and ran up to see it, only to see that its neck was twisted in a unnatural way. It, too, was dead. Then tonight I looked out my window and saw the chef’s machete come down onto a squacking chicken’s neck… He held down the body for a few minutes while the other chef picked up the still moving head and laughed at it. Lotsa suuuuper red blood and twitching. (Positive side note: at least we know the chicken I eat is local, fresh, and free range).

The saddest death of all though happened the other day when a man was brought to the hospital on a stretcher. My friend explained to me that he had been beaten for stealing a hen (which costs MAXIMUM $2.50 around here) and that ‘mob justice’ had taken place. I asked if he’d be okay and my friend assured me that he’d be fine. Half an hour later my friend was chatting with a group who told her that the man had died. Seriously? Beaten to DEATH for stealing a HEN? I’m having a hard time with the fact that I kept on working that day, pretty effectively, and that it hasn’t torn me up as much as it used to/I expected it to/I somehow hoped it would. I’ve talked with my fellow classmates here in Kenya, and my parents about this issue of desensitization and how it can be helpful for being able to actually do your work so that changes are made so stuff like this doesn’t happen, but at the same time it makes me feel like I’m trading deep empathetic compassion for efficiency and I don’t really know how to deal with this.

 

Back to the present day: Hopefully the next posts will be far more fun and upbeat than this one, but it’s good to see the tough times as well as the lovely ones. 

Thanks to y’all for keeping up with the Bumblebuzz!

A

Building Small Town Security and Baby Elephants!! (Kenya VIII)

Posted in Kenya on August 10, 2011 by globalbumblebuzz

Hey Y’all,

So this week I moved to my new digs in an even smaller town in Western Kenya for my second month here. I’m enjoying my third day here and am getting used to being more alone than I was in my last small town (where the Canadians kept me happy and laughing). I really like my co-workers and have been spending lots of time chatting with the hotel staff here, so I’m not ALONE alone here, which I remind myself.

I went out today to get a feel for the town and learn some of the back roads out to the rural areas to scout out running paths. I also went out to start building small town security. I’ve realized that when I arrive in a new small town there’s a bit of a routine that I do to hopefully make my time there very safe. It comes down to a few basic actions:

– Learn who the the town crazy is and where he/she lives (Check. He lives by the bridge on my way to the hospital. He has a tent and a pile of dirty shoes, which he talks to–loudly. The town crazy in Ghana was also on the road to work, but instead of old shoes, he collected things to burn… and laugh at)

– Find out where the bars are (aka where the older men drink and get rowdy) and avoid them (Check. Found one of them and will continue to keep an eye out). If you are in a super rural area, learn who the town drunk is and practice a few choice phrases to get out of long, awkward conversations with him (i.e. Mzungu, where do babies come from?).

– Make friends with a dominant woman who knows the whole town (Check. Hotel Lady is the bomb. I convinced her to walk with me to a few places around town, including the fish market and a few little convenience stores, and she greeted everyone and their brother and basically gave the air of  ‘don’t mess with this mzungu or you’ll have me to deal with’). This one may be the best security measure I take.

– Take walks around the town and greet as many people as possible. But it is important to greet different people different ways.  Greet every old lady and old man that comes your way with your best attempt at the local language (excited hand gestures optional). They are the ones who will protect you if the town crazy comes to bug you or any guys get too friendly. Greet the children too, especially if they are around their moms, and make sure they are looking for you on the way back from your run. They are the ones that will notice if the mzungu has been gone for too long.  When the groups of younger guys inevitably try to talk to you, greet them too, but with an unenthused voice and without making eye contact or encouraging further conversation.

– Spend some time in the market getting to know a few ladies who sell produce (the point at a fruit and ask the name game is a good icebreaker here). They’ll help you find the really good mangoes and let you know if someone is trying to rip you off.

So that’s the plan for this next week. Build my sense of security in this small town an have a blast while doing it. I think that this may be the first time ever that I’ve had to get to know a new place entirely without other foreigners with me. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a step that I’m looking forward to taking!

Here’s the random stories section (because the bumblebuzz really is not complete without it):

SPARLETTA STONEY TANGAWIZI 

Is this not the best name for a soda EVER?!??!? It’s a ginger beer that I’ve been drinking every night lately (tummy was funny the past few days but now is fine) and I just wanted to share that… If anyone’s looking for a unique baby name, this one puts Apple or God to shame.

BABIES FEEDING BABIES

Last week in my first little town, I walked by the cutest scene EVER. Two toddlers were feeding two ducklings and I nearly died from cuteness overload. You know how babies concentrate so hard when they are learning to do fine motor skills? Like picking up duckling food and throwing it at ducklings? Yeah, that’s the cuteness that makes me melt. That combined with the unsteadiness on their feet as they learn to walk and the arm that stays held up above their head because watching ducklings and bringing their arm down would be too much… Oh man. Babies.  (Poor Jake is probably groaning as he reads this… watch out, Jake, six years more and I’ll start asking for one of my own!)

MOSQUITO GRAVEYARD ART

I’ve started making art on my walls out of mosquito corpses. This little town is much flatter and prone to flooding (and therefore more standing water pools for mosquito breeding) than my last little town and as a result there are just wayyyy wayyy more mosquitoes here. I take my antimalarials religiously, spray on the DEET like it’s going out of style and smack the little buggers on whatever flat surface they are on, leaving their corpses as warnings to any other bug that dares to enter my room. It has started to form a sort of abstract modern art on my walls and I quite like it. I will ask Laura and Kara to photograph it when they come to visit and will post some pics here.

SPEAKING of Laura and Kara, I want to give a shout out to their amazing blogs that they are keeping while here:

Kara is at: http://karasinkenya.blogspot.com/

 

 

Laura is at: http://lauranew22.wordpress.com/

They are both amazing writers and have far more pictures of our adventures than I do, especially of the BABY ELEPHANTS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Check out their blogs for pictures of the cutest animals the world has ever seen! 

That’s the bumblebuzz for now folks. As always, love the notes, the posts, the comments and the reads. Thinking of you all and looking forward to my trip home in just 3 short weeks!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lull… (Kenya VII)

Posted in Kenya on August 6, 2011 by globalbumblebuzz

Hey Y’all,

Been quite a while since I updated this thing, though I’ll try to keep this brief because I have too much work to do and too little time to do it in, but am just BURSTING with a few (most likely mediocre) stories. Jake left last Sunday after an amazing whirlwind adventure of a week and I hope you all will read his reflection. Because he was able to offer such a gorgeous piece on stuff we did while here, I’ll keep this post about little random things that have happened since he left.

The storm, the drunk, and the baby

I was on a run the other day down the famous red red path (where boyfriend Jake stood in this pic) when my new friend, Regina, called me over and let me hold her ADORABLE two month old baby, Anne. I sat down with them, all sweaty, cuddling baby Anne who is swaddled in every sort of blanket and piece of clothing imaginable to combat the “cold” weather (aka 70 degrees) this winter and a drunk man came over and told me to give him money. I told him that, as I was out exercising, I did not have money. He then told me that he was hungry (I suspect he had spent all of his money on liquor) and I told him that I only had a baby, and would he like to eat Anne. He didn’t seem to find this too funny, but it did inspire him to ask, “Mzungu, where do babies come from?” To this, lovely question, I told him that as it was past working hours, I was not giving health talks anymore. Eventually he left when no one would talk to him any more.

At that point, Regina looked at the sky, saw that it was about to rain and told me in a frantic voice that I had to get back home before it rained!!! The sky was pretty ominous; it was this super saturated slate blue on one side of the sky but still golden yellow on the other. This produced a really cool effect where the background was super intense and dark but all of the leaves that were still getting the last rays of sun from the other side of the sky were a brilliant golden color. Pretty pretty.

I started walking home, after snuggling baby Anne one last time, and a tornado-like wind started up, pushing me around and making my ponytail do all sorts of acrobatics. The wind pushed one of the nearby trees into the electrical wires, which resulted in a big spark above my head (I instinctively covered it and everyone else on the road laughed at the silly mzungu). I made it back to the hotel safe and sound and super energized from the power of this gorgeous storm. It reminded me of how my dad and I used to watch thunder and lightning storms from our porch when I was little and I felt all warm and fuzzy, despite actually being damp from rain, sweaty from running and pretty smelly in general.

Spiders

Those of you who have read the spider stories from Ghana, you’ll know how much I absolutely and utterly detest arachnids. They make me feel disgusting and itchy and creeped out and scream terrible combinations of obscenities while scratching myself and breathing heavily. One of the first ways in which Jake stole my heart was by killing spiders in my room back in Seattle 🙂 I unfortunately have had two recent run-ins with the creepy buggers.

The first was actually less terrible than the second. This requires a bit of explanation about the way that Kenyan doors (at least in Bondo) lock to understand the full creepy-osity of this encounter. Kenyan doors have a flap that covers a hole that you stick your hand through to reach an internal bolt that you can simply close or can close and then bolt with a padlock. It’s actually a pretty ingenious idea because you can’t get lock cutters through this hole and maneuver them up to the padlock to break in. There’s even a little metal basket below the bolt so that if you drop your key while opening or closing the door it just falls into the little basket and can be retrieved easily.

So, I was opening one of these doors (looking like an idiot as I did it super clumsily) and when I swung it open I saw that a MASSIVE wolf spider was perched RIGHT ABOVE where my hand had previously been. I freaked out, screamed obscenities, danced around and then Sophie came and asked what had happened. I showed her the terrible beast and she laughed and said she could kill it with her finger. She picked up a piece of wood and tried to stab it, but it ran behind another piece of the door. She told me it was gone. True, it was gone, but it was not DEAD and that was the intended action that she had promised. I just refrained from touching that door the rest of the day.

Later that day, I had to pee and went into Maggot Latrine and had terrible encounter numero dos. Maggot Latrine also takes some explaining. Now, I actually like latrines or squatty potties. They are usually simple, a little stinky, but more environmentally friendly than their western water wasting counterparts in the U.S. I don’t have a problem with latrines in general. That being said, there is a latrine that I use that is beyond disgusting, that reeks to high heaven (I smell like it for a full 10 minutes afterwards), that has nests of hatching flies in webs all over its walls, that has a far too high mound of waste below that is moving because it is half waste and half larvae. This latrine has its own soundtrack, which I have titled “Dance of the Maggots”, because it is a combo of buzzing and mushing that is produced as the maggots writhe around down there. There are also clouds of flies which fly around and bounce off my bum when I use it. Not a great peeing experience but I usually deal.

Yesterday I went into Maggot Latrine (after asking those around me to pray for my speedy return), and while I was mid-pee, I saw the most terrifying thing moving on the wall next to me. It was orange, black, white, and brown, horned but also hairy, moving with an unpredictable run and hop type thing and generally looking TERRIFYINGLY MENACING. It was a spider. Nuts. There was an epic standoff. He knew I had business to finish, that he had the optical advantage (8 eyes that see well in the dark compared to my 2 that were still adjusting), and that I was initially petrified (literally) by his presence. But I made a decision. It was my bladder or my sanity and I pulled the unpredictable move. Stopping mid-pee, I bolted out of the latrine, freaked out a bit with swearing and scratching and then after 10 minutes (the amount of time it took for me to stop smelling too) and then I felt a little better. I had evaded death by spider yet again. I will not try to tempt Fate anymore with Maggot Latrine.

Avocados as Apples

Random tidbit. I’ve seen many people peeling avocados and munching them the way you would eat an apple here and it looks delicious. The end.

Iridescent Black Chickens

Another short story of minimal interest value. There are awesome chickens here that are totally black (legs, faces, etc.) except that they are iridescent too. They look almost like an oil spill with brilliant blues, greens and purples catching the rays of the sun. I like to chase them. The end.

Frog Leather

After the super intense rains last week, I started seeing lots of dead frogs showing up on the road. It was actually quite bizarre as I’d never seen a live frog here before. Now, a week later, they are still on the streets but have turned into these hard, leathery frog corpses. I know it’s a bit morbid, but they are kind of grotesquely fascinating to look at on my walks home from work.

Snails: Kenya is not Ghana

Some of you might remember stories from Ghana about massive land snails that are made into a stew. I saw a giant land snail like those in Kenya for the first time a few days ago and asked one of my coworkers if Kenyans eat these snails. She screwed up her face, looked mildly ill, and explained that they do not, in fact, eat land snails, ever ever ever. She asked if we eat them in my country and I explained the situation. She said she would never try Ghanaian food because of this. Further evidence that Kenya is not Ghana.

Well, folks, that’s the latest bumblebuzz from out in the rural! As always, love the comments, the notes, the reads, the subscriptions. Hope you all enjoyed this installment and will enjoy this sweet picture of Jake and me in Nairobi from a few weeks ago. (I promised a few avid readers a picture and here it is!)

Guest Author Post by Boyfriend Jake

Posted in Kenya, Uncategorized on August 4, 2011 by globalbumblebuzz

Destination: Bondo

My trip reminds me of Dante’s Inferno, of the Heart of Darkness, and of Apocalypse now.  (Maybe… I actually never read any of them…)  But for a trip that began in Paris, moved through Nairobi, and ended in Bondo, I’m reminded of stories of descent through the existential levels of the human condition.

Paris and Bondo are not very similar.  Paris has the Louvre, Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, L’Ecole Militaries, and many, many more treasures.  In Bondo, there are some chickens that live by the wheel barrel behind the hotel…

In Paris, I tracked down Hemmingway’s former residence, his favourite (Canadian) hot-spots, and immersed myself in the mind and history of a literary giant.  In Bondo, if something moves, I’m instantly convinced it has rabies, malaria, or TB, lusts for white blood, and can smell my fear.

And yet, there’s a certain charm to Bondo I came to appreciate.

One day while walking, we stopped to help an elderly woman fix her bike chain so she could continue home.  Her shock and genuine appreciation were quite touching.  This precipitated a group of children following us for a good 200 hundred meters (Canadian) before older locals told them to get lost on our behalf.

Anjuli talks to everyone.  Her desire for connection is obvious, and the people here respond to her with such smiles.   When we walk down the road, children yell “Mzungu, how are you?” This is especially endearing when you hear it on the wind from a hundred meters away without seeing anyone, or when they also answer the follow up with “Mzungu-how-are-you-I-am-fine” in one breath.

I think her friendliness helped her succeed where I felt uncomfortable; looking back into the staring eyes of everyone I saw.

The Foreign Devil

I struggled to feel completely comfortable at first in Bondo, and I wasn’t sure why.  In Paris, I had two men make an attempt to divorce me from my wallet late at night.  Years of hockey (Oh so Canadian) and boxing helped to ensure my safety, and I moved on my way without much afterthought.

But in Bondo I was painfully, sometimes overwhelmingly, aware of the fact that I was an outsider.  On my first day, the intensity of everyone’s stares actually made me feel uncomfortable.  (If you know me, this is a near impossible feat.)  I also sensed a degree of mistrust, and sometimes open hostility I’d never felt before from the people around me.  Not universal, but definitely present.

I’m hoping this was just my own guilt over the disparity between our lives, and my projections thereof. There was true danger in Paris; not so in Bondo.  The one time I talked to a stranger on my own, I asked to use his mobile to call Anjuli.  He smiled, and gave me the phone.   I offered him a few schillings to cover the price of the call.  He told me it wasn’t necessary, and said “when you people come, it is good for my country.  I feel you are always welcome.”  Nothing but friendliness, appreciation, and generosity.  How wrong I’d been…

As my trip came to a close, I wondered about how many of my initial thoughts were also wrong.  I’m sure there were many.  I’m glad I was able to keep an open mind, and push myself out of my comfort zone.  I’m looking forward to pushing myself to learn more in my future travels.

Bonzo in Bondo

Anjuli’s clinic is a marvel.  In a town where the cobbler’s store is the base of a tree in the dirt, a few industrious people have created a bastion of health for those in need.  I’m immensely proud of Anjuli and the work she does, and have a newfound respect for the strength and dedication she must possess to continue this work under such conditions.  It’s something I’m not sure I’d be able to do.

Bonzo Anjuli has also managed to find all the awesome hotspots in Bondo when not working.  There’s a walking path through backyards and side streets that takes her home from work.  This quickly became one of my favourite walks.

She’s also found an internet café with wonderful technology and fast internet.   Remarkably, there’s incredible market penetration for social media in Kenya.  While catching up on email, I saw maybe a dozen people, many of whom were under 10 years old, come in, check their Facebook, fire off a few Tweets, move some mutual funds around via their online banking, and otherwise manage their online portfolio of Cloud based services.  In America, the idea of the Cloud made no sense to me.  But, in the Developing World, it makes all kinds of sense.

I’m amazed at such incongruent trends.  The prevalence of mobile phones (I’d guess somewhere above 80%) is just another example.  While they may live on subsistence farming, the people of Bondo are seriously plugged-in.

The Pioneering Spirit

Over time, I came to better understand one of Anjuli’s defining characteristics: a remarkable ability to pull the positive out of any situation.  Her hotel, the nicest in Bondo, has a shower that deposits directly onto the toilet, and the room is shared with some kind of gecko that sticks to the ceiling and moves with the mercurial brilliance of an Olympic sprinter.  When I found the little guy I stood there, confused.   Before I could react, Anjuli just smiled and said “They’re cute.  They keep the mosquitos away, and save us from malaria.”  There was truth in her statement and it put me immediately at ease.  I didn’t mind the little guy.  More, on my last couple of nights there, I actually missed him when he wasn’t around, and was excited when I’d find him.

Her positive nature is infectious.   Hell, it makes everything more fun.  It’s also necessary.  It insulates one from the inescapable hardships and heartbreak of life in rural Africa.  More than that, it’s empowering.  At moments like this, I got the distinct impression I was being somehow shielded by her unshakeable effervescence, and protected in ways I didn’t fully understand.

Gecko note:  Back at home, I saw something run up my porch and, thinking it was a gecko, got excited.   (It was just a cat.  A small, reptilian looking cat.  It was dark out, and I was jetlagged.)  Still, it made me think – happiness…  what a wonderful gift.

When I travel, I tend to look inward as my surroundings change.  Travel for me is a great opportunity to step back to re-examine who I am, where I’m going, etc.  I’m often amazed at what I learn about myself.

In truth, I was worried I wouldn’t take to Africa.  It was my first time in the Developing World, and I was diving right in.  But towards the end of the trip, I felt I’d adjusted to Bondo.  (You know this happens when, while on your daily walk, you see a shack and start seeing its ‘potential’ as a ‘fixer-upper’…)

I was also comfortable talking with Mzungu and Kenyas alike.  I could say ‘Good Afternoon’ in Swahili. (Poorly)  The medication, travel fatigue, strange diets, mud slides, 14-year-old cabbies with death wishes, and everything else were just part of the fun.  I had subsisted on Spanish omelets and pancakes and Sprite without any signs of malnutrition!  I’d been on Safari!  I’d made new friends with Pamela, the cook!  I didn’t think about hockey once!  I had worn the same shirt and jeans every day!

At home, I had a great talk with my dad about the trip.  Africa, and specifically, Kenya, has been his life-long dream.  I’ll ride right past the issues around the son experiencing the dreams of the father, and to his words of wisdom:  “You’re probably still processing it all, and that’ll probably last for a while…  Pay attention to that, and see what it sparks in you.”

I’m excited to see what gets sparked.

At Home a World Away

For anyone who’s toyed with the idea of visiting a developing country, I’d strongly suggest you do.  If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll gain new perspective on the world, and on yourself, and you’ll have a blast doing it.

When it was time to leave, sadness came over me as I realized something important: strange that, a world away, and despite mental discomfort and physical hardships, I still felt at home.  Home has always been elusive in my life.  In Bondo, it was just a matter of days.

I owe this entirely to my company.  And I’m a little crazy about her.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll leave the blog posts to the far more capable Anjuli.  Attached are a few pictures – Safari in Nairobi; Jake on one of our walks; and most importantly, the chickens by the wheel barrow.