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August 21, 2008

Back in Minnesota

Well I'm back . . . arrived safely Saturday evening after uneventful flights. On the flight from Nairobi to London I sat next to a couple who were so happy to be leaving Kenya . . . I snarled at them a few times and they finally stopped talking to me about how great it was to be going home.

The culture shock in coming back to Minnesota has been more difficult than going to Kenya. I suppose it didn't help that my first full day back I went to Target! My sister came with me and after about 15 minutes she had to do the shopping and I just followed her around pushing the cart.

It's great seeing friends and family . . . I'm grateful for having them in my life. And, I'm happy to invite them to visit me in Kenya! I'm working on my scholarship application and plans for return. I'm trying very hard not to keep saying how much I miss Kenya.

But I really do - it's in my blood now -

And it's back to the reality of school and internship and my teaching assistantship . . . and all the details and scheduling that come with it. Yikes - way more intimidating than living in a new culture :)

Thanks for coming along with me on my trip to Kenya for the last 11 weeks. I expect I'll be taking in what I've experienced for quite some time - what an amazing thing I've had a chance to do this summer. Thanks for all of your support - and all the ways in which you've supported me - they encouraged me and made my trip easier.

August 11, 2008

My Last Entry from Kenya

Sounds very sad, doesn't it?! I'm not even going to talk about I feel about returning. Today a friend who thought I had another week before leaving said that it was too soon to go. I said you're telling me?

Today was a great day. This morning, I had quite an interview with 3 pastors from the Kibera slum who worked with and are still working with refugees in IDP camps. These men have been - still are - traumatized themselves from the post-election violence, and still are committed to helping their church members and families cope with their losses. Although our focus was on their perceptions of refugees' experiences, clearly they spent a lot of time talking about their own experiences and how they are coping. As I've said before, they gave so much to me - and yet, thanked me for all I had given them in the interview. They've joined others here in Kenya who are praying that I'll be able to return next year . . . I hope their prayers are answered in a positive way!

This afternoon my friend, Roselyne, and I went to the Bomas . . . it's a place to see traditional dances from across Kenya. It was great! Great fun to watch the storytelling in the dances from different tribes. I've been wanting to see traditional dancing for 3 months . . . finally got it!

I may have one more interview tomorrow - but it looks like my data gathering has come to an end. Now to the write-up.

I am hoping to spend my last 3 days in Kenya in a Maasai village . . . maybe they'll kidnap me and I won't be able to get on the plane. You never know - a warrior might think I'm worth losing a few cows to keep me around :)

Lest I sound ungrateful . . . I do miss my friends and family. I AM looking forward to seeing you all again - emails/blogs/ text messages just aren't the same as talking face to face. And, I'm grateful not to be living out of suitcase any longer. And I'm looking forward to ice in my Coke. And, it will be great to have something to wear other than the same clothes for the last 3 months!

I'll write again once I've arrived back in the US . . . probably one of those nights that I'm awake at 3 in the morning because my body hasn't made the time adjustment yet!

August 5, 2008


Here's what my day has been like so far (it's almost 4 in the afternoon). When I got up I did 45 minutest of yoga, then I showered and ate bananas and drank apricot tea. Then I got ready and walked about a mile to Langata Link. It's a place that has a travel agency, a chiropractor, a salon, some offices, an outdoor restaurant, a clothing shop - it's built in a square with the restaurant in the middle surrounded by flowers, cacti, trees. The trees have all different kinds of birds making noise and flying around. Really idyllic. So, I sat down for breakfast (2 pancakes with pineapple conserves - very good - and tea . . .and then, because I was there so long, a cold Coke - no ice, mind you, but still cold) and turned on my IPOD and journaled for a bit. There were only about 4 people there so it was really quiet and a great way to spend the morning. A couple hours later, I walked back to the apartment, stopping along the way to buy tomatoes and sukumawiki from a woman who was just setting up her fruits and vegetables to sell by the road. Sukumawiki? Not sure what to compare it to - it's green and leafy and kind of like a lettuce but not really . . . it's a staple here. 3 tomatoes and a bunch of sukumawiki cost me 20 shillings. 50 shillings is about $3.00, so I'll let you math whizzes figure out how much my lunch cost. To go on this morning trip, I was pretty casual - the important thing here is that I wore flip-flops. My $5 Target flip-flops - not Manolo's or even Enzo's - just inexpensive flip-flops that we all have back home. I passed a man who wasn't wearing any shoes. (Now, I realize this is sounding like a commercial intended to make you cry - but stay with me here.) He was fully clothed with no shoes. And the thing is, as we passed each other, he looked down at my feet. I wanted to take off my cheap flip flops and give them to him. I didn't. The path we were walking on is full of stones and sharp points, there are thorns that fall off the trees . . . I can't imagine what it would be like to walk on this path with bare feet.

So, I kept going. Back to the apartment which was empty except for Lois - the woman who comes to clean once a week. Now this is a small apartment, and she came at 9 this morning . . . she's still here. I should be so lucky to have a house this clean. She works so hard - cleaning each room, mopping the floors, doing the laundry, the kitchen is spotless, she's ironing now - she even washes the garbage cans that are placed outside. This place is beautiful! While she and I have been here together, I've done some computer work, done some writing (yes, I'm finally writing), taken a little nap, made my lunch of tomatoes and sukumawiki with onion and pasta and olive oil with some ricotta cheese on top (quite good, if i do say so myself), back to the computer to do more writing . . . and watching this woman who hasn't taken a break. If she's stopped to eat, I haven't seen it. And she was in the hospital recently for a couple weeks - she fell carrying water jugs (she doesn't have running water in her home) and hurt her back.

You know what? Life can be hard here. Obviously not for me . . . I've not had to use the "bush" bathroom yet on this trip, I've only had a couple weeks of having to stand over a hole in the ground for a toilet. Granted, I've had to drink my Coke without ice, and there are no fast food restaurants here to satisfy my cravings for junk food, the potato chips here are horrendous. But, all in all, I've managed to survive quite well. But I've been made uncomfortable (again) with the differences between me and the Kenyans I've crossed paths with today. Here I sit writing my blog entry, and when I'm done I'll go back to writing my Fulbright application explaining why they should give me money to return to Kenya for a year so I can do research on hurting people. And what of the hurting people I'm proposing to do research on/with/for? I go home in 10 days and although I'm a poor graduate student, I'm relatively comfortable compared to many people here.

Now, not every Kenyan is poor. Not everyone is without running water and electricity. And I don't want to infer that there is not hope (tumaini in Swahili - "too-my-eenee" - it's my favorite Swahili word, actually my favorite English word, too), or that people don't have joy and good things in their lives.

I wrote earlier in this blog that I wasn't sure if I'd ever resolve the tension that comes from being an American in an African country. I'm now quite sure I'll never resolve it. I'm happy to say that, after almost 3 months here, the differences still bother me. I'm still not sure what to do with myself - how to think about this, how to feel about it - I know feeling guilty isn't a good solution . . . besides, my guilt doesn't offer any dignity to Lois or the man I passed on the road without shoes.

I'm not sure what I want to say, or that I'm even saying this very well. Again, I'll do the therapist thing and notice it all going in and around me, and leave it at that for now. What would you say? What would you do? Would you have given the man your flip flops?

Somehow, and I hope it's not stupid or insensitive of me to say this, my experiences today contribute to this beauty here. I don't know if that makes sense, or if it is part of the luxury of being me, but there is this sense I have that even the discomfort is somehow part of the beauty of Kenya. I'm probably getting a little too philosophical . . . I'll stop or you won't want to read anymore entries!! Hang in there . . . 10 days left of this trip. I hope you'll be back for Africa 09 - because I certainly am planning to be!

August 1, 2008

What a Load I've Been

Ok, so don't tell my advisor and my committe - but I haven't gotten a thing done this week on my writing and research. I have gotten a bunch of movies watched, spent time with a friend, done some crossword puzzles, read some good books, written some emails, gone shopping at a great set of shops (twice), ventured out and grocery shopped by myself (feel quite proud of this), ordered a pizza to deliver, got some great help for my Fulbright scholarship . . . basically, have done just about anything not to sit myself down and write!

I leave two weeks from today, and cannot stand to even think about this. I want to come home - catch up with friends and family - and get right back on a plane back to my second home. I don't know how I'm going to get on the plane to leave. It's a great problem to have . . . . I'll bet I'll cry the whole way home.

I have a week yet to write - and I will - I'm out of movies and books and money so I can't shop anymore :)

I've had some great comments from folks following my blog - thanks for writing me. I want to see you all and catch up - and I know that my first couple weeks home will be really full. So, know that I'm trying to figure out how to see you - and don't hesitate to contact me so we can get together. I've got a bunch of pictures to show you all . . . and a beautiful, handmade African dress that I look great in, if I do say so myself! I've been told that staying in Kenya for 3 months makes me Kenyan, so get ready to see a Kenyan when we meet up!

Hopefully, I'll have a good writing report on my next blog entry! Take care - Janet