Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Food

Wow! Thanks to Kenya & James and their five kids for a "real Thanksgiving". Along with PC vol Tameisha, we had turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, etc (see pic of full plate). It was a nice time. We even saw bits of Macy parade over their streaming internet on GMA which was a bit strange since I haven't seen any of those shows in a year. If I had a fridge I could have had yummy leftovers! It was a great blessing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Trips with Students

In this past term I have gone on a couple of trips with students…nothing really extra exciting, but I thought it might be nice to post some of the pictures. A note – for some reason, several students lately have gotten their own cameras (the "old" kind with 35mm loadable film) so they keep wanting to take pictures with "madame" (I guess for their future reference??).  As usual, you can see more pictures at the flickr site (

Trip # 1 – Form Three Class to Mombasa seminar about "Getting into University"
We left Marereni a little later than planned (not uncommon here in Kenya). As we were leaving town on matatu we passes two of the girls from the class. The matatu stopped to pick them. I was telling the students it was good that I wasn't driving because I wouldn't have stopped. They said, "No, madame, you have to stop". So of course I told them it would be a good lesson about being on time if we left them…I'm trying to be less of a time-conscious American but there are sometimes that it is hard. So – we are riding and of course they keep telling me to turn the music up (just like kids at home!). They really had a good time…many of them had never been to Mombasa. Here is a picture of the whole-group (sort of) when we arrived:

The trip went well except that two of the students left without telling us to go visit one of their cousins who lives in Mombasa. So, we went to lunch and they were nowhere to be found. Then, when we got back to the school (where the seminar was held) they were still not there. Long story…but they finally showed up later. When we got back to Marereni, one of them asked me for their "lunch money" since they had missed lunch. The nerve! I just looked at him and said that he needed to not talk to me right now (I was a bit miffed at their behavior!). All in all it was a good trip.
TRIP # 2 – Watamu Marine Park
I think I may have mentioned before that I am the club patron for the Wildlife (Environment & Conservation) Club. I am no expert in this, but I was available so it is. I arranged with this guy from a conservation group (COBEC) to make a trip to Watamu (a town on the Indian Ocean) not far from Malindi. Well – it took time to arrange and of course students kept waiting and waiting to pay for the trip. I told them that we had to plan it in advance….I couldn't just wake up one Saturday and say, hey, I'm taking 20 students to Watamu today. Before the trip, about Wed, I met with the ones who had paid (about 15-16 students) and told them that it had been arranged. I made sure they knew that we had to rent a matatu and that I would leave them if they didn't show up on time. Well, by Friday we had about 20 now who wanted to pay. Saturday morning – The students showed up on time! I think they began to realize that yes, even though I like them, I would leave them! By this time, we had about 25 people total. The matatu guy said they could all cram in the van (which really holds about 15). I didn't want to do it, but everyone said it was okay. So – off we went with the students crammed into the back of the van. I told my principal that I'd probably lose my job in the US if I took students in that manner. Nonetheless – we arrived and went on a small boat ride into the ocean, saw some fish, some of us swam, and later we went to a snake farm (yikes!). It turned out to be a good trip – the students are largely well-behaved but just act like "normal young people" sometimes doing or saying "silly things". My nephews may find it humorous that the last thing I said to the students as we were leaving the boat was "Everyone should make sure that they get all their stuff…their shoes, etc…before we leave the boat". Yes – I'm still they same Becky – ever trying to make sure things are on track. Of course, later in the day (much later), this guy Hajj comes to me saying, "Madame, I can't find my shoes". Of course, I'm wondering how it took him hours to figure that out??? *smile* Well – there was no way to go back and get his shoes…we weren't even really sure where they were. So – no shoes for Hajj.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Holiday Safari & Peace Corps Workshops

I believe many of you have seen safari pictures posted on the flicker site.  That is the easiest way for me to post many pictures (see the site  Here is a brief "story" about the trip:  The safari company we used was recommended by a PC volunteer who had gone on safari previously and all was good.  The PCVs on the trip were myself, Caitlin, Charlie, and Erin(see left....sorry I can't figure out how to make the picture bigger without destroying the clarity... guess I'm not a tekkie??)

We had to meet in Nairobi where the safari guy picks us and drives us to Masai Mara.  We stayed at a kind of backpackers place called Upperhill Camp which was fine (kind of like staying in a dorm).  The vehicle arrived early and included others who were also bound for our same "camp" in Masai Mara.  One of the fringe benefits of traveling here is that you often meet travelers from all over the world.  We were very lucky to get great tripmates in our safari van!  

A couple, Tom and Fabiana who were so funny and engaging (a joy to be around).  Tom is from Holland, Fabiana from Brazil, and they currently live in Italy.  Yes, I've already told Fabiana that I would contact them one day to finally get my trip to Italy!  

The other two passangers were Satya and Joakim.  Satya is in the Indian military currently working with UN in the Congo.  Joakim is from Sweden and works in someway related to Microsoft, but I think he is a budding photojournalist of sorts (if he posts pictures I'll try to get a link to his site which will be more impressive than my photos!).  They were a great bunch!  And of course, my companion PCVs are made of awesome!  

No exciting stories about trip to Masai Mara.  We did have an interesting short conversation with a guy at the cashier of a kind of convenience store at which we bought bottled water.  He asked us where we were from then asked which state in America.  Of course, I said Virginia and he immediately said, "Oh, I'd never want to live there".  That wasn't an expected response so of course we asked "kwa nini?" (why?).  He said, "Because Lorena Bobbitt lives there."  Of course, Erin and I laughed and Caitlin (who is mid 20s) said, "Who is that?". Then he continued to tell us that he'd love to live in Utah because there you can have more than one wife (polygamy is still much practiced in parts of Kenya).  Needless to say, none of us thought we'd be thinking about Lorena Bobbitt on this trip.  If you want to see more pictures you can go to the flickr site that I gave above.  There is also a video of a lion that walked right next to our van...that was pretty cool.

THE REST OF AUGUST -- Well, not much to tell.  We had a PC Workshop at a nice sea lodge in Mombasa (Severin Sea Lodge).  The meetings were okay but most of the volunteers loved the food and hot showers!  I went home after that for a few days (to give my students some work to do) and now I am in Nairobi (first week of September) to help with planning for the next education group that arrives in October.  I've been having lots of computer issues, so I am trying to keep up with posts, etc... but it's hard to do at times.  I'll try to post some more pictures of school and students on the flickr site (maybe this week?).  God bless!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Food (?) find

Something to eat that is near and dear to my heart! Our family calls this siamin noodles - that's what we called it in Hawaii which is my first recollection of them. Most people say you only eat these when you are a "poor college student" but I LIKE them (no surprise to you who always thought my food choices plain and bland). Even with all this gourmet food, I will be glad one day to get a hamburger at Mikes Grill in Blacksburg, artichoke bruschetta at Brickhouse in Petersburg and the best of all Mom's chicken potpie! For now they are simply happy memories.

Thanks to 5th grade class

We didn't get to exchange a lot but I'd like to thank Ms DeMist's class for the notes (and drawing from Aidan ). Many blessings as you move to middle school.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Newest kitchen sink

On my visit to "town" today I got this great idea for a sink (see picture). The pump is usually used for drinking water in a jug but it works great as a faucet. Maybe I am a genius?? NOT!

"Holiday", Training, and Rwanda

So, let me first say that I think I know why God forgives us so easily. When I was on the plane coming back from Rwanda I sat by the window and of course peered out to see the beautiful Rwandan green hills, blue sky, and eventually Lake Victoria as we passes into Kenya. From that view you can only see the beauty of the earth. You can't see the filth, the horrible atrocities that happen everyday, the hatred that seems to continue among people, ...all those things that humans continue to do even sometimes in the name of God. I surmised then that God was very smart in his creation and can see the beauty in us that we sometimes can't see because he has a broad and omniscient view. Even in our darkest hours when we know we haven't acted appropriately, he sees us and still loves and forgives. What an awesome sight!

As most of you know, I am not a prolific writer. Thus, this blog hasn't been updated for a while. It is also hard to use a computer often when you don't have electricity...try it sometime, your computer won't run long. Plus, I thought I'd be able to use it while I was in Rwanda but mistakenly assumed that the power voltage (plug) would be the same, which of course it wasn't, so I couldn't charge my computer once I got there. I suppose I could have used Diana's computer but why should I work so hard when Diana already has a beautiful blog that is by a prolific writer (Dr. Perdue herself!).  Click here to see the events of my trip!

So - this is the short story. The first school term ended at end of March and I had to leave to go to Peace Corps training in Nairobi about the middle of March. So, my plan was to take the first few weeks and do my planning for next term and go buy a bike. But, some of you already know that I came down with a very nasty eye infection right after school ended. It lasted about 7-8 days during which I really couldn't do anything (I couldn't see through all the gunk in my eyes). So, I basically sat around and laid on bed listening to the radio or my MP3 player (thank god for them!). Of course I didn't get my bike and then after I recovered it was just about time to go to Nairobi. Off to Nairobi which was good since our entire Math/Science Ed group would meet again but it's a long trip. First I have to leave my town and ride to Malindi. Then, take hot and crowded matatu for about 2 hours to Mombasa. Then take hot bus about 6 hours to Nairobi. But, my fellow volunteer Zahara and I took it in steps so it wasn't bad. We went to Malindi one day and stayed overnight at Scorpio Villas (the nice hotel that is the getaway place) then the next day went to Mombasa and stayed at the Lotus Hotel (Peace Corps pays for us to stay there because they don't like us to take public transport at night so we can't make it all the way to Nairobi in one day). So, all in all it wasn't too bad. Once in Nairobi we were there for training sessions for about 8 days. The best part was to talk to other volunteers, hear about their stories, and go eat stuff that we usually don't get. For example, the second night, Erin, Charlie, Caitlin and I went to this place called JavaHut (in the Sarit Center Mall). I got a hamburger which was really good! Charlie and I went back another day and I got a chocolate milkshake. Also, a bunch of us one night ended up going to the movies (woo-wee!) to see Shutter Island. Most of us have not been to a movie theatre since leaving the US. It was a good time there in Nairobi. Sorry I don't have more pictures of the stuff I mentioned....I should get better at it! Here are some random pictures of volunteers outside of the training sessions:

After training it was off to Rwanda.  We went on that Monday night to eat dinner at the PC Kenya Country Director's house (a beautiful place).  I brought my luggage with me so I could leave straight from there to fly out of Nairobi at 11pm.  I arrived in Rwanda about midnight and met Diana.  Of course we talked a lot!  It was great to see someone from home!  I didn't get to stay long, but I did get to see most of the beautiful capital city of Kigali.  I think it is the cleanest city I've ever seen!  I kept remarking on it because compared to Kenya it is so clean.  I don't know where they put their trash??  Being there is kind of a strange feeling in a way because one can't help but see the beauty and enjoy the nice restaurants while at the same time knowing that less than two decades ago somehow about 1 million people were killed in just one month's time in and around this very city.  I can imagine that for Rwandans it is still a constant reminder.  Here is where you get to see a real blog!  If you want to see a great description of my trip just go to Diana's blog and read and see her wonderful pictures.  There's a reason she is the "technology person" at her site!

I got back to my site on the Saturday before classes began.  Of course I was dead tired from flying but I did get to fly from Nairobi to Mombasa and again stay at Lotus Hotel.  I paid the extra $50 to fly instead of staying in Nairobi and then taking the long bus ride the next day (well worth the $50).  Since then I've been trying to get back into school rhythm and have been trying to catch a rat that I think was in my room.  But, other than that nothing exciting.  We are getting two new rooms built at our school (yea!) so now our staff room is actually under the roof of the temporary classroom.  We don't have walls yet, but we do now have a roof.  I hope to take more pictures of my students this term and post more to my flickr site sometime within the term.  Here are a couple pics of a few students:

I think that is it for now.  I've been in this cybercafe for an hour trying to get this done and I still don't really know what I'm doing!  Gotta go!  Hope all are well.  Blessings to each of you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tidbits of Thoughts

So, I had to post this picture especially for my sisters who if asked would say definitively the pink mirror does not belong to Becky!! I usually have no idea how I look (which is probably a good thing) but I decided to get a bigger mirror. I got it at a place in malindi called Huzefa which is the closest thing to a walmart in this area. But you usually don't get lots of choices even at this "big" store, hence a pink mirror. The rest of this post is just random thoughts I will share:
-It's a little surreal to be walking home from school in Kenya and hear Boy George from a radio passing by
-What will I do when it is pouring rain and I want to go take a shower or go to toilet? Wait? Get soaked? Carry umbrella?
-How many chapati is too many?
-I learned that students all over the world largely don't understand algebra
-I now know what its like to ride in a vehicle with the passenger behind you being an actual chicken


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Office Window

My former student Meldon and Aunt Diana (Dr Perdue) never did get to see my beautiful office window at Longwood ... so here is a pic of our "office" and view. As you can see, I don't have a window because the office is desks under a tree. We strategically move desks during day as the hot sun changes position. The view shows the new temp classroom that is where I teach Form 1 (grade 9), its to right with burlap walls. We usually have cows, goats, and chickens visiting us throughout the day. So, if you've ever thought you don't want to be cooped up in an office all day ... maybe this is the solution?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pictures for food blog

Here are a few pics of foods - love the kit kat with chai...yummy!

What Becky Eats in Kenya

I got to an internet cafe today so I thought I'd write a post. So - for those who have known me awhile, you know that my diet in the US was largely a high-carb one (which I guess was taboo to some people but seemed to work for me). You would not be surprised if you came and saw my usual meals. For breakfast I usually eat bread with jam (right now I love this plum jam that I can buy in Malindi), a banana, and a cup of chai. I'd love to have orange juice but I can only buy it in Malindi and it's expensive and I can't refigerate it so it's only good if you drink it the day you buy it. I could get cereal but I have no way to refigerate milk and I really don't like the warm milk and cereal thing. So - I pretty much eat the same breakfast every day. Sometimes I have other things like tea biscuits (like little thin cookies). For lunch I usually go to a local hoteli (restaurant) and get chapati and beans (kind of like baked beans) and a coke (this costs about 50 shillings - a little less than a dollar). I sometimes get rice and beans but rice is not always available. Sometimes I go home and eat a "jelly sandwich" (just like I used to eat everyday for school lunch from my Robin Hood lunch box!) and a coke. There really aren't any crackers or salty snacks in my town. I can buy little bags of peanuts that have been cooked so I get those sometimes. For dinner it depends on if I ate a big lunch. For example, if I had two chapati at lunch then I usually don't eat a lot for dinner. Even so, I generally don't like to cook a lot. It's kind of like being at home in the summertime in Virginia -- it's hot and humid so you don't feel like cooking anything. I have cooked rice but it's hard to make just for one person and I can't save leftovers. Plus it's just less expensive for one person to go buy a bowl of rice or chapati. I have to buy water and fuel, so to use fuel to cook and then more water to wash more pots actually is not efficient for me. I do however get lots of tomatoes and carrots. So - often I just cook them real quick in a small frying pan (kind of like stirfry) and either eat with chapati or these small rolls (Benjamin would love them!). I also can make spaghetti with a stirfry of tomatoes which is really good. One night I bought three of the rolls and used olive oil to cook the carrots and tomatoes. I "toasted" the rolls in the olive oil in the pan then scooped the tomatoey mix on top to make a kind of pizza bread. To me it was great! But I used to do that with pita bread at home so I love it. I also can easily get eggs in my town so I make scrambled eggs with toast (by putting the bread in the pan) and it is great. I can get lots of things in Malindi, but I can't really keep them long because of no refrigeration. But, I did get addicted to this KitKat Chunky bar (so good with a cup of chai). I never really loved the kitkat bar but this chunky one is more like crispy and it is SO GOOD. Plus, when Zahara and I meet in Malindi we usually eat lunch somewhere and sometimes treat ourselves. The other day we found a canoli at a bakery for 30 shillings (about 50 cents) and they were so good. So - I may be fat when I get back?? I'm hoping to get a bike which I didn't decide to do at first, but that may be my only way to get some exercise.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My first interesting (funny?) village story

Yesterday (Wednesday) I had to arrange to travel to Mombasa to get the H1N1 flu shot. None of us could figure out why they couldn't just send the syringe to a local clinic for us to get instead of having us all travel all the way to Mombasa. But, we guess it has something to do with govt regulations. Anyway - so I was leaving Wed afternoon to get there Wed night to stay over night to go to the hospital Thursday morning. I arranged for stuff for my classes to do while I was gone and was on my way walking to my house to get my backpack and catch matatu to Malindi. Earlier in the day we heard loud sounds...I didn't even register it at first, but the teachers told me the police were shooting. Of course I wondered why?? Apparently the salt company (there are many along the Indian Ocean here) was trying to expand on lands that I guess they own (I haven't quite gotten the whole picture on that), but nonetheless they see it as their land but others have started shambas (gardens) that I guess they have been cultivating for awhile. I gather that it is kind of like "squatters" who have been using the land and so see it as their land to keep using. So, apparently the police were sent to scare these people off of the land and as a result a mini-skirmish occurred in which police were shooting and apparently three policemen got shot by arrows (yes, arrows) at some point yesterday mid-afternoon. Okay - so back to what happened. I was walking home per my plan to leave and as I passed the primary school (remember it has about 800 - 1000 kids) I saw all of the sudden kids come pouring out of the front gate. They started running and as more came out it was like a herd of kids running. As some of the smaller kids passed me running I heard some of them crying. I of course wondered what in the world was happening. It didn't look like anyone was hurt and there wasn't a widespread panic so I assumed things were okay. Some people saw me walking in the same direction and asked me what was happening and I said I didn't know. Some random guy walking started talking to me loudly in kiswahili. I understood some of what he was saying but he really didn't seem to know either what was happening. He was yelling at the kids to stop running (Usikimbia!). I knew there wasn't anything "really bad" happening so I continued to go home to get my bag and leave. Living in a small village is the same all over the world -- everyone seems to know (or think they know) what you are doing, where you are going, ... So, it was by coincidence that as this confusion was happening with kids fleeing the schoolyard, I am proceeding towards the matatu stage with my backpack and purse. Maybe you can guess what happens next? Not even 1000 feet from my house I get stopped by a woman who I don't really know but I've seen her around...and she says, "Madame, are you leaving us?" I explain is some kiswahili and some english that I am not fleeing but attending a meeting in Mombasa. I say, "Nitarudi kesho" (I will return tomorrow). Then, as I pass the small stores by my house where I buy milk cartons, tomatoes, etc... the women Dorcas and Agnes both ask me where I'm going. I tell them I'll be back tomorrow, I have to take a trip to Mombasa. As I keep walking through the "main street" market area, I am along the road and of course everyone is out looking already because of the ruckus with the kids. So - I see the pastor (Peter) of the Baptist Church (he and his wife have a little stand where I buy bananas and eggs, etc...) and he asks me where I'm going. I assure him that I am going to a meeting and I'll be back tomorrow. Then, when I get on the matatu the conductor guy says something to me like "Madame, it's good that you are saving your life". Of course, the people on the matatu don't really know me because some of them are just passing though on their way to malindi also. I get in and there is already a "buzz" on the matatu about what was happening at the salt factory land and they are talking amongst themselves. I know enough kiswahili to figure out that they are talking about me fleeing the village. So, I tell them, no I'm not fleeing. I'm a teacher at the secondary school and I'll be back. Needless to say, it was an interesting afternoon. So - I meet Zahara finally in Malindi, we get on different matatu and finally get to Mombasa in the early evening. A long hot day. I sent a text to my principal letting him know that I got to Mombasa, etc... Today, I got back at about 4pm, went home and washed some clothes, cleaned up a little, etc. and some of my students stopped by on their way home. Of course, I knew what they were going to say. Now, they already knew that I had gone to Mombasa because I told them before I left. They greeted me and asked me how my trip was and then said, "Madame, everyone was saying that you had fled the village yesterday". So - that's my interesting, funny story. By the way - things seem to be okay. I guess I'll find out from the teachers tomorrow all about the ruckus.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

In my "house"

Just a quick pic to show you that I'm fine and healthy. Kila kitu ni sawa - Bwana sifiweh (all things are okay - praise God).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Yes Virginia, there is an ocean!

Okay, so I don't have elec or water or an indoor toilet, but the Indian Ocean is about a 25 min walk from my site. No hotels, no tourists, nothing but beach. This is me and Zahara (PC volunteer) enjoying the day. Hope to go again soon.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


This is especially for my 11 year old nephews whom I'm sure can find something amusing here! The stall on left is my "toilet". It's basically a hole in cement (in india they called it a squattx potty). Being the near OCD that I am about clean bathrooms, mine is very clean ( I use bleach and detergent in the flush water). Some kenyans say you either have to go short call or long call. I have also added just for my own amusement what I call Zach call which is a short call (pee) but it goes on and on! You nephews get why it's called zach! A zach call is sometimes good because it also helps flush - sorry for that...just "keeping it real". Of course the other stall is my "bath-shower" which is not too bad, I just wish I didn't have to walk outside to get to it. I can't walk out there in a towel so it's a little annoying to have to go wearing something and put it back on before I walk back to room. I'M hoping to convince the landlord to build a temp fence of sorts that would allow me to walk back and forth "unseen". That's all for now.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Kitchen after 7pm

So, I got home later than usual this friday since I somehow became asst games master at school so I was at the next "town" for soccer (which made me a big hit with the male students - a good thing for future). Back to pic... I was late making something to eat, so thought I'd post pic of my "kitchen". Stay tuned for exciting pics of my "bathroom".

Monday, January 25, 2010

My "house"

Not sure if this pic captures it, but the two "front doors" are the doors to my kitchen and bedroom. These are basically two separate cement block rooms with nothing in them - no counters, no shelves, no sinks, no furniture. The bldg to left is my toilet in one stall and bath area in the next. To take a "bath" I have to first go to my kitchen room where I keep jugs of water, fill basin with water, go to bedroom to get little basin with soap, etc, then carry those along with my towel to the outdoor stall (of course i also have to be dressed since i have to go outside). Finally i get in stall, close door, and take like a bucket bath - sometimes if i feel like taking extra time i fill my solar shower which is fantastic! So i have 4 different doors with 4 different padlocks. To me that is more challenging than no elec. But as with anything i've already developed a routine of sorts that makes it seem easier. I'd still like to move to a house that is all self-contained. We'll see?

Video of mombasa traffic

School in Kenya

Short note first...I tried to attach a video of traffic in Mombasa but not sure if it is viewable. I did this especially for Jo & Rob as it will be reminiscient of their time in Bangalore, India! Crazy stuff. They call those little carts "tuk-tuks".

Many of you have asked about my school day. It really is hard to explain, but I will give you some information. First it's easier if you understand the national schooling system in Kenya (of course I really don't understand it either, but I can give you a glimpse). About 7 years ago or so the government instituted free primary education for all kenyans. Now of course, this seems like something we would all support and probably should, but what happened was that all these kids who previously couldn't or wouldn't pay a nominal fee to attend public school (we pay in the US too, through taxes) all of the sudden flooded into the schools. It doesn't take an economics genius or any other genius to figure out that basic supply and demand does have its consequences. So, for example the primary school here used to have about 300 students. Now it easily has about 1000 students attending the same school...but of course there is a severe shortage of teachers. You know how few politicians think ahead on these things because I mean who doesn't want to support free education for all? [Aside, remember this when free university ed for all americans is proposed] So, at the primary school here there is about the same number of teachers but about triple the number of students. It is not unusual to see a classroom with 80-100 students. The other evening I was sitting outside across "the street" from me talking to an old retired teacher (he's known as Mwalimu Kombo) and he agreed that it is almost impossible to actually teach anything in the primary school. Out of the almost 1000 students he said that maybe 10 will score high enough on the National Primary Exam (KCPE) to go to a National School (which almost ensures you a better education). So, as things go, the education is "free" but there are definitely huge disparities (I think much larger than in the US). Essentially there are schools at various levels (national, provincial, district, public, private) that all are competing to get kids. The students have to take the KCPE after grade 8 and that one score determines if you can even apply to some of the better schools (now that's high stakes). Plus, there are some kids who do manage to score high but then can't afford one of the better schools. Then, after Form 4 (grade 12) they take the second national exam (KCSE) and that score essentially follows them around the rest of their life here in Kenya. It determines whether you can enter college and even the level of job that you can get. Kind of crazy to me.

Anyway - I tell you all this to say that Peace Corps of course places volunteers in public schools that have great needs. So, we don't teach in any national or provincial schools. My school is even "lower on the totem pole". It is not even a registered school. Basically after these last years of free primary ed there was a wave of students in the area with nowhere to attend secondary school. Most of them have scored way below the average on the KCPE and could not afford even to go anywhere else, so the community got together and formed this secondary school only two years ago. So, the school is one building that consists of two classrooms and that is it. There is no office, no staff room, no anything else.

So, I go to school usually about 7am and go to the primary school where we have a small room that serves as our office/staff room. There are very little resources. Most of the students don't have books so you can teach something but if you want to assign problems from the book then you either have to write them all out by hand and post it up on the wall with masking tape and the students can all copy into their notebooks. Or you can just leave the book and the students will copy problems sometime during the day. The schedule is very loosely done. In Kenya the students stay in one room all day and the teachers move from room to room. Of course, in this case we don't even have a desk in the room in which we could maybe keep stuff there to use, so again you really don't have many resources. I don't teach at the same time every day so it is a little confusing. They just made a chart with available times and then starting kind of randomly filling in classes. For example, today I taught the Form 3 Math class twice (2 lessons in one day) and the Form 2 class once. I teach 6 lessons for each classs in a week. The other weird thing to me is that sometimes the teachers just decide to teach extra lessons whenever they feel like it and the schedule allows. So, for example, if a teacher isn't there that day or just doesn't show up for class (yes, that happens) then another teacher might just go to the class and say, okay, now we will do more physics or whatever. Also, the students are supposed to be "on campus" from 7am-5pm. Classes end at 4pm, but a teacher might just decide on the spur of the moment to have their class stay and attend another lecture from 4 - 5. So, I sometimes don't know who is teaching what or when. It's only been two weeks so I'm guessing I'll figure out the schedule soon. The actual teaching part for me is great. I'm glad that I have lots of experience. I don't know how a novice with no experience would fare in this particular situation, but that's probably one of the reasons they sent me here and not to another more well established school. So, I teach 2-3 lessons a day. Then, during the other times I get ready for class and/or answer student questions or sometimes do an extra lesson if the class is "free". I'm trying to involve the students in working together to solve problems, etc... and it's going okay but it is a little difficult when you can't make copies of papers, you don't have paper, you don't have chalk, the students don't have paper, or many other things that might occur on any given day.

But, as usual I figure that if I can get the students' thinking, then all of that other stuff doesn't matter (wishful thinking on my part??). I know that some of you would like to help out and I will let you know as time goes by. One thing the Peace Corps doesn't really want us to do is come for two years and supply the school with lots of stuff and then that stuff disappears when we leave. We are trying to come up with plans that are more sustainable for the school. So, give me some time to learn the school and students and I'll let you know what we can do. All in all, I love the teaching, but that's not unexpected. I hope I can report some inspiring stories someday of things happening here at Marereni Secondary. At the very least, I'll be able to help them think about math.

Okay - battery is down to 59% so better go. Blessings.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

At my "home" in Marereni Kenya

I finally got my netbook charged so I am writing a quick post before the battery goes again. So - I am here in Marereni, about 45 minutes from Malindi (apparently a beach getaway for even famous people like Nicolas Cage). Of course, I haven't seen those places. I am living here in a strange arrangement of two rooms of a 4-room "blockhouse" with no electricity and of course no running water. So, my "bathroom" is like two outhouses next to each other, one for toilet and one for bathhouse. It's kind of strange and hard to imagine but I've already somewhat adjusted. However, my principal is looking at another house for me that is closer to the school and has the bathroom inside. So - I won't complain if I do get moved. But, for now it's just how it is. I usually go to bed about 9pm because it is hard to do work when there is no light. I have a kerosene lantern, but that's not so great for seeing papers or reading. Maybe I'll get another and two will make it better? I do have a headlamp type thing that is solar charged so I take it to school with me during the day and let it out in the sun so I can wear it at night to at least have some reading light. It is actually pretty good. I can't take too much time here, but I will give you a few ideas of my current life in short bullet-form:

  • I try not to go to the outhouse much after dark because there are big roach type bugs that sometimes appear -- yikes!

  • I rode to Malindi last week on a matatu (like a 15-seater van) with probably about 20 people stuffed in and two goats under the seats

  • In Malindi it is a tourist type place (many Italians and Germans visiting the resorts/beaches) so there are these "beach boys" who walk around and try to get you to pay them to take you around the town. I successfully told one in kiswahili that I wasn't a tourist, I was a teacher at a secondary school and right after he simply said "kwaheri" (goodbye). So, that was a victory.

  • My Form 3 class (like grade 11) is mostly boys and very inquisitive. I like that class a lot. One of the boys said he wanted to be president of the US just like Obama. I said, well, you can't because you were not born in the US. He and several others were a bit confused because they said that Obama is a native Kenyan and he's president, so why can't they be? (Many Kenyans consider Obama a native Kenyan and even say he was born here. Anyone want to research that one?? *smile*) So, I told them that his father was Kenyan but his mother was american. And one of them asked suprisingly, "You mean an american woman is allowed to marry a kenyan?". It's really interesting the things that they do and do not know through experience.

  • Another day about four boys were helping to go get this bed frame that I had to have made. As we were walking they asked lots of questions. One asked about if I had kids, etc... I said, no I never had kids. So, he innocently says, "You mean you're a spinster?". So, of course I laughed and said, well, yes we usually don't use that word in the US, but yes.

I hope to share more soon. It's so hard to explain the "town" but essentially it is a small village on the main Malindi-Lamu road so it is easy to get to by bus/matatu. So, that is good. But, it is very simple. People live in mud-houses and have dirt floors. At any given time (even at night) you can hear burros (donkeys) milling around outside and baying loudly sometimes. There are at times goats and chickens walking through my "front yard". But, you get used to it all.

I'm trying to attach a few pictures. I'll take more as time goes by. For now, kwaheri.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Trying to post from phone.