It’s been nearly 4 months since I first stepped foot in Kitale. I still remember the mix of emotions I felt as I anxiously, nervously and excitedly walked off the tiny propeller that had carried me from Nairobi to the Kitale Airstrip. The Kitale Airstrip and it’s one little runway is hardly something you would consider an airport. I was looking for Peter. Peter who? I don’t know, just Peter. How many Peters can there be in Kitale? Well, looking back on it now there are hundreds of Peters in Kitale—boy am I glad I didn’t know that back then!
Since that day I have experienced a wide array of exhilarating, strange and rare adventures. Now, I find myself counting things that most people would consider abnormal as completely normal. Things such as pregnant women working in the farm fields with babies strapped to their backs, mass amounts of non-deodorant wearing people, a widow raising 8 children all by herself, people going days without food, run-down homes with no electricity, plumbing, water or any sort of weather-resistant infrastructure. I’m reluctant to even write this because it makes me question whether I’ve become jaded to the way things are here. I don’t think it’s that I’m becoming jaded, I think I’m just beginning to understand that this is the way life is here. It certainly isn’t quite as shocking and jaw-dropping as it was the first time I saw it. Perhaps I would have more things to blog about if things around here didn’t seem so normal now-a-days.
Okay, I’ve wandered off topic. I started this blog so that I could share with you the series of ‘first time experiences’ I underwent this week despite the fact that I’ve been in Kitale for 4 months.
First time events:
· SEWING A SKIRT: I have to admit that I spent a chunk of my childhood knitting, but I have never attempted to sew—and not just sew, but hand-stitch a garment from simple a piece of frabric.
· EATING UGALI: On Tuesday I spent the afternoon tutoring Charles (one of the older boys who lives at Oasis) in math and when lunch time rolled around all the girls from the sewing class insisted that I eat ugali with them. Keep in mind that ugali is a Kenyan favorite and a staple food in this culture, which made my lack of consumption almost a sin. The next day I took the boys at Oasis a pan of corn beard and introduced them to what I would consider American Ugali!
· RIDING A BODA BODA: Okay, I should probably explain what a boda boda is exactly. A boda boda is a bicycle taxi and in Kitale they are everywhereee. Essentially, there is a chair…no a stool…no it’s more like a platform attached t the back of a bicycle just above the rear tire. There’s this sort of estranged boda boda driver that sits at the intersection just outside our compound waiting for cliental. For the first time in 4 months, I took him up on his offer to take me into town. Typically if I’m not riding to town via our vehicle then I am walking or perhaps taking a piki piki (a motor bike taxi), but today I decided it was time to try a boda boda. It was a shaky and slightly scary experience, and I’m thankful that the ride from our house to town is partially downhill and flat in most areas.
· AEROBICS CLASS: Despite the fact that I worked at Lifetime Fitness in high school and had access to Bear-Aerobics during my time in university, I have never in my life taken an aerobics class. I will admit that I’ve attempted to participate in home showings of P90X with my best friends from college, but I haven’t ventured into the scary world of instructor lead, push-yourself-until-you-break aerobics. I want to thank Kim, an adorable and extremely athletic friend I’ve made here in Kitale, for taking me to my first ever aerobics class. I never imagined this experience would first take place in Kenya, Africa of all places! While this gym pales in comparison to anything in the US, it’s got several weights and even a treadmill, which is a BIG DEAL for a place such as Kitale.
· RUNNING THROUGH KITALE: Hannah is one of the beautiful Rwandan girls that I live with. She is adorable and super athletic. The other day, I took Hannah to the gym in town to participate in the tae bo class I mentioned earlier. In order to get there (on time) we had to jog there. Minus the highway through town and the strip of concrete that distinguishes downtown from the rest of Kitale, all the roads in Kitale are dirt roads. Rocky, uneven, hilly, stone-filled dirt roads that frequently become mud roads. Every now and then, when I’m in the mood to run, I will run laps around our compound, but this was the first time I had ever ventured out of the compound to run—and boy did everyone find it funny to see us running by!
· REMOVING BRAIDS FROM AN AFRICAN’S HEAD: There’s no better way to get to know someone than spending an hour undoing their braids. Definitely provides for some quality time with my family members—Hannah, Juliett and Leila! And trust me, braid removal is no easy task!
· FISHING IN AFRICA: I love to fish. Well, really I just love being in the outdoors. This Sunday a couple of our Kenyan friends took us fishing at a nearby dam. A fun experience that included digging for our bait worms, using tree limbs as our fishing poles and walking an hour into beautiful, middle-of-no-where Kenya.