Saturday, October 25, 2008

Long and Overdue....oops

We went to this second hand market on Saturday, which was pretty much heaven. I didn’t get that much there, and I probably paid too much for things, but it was fun anyway. I got a skirt that I’ll be able to wear this weekend when we go to Kitui which is very rural and pretty conservative. And then I got a purse, that I’ve been needing pretty much since I got here. It’s pretty big and zip and stuff, so I don’t have to take a backpack places anymore. I don’t like backpacks because you can’t see them when you walk, so anyone can come up behind you and get into the pockets. I walk with mine on one shoulder which makes it a lot safer, but it’s just annoying, This one I have across my body and it zips and has a flap over the zip, so there is little to no chance anyone could get into it without me noticing. It just makes me feel a lot more secure. But there were just piles of clothes there. A lot of the shirts were 100 shillings which is about $1.40. You can’t really beat that. There was a lot of stained stuff, so you’d have to be careful, but there was a lot of really nice stuff too. It was exciting. I definitely want to go back.
I also had my first encounter with tear gas, which is actually apparently rather common here. We were walking through the market and suddenly our throats and eyes starting hurting and noses started stinging and running. We asked someone what it was and apparently the police had sprayed tear gas near there a bit before to try to remove the hawkers that didn’t have licenses to vend. It must have been a lot worse a bit earlier, but even so it still hurt. It also made me sneeze a lot too, which I thought was bizarre. I guess it’s your nose’s response to having something painful in it, it runs and tries to get you to sneeze it out. But other than that part, the experience was pretty fun. I’m sure they inflate prices like all kinds to white people, and I could probably have gotten things cheaper, but I got an unstained linen skirt for $4. I’m not going to complain. When push comes to shove, I can afford to pay more than the average person shopping there, so if they get a little more money off me than someone else, I’m kind of ok with that. I bargained down to what I thought was a reasonable level and that’s good for me.

It has been a while since I wrote anything. I guess I’ve been feeling a little too overwhelmed to even get my thoughts down on paper. Life is just really freaking overwhelming here, there’s really no other way to put it. School is getting pretty intense, which is kind of acceptable, but somehow I’m much less prepared for it to be this stressful. At school I accept that I’m busy and working pretty much all the time, and most of my weekend days are spent doing work. Both Saturday and Sunday mornings are pretty much all homework all the time during this time at AU. But here it is just so much harder to deal with. I’m having a hard time differentiating what part is me being lazy and what part is me being overwhelmed by life. On the one hand it is true that I really don’t have much time during the week. Going to class and internships takes a lot more of my time here than it does in the US. Transportation is a big hassle. But on the other hand, I do have some time. I have this morning, for instance, which could be used to study Swahili and instead I am writing in my journal. But when I start doing work, I just get so bogged down in the sheer amount of work I have to do that I just can’t continue. This has never really happened to me before. I just sit there and look at all the work I have to do, unable to begin any of it. It’s really bad. I'll get it together I'm sure, I just have to buckle down. This weekend is a work weekend.
I’ve decided that my life here is modeled on a pendulum. I am very rarely in a balanced, stable state of mind. I go from periods of ‘holy shit, I cannot deal with life and how much time it takes to get nothing done, please just end this now,’ followed closely ‘holy shit, I can’t believe I am still in Africa, look at me I’m sitting in traffic in tiny hot, cram-filled public bus, IN AFRICA. How can I be a person lucky enough to be having this experience?’ It’s all very confused; there’s definitely time where I’m not at those extremes, but generally that’s just when I’m in denial and too busy just getting through the day to even think past the ordeal of getting home or some such thing. It’s kind of exhausting.
We had a little bout of relaxation this weekend, which was definitely needed. We went out to Kitui, which is a very rural, very dry area of Kenya, about three and a half hours outside of Nairobi. It was nice to get away for a while, even though it was pretty uneventful. The dryness kind of reminded me of home. The sun was really really intense. I got sunburned in the 20 minutes that I was outside before I put sunscreen. It was nice to feel heat like that again, it was very familiar. We stayed in this village-experiment type thing that was started by an NGO to give children whose both parents have been killed by AIDS. grandparents and foster grandparents live pretty much exclusively in this village, and they raise a whole ton of children. And even cooler, they are like uber sustainable. All their electricity (which is extremely limited admittedly) is solar, they recycle all the waste from their toilets into manure for their certified organic fields, where they grow like 70% of everything they need. And on top of all of this awesomeness, they also had these super crazy dam things that raise their water table and protect them from the droughts that happen like every other year. They put this little wall of concrete in river that only runs when it rains. But when it does rain, sand builds up behind the wall and water can seep into the collected sand, and it keeps a small fraction of the water from washing downstream. Instead it seeps down through the sand and raises the water table. Being the awesomely cool person that I am, I was pretty excited. They didn’t look like anything, just a wall and a lot of sand, but they were awesome nonetheless. I took a picture for Dr. B, my water resources professor. I might send it to her as a post card, not going to lie. So that was pretty cool. The rest of the village was pretty uneventful, we just sat around a lot and chilled with the children and the old grandmothers, very few of which spoke any English or Swahili. They all spoke Camba, which is the native language there. It was nice in general. People were rather unhappy with the squat toilets I think, but as far as squat toilets went, they were pretty nice. I was impressed. I’m glad we went away for the most part. Part of me wanted to go somewhere more touristy and fun as one of our two program paid for trips, but at the same time I did learn a lot and saw a part of Kenya that I had never really seen before so that was good. It made this week kind of stressful, but the weekend was relaxing for the most part.
Getting there was kind of an adventure. We took a country bus, which entailed showing up at a really overwhelming bus depot and then waiting for an hour and a half for our bus to fill up, because they have no leaving time, just when the seats are filled. The same happened on the way back except we had to sit by the side of the road for two hours waiting for a bus to pass. Good experience, though, because we want to take some long buses other places, and now we know how it works more or less. It’s still kind of scary, but we have more experience. Back to the grindstone now.

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