Tag Archives: Africa

Capture Bliss

Capture Bliss

Apparently someone posed the question on Twitter what bliss looks like and thousands of people promptly replied with links to pictures of small moments of bliss they experienced.

This is a picture of bliss. We all have worries, but for me the moments of bliss are when those worries become invisible–our mind is occupied with something much more enjoyable (i.e. bliss).


Obruni State-Side

This obruni hasn’t posted in a very long time… He apologizes for that. But while the posts have been lacking, the experiences have not.

During the last year, I slaved away at eradicating the achievement gap for second graders in Brownsville, Brooklyn in New York City. What effect did I have? I’m unsure. While the data always came back consisting of average scores, I feel confident that my scholars are ready for the next grade. This experience was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, and maybe ever will do. However, while I left most days wondering why I had signed up for this experience I was reminded of my passions and my abilities.

I am a person who believes in the good of other people; someone who wants every individual to be given the opportunity to maximize their own potential. We walk by people in the streets unaware of what they’re capable of. Often, we automatically jump to fear of another’s capabilities, but why not assume that the person has the power to change the world for the good? Perhaps, with the right teaching and determination that individual will find the cure to a disease the world so desperately needs. That’s what I want to do…not find the cure to a disease, but inspire and give others the tools necessary to do so. I want to light a flame that will spread like wildfire. I want to make a small hole in a dam that one day will cave under the pressure of the goodness behind it.

I used to say I wanted to change the world and of course there were nay-sayers who thought this naive and foolish. However, I believe it to be possible. Perhaps having a tremendous impact on the whole world would be difficult, but I can changed the world of some people and hopefully create a model for doing so that can be replicated in other areas and eventually spread throughout the whole world.

This is what I’ve come to: I enjoy teaching. Waking up and coming to school every day to greet the scholars in my class is not a chore, but I want more. I need to go and do this where others are not willing to. The achievement gap isn’t limited to America’s inner-city children; there are millions of children across the globe suffering from lack of opportunity who need someone to give them the tools/resources to be successful. Over the last few months I have really reflected on what this looks like for me and I have come to the conclusion that I will open my own elementary school in either Ghana or Kenya. The school will initially house and educate students in pre-k and Kindergarten and then add an additional grade each year thereafter through high school. With the help of volunteers, missionaries, community members, and churches we will decimate the achievement gap in the local community and prepare an army of scholars ready to address the challenges afflicting their community and nation.

I have one more year left in my commitment to Teach for America–a year in which I will continue to develop my skills to prepare and qualify me to make lasting change in the community of my future endeavor. I look forward to pursuing this dream and sharing the process with you.


August 18

Youth day. I left very early, though not as early as I had intended (what’s new) to go into town and prepare the spaghetti sauce. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I was very impressed with the way the sauce turned out; it looked great, I don’t know how it tasted though.

Anyway…

Talent show was supposed to start at 10 AM. Yeah…we finally got going around 11:45. Each week the number of youth present has grown, so this week we were expecting 80 (up from 30 last week), but we had about 120; it was packed!!!

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting with the Talent Show, but that wasn’t it. I thought they’d be more lively. It took me demonstrating how to do the Soulja Boy, Stanky Leg, Walk it Out, and 1, 2 Step to get them on their feet. There was a lot of singing. Oh, and a preacher preached /screamed for forty minutes which definitely isn’t what I was looking for.

Following the show we broke into gender-based discussion groups. For the girls it was women’s rights, early marriage, female genital mutiliation (FGM), and sex. We men pretty much stuck to sex and making wise decisions. I was really impressed by the complexity of their questions. I can tell they had/have been thinking about things relating to this topic. It is also obvious that a lot of them aren’t really sure what to believe; a lot of the questions related to fact or fiction.

We were two hours late for lunch. Duh. And we ran out of food before 35 of the small children got to eat. Ay yi yi. It was of course my responsibility to go buy something for them to eat… I didn’t even eat the lunch I had made. When dinner came at 9:00 PM I was starving! All I had had was a cup of chai at breakfast, bottle of water, coke, and a piece of andazi. As Alpha said so wisely, “You say you are okay, but really you are empty inside,” he knows me to well.

Today was Kurikuri’s first football match. Trying to organize them to play was one of the more stressful things I have ever done. Everybody thinks they’re amazing and deserve to start the game. I took one kid (one of my bros) out after five minutes and he yelled of corruption after putting all his clothes on and walking away. He doesn’t know it yet, but he won’t start the next game either. Big baby.

We lost 1-0 to a team that’s been playing together for years. I was impressed with how well we played together, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. They run around in packs like five year olds, or wolves. Oh, and they just kick the ball and hope someone gets to it. All of that can be improved upon though… I’m confident that we will smash the town team sometime in the near future.

We didn’t leave for home until very late, well 7:00 PM, but it was very dark and I couldn’t see a thing. Walking on the “road” was fine but when it came time for the paths I had the hardest time. At one point there was a rustling in some bushes and I froze and nearly pooped my pants. We decided to go a different way.

After making it home, it was obvious that I couldn’t see where I was walking. My legs were scratched on all sides from walking right in to thorn bushes and having to then spread my legs and hope it goes between them and I continue walking. Maybe someday my eyes will adapt like theirs have to the darkness.

Oiy! I almost forgot to mention that we relocated the door to the house–you can do that really easily when they’re made of mud.


August 16 & 17

Today is a city day so I got up at like 7:20 and had an egg and chai and then went to pack my bag.

Last night Isaiah, Alpha and Benja’s brother, asked if he could accompany me to Nanyuki and since I didn’t have a problem with it I stopped by his house this morning to pick him up and confirm with his parents that it was in fact okay. There was no Isaiah at home, but there was a Lilian, Alpha, Moses, and Eunice (the mother). Apparently Isaiah had already made his way into town to meet me; he didn’t follow instructions. Franco was also meeting me in town, so this was about to get awkward.

Franco has been wanting to go to Nanyuki with me, but Isaiah asked the most recently and I haven’t really connected with him yet. I also think Isaiah has a lot of potential, he just needs a bit more confidence. Franco never mentioned that his dad, Joseph, was going to give him some money to accompany me until we were ready to leave. I’M SORRY I’M NOT A MIND READER! I thought he was going to cry when he found out Isaiah was going; I felt terrible, but I can’t satisfy everyone all the time–being white is a genetic thing, not a super power.

John, the same person that brought me the last time, brought both Isaiah and me this time as well, on his bodaboda (motorbike) of course. We had to stop in Il Polei to fix the shock and then twenty minutes later we pulled off on the side of the road for the two of them to pee.

There was a bit of a communication barrier between Isaiah and I. Eventually after we did our own things for the afternoon we met back and checked into the hotel and watched some of the worst soap operas I’ve ever seen, among them was The Young and the Restless. We didn’t watch that, apparently Isaiah prefers Spanish soaps that have been dubbed over in English. However, if we are being honest here…I got sucked in. Between Soy Tu Duena, Tahidi High, and Spider I couldn’t keep up with it all as hard as I tried, but I was entertained.

Dinner took place at Nyama Choma, the same place we had lunch, but that was fine; I tried something new–BEEF STEW. They told me it was all actual meat so I took their word for it.

That night I fell asleep to yet another soap and woke up around 3 AM to BBC World News and watched two rounds of that and finally fell back asleep. This boy, he woke up at 6:30. Me oh my. I slept till about 7 AM and then got ready. I think he would have sat there all day watching television if I had let him.

I bet you can’t guess where we had breakfast. Oh, that’s right…Nyama Choma…again. It’s really okay though. We followed that with a trip to the super market so we could buy as mcuh there as possible so I wouldn’t be taken advantage of. They didn’t have spaghetti so we went elsewhere. I found the nicest woman who found 20 kgs of spaghetti for me and then gave me two suckers for free because we bought so much. Honestly, we probably paid as much as she makes in two days.

I tried buying pork sausage at the butcher, but he was almost impossible to communicate with. He opened his freezer to show me beef sausage and my gag reflex went into action. There was unpackaged meat frozen to the sides covered in frost bite. Plus there was the smell. I followed my final gag with, “That’s not really what I’m looking for, but thank you!” So we went back to Nakumatt, the supermarket, which is basically made for westerners in the area and bought nicely packaged and labeled pork sausage.

Going to the super market was a really neat experience because I don’t think Isaiah had ever seen anything like it. He couldn’t believe all the flavors of yogurt! We left with 15 thick sausage links, mango juice, a new volleyball, water, and two Mars ice cream bars. Great success.

After buying what we could where there were set prices it was to the actual market we went. Mangos, cilantro, onions, passion fruits, green onions, garlic–nom, nom, nom.

The ride home on the matatu solidfied my distaste for them. We waited about two and a half hours for it to fill up, the drive drove at the speed of light there every possible hole in the road, we picked up every single person on the side of the road even though we were already five people over capacity, AND there was a goat whose smell was nauseating. Oh, my window wouldn’t open either so if I had thrown up it would have been all over me as well as the Maasai woman and baby next to me; I can’t even begin to imagine what she would have done.

I was so thankful to be home. Isaiah and I rushed up the hill and then to our respective homes to change for football. Paulo and Franco had already left so Joshua walked me. He doesn’t really comprehend English at all. I had our neighbor tell him that we had to stop by Isaiah’s to get him… We get to Isaiah and not only is he still there, but so are his brothers and cousins…Practice started two hours ago…


August 11

Let’s just start from the beginning…

Hot chapati and chai–this day has potential.

Washed the privates–this is going to be a great day.

Then it was off to Sarah’s to see some of the beadwork that she does. I left with four bracelets and one ring. That woman is the epitome of Maya Angelou’s “phenomenal woman.”

It was also a youth day so I spent the morning and afternoon in a meeting with them. I wanted to tell them more about myself and see if they had any questions for me. One boy said that he had heard in the news that gays and lesbians had equal rights in America and was curious if I agreed with that sentiment. I explained that yes I did agree with that and how the culture regarding those individuals was completely different in the States. A part of me thought he was hoping for that answer because he might be gay.  In Kenya, homosexuality is still believed to be a taboo invented by Western nations. I’m still trying to figure out how exactly to approach this situation.

We then went to play some volleyball and of course had to stop when our ball got punctured. I have bought four balls here and literally every one of them has gotten punctured.

Fundi, the repairman, known here as an engineer, is usually able to fix them, but he charges 100 Ksh. We decided to have a snack while we waited, but when we went back two hours later,it still wasn’t done. Oh, and it started pouring so we didn’t even play as a team. It had looked like it was going to rain all day so when Moses asked if we would play, I said “I am down to play as long as the rain doesn’t stop us.” He then looked to the sky and then said, “Me, I think it will rain at 4:00.”  Sure enough, right at 4:00 PM it poured buckets.

It turned out that most of team was there waiting for the ball to be repaired so we ran through the rain for some hot chai. Some of them of course tried to push their luck and order more than one tea, but this mzungu wasn’t having that.

Following tea, I was off to the home of Alpha and his family. They have one of the nicer houses I’ve seen in this area, but it was still very basic. They also built two traditional manyattas for visitors to stay in that were neat to see. Despite the rain, Alpha was all about playing football. I, of course, fell in the mud.

Franco and I walked home after saying our goodbyes and arranging a time to meet for tea and football the following day. Paulo had left before us but we found him at Penina’s family’s home and decided it was best not to interrupt–it may be about time to negotiate a bride price.

On the way home, we stopped to gather the roots of this bush that would be good for our colds. We cut it up and put it to boil and then mixed it with our chai. Man was it bitter…We’ll see if it works.

And with that Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m off to wash my feet and head to bed.

In other news:

  • An elephant was found dead so the Kenya Wildlife Service was all over it. However, if a human is killed by an elephant it takes months to have the case reviewed.
  • Some members of parliament are refusing to pay their taxes even though they were the ones who passed a bill saying everyone must pay taxes. The President has already paid his.
  • Two people came up to Joseph saying, “The white man brings kids to play football and volleyball on our land, he must pay!” Um, about eight of those kids are members of your family. I will not fuel your drinking problem. This frustrated me to no end.
  • Five people were trying to cross the seasonal river on the way out of town and were swept away. They formed a chain and three survived, one was found dead, and another is still missing.

August 8 & 9

With my ankle still swollen, I need a reason to not have to hike around the bush. After receiving yet another hot water massage, I am in need of a break. I asked Joseph about the possibility of taking a motorbike into Nanyuki since it was then 11 am and I had missed the 6 am matatu by about 5 hours. To be honest, I didn’t really want to take a matatu anyway. We went into town and Joseph called a few of his pastor friends to see if any of them wanted to make the trek into the city.

Eventually, someone I knew walked up who I knew owned a motor bike–John Seleon. I was happy that I knew the person driving, although I felt bad that he was taking me for only 1000 Ksh when it normally costs 1500 Ksh. He came and got the money so he could buy some fuel and then pulled up on his bike. Before spreading my legs (get your mind out of the gutter) to get on the bike, I looked him in the eye and said, “You have to be careful. If something happens to me, my mom will find you.”

I thought that I had exhausted all of my bad luck for the summer, but when Mother Nature started peeing on me I knew I hadn’t. However, seeing three giraffes grazing in one of the parks on the way and then about 50 zebras made up for it.

We arrived at the Ibis Hotel and he helped check me in for 1000 Ksh (about $11) and then had the most expensive tea in Kenya (40 Ksh) and walked around a bit. John hated for me to be lonely, hence his accompanying me despite him becoming later and later for his classes at the local bible school. John’s English is also sub par so me telling him that I was okay and he could go was a waste of my breath.

After he left I continued walking around and stumbled upon Nyama Choma Village for dinner, the nice place I came the last time I was in Nanyuki.  I ordered Chicken Choma (roasted chicken) and chips (Fries) and a massive coke because they were out of fresh mango juice. The waiter here was super friendly, partly because they had a smile that went from ear to ear.

I have yet to really master the eating of chicken here. I’m having a hard time deciding between using my fingers or a fork, but either way it’s good. The chips also provided a nice reminder of home, even if what I thought was ketchup turned out to be sweet and sour sauce.

Following dinner I searched for an open bookstore that had a “Swahili Phrasebook,” a task that would carry on into the next day since most of the stores had closed at 6 pm. The internet was also down so I just went back to the hotel and sampled of few of Kenya’s fine beer offerings (Tusker, Pilsner, and White Cap) and talked to Humphrey, the waiter.

Bed came early, around 9 PM to be exact. I think I’ve adjusted time wise because I woke up every hour just about. It seems that some people in Nanyuki never sleep. At 4 AM there were still people outside yelling and carrying on. Going to bed early means waking up early. At about 7 AM I got up and flipped the switch to turn on the hot water and got back in the bed for about 20 minutes to give it a chance to warm up. The hotel provided shower shoes, but I couldn’t get my fat feet in them–that’s not good for the ego. Forget the shoes…that shower was amazing. I really took advantage and washed every nook and cranny of my body…several times.

For breakfast I went to this really “white,” or Western (to be PC) place. I had a mocha (OMG good), a ham and cheese omelette (a real one, not a flat egg w/ a piece of swiss cheese on top), roasted potatoes, and toast! Can you say breakfast of champions?

The rest of my day was similar to the day before except I used the internet and got some blogs posted. I also bought my first Maasai shukka (a big piece of fabric morans wear when herding and around town), as well as some mangos, and all the food for the youth event on Thursday.

I thought that I had exhausted all of my bad luck but on the motorcycle ride home when Mother Nature peed on my yet again, I was reminded that my bad luck is inexhaustible. This time there were three of us on this motorcycle and we were completely drenched! We made it back to Doldol and a friend saw me and took me up the hill on his motorbike. He showed me our house from several kilometers away and handed me the car battery that powers our TV and I was on my way. I got lost twice… I thought it all looked the same without the rain, but with the rain the trails were nearly impossible to see. I would get frustrated, set the battery down and stand in the pouring rain looking up at the sky hoping for some divine insight. Luckily I saw one of the sisters and was so relieved my heart nearly skipped a beat.

Home at last, soaking wet, but home.


In my head…

Since being here in Doldol, I have truly missed certain aspects of home, specifically the music. The most random assortment of songs have been stuck in my head since being here: Here are some of them:

  • Dirty, Christina Aguilera (most likely because I’m filthy)
  • I Want it That Way, Backstreet Boys
  • Some song by 98 Degrees
  • The song from the Lizzie McGuire movie
  • If U Seek Amy, Britney Spears
  • Shout to the Lord
  • Jesus, Lover of my Soul
  • Stikwitu, Pussycat Dolls
  • Delta Dawn

Eyewitness News: Big Foot Spotted

Either every culture has tales of Big Foot or they’re real. Seriously, half way around the globe people are talking of Sasquatches? Now, not only do I have to walk around paranoid of 20 foot pythons and butt-kicking elephants, but also the star from Big and Hairy!

As we were having our pre-dinner chai one night, the boys spoke of a beast that was a giant and part human, part animal. They also noted it being covered in fur. A man of their father’s age-set tells a story of running into one on the dirt road nearby. It faced him from across the street holding the trays of a bee hive. They man then stood in that same place for two days completely unharmed, but in shock of what he had just seen.

Today, the boys claim that all the bigfoots have migrated to Mt. Kenya or are extinct. There have been no sightings nearby for some years. Perhaps, seeing as how Sasquatches eat a cow a day, or so the legends say, they didn’t have enough to survive in this area since so many people have lost cows due to drought.

If the one cow we have “disappears,” I’m really going to be freaked out.


Part 2: Day 4: August 1

Tonight the stars were amazing. I’m pretty sure I could see galaxies. Out in Maasailand it is easy to determine the planets from the stars because ever single twinkle can be seen.


Day Four: August 1

I woke up a little after the sun today and had water waiting for me to bathe. I  decided to just wash my hair since I wasn’t able to the last time due to my poor rationing skills. I poured some water on my head and yelped because of its scalding temperature. Wow, that is not something you expect from a shower in Africa. It was a very kind gesture for them to boil my water and I do not mean to seem ungrateful at all. Now, I know to wait for the steam to settle before touching the water to my bare skin.

There was no wasting time today before getting to the jobs. All the new trees and other crops needed watering before the sun rose to much and just dried it up, a lesson I learned from my own mom. We also had to remove some of the old fence posts. Following all of that, Joseph and Franco took me exploring for elephants, something I was originally excited about until I saw that they were carrying a spear, machete, and cane. I kept turning around to Franco and asking, “Is this safe? Are you sure this is safe?” I was honestly a little terrified. Although I tried to hide it, they could probably smell my fear–you know, one of those special Maasai skills.

Unfortunately, we saw no elephants this time, only the dung that showed they had been there. We did run into some Maasai groups in the process of migrating to another area, one of which had a herd of about 15 camels. They were dressed in the traditional attire, complete with beads, bangles, and shukkas, some even had the red clay in their hair for conditioning. Their dress gave them the appearance of something very regal and truly beautiful. It didn’t hurt that they stood against one of the most beautiful backdrops I have ever seen–mountains that kissed the clouds on which you could see other bright flashes of color where Maasai were leading their cattle to graze.

Even though we didn’t see any elephants, that trek was by far the highlight of my day. Following our walk, we had lunch and then I was told to go rest (still not sure whether or not that was optional). I also went back into the bush to chop down some limbs to reinforce the fence around the property that the elephants had knocked down the last time they came to drink from the watering hole. I’m not completely sure how the twigs we used this time around will stop them either, but maybe the thorns buried within them will.

Elephants hate the smell of their own blood, so if somehow they got cut, they would never come back. Joseph also has a bow and arrow that he shoots them in the butt with if they come around, that way they bleed and don’t die, then we’d have a court case on our hands.

Oh crap, I just noticed I was laying in a baby cow pie. Likes like I’ll be taking a “wet-wipe” shower tonight rather than the morning.


Sam G

I absolutely dig adventure and travel!

aanyafniaz.wordpress.com/

Verbal tantrums of a writer & an anxious spectator of life.

Mathematical

Madison's renderings of teaching and learning