Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One Year At Site

I’m up late tonight because as I was drifting off to sleep, I realized, I’ve been at my new site for about a year now! One year ago, I never would have thought I would be as happy as I am here. Leaving my old site of Matayos was painful. Saying goodbye to all that I had already established and I only lived there for 3 months. I had no time to say goodbye, they simply told me pack your bags and they made me leave. I remember when the Peace Corps vehicle was driving me here to Singorwet. We turned off the paved road and the dirt road and villages seemed to go on forever. Where the heck are they taking me, I thought. When they dropped me off in the rural village of Singorwet, I contemplated not even unpacking. How would I survive without electricity, without water, without transport (I had had these luxuries at my old site)! It was 2 hours on foot to the nearest public transportation. I didn’t think I would make it.

Now here I am, only a year later, and I finally realized that this was all just a part of Gods plan for me. Singorwet is the most beautiful place I’ve been in Kenya. I get to walk through fields and fields of tea leafs to get to work everyday. The sound of rain on my roof brings me peace. And the people have taken me in like one of them, especially my mama and the family I live with. This is exactly what I had hoped for in my Peace Corps experience. The true “African” experience. I love the rural now! San Francisco girl turned African farm girl, I never would have thought it possible. Yes, I’m still afraid of bugs, but at least now I can kill them all on my own!

And when I look back over the last year, I’ve accomplished so much here with the help of the community. From the HIV Hotline, to the Tree Nursery, to my health clubs, to the world map I painted at the dispensary, to teaching at the Mother Child Clinics. The events I’ve put on such as International Women’s Day, Earth Day and now Men’s Health Awareness Day have all been a success. I got trash cans put in my community so we can keep it clean and beautiful and when my dad visited he brought solar electricity to the clinic. I taught women how to make paper beads and how to cook banana bread. And soon we will have a working maternity ward at the clinic! There’s no way I could have done any of this without my people in Singorwet. I thank God for them everyday.

Integration is an ongoing process that I work on daily. Going to church, lunches with local friends and walking throughout the villages help me establish myself. The kids finally call me by my name instead of white lady which feels spectacular! The other day I went to my friend Agnes’s “Pre-Wedding Ceremony”. It’s a ceremony where the families give each other gifts and basically say goodbye to the bride. It was so fun and they really made me feel like a part of them as I sang and danced the whole time. Sometimes I forget that I’m white until I look at the pictures taken and realize “damn! I’m the only white person!” I’ve gotten use to it and I like to think people are starting to look past it. At least the people I know. At times I feel that race plays a major role in my life here, but other times I get so caught up in the moment, I forget entirely that I’m foreign. Those moments are the ones I love most. Dancing with my friends, singing in church…it’s like we are all one in the same.

This week we’ve been conducting a training for Men As Partners. I’m so proud of my community because I have nothing to do with this. They came up with it on their own, organized it and turned out. Monday through Friday 30 men are learning everything from male and female anatomy to family planning to gender violence. It’s so cool to see old men in my community learning how to talk openly about sex. In this culture, it’s a very taboo subject. Saturday is my Men’s Health Awareness Day and we will be having graduation ceremony for the men who participated. I’m really hoping my event goes well and that lots of men show up. I have about 6 volunteers coming to help me.

Anyway, even though times can get me down, I miss home and a year and a half has felt like a century, looking back over this last year makes me feel like I’ve really done something. When I talk to people back home they are always like “wow what you’re doing…etc etc”, but ask any PCV and we don’t feel like our job is as big of a deal as people make of it. Some days we might not even leave the house once, or other days we literally watch paint dry. But at least when I look back now, I feel like I’ll have something to leave behind here, something to be remembered by. Hopefully these next 7 months bring as much success as this last year has.

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