Mosquitoes love me. I think I have twenty bites on each leg. I was woken up last night by the immense itchiness; I’m fairly certain it is driving me crazy.
School is holding me back from spending time with my friends here.
I feel lonely even when in the company of many people.
I don’t want to go home. If I could bring my friends and families here, I would do it in a second.
As you all know, this is my second time being in this amazing country. The first time I was here was for a study abroad program. As such, I was paying for my time and experiences here. I took part in the activities that were part of the course, but I also had a lot of free time to experience the country and cultures further. I took advantage of the fact that I was basically traveling on my dollar, and thus I felt entitled to take more time to do the things that I wanted, rather than just the required bits.
This time, I am traveling for free as a worker bee. Basically, this trip is my job. Because of this, I don’t feel the freedom to go out and live life quite the way I did during the last trip. In addition, I don’t have any free time that doesn’t go toward keeping up with my school work back home. Did I mention that I am enrolled in school right now and actually missing the last two weeks of classes for this? I had to practically beg to be allowed to continue with the courses while being out of the country. Anyway, yes, I’m terribly busy.
When I think about what I could be doing differently during this trip, I start to feel a little uneasy. Should I be out dancing the nights away at Kalahari like I wish I was? I would be an absolute wreck if I did, simply because we are going-going-going at all times with this field work. Maybe I’m not taking full advantage of my second time here. What would Chelsie, Mayeli, and Terri do if they were given this exact opportunity?
I may not be out dancing and socializing with my Kenyan friends the way I would like to be, but I am really gaining some fantastic experiences. I’m working on a project that will put another publication under my belt, and may turn into many more projects in the future. I’m learning the life of a field assistant, and hoping I have the opportunity to live that life more in the near future. I did hours of field work in torrential downpours… and I sort of loved it.
I may not be doing all the same things as before, but I’m incredibly content with what I am accomplishing. Things are very different this go-around and I’m pretty okay with that.
First off, I’m sorry I don’t have any photos to show right now. I honestly have not taken a single one yet. I’m just soaking in all of the Kenya I can get right now.
Things have been so very different from when I was here in February. We are kept very busy with field work and insect sorting. This morning we woke at 4:15, went into the field, collected samples, moved traps, reset traps, didn’t get home until noon, and then sorted samples until 6:30. We haven’t even finished sorting the day’s samples, yet we have another round to pick up and go through in the morning. I’m tired just typing about it.
Also, I have some sort of crazy rash that I believe is shingles. It’s painful and even makes my muscles hurt sometimes, but it is starting to scab and heal. Fantastical.
I saw a wild hedgehog this morning and had the most delicious cake in the world for breakfast. These things happened simultaneously before the sun was even close to rising. The Milky Way was visible and the power was out due to the wind and rain. This place is magical.
Mambo rafiki. I am happily settled into my favorite corner of the world. It feels like I never left this place. The moment the humid, hot air hit me I felt completely at peace again. Watamu is markedly different during the down season. The worst part? … I can’t think of anything other than maybe the extra debris washed up on the beach. The best part? No Italians!
I have reunited with a couple great friends, swam in the ocean, eaten chapati, and simply been.
This morning I woke before breakfast and took a walk along the beach. I met a man from Mt. Kenya named Jon who was collecting plastic by the huge sack-full. We walked and talked about the continuing struggle with tribalism and how people in Kenya live for the day rather than worry about the too distant future. Maisha moja.
Today we are starting our work. We will be setting our first round of traps to collect insects, which we will collect tomorrow morning and then re-set. Thus ends my lazy, vacationy weekend and begins my busy working days as a research assistant. Looking forward to it, mostly.
Looks like I am headed back to Kenya… Right now! I was offered a field research position by one of my study abroad professors. Currently waiting for my flight to Amsterdam, then on to Nairobi for a night. Then Watamu! Stay tuned.
Well folks, my journey through Kenya is over for now. I’ve been “home” for four days now. I can’t describe how hard it was to leave; I have never been so sad to say goodbye to a person or place. I meant to do some more summaries of where I’ve been and what I’ve done since the last real post, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I feel like going forward is what is important for me right now. Please send me questions if you have them, though.
This trip has shown me true happiness and contentedness, and opened my eyes to how amazing the world can be. I have never felt more welcome or at home. Nothing compares to the way Kenya makes me feel. I am already making plans for my return. My goal is to be back within a year, with my rafiki kipenzi by my side.
I cannot explain to you the emotions I have had throughout this entire trip. I can’t express how beautiful the landscape and the people are. There is no way you can really know without going to Kenya and experiencing these things for yourself. I hope that, if nothing else, this short blog has inspired someone to travel to Kenya. I want to share it with everyone, especially those that I love.
I know I have been slacking on posting here, but I’ve been basically having the time of my life here on the coast of Kenya. I’ll update by saying that after Chuka we went on safari in Maasai Mara about three times, then moved on to Wamba. We stayed in Wamba six days, and went on safari through Samburu the last day there. It’s nearly impossible to blink when on safari, as everything is incredibly beautiful, even if there are no animals to be seen. The landscape of Wamba (and the Samburu region in general) brought a smile to my face every single day.
Now we are staying on the coast, in a town called Watamu. We live less than two minutes from the ocean. I am in heaven, even with the hot and humid weather. I’ve made new friends and built up old friendships with those I’ve been traveling with. We have to leave here in a little over a day and my heart is already aching. This place is so much better than I could have anticipated. Some of my heart will be here for the rest of my life. I’m already looking forward to planning my return.
Anyway, here are just a few of the photos I have to share right now.
While we were staying in Chuka, we got used to what is lovingly known as a pit latrine. This is what many rural (and some urban) Kenyans use as a toilet. It consists of a small shack with a rectangular hole in the ground and, if you’re lucky, a couple inches of “brick” on either side of the hole to stand on. You then proceed to squat above the hole and try your best to aim. It’s pretty exciting (nerve-wracking), and a hell of a thigh workout.
My first night in Chuka I was pretty nervous about using the pit latrine, but by our last day I think I became a bit of a master. Imagine how proud I was! (You probably cannot unless you’ve used one of these guys, but try anyway.)
There is also a lack of running water, so bathing consists of a tub of warm water, soap, and a hole in the ground. You use your hands to splash the water on yourself, sort of the way those girls in face wash commercials do, only you’re likely surrounded by spiders rather than a white walled bathroom. I never thought this sort of bathing situation would be ideal, but it sure felt great after a long day in the hot Kenyan sun. :)
So, last night I and two other girls volunteered to help with bird tagging and releasing. The process was really interesting, and I loved wrangling the birds and releasing them. The very best thing, however, was the night sky. Here on the Kenyan coast you can see the Milky Way. I’m enthralled. I will do my best to photograph it for you guys…
Back to Chuka: When we arrived in Chuka we were greeted by the community elders decked out in traditional celebration gear. They were singing and dancing, and I absolutely lost it for a minute. I was so moved; I could not believe that they were so happy and welcoming. Once I got over being weepy I really had a blast dancing up to the community and then learning new dances. I mostly enjoyed the women laughing at how poorly we all were dancing. :D
While staying with our families, we learned how to harvest tea, arrowroot, food for goats, and also cultivate land. We were also shown how to make chai (yum) and millet porridge (even yummer). We only worked outside for about an hour and we were already sweating under the hot morning sun. I am amazed at how long and hard the women work here. It seems they have no time for anything other than working, eating, and sleeping. Their energy and strength is inspiring.
The kids in the community were awesome. They stared at us, hard, and giggled when we looked in their eyes. Despite their shyness, they grabbed our hands when we were out walking and adored getting their photos taken. They would crowd around our cameras to see how the photos came out, and the brother I have pictured actually was a great little photographer! Notice the awesome hat? Most of the boys wore them because it gets “cold” in Chuka at night and early morning. I would love to see what they think of Washington weather!