Archive for October, 2006
So I found out a little bit more about the ants, which you can read at this wikipedia link:
One of my nieces actually warned me to be careful of them and my other niece wants me to bring home a baby zebra.
Ok, so we don’t have a lot to say about the animals yet ‘cause we haven’t seen any of the cool BIG ones. However, Mark and I are fascinated by the ants locally known as “safari ants.” As you might have guessed, they seem to spend their life traveling from one place to another. The soldiers stand on the outside of the line and protect the rest of the ants as the run to wherever it is that they are going. 4 weeks into this, and we still stop and watch them because they are so cool! You have to be careful, however, because apparently they don’t feel so good when they bite you. According to our host family, they can kill a chicken if they get into the coop. Because of that, the family spends a lot of time trying to direct the ants away from the house. This is done by either burning them with lit newspaper or spraying them with kerosene. Seems kind of mean, but if they can kill a chicken, then I REALLY don’t want them crawling into bed with me!
Last weekend, while everyone else was going to Machakos, a group of us stayed in Kitui and decided to take our first “hiking” trip. There is a very large rock that is a popular tourist destination. Yes, I did say a ROCK, but it’s really large! It took us about 2 hours to walk to the rock. Once there you pay a small fee and they let you climb up the stairs/scaffolding to the top 150 above. The views from the top were unbelievable. It was the first time that we really had an idea of where all the villages were compared to each other. We are 53 volunteers spread over a fairly large distance. (It would take me probably 1.5 hours to walk to the farthest volunteer from us.) On a clear day the guy told us that we could see all the way to Nairobi and Mt. Kilimanjaro. Even better than the views was the cool wind that blew on top. It was so nice that we spent 2 hours just hanging out up top. From that vantage point we were sure that we could see a shortcut back. Down at the bottom it wasn’t as clear, but we still set off in what we hoped was the right direction. Fortunately we found some kids who pointed us in the right direction. One of the kids had a wooden “bike” (shown below) that was super cool! I need to get one of those when we get home!
Half of our 10 weeks of training is supposed to be our technical training. Our group, the SED/ICT group, has 22 people in it. SED/ICT has a very large focus, which means that training is very general. So far we’ve learned a little about: planting gardens, accounting, marketing, cooperative groups, micro-finance, etc. There isn’t much in the way of computers in kitui, so we haven’t done much with that yet. One of our big projects has been to start a garden with our language groups. So far this has involved tilling up the land (as demonstrated by Mark below). Soon we will be planting beans and carrots. Unfortunately we won’t be around to harvest any of our crops, but presumably all of us will be doing this again when we get to our sites. SED/ICT volunteers are not supposed to do much of anything for the first 3 months in order to spend most of their time getting to know the community. With all that free time, growing a garden starts to look like a really good activity.
Each day starts with a language class at our friend Brian’s house. Our “classroom” (pictured below) consists of 2 benches and a blackboard propped against the wall of the house. There are 4 of us in the class and one trainer (Sam was our trainer at the time of the picture.) As you can see, there are also often various animals who join our class (cows, goats, turkeys, cats, dogs, etc). After language we have technical training with 2 other language groups. (More on technical training later) After technical training we walk to Kitui town from our village for lunch. We leave our village at 1 and arrive in town at 2, exhausted and VERY hungry. After lunch, grocery shopping and trips to the Posta (yes, we write letters……write us….we promise we’ll write you back!!) we begin the long journey home. Mark and I are very lucky because our Baba drives home a bunch of the local kids in a truck (it’s his neighbor’s) and many days we get a ride in the back (second picture below). Although we’ve been here for 4 weeks and our Kiswahili is getting better, the kids in the back persist in laughing at us when we try to talk to them. We’ve decided that candy may be the only way to get them to open up!
Note: If you’re getting this as an email (and not reading it on the blog) you may have to go to the blog to see the pictures. In case you’ve forgotten….the blog is at www.steudel.org/blog and you’ll need to login. The login is markandbebeth and the password is peacecorps.
As you can tell from the high number of posts so far, we don’t have
easy access to the internet. Our town’s post office that has had
internet in the past is undergoing upgrades, or the isp is undergoing
upgrades, or a goat chewed through the cable. So being dutiful email
junkies that we are we made a 1.5 trip from our town to Machakos. So
there’s so many things to talk about that I’m sure we’ll miss a few of
your questions. Feel free to send us a email and ask away (Or send us
a letter, we love letters! No postcards though as they may end up as
decoration in a local posta)
So some people have asked us how to post to the mailing list that
everyone has signed up on. It’s really only meant to be one way, us to
you. You don’t have to worry about the passwords or anything to
recieve our emails. If you reply to a email from the blog it goes to
both of us.
PHONE NUMBER (Bebeth)
Cell phones are everywhere in Kenya, even in the poorest families.
So…we too have gotten our first cell phone. Currently it costs
around $.50 a minute to call the US and on our $20 butget a week it is
quite expensive. Unlike the US, it is free to receive calls and would
love to hear from anyone. We do know that it is expensive for you to
call us as well. Our number is 254726088338 (that includes the country
code.) Text messaging is very popular here and cheap, so you may be
receiving one of those from us. Like calls they are free for us to
receive. (Gabrielle – did you think it would take me moving to Africa
to start text messaging?)
HOME STAY STUFF (Bebeth)
As you have read from my mom, things are going very well so far. Our
homestay has turned out to be one of the best parts of training. We
live in a pretty nice house by Kitui standards. It has a solar panel
which gives us electricity until about 9 pm (once the rains start, it
won’t last so long). We have bio-gas to cook on (methane made from cow
dung and water). We have running water inside (usually) and also a
flushing choo. A choo (aka pit latrine) is basically just a hole in
the ground, so a flushing choo is just like a toilet stuck in the
ground, so you still have to squat above it. For those of you who are
campers, this is really nothing new. Another really nice feature of
our house is the fact that the roof doesn’t leak….not all volunteers
are quite so lucky. As for the family, they are also really great. The
host mother (or mama as all mothers in this country are called whether
or not they are your mother) is a Nurse at the local hospital and our
host father is a principal a the local deaf school. They are both
obviously very educated and very progressive/liberal by Kenyan
standards. As mom quoted, the food is “very yummy.” Cabbage is my new
favorite food along with goat meat. The dinner process, however, is
not our favorite. It usually takes around 2 hours to make…longer if
there is anything complicated. Frozen pizzas haven’t made it here yet!
So when we told you we were going to Kenya, I’m sure one of the first
things that went through your mind was all the lovely diseases that
one can get while over here and I’m telling you can get some doozies.
So far we’ve gotten typhoid, malaria, rabies, tetanus, yellow fever,
polio …. vaccinations that is. Every week we get stuck with several
needles and take our malaria meds. Our health is taken extremely
seriously here, so much so that if we are caught not taking our
malaria pills we can be sent home. We have been taught how to take
stool samples, prepare blood samples (which involves pricking yourself
with a lancet and smearing it on a couple of slides). We’re taught how
to make our own re-hydration drinks from local ingredients (salt,
oranges, water, sugar, etc). We know about the BRAT (Bananas, Rice,
Applesauce, Toast ) diet, multiple ways to purify and store safe
drinking water, we know about shistomaiosis, malaria, mango flies, and
lots about hiv/aids.
So far we’ve avoided having any problems. Both of us have stayed very
healthy and adjustaded to the food quite well. I’ve had some minor
reactions to some bug bites, and we’ve both gotten blisters, but aside
from that we’re doing great!
more to come….
Hi–It’s Bebeth’s mom. We had a brief conversation with Bebeth today. I took notes and she asked me to pass along whatever I could to friends and family back home. Bebeth and Mark have been in Kenya for a little over a week. Things are going well and they are enjoying it. Their trainee group is divided among the villages surrounding Kitui. Kitui is only an hour from Nairobi but it is a very undeveloped area. There are four trainees living in Kabalula (sp?). The four of them have language classes together in the morning in an open yard with a blackboard. They have a one-hour walk to lunch and a one-hour walk back. Bebeth said they are getting lots of exercise. Two other village groups who are also assigned to the Information Technology–Small Entrepreneur group come to their village for training in the afternoon. After classes they have a one-hour walk home and they need to be "home" before dark because no one is out after dark since there are no lights. Twice a week they walk to Kitui where all 54 Peace Corps volunteers are trained together. They enjoy that because they get to see other people. Language classes are slow but they are able to greet people and introduce themselves. The only problem is that while Swahili is the national language and many people speak it, most tribes use a different language. So after they are placed, they may need to learn another language. Bebeth and Mark are living together with a family. They said that theirs is one of the nicest placements. The house is all cement and has solar panels on the roof so there is electricity and running water for awhile each day. They are in bed by 9 p.m. because there is no electricity or light after that and they get up at dawn. Their hosts are well-educated–the mom is a nurse and the dad is a teacher. They have a 12-year old son at home but several children are older and live elsewhere. Bebeth reports that the mom makes "yummy food" and that there is a lot of it. There is no e-mail in the village but they receive mail–it usually comes once a week from Nairobi. The most important news is that Bebeth sounded very happyand reports that Mark is as well.