Saturday, May 19, 2012

I've lost the war against spiders and a chicken update

So much for trying not to wait 3 months between posts... I'll try not to wait 7 months between posts next time! I'm doing great and there is SO much to update that I'm not even sure where to begin... so I'll start with the chickens!

Chicken update: The rooster ran away 2 weeks ago and is still missing. Have decided not to post “Missing Cock” signs around the village.

Brown hen #1 has recovered from a mysterious illness, but still has not laid any eggs. Her days are numbered if she continues to be unproductive. Nothing worse than a lazy chicken.

Brown hen #2 was eaten. It was delicious.

White hen laid 8 eggs. All hatched yesterday and today. Mom and her little ones were moved into my house to avoid the disaster that befell Black hen & her chicks (see below). They are currently living a life of luxury in a box on my living room floor. You can’t beat that prime real estate.

Oh black hen. She has been through so much in her little life so far. All but 1 of her 12 chicks died. The remaining chick is really strong and now fully feathered so odds are in his/her favor.

# of spiders that have fallen onto my face: 1
# of Men needed to lift a Matatu (van sized public transport vehicle): 8
# of Rabbits that have died under my care, or should I say lack thereof: 2
# of girls who attended a reusable sanitary pad making event: 47
# of adorable baby girls born to my friend Hadija: 1
# of kidney stones I was thought to have: 2
# of dreams I've had about Target: 1

Ok, now onto the trauma that I have recently had. I'm still processing it, so it's a little hard to talk about, but I'll try so that maybe someone else can avoid the same fate that befell me. It was a rainy day and all I wanted was to find a poncho. Is it too much to ask that I remain dry and warm? I searched all over my house for the 3 ponchos I brought with me to Kenya. I couldn't find a single one. Frustrated at an all to common occurrence where I misplace my things, I decided to just use the plastic that my mattress came wrapped in. It wouldn't have been stylish, but it would have kept me dry. I blindly reached up to the top of my closet shelf and began to pull down the plastic. That's when it happened. A spider fell on my face. Not just any spider. A GIANT spider. I attempted to brush it off my face, only for it to land on my shirt. At this point I think I was screaming. I'm not entirely sure. It's all a bit of a blur. I started to rip off my clothes in an attempt to get away from the devilish creature. My front door was wide open. I don't know who saw what. All I know is that I ended up in my bedroom in nothing but my undergarments and rain boots. And I was almost in tears. The worst part is that I don't know where the spider went. It remains at large in my house and haunts my dreams. I am still afraid to go into my closet. And that is how I lost the war against spiders.

I was in a matatu going to Mombasa one day a few months ago. I was running late (of course) to meet a friend and the matatu got a flat tire (of course again). We stopped at a gas station and got a spare but the driver didn't know where to put the jack. He put it in the wrong place and just when he was about to put the new tire on, the van fell off the jack. Luckily, no one lost any bodily appendages. I then watched in amazement as 8 men lifted the van and the driver replaced the tire. It was totally worth being extra late.

My ventures in rabbit raising have ended very badly. I don't know what went wrong. It could be because they didn't have a properly ventilated home. I did keep them in my bathroom after all. Anyways, that was about $10 USD down the drain. Not literally, of course, as they wouldn't fit down my drain. I'm going to give it another go in a few more months. Rabbits of Kenya beware! I'll do it right this time though and build their housing before I get them.

I held a reusable sanitary pad event in my village a couple of weeks ago and it went very well. I never thought I would be so excited about menstrual products! I taught 47 girls aged 12-17 years how to make reusable sanitary pads. This was a part of a larger project aimed at economically empowering a group of 20 girls in my village who are in a soccer club together. I wrote a grant application to a Gender and Development Peace Corps committee and it was funded. With the grant we purchased materials, made the pads, and will market and sell them within the community. In addition, 2 business skills classes will be held for the girls, so that they can learn basic business skills. The aim is get the girls involved in an income generating activity, while providing a needed item for the community. The money they make will also help to fund some of their soccer activities.
I like to joke, but this actually is a big issue; an estimated 2.7 million Kenyan school girls between the ages of 9-18 years need sanitary pads. Of those 2.7 million, most cannot afford to buy them from the shops. If girls cannot afford them, then most just don't go to school during their period. This means that a girl will go to school for about only 3 weeks in a month; whereas a boy will go for the full 4 weeks. This sets girls up for lower marks in school because they are attending fewer days than boys, less chances to go to a good secondary school and university and subsequently lower economic and job opportunities. The need for sanitary pads is so big, that some girls will even exchange sex for money to buy sanitary pads. Transactional sex is quite common in Sub-Saharan Africa and poses a serious problem given the high HIV prevalence rates, as condom use is often not at the female's discretion. When women have a high economic vulnerability, they can lose the ability to negotiate safer sex (like condom usage) and sexual exclusivity in relationships. Economic empowerment of women is the way forward. If I accomplish nothing else during my service, I am proud of the work that I'm doing in this area. I hope that I'm having an impact on the girls that I am working with and I know how I want to spend my second year of service.

On a lighter note, the family that I am good friends with, The Gambo's, recently had a baby! I'm attending a naming ceremony tomorrow and I'm really excited to see the traditions that are practiced related to births. The baby's name is Jemimah Gambo and she has 5 fingers and toes and a full head of hair. She is adorable! Here is a picture of the mother Hadija and the kids (baby Jemimah is still a bun in the oven here):

I was sick a couple of weeks ago with terrible stomach pains and a host of other gross symptoms. I went to Mombasa hospital and had an ultrasound and the doctors thought I was pregnant. Just kidding!! I wanted to see if you were paying attention. They thought I had 2 kidney stones. So, I was brought to Nairobi and I had another round of tests: urine, blood and stool... yippee! I also had an X-ray taken and it ruled out kidney stones. Turns out I had a very bad bacterial infection in my stomach. I'm now fully recovered! Thank goodness.

Last but not least. The other night I had a dream about Target. I'm not sure what my life has come to that I'm having dreams about department stores and not hunky men (that's you Mr. Pitt). All I can say is that I was in pure delight wandering the aisles of Target (pronounced Tar-je). Starbucks may also have made an appearance.

Until next time....


  1. I dream about tarje on a nightly basis...

    1. Loved this!! Read it all! The spider story scared me too, considering I saw a spider on the ceiling while taking a shower. I quickly hopped out, soaking wet, with a shampoo bottle in my hand ready to attack that mofo. Well, considering it has 8 legs, it runs pretty fast, and well I didn't find him. And needless to say, he's still in the house... Like I need ANOTHER spider bite. Lord help me. Don't you miss Charlie? I thought you've befriended spiders by now and you like when they crawl and tickle your face. Hmm, or do you just not like Kenyan spiders?? Racist much sis? Haha Love You