Kenya Travel

Peace Corps Update

I am almost entirely finished with the quite grueling 5+ page Placement Questionnaire that I have to fill out before I can be placed.  While taking a little break from writing it, I decided to poke around and see where I could possibly be going with a leave date in July.  I am SO thankful for the people at the Peace Corps Wiki. They have been so helpful throughout this entire process.

 

So….here are the possibilities:

  • El Salvador
  • Ethiopia
  • Guinea
  • Madagascar
  • Philippines
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania

I’m liking my current odds for being placed somewhere in Africa 🙂

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Kenya Travel

In Other News…

Caution: Feelings ahead

Despite the fact that I am SO PSYCHED about the possibility of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am still struggling a little bit to keep my head above water with everything that has been going on.  The week after I returned from Kenya, we had to put Missy to sleep because she started having seizures again.  Grandmommie is still hanging in there as of right now.  Despite me wanting to put all of my feelings on a shelf and ignore them until I am better able to cope with them, this semester has been a time of intense personal growth for me.  I completed an assignment that required me to take a deep look at patterns within my family, which was really tough for me.  It gave me a lot of insight about the way that my family functions and about the way that I function within my family.  It also made me very sad to think about my grandmother living in a nursing home with an inoperable brain tumor.  She has great hope that she will be able to return to her home, but I don’t think that will be able to happen.

I also realized some rather significant things about myself today.  I realized that I push people away when I feel like they are getting too close, which is something I hadn’t noticed before.  I think most of that is about a fear of becoming attached to someone and actually getting significantly hurt.  With my friendships, it’s a fear of people liking me initially but not liking me once they really get to know me and see how anxious and annoying I can be.  Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that I have many good qualities and traits.  As I am human, I also have many not so good or downright annoying qualities and traits.  I find that when I’m feeling particularly close to one of my friends, I draw back a little.  This is true of friends of any gender.  If I feel like someone is getting so close that their negative perception of my actions, thoughts, or behaviors would be very hurtful to me or could make me feel embarrassed  I hang out with them a little less for a while until I feel like I have a better handle on things.  I hadn’t realized that I was doing this until I sat back and thought about some of my recent interactions with people.  I think me pushing people away, subconsciously and consciously, is also, perhaps misguidedly, about my struggle to be genuine and authentic in all areas of my life.

I care very deeply about my friendships and all of my relationships and I hold a great fear of offending or upsetting the people in my life.  That means that I tend to over-communicate in a huge way when I feel like I haven’t articulated my thoughts well or when I feel like I’m not being heard.  I dislike conflict and I strive to resolve it openly, which means you could very well receive 10 text messages from me at a time if I feel like there is a conflict it is my responsibility to resolve.  I realize that this has a lot to do with all of my anxiety issues and I do realize how incredibly ridiculous and obnoxious it is when it happens, so please don’t take it personally if it happens to you.  It has very little to do with whoever I’m actually talking to and a whole lot to do with my process, my lack of impulse control, and my insecurities.  When people don’t respond to me when I attempt to communicate with them, I feel that it is because I have done something specifically wrong and I feel upset, embarrassed, anxious, and sad.  That’s pretty much my experience with people across the board when I don’t feel like I am communicating effectively.  People have often said to me that I talk a lot or I talk too much.  If you’re on the receiving end of my anxiety, I do feel bad for you.  I would ask, however, that you try to be empathetic about how much inner turmoil I am going through at the time.  I do talk a lot, but that’s because I think a lot.  Even though it sometimes seems like it, I don’t share every thought that runs through my head.  For every worry or concern I share, there are at least five more running through my brain.

I think it is a powerful statement of how much I have grown since beginning my M.A.Ed. program that I am knowingly posting my insecurities on the internet for friends and family to read if they so choose.  While effective communication is something I definitely struggle with, I feel that I am now more open about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences than I ever have been before.  My openness is definitely a double-edged sword.  There is a time and a place for me to share and I haven’t quite gotten that part down yet.  I realize that I’m an intense person.  I have all of these thoughts and all of these feelings and I am generally pretty open about them.  I am an intense person to be around and certainly an intense friend or family member to have.  I find that I have been apologizing even more than usual lately, and I think I’ve also gained some insight about that.  No offense to anyone, but neither side of my family is exactly skilled about sharing emotions.  Feelings are something that aren’t talked about very often and that seem to make many of my family members uncomfortable.  One of my family members has told me throughout my life that ladies should only cry in the powder room.  I think that one reason I apologize when I share how I feel or what I think is that communicating my thoughts and feelings in a genuine way isn’t something I have really ever had modeled by anyone.  It definitely isn’t anyone’s fault that those things weren’t modeled to me.  I feel confident that I’m being truthful when I say I don’t think they were modeled to my parents and I doubt they were modeled to their parents either.  It’s just the way it is.

It’s been interesting for me to see the ways my family patterns play out in my personal life outside of my family.  My family patterns do not define me and my choices are my own, but it has been interesting to take a step back and look at the relationship between my communication patterns and the communication patterns of my family members.

On top of all of the self-awareness I gained today, I realized that I have been really really really hard on myself lately.  I have expected myself to be superwoman and hold all of my emotions in check at a time when there are a lot of things, both good and bad, that are going on in my life or that have gone on in my life that I haven’t taken the time to process.  On top of trying to shelf every negative emotion that springs up, I have been agreeing to do to many things and really overextending myself.  Despite my outspoken nature, “no” is not something I find it easy to say to other people.  Yet another thing I need to work on 🙂

I can just feel that I am on the brink of some serious self-growth.  Bring it on, life!

Kenya Travel

Peace Corps Nomination!

PC Nomination!

 

Hello friends and family 🙂  I am SO excited!  I received my nomination for the Peace Corps this week!  I still have to go through medical and legal clearance and will have to be assessed for suitability and competitiveness, but I am on my way!  I was excited to read that my medical assessment form was evaluated before my nomination because I was a little nervous about my medical history being a potential barrier to my service.

My recruiter was incredible.  She was so kind, very supportive, and was very willing to answer any questions that I had.  Several of my family members and a few friends have expressed concern about my safety.  My recruiter really made me feel a lot better about my safety and it was very helpful to talk to someone who had actually served.  She was also very knowledgeable about the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act signed by Obama in November of 2011.

My recruiter told me that she is nominating me for an assignment in the Youth Development sector, which is precisely what I was hoping to do.  She told me that she will be looking for a placement in Africa for me, but she is aware that I am willing to go anywhere.  She suggested a few books for me and also told me about 2 Years in 3 Minutes, an incredible Youtube video created by a returned Peace Corps Volunteer.

I truly appreciate all of the love, support, good thoughts, prayers, and positive energy that I have experienced since I decided to apply.  You people are amazing 🙂

 

<3,

Catherine

Kenya Travel

Pain

Every night that I have spent in this house since we put Missy to sleep has been so painful and terrible. I still get excited about coming home and seeing her when I’m out. I still look for her when I get home. Every night when I try to go to sleep, her absence becomes even louder. She isn’t at the foot of my bed going to sleep by me and she never will be again. I hate being in this house. I want to spend time with my Dad, but being here without her hurts so much. My heart is broken. I know things will eventually get easier, but right now this is all incredibly hard. I miss my baby girl. I miss her kisses and her faithfully alerting me that it was time to take her outside every night at 10pm. I miss her wagging tail, her enthusiastic greetings, and her smiles. I miss hearing the click of little nails on the hardwood floor and the scratching of paws on my bedroom door. I miss her begging, her barking, and her playing. I miss her presence and I miss her love. I miss the feeling of comfort and security that I got when I reached across my bed to pet her as I fell asleep. I miss her digging in the backyard and protecting us from UPS and the garbage truck. I miss how excited she would get when I had a treat. I miss my companion, my dog, my family member. You don’t spend that much time with another living being or that many nights sleeping in the same bed and feeling comforted by another’s very presence without developing some serious attachments. She was not just a dog. My reaction is not overboard. I have suffered the loss of someone I loved very much. There is no warm body curled up against my leg, no little wet nose pressed against my hand in an attempt to get a treat, no spinning and barking. It hurts so much more than I even know how to describe.

 

Edit: I originally posted this as password protected and didn’t give anyone the password.  2 1/2 months later, the pain is still very real and very awful.  Fortunately, it has gotten quite a bit easier.  Now that I am not sobbing every time I walk into my house, I feel a little better about sharing these feelings with those who are interested.

Kenya Travel

Tuesday, July 17

First of all, I heard from another volunteer that Geoffrey was seen piling a bunch of the donations given by community members into his car and driving off with them.  He took a lot of the food and all of the blankets.  I’m sure he would try to explain this away by saying that he was taking it to the other orphanage he recently started.  My bet is that he took it somewhere to sell it.  Even if he did take it to the other orphanage, that is not where the donors intended for it to go and I would be super mad if I was one of them.

I woke up and went into Kenol with Mary, Hunter, and Leah. I shopped around for a few things, then we ate lunch at the Junction. While I was there waiting on the other three, a little boy came up to me, stood about a foot away, and just stared at me. After Kenol, I went into Makuyu by myself to pick up James’ field trip pictures. That took a very long time, so I walked around some of the shops in Makuyu. Some of the pictures still weren’t ready, so I paid for them so James could pick them up after I left. I took the pictures I had to Pundamilia Primary school via bota bota, then went to hang out with Blackie for a bit. It makes me sick to think of all of the material possessions I have back at home that I don’t need. I could have paid for children to have an education instead.

Kenya Travel

Monday, July 16

Today, we went to Nairobi. Mary, Hunter, Leah, and I met Hannah and Olivia at the Hilton in Nairobi and we all went and ate western food at The Java House. Then we went to the giraffe center, but the giraffe’s had been over fed and wouldn’t come up close. We left and went to the City Market, where I got three pairs of very long lasting shoes for 2500 ksh.

 

I didn’t write much because going into any of the large cities or towns really takes a lot out of me.  It’s exhausting to not only be a minority, but be a minority that many people assume is rich and therefore try to exploit.  While at the City Market, there were multiple times that shop owners physically blocked me from exiting their shops.  Further, the people I bought the shoes from tried to charge me more than the price we had already agreed on, which was frustrating.

Kenya Travel

Sunday, July 15

At four o’clock in the morning the neighbors decided that it would be a really great time to play their music as loud as possible, which also upset our rooster. If it was this loud here in my room, I have to assume the people standing next to the music have done some serious hearing damage. I heard doors opening and closing, so I clearly wasn’t the only person they woke up. At 4:45, they finally turned it down. I wonder if the other neighbors went and said something to them. People here are more friendly and generally more courteous than at home. It is considered polite to talk to people you don’t know for several minutes in greeting. It’s interesting to me that manners are a virtue here, but people trying to sell goods or a matatu ride feel okay about getting up in people’s faces and trying to manipulate others into buying from them. Joshua, the man I bought jewelry from at 14 Falls, was the most polite salesman I have met here. He didn’t harass me to buy anything and he didn’t charge me more just because I am a mzungu. I need to be more aggressive about bargaining, but I am not very good at it and my time here is so short. It will be strange going back to the states where prices are fixed and strangers ignore you. Being here has caused me to grow in ways I am not even sure I could explain if I tried. I had never seen such poverty or such a different quality of life. I think America should require civil/volunteer service. If our government really wanted to help other countries and help Americans be thankful for everything they have, they would make Peace Corps service mandatory. This morning, I walked with James into Makuyu to get some of the pictures he took on his field trip. On Friday, the kids went to see parliament, the animal orphanage, a museum, and an aquarium. They got to have soda as a special treat. The man who printed the pictures for James wasn’t there when we arrived, so James went to a man to get a few songs put on his iPod (a gift from one of the volunteers that would DEFINITELY be taken away if Geoffrey knew about it) and I went and bought a lightbulb for the office, a bottle of water, and a bigger and better flashlight. Then I took James to the blue hotel in Makuyu, where he ate mandazi and stew and had chai tea. We went back to where the photo developing was and I paid for all but 180 ksh of the photos. They were printed on kodak photo paper on a laser jet printer. It would have been better for me to print them at home and mail them here. We went back to the orphanage and a group of about twenty visitors came. They brought maize, rice, milk, biscuit cookies, shoes, blankets, and some other supplies. We walked them around and showed them areas that could be improved.  One of the staff members gave me and Mary the opportunity to talk with the community members by ourselves, which was nice because we were able to be more frank with them about our concerns.  There is a window that has been broken for two years, there are rooms full of stuff the kids don’t get to use, and the children are working every second of the day that they aren’t in school  We also discussed how we could collaborate with them to work from America to make a positive impact. Then we took the kids to Blackie’s soccer game. They had a really great time and Blackie scored two goals. Afterwards, we walked Blackie home and Peris, John Mwangi, and I hung out at his house for a while. Peris, Margaret, and Mary’s father, Peos, was there.   I would have gotten in big trouble if Geoffrey knew that I had even hung out with Blackie, let alone that I took the kids to his soccer game.  Geoffrey doesn’t like Blackie because Blackie stood up for what is best for the kids.  Anyone who realizes and speaks out about the corruption at WWB gets fired pretty quickly.  The kids say staff members and kids get fired all the time.  That means that kids are kicked out a lot, too.  The kids and I walked back to the orphanage, ate dinner, and went to sleep.