Archive for October, 2010


Haley: Going to the beach

October 30, 2010

Finally after sweating half my body weight off, me and some of the other Mombasa students are going to the beach… I don’t even care if it is thundering, snowing, or sever hurricane weather. We arrive at Pirates beach after a 30 or 40 minute matatu ride and of course the sky is gray. We’re walking down the entry way and it is just stand after stand selling fried chicken, chips, fries, potatoes, food I’ve never seen before, and essentially everything fried. Then there were also people standing there with scales asking you take weigh yourselves. Well we thought it was like a game at 6 Flags or something where you have to guess a weight and win a prize. So we were looking around and didn’t see any prizes, just the scale. Silly us. NO, you had to PAY so you can weigh yourself (if you wanted to). Uhhhh No thanks!

We get closer because I can smell the salt water over the fried dishes and all of a sudden I see it! The most beautiful beach and ocean…! Oh what’s this? It’s raining…. But it cleared up within 10 minutes and turned into a beautiful day! So we picked a spot in the sand and it was here that I realized that in my fit of joy that morning I forgot to bring my towel. Oops.

The girls decided to tan a little bit and so of course the inner child in me comes out, so I play in the sand. Well this man came up to me speaking nothing but Swahili so naturally I speak back (with the limited Swahili I know) and we have a very eventful conversation. At first he wants me to buy a popsicle. I tell him I have no money and I don’t want one, goodbye! Well no he INSISTS on giving me the popsicle and literally was shoving it at me. After countlessly playing the “No!-Yes!” war I finally asky him WHY he’s giving me this popsicle for free? All he could respond with was YES! Now the popsicle is in my hand half melted. He wants to watch me eat it (red flag) So I tell him that since he was “So kind” I would love if he ate it first (smile). He wouldn’t take it back nor would he eat it. So I told him I’d eat it on the way to the bathroom and ended up chucking it on the garbage on the way back. For all I knew this guy could have been trying to drug me, not happening.

We had so much fun hanging out on the beach, playing with the camels (you could ride a camel… we just took pictures and pet them. I also kissed one) But it was around this point I noticed this one guy just standing and STARING at us, and I realize he’s been there for a good 30 minutes. So I don’t take my eyes off this man… something is up. After another 20 minutes, I’m irritated,because the girls are back to laying on their towels and he’s just standing there. I finally just whip around and ask him what the HECK he was looking at! He said he was just standing there (uh-huh for an hour straight buddy) and after another 5 minutes I told him to “go stand somewhere else please.” It wasn’t until I looked back into my camera that I noticed he was standing there a little before the popsicle man, and well after the popsicle man left. I don’t know if that popsicle thing was a set up. If he was just hoping we’de leave our stuff alone, or if he just was THAT amazed to see white girls… Yeah, and definitely don’t ever take food or open drinks from people you don’t know—that’s just bad news.

On the walk out Lacey and I stopped and asked a woman with a scale how many people does she get in a day to pay her to have their weight taken. Surprisingly she said she will sometimes get up to 200 people. We asked how mcuh it was… and 5 shilings later we were weighing ourselves in kg’s. When in Rome I suppose… or in this case Kenya.

On the Matatu ride home Lacey and I were just joking around and in just such a good mood from having an AWESOME day and just laughing about all the stupid stuff (like the fact that we caved in and paid 5 shilings to find out how much we weighed) when this Indian guy turns around smiling and asking
[ “Excuse me!… Are you guys from America?”
] “haha… uh, well Yeah! how’d you know?”
[ “You’re very outspoken!”
Well that is just the nicest way I’ve ever been called loud. Kudos to that man and also for his recommendations on good Indian restaurants.


Brittany: A new home

October 29, 2010

I am now living in the Amazon! Unfortunately things got off to a rocky start…

We left Quito at 7:30 am and arrived in Tena about four hours later. There are seven of us students here and we went to each internship site, dropping people off one by one. Mallory is working at a tea business; Julia is at a clinic; Kathleen, Francisco and David are at the Tena hospital; Anna is at a state park/island; and for me: an agriculture organization.

I was the last to get dropped off. We drove to my internship site and quickly realized we couldn’t actually drive there. We needed to cross a bridge, but there was construction. Instead we parked and crossed by foot and then walked 30 minutes up a gravel road to the organization. I was not prepared to take such a long walk and had on flip-flops and no bug spray, so now my legs are destroyed with bites.

The organization was actually a collective of farmers who live in the jungle. There was a meeting house, but really no central location. We went to the president’s house and talked to him and his family about the work I would do.

It was immediately clear to me that I did not want to work there. They had said they had an environmental education program, but the more we talked the more it seemed that was not really true. It appeared that if I worked there I would just be working in the garden every day and perhaps attempt to identify plants in the part of the jungle they own. (You know, since I´m an expert botanist and everything). Basically it was everything I hoped it wasn’t, not to mention it wasn’t really accessible… I would have to take a taxi from my house every day ($4 each way because of the rocky, uphill road) and then walk 30 to 40 minutes.

Luckily, my professor was able to see I was not interested. So now I am working for the same organization as Anna. It is a state park-like place on an island (technically a peninsula) in the river that runs through Tena. Its focus is environmental education, so it’s a place for tourists and school groups. For now, it is only accessible by canoe because a flood wiped out the bridge last spring, but it is definitely easier to get to than the other place…

I am hoping it will be a good fit. Today was a little strange because we just cleaned up trash for a few hours, had lunch, and then waited around for our boss before finally just going home. At the moment I’m feeling like it is going to be a loooong 6 weeks, but hopefully that feeling will change soon. There is one really good thing, though. The island has monkeys! So obviously I am quite excited about that.

I also met my new family yesterday. Everyone is very nice. I have a mom and a dad, a brother, a sister, and 2 nieces. There is also another sister that works outside of Tena but comes home on the weekends. It is definitely less comfortable than in Quito, but I’m hoping it will be okay. The only thing I am kind of annoyed about is that I don’t have my own room. Sometimes the nieces sleep in my room and that is where the sister sleeps Friday–Sunday. It is fine, but it hard feeling like I don’t have any space of my own.

I don’t have wireless at my house but there is an internet café across from work. It is just $1 to use the computer for an hour. So hopefully I’ll be able to update regularly, but uploading pictures might be tricky.


Connie: Still a Shigure Virgin?

October 29, 2010

That’s actually the title of a CD I bought yesterday. It’s also by the band I’m going to suggest to you this month. Their name is 凛として時雨 (Rin toshite Shigure) and I liked them from the moment I heard them, though maybe they’re a bit strange.

A few weeks ago one of my Japanese friends invited me to go to an izakaya with him. Me and one other American went. Everyone else was Japanese. It was a good chance for immersion, though when it came to group conversations I was lost a good 80% of the time. I ended up talking one-on-one with several people, which was a bit easier. One guy I talked to got on the subject of music. I told him what I liked and he ended up suggesting this band to me. He wrote down their name and handed me the piece of paper. When I looked it up on youtube later I fell instantly in love.

Thus started my quest to find their CD. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it at any of the used CD shops, and I had to pay full price. I don’t mind so much, because I really enjoy them. This is the first song of theirs I heard.

While we’re on the subject of music, I got 12 music posters yesterday. At YouMe Town if you purchase a CD you can feel free to take a poster. Then we went to a used book store called Book Off where I bought three magazines for very cheap. One of them came with a single poster, the other contained 10. My room looks like a record shop.

I think I’m going to develop a serious liking for the band The Kiddie. Maybe you’ll see them in this post next month.


Haley: Project Sunshine

October 29, 2010

Today was Project Sunshine. But to my displeasure that is NOT how it started off. First of all I want to start off by thanking my Parents, Brothers, Aunts/Uncles, Grandparents, and yes even Teachers for guiding me and providing me with the right love and support in my life. Today was an extra reminder for me on HOW important it is to love the ones you care about… Rather than waking up to my alarm, I woke up and experienced for the first time a kid getting the stick and there is nothing more blood boiling than this. (This wasn’t in my home(s) I’m staying at, and this is NOT how the majority of Kenyan Families handle things, so don’t think that). Unfortunately with good there will sometimes be bad… But  moving on!

Project Sunshine! This is essentially kind of like a daycare within the hospital. When the mothers (or fathers) come in to get medication or whatever it is they need to do, they drop their kids off with us and we provide them with milk and cookies and then play with them. The kids are usually afraid of the only white person IN the building, and they have NO idea what the heck I’m speaking because they’re still learning how to make complete sentences in Swahili. So I figure “Hey!, there’s some puppets over there, WHY NOT?! I loved stuffed animals when I was a kid.” Turned out my little “English-Speaking-Giraffe-Puppet” was a demonoide for this Kenyan tot because I THOUGHT this kid was enjoying it but the kid was wincing and within seconds let out an ear piercing scream; at this point I didn’t know WHO was more scared, the kid, or me, nearly chucking Jeffery the Giraffe half way across the room from the explosion of deafness. (Every so often she would peek her little head from around the corner to see if the stuffed animal ceased to be ‘posessed’.)

Other than this little kid, the place was pretty dead. I guess on Fridays not many people come to the clinic because they either don’t have money towards the end of the week to get there or they’ve started the weekend early. So this mean a LOT of down time. I couldn’t even walk around to the departments because even they really didn’t have anything to do. So what does this mean? Ohhhhh it means that Haley got stuck talking to other Kenyan Volunteers who LOVED to ask questions. And not just ANY kind of questions:
[ “So where are you from?”
] “I’m from Chicago… in the US”
[ “Oh… Chicago!…… What country is that by?”
] “Wha-Oh no it’s not a country. It is a City within the US”
[ “Oh… So it’s by the US? Is it nice?”
] “No-no, it is IN the US… like Mombasa is a City in Kenya”
[ “Ohhh… So you’re American?”

(….. yeahhhh this is how this went for a while… it gets better… 10 minutes goes by)

[ “So… you look like you are from Mexico… you know, Spanish?”
] “… Really!? Hmm, never thought about it. And I think you’re thinking of Spain”
[ “Yeah… Mexico is a part of Spain”
] “(doooooo I TELL her—oh never mind)… No, part of my family is from Greece so I probably look like them.
[ “… So you’re Greece? Is that a country?” (OKAY so pretttyyyyyy sure she’s never looked at a map at this point)
] “Uhhmmm… yes, it’s north of Egypt across the sea…… but no, some of my ancestors are from Greece, I am not from there”
[ “Oh yeah!!!! I forgot! You said your nationality was Chicago right?”……. (sigh)

(it was a painful process but I got through it… and more importantly so did she–WEW!)
THEN there was the guy…uhg Do you ever have those days where you just want to appreciate silence or alone time… yes well this guys just wasn’t getting it.

[ “Ahhhh So you’re AMERICAN!”
] “Yes. Yes I am”
[ “So you’re a Doctor!?”
] “Oh no! I’m just here as a student, and I am studying health administration”
[ “… (Blank Stare) Sooooo you’re a nurse?”
] “hm? No(?) okay there are people who help run hospitals, look at the community, look at the finances, construct programs, monitor the medical staff, etc… that’s what I am studying to hopefully do”
(this proceeded for about 5 minutes as he was amazed that you didn’t have to be a doctor or nurse to work in a hospital)

What a day! Although it was slow at the hospital, I was tested today nonetheless and learned that patience is essential while traveling and looking back on it now, I probably would have laughed if I had overheard those conversations.


Claudia: Scottish Highlands adventure

October 29, 2010

Now, when I last left you, dear readers, I was about to embark on a journey to the Scottish Highlands. We left on a Friday morning at 7:45 am from campus, so all most of us wanted to do on the bus was sleep. However, our very enthusiastic tour guide only left us in quiet for a few minutes before we started hearing all about the landscape around us. I was so conflicted because on one hand, I was so sleepy, but on the other, I did not want to miss anything. We stopped at a Wal-Mart affiliate, ASDA, in Perth to allow people to get some food, and to meet up with the buses carrying Butler students from other universities. I thought I saw a girl I knew from high school, and as it turned out, it was a girl I knew from high school. So we had a little “It’s a Small World, After All” moment, as we marveled at how random it was that we happened to both be in Scotland without knowing it.

Second, we stopped at a place called the Hermitage. The story goes that an ancient Scottish bard by the name of Ossian (who was blind) lived in a hut/cave in the woods here by a waterfall, and he wrote this beautiful poetry that went undiscovered til the 1700s, when a man called James MacPherson “found” the manuscripts and translated it from Gaelic. As it would seem, this is all a bunch of crap, and MacPherson himself wrote the poetry. Not that it’s bad poetry, but it would appear that it is not actually ancient, and this Ossian fellow was made up. The area was just beautiful… there was another waterfall, and an old stone bridge, and many trees. We were being hustled through, though, so I was sad that I couldn’t just walk around for hours. I should figure out how to go back, maybe.

Anyhoo, following this, we stopped in an adorable town, Pitlochry, where my friend Sarah and I ate in a cute little restaurant, and then had a wander about through some of the shops before getting back to the bus. Following Pitlochry, we drove to Glenfinnan, where the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter movies is filmed. We climbed up a big hill that was very muddy, so I carried Sarah over a bit of it, as she wasn’t wearing appropriate footwear. The train coming was actually supremely anti-climactic, but my friend Lauren and I insisted upon humming the Harry Potter theme while taking video of the train passing.

Glenfinnan was the last stop of the day until we came to Inverness, our stopping point for the night. Inverness means “Mouth of the Ness,” which I didn’t know until I went there, so hooray for learning stuff.
In the morning, we got up nice and early to go to Culloden Battlefield, the site of the last battle fought on British soil (16 April, 1746). Background knowledge: in 1745, the Jacobites started a rebellion against William of Orange, the Protestant and(duh)non-English king of England. Bonnie Prince Charlie (aka Charles Edward Stuart) led them in the name of his father, James, who believed himself to be king of England, but was chilling in France until further notice. So, Bonnie Prince Charlie rounded up a motley crew of Highland warriors, and had a really bad idea to try to march all night and surprise the government troops (incidentally, most of these troops were Highlanders as well. A lot of mothers would send one son to each side, because everybody wanted to be on the winning side. Hence, it was a battle of brothers against brothers), whom he thought would be ragingly hungover from celebrating the birthday of their commander the night before. Now, the British were not so stupid as to get trashed the night before there was going to be a huge battle. So, in short, the Jacobites didn’t make it all the way to the government camp, the government soldiers heard them coming and started chasing the Jacobites, who were forced to retreat. They caught up at Culloden, and the battle was over in about half an hour. It was entirely a massacre, which led to the Duke of Cumberland, head of government forces, to be known as “The Butcher.” Culloden spelled doom for the clan system in the Highlands, as the Highland clearances went into effect, and it became illegal for clan members to wear their tartans or carry their daggers with them. This is the end of my history digression.

Anyway, Culloden was spooky. In the morning, the fog was intense, and it felt really… Scottish. The markers for where each clan fell, and the larger cairn commemorating the battle stood out, and with all of the different groups of us walking around and emerging from the mist, it was a pretty shadowy atmosphere. It kind of reminded me of Antietam in that you could sort of feel the presence of death looming around.

After this mess, we naturally needed a pick-me-up, so our tour guide popped in a Proclaimer’s CD, and a number of passengers on the bus had a little bit of a sing-a-long. Happier, we disembarked at a working sheepdog farm, where we got to see some awesome border collies in action. The highlight of this was absolutely playing with the puppies. Also a highlight: the shepherd picked up a ram by its horns (one-handedly) to get it out of the herd to let people try their hand at shearing a sheep. I was pretty awesome at it. Interesting story concerning the shepherd’s wife: she was an American girl who had been on a tour of the farm, loved the demonstration and found a way to work there over the summer, and by autumn, she was married to the shepherd. Now she has a Scottish accent! This whole thing prompted one of my friends to have something of a huge crisis on the off chance that a Scottish man proposed, whether she’d say yes and move to Scotland, leaving everything in America behind, or not. I was highly amused.

We had lunch in a cute little town called Aviemore, then the buses went their separate ways to different distilleries. We went to Glenfiddich. The entire place reeked of alcohol (oh gee, I wonder why?). Fermenting stuff looks pretty gross. The distilling area looks like it belongs in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. You can’t take pictures except from a raised platform above it, because as a sign notified us, it was an “explosive atmosphere.” The bathrooms are supposedly the nicest in Scotland… there was a chandelier and a fireplace, with a bunch of big leather armchairs. So classy.

We stopped in Elgin on the way back (I felt like I was at home… Elgin, Inverness..)and saw the ruins of an abbey, but it was just long enough of a stop to take a few pictures and then continue on our merry way. Back in Inverness, we took naps and then got back on the bus for dinner.

In the morning, we said good bye to Inverness and hello to Loch Ness. We took a cruise (soo cold) down the loch (no, sadly, I did not see Nessie), and stopped at Urquhart Castle, which, according to the brochure was “Raided. Attacked. And Blown Up!” or something to that effect. There was a trebuchet type thing that had been used in the movie Highlander, so naturally, my friend and I had to have an epic battle while screaming “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!!!!” It was really beautiful, and we climbed about for a bit until it was time to get back on the bus. We stopped in Fort Augustus for lunch, which was rather charming, and then our last stop was at Glen Coe, the scenic location in which HIGHLANDER!!!!! amongst other films, was … filmed. It was really beautiful, but camera was very nearly dead, and we were only there to take pictures (Literally, we had 10 minutes). I absorbed the scenery, took as many photos as possible before the death of my camera, and participated in a group picture. We drove by the place where they film Hagrid’s hut for the HP movies, and set off for Stirling to drop off the students from that uni. We started watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and it was pretty sweet timing, because as we pulled into Pollock Halls in Edinburgh, the movie ended. We all clapped at Scott’s (our driver) impeccable timing, and went home to be exhausted until class the next day.


Haley: Internship update

October 28, 2010

Today I wake up and at this point have realized that sweating is just something I have to get used to… sleeping you sweat, brushing your teeth you sweat, eating a banana you sweat, typing as I write this blog I sweat… wew it is HOT! So blah, I walk to work and as I walk I also realize that for some reason, kids are taught to say “How are you!” when they see a white person. So along with being called a mazungu, I get bombarded with “How-are-you’s” on my walk to and from work. yeahhhh I attempted to talked back ONCE with a “I’m doing well, how are you?” Talk about a deer-in headlights look. When you respond they either look like they’re thinking “OH-Sh#@… she responded!” or they just laugh at you and follow. Soooo now I just respond in a different language and miraculously they lose interest in me.

So today at the hospital…. I get there on-time and waited… OH hold on I waited some more….  So I walk over to the office next door because the woman in that office just arrived (the same woman I did the Mwangalizi project with). So within minutes she had me follow her and I ended up talking to a large group of people who were helping out with the HIV group for children and we talked for about 30 minutes. They were FULL of questions about the United States and were curious about the status of HIV there. It was really great being able to talk to people who WANT to educate their community about such a serious virus.

Finally, my advisor woman arrives and just kind of looks at me like “Oh… you’re here?” She semi-explained my duties for the day that I was confused about (yet again), so naturally I go to the office next door and clear things up. Today I get to experience the different offices of the peads section of the hospital! I went through registration, where they register children who are considered “exposed” to HIV because their mom’s are possitive but the child’s status still remains unknown, and then there are the children who are HIV+ themselves. Then I went to the Triage department where they take the temperature and ask what is wrong essentially, and we also have to ask the moms if they knew they were HIV+ before or after they gave birth.

The next department I shadowed was the Nutrition department and we measured and weighed the children to check weather the child rests in an average zone on the z-score chart (AH-HAH!!!! I’ve FINALLY applied a math course above algebra to my job!!… and yes, I did a little freak out moment of joy when he talked Standard Deviations). This one boy came in with the LONGEST arms and legs. He was a little over two years old and unable to walk on his own: his mother couldn’t afford to feed him enough causing him to be malnursiehd giving him no strength to walk. So the Hospital provides them with ‘plumpy nut’ (peanut butter) to help. I moved from Nutrition to the Clinic where the people in there were essentially Physicians Assistants, they just altered the medications for the children based on the symptoms and reactions which turns into a trial and error procedure. The last Department I went in to observe was the Pharmacy and what an amazing way to end the day… it was FREEZING in there!


Britta: Moving to the jungle

October 27, 2010

We had our last day of classes on Friday.  Afterward we celebrated the Day of the Dead with special sugar bread and a delicious warm, fruit drink.  Then we all went outside on the terrace and danced salsa (or at least tried).

Now that the class portion of the semester is over, tomorrow I am headed to the Amazon to start the internship section!  I’ll be in Tena, a town of 100,000 people and one of the places I visited the first time I went to the jungle. There are six other students who will be near me (mostly public health kids who are interning at the hospital), and we’re being driven the 3 hours out there tomorrow morning.

I found a new internship, but I am still a little worried about it. Although my professor assures me this is not the case, I’m nervous it is too agriculture-based. I honestly am not sure even what the organization does…something about environmental education and cultivation. Hopefully it will be good!

Tomorrow I will also be getting a new family. Again, I know very little about them. I don’t know if I have host siblings or if it’s a single mom or anything. My professor did suggest, however, that they are very well connected…so we’ll see what that means.

I am a little sad to leave Quito and my family here. I didn’t like the city very much at first—and there are still things a dislike—but for the most part I am really comfortable here now.  I’m excited to move to a new place, but it will of course take some getting used to.  I am definitely worried about the change in weather!  Tena is hot and humid, whereas Quito has the most perfect weather.  It is like spring in the Midwest every day.

Wish me luck in the Amazon! I am not sure what my Internet situation will be, but hopefully I can post again soon.

–Brittany Libra

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