Haley: Emotional rollercoaster

December 3, 2010

I haven’t posted anything the past few weeks. I found myself in a strange state of mind where I didn’t know HOW to write what I felt, experienced, saw… mostly because I wasn’t sure of what I thought. My apologies!!!! But I still have stories I want to share. SO this post will consist of a few play-by-plays or bullet points of the past couple of weeks spent in Mombasa. The overview being: Homesickness hit HARD when we first arrived, eased into contentedness to full on travellers HIGH, and back to normal(ish).

Home-sickness: Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe the feelings you have while away. I don’t even think a pregnant woman is capable of being as hormonal as a person caught in the middle of this wretched emotional feat! No joke, the whole first week of internship was like trying to run in water.

  • You don’t really realize HOW alone and isolated you really are until you go to a place where nobody speaks your language (or is WILLING to speak it).
  • You’re a full head taller than everyone your gender. You’re even taller then most the men too.
  • When looking at staff pictures you’re easily spotted NOT because you’re the only one smiling, but because miraculously you seem to have a nuclear GLOW underlining the pigment of your skin.
  • No matter how many times you say your name, you still get called something TOTALLY different (my personal favorite being Sylvia).
  • Realizing you would rather be called “Sylvia” than ‘This One” (always with a finger-point or head-nudge).
  • Becoming totally convinced that clocks run 100 times slower in tropical countries because you’re dying to get some AC going… or maybe even some Deodorant fans?
  • You realize that everyone has a better opinion about your country than you… And yet they have never ACTUALLY been there (it’s my personal fav).
  • Pretending to speak a different language OTHER than English because people love to show off their ‘bi-lingual’ skills, which essentially is ‘HOW-ARE-YOU!?’ and ‘MONEY!!’ (Como estas/ cava/ ti kanis/waduuuuuup = a frightened Kenyan that quickly loses interest).
  • Having to repeat yourself at least THREE times because you ask where “Oliver (Ah-live-er)” is, and nobody knows who the heck you’re talking about:
    • [ “ummmm the guy whose desk is next to yours?”
    • ] “OHHHH ….Oliver (OH-lee-vahh)”
  • People starting a conversation with you such as:
    • ] “Are you American?!?!?!?!”……. I’ve learned to lie and say other countries to avoid talking about the States
    • [ “Uhhh…. No……. I’m from Canada” (the first and last times I used Canada…)
    • ] “Oh… have you ever BEEN to America!?!?!?!??!?!” (arrrreeee youuuu kidding me?….)
  • When you are eating a traditional dish with your hands like eevveerryyoonnee else, looking up you find everyone watching you eat while giggling; Duh Haley… white people only eat meals with un-needed amounts of silverware, drink tea with their pinkies extended while stroking their curled up mustaches gaggling over last year’s preposterous yyyyyyyaaaaaaccchhhhttttt-club decor. Silly ME!
  • Wearing “shorts” that go slightly above your knee. You would think that Hugh’s Bunnies were on a promo with the reactions you’d get. “Girls-gone-wild in Kenya: WOOOO SHOW ME SOME ANKLEEEEE!!!!!!”
  • Men for some reason talking to you in a HIGH pitched voice.
  • Men thinking they are better than women. Ohhhhhhhh how I’ve realized how much I appreciate being a woman in the United States.
  • Those same men thinking they can get you in the sack because “You’re American right? So every girl over the age of 18 ‘sins’, it’s what you do.”—while touching your knee winking (MOTHER F–# #*Q64 @&*^&^!*^!*^&^#……… *^*&^*&!%@^!&@)
  • You order a Greek salad, and there’s nothing Greek about it. Hell, it’s not even a salad (sigh).
  • Stepping in camel poop at the beach.
  • Having to pretend that the “puddles” you WANT to avoid in the mud roads and allyways you take every day, are from fresh tap water. And if you step on something squishy, just keep on walking. Don’t even THINK about looking down or back…. and stenches you come across on the road, well lets just pretend you live in a community of gassy people because chances are that’s a more desirable reason for such assaulting smells.
  • Wondering WHY (after you just said you don’t understand Swahili), people think speaking SLOWER in Swahili changes your comprehension.
  • Sitting in a meeting at ‘work’ for 5 hours where ONLY Swahili is spoken, and when it is finished someone asks if you have anything else to add:
    • [ “Ummmmm Yes: I don’t speak Swahili(?)”
    • ] “so you didn’t understand anything we just talked about?”
    • [ “no”—and then that wonderful open-minded woman gets frustrated with you because you didn’t pick up on the conversation after the 2nd hour, and your advisor asks:
    • ] “You mean to tell me there wasn’t a translator there for you?! WHY wasn’t there a Translator!!??”
    • [“uhhhhmmmm… because you didn’t assign me one….”
  • Squatty-Potty’s: essentially a flushable HOLE meant to strengthen your quads and hamstrings (a better workout when bugs are present)… and it’s your lucky day if toilet paper is present

Boy-oh-boy so I truly felt bad for anyone who had to talk to me the week of Homesickness!


  • People at work start to know your name (or the sound of your name). You don’t know theirs, but who CARES! They at least said hi!
  • You no longer sit at ‘work’ playing bejeweled on your phone for 3 hours straight. You get to decipher ‘Doctor-writing’ (which by the way is 10 times worse in Kenya).
  • You get invited to sit next to people during tea time. (haha I can’t write this one without laughing at how pathetic it sounds)
  • Someone decides to take the time to explain WHAT they are doing at work, and translate everything for you in the process
  • You realize that you are surrounded by the most beautiful beaches you have ever seen, and that going to the Indian Ocean cures every problem you thought you might have had.
  • You realize you are not the only mzungu suffering homesickness or frustrations.
  • The people you work with laugh at your jokes… even if you’re not making one.
  • You find that someone has paid for not only YOUR bill, but your friends’ as well, while refusing to actually introduce themselves to you (**Okay so this is a step up from Napkin-Man, Moroccan-Stalker, and Illiterate-Texter in Nairobi… but still, just go up and the girl and TALK to her—with taste of course).
  • You’ve come to terms that sweating is just a lifestyle where you live now, and there’s nothing you can do about frizzy hair.
  • You find humor in the commercials on TV that pertain to “Always Pads” because they’re even more obnoxious than the tampon commercials from home.
  • You get to operate a computer at work and discover the few rooms that have wonderful, wonderful, air conditioning.

Travellers HIGH

  • You speak the limited Swahili you know to patients (like you’ve been speaking it your whole life of course) and watch their jaws drop as the rest of the staff members laugh at your act.
  • You call out a person/client who is trying to talk about you in Swahili to a fellow employee and smile when they panic.
  • You go to work and declare that the department that you are assigned to is now the “Fun Room” and people are NOT allowed in unless they smile.
  • When working in said “fun-room” you ask Swahili speakers (in English) if they would like a balloon animal when they’re in the waiting room, while reaching for the stock of condoms provided by the hospital…
  • When people refer to you as the “only mzungu/white girl” at work, you tell them you have no IDEA what they are talking about while looking at them like they’re crazy (then of course reassure them you were joking because AGAIN, Haley’s sarcasm is seriously misunderstood here).
  • You and your colleagues run around downtown playing childish games, shouting absurd nonesense and finding it hysterically funny. (While being stopped by a kind Kenyan man “Are-you-okay!?!)
  • Taking a picture with a homeless man instead of giving him money and having him kiss your arm in “thanks.”
  • Watching the sun rise while walking the beach realizing that the sky holds more color in it than you could have ever have imagined.
  • You start to sing along to the “Always Pad” commercials you discovered a week before.
  • You get recognized as the girl who laughs.
  • You’re not sure what your job title is at work—you’re not even sure what you’re supposed to be doing… but you get praised and told “GREAT JOB!” all the time.

As far as the normalcy part goes… well it comes and goes. But the travelers high has definitely simmered down back into contentedness.

Now I’ll leave you with this:

*~*~*~*…life is full of decisions… and we are faced with them each day… and no matter if they are right or wrong… we STILL have the ability and control and determine the outcome of our happiness… it doesn’t take away our right to FEEL, we’re only human… but I can promise you that with each decision faced, I will do it with a smile because nothing can stop me from trying… I have been out of element for nearly 3 months, and am in awe with everything I have learned and can only imagine how much more there is to figure out… each memory etching its way into my heart for my mind to trace (but never for too long… because getting lost in the ways of our past will get us nowhere)… while taking each moment by the second no matter how scary, crazy, or even stupid it may seem…knowing each tomorrow is unique and unpredictable… I’ve learned and continue on learning that living life while smiling leaves an everlasting impression on our hearts… and those decisions we make, are the strokes of beauty we chose to leave….*~*~*~*

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