Time sure does have a way of sneaking away from you. I have been with PC for 8 months now, and 1/4 of my service has vanished in the blink of an eye. I have 18.5 months left in PC…546 days….82 weeks. (total service: 26.5 months/114 weeks/800 days) It isn’t about counting down the days until I leave Kenya or me wanting to go home(though I do miss home). It is a reminder that my time here, even though 2 years, will be over before I know it.
This means making the most of the projects I have started to either see them to completion, or ensure long-term sustainability. And if in 2 years things did not go as planned, I changed the mindsets of people. I created change. Even if the fruits of my hard work are not seen for five years down the road, I know I planted the seed and there are people here to take care of it and watch it grow. That is the best thing you can do during your service, make an impact big or small, actively share culture, and enjoy the experience.
I take a look back when I first came to site. Whenever I would go into the market I was apprehensive. I was alone and I stood out. Now I can navigate the market with ease, bargain fair prices and sometimes even stop for a friendly chat with someone I know. I was also nervous about living day-to-day, but I have found establishing routines is crucial. Laughing more helps, especially at yourself. I have found my comfort at site, and have successfully made it through the first months with confidence in the months to come. I have a strong understanding of my community and how hard it is to live here. I have developed a patience and go-with-the-flow attitude that makes me less focused on immediate results and more on the bigger picture. How one day can make a big difference or a little one, but a difference none the less. And that life keeps going. You just have to carry on in each moment and not let the worst of times get to you.
My time here has given me a fresh perspective. You can live without normal, everyday comfort and not be deprived. Don’t get me wrong. I live in a an environment different from home, but there are things that just made life easier and a little more fun. Modern conveniences. What I miss most…
– Fast food / delivery (especially after a long day of working & you don’t want to go home to cook, or when your sick and just want some soup and a panini from the local deli)
– Food variety (because there are only so many ways you can eat greens, eggs, and rice)
– Refrigerator / freezer / oven (I have had to alter my perception on how long food should stay out for before going bad, the one day rule seems to not cause any medical problems. Preparing food takes a little more effort to account for food storage restrictions. Only having a little stove top limits my cooking to the imagination of a gas stove and a few pots)
– Washing machine / dryer (I like doing laundry. I suck at doing it by hand. I am glad I hired someone to do it)
– Reliable internet ( I am fortunate to have good internet, if only it was faster)
– “Clean” running water (I have seen running water, I can’t verify it is sanitary)
– Swimming pools (It is very hot here, and you can’t.. shouldn’t..swim in the lake)
– Friends (to hang out with and chill at home) – Family (to enjoy holidays with)
– Fruits…especially berries / sushi / frozen yogurt (a by-product of lacking food variety..not having my favorite foods)
– Health inspectors / health codes (it is a thing) (You don’t want to drink the water unless it is bottled & I don’t think I would chance a look into the kitchen at any hoteli, just make sure not to eat raw foods)
– Cold weather / SNOW (I live on the equator where the temperature is hot all year. I am a cold weather person..love my Seattle where it is cold most of year, with snow)
– Accessible health care (including vets) (Haven’t personally had to go to the doctor yet, but finding someone to give my pup shots and care has been a hassle)
– Easily available outdoor recreational activities (camping, hiking, skiing, parks, shooting, etc..)
– Ability to drive myself in a motorized vehicle (it would make traveling sooooo much easier and quicker, plus not dragging luggage through cramped transportation)
Definitely things I miss, but things I can live without for 2 years of my life without “much” complaint. Insert pause for laughter. But there are things I am lucky to have and make the transition of living here easier…
– Less rural area / decent selection of goods in town
– Very close to a major city ( my once a month “American” day in the city) – Working for a great organization / plus awesome counterparts
– Cozy little house / custom furniture to make it my own – No traditional choo
– My puppy…a constant companion, snuggler, and security system – Bits and pieces from home (pictures, cards, American flag, inspirational calendar)
– My laundry lady (I finally caved and now hire someone to do my laundry)
– Good beer
See. I like to see the silver lining. There are things I miss, but they are balanced with the things I am very lucky to have. Having pictures and cards to put on the walls definitely helps and creates a little sanctuary I can retreat to whenever Kenya overwhelms me and I need closeness of home. What I could do without in Kenya…
– mystery illnesses
– mosquito bites
– random bug bites and skin issues
If I had to identify the hardest thing about PC to the next group of volunteers coming in, I would definitely say… Isolation.
I’m sure you have heard it. I am sure you are preparing for it. But it is more than just not being around peers, friends and family. It is being isolated as an outsider in a new culture. It is the isolation from things that are familiar.
Between the months I am planning different fun trips…Ethiopia, Mt.Kenya, Mt.Elgon, Kakamega Rainforest, Uganda whitewater rafting/bungee jumping and a gorilla/chimpanzee trek, Massai Mara safari, Tsavo West NP, and Tanzania for either Zanzibar or Mt.Kilimanjaro. These may or may not happen, and they are planned trips through 2015! A week here, weekend there. That way I am not constantly cooped up in a village working. I have to stretch my adventure legs and work out my camera!!