Monday, January 30, 2012

I'm Baaaack!

I can't believe I have only been back in Mombasa for a week.  It feels like I never left.  It's great.  I've pretty much picked up right where I left off, except with brand new volunteers.  (I do miss all of my old friends, but I suppose the new ones are pretty cool, too.)

Things at school are going well so far.  I came back and somehow things were magically better.  One of the teachers left, which is helping, and one of the really great ones has been put in charge of discipline, which is also helping.  The headteacher is still there and he's still a bit...rough around the edges.  I still have some reservations about him being there, but he has been good so far.  I feel like, as long as someone is keeping an eye on him so he can't get out of hand, it'll be fine.  My kids are the same old, cheeky bunch.  Gotta love 'em.

We've had a lot of school improvements over the past two months which make our time on campus so much enjoyable.  We got a new roof, which is amazing.  My room has a clear panel in the new corrugated metal, which makes it a bit brighter and cooler.  It also hopefully won't rain into my classroom anymore.  I can't fully convey how exciting this is, but trust me, it's awesome.  We have also relocated the kindergarten classes to a brand new building next to Olive's church down the road.  Their old classrooms have been converted into a library and a staff room, which is also amazing.  We actually have a place where we can sit and work at school.  I'm hoping that it will help get the local teachers and volunteers interacting more.  It's hard to branch out, but it would be really good if we got better at working as a team.  (This is something I am still working on for myself.)

The boys dig the ditch to lay the cable under the ground.
Right now, Mr. Joseph and the boys in the upper grades are working on getting electricity to the kindergarten rooms so that we can put in a light bulb.  That way the kids can come to read or do homework after dark, since most of them don't have lights in their homes.  It is amazing to me just how transformative such little things can be.  One light bulb is a huge deal.  Some new sheets of corrugated metal can make all the difference in a classroom's conductivity to learning.  I'm glad that I have the chance to really appreciate those things.  It just reminds me of what really matters in a life and how much I actually have.

This week I am starting to teach the new standard 6 along with my old standard 6 (now standard 7) and possibly standard 8.  I'm still working out the timetable to see if it's possible to fit 8 into my schedule.  I'm hoping so.  I feel like we were just maybe starting to get to know each other when I left last year.  Plus, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was just starting to get good and I feel bad leaving them hanging.

At any rate, it's getting a little busier in the best way.  I'm really enjoying my work and I'm doing my best to make the most of each day that I have here.  I know my 3 months will be over before I know it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Where I Slept in 2011

I stole this idea from a friend.  You can visit her post about her 2011 here.  I thought it might be an interesting catalogue of my year. So, here are all of the places that I slept in 2011:
1.       Wahoo, NE
2.       Lincoln, NE
3.       Houston, TX
4.       New Orleans, LA
5.       Casablanca, Morocco
6.       Marrakesh, Morocco
7.       Skoura Palm Grove, Morocco
8.       Tamtatouchte, Morocco
9.       Sahara Desert, Morocco
10.   Fez, Morocco
11.   Paris, France
12.   San Antonio, TX
13. Mahoney State Park, NE
14.   Nassau, Bahamas
15.   Titusville, FL
16.   Orlando, FL
17.   Somewhere near Cairo, GA
18.   Kansas City, KS
19.   Lake Lotawana, MO
20.   Salt Lake City, UT
21.   Black Rock City, NV
22.   Reno, NV
23.   Omaha, NE
24.   Mombasa, Kenya
25.   Watamu, Kenya
26.   Diani, Kenya
27.   Stone Town, Zanzibar
28.   Nairobi, Kenya

9 states, 6 countries, and 3 continents - I think it's fair to say that I've had a pretty busy year!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shameless Fundraising

I'd like to take this moment to put in a plug for my school here in Mombasa.  At Olives Rehabilitation Center we are starting a new year with even more kids, which is great.  We are helping to give 100 more kids a chance (we have 410 kids now!).  Unfortunately this means that we need even more financial support.  It doesn't take much by American standards to make a big impact.  It takes just 94 cents to provide lunch for one kid for an entire month and about 17 cents to provide water for that same kid each month.  These, along with textbooks, are two of our biggest needs right now.

We are also saving money to buy land so that we no longer have to worry about rent, which will free up future funds for these recurring needs.  We are about a third of the way there, woot!  To read more about the land fund, check out this link: .

Our goal, as with every G.V.I. project, is for the school to eventually be self-sustainable.  We are currently working on getting an income-generating project underway.  Until we get there, the help of any and all donors is much appreciated.

If you would like to make a donation, you can go here: or let me know via the comments section, Facebook or my email wood.kimberlymarie (at) gmail dot com.  You can do this as a one-time donation, or maybe you can find a few dollars in your monthly budget to put toward a good cause.  If you have any questions or want any more information, just let me know, I'm happy to answer anything you'd like to know!

Ok, shameless plug over.  I promise not to make this a habit.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I climbed a mountain.

A big one.  Tallest one in Africa.  Welcome to my 2012.  (It's probably all downhill after this.)

It was the first time I've ever done anything like this and I definitely learned a few things during my time on Mount Kilimanjaro.  For one, I am probably not going to make mountain climbing a regular hobby.  Sure, I loved the experience and I would definitely be up for climbing something again - the experience at the summit makes every moment worth its effort - but I think I'm more of a casual hiker and/or rock climber.  I'll enjoy some pretty scenery and I'll love hauling myself up a rock face, but when it comes to walking up a mountain, really, it’s not something I need to do every weekend. 

Porters carrying camp up the Barranco Wall.
The one caveat to this is if I found a mountain that required the sort of half hiking, half climbing endeavor that took us over the Barranco Wall.  Something not shear enough to require ropes, but too steep and rocky to just walk up.  Now that I could do all day and be very very happy. 

I suppose it's kind of a shame that I'm not so much into the mountain climbing, because I also discovered that apparently I am pretty good at altitudes.  Most people experience a bit of dizziness, headache and/or nausea at a certain point.  Some have really severe reactions.  There is a decent percentage of people that don't make it to the top.  I had a bit of headache the first time we went up past 4000m and aside from that was pretty much fine.  I actually kind of enjoyed watching how my body reacted to the different altitudes.  We kind of had a stairstep approach on several days where we would hike up a few hundred meters during the day and then come down again to sleep.  While this seemed like a lot of extra work, it also gave my body a chance to adjust.  Going up was really tiring and uncomfortable, but then when I got back down I felt amazing - even if I was at a point that had felt terrible the day before. 

In terms of being at camp, I have determined that, if I ever do something like this again, it is worth it to bring things for evening entertainment.  A long enough book or deck of cards is not an extravagant weight expenditure, but an integral part of the experience, regardless of whether I am carrying it or giving it to a porter.  (Did I mention the porters?  They carry everything for you and somehow manage to do it twice as quickly.  Camp is there when you leave in the morning and then magically it's already waiting for you when you get to the next place at the end of the day.)

Sunrise from the top
Overall, the experience was pretty incredible.  I am still amazed at the beautiful views, the energy required and the logistics of the entire operation.  It took 10 people to get myself and Kurt, my climbing partner for the week, to the summit.  All we had to do was walk.  And walk we did.  I don’t think I have ever done so much physical activity in any given week in my life.  It was definitely worth it, though.  Nothing I have done so far compares to the experience of reaching the summit.  We walked up to the snowy peak with the sun rising above the clouds to the left side of the ridge and the moon still setting on the right. That fleeting moment of surprising beauty coupled with the elation upon reaching the highest point on the ridge are the legacy of a hike on Kilimanjaro.  Already, the moments of headache and fatigue are fading, but the pride (and relief) of knowing that I did it, I persevered through the Shira Plateau, the Barranco Wall, the Karanga Valley, all the ups and downs, to stand and look out from the ice and snow of the Rooftop of Africa will always be with me.