Monday, August 27, 2012

Fish, fish, fish,fish, fish

Yesterday we went to the beach for what I expected to be a lazy, uneventful Sunday afternoon.  We went down to the water and were just chilling when Leigh suddenly pointed out to me the fishermen on the shore, pulling ropes on either side of us.  She informed me that they were pulling in their nets.

Let me just take a moment to say, that I can't imagine the energy it takes to pull in one of these nets.  I'm terrible at judging distances, so suffice it to say that the net is rather far out at sea and at least as long as several of me stacked on top of each other.  Not to mention that the bottom half is weighted with rocks.  And it's hopefully full of fish (though it's mostly full of seaweed).  The drag it must have is astounding.  And these guys haul it in several times in a day.  There're also about 15 of them, but still.  

We watched them pull it in twice and both times joined the crush of locals trying to see what they caught.  (I can only imagine how old it would get to have so many people crowded around every time you tried to do your job, but my sympathy was overruled by my curiosity to see what they brought in.)  It was really cool.  I'm bummed because of course I've reached the point where I think I've seen everything, so I decided not to bring my camera, and I would love to show y'all what we saw.  There were, of course, a fair number of  man-hand-sized fish and loads of smaller fish, most of which disappeared pretty quickly.  But there was also an odd lobster and crab, many many blowfish and several of the most beautiful sea urchins I have ever seen.  They were big, dark black-purple, with gorgeous red and blue designs on the shells.  So pretty.  This is what I really want a picture of.

The fisherman gathered up all the good-sized fish and anything else worth eating pretty quickly.  Once they were finished, the locals were left to dig through the mounds of seaweed looking for the tiny fish, which I'm assuming will either become dinner or bait.  We got to hold several of them before they were taken off and I just have to say that fish are so beautiful before they are dead.  They are colorful and iridescent and just brilliant and then when they die they go a lifeless dull grey.  It's a shame, really.  

All in all, I would say it was a rather successful trip to the beach.  I've never noticed them hauling in the nets before, but I'm really hoping we catch them again sometime.  You just never know what you might find in there.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Candy Land

This past week the kids at Olives have been on summer holiday.  Instead of having classes, we’ve essentially been having summer camp.  Most of the kids are busy at home or up country visiting relatives, but we’ve had a pretty steady 30-40 kids from the village turn up to play games and do puzzles. 

It’s been loads of fun to get to just relax and play with the kids.  Most of them don’t really have access to games and puzzles, so it’s been interesting trying to teach them through the language barrier.  They’re having a blast, though.  They come in and get right down to the business of playing.  I’ve been really impressed with how respectful the kids have been with all of the materials.  The first couple days were a bit chaotic but now, by Friday, everyone is happily occupied with their game of choice and actually playing it correctly, which is an achievement.  Thanks to all the volunteers for having the patience to teach everyone!

I think it took Jan several days before the kids started to understand how ConnectFour works.
I managed to pull Standard 8 away from their studies for 3 mornings in a row!  They were fans of Scrabble.
I think the thing that’s been the most fun for me this week has been the reminder of how simple games can surpass so many boundaries.  It’s been surreal to see our village kids playing the same games as the kids back home, half a world away.  I always appreciate these little reminders that all kids everywhere are essentially the same.  I also think it says something for the games themselves that something like Candy Land can stand the test of time and be so universally understood.  
Candy Land, unlike ConnectFour, was understood and enjoyed almost immediately.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fantastic Friday

Hello, all!  I hope you’re having an excellent Friday thus far.  I, for one, am having a great day.  I’m having an ‘I love Kenya’ day.  Would you like to know why?  Of course you would!  (If you don’t, you should probably stop reading because, if you hadn’t already guessed, I’m going to tell you now.)

My lessons this morning were awesome.  We got finished with our grammar a bit early in standard 8, so I got out the collection of “James and the Giant Peach” books that my mom got in book donations and brought out with her.  They are actually an adaptation that’s a play, but what’s great about them is there are enough so the kids can follow along as I read.  I read the first few scenes, acting it out and trying to make voices for the characters and the kids had a lot of fun with it.  We’ve had a pretty good week in standard 8 in general, what with jazz hands and a grammatical version of Pictionary/Charades.

Then, I was doing my planning for standard 7 and realized that I wasn’t looking forward to teaching at all.  And if I’m not looking forward to teaching, the kids probably aren’t looking forward to coming.  That’s not good.  So, instead of working on our grammar like we’ve been doing, we spent the class period making up actions for our vocabulary words and then testing each other on them.  I may or may not have made up a song about baking that sounds very similar to a song about making a peanut butter sandwich. 

After school I had to make a trek into town to renew my visa, since the wonderful immigration officer at the airport only gave me a month instead of the 90 days I paid for.  I can’t say I was looking forward to this task, but it turned out so much better than I dared to hope.  I asked for 4 more months, expecting them to give me 3 and tell me to come back.  Instead, he kindly gave me 6, which is the longest you can stay without leaving the country.  So now I’m good until January, and it didn’t even cost me extra.  Thanks, immigration officer, you’re my hero of the day.  (Don’t worry, mom, I’m coming home in November, promise.)

After my excellent rendezvous with the immigration office, (which, by the way, I managed to find without getting lost!) I did a wander of downtown Mombasa, which I always enjoy.  Found loads of street food, though I mostly just looked, and bought some produce that we don’t usually get at the house (apples!).  Now I’m just chilling, charging my computer so that I can go watch the synchro finals tonight.  Huzzah!  (I probably shouldn't get too excited about that just yet.  In Kenya, nothing goes as planned.)

At any rate, that’s been my day.  I hope everyone else has an equally wonderful day to take them into the weekend.  Cheers!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I’ve actually been feeling the urge to blog a lot more since I got back to Mombasa.  It’s tricky, though, because I’ve reached that point where life here no longer feels worthy of talking about.  Instead it just feels like life.  Consequently, I feel like every blog is going to sound the same: Things are good.  Really busy but I’m enjoying my work.  Life’s moving along.

And that’s pretty much it.  Things are pretty good.  I think I’ve settled in.  I finally got some pictures up on my wall, which always gives me a stronger sense of calm than I expect it to.  On the job I feel like I’m wearing so many different hats I haven’t quite figured out how to keep it all straight, but I’m getting there slowly and chipping away at some long-term tasks that are beginning to look more manageable.   I’m appreciating the chance to use all the skills I’ve gained over the last few years. 

Personally, I’m finding time to relax, exercise and get into a book or two as well as getting to know some awesome volunteers.  So it’s good.  My life is generally enjoyable, sometimes frustrating, mostly fulfilling and relatively balanced.  I don’t think you can ask for much more (though I’d take an oven).  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Madam Monkey

I’m finally getting more and more of the village kids to call me madam instead of mzungu (Kiswahili for white person).  All but the Olives kindergartners, at least.  We were doing well until yesterday when I walked by a lot in a tree that started calling me Madam Monkey.  I let it go until they did it again on my way by this morning.  I’m still investigating where on earth this came from as I have absolutely no clue, but you can be sure I’ll report back straight away if I do manage to solve the mystery.  

Update:  My super sleuthing, aka asking the kindergartners outright, has turned up exactly zero bits of useful information.  I'm afraid the world may never know how Madam Monkey came to be.  

Jazz hands, please

It occurred to me recently that I don’t always take the time to really appreciate some of the moments in the classroom that make my job great.  I tend to take most things in life in stride, which sometimes means I don’t fully process the amusing moments that make class interesting.  I have a very ill-defined notion to rectify that. 

For a start, I’d like to share the fact that I got almost all of my standard 8 pupils to begrudgingly participate in a jazz hands competition at 8:15am this morning.  I know they thought it was completely stupid, but they did it and they enjoyed it in spite of themselves.  And I’m ok with that.  It’s totally fine with me that half of their enjoyment came from chuckling at me dashing across the front of the classroom signaling each section.  Sometimes you just need that to get going in the morning. 

I’d also like to mention that I had to detain standard 7 for 20 minutes after class because they insisted on speaking Kiswahili during English.  I decided to use the opportunity to teach them some things they might like to say to each other during class, using their English.  We learned things like “Can I borrow a pencil, please?”  and “Can you move over, please?” and “Can you stop touching me, please?”  The boys did a great job figuring out the pattern and making it their own, which led to some fun questions like, “Can I love you, please?” and “Can I sleep with you, please?”;  to both of which I suggested thinking twice before making either request of a girl. 

Today’s anecdotes have been brought to you by 5 very itchy mosquito bites.  Pop by again to see what else standards 7 and 8 have been up to!