Monday, July 4, 2016

Halfway There

June 29, July 4 (I didn't manage to finish this in one sitting, and the second sitting didn't happen until almost a week later)

Greetings from Kisumu, where I managed to successfully extend my visa until the end of September. This is a good thing since my return flight leaves Nairobi on September 27.

Hard to believe, but I am just about half done with my 6-month stint here. Wow. Three months from today, I will be home. Home. And it will be fall. September will have come and practically gone. Though I’m absolutely craving those cooler temps (plus sleeping with screens on my open windows, and malaria-less mosquitos), I can tell I’ve started adjusting to the Kenyan climate. Even my coworkers make comments when I put a sweater on at work – “You are becoming Kenyan!” And so I am.

So much has happened since my last post. So much. Life has been mostly good.

The interns arrived (both shipments of ‘em), and orientation went well. It has been interesting to note the differences between groups – lots of personalities and really great energy. The first group had eight days of orientation in Kakamega town, and the second only had three and a half since they’d gone through a fairly extensive orientation in Chicago before departure. This is all over the course of 16 days. I know I’ve complained about various aspects of my house here, but after a total of close to two weeks in a guest house (with spotty hot water and issues with providing all the rooms clean/dry towels), I definitely came to appreciate my place. The solitude, the familiarity of my own bed, the access to a fridge and kitchen and choosing what I cook and eat… really great. And now I’m staying at home for another two weeks until Mom comes (July 11th!) and we go to meet up with Maren for adventures! Hooray!

The transition from not having a lot going on to being busy full-tilt went pretty well, actually. The interns are all so lively and excited about being here and learning and jumping in to their projects, and that energy was really contagious. I am so excited for them – that they get to have this experience and see this tiny corner of the developing world. My first experience in Africa was so pivotal that I’m back for more. Whether or not they have a similarly influential experience in thees two months, who knows, but I do know that they won’t be able to remain unaffected. I only hope that my being here is helpful to them, even in some small way.

One has already had a really tough experience, and though I wasn’t directly involved, it made me think about who I am, why I’m here, and what I’m doing. This particular intern has been partnered with a health center in a fairly rural place, not too far outside of Kakamega, but I’m sure it feels very removed from any kind of town life. She spent her first week getting to know the various departments in the health center, and was privileged to go out into the field to meet some of the patients affected by HIV.

(Read her blog post here)

I’m no medical professional; I studied math. Some might argue it’s not a very “real world” major… obviously all mathematicians sit around proving things all day with calculators and slide rules and pocket protectors. Ok, maybe not. Suffice it to say that as a college student, I don’t think I could’ve ever envisioned myself here, facing these very real, and often heartbreaking, situations.

Regardless of what someone studies (even if it is global health or medicine), I think the first real encounter with someone (like this HIV+ woman our intern met) whose behavior doesn’t align with the western ideas of “healthy” is hard; it really shakes you. (I don’t know if I could pinpoint mine, though bringing a student with a broken leg over a mile along a rocky road on a donkey and into town via bumpy minibus taxi only to be told he would have to wait until the next day because it was a Sunday definitely comes to mind, even if it doesn’t compare in gravity.) For her to have seen this within her first week at her internship here was both immensely valuable and incredibly heavy. It makes perfect sense that she would want to write about it, both to process it and to share the experience with those back home, for whom such an encounter might still feel (and be) very distant.

I’d seen but not actually read her blog post, as I was busy preparing for and then also leading the second orientation. During one of the morning language sessions, I got a frantic text from this intern, saying someone (a fellow student at her home university, actually) had shared her post as an example of: “what not to do with your white savior complex.” (In case you’re unfamiliar with the white savior complex, google it, or here is one piece on it, or here is another. I could go on, but I’ll let you do your own searching…) For one of her peers (currently participating in a different but likely similar program in Kenya) to question her motives and accuse her of having a white savior complex completely blew my mind. Speaking on the phone to the (understandably upset) intern, I found myself getting quite mad. Where does this other student get off backhandedly accusing our intern like that?! Unproductive, unnecessary, untrue, and unacceptable… I won’t continue. I was angry.

After calming her down a bit (and trying to calm myself down too), we hung up and I went back to the Kiswahili lesson, deep in thought about my own reasons for being here, pursuing a career in international development. After all, I could have easily come home from Lesotho and gone to grad school in math or found a job completely unrelated to my time in Africa. I’ve thought about it quite a bit over the course of the last weeks, while running in the mornings, or as I job search, trying to find a next step in my professional life. Why am I here? What was it that made me choose this field? Why does it feel more “right” to me than pursuing a career in mathematics or academia or anything else? Is it maybe even a bit of my own white savior complex? I still don’t have an answer apart from knowing with conviction that I would not be able to go home to the States and leave development alone.

One of the things we’ve been emphasizing with the interns is the need for their projects to be sustainable. It was a buzzword thrown around during Peace Corps too. Many of the education volunteers quickly accepted that our presence in classrooms was not especially sustainable, but that there were other ways we could leave more of a lasting impact (I mean really, who was I to teach math and physics at a high school in rural Lesotho?!).

Maybe the “why do I do this” question is not a question meant to be answered simply and concisely. For me, at least, it cannot be answered simply or concisely, not right now anyway. I’m not there yet, maybe I never will be. I don’t have an answer, but I’m not content to walk away without trying to answer it, not for anyone else, but for myself. If the answer came easily, it wouldn’t match the complexity of the question. It seems like the big “why” question should not be far from the heart of this work, and anyone committing to working in development needs also to commit to a future of grappling with it.

On a far less serious note, Happy 4th of July!

I so wish I could make the hour-long drive up to my family’s cabin for burgers and brats on the grill and a day of playing in the lake… I also wish I could be in Eugene, Oregon this week for the Olympic Track & Field Trials as I have several friends who will be competing. If you have a chance to tune in to trials, definitely do it. Sending super speedy thoughts to those fit few, running their hearts out to be the ones to represent the U.S. in Rio later this summer.

Lots of love.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Pics from Saiwa Swamp National Park

Friday evening sunset

These guys saw my camera case and asked right away if I had a camera. The two in the center are brother/sister and walked with us for a while before we went back for dinner.

Entrance to Saiwa Swamp National Park - the guys on the gate are sitatunga. We arrived shortly after 7 and found the gate locked, even though the park was supposed to open at 6:30! 

Black-faced vervets -- cute, but very naughty.

Crested (or crowned, I can't recall now) crane -- national bird of Uganda 

In the very middle, you can see a fluffy white tail hanging down - this is a black and white colobus monkey

The light on this photo is a bit better - another shot of the colobus

I believe this is a grey heron...

Crane gang, gossiping in the treetops 

Here's a de Brazza monkey (this is one of the most rare monkey species in Kenya, as our guide told us), check out that beard!

No animals here (I don't think!), I just found the light to be very pretty. 
Female sitatunga (before she noticed us creepin' on her)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Lots of Things!

The interns are coming! The interns are coming! ...finally.

I've been in the country 10 weeks tomorrow (whoa), and finally, I will feel like I am doing the job I came to do. Of course there has been plenty of preparation, getting the training materials ready, preparing both host families and host organizations, meeting with internship supervisors, and learning my own way around Kakamega and the surrounding area -- even a tiny bit of Swahili -- but the interns are actually going to be here starting tomorrow.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel with an American friend, sort of a last hurrah before she left Kakamega (yesterday), and the last weekend before the madness begins for me. We stayed in a safari tent at a charming little guesthouse, owned by a British family who has been in Kenya since the woman, Jane, moved here (at a very young age) back in 1929. She and her son Richard are in charge of the place now, with their six little jack russell terriers running around, and it's absolutely picturesque. Imagine an estate with beautiful (fragrant!) gardens, and a quaint cottage with heaps of books, magazines, and maps saved from years and years ago. It felt like another world. We had some great conversations over tea and supper, especially with Richard, who has traveled all over the world and had some really incredible stories. What I found especially fascinating was that the family was here before Kenya gained independence from Britain. They have seen the country before, during, and after independence. It really struck me as a unique perspective on a country that has been home to them for decades. So cool.

On Saturday, we spent the day hiking in the Cherangani Hills, a stunning part of the country north of Kitale (it ended up being about a 4-hour drive from Kakamega on Friday afternoon). In order to get to the places where our guide wanted us to hike, we took pikipikis (motorbike taxis). The guide got one, and Robyn and I ended up sharing the other. It was pretty cozy with three of us (including the driver), but I think the bruises on my butt are finally healed. The seat is cushy, but I was back far enough that I was sort of on a metal rack part... It's enough of a spectacle to have one mzungu on a piki, but two! Wow. We got stares and yells and lots of waves as we puttered around the hills on the dusty gravel roads. We also got very dusty.

The next day, we went to Saiwa Swamp, one of the smallest national parks in Kenya. Still, we saw plenty of animals (I'll post pics in the near future, promise), including three different types of monkeys (black-faced vervet, colobus, and de brazza), some very pretty birds, and a swamp-dwelling antelope thing called sitatunga. I could've happily continued walking around, or just sitting still and watching the animals we did find, but we'd gotten up extra early to be sure not to miss the wildlife, and we were both hungry. All in all, a very nice weekend. I appreciated the chance to be somewhere else, somewhere completely different for a few days.

Susan (local program coordinator) and I checked out the guest house where we'll be staying with the interns during orientation. It's very simple (more basic than I expected I think), and I suspect I will miss the lifestyle here I've come to appreciate, especially having my own bedroom. Some of the other rooms have the shower head positioned almost directly over the toilet in the bathroom... the interns are in for a treat! But for real, the facility looks nice, I just haven't cooled down from being outside.

The rainy season has apparently ended, which is funny to me because whenever I asked people how long the "long rains" lasted, they would say until July or August. Um, okay? It's early June. It rained maybe 30 minutes last night (naturally right as I was walking home), offering minimal relief from the nasty dust. There are no clouds in the sky again today, so it may be a while before we see any more rain. I guess there's no winning - either it's hot and dusty, or the temperatures are cool(er, still quite hot in my opinion) and the more rural dirt/gravel roads are pretty much trashed and the rains prevent afternoon/evening activities. Sigh.

It struck me last night that I'm not going to be home at all for any of the MN summer. Yes, obviously, I knew this before I left for Kenya, but it hit me again last night. It's pretty much perpetual summer here, so I have no sense of what time of year it is or what season it should be. The temp in April is the same as the temp today is the same as the temp in July, August, September...

Let's see, other (minor) triumphs: I made a chocolate cake on Wednesday (I miss having my own oven, but I guess that's what friends are for). The angry dog doesn't bark quite so angrily at me anymore. I've sort of befriended a man and his wife who sell fruits and veggies along the side of the road on my way home -- they even saved me a bunch of kale the other day because otherwise it's gone when I pass at 5:15. I helped a really cute little kid fix his backpack this morning on my way to work. Vacation plans with my mom and sister are coming together for July and I can't wait!

Lots of ups and downs each day, but overall, life is pretty decent. I'll try to post photos from Saiwa soon. In the mean time, wish me patience and wisdom as I begin phase two of this adventure...

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day & Madaraka Day

Although it is only Tuesday, I can tell you right now one of the highlights of my week: I got to talk to my Grandma last night. She's pretty tech-savvy (though she hates her computer more than just about anything else in her house), and we've been emailing back and forth a bit since I've been here, but my sister was having what we call a "Princess Weekend" (staying over at Grandma's and being treated like royalty), and so I got to talk to them both. Technology continues to astound me -- with even the most basic internet connection (through the cell service here), I can call anyone with the same app, and talk as if we're across the street instead of across the world. Thank you, internet, for allowing me to stay connected even if I am incredibly isolated.

Yesterday was Memorial Day, and while they don't celebrate that here (duh), we do have a holiday tomorrow, Madaraka Day. It "Commemorates the day that Kenya attained internal self-rule in 1963," (thanks, Wikipedia) but it's not their true independence day -- that comes later.  I don't think I've ever legit celebrated a holiday midweek (except maybe the 4th of July some years?), but I think working two days, taking a day off, working another two days, and getting a full weekend has got to be the dream. We (the expats) will celebrate tomorrow like Memorial Day, complete with a grilled burgers and hopefully some volleyball. I'm excited to sleep in.

If I was home, this past Sunday would mark the unofficial beginning of summer, with my mom's side of the family all convening at the cabin to get things opened up, cleaned off, and ready for the season. I'm not sure how warm the lake was (I'm assuming it was fairly cold), but from what I've heard, MN has had a lovely spring. Actually, now that I think about it, it was probably a pretty small group at the cabin since many of my siblings/cousins are still in school, out of the country, or otherwise busy. Usually there is at least one weekend over the summer when we're all at the cabin together, but I'm not sure that'll happen this year, mostly because I'm scheduled to be here through the end of September. Bummer.

After several days of not much rain and warmer temps, it rained heavily last night. I don't love being caught in the rain on my way home from work, but I find it to be a really pleasant backdrop as I'm falling asleep (provided there is no hail). It also cooled things down nicely, and I was almost (almost) chilly when I started my run this morning. Two things made me smile while I was running. 1. An older woman carrying a young child on her back called out to me as I passed her, "That's good! That's good!" (So much better than the motorcycle taxi guy: "Good morning, babe." Barf.) I smiled at her and we exchanged greetings, and her little daughter smiled and waved. So cute! Later (in a quieter part of town with fewer motorcycle taxis and just generally less commotion), I saw a man walking on the other side of the road. He was carrying something in a plastic bag (sidenote: Kenyans call plastic bags paper bags, which confuses me to no end), and reached down to pick up a piece of trash on the side of the road! I was completely floored. I don't know if I have ever seen an African pick up trash of his/her own volition (apart from the crews that are hired to sweet and clean the streets). For all the people who saw me (and/or stared at me and/or yelled at me) on my run this morning, those two positive encounters drown out all the others. It was a solid beginning to my Tuesday.

Then I got back home and started in on the morning routine, making coffee and breakfast and trying to figure out which skirt I'm least tired of wearing. Around 8am, my phone rang. My immediate reaction was that my boss was calling and we were going to the field and either I should hurry up or he would be picking me up from work to save time, but it was a number I didn't recognize. The last time I got a call from a number I didn't know, it was the director of one of our partner organizations, calling to talk through their grant proposal. Little did I know, it was my "friend" from a couple weeks ago, the one I made the mistake of sharing my number with, and oh, the one who showed up at my house two weekends ago.

Rewind. Obviously I'd blocked his number the first time. Then he started calling from a number that couldn't be ID'd (which I ignored, that was easy enough). That weekend (a week and a half ago now), as I was leaving my house on Sunday afternoon, I got a "No Caller ID" call, ignored it, and continued to walk out. As I was opening the compound gate, who should I see walking towards me, but that guy. Oh man, I was livid. He asked why I had been avoiding his calls ("I'll give you one guess.") and then said that he had just been wanting to talk to me so he came to my house. I told him he is absolutely not welcome at my home without invitation and stormed off down the hill (with more adrenaline than I've felt in a long time). Did I mention I was mad? Dude, take a hint. Anyway, I didn't hear from him after that, so I figured he maybe got the message and was going to finally leave me alone. Apparently not. He called me again this morning from a new number (which my phone could identify), and I promptly blocked that number too. Ugh.

Let's pause and do a little cultural comparison here. Obviously, I'm not a guy, so I maybe don't have the same perspective, but I feel I can relate nonetheless. You're out, at a bar or a concert or wherever, and you meet an interesting girl. You two chat and by the end of your conversation, you've convinced her to give you her number. Whether or not she is actually into you is unclear, but you have her digits. Now. Think. How long do you wait to call/text? If popular culture has anything to say about it, probably a day or two. Or maybe you're feeling really ballsy or maybe you think your connection was super deep and meaningful, in which case you call her that night. If she answers, great, you talk. If not, she's maybe busy with something else and may or may not call you back. If she does call back, you're lucky; if she doesn't, you probably don't continue to text huge novels professing your love, bragging about yourself, oh, and finally asking her name because you were too busy talking about yourself to ask her name when you were chatting earlier... Again, I'm not a man, so maybe I have the wrong expectations, but as a woman, I assure you, it can be super off-putting when cultural communication styles/expectations/understandings/perceptions are so vastly different... and when "No, I'm not interested" may or may not actually mean that.
Note: I do still feel very safe where I live and work; I don't walk anywhere after dark; I'm careful with how I dress/accessorize. It's unbelievably frustrating (especially since I am nowhere near used to getting anywhere close to this much attention), but I do not think I'm any less safe for it.

Back to happy notes -- July family vacation plans are falling into place ever-so-slowly, and I might even have a fun weekend hiking/camping/adventure trip with friends coming up! I still have not contracted malaria (knock on wood), meaning I only have to make it four more months without it, and I'll be safe! But really, life is pretty good, even if it is a bit slower than I might like right now. I of course miss MN (how could I not, especially now that it's prime patio season), but it's almost always patio season here too (provided you have mosquito repellent)!

Cheers to Memorial Day, Madaraka Day, and the beginning of summer,

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Wednesday Frustrations (or: Men here are the Worst)

Yesterday was a frustrating day. Actually, it just involved a really frustrating few hours, between 5:30pm (when I was almost home after a long day) and 7pm (when I got to where I was meeting a few friends for dinner). One wouldn’t think that much could happen in 90 minutes, but hey, this is Kenya.

I’d turned off the main road I use on my way home, and greeted my neighbor, commenting that rain looked imminent (as it often does in the afternoons, if it’s not already raining). A few steps later, a young man (probably mid-late 20s) had approached me, “Hey, white woman!” I’m not sure if this was merely him trying to prove that he was above calling out “Mzungu,” (“European,” but more commonly used for any “white person”) or what, but I wasn’t especially impressed. I responded with something along the lines of, “What, black man?” He laughed and launched into a huge introduction, explaining his name, and then gave me this spiel about how he was an author and an artist, and he had been following me for a while because he really wanted to talk to me, but not around all the people who were on that main road, and he likes having friends from other cultures and backgrounds because he likes learning, and blah blah blah. Then it was, “So can we continue this conversation sometime?” to which I responded “Maybe.” Perhaps leaving it open like this was my first mistake, perhaps it was my third or fourth; looking back, I’m still not sure. He persisted, and in very good English (for which I had to give him some credit). I was pretty tired, and apparently my judgment was impaired and after we talked (read: he talked at me) some more, ended up giving out my phone number (which I ended up immediately regretting, and regretting some more later on down the line). Dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb. He kept talking probably another ten minutes before I managed to convince him I was done with the conversation and wanted to go home and rest (and have my afternoon/pre-dinner snack! I was getting hangry). He insisted we would meet again. I guarantee we will not.

I made it home, greeted the dogs (the two who were around and happy to see me), had some yogurt and sat down to relax and look through some articles to maybe send to some of our interns. Got a text from a friend asking if I wanted to meet up for dinner… Sigh of relief because it wasn’t that guy I had just encountered; yes of course, dinner would be great.

I then made the mistake of leaving my house before confirming mealtime, and when I got the second text message, I was probably halfway from my house to the restaurant with 30 minutes to spare. I turned around and headed back towards home, figuring I would just wait around outside along the road/my driveway and watch the colors in the sunset (which was really pretty!).

A couple guys came up the hill and started talking to me. Sure enough, within a few minutes, they too had asked for my name and number. This one was a much more obvious “no,” and after assuring me we would meet again, they eventually went on their merry way. Sidenote: One of my favorite responses to the question, “So, can you give me your numbers?” has become, “Why? What are you going to do with my phone number?” Usually I get something along the lines of, “So I can greet you!” You’re talking to me right now, dude, and I’m not convinced I want you to greet me.

I stood on a big rock and watched the sky for a while, then decided to see if there was a better view down the hill a little ways, and of course (with my luck) there was a man walking up the hill, talking on his phone. I acknowledged him politely (greetings are pretty important here) as we passed one another, and he continued slowly up the hill. Once I realized that the best view was in fact going to be on the top of the hill (actually on the rock I’d been standing on earlier), I went back up. “Madam, are you lost?” I explained to him I was watching the sky because I like sunsets. “Ah, then I think you can help me. You see, I am looking for a wife from the other side…” (“The other side” can mean many things; in this case, it meant he was looking for an American wife, and believed I would help him). He too introduced himself, and assured me he was Bernard Lagat’s brother-in-law (HAH, I’m sure), and that he had family in Texas, and that he had applied for a green card, but if I could only help him find a wife, it would be much easier for him. At this point I had to start walking to dinner (and I was getting rather tired of these encounters), so I sucked it up and walked with him for a while before turning off.

The sky had started getting darker, and while I knew I had enough time to get to dinner, I started walking at a more American pace (I was done talking to people, plus it was cooling down, and I was trying to stay warm). I passed a man carrying a big stick (reminded me of the ones Basotho commonly carried – and occasionally beat students or cattle with – in Lesotho). I was fully intending to ignore him, but he greeted me in solid English, so I responded, and in trying to be friendly (mistake), asked why he was carrying the cane. Turns out, it belonged to his grandmother who he had just visited in the hospital, and he was carrying it home. I had passed him, but he started walking faster, though still a few steps behind me. Then came a question I’d not heard from a Kenyan before: “Do you go to the gym?” I was a bit caught off guard as there aren’t many gyms around and working out doesn’t seem like a common thing around here, but I told him that I liked to run (many people have seen me in my neighborhood area, so I wasn’t divulging any grand secrets). “I can tell, because your legs look very sexy and strong.” Perfect. I’m in long pants and a sweater (not even the skirt I’d worn to work!), and this is the attention I’m getting. UGH. Ignore it: “Okay, goodnight sir.”  I’d reached my destination and could not have been more relieved to enter the gate.

(Naturally now, sitting at my desk and fuming again, I can think of a handful of much better responses to that comment: “My legs are strong – watch out or I’ll kick you where it hurts,” or “I hope you didn’t plan on having kids”… )

Dinner was great. Good to see friends and unwind a bit, reminisce about life back home, and we even made plans to go hiking one of these weekends.

After I got home I checked my phone, only to find one missed call and four very long text messages from the first guy who approached me several hours earlier. He had just wanted to hear my voice, and say goodnight to me in person, but in lieu of that, felt like writing two novels would suffice (I think my favorite part was the last line of the last text where he asked for my name, because he had been too busy earlier talking about himself to actually ask anything about me).

Apple and iPhones for the win – there is a “Block this Number” option. Check plus.


Unfortunately, as I have come to understand first through Lesotho, and now Kenya, this is part of being a white woman in Africa. I don’t love it. In fact, I really struggle with it. Some of my closest friends at home are male (duh), but for the most part, as a woman, I just don’t have that option here. And that sucks. Many people from home have been asking if I’ve made friends since I’ve been here. I definitely have, but this gives some insight as to why (for now, anyway) they seem to either be the young women in the office, or other expats in the area.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Kenyan Food, African Dogs, and Kakamega Rains

I said I would try to write weekly, and I did mean it… I’m just on Kenyan time (meaning: it will probably get done, just maybe not when you thought it would… or it won’t get done, but don’t take it personally).

In any case, happy Tuesday. May is more than halfway over, and we’re 3.5 weeks out from the first batch of interns arriving. I won’t lie and say we’re incredibly busy with preparations, but there is still a good amount to be done. Maybe it’s the procrastinator in me, but I still don’t feel much pressure in terms of getting everything ready. I’m guessing that statement will bite me in the butt in about 3 weeks, but for now, things seem relatively calm.

I’ve now tried most of the “typical Kenyan” foods, though there are still some dishes or combinations I’ve heard about and am curious about, but don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity to try them. There’s a surprising amount of rice in the Kenyan diet… eaten with beans, vegetables, ndengu (green grams, sort of like lentils), or pretty much whatever you want. I find it sort of amusing that they eat rice with potato stew… not my favorite day. If a meal doesn’t include rice, it might have ugali, which is like papa of Lesotho (maize meal cooked up into a very thick porridge, to be mixed with the other dishes and typically eaten with hand). My personal favorite is chapati, a tortilla-esque bread-thing, but cooked in oil instead of on a dry skillet. Some are a touch too oily for my taste, but the Kenyan chapati is a great snack. Last week I also got to try mandazi, which are like doughnuts – typically triangular-shaped fried dough. Also very tasty. Basically, as in many poverty-stricken places, there are lots of carbs. Still on my list of things to try are the local or indigenous chicken (which I will not even try to spell here). I’m told it’s very sweet (an odd descriptor for meat, I think, but I’ll roll with it), it takes a long time to cook, and it can be really stringy.

On an unrelated note, the four dogs on the compound where I live have gotten to know me a bit. There are three that look similar – the most common brand of mutt in Kenya, a mostly brown dog with a few black markings, smaller than most labs, but with pointy ears instead of floppy ones. One of these guys likes me and will sometimes approach me to play after I return from my morning runs. One is still a bit wary of me, but recognizes that I get along with his friends, but the third one just absolutely hates me. He growls as I lace up my shoes in the morning (even before I open the door to step outside), and barks non-stop when I return home in the afternoons or later in the evening. I don’t love that dog. Part of me wants badly to gain his trust and befriend him, but a bigger part of me realizes he will probably always hate me. The fourth dog is completely awesome. He is short but fairly round for an African dog, black (with flecks of tan dust) and super fluffy. If he moves around too much, or you pat him on the side or back, you'll see clouds of dust, almost like Pigpen from Charlie Brown. He always waddles over to greet me before flopping down under the vehicles or in the dirt. That dog is old.

What else… It rains a lot. Like, an amazing amount. Usually in the afternoon or evening, but it’s not always predictable. Sometimes there is thunder and lightning, and sometimes it’s just rain; sometimes it passes very quickly, and other times it’ll start in the afternoon and continue into the evening. Those days are frustrating. It seems like it starts right around 4:30pm, in enough time to turn the non-paved roads and paths to complete mud before we leave the office at 5, to try to get home before the sprinkles turn into a downpour and everything is drenched. On the other hand, I find the days the rain starts after I’ve left the office to be fascinating. There’s this unique energy in the air around town and on the roads. People know it’s going to rain (the sky is often very telling), it’s just a matter of the exact moment it will start, and everyone bustles about, trying to get where they need to be before the clouds open up. It’s raining right now, fairly heavily with intermittent thunder. I managed to get home while it was still toasty and dry, the first time in over a week!

Not a tremendous amount to report otherwise. I got word over the weekend that my family's cabin is open and functional (even if the water is a bit chilly). I’ll be sad to not make it up there this summer, but my mom and one of my sisters are hopefully coming to visit and travel around at some point in July, so I’ll have that trip to plan look forward to (in a big way).

Love from Kenya,