Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Only one (week) left!

Well, it's almost over.

We said goodbye to eleven of the twelve summer interns this past weekend, so we have only one left. Actually, last week was kind of a zoo around the office, so I find this lull fairly enjoyable. I'm sure our remaining intern is a bit lonely though...

Last week the "big boss" from FSD's San Francisco Office was here, which meant that there were extra meetings and check-ins, which seemed to be very productive. We also had to conduct eleven exit interviews and read through eight final reports and reconcile eight budgets. Wednesday was all planning for Thursday, and Thursday was a day of presentations. We invited all the interns and one supervisor from each of the organizations to join us for a look at what all the interns did this summer, and some discussion. It was really neat to see our partner organizations forming connections with each other and engaging with other interns about their work, either affirming the need or that the project was immensely valuable, or making contacts for future projects. It was also very rewarding to hear the interns talk about their work! They have had a very busy 8-9 weeks, and it is my very sincere hope that they also feel it was productive. 

I have never liked goodbyes, so that part wasn't as fun, but it's life I guess. Plus it's time to start thinking about and planning for my own departure! Hard to believe but I only have three more days (after today) in the office, and then I'm done. Done! Whoa. (No, I don't plan on working at all after Friday.)

My flight out of Nairobi is next Monday evening, meaning that by this time next week, I'll be somewhere over the Atlantic. Ahh!

I've been trying to wrap my head around the fact that I'm going home, and while I'm thrilled to be able to see family and friends again, I'm a little freaked out by what happens next (and yes, I realize I've probably written about this). I'm realizing that I'm not especially excited about working a desk job, even if it is supporting programs in Africa. I like being on the ground. I love interacting with beneficiaries, and seeing and living this different way of life. I've been applying to jobs in Kenya and other parts of Africa in addition to the other positions in the States.

I've had one initial interview with an organization in Western Kenya and should hear back at some point this week about what happens next (if anything -- I so don't want to get my hopes up), and am waiting to confirm an interview time with another organization back in DC (it is super rare that I have any prospects, let alone two at the same time). Either one would be a great next step. Either would require a move out of my comfort zone. There are personal and professional pros and cons to both, of course, and I don't feel like I'm far enough along in either process to really start planning one way or another. It's overwhelming to have so much hanging in the balance of a week, especially when it's my last week here. Yikes.

In other news, I made pizza and wings with/for some friends last night for dinner! Dinner parties have always been a favorite -- I love cooking, especially with other people, and especially when other people have ovens and a kitchen big enough for two people! The dough was challenging as usual (I don't have my pizza expert roommate anymore), so I've made it a goal to get better at dealing with pizza dough. The sauce and toppings are usually no problem, but dough is another story. Buffalo chicken wings were a new thing for me as I'm not normally a huge meat eater, and I usually stay away from fried food, but they were amazing (despite the frightening volume of vegetable oil in which we fried them) and super messy, which I believe is a good sign.

So now it's Tuesday. My supervisor is out again (second day sick), and we have no power. My battery is at 48% and it's only 10am... if power doesn't come back, it could be a very short day in the office. For now I should get some work done... and more importantly, enjoy my last few days.

Looking forward to being back in MN so very soon!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Less than 3 weeks to go...

...I got malaria.

The cynical part of me sort of feels like it was bound to happen. The other part of me is pretty disappointed that after four successful, healthy months, I couldn't hold it together for three more weeks. We'd only had two interns come down with malaria before midterm retreat, and I thought it was going to be a record low for malaria cases this summer. Then, Monday happened. We had three confirmed cases of malaria on Monday, myself included. Another one yesterday, and a fifth today, making five cases of malaria over the span of four days. Unreal.

I woke up on Monday not feeling super great, but just attributed it to a busy weekend (and a very long run on Saturday). I dragged myself out of bed, went on a quick run, and went in to work, still not feeling great. I had decided over the weekend that Monday was to be the day I would handle my flight change for later this month. Skype allows free calls to 1-800 numbers, so after 90 minutes on the phone with a nice lady from Delta, I had a new flight (leaving Kenya August 22nd!). I also had a headache. I don't normally get headaches; usually it's a sign I'm dehydrated, so I drank a bunch of water, handled some emails, and when it still didn't improve, I went to nap on the couch. The headache didn't go away, and by the end of the day, I'd decided to go to the doctor.

Thankfully, there is probably no better place to have malaria. Because it is so common in this part of Kenya, it took all of five minutes in the doctor's office and I had confirmation; another five minutes (and the equivalent of $7), and I had my medicine and was on my way. Each of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I took one of the biggest pills I've ever seen (honestly, the size of my pinky from tip to smallest knuckle). Within a couple hours of popping the first pill, my headache had eased up - modern medicine is truly amazing.

I took it easy on Tuesday and Wednesday, and slept in before going in to the office. Fortunately I caught the malaria early enough that it wasn't too far along and the medicine kicked in quickly. Strangely enough, today was a little rough (I was a bit lightheaded all day and my stomach was not happy), but maybe I shouldn't have gone to work after Monday, hard to say.

For now, I'm getting tired of not feeling 100%. I don't typically get sick, and I forgot how much it completely sucks. Especially this weird limbo -- I'm able to get out of bed and go about my normal day-to-day activities, but I have this weird brain fog that prevents any serious mental productivity. I'm thinking (and hoping!) I'll be more back to normal by this weekend or early next week, but am really not sure what to expect. Ugh.

For now, it is bedtime. One more day of work before the weekend. I am definitely ready for the weekend.

Friday, July 29, 2016

July, July!

Friday, July 29th! Where did this month go?
I'll try to recap the highlights before going more into some recent news.

The 4th of July is never as fun in a different country. Never. I know a lot of the interns were missing home quite a bit that day, and I think it really hit me how much I missed it until I was at a 4th (10th) of July potluck party, thinking about how I would have spent the day if I were in MN. I probably would have run the Afton 25k Trail Run again this year (completely hooked after my first time last year), then gone home to shower and nap before finding more outside activities, maybe even a trip up to the cabin for burgers on the grill and corn on the cob. Then home for those 10pm fireworks. Oh, America.

I did opt to stay up uncharacteristically late and watch the final Eurocup game (which started at 10pm local time)... no fireworks though. Waking up the next day was difficult.

Mom arrived in country the next day! It was such a treat to show her around my home here. I develop a greater appreciation for where the home I've made for myself in a foreign place when I can then share it with someone. We made dinner in my house one evening, and had a big breakfast-for-dinner potluck with many of my friends here the other night. She came with me on some intern visits and learned about a couple of their host organizations - plus this meant she got to experience tuk-tuks and piki-pikis, like a true Kenyan. What a trooper.

We met my sister in Nairobi and the next day (after a little luggage drama) took off for Maasai Mara and a few days of game drives in Kenya's most famous park. It. Was. Breathtaking. We managed to see just about every animal I could've hoped to see. When Mom and I were in South Africa at Kruger, we didn't really see any cats, and this trip definitely made up for that. We saw multiple cheetahs and leopards, plus probably a total of seven or eight lions. Amazing. And our driver was SO good that he got us within a couple meters each time. (I do intend to post some of my better photos somewhere, somehow, at some point, but I'm not sure when I'll have bandwidth for it.) The people at the camp sang Maren a very Happy Maasai Birthday song and presented her with a cute little cake that evening too - what a neat way to spend a birthday!

The three of us then headed to Diani Beach, on the coast south of Mombasa for some intense relaxation. We even had our own chef who would game plan meals with us, do the shopping, and then cook a ton of food. We had fresh seafood every night. It was heaven.

Saying goodbye and returning to Kakamega after all of that was really difficult, but even coming home after a really good vacation can be comforting in a way I can definitely appreciate. To be fair, I didn't even have to go straight back to work - the next morning I got up and made my way to the office early to depart with the interns and other members of staff for our midterm retreat. We spent three nights at a neat campsite on Lake Naivasha - more good food, fun activities, and a chance for the interns to get a break from Kakamega (which is really important too!).

Being in Naivasha made me realize how much I miss having a truly active lifestyle. I don't think I'm cut out for desk life. I ran with one of the interns each morning, then one morning we all rented mountain bikes and rode around to another lake and back toward town for lunch. Another day we went on a long hike in a park where lots of safari animals were just roaming around (zebras, buffalo, wildebeest, antelope, giraffes, warthogs...), and up around the perimeter of Crater Lake. The scenery was definitely different from that of Western Kenya. I loved being by lakes again, something I'm realizing I've maybe taken for granted in Minnesota.

That more or less brings us to this week (we all got back from midterm on Sunday afternoon, at which point I washed probably close to 2/3 of the clothes in my closet before falling asleep very early). This is the first week I've spent fully in Kakamega since the beginning of July - sort of strange. I attended one of our intern's workshops about condom use and negotiation, which she and a colleague gave to upwards of 20 community health volunteers who will hopefully then be able to take those skills out into the communities where they work, and enhance knowledge and family planning while also reducing transmission of HIV and STIs. It's been seriously cool to see the interns in these situations since they've been working here for 5-6 weeks now and so their internships are wrapping up. I think I get to go to a different intern's workshop next week, which should also be good.

So then the big news... I still haven't decided if I want to call it good news or bad news. No doubt it's a bit of both. FSD has decided to cut my contract short due to some financial constraints and very low intern numbers for the fall and beyond. Rather than my original departure date of September 27th, I now decide when I want to leave, anytime after August 20th, as that is the last day they will be providing financial support to my position.

Reading the email from the director on Wednesday morning was a little surreal (especially since I had just paid my landlady my last month of rent the morning before). I am still trying to figure out how I feel about it, but in general, I'm not thrilled. I think it's sort of poor to give your volunteer/employees only 24 days notice about unexpected termination. I realize it's not related to anything I've done (or not done), but I still don't especially appreciate it. And to be told in an email. Not the most professional, but it's out of my control now.

I've been applying to jobs off and on while I've been here, hoping to set something up for once I'm done or back in the States. I've not had much luck with it, and even this week, a couple leads I thought I had turned out to be relative dead ends. So... I'm working on being patient. I'm also working on figuring out what exactly it is that I think I want to do, which has proven difficult. I can't figure out if I want to work at home (in the States, likely East Coast) or abroad (East or sub-Saharan Africa). Most international positions would require a commitment of two years, which didn't seem so long for Peace Corps or grad school, but I'm 28 (approaching 29), and two years from now... well, it just seems like a big milestone and I worry I won't have things any more figured out at that point. I don't know what all "settling down" entails, or if I actually want any part of it, but at the very least I'd like to feel like I'm working my way down a career path, rather than bouncing around a handful of (essentially volunteer) positions that end when the organization decides its funding is better directed elsewhere (this is the second summer I've been in this situation). End rant (was that even a rant?)...

On the positive side, I'll get to see my friends and family earlier than expected. I'll get to train for a month at home before the 10-mile in early October (hopefully my running, even a little, at "altitude" this summer will have helped). I'll get to go to a wedding I had thought I would have to miss. Trying to keep the silver lining in sight.

Sending love from a very rainy Kakamega,

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,