Here I am again, weeks late on my blogging! I don’t really have an excuse, so I’ll skip right to the entry itself.
A week ago, we returned from our week-long educational tour in northern Tanzania. This week, we wrote our final seminar papers and passed in our final proposals for our Independent Study Projects! More on those later. I thought I’d update you all on what was happening here in Nairobi in the three weeks between our return from Shirazi and Mombasa and our departure for Tanzania.
I titled this blog “Mud Season” because in the three weeks I just mentioned, the rainy season began! Also because at Waynflete, my high school, that’s what we called the random part of March that is neither winter nor spring, which is basically what those three weeks were equivalent to here. (Though it’s actually the summer to fall transition right now.) It’s still not raining completely regularly, but quite a few days out of the week I wake up in the morning to find that it has rained overnight. The rainy weather is a nice break from the hot, sunny weather that, although not too bad because it’s fairly dry, can be a little exhausting on the walk to and from school. Though the rain turns half of my daily walk to a puddle-avoiding, mud-skidding challenge, I very much appreciate that it keeps the ever-present dust from becoming too much of a breathing issue.
The week we returned from Mombasa, we began our health and development seminar. Our group split up into two separate classes, depending on who wanted to study what, and attended lectures for three or four hours every morning. I stayed in the development lectures the entire time, despite the fact that I am likely concentrating in public health at GW. I decided that development was more relevant to my probable research topic, and the lectures were also very historically oriented (which makes me automatically interested), dealt with a lot of important events and trends, and were taught by a really great professor/economist from the University of Nairobi. He reminded me and a fellow GW student of good professors from home.
That week, we also had our final four Swahili classes! Unfortunately, I can’t say they were very productive, as they were moved from their usual morning slot to the afternoon in order to accommodate the health and development seminar lectures. Going into three hours of Swahili after our two-hour lunch break was a little rough, to say the least. Best example: One day, my class (Simba) collapsed into hysterics as we tried to figure out what a specific vocab word meant. Our Swahili teacher told us it meant “tin”—we wanted to know whether it meant tin can, or a tin roof, or just the metal itself. There was mass confusion as there often is over Swahili vocabulary (for example, “ua” is either the command “kill!” or “flower.” Or “hedge.” Or “fence.”) and when our teacher drew a 2-dimensional square on the chalkboard and labeled it “TIN”, not making the definition any clearer, we were a hopeless case. By the time we figured out that it did indeed mean “tin can”, I was crying with laughter!
The following week, we had a couple assignments due, plus our oral ACTFL exams for Swahili. I really enjoyed one of the assignments, the newspaper assignment, for which we all had to pick a topic that is currently in the news, read 5 newspaper articles about said topic, and interview three Kenyans about the topic. I chose to look at the issue of the six Kenyans who have been summoned to the International Criminal Court at the Hague because they are suspected to be responsible for the post-election violence of 2007 and early 2008. This has been front page of every newspaper almost every day since I’ve been here, and always features prominently in the nightly news. I think I’m going to dedicate an entire entry to the “Ocampo Six” issue, because it really is a defining issue here, and one that more people in the world should be paying attention to!
That week, we also passed in our group assignments and individual assignments from our Shirazi homestay. I believe we also had a student-led roundtable discussion on the relationship between development and health, which was the topic of our final seminar paper.
The last week, we had ISP prep for three days, which was basically three days of relaxation for me since I am not traveling anywhere for my ISP. Thursday and Friday of that week consisted of meeting with our ISP advisors, and passing in our ISP draft proposal.
After our time at the coast, I was freshly appreciative of Nairobi, and excited to explore the city more, so I really enjoyed those three weeks. Additionally, I met my host mother’s two younger sons, who I hadn’t met before that point (Tom, her eldest, is living at home currently, so I have known him from the start). Andrew (who is the same age as me) came home from university on the same day I did and stayed for a few days to see Timothy, who flew in the day after him from Toronto via the Netherlands (that’s where is fiancée is). The house was quite full and it was a lot of fun to see them all together, as it is rare that they’re all home in Nairobi at the same time. Also, Andrew and Tim are both big soccer fans, so I had companions for the subsequent Champions League matches! Always a plus. The great return to my homestay also eventually helped me decide to stay here during the ISP period instead of getting an apartment, as most people on the program do. I have become really comfortable here, with my host family, my cute house, and my neighborhood. During these weeks, I also got more comfortable with the city. Ate at new restaurants, visited different parts of Nairobi (like Karen, named after Karen Blixen from Out of Africa, where we tried to visit the museum on her former coffee estate. It was 800 shillings for the non-resident price, so we didn’t actually go inside… I also got comfortable with the daunting downtown area), and really started taking public transportation around.
Because of that, going to Tanzania was a little bittersweet, as I was really liking Nairobi. However, my last day in Nairobi before leaving was pretty great. I went with Tim to see Kenya play against Angola in an African Cup of Nations qualifier at Nyayo National Stadium. The stadium was full (not a common sight at Kenyan soccer matches) of people waving Kenyan flags and blowing vuvuzelas (the extremely loud plastic horn that became notorious after this summer’s World Cup in South Africa). Kenya were considered underdogs, but I predicted it would be a 2-1 win for the home side, and I was actually right! Angola got a goal in the first half, but Kenya came back with two goals in the second half, with the winner only five minutes before the end of the match. Needless to say, people were going wild and it was incredibly fun.
That night, at the SIT office, we all had a sleepover and watched The Sound of Music and had a quiet sing-along so as not to disturb the neighbors. No, not a typical Saturday night activity for college students, but it wouldn’t really surprise you if you knew our group. We have somewhat of a history with that movie, as we were asked to sing for our teachers in Shirazi, and “Do Re Mi” was the only song that the singers among us could perform on the spot. A week or so later, our group was having a somewhat serious meeting back in Nairobi, and one of our academic directors, Odoch, had us hold hands and sing the song because he thought it was “spiritual”. Hence the eventual sing-along being organized. The following morning, we all woke up at 6 and met the bus for our departure to Tanzania.
More on Tanzania coming very soon, as well as the entry I mentioned about the ICC cases. Also, I now have my own modem for my laptop, so I don’t have to depend on our school internet anymore. This means I’m going to try to upload some pictures to my blog! Bear with me. Now, I’m off to watch the 9 o’clock news!