Monday, 6 February 2017

A Normal Day

Each morning, my alarm goes off at 6:22. I don’t know why I set it at 6:22, but I haven’t found the need to change it yet. I usually push snooze once or twice and then groggily roll out from under my mosquito net, check the floor for fresh bat poop and walk to the bathroom. There, I use the facilities, dunk my head under the tap and wash my face. On the way back to my room to get dressed I put on some water on to boil for oatmeal. By the time I’ve figured out what to wear for the day, I’ve got my toothbrush in my mouth and I’m pouring the dried oatmeal into a bowl and adding hot water. I have to remind myself every time I brush my teeth that I can’t use tap water to wash out my toothbrush! I don’t want to get sick! 

During breakfast I scroll through emails, read some of the Bible and drink my daily artemisia tea. Rather than take malarial meds, I have decided to drink this bitter tea every day. It is made by putting a pinch of the dried leaves into hot water and letting it sit overnight to cool and steep. In the mornings I guzzle it as quickly as I can without breathing in the smell. So far so good! No malaria! 

The beautiful main building of campus
By 7:10 I’m walking out the gate on my way to school. I usually pass 10 - 20 goats, a few cows, and young mothers and children getting ready for the day. My main goals on my walk are to avoid inhaling lake flies, stepping in a cow pie, and admiring the view. Lake Victoria fills the horizon and the vistas are breathtaking! 

At school I greet the guard at the gate and the teacher on duty. From there, I climb the hill and enter the main school building.

As is tradition here, everyone you meet, you give them a handshake when greeting them. So, when I enter the “offices” I greet Willis, the ministry co-ordinator; Pastor Amos- if he’s around; Samson, the head teacher if his office door is open and any other teacher or student that I come across. It does take a lot of time, but it shows a lot of respect for other people- something I feel could be improved on in our western cultures.

Morning devotions start at 7:30 and go until 8:00. From there I follow my daily schedule, which usually includes 2-3 classes in grades 6, 7, and 8. I’m partnering with the teachers of English (in 7 and 8) and math (in 6). I am rotating through observing, teaching and co-teaching these classes. I take an hour a day for personal KiSwahili study and try to fit that in where I can. Mid-morning is our daily porridge break and I try to talk with staff and students then. At lunch, I eat the local fare served (albeit a very small portion) and again converse with staff and students. After lunch I do a lot of prep work and either head out for my twice-weekly KiSwahili lesson or teach my twice-weekly ESL class. 

My first class of ESL students
The ESL class started out with 4 students three weeks ago and has grown to 9 students. Their English abilities vary from none to relatively fluent. It has been a bit of a juggling game teaching all of them at the same time! Some are able to read relatively complicated children’s stories while some are illiterate in both English and their native languages. But, across the spectrum, they are all incredibly diligent and appreciative! It has been such a blessing to get to know them!

I leave school between 5 and 6 most days and start the 15 hike down the hill to my house. I will usually stop and buy some vegetables or eggs from a mama selling on the side of the road. Walking home I greet the children and mamas and the occasional friendly-looking man. I dodge piki pikis (motorcycles) and goats and wind my way along the dusty roadside. 

Once home, I tend to wash the dust off my feet first and then settle in for an hour or so of relaxing before starting supper. Sometime Judi and I will exercise together after school. She’s a fan of Jillian Michaels and an amazing runner. I’ve been trying to convince her to do some weight lifting with me. There’s two old tires in the yard that would be perfect for tire flips and I’ve been brainstorming some body weight exercises we could do like push ups and handstand holds. I’m determined to get Judi hooked on weight lifting! If I can suffer through Jillian Michaels, she can suffer through my tire flips! :)

Supper takes place between 6:30 and 8:00 and tends to consist of some combination of spaghetti or rice with cabbage, tomato and onion. By 8:30, I am usually hiding from the bugs under my mosquito net and often fall asleep by 9:30. I am grateful for the long night’s sleep as each day takes a lot of emotional and physical energy. 

And the next morning I start all over!

Dead Flies!

We ran out of water this morning! I turned on the tap and discovered that our water tank had finally emptied. My house here in Mbita is on city water but, by that I mean the city pumps “treated” water into a large black water tank on the outside of our house. Unfortunately, it seems routine for the water plant to not pay their electric bill which therefore means that no water gets pumped into our large reservoirs. We still cannot drink that water, even though it’s treated so we use it for cooking, flushing the toilet, washing dishes and cleaning. We filter or boil the water for drinking. 

Oh, the blessing of a mosquito net!
I am praising God right now that we still have some water left in our large raintank. Without this secondary tank I would joining the throngs of locals walking to the lakeside each morning carrying a yellow bucket on my head. While I welcome the idea of a new adventure, something tells me that I’d tire of this particular adventure very quickly! 

My Kitchen
I woke up late this morning as it’s Saturday and I didn’t set an alarm- 7:30. My roommate left early for a weekend of R & R in Kisumu so I have the house all to myself. As soon as I got out of bed, I discovered the water had run dry. I also learned what I call “The Plague of Lake Flies” has worsened. It seems since we are situated right on the shores of Lake Victoria, swarms of these gnat-like things called lake flies come up from the Lake. Birds and fish love them, but I don’t. They have a fine tuned knack for exploring my ears or flying up my nose or into my mouth if I forget to keep my mouth closed when outside. And, like most flying insects, they also love light. So, at night when we need light right around 7:00 they squeeze themselves through the screens on the windows and doors of the house and have a party above our heads. This is all fine and dandy until they start to drop- into my dinner, into my tea, into my hair, everywhere! Last night the plague was particularly bad- so bad I nearly abandoned making dinner to go to bed early and hide under my mosquito net. So this morning, I came to believe that lake flies have a very short lifespan. Our floor was covered in dead lake flies!! After sweeping them up, I had a few cups of dead lake flies. I’m sure I could have made from bird-friends with them, but I tossed them out into the garden. 

After cleaning the floor, I then began cleaning up our mess of supper dishes. Again, since the flies like wetness, all the pots and pans and plates had developed a nice coating of dead flies overnight. And, since our water had run out I got to carry a bucket of water from the rain tank to our dish washing stand. I then used the dishwater to flush the toilet- such creativity!!

And, after doing my weekly laundry by hand, I treated myself to a nice cup of tea and a bowl of oatmeal. What a day! And it’s only 10 AM! 

And, while I didn’t particularly anticipate having to deal with thousands of dead flies or a lack of running water this morning, I am so thankful for this life! Living here you quickly learn to appreciate the small things: mosquito nets that keep the bugs off, a good night’s sleep, the happy chirping of birds feasting on flies outside your window, a quiet morning all to yourself, the ability to filter water to drink, and delicious tea to savour…

Thank you Lord for your incredible blessings!