Thursday, June 16, 2011

East Africa Day 33 (Wed June 15): On to Nairobi

I’d be lying if I said that I slept well last night. Cali found Pamela, Car and I in the office, and followed me back to my banda. She spent most of the night curled up on top of the bed. She’s such a cute little cat! I hope that the volunteer who takes over my banda will let Cali sleep in the banda, whenever she wants. I didn’t get to bed until midnight-ish because I had a handful of things to wrap up.

I put most of my Daraja photos onto a zip drive, for the students. I rushed to the dining hall before breakfast to drop off my gear, and to make my way up to the library to load the photos onto one of the school’s laptops. A handful of the students were coming down the hill from the classroom building, where they had been studying, and ran into me outside of the dining hall. They stood in a line and waited their turn to give me hugs and to say goodbye. I know my tears wet at least one student’s cheek. So hard to say goodbye. Joyce handed me a folded up note, which I tucked into my pocket.

I then ran up to the library, loaded the photos onto laptop #3, and then ran back down the hill to breakfast to say goodbye to the students. I jumped up onto the fireplace – the closest thing to a stage – and let the students know that the photos were on the laptop, in case they wanted to put some of my photos onto their personal, school-issued zip drives. I also told the students that my mom is a primary school art teacher, and that she sewed gift bags for them, and filled them with marker sets. Prior to breakfast I had spread the 77 gift bags on a table on the porch, so after my announcement I had all of the students head to the table to pick up their gift bags. It was slightly chaotic, but it all worked out! This one is for my mom.

The girls who lingered after the gift bag distribution suggested that we take photos …

After saying goodbye to some of the teachers in the Dining Hall I walked out into the sun and found a few other members of the Daraja crew.

Andy then let me know that Jason was in his office in the classroom quad, if I wanted to say goodbye. I hadn’t quite realized the size difference until we took this photo:)

Leila saw me in the quad and came down to say goodbye. She handed me a note, which I tucked into my pocket. Andy then walked me out to the Daraja gate, to wait for my ride to Nairobi. I love that Daraja has such a fantastic Volunteer Coordinator! I remember when Sharon Wahl told me that that would be very important!

And I’m off! Farewell Daraja.

Photo: I wish that I could say that this 60 liter pack is all I have with me, but I’m also carrying a day pack – my backpack from Lehigh senior year.

Daraja was conducting on-campus interviews today for a new English and Music Teacher. One of the candidates caught a ride back into town with me, in the private matatu that I took to Nairobi. I’m getting increasingly more proficient in explaining the similarities and differences between the US and Kenyan education systems! I learned that some Kenyans send their children to schools in Kenya that run on the American system. So their children aren’t prepared for the KCSE, but rather for a US higher education. The candidate who caught a ride into town with us used to teach at such a Kenyan school. So much for me to learn – there never seems to be enough time to ask all of the questions on my mind.

The drive down to Nairobi was so beautiful – it went from reminding me of the Western USA plains to the tropics. Mostly agricultural with very few buildings, but once we got close to the city you could tell where we were. The roads that sprawl outside of Nairobi are under major construction. It hardly phased me, at this point – I’ve acclimated quite well to the roads here.

My driver had a little bit of trouble locating the hotel that Andy and Bennett had recommended, across from the Nakumatt Lifestyle complex sort of near River Road. But we found it, and I got checked in. Then headed out onto the streets to find and purchase my bus ticket to Uganda, lunch, cell phone minutes, food and bottled water shopping at Nakumatt (big grocery chain here with pretty much USA prices). I was hoping to take the Scandanavian Express bus to Uganda since I had read that there are bathrooms on those buses, but after asking many Kenyans for directions to the company’s office, I finally learned that they went out of business. So my second choice – Akumba – it is. I leave at 7am tomorrow, and should arrive in Jinja, Uganda at 8pm. In the course of running my errands I had many opportunities to practice dodging vehicle traffic (stop lights and pedestrian crossings – not utilized so much) and got to know my way around the neighborhood. I stopped into a crowded and fairly attractive cafeteria-style restaurant for lunch, and wound up sitting with a nice Kenyan who was waiting for his friend. I ordered chapattis and vegetables – not as good as Daraja’s – but for 100 ksh/less than $1.50 it is what it is:) Made notes of a few places that I’d check out if I were to come back to this spot, which is likely at least when I return to Nairobi from Uganda.

It’s my first night sleeping under a mosquito net. Oh fun! I started my Malarone (malaria prevention med) yesterday, so all is good. I’m up at 5am to catch my bus. Caught up with Meghan Young in Jinja tonight. I cannot wait to get there, see her, and see all that she’s up to, volunteering with the Colorado-based Light Gives Heat this summer. I made a reservation at a hostel that everyone at Daraja and Meg recommended, so I have a pretty good idea of what tomorrow will entail … ? :)
I just read the notes that Joyce and Leila handed to me at Daraja … if I’d read them when I was still on campus, it wouldn’t made it even harder to leave – the Daraja students are soooo amazing. So amazing.

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