Thursday, 17 May 2012

Email Home: 18/08/2011 (aged 26)

Kenya - Week 1

Hi all!

After one full week away, it seemed an appropriate point to send my first email home! My time in Kenya so far has been better than expected (although I didn’t have any preconceptions) and everyone is really nice. I was surprised just how quickly you get settled in, and I can’t believe a week has passed! I've sent this email just to those whose emails I had, but please feel free to pass on!

I arrived at the Voyager hotel in Mombasa last Friday morning and stayed one night. All inclusive meant you could order snacks throughout the day (including pancakes) so I made the most of that! Nyali beach is lovely – the sand is like icing sugar but there’s a fair bit of seaweed when the tide is out.

The volunteers live in two houses on an estate near the slums. They’re fairly basic but definitely do the job (given I expected to be in a mud hut). We stay in bunk beds and have fans in the bedroom so heat isn’t generally a problem at night. There’s a chore rota so we take it in turns to clean and cook. We live near the Bombolulu slum (‘village’) which is where the ‘school’ is based. Olives Rehabilitation Centre is essentially a school which is not yet recognized by the government, but that’s the aim for the place going forward.


The slum is as you would imagine from the aid adverts on TV. Chickens and goats roam around, the houses are made from metal, cloth and wood and are basic one-room with no running water, gas or electrics. Kids run around with ripped clothes and no shoes and water is collected and carried on the women’s heads. They strap their babies to their back with fabric and the children play with toys made from rubbish e.g. a plastic bottle with wooden wheels attached is pulled along and tyres are pushed around for fun. The kids chant ‘howareyoo,howareyoo,howareyoo’ at white people, without knowing what it means. They are quite accepting of their lot and don’t beg or reach for anything (they’ll set villagers on fire for stealing – serious). HIV and AIDS is a problem here as they aren't educated enough about it, which means we carry around latex gloves in case the kids fall over and there's blood, which inevitably happens.

Days are generally spent teaching at the school from 8am-midday. Normally it would extend into the afternoon, but it’s the holidays for one more week, so they’re running the holiday program which contains some teaching but a little more relaxed than term time when the teaching is more intensive. I’m glad I’m around longer so I get to experience both, as I know some of the teachers who came out for 2 weeks were a bit disappointed not to be ‘full-on’ teaching. At 12pm we go home and make our own lunch and have a few hours off.

In the afternoon, they run ‘Community classes’ at the Olive church (a corrugated iron building with a tin roof) which are open to the village community and cover English, Maths and Computing. This is my favourite part of the day because the adults really want to learn. The school kids are adorable and cheeky, but it’s school, so they can test limits. Then adults are grateful for any help they can get, as barely any of the slum population, especially the adults, have been educated. I am teaching the Advanced Maths class, however they’re of such varying levels, I end up setting different questions for each person there. Some of them can’t multiply or divide by 100, 1000, whereas the most advanced is long dividing decimals! The leader of the Community classes tends to push people into Advanced if they show any kind of aptitude, I think, when the basic skills aren’t necessarily there. My favourite student is Boni and he jumps up and throws a thumbs up in the air when he gets a question right, with a big beaming smile on their face. All of the kids and adults over here LOVE having their work marked, and their faces fall when they get anything wrong (the kids will correct their work and make you re-mark it!).

At 6pm all of the volunteers have a debrief, followed by dinner which has been cooked for everyone. In the evening we can do whatever we like (cake shop, bar, cinema) but we do have planning for the next day to do, too. Welsh Katie got her A-Level results today so we’re going to go out and celebrate. We zip around on the back of budda buddas (scooters) which are incredibly cheap, and there are a couple of supermarkets and internet caf├ęs nearby.

The weather is generally fine – it tends to flit between heavy downpours and strong sunshine. I wasn’t bitten too badly until last night when I was massacred, and the trees at the school have caterpillars in, so we pick up rashes from their hairs, and unfortunately the rash spreads, both from person to person, and to different parts of your body when you itch!!

And that’s it so far! I’m having a brilliant time and don’t think I’ll want to leave J

Hope all is well in England!

Katie xxx

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