Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bittersweet . . . Goodbye

In mid January I left my wonderful friends and adopted families behind in Kenya . . . it truly was a bittersweet goodbye. Even though I was "temporary" they never made me feel that way. I miss their smiling faces and their always welcoming greetings. It didn't matter if you were gone for a minute, an hour or one week they were always happy to see you return and made you feel so good. They are truly happy people regardless of what else is going on in their lives. There is always a smile ready to welcome you.

I returned to my temporary but welcoming "home" (Dad and Noreen's in Idaho)to very cold weather and relieved family members and friends. Maybe they weren't sure I would return? I also returned to stacks of mail even though Dad did a great job of sorting the important stuff . . . we took 12 lbs of shredding to the "shredding place" not to mention the "stuff" that didn't need shredding . . . amazing waste. Lots of new and changed technologies have come around since I was paying attention in 2008 - Wii, that was fun!! I have yet to "get it" but it was FUN!! Thanks sister Mindy - who kicked my ---- in all dance moves, games and other "stuff". Some I have yet to see or experience. There is still time, I think. I was clueless about movies, politics and the contenders for the Superbowl. Yeah . . . Packers!! The politics got more angry and hostile and Superbowl commercials got more expensive - all so important in the USA. My tongue is a bit sore from biting it often although not as often as is probably prudent. I found the people in Idaho very friendly and it is soooo clean here. You really have to look hard for trash and litter. That I really appreciate and I hope they do too.

I am struggling with the "what's next" question from everyone and the excess that seems to be a part of most lives. RELAX, I'll get there with the next chapter of my life soon enough and I'll try to avoid the excess part at least with most material things. A friend introduced me to a great fitness club (KOKO Fit Club) so I can relieve some stress that returned VERY quickly and try to get back 2 plus years of little cardio. My heart is loving it!! Well maybe excess in exercise . . . it is my current social life. Any way, one step at a time, few plans, little scheduling except that tax due date that didn't go away . . . back to IT.

I'll reconnect with Kenya soon through friends just to check in and tell them I miss them and I am thinking about them and will continue to "help" however I am able. Their faces and circumstances remain in my thoughts and dreams. I will not forget.

Thanks to Peace Corps for the experience of a lifetime and to family and friends for their support and encouragement during the past months. I will treasure the experience as it will keep me humble and thankful. I would encourage any and all who can take a "break" from their current life to take a look at giving back through Peace Corps. You will not regret your decision, if chosen to serve.

When your heart and mind is motivated to give responsibly to help others . . . please remember the "kids in Kenya" through www.makindu.org (Oregon) or www.wingsofpeaceinternational.org (Florida). I know these organizations and your generous donations do make it to the people for whom it is intended and they do MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!! A little goes a long, long way to help these children.

Peace and Love to ALL!!

Paula; RPCV

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bittersweet Days . . .

Greetings from Nairobi;

December 18th was my last "official" day with MCC. The two years really did fly by and now it is time to think about returning to the US. I have tried to book a ticket three times and I am on my third failure, maybe there is a message there.

I will be in Makindu through most of January finishing up a few secondary project issues and saying good-byes. While I an anxious to see all of you . . . it is not that easy to leave. I really have enjoyed all the people I have met here.

MCC was a wonderful experience and I am sure that I am taking more away than I could ever give to them. Living and working with people of a different culture is the best experience I could ever have imagined. While you really cannot walk in their shoes, the Peace Corps experience lets you get as close as I believe is possible. I had an experience more rewarding, challenging and fulfilling than I could have wished.

I leave MCC at a time when they are moving forward to self sustainability under the leadership of Michael,a director with great vision and motivation to make MCC all it can be for the orphans and vulnerable children it currently supports. The indigenous poultry keeping project, the dairy cow project together with our new rainwater catchment system and a "master plan" for shamba (farm) planting and a promise from well-wishers from the Sikh Temple to construct two classrooms . . . the future is bright for Makindu Children's Centre!!! The new staff and volunteers are motivated and active in making all projects move forward to benefit the guardians and children of the Centre. I really enjoyed working with them and will miss them greatly. They hosted a wonderful going away party for me last Saturday. Many wonderful and kind words were spoken and of course, I cried . . . they gifted me with a beautiful wooden bowl, carved with a thank you message, their name and logo. I will treasure it, surely!!!

We are in Nairobi this week, signing out . . . all the Peace Corps paperwork is being completed for our Close of Service. A few of us are traveling to Oloitokitok to spend Christmas with our original Kenyan families. I will also have an opportunity to meet with the KISMA - Angels in Kenya groups (caregivers and children)on our school sponsorship program. I will gift them with a nice donation from my family members to help with the start of the 2011 school year. THANK YOU!!!

Thanks to each of you who supported me during my Peace Corps service I will be forever thankful to you. You truly made a difference in my life while I was away.

Think about Peace Corps if you want a wonderful fulfilling challenge no matter your age. It is the best decision I have made to date.

Reminder . . . donations are always welcome to support these two wonderful project for children . . . Makindu Children's Centre through Makindu Children's Program, Eugene, OR; USA and KISMA - Angels in Kenya through WOPI, Wings of Peace International, Winter Springs, FL; USA.

Thanks again to all!!! Merry Christmas and the very best to ALL in the coming year!

Happy Birthday to my family members in December; Mindy and Mindy and Noreen.

See most of you very soon. Love, hugs, peace and good health!!! Paula

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thankgiving!! A few of us PCV's are getting together to celebrate with turkey and most of the trimmings. We have no oven this year so . . . we are trying to compromise and cook with a combo of boiling and grilling - should be an adventure!! We have a VERY fresh turkey however . . . in fact I believe it is currently still running around in Matuu, Kenya before it lands on our plates. We will prematurely celebrate thoughts of a bountiful harvest that we hope will come in Kenya this year, if the rains cooperate. Enjoy family and friends at this joyous time. Think of us as we will be thinking of you!! This will be my last Thanksgiving in Kenya as I hope to join you in the US for the next one. Love to all!! Paula

Saturday, November 6, 2010

P.S. To Yesterday's Blog . . . Family Birthdays

HAPPY BIRTHDAY wishes to my family members celebrating in November and December . . .
Tori, Pamela, Steven, Shelli, Noreen, Mindy (Idaho), Bailee and Mindy. Have FUN!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Things are "Happening" at MCC

Hey ALL!!!

Exciting things are happening at Makindu Children's Centre. Our Director, Michael, has lead us through the process which has allowed for two good income generating activities with a lot of potential for our Centre and its beneficiaries. Our dairy project is coming along well - we have 3 full grown milk cows and one calf; we are selling around 25 plus litres a day with more volume anticipated. One of our cows should calf within the next few weeks. We lost one calf due to a birthing problem but the mother is doing fine. We also have around 960 indigenous chicks (a few didn't make it; expected mortality rate 5%) which will be sold in approximately four months for a nice profit. Delivery of an additional 1000 is expected soon. The program for the chicken enabled a few groups of our MCC guardians to participate as investors then with the profit (forced savings plan) from their investment they will be able and encouraged to start their own businesses. This is a project that can and will improve the livelihoods of our orphans and guardians. It is sustainable and requires a fairly minimal investment.

Rainwater catchment gutters and tanks are also now installed on one building at the Centre so we can capture the rainwater from our roof. This happened just in time for the short rains that have just now started. Rainwater catchment was something I really wanted to see for the Centre. Piped water is very expensive and the salt content is so high that it isn't very good for animals or for crops. This will help all around. Some generous friends from the Sikh Temple in Makindu and other friends from the US made this dream happen. The water engineer estimated that we can harvest 90,000 litres from our all of our roofs. We have another Sikh friend considering some financial assistance so we can do the guttering on the other roof and capture even more rainwater.

I haven't been in Makindu for a couple of weeks. I have had meetings then our Close of Service Medical review took a few days. I had a small medical problem (nothing serious) so I am still in Nairobi but will be returning to Makindu next week. In between, I will be in Loitokitok for a couple of days assisting with some training for the newest group of volunteers. I think we are up to around 150 in Kenya now.

These last few weeks will fly by . . . it is hard to believe that our service is almost complete and that it has been two years. I am Planless Paula at this moment but will most likely return to the USA sometime in January. It is difficult to leave all the people who have been in my life in many different ways for the last two years. In fact, some of the volunteers aren't leaving but are extending their service to a third year and many are looking for jobs here in Kenya - which may be an easier task than back in the US at the moment.

That's it on my end . . . I hope all are healthy and happy!!

Happy Birthday!!! to my family members celebrating in November. Sorry, I don't have my book with me to type all of your names and didn't want to leave anyone out.

Also, Happy Thanksgiving!! We are trying to do a little gathering, maybe even with a turkey, at a PCV's site outside of Nairobi. Enjoy your day!!

All the best, as always!! Paula

P.S. Please remember; Makindu Children's Program; in USA for Makindu Children's Centre; Kenya and Wings of Peace International in USA for Loitokitok, Kenya for donation opportunities. Every dollar makes a difference in the life of a child.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's New in Makindu . . .

Hi all!!!

All is good in Makindu. We are very dusty and windy and getting ready for the rains which are due within the next few weeks. The brickmaking season is ending and the planting season will begin soon. Some of us are looking hopefully forward to our farmers planting many other crops besides, or at least, in addition to, maize. We will see. Change happens very slowly. We are rooting for sorghum, millet and green grams and cow peas!!! Drought resistent. East African Breweries are encouraging farmers to plant sorgham as there is a ready market as an ingredient in beer. Some of our farmers are taking advantage of this idea so we will see their success, hopefully. If there is some success, others will surely follow next season.

MCC's dairy cow project is going on well. Our cow is giving more milk every day and we are looking forward to her projected volume of 15 litres a a day; currently she is just over 13. Her calf still "knows" her mother so the calf remains in a separate pen until she "forgets" her mother and is not running for her milk each time she sees her. Our other cow is due to give birth anytime now so we are waiting anxiously for that day. Our kuku kienyeji (indigenous chicken) project is getting underway, also. This is my personal favorite as it is something that all farmers in our area can easily do. The fencing and shelter is being constructed this next week and we expect delivery of 1,000 two day old chicks the first part of October. We are also working on a water catchment project at long last. I am hopeful that we will have that completed to take advantage of the rains that should come very soon. The children are also doing well. The new staff is very focused on what needs to be done to continue to make the program better and grow with the many needs of children. Currently we have 419 children under the care of 253 guardians in four sites. The program continues to provide valuable education, nutrition, medical and counseling support to children(most are orphaned)who would not otherwise have these opportunities. There are many success stories to be told about their lives. They are good friends and it will be difficult to leave them when my service is complete. Remember MCC children at www.makindu.org. and the Loitokitok children at www.wingsofpeaceinternational.org. Thanks!!!

At the moment (Wednesday) I am in the Peace Corps office in Nairobi taking advantage of computer time. Then I am going on leave for a few days. Erin and I are traveling to Chuka and Maua to visit other PCV's then to Nanyuki (Mt. Kenya!!) for a PC conference for a couple of days then back to Makindu on October 1st. It is nice to visit other volunteer's sites and see other parts of Kenya, particularly green parts that are not dusty and are getting some rain.

All else is good. Makindu has been a district for many months now and it is obvious by the fact that it is growing rapidly; lots of construction and there are many new jobs here - it is becoming less "rural" everyday. Unfortunately that means more trash and more traffic but I am sure the job market will improve for people so that is a plus. The rural parts of Kenya are my favorite as there is a stark difference between the villages and the cities. So we are leaving at a good time, I think.

I hope all who are reading this blog are well and happy. I hope you have enjoyed these and they have given you some insite into this experience. Although, I really think you have to live it to really "get it". It has been and continues to be an adventure. A very rewarding one.

Happy Birthday to my family members in September and October; Trenton, Vince, Clayton, Corbin, Gene, Paige, John, Zoey, Cole, Doug, Kerry, Jason - wow many!!!!

Take good care!! Love to all, Paula

Monday, September 13, 2010

Returning . . .

Well maybe . . . to what . . . hatred and intolerance? Who is this man in Gainsville, Florida? In one thoughtless or dare I say mindless threat, he dashes our hopes of the peaceful coexistence our President has tried so hard to restore in his brief time as the 'Leader of the Free World'.

We are U.S. PEACE Corps volunteers Mr . . . did you even consider how your actions and words might affect Americans trying to be peaceful, tolerant,respectful and helpful in other parts of our world?? Besides ALL else you should have considered before you spoke your 'threats'.

In the "practice" of your religion, be mindful of this quote published in The Nation newspaper in Kenya (where I am currently living and volunteering among MANY different people with many different beliefs including Muslims)on 9/11: "Your Christ was such an admirable figure. But you Christians are so unlike him . . . " Mahatma Ghandi.

Wake up Mr . . ., Gainsville, Florida is part of a much larger WORLD. One in which we would like PEACEFUL coexistence to someday be a reality. Please be mindful of your actions in that WORLD . . . PEACE to all!!!!

Have a peaceful day!! Yours in service, Paula

P.S. I published this only after my anger had subsided after many days. It makes me so very sad and ashamed when my country gets this kind of press in the WORLD!