I have wanted to write my own blog for quite a while. My students, while here in Kenya, have 6 blog entries to complete. I have hoped to do at least the same amount. It is just a little challenging to be organizing, teaching, and writing at the same time.
The last few days have been quite eventful.
2:30 am pick up in one van that had to pile the luggage on top of half the group for lack of space and another that nearly froze the other half of the group with its air conditioning. That distracted them from all of the flashing error lights on the car, so I heard.
We made it to the flight safely, though. No wait for security and an easy wait for our flight to New York.
In New York, one of the students had just said that she had never seen snow before it began to snow. At first, it was just a light flurrying, but soon enough, the snow was accumulating, so much so that the plane had to join the line of others to be de-iced. An hour after our originally scheduled flight time, we were off to Amsterdam
I watched a few movies, slept a bit.
We arrived in Amsterdam around 6am. I had one student meeting family, so she was off for her own adventures. I had one student who was not allowed to enter the Netherlands because her citizenship does not allow her to enter without a difficult to get visa. All the rest had baggage to manage. I had organized two hotel rooms at the Yotel in the Amsterdam airport after security for a futuristic respite for those in need. The one student stayed there much of the day and, when the remaining group members returned, she was beaming with joy and rest.
After storing bags, the remaining 11 students, me and my mom/co-instructor headed out to the city. We caught a fantastic shuttle into the city, had a little walk around the Anne Frank Museum, went there for our visit, walked to the Van Gogh Museum, had a walk around the Museum Center, and then got our shuttle back to the airport. I checked in the students, they went through security while I waited for one student who had visited her family, had a wonderful time, and then had a series of mishaps on the way to the airport. All in all, there weren’t any worries since I had budgeted plenty of time for the group.
After picking up bags, the one student at the hotel, and checking out, we all had an early dinner as a group at a pan-Asian restaurant in the airport. It was a lovely and fast meal. We had a bit of a wait in the airport, but I would rather that than have to deal with security lines (we again had no line due to arriving around 4pm) and other delays.
The flight to Nairobi was a bit of a challenge to me, if only because, after long flights, I can sometimes have this burst of claustrophobia that takes me over and induces a strange and random anxiety. After a time, it eased, but after so many hours of being in flight, and on the last one, having a middle seat, I felt myself to be not at ease. Eventually, I relaxed a bit, watched some movies, and fell into dozing a few times.
On arrival in Nairobi, it was clear that the whole group was exhausted, but we pushed on, through customs, easily picked up our baggage and met our volunteer coordinator, Stephen, outside of the airport and another shuttle.
I should have taken pictures of our luggage thrown onto the room of a 25 seater van.
Our trip to campus, this time, took about 6 hours with two bathroom stops and a shopping/exchange stop. Ideally, the trip should take 4 hours.
We arrived directly to a very late lunch, getting settled. All of us showered in our little bandas/houses as it was SO needed. Two days of being in the same clothes and running around 3 different countries definitely showed on us all.
The students are all paired with one triple, which helps with processing the day. I had originally thought the students would have their own spaces, but it ended up that it’s much better for them to have time to process the experience with one another, even in the downtown.
Yesterday, the students then had dinner, a debriefing time, and then time to write or go back to sleep. The blog 2 that was due yesterday was postponed to today.
Today, we had breakfast, class visits, tea break, a trip to three NGOs for site visits and proposal preparation, return to lunch, rest time, I connected with a student who will have to go to a doctor because of her swollen feet. We had work with our Media Club writing partners in the afternoon where the SMC students mentor two students per person in their writing. I circulated and asked questions. Then dinner, debriefing, me grading (following up on the grading I had done in the afternoon), and then a debriefing.
At the debriefing, I told students that they must be on time. We had a lot of lateness today, which delayed the whole group and impacted our NGO partners since they were waiting on us. I also talked about our chore schedules (each day the students are either working in the garden, kitchen, recycling of bottles to create awnings, or writing mentor work). Finally we debriefed some of the experiences today.
The students had some questions around language and miscommunication. They also had some tension around their own guilt for being constantly catered to as adults. I believe that, for some, this may be a cultural clash between what is acceptable in the States and what is not with what is acceptable in Kenya. They’ve also said a number of times that they don’t understand why people continue to say sorry for things for which they are not responsible. They’ve felt like they have presented as better than someone else (or thinking that she is).
I want to impress upon them that we need to learn more about their cultures. We also need to be available for the students to brainstorm in community. Finally, that they cannot solve every challenge today or problem and that they have expertise that they can share with the site partner. ‘’
This is my account of the last few days.
I’m signing out. I can barely keep my eyes open right now.