Thursday, November 30, 2006

political vernacular

this thing in the news about harper declaring quebec a nation has been bugging me. not because i don't think that quebec should be called a nation (it pretty much already is, people), but that everyone seems to be so out to lunch on what a nation is and what a state is. if i learned anything through an international relations degree it is this:

a nation is a group of similar people who inhabit areas that are not necessary within the same international borders. the kurds are a nation though they live in iraq and turkey (and maybe other places too, i am not so familiar with the kurds). other examples of nations are the first nations groups of canada, the indigenous people in southern mexico/guatemala, and the scots.

a state is a politically organised group of people residing in a geographic area. canada is a state, great britain is a state, and kenya is a state.

perhaps people are confused that canada is a nation-state, where a homogenous group of people inhabit a state. canada has never been homogenous and isn't today so why the big huff about saying that the quebecois are a nation? they are.

the only reason that the United Nations is called that is because the United States was already taken, so this might be the cause of the confusion.

maybe since i am battling the rains* in kenya, i am missing out on the political side of this debate, but at least let's get our terminology right.

* which, by the way, seem to continue. are the floods in northern kenyan making it into the news around the world? surprisingly, they aren't really big news here either, which is a bit worrysome. apparently in the north it is a state of emergency but the president hasn't officially declared it as such.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

i need more shavasna

6 hours of sleep is not enough for me. but by the time i get home from work, get any errands done, make dinner, eat, and visit a little bit with my flatmates, it is midnight! i have wanted to be knitting, reading, writing, sudoku-ing with my evenings free of mindless television viewing.

last night i managed to get to a yoga class where the shoulder stands left me with a slightly bruised vertebrae. but there is something to be said for a yoga instructor who, in his indian accent, tells you to "inhale de-e-ply, exhale comple-e-tely."

part of the problem with being so tired is that i end up eating more in attempts to get energy and then avoid doing any exercise because i am overtired. i think this is called Sleep Deprivation and i am pretty sure i suffered from this condition throughout my academic career.

i went to a meeting in the nairobi suburb of Karen this morning (which is named after the danish women who wrote Out of Africa, a colonial errrr.... masterpiece?? or as i know it better: The Movie During Which I Fell Asleep And Woke Up A Few Times And DIDN'T MISS A THING) and during the meeting's necessary tea break, we went to the garden so people could drink their overly milky tea, eat mandazi (sort of like kenyan-style donoughts), and shoo the warthogs away. yes, there were warthogs at the meeting.

i love warthogs and i enjoyed having them at our meeting. just when you don't feel like you're in africa, you see a warthog at a government meeting.

and did you know that in kiswahili 'simba' means lion and 'rafiki' means friend? that brings my knowledge of the language to approximately 5 words. but i intend on taking classes soon, in fact, i just texted mary the swahili teacher now, asante sana.

Friday, November 24, 2006

sorta freaking hilarious

funny story - i was walking by a bush yesterday (well, more like THROUGH a bush on the side of the path) and it turns out it was a thorn bush and i got pricked by rather large, spikey thorns. one went through my jeans and got stuck right in my kneecap and after dislodging it, i had to check for blood, which was indeed oozing out of one of the holes left in my knee. the electricity was only partially working last night so i did not get to investigate the damage done until this morning when my knee was really achey and the little red holes still had bits of thorn in them! so i covered them in polysporin and got to work where my officemate tells me that those things are poisonous and can make your joints ache. sorta hilarious.

apart from the chance meeting with the thorn bush, i had the most perfect thursday evening alone last night. wonderful lighting due to low electricty, a glass of red wine, a freshly baked baguette with good cheese for dinner, new wool to start a knitting project, a noam chomsky documentary, and a text message invitation for dinner for friday from a cute boy. that is me, represented in a thursday evening.

so this wool... hand spun! i am so excited about this. and for all my moaning about the prices of things in nairobi (eating out, taxis, towels...), this wool was far less expensive than it would be in canada. did i mention it is hand-spun!

this friday marks five weeks in nairobi and i will stop saying how time is flying and instead tell you about my workout with Flex. yes, he is a personal trainer and i am pretty sure that his mom did not take one look at him and decide that, as i seemed to resemble the heroine from a movie about the russian revolution, he resembled a juice monkey who wants to force unsuspecting young women to do ab workouts. during this ab workout, he straddles me and tells me to come up and touch his hands, which are curiously positioned right in front of his balls. so i had to do sit ups into his crotch and try my hardest not to laugh at the hilarity of it all.

as today marks five weeks of me in nairobi, it also marks approximately 35 days of breathing in exhaust fumes from the highway i cross to get to and from work. this trek has been particularly treacherous this week as it has rained and rained and then rained some more and yesterday when i gave up and just called a taxi, the taxi company sent the taxi to my friend's flat instead. apparently not only do us blondies all look alike, but we sound alike as well (even though i cleared stated who i am and where i need to be picked up!).

thank the good lord that it is sunny and breezey this friday morning and i was able to sport my oversized, bug-like sunglasses for my walk across the highway. i am hoping that it holds for my weekend festivities. my rules for this weekend are a) to come home with all items i go out with (so as not to loose anything more than i lost last weekend in my ummmm.... not-so-delicate condition) and b) to come home with the same people i went out with (so as not to stay out way-too-late and have to eat greasy food and copious amount of caffeinated beverages to remedy the condition that follows the not-so-delicate condition the next morning)

i saw Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and it was as hilarious as its name. which, if you have no sense of humour, is freaking hilarious. if you have a penchant for inappropriate humour and satire, go see it. and tell me you don't laugh out loud as soon as the opening credits run.

ps - have you bought a net yet?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

mount longonot

i remember sitting in a lecture theatre in my first semestre of my first year at uni, learning about the rift valley in a physical anthropology course and never once did the thought cross my mind then that i would have the opportunity to hike up a dormant volcano and around its crater in the awe-inspiring rift valley.

the rainbow on the way down was like no other i have seen and the zebras, impala, and gazelle made me feel as though i am really in the africa of storybooks and legend. so did the bumpy 4x4 ride on a potholed, partially flooded road.

Monday, November 20, 2006

i often feel overwhelmed with the prospect of a career in international development. the very word 'development' has so many connotations, misconceptions, and assumptions built into it that extracting the meaning, methods, and purpose of it is a task academics spend entire careers attempting to clarify. i am passionate and eager to do meaningful work that will have a more global affect than simply earning a salary to pay bills i accrue through my developed-world level of consumption. yet i often feel as though i am working within an aid community that is either misguided or fighting a losing battle to combat poverty, disease, and violence in the developing world. i sense that a lot of young canadians share these toughts, even if they don't want to work in the same field.

upon hearing what i have studied and where i have worked, some people ask me what they can do because they want to 'make a difference,' assuming that because i have some minimal experience in this seemingly meaningful field, i have a simple answer. i don't. like rick mercer, i am much better at figuring out the problems and not so good at finding the answers. my quick answer to the 'what can i do?' question is to tell people to vote. canadians live in a democracy and have the right to a voice in who governs our country, the very same people who make decisions on how public funds are spent. and since i believe that most development issues are political, rooted at the government level, and almost always underfunded, i figure that voting is one of the things that is totally within each canadian's power and capability.

i was reading rick mercer's blog this morning and found out about the Spread the Net campaign that he is co-chairing with belinda stronach. i recommend that you read what he has to say on his website, which is far wittier and funny than what i am trying to say here, and then check out the spread the net website then get out your credit card and pay $10 for a mosquito net to stop the spread of malaria in africa. will be my new answer to the question of 'what can i do?' because you can spare $10. i did this morning and the same government that i think needs to pull up their socks in the foreign aid department is paying me my salary AND taxing me, which is absolutely ridiculous and i can elaborate further in a future post, but the point is - if i can afford $10 to make my difference, then so can you. so can most canadians. we are fortunate beyond the conception of most people in the world and instead of being overwhelmed with all that needs to be done to alleviate the suffering inherent while living in extreme poverty, we can buy a bed net and keep someone safe from malaria.

Spread the Net -

Friday, November 17, 2006

the lowest form of wit

there were so many things that i saw or thought or happened this week that i wanted to blog about but it is now friday, the end of week four in nairobi, and i have ten minutes before i leave the office without having written any of them in any kind of creative, interesting, or readable manner. so what will i do? i will write a list of these things that i thought were blog-worthy. (is list-writing : creative writing as sarcasm : wit?)

- i did not see rona ambrose bash the liberals during her speech in an international forum at the un conference on climate change in nairobi but i think it is the tackiest thing she could have done (apart from wearing navy and black together, how do people do that?)
- i wanted to spend my week stalking kofi annan as he was in town for the conference, but instead i had to work
- i had sushi for the first time here and it was de-lic-ious. but expensive.
- i have been exhausted everyday after work and i am not sure why. i mean, i sit at a desk and send emails interspersed with meaningful work.
- i got heaped with a load of work at the last minute which i honestly didn't think i could pull off, but i did
- i fought with excel for an entire morning and won
- i slipped and scratched up my foot and wondering if anyone saw the foreigner almost launch her pre-requisite nalgene bottle into the air like a cannon
- no matter where you are in the world, dating is hard when you have little time and text messaging is your main form of communication (now before the criticisms start about how cheap this is, try and make a cell phone call anywhere outside of north america and work it into your budget)
- i had a mango for an afternoon snack today, yum-my
- i am wearing flip flops in november, woo-who
- i got stuck in an african torrential downpour and was soaked to-the-bone and had a capucinno and chocolate cake in a cafe in the dark (sans electricity)
- i finally got my new chair in my office only because i walked down to where it was and carried it here myself (which, if i knew was all it took, i would have done 3 weeks ago when i originally requested it!) and more than a few people were overly concerned about a girl not wearing coveralls carrying out this task
- i had numerous panic attacks this week about a) my career, b) the prospect of life never really getting easier, c) my ability to succeed, d) financial crises, and e) being a psychotic girl trying not to appear as though i am a psychotic girl
- i chatted with my friend smooks who made me laugh out loud from across the world about team estrogen, team testosterone, and being treated like a lady no matter what your gender

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

mbeki got the memo

there are few things that are simply black and white issues to me, where i know exactly where i stand and feel strongly enough to defend my position when it comes up. gay rights/gay marriage is one of them. i am not sure exactly why this has always been so important to me and although there have been many people who have tried to convince me otherwise with various different arguments, i still believe that human rights extend to all, regardless of sexual orientation. specifically, Article 16:1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

this morning when i heard that the African National Congress, the party making up the government of south africa, passed a law legalising same-sex marriage, i was shocked and thrilled. shocked because homosexuality is extremely taboo in africa (it is illegal in kenya) and president thabo mbeki has not been known for his progressive thought (he has publicly denied that hiv leads to aids). thrilled because i believe that marriage should be a contract, commitment, and partnership offered to anyone who wishes to enter it.

my girl jann

i didn't write this (she did), but i liked it.
Life is a miserable, beautiful mess and we are in the middle of the greatest, saddest adventure! What an opportunity to learn. I can take on whatever the world has to throw at me, or hand me, or give me, or use me for. The only day in my life that I’ll be certain about anything, will be the day I leave here to begin all over again. Well, I am certain about you, and I was before I even knew you existed.

Friday, November 10, 2006

week in review

i cannot believe how quickly time is passing. today marks the third week i have been in kenya. i am beginning to feel more settled but it feels as though there i still so much for me to do to before i can feel comfortable in the city. i have put a deposit on a bed frame that is being made for me and i am rather excited about it. i got to design the bed, pick the wood, the size, and the colour and it will be constructed in a week all for just over a hundred dollars. what service! i am serious about sleeping and like a lot of room to spread out, good pillows, and soft sheets. i have taken the first step to sleeping heaven.

my flatmates and i had a dinner party this week and it was decidedly a success. so successful, in fact, that i was exhausted the next day as i stayed up past my bedtime drinking wine, talking politics and development, and sitting on the patio. sitting on a patio in november rates equally with a good sleeping situation in my world.

after my complaining about local radio selections, i heard tegan and sarah today! i made my officemate listen and i think she was just being polite in saying it was good as it is so different than all the r&b that is usually on the radio. i think i have heard every top 40 hit from my grade 12 year in one single day. but who doesn't love a little brandy and usher for memory's sake.

the smell of burning garbage is a scent close to my memories of west africa and at first i recalled them fondly when i first arrived here. but this afternoon, the smell of the burning piles of rubbish on the side of the road has given me quite the headache. the kind of headache that my mom and i get from incense but there really is no respite since it is right outside my window and is strong enough to waft into my office.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the dems...

...have taken one, can they make it two?

Monday, November 06, 2006

my first times

this past weekend was a weekend of firsts for me.

i had my first ‘Jager Bomb’ shot (and then another). i also had my first kenyan hang over and i think that it might be connected to the other ‘firsts’ of the previous night – first ‘Springbok’ shot, first time a drunk brit from the military flailed his arms and spilled my red wine down the front of me, and the first time i have ever personally witnessed someone demonstrating the ‘Studman’ shot (snorting the salt, shooting tequila, and squeezing the lime in your eye) – proof that it can be done.

but the hangover was quickly followed by the first time i have gone second-hand clothes shopping in nairobi and i think i will become addicted to this. imagine Winners, but on the side of the road with bargaining! a lot of the stuff is a bit scruffy looking but there are a lot of familiar british and american labels and stuff that has clearly never been worn. i picked myself up a new Gap wool sweater (nairobi mornings are cool, i can even see my breath), a black Top Shop shirt, and a pair of shoes for wearing out (in the case that i ever decide to attempt a do-over of my friday night, but maybe with fewer shots…). all of this cost me a grand total of approximately $9.

this saturday afternoon, during which i was really only saved from the depths of the multi-drink hang over by a take-away double black kenyan coffee to nurse as i wandered around the market, was followed by my first date in kenya. and come to think of it, also the first date i have ever been on with an irishman. it was quite enjoyable and may just be followed up with my first second date in kenya with an irishman. but we will see.

to wrap up my weekend of firsts, i had a most perfect sunday. i went to the local gym and worked out for the first time since i arrived (well really, the first time in a few months). it felt great to run, to get sweaty and feel as though i’d used my body especially because i had exposed it to some serious abuse with the aforementioned alcoholic consumption. after the gym, which is more like a palace than a place of exercise with showers capable of inducing euphoria and the aroma of tea tree oil wafting out of the change rooms that just lures you in, i went to a fruit and veg market in a nearby community, which looks eerily similar to the slums that Rachel Weisz’ character visits in The Constant Gardener. we loaded up with tomatoes, peppers, garlic, cilantro, apples, oranges, limes, beets, avocados, papaya, guava, watermelon as well as witnessed my first matatu argument, of which i am still unclear as it was all exchanged in kiswahili as we sat patiently in the overcrowded vehicle on the side of the highway.

this weekend of firsts was followed by my first spinning class which i took last night and now i am easing my way into any and all movements as my whole body hurts. all that up out of the saddle, back into the saddle, hovering over the saddle, sweet jesus. but the shower afterwards made it all worthwhile.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

10 shillings

2 of the things i dislike about my hometown of calgary include the dry weather and the prevalence of nickelback songs on the radio. some of you may not know this, but nickelback and their lead singer make me break out in a rash.

and who would have thought that i would find the same ultra dryness that is doing great damage to my delicate skin AND the beautiful songs of nickelback in nairobi? i have been listening to the local radio station and i almost fell out of my chair when i heard the sweet, sweet sound of chad kroeger's voice. barf.

but one thing i do love about this city is the price of avocados! about 15 cents each. no matter how big they are, the same price - 10 shillings. i also love that the currency here is called shillings.