Monday, May 28, 2007

3 girls and a peacock

(may 27, 2007)

friday was one of those nights. the ones that we will talk about for years, when one of us says, ‘…and the night of the peacock…’ and the rest of us will burst into laughter and add on to the story with sentences that all start with ‘and then…’ and will be finished with any of the following:

‘…you dropped off the booze so we could catch up,’
‘…you sang karaoke in front of 80 people,’
‘…you pulled the peacock out of your purse,’
‘…we were told to take our peacock off the dj booth,’
‘…we made friends with the soldiers,’
‘…we got people to rub the peacock for luck,’
‘…you met the owner of the bar and convinced him to leave,’
‘…i realised i forgot my keys after i got home,’
‘…the peacock got heavy so we had to trust the barstaff to care for him so we could dance,’
‘…we sent text messages professing our love of long hair, ireland, and one another,’
‘…we thought the bar was ours, and in so many ways, it was,’
‘…i didn’t get out of bed until the afternoon,’
‘…you went out dancing until 4am,’
‘…you made it home, but aren’t sure how,’
‘…we had to retrieve the peacock the next day.’

the kind of night that will live in our shared memory. 3 girls ending it the way it all began 7 months ago. it will be a time in our lives that is bookended with studman shots and a free-gift-with-purchase statue of a peacock. a lot of laughter, smatterings of frustration, small adventures, coffees, teas, and cakes, endless conversation, and tragic loss punctuate these months and a quick mention of the peacock will bring it flooding back. because it was one of those nights.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

some difference

my boss and i facilitated a training session today on the health care of trafficked persons and the feedback we got?

- one participant asked me to visit him at his place of employment
- one participant asked me to visit his village with him
- one respondent wrote 'the facilitators are very beautiful and knowledgeable' on the post training questionnaire

and that, my friends, is what you call making a difference.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

wherein my education and experience collide

i started and finished the book Emma's War by Deborah Scroggins in just over 24 hours and i must recommend it (although getting to sleep in the wee hours of the night was a bit troublesome after reading about the war in southern sudan and the atrocities that have far too long been an element of the sudanese struggle/conflict/rebelmovement/war/genocide/history).

while turning the pages, constantly flipping back to the maps, endnotes, and glossary to absorb as much information as i could, i recalled my research on the Nuer and Dinka peoples for an anthropology paper during my undergrads at the university of calgary. i had unintentionally come across the reasons why calgarians, among many others, were (understatedly) displeased with the involvement of calgary company Talisman Energy in the sudanese oil fields. after rereading about the complexities of the war in sudan, i was reminded why i do not live in calgary at the moment. a rather simple argument, i realise, but the irony of the recollection of volunteering at the g8 summit in kananaskis, where Jean Chretién attempted to keep the made-in-africa New Parntership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) on the international agenda, with a friend whose day job was at Chevron is enough to make me simultaneously shake my head and laugh. because what else do you do when you know that a number of people from your hometown could potentially have done something to, at the very least, curb some of the violence in a country on the other side of the world?

read the book. and that whole expat attitude of seeking out danger, atoning for the west’s sins, and escaping from the world into which you are born? i get it. and i see it everyday in nairobi. i would be lying by omission if i didn’t admit that is part of why i am here.

Take up the White Man’s Burden
The savage wars of peace –
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease.
- Rudyard Kipling (1898)

i would argue the methods may have changed, but the motives of wazungu/kawajas in africa are much the same as they’ve always been.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


(may 15, 2007)

one thing that rather annoys me about people is when they talk about how busy they are. i know that when i talk about how busy i am, it is usually because i have nothing else to say or that i am actually not as busy as i could be because i still have time to discuss the intricacies of how busy i am.

but lately, i have been busy.

the working until 9:00pm, the working on weekends, and the forgetting to eat lunch busy. the busy where i wake up and think about what i have to do in the course of the day and the busy where i put my head down on my pillow only to open my eyes what feels like minutes later in the exact same spot.

i have really enjoyed the work i have had the opportunity to do lately. i am learning a lot about project development and i am delighted that the work i have done over the past months is going to be useful and leave a lasting impact on the organisation and its beneficiaries.

but this busy-ness has caused my immune system to go on leave and i have been battling this cold/cough/upset stomach for a few weeks and i am debating taking a day off tomorrow so that i can rest and recuperate but i am not good at resting and recuperating and i get bored of being sick very quickly. i usually believe my mom’s age-old advise that you will feel better if you just get up and go out but this time i am wondering if i just need to slow down.

*may 17th, 2007*
i took the day off, i went to the doctor, i found out i have a sinus infection, i reserved my flight to egypt, i went home and rested and rested and rested some more. feeling a little better now and although i liked the doctor and his prescription of anti-biotics AND eucalyptus oil, i don't know about his prescription for 2 thin layers of clothing (1 tucked in), warm feet, and no wet hair. just seems like old wives' tales but i will abide because i am done with being sick.

in my rest, i managed to finish The Birth House by Ami McKay and you should too.

when you’re happy and you know it

(may 14, 2007)

i was slightly late in coming to work this morning and on my daily walk along the nearly non existent walkway on the edge of the pot holed roads, i overheard a classroom of children singing (or yelling, as singing often is to 6 year olds) the song ‘if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.’

it was a wonderful start to the week and encouraged me to reflect on the past weekend that i spent camping at a lake not far from town. we stayed in cabins that had everything cabins should – bunk beds, mosquito nets, and giant spiders. the cabin as well as the weekend was full of laughter, smiles, and countless jokes. you get a bunch of young, witty, and independent canadian women together and watch out!

this morning, as i overheard the children singing, i came to realise that i am happy. funny that you come to realise such things and do not inherently know them.

my weekend spent with friends i’ve met since arriving in nairobi 7 months ago contributed to this realisation. together we shared, we related, we laughed, we ran away from monkeys, we debated, we sat in silence. it was a mini break and a mini road trip and was not without the typical road trip necessities – pee breaks, road snacks, and cat naps. and the perhaps not-so-typical kenyan road trip necessities – police checkpoints, road side stops for basket, sheep skin, and pottery purchases (i couldn’t help myself, my bargaining skills were on fire and in hot demand).

these are the kind of girls who allow you to be totally yourself and i have no hesitation about acting goofy and ridiculous and even a bit crass without worrying about their reaction because it is almost always laughter. they just get it. i won't soon forget the conversations about the suggestion boxes and The High Five and the sore stomach that inevitably followed. as well as all of the things i learned from them.

sometimes you need to be reminded that someone’s got your back and that you know some pretty fantastic women and that those women wouldn’t choose anyone any less fantastic to spend a weekend in the great outdoors with.

Friday, May 11, 2007

hey mama

i am sending out a very festive and warm mother's day wish to my mom who is thousands of miles, an ocean, almost 2 continents, and 8 time zones away.

happy mother's day mom!
i wish i could be there to have a good old fashioned sunday brunch to celebrate.

i miss you and love you lots.

Monday, May 07, 2007

my sister is a genius

'heart burn from stress is in our genes. it is right next to the baking gene that relieves stress.'

'i met a guy who looks like david grey. is david grey black?'

3 words: taylor & mom's pants

it just made me laugh out loud again, the kind where you try not to let it out. love that.

Friday, May 04, 2007

can hi com

i went to a party at the canadian high commission yesterday and i can't tell you how exciting it was to see hockey sticks, a hockey jersey, and snowshoes on the wall! we are such geeks. but we throw a decent party.

the most memorable part of the evening was the bathroom. it was exactly like bathrooms are in canada! with metal stalls, soap in the dispenser, washing instructions in french and english, and paper towels. it was heavenly and germ-free.

i went to a child labour workshop this morning and there is some bad news about conditions on the tea plantations in kenya. i don't have any details (they have not yet been published) but it got me thinking that if a product is fair trade that doesn't necessarily mean that the workers are paid fairly and that children are not employed. it just means that the producer gets a fair share of the profit, if i am correct (and i am no trade expert, so perhaps i am wrong and correct me if i am way off) and not that the employees get a fair share of the profits. because how could anyone regulate that?

apparently there are some nasty multinational corporations in kenya that operate these tea fields, which makes more sense why they do not have tours of the tea plantations like my fam and i wanted to do while they were visiting.

if i wasn't feeling guilty enough for drinking coffee that exploits workers now i will feel sufficiently guilty for drinking tea that is picked by children. geez, i just can't win.

about those gorillas... i am still curious how much you would pay. leave anonymous comments if you like, but i am really interested to know what people think.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

workers of the world, unite

(march 1, 2007)

today is a holiday in kenya and i couldn’t have needed it more after the past weeks i have had. working evenings and weekends has taken its toll on me, i am fighting a cold and forgot to eat on friday; sometime in the early evening i realised that i had not had a bite to eat all day and nibbled on some almonds before heading home at 8:00pm to watch grey’s anatomy and bake muffins with a friend. i’ve been busy but i have enjoyed it and i am learning heaps (finally).

to celebrate labour day i decided to go for a morning run with my trainer/friend and then hike up a volcano. i am not sure that running and hiking up a volcano on the same day was a good idea. lately, i haven’t been as active as i would like and pairing that with trying to kick this illness and being overworked, it was tough. and not tough in the good way but tough in the way where i had to give each leg a little pep talk at each step on the steep inclines. but the views of the great rift valley are always amazing and it keeps me coming back for more. something about the birthplace of humanity or great company and the opportunity to pack a picnic. i managed to make tuna, guacamole, and bake muffins before we left this morning.

my sister has posted a wee synopsis of our trip and since i have yet to do the same, i will kindly direct you there for a quick read about how fantastic the two and half weeks travelling kenya together were.

i received some distressing news recently. my friend is in the hospital in toronto, far away from family and friends, because he got hit by a bus. hit by a bus! until his broken hip heals we won’t be able to do this anytime soon:

i have got my hands on the first half of the 3rd seasons of grey’s anatomy up to the 17th episode, the one where meredith spends the entire episode under water and mcdreamy swoops in with his helmet-like hair to pluck her out of the pacific. um, ok. i just don’t know about that but i do know that i need to locate the next episode to find out what happens because that was way too intense. and i hate to devote too much brain space to television considering i don’t even own one, but i really hope that izzie is still a character next season and they agreed to give katherine heigl more money or whatever the dilemma was. and keeping in mind that i live in a vacuum of pop culture, forgive me if this is yesterday’s news.

i went on a second date with the hunter – meh.

a question to the internet – how much would you pay to see the mountain gorillas in uganda?

a) nothing, you are crazy for even considering it

b) $50

c) $100

d) $200

e) $300

f) $400

g) whatever it takes, hurry up and book your trip now before you miss the boat and the opportunity to see an endangered animal and one of human’s closest relatives in its natural habit.

but seriously, i would like to know.