Tuesday, October 30, 2007

renewing the spirit with a new nest

(october 29, 2007)

whilst fighting some sort of flu that was focused on crippling me by way of my left kidney this past weekend, i managed to move to my new home, a lovely little nest surrounded by a forest in an older building that offers me more comfort and privacy than my previous domicile. but who knew i could collect so much stuff over a year? i guess it is always surprising when faced with the task of gathering up all your shit and packing it into any and all available vessels for the trek in the back of a truck. with the help of some lovely taxi drivers, some hired movers, a rented truck, and askaris new and old, i am here.

still not unpacked and living out of boxes, suitcases, reusable carrier bags (who knew those things from nakumatt would come in so handy?), and every backpack and laptop bag i own, but i am absolutely relishing in having my very own space. this morning i wandered around naked trying to look for my towels and slippers, i just had a bath with the door open, and i am right now listening to music that is probably too loud for 10:00pm but there is no one around to hear it. i could get very used to this, but it will be short lived as in order to make my new flat affordable and for me to continue to afford any semblance of a social life or nutritional diet, i will have to find a flatmate. but i am no hurry and will wait until i find someone who i feel confident that i could live with. i’ve put the word out, but have yet to have any serious interest, so it might be less my decision than the universe’s.

this past weekend i also, perhaps against my better judgement, ran a 10km race. well, it was supposed to be a 10km race but there is no way i ran 10km in 50 minutes so i suspect that it was between 8.5 and 9km (seriously kenya, mark the course!), but either way it was still a great way to spend an early sunday morning and i now have bragging rights of having run a race in kenya. with kenyans. i was utterly impressed with the marathoners, they were moving at a decent clip right from the beginning and observing their levels of body fat, stride, and stamina, i am sure they finished the race at the same speed.

not that i would know firsthand, as i stood true to my word and went out for a greasy breakfast immediately after the run, which seemed to enhance the feelings of flu and forced me to have a nap once i returned home. i rounded out my battle with the bug by eating tikka paneer for dinner at my favourite local indian restaurant. in consideration of my health, i did order it mild spice this time. but i still think it helped me to sweat out the influenza.

my spirit is feeling renewed in my new space and i intend on spending the next months as a bit of recluse, hanging out and settling in and making a home. reminding myself what i want and who i am. a bit existential there, but a little refocusing and centering seems like the right thing to do in this moment. saving money also seems like a wise idea. household expenses are adding up quickly and i have that trip home in december, which will inevitably involve a lot of shopping and christmas activities. only 43 days!

and although i will be posted this a day later than his actual birthday, happy 13th birthday h! if i was weirded out that my little big brother was turning 15, i am floored by the thought that my littlest big brother is now a teenager!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

i wanted my own pizza!

and this is why i get so frustrated with this country at times:

i am at work late and my colleague and i decide to order pizza, we call the restaurant that makes good italian style thin crust pizza and order 2 pizzas, then we call one of our drivers to collect the pizzas and drop them with us, then we continue working and wait for our delicious pizzas to arrive. the driver comes with 1 pizza. just 1. who knows where the other pizza went or where the order for the the other pizza went, but i was really looking forward to a margarita pizza!

i do not expect things to be like canada or the uk at all, but i do expect a simple pizza order to arrive to me in its entirety.


changes and adjustments

because my blogging has been sporadic at best lately, i present you with a list.

  • i am signed up to run a 10km race this sunday. i haven’t run 10km in over a year and i fear that i will be collecting my lungs off the streets of nairobi if and when i drag my arse over the finish line
  • i have already planned the greasy breakfast i will eat after i finish the 10km
  • i am moving and i am very excited about it. in a few weeks i will be the proud resident of a 2 bedroom flat that is warm and cozy and everything i need right now.
  • i went to tanzania last weekend as it was a long weekend here in kenya and the part of my life that i love right now is that i can take road trips to have camping adventures in tanzania on weekends
  • arusha is a great town
  • cadbury's chocolate tastes a lot better in tanzania
  • the jacarandas are in bloom and although they may share responsibility with every other flowering plant for my allergies, their purple flowers make me smile on the inside whenever i see them
  • it is 49 days until i come home for christmas and i am already so excited. a bit premature on the excitement, perhaps, as my trip will be only 22 days in comparison.
  • my newest obsession is listening to Alison Krauss
  • The Historian, although a book about vampires, is a great read, if not a little long
  • the u of c is giving George Stromboloupolous an honorary degree, interesting
  • my job is all about hurrying up to wait lately. it got old about a week ago
  • when one of your good friends is working in darfur and then your hometown’s newspaper’s front page says ‘two canadians kidnapped in darfur,’ it is more than a little unsettling
  • dating someone who was married before can be rather difficult at times. worth it entirely, but difficult.

murphy's lecky law

(october 24, 2007)

tonight i wanted to make a cheezey bean jacket potato but we had no electricity (i also wanted a hot shower after my run this afternoon but that has been temporarily postponed), so i resigned myself to pasta as we have a gas stove. but then, as if god himself was listening to my pleas for the beans and the cheese on the baked potato, the electricity came back on and i cleaned and popped two potatoes into the oven and busied myself while they baked away. midway into the cooking time, the electricity went out so i was stuck frying them until fully cooked by candle light only to finish just in time for the lights to come back on so i could enjoy my meal in the full light of the irony that is kenya.

Friday, October 12, 2007

oh glenda

last night i became my mama - i came home from work, took off my work clothes and put on yoga pants and my runners to go grocery shopping. then i came home, threw on an apron (kept my runners on) and whipped up some granola bars.

not that my mom has ever made homemade granola bars as far as i can remember, but she always wears her runners in the house and until last night, i don't think i ever had unless i had just come from a run.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

dear internet,

i am sitting in my new office that has much better light than my old office (and i therefore will not be affectionately calling it The Cave as i did my old one) but i am crawling over furniture to get to my desk and my phone and internet function only when they damn well feel like it, which can be a bit trying. but i am feeling much better after a near-spirit-death experience this past week.

perhaps my change in mood and disposition is because i am currently drafting interview questions so that i can hire an intern. i guess you can feel like you are making progress when a year after you were the intern you are responsible for picking a new intern. it should be good and i will not be too cruel in asking them how they feel about doing my photocopying and envelop licking. because i am no diva and am more than happy to do envelop licking but it will be nice to have someone track people down on the phone. how does a country exist without voicemail?!

in entertainment news, i saw Super Bad last night and although it was not super bad, it really wasn't that great and the best part of the movie was the popcorn. or when i asked the guy if they had some butter to put on top and he explained to me that they were 'a little behind' and did not yet have buttered popcorn. who knew buttered popcorn was a sign of the times?

i made a dish with shrimp last night and this is perhaps the second or third time i have ever cooked them and i am not sure i really enjoy the shrimp when i have cooked the shrimp myself. i am going back to my no-meat, no-fish, no-shrimp cooking regime.

i have also sourced myself a new kitchen table and chairs. thank god, because making a delicious meal and then sitting down to eat it on your couch like an impoverished student got old long before i finished my years of post-secondary education. i am also rather looking forward to 2 long weekends in a row, both of which will be spent camping. the first weekend will be the dress rehersal for the real deal the following weekend where, if all goes well (and it often doesn't in the east africa planning department), i should be popping down to tanzania to check out the ngorongoro crater and olduvai gorge. i love the birthplace of humanity.

uh oh, problem with the new office space. now that the bathroom is across the hall from my office, i can hear when people decide to snarfle into the sink. what else do you call that noise where people suck out all the mucus from their sinuses and spit it out? well, someone just did that. and when they interviewed me and i said i was comfortable working in an international and multicultural environment, i don't think i was thinking of that! kenyans, somalis, canadians, pakistanis, brits, italian, filipinos, eritreans, americans, sudanese... never a dull moment around here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

engendered gobble gobble

(october 8, 2007)

instead of sitting around a warm and cozy house while the weather turns brisk and an autumn breeze blows the fallen leaves and there is the smell of a slow roasting turkey and pumpkin pie coming from the oven, i am working from home because of the clusterf*ck the move to our new offices has become while listening to the sounds of the manpower labouring in the vacant lot next to my flat that will inevitably result in yet another yellow-hued flat compound. as if our neighbourhood needs another one. i appreciate that it signals the economic development and success of the city (i won’t say country as the wealth in kenya is still concentrated in the cities), but it concerns me that in ten years, this neighbourhood will look like the 1970s-tastic buildings and design of downtown nairobi (and most other african capitals, as far as i can tell). oh well, c’est la vie.

and if my attitude is anything to on, i won’t be in the city for too much longer.

it is not that i am unhappy in kenya or nairobi, just a bit bored. and a bit uncertain about my career and personal future. in a good way i suppose, because i feel as though i have options. just a matter of which option would be the best. then again, none of those options really need to be explored at this time, i just like to plan. even if planning is grossly premature.

i think all these deep thoughts are the result of some exasperation about the field of international development and this country. i spent last week at a capacity building workshop on gender mainstreaming and i did learn a lot (and you better believe that THAT is going on my cv!) but i forget that other education systems are not as progressive (and yes, i do think that it is progressive) as in canada. if i have ever had trouble understanding something, i have always been able to ask my teachers and have been able to question the topics. we are taught to ask ‘why?’ as many times as it takes until we understand and i believe our educators are held to account because of this system. obviously, there are crappy teachers, professors, and instructors in canada as everywhere, but as learners, we feel we are entitled to accurate information and the teaching of it and are able to express out discontent if this is not afforded us.

in kenya, it is not like this at all. students are taught in very traditional manners and are
required to regurgitate this material through repetition and memorisation. i realise that this is a rather profound value judgement that i am making, but i think that canadians are raised to critical analyse information presented and that leaves us better able to process new information and recognise when information presented as fact is not so simple.

is this my western arrogant attitude coming through in its true colours? perhaps. but sometimes i do think that we do some things better. and education is one of them.

i was sending violent text messages to friends and the bf full of frustration and exasperation between last week’s sessions where the facilitators were clearly unfamiliar with the material they were presenting. it was all new to me and i was incredibly interested in it but i am afraid that i am still not entirely clear as it was often so muddled and rushed that i felt the facilitators were more concerned with looking good in front of the room and demonstrated their intellectual superiority than in acknowledging that their own comprehension of the tools and frameworks we were reviewing was incomplete.


here is hoping that this week is more inspiring and productive and that i can put my canadian education to use in reviewing the take-home materials i was given so i can ‘engender programming’ in my department and have some legitimate claim to understanding gender in development. failing that, i will take a vacation soon and am rather looking forward to getting out of the city.

but the lodge i stayed at was lovely and i met some interesting people who i hope to work with in the future. and like i said, you had better believe that this will go on my cv. gender expert? sure, sounds good to me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

eat so they can - www.eatsotheycan.org

i think this is a great idea. and i would do it if i a) had a dining room table and b) was going to be at home this date.

maybe you are feeling like 'doing something' and want to participate in this initiative?

sorry about the short notice (world food day is october 16th and the date of this event is october 13th, although i suppose you could do it anytime), but it seemed like a practical answer to all those questions i get asked on what people can actually do about poverty and hunger in africa (as if i am an expert, which i am so incredibly, obviously, absolutely not)

check it out here: eat so they can

and of course, i urge to keep spreading the net, the other 'cause' i am still pushing!