Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Machaka Orphange

We have moved into our residence at St Theresa's Hospital and are in the process of getting all settled in for the next few months. The whole crew is here, nursing students and professors and the entire nutrition team. The professors for both nutrition and nursing are leaving at the end of the week so it's been great to get to spend at least a few dinners around a giant table together. My nutrition professor Jen absolutely loves cooking so she's been feeding us well! A little too well I'm sure.

We had our orientation here and for 376 Canadian dollars, we are getting a place to live for 11 weeks, someone to do our laundry daily, wash our dishes daily and clean the entire apartment daily, and a professional chef who is going to cook all 7 dinners for us. Talk about a bargain! I am going to be spoiled! Going back to Canada where I have to clean up after myself nad do my own dishes is going to be rough! Talk about reverse culture shock!

Today we visited Machaka, an extremely poor village that has an amazing orphanage in it run by the sisters from St Theresa's. In the morning we fed the babies this awful ugali mush with greens and played with the babies. We're working on improving the mush because it's not exactly ideal baby food. Then we played with the school children during their recess. The school kids are 5 and under, so we sang and danced and did the hokey pokey for a while. The school kids get 2 meals at school; porridge in the morning and githeri in the afternoons. Since the area is so poor, this is usually all these kids get to eat all day, when they go home there is not enough money in their homes to feed them. They also are usually home alone for the entire afternoons, and as a result they were all desperate for attention and skin in skin contact. They all wanted hugs and to be picked up and cuddled.

I learned today that I am a horrible baby feeder. In fact, I got fired from feeding a little 6 month old baby girl today. First of all, the mush they feed the kids has a very low calorie density, so in order to meet their needs they need to eat more than should be able to fit in their bellies. The orphanage is understaffed so they need the babies to eat a lot to a time because they don't have time to feed them as often as they should and the porridge they feed them isn't exactly 100% appropriate anyways and is likely hard on the tiny baby bellies. So my baby wasn't really wanting to eat very much and eventually fell asleep between attempts at getting her to open her mouth and eat the stuff. So I figured she had decided she had had enough and I should let her sleep, but then the nurse looked at me, looked at the mostly full porridge bowl and then just told me nice try but she'd take over. So apparently I was supposed to wake the baby up to force feed her. Next time we visit, we are going to do data collection on the recipes for the porridge and githeri and analyze the recipes for nutrient density and all that fun stuff. Hopefully in the near future we'll have some recommendations for the orphanage to make the porridge a little more appropriate for the babies and the lunch a little better for the nursery school kids.

We moved the treadmill into the compound today as well as a stationary bike so I can finally stop being a sloth! I'm trying this new barefoot running thing so my feet are a little sore from today's run but I'm hoping that by the time I get home I'll be a speedy barefoot honorary kenyan runner!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Safari Weekend

Our safari weekend is now over and we finished it up in style! We saw cheetah and 2 lions with 2 cubs, a herd of 11 giraffes and so much more! This weekend was wicked but I'm excited to head back into town to get back to work!

We stopped at the equator on the way here and saw a water demonstration. Depending on what side of the equator you're on, the water spins a different way. We watched first hand the water change direction as we walked 20 m away from the equator on each side. It was really cool! We also found a stray cat who appeared to be hungry and lactating so we gave her some left over milk we had from breakfast. He looked just like my mom's cat cooper so I couldn't resist.
I don't really have a ton to write about because we've been living the life of luxury all weekend on safari so here are some pictures of the last few days! By some I mean one because the internet is painfully slow and it's taking forever.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sweet Waters

The last few days have been fun! We met with the nutritionist from the Meru hospital and she is awesome. It was like running into someone in a foreign country who speaks the same language as you. It's refreshing to know that the training a dietitian gets at home in Canada is so similar to that in Kenya. The similarities in her training and mine is really exciting because one of the things I love most about nutrition and food is that is it so universal. There are very few things that every culture and every civilization that ever existed has in common.

An interesting thing I learned from the dietitian, is that in Kenya, the fathers are served first, the mothers second and the children last. The kids basically just get the left overs, specially when meat is served. In contrast, many many studies in Canada have proven that Canadian mothers protect their young from food insecurity by sacrificing their own nutrition and health. In Kenya, the mothers are often slightly overweight while the children are malnourished. I was not expecting to see this. My cultural bias led me to believe that a mothers desire to protect her young from any harm or discomfort, such as hunger, would be universal. It made me realize that I really need to make sure that I am not being biased when I meet with these women and see these farms and school food programs.

We are currently at Sweet Water resort on safari. There is a giant watering hole about 50m outside my tent where there are, as I write this, about 15 zebras and 4 giraffes, 3 warthogs, 10 water bucks and about a million birds all just chilling and rehydrating. It's unreal to unzip your tent and see a giraffe 50 m away. I sure can get used to it though! We met a fellow Canadian at supper last night nad her husband works for the High Commission and they have been living here for 5 years. She invited us up to Nairobi for a weekend so I think we are going to try for sure to make the trek back up to Nairobi to visit her. Never hurts to have contacts in the high commission!

One thing I have learned, it to never leave home without toilet paper and a fanny pack. The outhouses are simply holes in a concrete slab, and fanny packs are conveniently hands free. I brought my neon fanny pack with me and am beginning to think that it's quite possibly the best purchase I have ever made at Value Village. We're hoping to see some Lions hunting tonight on a night time safari drive, so our fingers are crossed! As for now I am going to finish writing post cards and read by the pool!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Today was hard. We went to our second school to fill in our questionnaires about the porridge and githeri recipes. We're getting a lot better at asking the right questions and finding the right people to talk to and using the right jargon and swahili words when asking questions so the actual work went a lot faster and more efficiently today then yesterday. After lunch at the school, we went for a walk to some neighboring farms. These farms are also associated with Farmers Helping Farmers but are part of a different women's group that has not had FHF support for as long and are not as well established.

The first farm we went to was heart breaking, and was a mood killer for the rest of the day. We saw a tiny kitten laying in the grass barely alive, several kids that appeared to have severe protein energy malnutrition (visible signs of Kwashiorkor), and a baby goat who was also so sick and unhealthy that it was just waiting to die on the farm. The hardest part of the day was visiting the second farm. It was run by an old women who could not have weighed more than 90 lbs soaking wet. She was caring for her grandchildren, working the farm, and working as a laborer digging up tree trunks to make enough money to feed herself and the kids. By the looks of it, she was still falling short. She had been given a water tank by FHF but since the rainy season was long ago, it was nearly empty. While we were leaving, the went into her house and brought us out 4 eggs from her chickens. Obviously we didn't want to accept them, she clearly needed them more than we did, but it's incredibly rude to refuse gifts so we walked away with the eggs in our hands. She might as well have ripped the heart right out of her chest and handed it to us.

It's hard to be here, see all these malnourished kids and people who can barely feed themselves, with their farm animals and pets dying in their yards, and feel like there is no possible way you can make it stop. The sunglasses on my head alone were probably worth more than her entire farm, house and possessions. I felt like a giant pile of crap after that.

I have to keep remembering that the work I am doing here will help and will make a difference in the lives of these children and women. We're working to improve the school lunch programs and make the meals served more nutrient dense. If I can help improve the nutritional content of the meals these children are receiving at school, then I can help hundreds of kids get the nutrients and calories they may not be getting at home. We will be working with the mothers to teach proper weaning practices and infant nutrition which may help children develop properly and as a result impact their future health. I may not be able to help that one women, or the goat or the kitten or the children I saw today, but hopefully I can leave here in September confident that I have made an impact on the health of many many students and infants.

On a happier note, the school children think its hilarious to see mzungu's (white people) doing chores, so I got to cheer up my day by washing dishes with the cook at the school after lunch and having all the kids laugh at me. I also got to go for a run on the treadmill which was really needed after doing very little physical activity and eating nothing but carbs for the past week. My body is still trying to get used to such as drastic change in diet and it's not really a fan of the new diet. Being able to exercise at least gives me back some normalcy into my daily routines, and makes me tired enough to get over the jet lag!

June 22nd, 2010

Today was amazing! We finally started completing our research project and traveled to a local nursery - standard 8 school, to begin questioning the staff about the school lunch program and the porridge that is given to the children in the morning. All of the 5 schools we are working with provide a githeri lunch to their students, and two of these schools (including the one we went to today) also provide porridge in the morning. Farmers Helping Farmers is currently working with the school we went to today, called Kinyenjere to provide milk to make the porridge with. Our job as the nutrition team is to evaluate both the porridge and the githeri recipes, to analyze the recipes and to assess how much nutrition they are providing the students based on the portion given, and how the nutrition content of these recipes can be improved by using the resources they have and the school gardens that are already in place.

At Kinyenjere today, we talked to the porridge and lunch coordinators, the headmaster, teachers, students and the cook to try to figure out what the recipe was. Since they are cooking for 240 students at this school, the quantities of each ingredient were several kgs. The problem is, they don’t exactly weight ingredients. They have containers that were once weighed and shown to be a Kg of something, and are assuming that if this container is a kg of flour, its also a kg of beans, despite the different densities of the foods. So once we had the basic recipes for the meals, we weighed the perceived kg of each ingredient to determine how accurate their measurements were. The only reason we did this was so that we could accurately analyze the recipes for their nutrient content, not because we wanted to alter their recipes.

Although this sounds like an easy task that requires nothing more then asking a few of the right questions, it’s really hard to get the right answer. If you ask the same question 3 times, you are likely to get 3 different answers, and every person you talk to answers differently. You also have to be careful how you phrase the question, because if you ask a question that can be answered in yes, the only answer you get will be yes. The language barrier doesn’t help. Although English and Swahili are the two national languages, Swahili is spoken much more frequently. Most understand English, but you must speak slowly and clearly. The other issue we ran into was figuring out portion sizes. We were told that the younger children get a smaller portion of food by one person and that they were getting the same portion of food as the older kids by another. Obviously there will be some flaws in our data but we’re trying to be as accurate as possible, and with nutrition recalls and recipe evaluation, all you can do is try your best to eliminate any sources of error.

The children in these schools are amazing. They absolutely love when we visit because they get a break from school. The further away from home you get, the more you realize that we are all the same. Kids are kids no matter where you go. The boys are beating each other up, the little kids are running around chasing each other, and they all want their picture taken. Stepping into the schoolyard ar a white person is like stepping on a beehive, you are instantaneously swarmed by children asking you questions and holding your hand and wanting attention. Everywhere you go, you are surrounded by 30 little kids who keep touching your skin in an attempt to figure out how it can be so different than their own. These kids are so bright, and love to show off their workbooks where they have written English words and arithmetic equations. When you walk into a classroom, they all stand up and say good morning in unison, and stay standing until you give them permission to sit. When they sit, they all say “thank you teacher’ in unison.

It’s really fun to go to the schools, but it can get extremely overwhelming very quickly. I am not used to having a million kids surrounding me all the time. Specially when you have 20 kids hanging onto you hands and arms in an attempt to touch white skin.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Did the Elephant Cross the Road?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2010

Living in someone else’s house is really difficult. I am really not a fan. I feel like I am in the way and being a nuisance all the time. This week we are staying at a Lady’s house named Jennifer. She’s the head of the Muchui Women’s group, which is an agricultural based group that teaches women how to farm more efficiently; increase yields and provides resources to help do so. The group also provides some income for the women because the business center that the group is based out of pays the women to grow plants from seed, and buys the harvested crops from the women to sell later. Jennifer is a really smart woman and has been very successful and lives quite well for Kenyan standards. I think I must just be used to living on my own and doing my own thing because I’m having a really hard time eating by someone else’s time standards (we eat basically nothing all day and then have dinner at like 9pm, needless to say I am starving and really cranky by about this time everyday), moving at someone else’s speed and living by someone else’s rules. I don’t like being told what to do, and I can’t exactly say no in this situation. I’m trying to just roll with it knowing that it’s only going to be one week until I will be moving into where I will be staying for the next 2.5 months, a dorm room at the hospital.

Today was a really big day. We visited the Muchui Business center, and met some of the 64 women that belong to the group. We were trying to learn as much as possible about the crops that are being grown by the women and how they are used in cooking and how they are eaten. We met with Martin and Salomie, two of the people that work at the business center and they answered all of our questions and explained basically everything. The business center itself has some greenhouses and is doing some grafting of mango trees and other plants so that they can sell the grafted plants at markets. The women who belong to the group volunteer at the center and help maintain the greenhouses and the crops being grown there, as well as help maintain community garden plots that profit the group. The center also buys the harvested crops from the women and sell it at markets for a profit to keep the center running. Basically the Machui Business center, which is home to the Machui Woman's Group, educated female farmers on more efficient farming practices, provides resources that will allow them to implement these suggestions and facilitates an income for the women by purchasing their crops and hiring them to grow seedlings for them.

We spent the afternoon visiting two of the women’s farms from the Machui Women’s Group. The two we visited were the furthest away and hadn’t been visited by Canadians in the last 6 years so they were very excited to see us. Not surprising considering the road to get there was not even really a road. It was basically a strip of rocks and pot holes and mud. We were all crammed into the back of a truck bouncing around like crazy. Farmers Helping Farmers has provided funding for this group, supplying each women with a water tank and the gutters that divert the rain water from the roof to the tanks. The women here are absolutely gorgeous, with adorable little kids running around the farms. The diversity of the crops that they have been able to grow on small pieces of land is incredible. These women work so hard and have made a strong effort to practice the skills that they are being taught as part of the woman's group. They are the hardest working people I have ever met. Inspiring for sure.

Today I learned that I know essentially nothing about what I'm supposed to be doing while I'm here. I tried as hard as I could to be a sponge and absorb all that I could about the crops, the women and the farming practices and how it relates to school nutrition and nutrition in general but I was on sensory overload by lunch time. It's overwhelming to travel across the world to educate people when all you can think of is how much more they know than you do. I still have no idea what I could possibly teach these women; they are strong, independent, and intelligent. I am hoping that at least someone will learn something from me before I leave here, it will just be a matter of figuring out a gap that I can fill. It's going to be harder to find that gap than I thought it would be.

On the drive home from the school, we saw an ELEPHANT on the side of the road! And I thought seeing moose were exciting in Canada! Somehow I think an elephant would do a lot more damage to your car, although I suppose in either case you'd be dunzo. We thought we might see them because there is a trail covered in really giant poop that goes from one side of the road to the other. Why did elephant cross the road? To get to Mt Kenya supposedly. Of course being the ridiculous Mzungus we that we are, we pulled over and took about a million pictures! The locals thought it was quite hilarious that we were so fascinated, but its not everyday you see an elephant in the wild!

One of the women from the group has been 'adopted' by a FHF member and has been given a sewing machine as a means to source income additional to her farm yields. Her name is Ester and Christina and I are working with her on a special fund raising project. It's still in the works and we're getting the fine details all ironed out but we're hoping to raise enough money to purchase 2 water tanks and the gutter that go with them. The Machui Woman's Group just accepted 38 new members, all of which will need water tanks. Stay posted for the full details of our project!

June 20th

Although today was simply a travel day, consisting of a five-hour drive from Nairobi to Meru, there was no shortage of things to see and do. Meru is located in the foothills of Mt. Kenya and the drive was absolutely gorgeous. Rolling hills, lush greenery; people everywhere, and roadside markets full of fresh mangos, pineapples, papayas and avocados. Not to mention a plethora of coffee and tea fields and coffee processing factories with acres of coffee beans in the sun drying. It was a long drive, about 5 hours in total, but luckily the majority of the roads we took were paved. To prevent speeding, the paved roads have huge speed bumps every couple of kilometers. Speaking of driving, it’s illegal in Keya to talk on a cell phone while driving, and has been long before this law existed in Canada. The landscape here in the Mt Kenya region is so completely different than where I was before on the coast. It’s like being in an entirely different country all together.

We are planning on going on Safari in Sweetwater this weekend but we found out today that the Prime Minister of Kenya will be there on Saturday as well. This is bad news bears. The constitution here in Kenya is undergoing changes and there will be a vote on August 4th regarding these changes. Unfortunately, the Kenyan population is unhappy with the proposed changes, specifically those of Christian religion. I’m not exactly sure of the details, and I may be wrong in what I have seemed to learn about the whole situation so far. All I know is that it has something to do with Christians being upset about the new constitution’s legalization (or perceived legalization…not sure if its actually being legalized or if they just think it sounds that way?) of abortion and something about the Islamic family courts. Anyways, regardless of what the real political turmoil is about, it makes it unsafe to be in the same place as the Prime Minister. There was a rally last week where grenades were thrown and 6 people were killed and many more were injured. The Kenya High Commission sent a message to all Canadian’s abroad advising them to act with extreme caution in public areas, especially because we are a visible minority.

I really noticed today that I was a visible minority. We stopped at the Nakumatt to go grocery shopping and I couldn’t help but feel awkward and uncomfortable. I’m not sure if that is something that you ever get used to. We were dressed conservatively in capris and t-shirts, but it’s hard not to feel extremely exposed with bare, white arms. I’m sure it’s all in my head but I couldn’t help feeling like I was being starred at. It is assumed that we are carrying with us lots of money and expensive goods simply because of the colour of our skin. There is no fitting in at all here, you have to be prepared to be starred at and judged and asked for things every time you step outside.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nairobi and Kazuri Bead Shop

Day two in Kenya has been amazing! The hotel we are staying at is incredible. We woke up and had a fabulously delicious buffet breakfast of fruit (mangos and papayas and pineapple and passion fruit oh my!) and eggs and pastries and basically anything you could possible ever want for breakfast. After breakfast, Henry came to pick us up and we headed into Nairobi.
Henry is the most marvelous human being to ever exist. He is hired by Farmers Helping Farmers as basically a liaison and driver. He hooks us up with drivers for the trip and he arranges our trips and pays the right people and makes sure we can get our medicines and seeds into the country without issues etc. He met us at the airport last night, and as we were waiting in a super long line up at immigration/customs, he shows up, shakes our hands, talks in Swahili to an airport employee and next thing you know we're rushed over to the airplane staff line up, which had a total of zero people waiting in it versus the 30 people ahead of us in our previous line. We got rushed through customs and luckily all of our bags arrived, and then driven straight to the hotel without a single issue or hiccup or delay. He is the best.

In Nairobi, we first went to pick up some supplies that farmers helping farmers had purchased to distribute in the schools. FHF has bought kits of reusable sanitary napkins to give to girls aged 9 and up within the schools that we work with. This probably sounds as though it is a silly thing to spend our money on, but currently most of the girls (and women) are using old rags, torn up pieces of blankets, ripped chunks of old mattresses and pretty much anything else they can get their hands on. None of the above are even remotely close to being sanitary and cause infections that are unable to be treated due to a lack of resources by the people using them. Girls often miss school as a result. I never thought I would be blogging about sanitary napkins, but this was the very first part of our official project to date so it was kind of exciting. It seems as though the complexity of issues here is never ending. Things we completely take for granted and don't even really consider when we think about coming here to volunteer / work / intern can cause serious problems. It will be mostly the nurses who will be handing out the kits to the girls and doing the counseling in the schools but we got a demo on how they are used and washed and will be taking them back to Meru with us when we go tomorrow.
We spent the rest of the morning wandering around Nairobi shopping for fabrics. Christina and I bought some kikoy that we are going to have made into aprons by a local woman in Meru that is a friend of FHF. After some hard core bartering sessions, we went to a coffee shop and had lattes and mango milkshakes. In the afternoon we drove out to the southern outskirts of Nairobi to a bead shop called Kazuri. The bead shop sells all fair trade jewelery and pottery made by the 300 women that the workshop employs. There is a clinic on site that the women have access to, and they also get up to 80% of their medical expenses covered off site. There was some really really awesome stuff, and I ended up buying a vase and a serving plate. Last time I was here, I didn't buy anything that I think I will have forever. I wanted to buy things that will last longer this time and that I will still have when I'm old. I also wanted to find some really awesome things to bring home for other people. I figure I'll just buy things that I love and figure out how to distribute them when I get home. The problem with buying vases and plates is trying to get them home in one piece. The ladies at the shop wrapped everything in heavy blue foam and tapped it all up nice so hopefully I won't have any issues with breakage.

After an exhausting day of shopping while attempting to get used to the time change (Kenya is 6 hours ahead of PEI, 7 hours ahead of Toronto), we splashed around in the pool for a while and had a bottle of Tusker before dinner. Dinner was delish, and possibly the last time it will be safe for me to consume lettuce for the next 3 months so I chowed down on the biggest salad I could get.

Tomorrow we are heading to Meru for the next week. We're staying at the home of the women who heads one of the woman's groups we work with for the week. It's our last day of rest before we start actually working, but the majority of the day will be spent in the van and grocery shopping at the Nakumatt. As nice as it's been to relax and shop and stay in this super nice hotel, and I am very excited to start working and to start the projects that we came here to do. I have no idea what to expect but I'll find out soon!

I haven't had any jet lag or culture shock issues yet, but I think it won't really hit me that I'm hear for as long as I am until my professor Jen and Colleen, a masters student who has spearheaded our projects, leave in two weeks. We saw lots of cool things driving around Nairobi and out to the bead shop though. Miles of beautiful furniture being sold along the street, a man riding a camel, women carrying giant packages on their heads and even a young boy squatting along the side of the road to take a poop while his friends dance nearby. The route from Nairobi to Meru tomorrow will wind around Mt Kenya and take us out of the city into the more rural areas. It should be a gorgeous 4 hour drive along extremely bumpy roads. I'm sure I'll have more pictures to post tomorrow!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jambo Jambo from Kenya!

I am sitting in my gorgeous hotel room in Nairobi at this very moment. Basically giddy from excitement and lack of sleep. It's currently 12:34 am on Saturday morning (5:37pm Toronto time) and I have been on planes and in airports since 11am Thursday. The trip here went pretty well, except that the Brussels airport is completely useless. It stinks, it's disorganized and generally portrays a feeling of chaos. It didn't help that by the time we got there we were 24 hours into our travel already, we stunk, we were tired and we were hungry. We then had a 2 hour delay and sat in the plane on the runway before take-off. I guess you kind of have to expect delays and lines and chaos when traveling to the other side of the world though.

We're staying for the next two nights at the Fairview Hotel in Nairobi. It is absolutely stellar! It looks gorgeous and we get internet which is also awesome! There's a pool and breakfast and hot running water and electricity. Can't as for much more than that!

I'm heading down the hall for a few celebratory drinks with the team to kick off the trip but I'll be posting as regularly as possible! I'll definitely post again this weekend so check back! I'm also hoping to have pictures uploaded from the trip so far!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


You know that feeling when you know your house so well that you don't really need to turn the lights on every single time you move from one room to another, and you can turn off the lights and walk down the stairs / hallway in the dark to your bedroom without being afraid of falling and having to shuffle your feet and grope aimlessly in the air to make sure you aren't walking into anything? Well apparently I no longer know my house that well. I get a little dizzy going down the stairs if it's dark because I'm a little disoriented and afraid of falling down the stair case. A staircase which I have climbed and descended more times that I can count. Ok so this isn't a big deal, just flick the switch before I head down right? Well this would be helpful if my parents weren't so environmentally conscious. I flick the switch and the energy saving light bulb quietly hums to life. A very dark, dull, barely existent life. It remains so dim that I fumble my way down the stairs in the dark anyways and flick the light off before it's even bright enough to be useful. I like to blame my unfamiliarity of this staircase with new renovations. The carpet has been removed and a runner has replaced it. Well half a runner...it's not actually finished yet. It's still a really weird feeling. To be home but not entirely feel like I'm home. In some ways I feel like I never even left, but in other ways I feel like I am a house guest, trying not to be bothersome and high maintenance.

I went to the Ontario Science Center today with Geoff to see the Harry Potter Exhibit. Although it took us almost two hours to get there with traffic, we made it just in time and ended up getting the cheap rate since we arrived close-ish to closing. I got to try on the sorting hat, which sorted me into Hufflepuff. According to wikipedia, Hufflepuff values hard work, tolerance, loyalty, and fair play. I suppose it could be worse right? The exhibit consisted of a whole bunch of costumes and props used in the movies. It's absolutely insane how much detail goes into those movies! Some of the props are things you would never expect to actually exist. I was impressed with the attention to detail though, and I can't imagine how long it must have taken to organize the props and costumes and set up each shot. It also reminded me how much I love those books. I think mostly because I grew up with Harry, we were the same age when I read the first book and the actor who plays harry potter is only a year younger than I am. I'm thinking that a Harry Potter marathon is in order asap. Maybe the TVs on my various flights will have them available to watch!

Speaking of flights, I was supposed to get back from Kenya on September 4th, a solid 4 days before school started. Since CIDA, the organization giving us the grant to go requires 90 day internships, we've had to change our plans and we now return on the 10th instead. So we're missing the first 3 days of school but have all weekend to adjust to the jet leg, buy school supplies and adjust to life before getting right back into the swing of school and work and swimming and volunteering. I have a feeling I am going to be exhausted by the time I get home, and will not appreciate the quick turn-around between Kenya and school. I can't really complain though, I'm going to freakin Kenya for almost 13 weeks and am being paid to do so.


I got home on Monday night and could not be happier. I haven't had a chance to see everyone yet but I still have another few days to make it happen. Although I haven't seen the people I really want to see, I've run into someone everywhere I've been! I even knew the window washer at the restaurant I went to, he used to be my neighbor. Lesson of the day: never leave the house looking like a slob if you've just returned home and haven't seen anyone in a really long time. You are guaranteed to run into someone, if not many people.

I paddled for the first time since Nationals last August and although I was convinced I'd end up swimming and being incredibly horrible and rusty, I did a lot better than I anticipated! I am a little sore today however, but am hoping to be back in my boat tomorrow once it stops raining. It's kind of nice to not have to paddle in shitty weather if I don't want to. I woke up this morning to paddle but when I saw that it was pouring I just went back to bed. The best part? I didn't even feel guilty for missing practice! Being back at the club is a little bitter sweet. I love it there but when I'm at school it's kind of out of sight, out of mind. While I still miss it, it makes it a lot worse to be home and around and not training then it is to be away and have no possible option of training even if I could. But that's life I suppose.

I saw this video a while ago, but I randomly just stumbled upon it and it made me laugh again so I thought I would post it. There is a slight chance that maybe I posted it already? I don't think so but I apologize if I have.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kwaheri KP!

Last night was my going away party since I'm leaving the island tomorrow. I am having issues containing my excitement. I just want to dance around the house in happiness! Don't get me wrong, I have grown to love the island and am truly beginning to realize why so many people choose to live here, which is something I've been wondering for a long time. The winters are a cold, miserable, wind vortex of hell and so far it's June and summer weather has occurred for a grand total of 4 days. But to be fair, those 4 days were glorious beyond belief. I got home from work last night and walking into the house which looked like this:

The picture doesn't do it justice!

Basically streamers and balloons and animal print everything! It looked completely fabulous! Sambo and Cindy decked the whole house out hardcore for the party and made me a going away gift basket consisting of all things Toy Story. I've been excited about the third Toy Story movie coming out for months, and as luck would have it, I leave the day before if comes out and will have to wait until I can rent it to watch it. So I got some TS lip balm, a bookmark, a colouring book and crayons and marker and some Starbucks instant coffee and a whole bunch of fabulous things. I think everyone had a great time, at least I did! It was awesome getting a chance to get everyone all together one last time before I leave for some drinks, food, 16 candles and dancing. Big thanks to everyone who came and wished me luck! I actually have the most amazing friends in the whole world. Thanks guys!

Today, after getting off to a slow start this morning and reconstructing last night, Sam, Earl and I drove out to Nova Scotia to visit with my Nannie and Grampi, Ashley and Alex. I wanted to see them before I left but I also had to drop Earl of at Alex's place for the summer. I miss earl already. It's weird not seeing the glow of his tank through the window when I drive up and not having him swim over and greet me when I walk in the door! I'm sure he'll be well taken care of in Sackville (or else!) but I still wish he could come with me on my adventures. On the drive home, it was absolutely pouring out. Not that this is an excuse, but I like to think it's a contributing factor. Somehow we managed to get to Parrsboro, Nova Scotia before we realized we were going the wrong way. We added a solid hour to the drive home at least. Not to mention the fact that the rain was so bad if you drove more than 80 you couldn't see anything. On the bright side we had a wicked awesome play list going on in the car to rock out to.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Little Things

Work last night was a lot more exhausting then normal. It wasn't that it was overly busy, but the usual down time after the supper rush was MIA. I don't actually mind that because it makes the night go by a lot faster, and I got a lot of tables which was fabulous for tips. By the end of the night I was definitely ready to go home and was beginning to get a tad grumpy. It was one of those days where you stub your toe a million times, spill everything, drop everything you touch, trip over your own feet and randomly lose the ability to see and walk straight into walls. Basically a day of total spasticness. Needless to say I was getting pretty frustrated with myself. I think I still managed to stay cheery with customers though! Near the end of the night, I was clearing a table that had sat a family of 5 with 3 little kids and found a coloring book page all nicely colored. It said "To waitress, Have a great night." It actually made my day and instantly got me out of my borderline grumpy funk. It's currently hanging on my fridge in the kitchen and makes me smile every time I walk by. Gotta love the little unexpected things that make your day.

All of our usual customers come in on Friday nights and Saturday nights, and I chat with them every week and know some of them fairly well. For example on gentleman grew up n the same street in Sackville that my sister lived on last year, and another woman grew up in Fergus, Ontario and has grown to despise the Fergus Highland Games because she had to work it every year as a teenager. Not only have I gotten to know the customers, but all of our pizzas are delivered through a company, so the same drivers are always coming in and out to take deliveries for us. Last night a couple of the regulars and a couple of the drivers came in to wish me good luck on my trip and say goodbye. It was surprising but so nice that they remembered that this was my last weekend at work until September. I actually even got half serenaded by one guy after I told him I'd see him in September upon handing him his order. After some youtube searching I managed to find the song:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

RIP Blanche

I just read that Rue McClanahan who played Blanch on the Golden Girls passed away this morning from a massive stroke. I'm pretty sure at least one of us watches Golden Girls at least once a day in this house, and it's not unheard of for us to have Thank You For Being a Friend sing alongs in the car on the way to class. In honor if Rue, here's a best of Blanche compilation!

Destination, Determination, Deliberation!

Apparently that pep talk worked, because the presentation went well. The other two girls presenting did a stellar job also, but I went last so I spent the whole of their presentations unable to pay attention out of nerves. I'm not normally a nervous person when it comes to presentations. Standing in front of a group of people doesn't bother me. What made me so nervous was how unprepared I felt. Here I was, standing in front of about 15 dietitians and 5 or 6 interns, talking all about hypoglycemia as if I am an expert on the topic, which I definitely did not think I was. But as it turns out, no one else knew anything about it so it all worked out.

I'm about 90% packed for Kenya! There are a few items in the washing machine and a few items I need to pick up at home, but other than that everything is in my backpack (pictured below!). To be honest, there isn't much room for anything else, so I might have to go through my bag and cut some stuff. I don't own a lot of clothes compared to most people, but it's still so hard to choose what to pack. I like to think I'm a fairly sensible, light packer for the most part, but it's hard to know exactly what I'll be doing over there and what clothes I am going to want while I am there. Last time I brought way to much and didn't use half the stuff I brought. This time I am bringing one less bag and trying my best to pack as little as possible. We have laundry facilities there so I can bring less and just do laundry over there. Farmers Helping Farmers recommends bringing 3 outfits, because in their experience, people tend to only really wear the same three outfits because they are functional and comfortable. I am sure that no matter how hard I try to pack light, there will be something from home I wish I had that I didn't pack, and there will be things that I packed and never used. This is inevitable I think. My other concern is weather. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. It's only supposed to be about 10 degrees at night and low 20s during the day. I'm trying to make sure I pack clothes that I can layer to stay warm, but warm clothes are bulky and hard to squeeze into a 40 L backpack along with everything else that needs to fit into it. 11.5 weeks isn't that long, and I'm sure that if I do forget something, I'll live without it or be able to buy it there.

I received my final itinerary, and I'm thinking that I am going to be exhausted and sick of flying by the time I get there. I'll summarize it for you:

Charlottetown-Toronto (6 days in Toronto)
Toronto-Montreal (3 days in Montreal)
Montreal-Charlottetown (11 hours in Charlottetown)
Charlottetown-Montreal (8 hrs in Montreal)
Montreal-Brussels-Nairobi-4 hour car ride

It's going to be a really busy 2 weeks! I'm pumped to go home, and then I'm in Montreal for a culteural sensitivity conference, then I'm back on the island for 11 hours before departing with the team for Kenya. We have to go back to Charlottetown because we are using our second allowed baggage to bring computers and vet medications to Kenya for the organization. On the bright side it means that I will also need to bring back their empty suitcase, which I can fill with the fun stuff I buy there.

The past few days have been bitter sweet. Since it's my last few days on the island, I'm trying to squeeze in as much time with friends as I can before I go. Like I said above, 11.5 weeks isn't that long, and I was home for longer than that last summer, but I'm a lot tighter with a lot more people this year so it seems harder to leave everyone. Specially those who won't be back next year. It's hard to imagine that it is possible that I won't ever see these people again, but I like to think that that won't happen. I'll start saving my tips again to travel and visit them where ever their grown-up graduated selves end up.

Speaking of graduates, congrats to my big bro and future sister in law for graduating today! I wish I could have been home to witness it but I'll hopefully get to see pictures eventually. Pictures in my family tend to disappear into a strange vortex and never actually get seen by anyone once they've been taken. But maybe if I ask to see them enough times they may apparate. Luckily I'm going home only a few days after they taken, which means I might be able to catch a glimpse before they disappear forever.

Hmm.. I actually thought apparate was a word. Turns out it was made up by JK Rowling for the Harry Potter books. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Urban Dictionary Defines Apparate:
In the Harry Potter world, this is a spell which allows the user to instantaneously teleport from one location to another. You must focus on the three D's in order to achieve apparation: Destination, determination, and deliberation.

I guess I should have probably guessed that it's not a real word since apparition is not a real thing. I'm still a little bit in shock though. I wonder how many other words I know aren't actually even words at all.