Friday, August 12, 2005

Black Nightshade in a Hailstorm

So it rains here at my site everyday. It's a monsoonal pattern, so it
generally comes around the same time each day and only lasts for about an
hour or so. Yesterday, though, it poured solid sheets for an hour, then
hailed for another hour, then rained for another two hours. I discovered why
I have a small mote around my house, and also decided that I'm going to make
the mote wider and deeper, maybe even install a drawbridge and an iron gate
for a medieval touch. As luck would have it, my house is downhill from the
choo, and my door faces uphill, which means when it rains everything washes
right into the mote and I imagine, during rainy season, into the house
(right now it's "dry" season).

This morning I learned the local handshakes, one for men and one for women.
As a woman, I can greet other women by tapping their left shoulder with my
right hand, then shaking their hand, then repeating all this. However, I
would never greet men this way because, as my colleague explained, men get
very "emotional" when women touch them, and the next thing you know, he will
be falling in love with me and wanting to marry me all because of a shoulder
tap. Instead I greet men and older women by grasping my right wrist with my
left hand, and extending my right hand for a handshake. My colleague assured
me that this is a sign of respect that will make men feel as if I'm their
sister, and they will want to protect me, instead of getting emotional and
want to marry me. Well, I tried out the new handshake on a couple of older
men at the post office just now, and one of them started patting me on the
back and inviting me over to his house to drink soda and meet his wife. I am
assuming he meant all of it in only the most brotherly of ways.

I am slowly learning the daily routine of the VCT where I am working.
Yesterday I pretended I was a client wanting an HIV test, and the VCT
counselor took me through the whole counseling and testing process. She
actually did a group session for the pre-test counseling, which I think made
the other client really uncomfortable to have a mzungu sitting there waiting
to hear her explain why she wanted to be tested (the reason: she plans to
get married soon.) The test itself requires a drop of blood from your
finger, and only takes 15 minutes. I was wondering why we don't use these
tests in the U.S. because they are fast and cheap, but my colleague said
that they are less reliable than the 2-week turnaround Elisa tests that we
have in the U.S. Like all VCTs in Kenya, my VCT provides all its services
for free, although we do ask for a 30 shilling donation per test if the
client can afford it.

Anyway, people have been asking about my new address. I will email it to you
when I get this damn address book thing in Yahoo figured out. In the
meantime, the Nairobi address will also still work but may take longer
because it gets routed to Kisumu and then I have to go pick it up. And
remember that I can receive packages tax-free for 90 working days from the
day I arrived in Kenya, which will be about September 28. And for all those
people asking about pictures, I will try to upload some to Snapfish the next
time I'm in Kisumu, but going forward I might be drawing pictures because my
camera broke last week, which is unfortunate because I only have pictures
from dry, dusty Kitui, and none from lush, green Rift Valley. Will have to
figure how to get a replacement without breaking the bank. Hope all is well!


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