Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Still thawing out from the peaks of Mt. Kenya. We summited
two days ago, watched the sun rise, and slid back down to our base camp on
our butts because the top of the mountain is just a lot of loose gravel and
snow. I wish I could say I got some good pictures, but unfortunately our
camera batteries froze at the summit, so I only got one photo, of a peak
that we didn't climb, but it was next to the peak we were standing on.

I am spending New Years with a bunch of PCVs in Kergoya, near Mt. Kenya.
There is a big Red Cross youth club in this town, and they have planned a
bonfire and food for us tonight to ring in the new year. For Christmas I
went to a new PCV's site near Eldoret; she lives in a convent and parties
with nuns everyday, so we made pizza and Christmas cookies and decided it
would be a good idea to go to midnight mass. It wasn't. First the service
was all in Kiswahili (W'sup Anna? Does this sound familiar?), and because it
was a Catholic mass, it lasted four hours. A couple of us decided that
during the songs where you're supposed to clap and sway, that it would be
more entertaining to do the Macarena. So we did. And everyone in the church
stared, and the PCV who lives in that community was so embarrassed that
after the service she went outside and apologized to everyone who would
listen. We also tried to sneak out of the service early, but four mzungus
parting the sea of 3,000 Kenyans to get to the door are not inconspicuous,
and half the congregation decided to follow us outside, and then crowd
around us and stare, but without talking to us or smiling or greeting. Just
staring as if we were little specimens on glass slides. If I took a step
towards them they would recoil. If I took a step backwards, they would inch
forward as if they were being led on a rope. It was extremely disturbing and
irritating, especially on Christmas eve, to be reminded that no matter how
long I'm here, no matter how well I feel like I understand the culture and
the tribe I live with, no matter how well I speak Kiswahili or even Kinandi,
no matter how much ugali I eat, how well I grow maize or raise chickens, and
no matter how much I feel accepted into my community, I will still be a
foreigner - one who is assumed to have money that she will pass out freely,
and one who is treated like a zoo animal. I know I chose to come here, and
there's all sorts of colonialism and white oppression and poverty to blame,
but I still can't help feeling bitter and a bit entitled to more respect
than I am shown on a daily basis. (Ching chong lee! Ching chong wang!)

Thanks to everyone for their Christmas and New Years greetings. The last
month or so at site has been rough but being away from my village has been
good, relaxing, mzungu time. I know I'm not supposed to hide from reality by
hanging with other mzungus but sometimes stuffing our faces with Reese
Pieces and smores can cure a lot of bad.

Shout outs to people on my mailing list:

Esme - Congratulations! May forwarded me the photos of Francois, tres cute.
Glad you didn't name him Beef. :)

Azwin - SOOO wonderful to hear from you bud, sorry about your father and the
business but it sounds like you're keeping your head above water. Good luck
with everything and of course you are always welcome in Kenya!

Michelle - Thanks for the "Mary is My Homegirl" tshirt. I wore it on
Christmas, appropriately enough, though I think I was the only person who
understood the irony.

Thanks to everyone who sent Christmas packages. I have not been to site in a
week so I don't know what has arrived, but I will certainly let you know
when I get them.


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