Final blog post! We’ve been back from Guatemala for quite some time now, but the memories and experiences still seem so fresh! We set out to provide supplemental education to country who desperately needs a way out of their unfortunately rough economical situation. Obviously we didn’t single handedly accomplish this but I definitely think we had a positive impact on it.
The IU chapter along with UTK integrated ourselves into the UPAVIM school alongside the other volunteers down there and really got an educational movement stirring. Even at the end of six weeks these kids were transformed tremendously and we have confidence that even though we’re no longer down there they will continue to grow and hopefully be able to shed some light on what seemed to be a pretty dark community.
The poverty definitely shows through their tough exteriors. Crime and violence was definitely eye-opening and we envision a place where these children grow up and bring money back to their community and this abomination of injustice will no longer prevail.
Aside from teaching we really got close with the team of volunteers, Guatemalan teachers, as well as people from the community. It was definitely hard leaving them all behind. We’ve stayed in contact pretty well and always look forward to any news they can give us about the school or the kids.
Well that’s all for this project! We are all looking forward to what Nourish has in store for us next year.
Just over a week ago Cornell and U Penn completed our summer project with ATRAVES in Barrio San William Galeano, Managua, Nicaragua.
During our five weeks in the community, three focus groups made incredible impact and progress with their respective projects. The Health group taught sex education and health classes, walked with community health workers to patient homes, and further developed an existing community health assessment. The Computers group taught classes in computer literacy to students of all ages and worked with community and staff members in developing excel skills. Additionally, the Vivero group taught nutrition and environmental education classes along with creating multiple areas in the community for gardening and agricultural development. All together we taught almost 30 classes, planted over 100 seedlings and sprouts, and helped install an electrical system for the Casa de Salud, ATRAVES’ home base.
One of our group reflections during our time with ATRAVES was based on values, forcing participants to narrow down our most important values and choose what was most important to us. One of my top three was “Building Relationships”. During the five weeks that I spent in Nicaragua, I got to know a lot of amazing people. The students, families, and community members that I had the privilege of working with in the community made this project so meaningful to me. Don Fran and Don William, brothers from the community that are so dedicated to the work that ATRAVES is doing and hold so many talents to make every project possible. Yami and Griselda, the conductors of the prometoras (community health advisors) who found passion in their work and shared with us the secrets of maintaining that same happiness and passion. Leticia, one of the fearless leaders of ATRAVES that inspired us all with her brilliant orations and told us that we would forever be members of the ATRAVES family.
I will never forget the relationships I forged during my summer in Nicaragua, nor will I forget the love and openness our project team was received with. On our last day inthe community so many of our new friends and students would not tell us goodbye, only hasta luego, “see you later”. The appreciation that the community showed to us everyday along with the immense gratitude that I have towards the community for such kindness,truly represents the relationship that Nourish has formed with San William Galeano. A relationship that I hope to foster in the coming years through work with Nourish or on my own.
The Vivero team with their fearless leader Don William
Christina, Olivia, Jaime and Jean with their Nutrition students.
The whole ATRAVES family and students.
Christina with jack of all trades, Don Fran, and his children, Franklin and Diana.
THE FINAL BLOG POST:
Okay, everyone; the project is done (it has been for a while), we’re home alive and safe (albeit injured), and it’s time for one last blog post, cuz you all deserve it…
So What Exactly Did We Do Again?
We did kind of a lot of things on the ground, so we don’t really blame you if you can’t remember it all or don’t even try to keep track of all that stuff. We can hardly remember ourselves! So we decided to create a small, handy, week-by-week overview of all the stuff we did on our project. See below:
Week 1: Arrival, BFF meetings, attend funeral, begin work on water project.
Week 2: Continue work on water project, begin volunteering at orphanage, attend community leader meeting at local politician’s house, begin planning and preparing for marriage seminar, meet Egyptian volunteer Abdallah, set up for marriage seminar, marriage seminar begins.
Week 3: Marriage seminar continues, attend child sponsor meeting, interviewed by local radio station, visit hospital, travel to nearby city of Bamenda, daytrip to Lake Oku (crater lake) and tea plantation/nature conservatory.
Week 4: Prepare and paint BFF office front room, assist with materials for future nutrition seminar, attend traditional Kom wedding ceremony, meeting about youth workshop, visit Fahn (local royalty) at palace.
Week 5: Set up and begin youth workshop, assist neighbors in making Cameroonian breakfast.
Week 6: Visit hospital again, finish youth workshop, meet owners of the house we are staying in (Dennis and Rose), water project completion ceremony in neighboring town of Alim, edit workshop manual, birthday party for Nathalie, travel to Limbe, stay with Dennis and Rose in other house, get transported to airport, depart.
Ring a bell? Yeah, didn’t think so.
Reflections/What We Think We Did:
So the project was pretty awesome. We completed so much more than we were expecting to accomplish: painting and the orphanage just kind of happened, and we had no idea how many close personal connections we would eventually come to make in the community. Our expected outcomes were also pretty amazing: the water project, despite a few setbacks, was successful, and both the marriage seminar and youth workshop seemed to get a very important conversation about sex and STIs rolling.
Through our work at the orphanage, we hope we were able to provide a brief couple of weeks of entertainment for the children; we certainly learned a lot from them, and they certainly made our experience so much more full of laughter and joy. For a “tangible” benefit here, ask Atika about her foot! (Okay, maybe not an obvious benefit, but it was a story we will remember forever, and it did allow for a few extra laughs down the line). Through our work painting the office and helping with materials for future workshops, we hope we were able to help BFF tackle all the important issues it is hoping to address within the Fundong community; even with this small work, we hope we were able to improve the image of their organization and better communicate their intentions to the community at large (Tangible Benefit: painted walls, laminated foods). Through our work at the water project, we hope we were able to help an important task reach completion; although our “tangible” outcomes—the pathetic physical work we contributed—are minor in this project on a personal/individual level, the fact that we were able to assist in some way and show that we support the community at least on an ideological level—we were risking enduring blisters on our lovely hands for them!—provides a much greater benefit: the continuation of a cross-cultural conversation and sentiment of friendship and understanding between our community and theirs. Lastly, in the seminar and workshop, we “tangibly” distributed packets with important information and “tangibly” spent more than two weeks in a classroom discussing these issues, but a more important outcome is again the continuation of this dialogue of global health, healthy and caring relationships, and solidarity against STIs and the HIV/AIDS epidemic that affects us all. Intangible benefits > tangible benefits, period.
The food, the hospitality, the transportation, the project, the laughs, the pictures, the arguments, the injuries: it was all so wonderfully overwhelming and fun and new. Fundong has become a sort of second home for us, and we all would go back or repeat the experience in a heartbeat if offered the chance. To give an accurate written account that fully captures this experience and our lives spent over that six weeks is impossible, not to mention the innumerable benefits—both tangible and intangible—possibly gained on either side of the BFF-Nourish relationship. Therefore, I will leave it at that. If you want us to attempt to describe it to you in conversation, I’m guessing you’ll probably have the same amount of luck. Rather, see how this experience has changed us as people and in the way we act in day-to-day life; let us tell you about this experience and all of its benefits and complexities through our actions and transformed worldviews, rather than through words that can never do it justice.
Today was the fourth day that we have been at the work site! It’s quite a bit of work and we’re short two people this time. Olivia wasn’t feeling well and Summer started helping out at the school in the neighboring community. Last night I learned an interesting fact about the kids who go to school in Santo Tomas, they have about 33 kids that attend school regularly. Out of those 33 only three go on to secondary school in Yanashi, which is very expensive for them to attend because they have to pay a host family to stay with on top of their necessities for school. It’s such a small turn out, but it makes me realize how easy it is for kids in America to gain a proper education.
Today our workday consisted of leveling out more land for the clinic site. Edwin told us that we had to cut about seventeen meters worth of trees and in the couple of hours that we were there we cut about 10 meters, so overall it was a great workday, even with our group being so small! Upon arriving back to Madre Selva, the Rockhurst students (the biology class) were taking off. It was surprising how free everything felt with just six people there, plus I think it really allowed us to get to know one another better because we didn’t have to worry about random people giving us mean looks if we were talking too loud.
The rest of our day consisted of moving furniture that we took from the empty huts into our huts, napping in the big dormitory, eating and then playing charades at night. Sam W. found a weird bug bite/cut on his knee that looks really infected, if it’s not better by tomorrow he is going to let one of us cut it open and pour alcohol in it. After dinner we all had about an hour and a half to hang out so we decided to break up into groups and play charades. The greatest reenactments were: Jurassic Park and The Heart is a Lonely Warrior by Sam W. and A Bug’s Life and Johnny Tsunami by Sam H. Once the generator turned off we all waited in line to go to the restroom, but ALL of the bugs in the rain forest decided to hang out in our restrooms that night and attacked us as we tried to go in. There was only one clear one and even in that one we had to make sure there were no leaf cutter ants because Sam H. had been bitten by one before. Once we got to our huts, we thought that we were free from all of the bugs, but unfortunately Sam^2 were not. They had a beetle in their room and it was in Sam W’s bed, it got so bad that Brie went in their to kill beetle but it failed and we all just laid in our huts dying of laughter.
This morning our wake up call was a herd of cows passing by our huts. It was the most random thing ever, and if that wasn’t exciting enough Sam decided that his wound was too infected and wanted us to open it up and clean it. Summer played the role of surgeon and tried to keep Sam calm and she opened up his knee. All of us just stood around taking pictures and laughing because it was such a funny site to see. “Doctor” Summer advised Sam to keep it wrapped and then let it air out once we got back from the field site. At the work site today, we continued to chop trees and make burn piles. We have a little ways to go before we finish leveling everything out.
When we got back to Madre Selva Brie and I went in search for this spider that decided to hide itself in my mattress! It took us a while but we finally found it and really overkilled it because we freaked out so bad. This is where Brie and I lived for the past month! It was a lovely little hut inhabited by a large wolf spider and millions of mini ants. Regardless, I loved it and my moldy pillow!
Today and yesterday consisted of doing some more chopping and making large burn piles around the clinic site. We are trying to save all of the plantain trees and palm trees, but everything else gets chopped down. So far the land is looking really well! It’s going to be a nice large area where other things can be added on to in the future, should the community members find the need for them. From cutting all of the trees, the entire group has experienced millions of ant bites from the little ants that hide out on top of the trees and then fall on you once you tried to chop down the tree. The good thing is that the mosquitoes aren’t really biting too much; it’s really just everything other than mosquitoes that has been feasting on us since we have been here. Edwin, Emerson, and Devon come back tomorrow though so we will have a better idea of what to do since we’ve finished cutting the land for the clinic.
Every Sunday we have a rest day and go to the community to hang out with the members and play soccer. It is always so fun to get to see everyone in a relaxed state having fun and enjoying the company of one another. Everyone in the community is pretty close so being around them kind of makes you feel like you’re joining part of their family. Sunday is also the day when we get to talk with our family members! Everyone bought phone cards and tried calling but some of us weren’t that lucky, so we went back to Madre Selva with empty phone cards and more bug bites.
On Monday our materials for the clinic arrived! Yay! It was so nice to see people from all of the three communities get together and work towards bettering their health and communities. It was inspiring to see them care enough to travel the distance just to help us haul everything off of El Gran Yanashi. In the evening I went with Julio and his family to Yanashi to buy gas and we had the chance to talk about his family and different things that he thinks will help improve the community for his kids, the clinic being one of them. While we were coming back from Yanashi we got caught in a rainstorm and had to put bags over our heads so that we wouldn’t get as soaked, this made me realize the difficulties that people in the community can face if they have to make a late night trip to the clinic in Yanashi, which takes about an hour to get to in a slow motor boat. This clinic is really going to help everyone in the communities avoid nights like the one I experienced.
The trip has now concluded and we’ve all returned home. Since my last blog quite a lot has happened. We visited Omatepe to hike the volcano Maderas, hit San Juan Del Sur a second time for beach fun, and visited Granada to cap off the trip. All three were a great time.
The electric system is up and running and looks great. Only thing left now seems to be painting.
It was difficult saying goodbyes, especially to the Atraves staff, the children of the community, and my host mother, but all things must come to an end.
I think I will have to return to Nicaragua at some point, but I do not know when or for what. One thing I would definitely like to do is visit the northern parts of the country.
It’s been just short of a month since we returned to the United States. For the most part, we are readjusted though I will admit I’m still careful with the shower knob because I’m not yet convinced it won’t shock me if the hot water is on. As we settle back in, working our summer jobs and preparing for school in the fall, life seems very…normal. Too normal. It’s amazing how one can go from being abroad, working daily in a rural community in Peru speaking a different language, to working at a day camp in the suburbs of Philadelphia, surrounded by kids playing on their iPhones. The extreme contrast of daily life almost makes it seem as though Peru wasn’t real, just a really awesome dream. But obviously the knowledge that it did in fact happen simply makes me miss it more. I think I can speak for the whole group when I say that our project changed my life—not in outright, identifiable ways. But it did. It gave me perspective—it made me realize what makes a life rich. The people we worked with daily did not have much money, but they had a roof, they had a bed, and most importantly they had family and friends. They were some of the happiest people I’ve ever met. And one of the best moments there was on one of the last days when I was at Liz (the schoolteacher) and her family’s house and we had a huge dance party in their living room as a farewell for me. As Mislet, Liz’s daughter, called it “La despedida de Raquel!”. All it took was a little music and a lot of energy to make the moment so special. I also learned that dance parties are completely underrated.
I hate that we cannot remain there forever, that the project is now out of our hands. But I am not scared. I don’t think our latrines will go to waste. The power of the Nourish model is that it is not about providing aid and hoping for the best. It’s about working with the community, exchanging skills and knowledge, and creating change that will last. The truth is, we were probably not the best workers in the community. We were probably not even close. We would try to break a single rock for an hour with no luck, while Andres, our foreman, would momentarily assess a rock, grab the baretta, and drop it with no force and the rock would break in half (probably out of respect). What we had was the funds, the motivation, and the plan to make it happen. We worked with families who wanted the latrines, who had to make their own adobes, and dig, if possible, their own holes, to show that the relationship was one of give and take. Though honestly with everything I got out of the experience, it hardly feels like I gave anything. We all feel so incredibly lucky to have spent that time in Peru and hope to go back some day.
On another note, I know we said we would upload pictures andnever got the chance so here’s a quick snapshot of the trip!
Emma trying out some new hairstyles coiurtesy of Estefanie (Left) and Mislet
Emma, Renee, and I worked at Berta’s latrine for a lot of the work. One day we had a photoshoot with Yenina (pictured) and Deana, Berta’s nieces who live with her. Theres about 100 more where this came from!
Katie, Annie, and I in front of Lake 69, on top of a mountain in Huaraz. We were at an altitude of 4600 meters (only 3000 feet off of the altitude of Everest’s base camp–a lot of read Into Thin Air throughout the trip so this was a big deal to us!)
Thank you to everyone who kept up with our blog throughout the project. We loved being able to share our experience with others!
Rachel and the Pitt/Juniata team
Greetings from the Madre Selva Biological Field Station in Peru! We’ve had an eventful first week, beginning with our landing in Iquitos, Peru. Brieanna Lara, Olivia Heath, Aurora Flipinski, and I arrived on the same flight. After disembarking, crossing the tarmac (and making acquaintance with hot humidity), slowly moving through customs, and grabbing our checked bags, we attempted to find an ATM that would allow us to take out local money (the Nuevo Sol) we needed to pay the taxi fare to our hostel. We would be staying a couple of nights in Iquitos before leaving to the Madre Selva.
Immediately, we were accosted by eager cab drivers. It was a bit overwhelming, but we managed to find an ATM and pay for a taxi to our hostel, La Pascana. Most taxis in Iquitos are mototaxis, essentially rickshaws pulled by motorcycles, and most vehicles of personal transportation are motorcycles or scooters. The streets of the city seemed to me a lawless and chaotic flow of traffic, where several vehicles drove abreast but no lanes lent order. Although we viewed it from the relative security of a car, I think it was an exhilarating introduction to Peru for all of us.
We arrived and checked into our hostel. A small kitchen and dining area, along with a front desk, greet visitors on arrival. Behind that, about ten or twenty rooms face an open courtyard. The rooms are pretty small and have two twin-sized beds and a bathroom. The showers, as I grew accustomed to during my stay in Nicaragua, do not have hot water. That’s fine; the cool showers are refreshing in the tropical climate.
Long story short: we three early arrivers spent a couple of days in the city, walking the streets and trying the food. Sam and Destiny were delayed a full day, so instead of getting some acclimatization time like we did, they arrived the morning of our departure to the jungle. Meanwhile, we met Summer Peete, who would be accompanying us on our boat ride to Madre Selva. She was supposed to start volunteering at a public clinic in the town of Yanashi. More on Yanashi in a bit.
The General Manager of Project Amazonas, Fernando, met with us in our hostel on the night of Thursday, the 23rd to discuss the next day’s travel. We would be riding in Project Amazonas’ 26’ covered aluminum speedboat, the Mai-Kai, on the ninety-mile, three-hour trip down the Amazon River. He also informed Summer that the new doctor at the Yanashi clinic was changing policy a bit, and she wouldn’t be able to volunteer there after all. She decided to accompany us to Madre Selva, where she was welcome to lodging, to talk over her options with Devon Graham, President and Scientific Director of Project Amazonas.
The next morning, Sam and Destiny finally showed up. Fernando met us at the hostel and accompanied us to the dock, via mototaxi (my first ride!). I enjoyed the boat ride, despite having to endure an uncomfortable wooden seat for three hours. The wind provided a nice break from the heat, and we were riding on a boat down the Amazon River! It was sort of surreal. I’ve heard about the rainforest and the Amazon River for my entire life, but it always seemed to far away and even mystic and intangible. Now I was here, on the huge, wide river walled in by rainforest on either side.
I’m attaching a map of the area surrounding the Madre Selva. It is on an Amazon tributary, the Rio Orosa. Getting there from the Amazon involves first entering another tributary. Along the banks of this river is the town of Yanashi, the largest community in the immediate area of the Madre Selva. I asked Devon what the population of Yanashi was, and I believe he told me it was 1,000 or so. That gives you a sense of the remoteness of the area. Yanashi is home to the closest medical clinic to the communities surrounding the Madre Selva, and it is twenty to thirty minutes away by speedboat, during the rainy season. During the dryer parts of the year, the water level recedes, making the channel we used impassible and the journey longer. Also understand that the communities have very few motorboats, and no speedboats, and that fuel is expensive. For locals, travel to Yanashi can take hours. That is why Nourish International, Project Amazonas, and the communities are teaming up to build a local clinic.
The Madre Selva Biological Field Station consists of a dining hall, bathroom facility with toilets and showers, two-story classroom building, a dormitory building with ten or so beds, and about eight huts, all on an acre or two of land. The buildings are all wooden platforms with the walls consisting of half wood, half screen, and open, thatched roofs. The dormitory has been occupied by a biology class from the U.S. all week. They left today, May 29th, along with Devon and some project Amazonas staff. It is much quieter, and the degree of our isolation has become much more tangible. It’s actually a pleasant change… anyway, back to our arrival and first week.
The day after our arrival, Devon took us to visit the work site for the first time. The site is a very short boat ride upstream. It is on a hill behind Julio’s (the Madre Selva Groundskeeper) house. Last year’s group had cleared and leveled the small plot of land. It is amazing how fast the plant life had re-colonized. We were given machetes, and started re-clearing. It became apparent how crucial last year’s efforts were. Although the amount of growth in so short a time was impressive, I could tell that getting it back to last year’s state would take only a few days of work. We worked alongside Devon, Julio, and Abram (an assistant groundskeeper and relative to Julio) that afternoon for a couple hours. In the humid heat the work was exhausting, but fun (in my opinion at least). I think our machete handling has been improving rapidly, but that day was the first time many of us had handled the tool, and it was probably amusing to watch from a local perspective. They basically use machetes from early childhood onward.
The next three days of work was much the same. Summer has enthusiastically joined us, at least for now. l was right, the re-clearing was fast. We have already begun the second stage of site preparation, clearing a space for building materials. We want construction to be well underway before we leave, and I think we’re on track!
– Sam W.
June 11 was our last full day in Yaounde. We left to return to Oku early in the morning for an 8AM bus back towards Bamenda.
June 12 (Wed) was a day for travels – heading from Yaounde back to home base. We arrived back in Oku in the evening and started preparing for our next part of the project.
June 13 (Thurs) we went around a few parts of Oku to check on the gardens we began in the first week. At this point, we found out that Simonkoh’s garden was doing the best. I don’t have any good pictures of the seedlings right now, but hopefully I can add some later once I get them. The rest of the day was spent doing individual errands. Some went to buy souvenirs and others went to the market to say hello to friends. Then, we left for Batibo, our next project site. That night, we met the 1st deputy mayor and had dinner at his house.
On June 14 (Friday)- Batibo is also a city in the Northwest, but it is farther west than Oku. We stayed in Hotel Arena by the newly constructed paved road leading from Bamenda, and we took most of our meals from St. Stephen’s Restaurant. Our accommodations were relatively comfortable. Our pluming was reliable and the decor was fun (there was a night club attached), but the odd thing was that we didn’t have sinks in our bathrooms. We spent some time planning our route with the officials at the Batibo Municipal Council and starting on the demonstration gardens. We also met a Peace Corps volunteer who lived in the area and did a little garden by the council as well as some farther away. We had a relatively long way to travel, but the farthest village, Ashong-Batibo, was also my favorite. The people were very welcoming and the garden was on the side of a mountain, so the view was great when we arrived and it was foggy.
That night, we met up with some of CAMAAY’s other volunteers (from Germany). We went to a fundraiser held by local youths for an orphanage. They sold drinks and had a dance competition, so it was fun to support them.
(Fundraiser, photo cred = Aubrey)
June 15 (Sat), we held a discussion for sports animators in the same community hall as the fundraiser was held. It was also within walking distance of our hotel. Maxie agreed to do some more stretching demonstrations for the local groups the next morning. When we did go out to the garden spots around Batibo, we took another truck borrowed from the Council and went with our development guide, Naomi. We also did a few needs assessments and talked with groups around town. With the upcoming local elections, we went to an SDF rally to talk to people. That evening, we went to the mayor’s house for dinner.
June 16 (Sun) was a busy day. Maxie started earlier than all of us, heading to meet the sports group for their weekly meeting. We started the day with some more presentations. This time, we covered our main three- Violence Against Women, Group Dynamics, and Menstruation. At the final presentation, we were able to pass out some more of the reusable feminine hygiene kits to the heads of the “Girls’ Corners” (discussion and meeting groups for women and young girls in the area). Naomi cooked us a delicious lunch from the food we received from the people in Ashong – plantains and a chicken. We took the rest of the evening to see Batibo. One group went to check out a local tree nursery (riding 4 to a motorcycle!) and the rest of us went to the Guzong Market.
(Warm Up Demo by Maxie)
June 17 (Mon) we left Batibo with 8 gardens completed. We passed through Bamenda, but the goal was to head back to Oku and pack our bags and say our goodbyes to friends and officials before we took our last inspection through the city. We went to the radio station and Aubrey went to get photos for the school partnership project.
June 18 (Tues) we went back to Mbam-Oku to see the progress on the community center and do some last minute work at the tree nursery. It was great to see new paint and the bathrooms being built, but of course – there work was not all complete.
June 19 (Wed) I don’t think we did too much of anything. We also said our last goodbye in person to the mayor and people who helped us at the municipal council, and then took a bus to Bamenda. We were planning on stopping in Limbe, a coastal city with black sand beaches, on our way back to the Douala Airport. However, the bus we needed to take was overnight… so we had a lot of time to spare in Bamenda. Most used the internet, some made copies, and others needed the ATM. We even had a chance to say goodbye to some of CAMAAY’s German volunteers that were That evening, we were invited for dinner at the house of a local director of an NGO – one of our coordinator’s friends. It was nice seeing the inside of another home. After that, we took our bus to Oku.
June 20 (Thurs) we left our spot in Oku in the morning to travel to Bamenda. We spent most of the day in Bamenda, just chilling. Most used the internet, some made copies, and others needed the ATM. We went to a fair trade store for souvenirs and just ended up at the cafe next door. It was great. That evening, we were invited for dinner at the house of a local director of an NGO – one of our coordinator’s friends. It was nice seeing the inside of another home. After that, we took our night bus to Limbe. Just getting there was an experience… but not the most comfortable xD…
June 21 (Fri) we arrived in Limbe. It was a bit rainy, but we still trekked around. We stored our luggage at the bus station, and then hit the market, a local lava flow, the beach, and then the primate reserve with a good cafe inside. We were happy about the final stop. They even had vegetarian burgers… a great start to returning to the US. But we did have to say goodbye to everyone. After we took a bus from Limbe to Doaula, we went straight to the Airport… and then were on our way before we knew it!
It’s been a little over one month since we’ve returned from Mfangano Island to our homes and lives (well at least for Mae and I). “Re-adjustment” should be over by now, but in many ways it’s still not. I still think of Kenya on a daily basis and talk with my host family every few days. It’s odd to be so distant from the people and place that I grew so familiar and comfortable with. To say that I miss Kenya is an understatement. There is a Theo that continues to live in Kenya, with different friends, a different lifestyle, and different values, that I am unable to be. This reality causes a strange dissonance with the Theo that lives here and an odd “going through the motions” experience. While shampooing my hair I find myself thinking “Do I even need a special soap for my hair? Why don’t I just use soap?” Or as I put on my clothes I think “Did I ever need this many shirts? Where did I get all these shirts?”.
But being back to familiar faces and a wonderfully familiar American diet is certainly appreciated. While not even the most genuinely interested listener has 5 spare hours for me to fully recount my feelings and experiences, it is fun and rewarding to share the experience with friends and family. I’ve had a great time producing our recap video (see below)!
In the end, Mae, Kathryn, and I have experienced something that we cannot even share with each other. Each of our experiences in Kenya was incredible and instructive in ways unique to each of us. Personally, one month of planting trees has taught me that I’m only scratching the surface of what it is like to work abroad on “development” and “aid” projects. I’m beginning to distinguish between solidarity and charity; and I’m empowered to continue to stand alongside communities like Mfangano for the rest of my life. I have to continue to work towards greater equity for my friends across the globe and I have to continue to study how to do that in the best way possible. I cannot wait to share the relationships we’ve made and lessons we’ve learned with the students on my campus! The stories that we’re bringing back to campus will (in the words of Nicholas Olambo) “automatically” inspire our peers to take the same stand.
In conclusion, thanks. Thanks to our chapter for all the work they’ve done to make this project a reality, thanks to Organic Health Response for their incredible work on Mfangano, thanks to our host families for your loving care, thanks to our friends and families at home for your support, and thanks to NINO for all the guidance.
Oriti (goodbye) and all the best!
Theo and the Nourish UMN team[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO2pZbSgjzA]
Since the last time I blogged I hiked and camped on a volcano, tried out the computers and vivero groups, and visited San Juan Del Sur. The hiking was pretty tough, especially since I had very little traction on my shoes and we all know that hiking is all about traction. It was pretty amazing being at the top of the volcano and honestly it was a little scary being so close that you could easily fall in to your death. Pretty cool for a first hiking experience I think.
The computers and vivero groups were both fun experiences. It was neat being able to work with different members of our group and to take a stab at the different work that we as a group are doing here. This week I have switched back to the medical group. This turned out to be good timing because we are now trained to give blood pressure and measure blood sugar levels so visiting patients with the promotoras is now more interactive instead of simple observation.
San Juan Del Sur was a nice beach town. We went to a beach called Maderas which was beautiful. One of the girls got stabbed by a stingray in her foot and had to leave early. There was concern over whether it could be venomous but thankfully it wasn’t. On the last day of the trip the boys and I went on a fishing trip. Turns out we only got one bite on the trip and we didn’t even reel that in successfully. Even so, being out on the water was a great experience and we got to check out this little private beach where there were tons of crabs and hermit crabs. We manage to capture one crab and played with him for a little while, before of course letting him free.