Posted in Uncategorized on August 25, 2013 by emilymariemay

I wrote this in April of this year.  Just late in posting it. I didn’t forget you.


When you realize that repeatedly vomiting and having diarrhea on a United Arab Emirates international flight is decidedly an enjoyable experience, what with the flushable toilet, running water, paper towels, and a neighbor who saw it all with you to go back to in aisle 42, it is evident that 26 months in Africa have come to an end for a reason.  The realization that saying goodbye to the family I made would be somehow far more difficult than the same to the one that birthed me, came late, like, 20 minutes before I got on the blue school bus.  It manifested as the resident white lady making yet another public scene, while somewhat frantically searching for a hard made friend, who surreptitiously disappeared right as I wanted to, followed by a violent hug to my best neighbor, outburst of three words, and two streams of unwanted tears.  Sweeping aside the nylon curtain separating Lavin’s inside from her outside for the last time, I paused for an imperceptible moment, long enough to blink twice at Kisii land hill, before taking giant strides through the games lawn, occupied by form 2 kids taking their maths exam.  I remember that it was maths because Gloryan came knocking on my door in the early hours that morning, wishing to borrow my calculator.  I handed over my TI-84+ knowing full well that I would never see it again.  I launched right past her desk on the way out, and just barely glanced down, to see my calc and her blue pen moving with ferocious speed.  Ata girl Gloro!  Get it!  Show the world what women can do.  These are my current ruminations; at the time all I could do was sob like a little baby, as I got on that school bus.  The image of little Frank running along side the school bus, saying “Frank! Emily! Frank! Emily!” with less and less gusto as we pulled out, and I could barely choke the words back, in response, in our favorite game, is with me now, sitting in the window seat of the economy section on a flight from Denver to Philly, listening to The Bends on my brand new iPhone 4s.  I had absolutely no problem conforming to the purchase of an iPhone when I landed in Americaland.  It took me a couple weeks of alternately lying in my parents basement moaning and exiting the house shrieking with fear before I could actually make the purchase, but I knew it was gonna happen.  And I wasn’t gonna fight it.  Well, in my defense (since real granola hippies need an excuse as to why they own an iPhone), I was planning to buy and iPod.  But why not get it along with a phone as well!  It even surfs the web and you can download all the greatest apps!  The saleswoman at the Verizon store in the mall informed me, in an uncomfortably cheery fashion.

So here I land, back in the land of plenty, surrounded by genetically modified foods, red 40, iRobots, and plenty of first world problems.  My very own first world problem being that I have very little patience for dealing with first world problems.  Well, okay that might have been a couple of months ago.  Then I got a little more “readjusted.”  Aka, the earth continued her annual dance around the sun, and I’m lucky enough to still inhabit her.

Home for still less than 4 months now, I’ve realized quickly that germs do, indeed exist in the U.S., Christmas is stressful, and Michele Obama has bangs (I didn’t know this before I got mine, although I most definitely still would have done it).  And feminism is not dead!  I happen to know quite a number of twenty something women who are living with the same kind of fearless courage to do whatever the fuck they want that only men have had the time to develop.  All the while we’re looking the stretched, injected, suctioned, and candy coated image of so many stiletto-healed women right in the face, and saying, “HA!”  I’m also reading a Caitlin Moran book right now.  Thanks Erika.  

I want to thank all of you for following me on my journey.  I left a starry eyed dreamer, and came back the same, just that I’ve seen more things now.  And since I’ve been into wholeness and completion lately, I’ll end this where I began:  John Lennon’s Imagine.  Which, I would like to add, I do not believe is a secular song.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

If you follow every dream you might get lost

Posted in Uncategorized on October 31, 2012 by emilymariemay

Hey family and friends! It seems that I’d taken a brief hiatus from my blog-writing career. I guess I got side tracked by a couple of other things, or my English skills became so poor and I didn’t have the energy to attempt cranking out an entertaining note for your reading pleasure. But, the end of all this is dangerously close, and I can’t forget about my trusty companion whom I’ve relied on to relay triumphs, failures, struggles and everyday monotony: this blog.

Happy Halloween! It’s like I remember writing that on another blog, was it in 2010 or 2011? Last weekend I left God Ber hill on Thursday and traveled to my friend Ana’s site, where I slept the night on a sleeping pad and without a mosquito net! Unlike some people who live right next to a muggy swamp filled with blood sucking demons (also known as a maize field filled with mosquitoes), one can afford to sleep at Ana’s without a mosquito net. From there I went to my beloved city Kisumu, where I spent the day shopping for a few last minute gifts I’ve identified. Then on to a Halloween party a couple hours away with 15 other volunteers from my training group. We were a forest, and I was a tree in the forest.

This third term of 2012 here in Kenya has been…interesting. We ‘began’ with a 3 week teachers’ strike over salary increases. Students still trickled onto the school compound like Western Kenyan October rain, hopeful to seep in some nutrients from just being around a learning atmosphere. But teachers refused to teach, in solidarity, yes, but also in fear of their own safety. Stories abounded of men being stripped naked by their fellow teachers of other schools and chased from their own school where they may have been sneaking in a lesson or two. Stonings and public humiliation are also not uncommon in times of strike. Once we finally reopened, I had about a drop of enthusiasm left in me. But my form two physics students kept me going! …er something.

August was magical. July ended in a mess of diarrhea, vomit, and exhaustion. Then came the week long Camp GLOW! Girls Leading Our World. I took three girls, all three of which are just swell. Those girls know how to fend for themselves I tell you what! And talk about learning to be a strong minority. You go girls! One of (if not THE) best week I’ve had in Kenya. No question. A few highlights: watched the Perseid’s meteor shower with 5 campers and a counterpart, taught a challenging lesson about sexuality, watched one of my form 2 students be the little kid she deserves to be, watched another take charge fearlessly, got to know another one’s sweet demeanor, bonded with PCVs, met some incredible Kenyan men and women, slept around 4 hrs each night.

Now, things are wrapping up here on this hill. I’m really just about to leave, and I could use all your support and love right now. Sometimes I feel so hopeless and alone that I can’t move. I’m really tired. I know I’ll make it, but sometimes nowadays it seems more like I won’t than it ever has before. I’m also nervous about America. But more excited than anything else. I can’t live on this beautiful and beastly hill anymore. Onward and forward! Life’s an adventure! Time for the next chapter…almost…

Life on the Rez

Posted in Uncategorized on August 4, 2012 by emilymariemay

I was sitting on our new school bus traveling down a series of pot holed, dusty and sometimes barely-there dirt roads interspersed with short lengths of tarmac, jostling up next to Rose for a couple of hours yesterday as we moved to a school right next to the Lake to attend their Education Day.  Everything becomes drier and dustier and on that side of Oyugis in contrast to my hilly, perpetually green area.  But everywhere is looking more brown and tan than in other times of the year, as August is the month for harvesting maize crops.

When we were still on this side, we made a brief stop in a place called Oururu which consists of a row of small, dilapidated, yet perpetually populated shops that sell mandazi, bread, phone credit, and sodas.  Myself, the principal, Rose and Rainman jumped off the bus to enjoy a quick soda while the kids waited on board.  I took the opportunity to buy phone credit, which was only available in cards of 10 and 20 bob, so I ended up with six scratch cards.  I was the last one back on the bus and as I jumped on, I plopped down in the seat next to Rose and started complaining about the very small denominations I could get. “They only sell them that way on the reserve,” she offhandedly commented.  I, of course, questioned her use of the term “reserve,” and came to learn that many people refer to the rural areas as the reserve.  When Europeans came to Africa, they moved all the Africans to places of poor farmland and called them reserves, while they stayed in the richer, most fertile areas.  Unlike in the U.S., this arrangement didn’t last here.  Some people still call the rural places the reserve, even after all this time, Rose informed me.

I immediately had and “ah-ha!” moment, as I vividly remembered an occasion when I was chatting with Kenya’s PC Country Director in his Nairobi office, and he said to me, “I see you’re off the reservation.”  I wasn’t completely sure what he meant by this statement, but now I see!  Apparently I’ve been living on the res for the past two years without realizing it.  It just turns out that most of Kenya is the res.  Some things (well, ok, absolutely most things) were much better left unrealized when I joined PC.  In the months before I moved here my dad warned me that I was way too naive to move to Kenya all alone.  What was I thinking?  He asked me.  In retrospect, that was a damn good question, what the hell was I thinking?  But I have remembered something Erika said in response: that my naivety was positive and necessary for what I wanted to do.  She recognized it from her own time spent volunteering in Mexico.  So incredibly true.  If believing that I can help someone and being willing to risk a few things to do it is naive, then I never want to be experienced.

My friend drew a comic about me and Frank and Fidel on his True Story Kenya blog!  He’s damn talented, check it out:
Also, check me out in the public forum lately!  Download this PDF and go to page 18:

Maisha ni Wangu

Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2012 by emilymariemay

Well I think we’ll finish the world map this term! We began in December, and have been slowly slowly working away at it. While the project began with about 10 students involved, here at the end I’ve managed to keep two form 4 boys involved. We’ve been working on it three times a week at games time when I’m not busy with other stuff, and it’s been great spending time with these two students. Manoa is repeating Form 4. He “rewound” back to form 3 in 2011 because he didn’t get a good enough score on the Kenyan Secondary Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination to go directly to university. Competition is FIECRCE to go “direct” to university instead of “parallel.” Candidates who qualify to go direct are granted government loans to the extent that they don’t have to pay any part of their university fees out of pocket. Those who don’t quite score the marks may score high enough to go parallel, meaning that while they are accepted, they must find cash to pay part of the fee, and accept loans for the other part. There are three levels of schools in Kenya: national, provincial, and district. National schools are located in more urban areas and are the richest with the highest performing students, then provincial, then village district schools. For those who qualify for parallel in most district schools, it simply means it’s time to rewind and give it another go. The student who can barely find 200 /- for set books has very little chance finding tens of thousands of shillings for university fees. Nonetheless, many try, with a fund raising event called a Harambee, Swahili for “pull together,” and Kenya’s national slogan, or motto or whatever. It’s very common for students to rewind, and highly encouraged. My school holds back students who do not get passing marks at the end of a school year in all forms. This practice isn’t the case in so many of my colleague’s schools. It’s not a national standard, but a practice determined by the principal of each individual school. Manoa is on the cusp of qualifying for direct, with a mean of C+ right now.

God Ber sent 5 students out of about 60 candidates direct to university after the 2010 KCSE. After the 2011, we sent 12. This is incredibly high for a district school. Most of my colleagues at district schools report that their schools sent 1 or 2, or even none, direct. I realized sometime last year that God Ber is quite high achieving for a district school. We scored number 88 of all district schools in the nation from the 2011 results, which got us local recognition on the radio. Reasons for our success may include anything from my principle’s megalomanic tendencies to the fact that God Ber is the MP of my area’s pet project (ahem). So it’s sweet to almost be done with the world map. The other boy involved, Clerkson, is just great too.

Teenagers are funny. Nowadays I divide my life skills classes into all boys and all girls classes. I’ve made it through the male reproductive system for the boys, and the female reproductive system for the girls. I went into the boys class the other day ready to teach the female reproductive system. I also teach a very small bit of sign language along with the biology parts, as the posters I have were made by my colleagues teaching in deaf schools around Kenya. The first time I introduced these posters, I asked them if they already knew any sign language. Just like infrastructure in all other areas, schools for the deaf (not to mention people with other disabilities) are lacking. But people actually know quite a bit of Kenyan Sign Language without realizing that they know it. Well, asking my form 2 boys this question may have been a gross misjudgment on my part. That class is notorious among all the teachers at school for it’s naughty behaviour. I’ve become desensitized? I’m just used to their ridiculous, inappropriate actions nowadays? Whatever it is, there isn’t much they can say or do that surprises me anymore. So when I asked this question, and the number one boy in the class (also my top Physics student) flashed the bird to the entire class, I didn’t panic. And when another bright boy who is also quite the skilled artist showed the European gesture for the same sentiment, I didn’t freak. And when another showed me the sign for breasts with eyes closed tight and tongue wagging outside a mouth curled into a smile, and yet another held his hand high in the air to show me the sign for clitoris, and, and, and, and… (Okay, I did wonder with that last one whether or not the kid actually knew what he was signing. I later learned this sign is just used in general for the vagina. When teaching about female anatomy, I formally introduced them to the sign, teaching them the sign for Female Genital Mutilation, also known as the more mild term Female Circumcision around here.) Of course they would never behave this way for any of their other teachers, as one toe out of line inevitably results in several swats of the cane of his or her choice. It used to really get my gun that the students didn’t “respect” me because I don’t cane them. I’ve since realized they’re just teenagers. If I caned them to the point of meekly fearing me, I doubt some of my girls would have approached me with their issues, and I wouldn’t have realized the need for teaching girls to respect and own their own bodies, and boys to do the same with their own, and also respect their female classmates. Does any of it get through in between rude gestures, lude questions, and crude comments? Did any of it get through to me when I was a teenager? I sure as hell did a lot of stupid shit when I was a kid, but always remember a few teachers who spoke to me like the adult I thought I so badly wanted to be, and didn’t “tell” on me for my inappropriate behaviour, but instead used it to counsel me, who seemed to understand in some kind of way that I couldn’t understand.

Upon returning to the staffroom that day, I promptly regaled the events to Rainman. I’m a firm believer that people’s reactions to me are largely dependent on my actions to them. To an extent, of course. Being the minority, all eyes are on me all the time. It’s easy for this situation to leave a person immobilized. But when movement does occur, oh you better believe people in the entire village are gonna be talking about what their friendly, neighborhood mzungu said or did. Rainman’s reaction to my story was jovial. “June! Do you know how a person learns a language? First he or she learns the dirty words, then the greetings, then the rest.” I’ve never been able to get him to tell me any dirty Luo words though. Every time we come close in conversation, he blushes and shies away. Not so with the staffroom drunk. Last week was hilarious, as he came to school drunk three days in a row. Last year, even last term I was livid about such behaviour (you may remember my Science Congress story) but these days I find it hilarious, along with everyone else in the staffroom. The deputy and principal decidedly turn their heads any time he lunges into the staffroom, smelling of mouthwash for about ten minutes before the stench of viceroy whiskey or changaa (home brew) begins following him as an unseen aura.  He may come to school in this state on occasion, but he still works damn hard and does a lot for the school that no one else does.  Humor has been one of the most challenging aspects of integration for me. And friendship. I suppose the two go hand in hand, though. So I’m relieved to be able to laugh along with everyone else about something. I just love reading the cornucopia of pamphlets Peace Corps gives to volunteers, and I recently read in one that a volunteer isn’t adjusted to her/his host culture if (s)he still looks negatively at host country national’s behaviour. (S)he may not agree with the behaviour, but that doesn’t have to lead to disliking the person, or isolating oneself from the culture because of it. Well thanks, dudes, good to know!

As a small victory, I prevented a caning from happening in real time last week. A form 4 who I don’t know was caught playing draft (checkers) on a barely square, splintering slab of wood with a grid drawn on it in marker pen and soda bottle cap pieces in the choo during class time with one of my former physics students, who is now a form 3. This boy is bright, and always scoring near the top of his class. As Madam Deputy said, as he’s entered form 3, he’s now being affected by adolescence. One of the young stags just out of Form 4 last year who is now teaching approached me right as I entered the staffroom to find the two culprits kneeling down on the the concrete floor, smug looks on their faces as the teachers interrogated them. “You see, Madam, in a case like this, what else can we do but cane? Do you agree that this is the only way in this situation? It’s the only way, isn’t it?” I expressed my views once again, and my fellow staffmate retreated, instructing the students to continue their game there in the middle of the staffroom floor. The deputy poked her head in to see what was happening. I went into her office and expressed my views about the disciplinary actions at our school for only the second time to her. She listened intently, eyes gleaming, in an atmosphere of utmost awkwardness. And trust me, I’ve been in some incredibly awkward situations in this fine nation. She told me she understood, and that they were really trying. The boys were charged with carrying a 20 litre jerry can of water each from the river back to school three times and mopping their classrooms, the laboratory, and the loo. I was relieved. I think she must have said something to the other teachers as well, because anytime one of them grabbed a stick and exited the staffroom, the others questioned him in language I didn’t understand until he dropped the stick and left. She also promised me she’d talk with everyone.

So I have about 70 litres of water right now because my form 2 physics student (the same aspiring artist who knows the European hand gesture for the finger) left school without permission on Thursday and had to go to the river three times as punishment. He’s really a good kid, and when I asked him why he left school, he said he left at lunch time and that he went looking for food. He still has 10,000 ksh remaining in his school fees, so he doesn’t get to eat lunch. After all that work of carrying water, I was worried he would pass out or something without any food. I was prepared to surreptitiously give him two boiled eggs I had lying around when he returned from the last lap of fetching, looking tired, but strong. “Oh, I got lunch today Madam,” he responded slyly to my inquiries. I decided not to ask.

I woke up this morning vividly thinking about a steamy bathroom, you know, the way it gets after a ridiculously long shower. It’s been blinking cold around here (yes, as a native Wyomingite, I am ashamed to say that), especially so in the mornings. Mmmm, the cleanliness of Americaland. Of course I’m excited to come forward home, but I’m also feeling sad that very soon, all of this will disappear and begin fading into select memories. One day I’ll be here, deep in the lives of my students, staff mates, and close friends; then one day, I won’t. As the stages of love go, I’ve gone through infatuation, hate, acceptance and now comfort and dependence.  Kenya will be with me for better or for worse, and even when I leave I’ll bet, till death do us part.

Waiter! There’s treacle in my vacuum!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 8, 2012 by emilymariemay

…is what I would say if I were ordering a plate of the Standard Model of physics at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. It says right here on the menu, a vacuum is the emptiness of space. And something quite similar to treacle seems to be permeating my emptiness! Why?

Enter Peter Higgs, brought to tears after a 45 year hunt for his hypothesized particle finally came to an end last week with the 125 GeV detection of his namesake boson.

“Be sure to read the fine print on the menu: a vacuum exists with the lowest state of energy. Caution: contains groundnuts.

“So there’s less energy in the vacuum now with these Higgs Bosons than without ’em?”


Confused Silence

I’m no particle physicist, but after a visit to my favorite restaurant, I felt compelled to read a number of articles about this historic event and recall my quantum classes from university. Maybe bosons are like messengers, and the important parcels they have to deliver are energy from one of the four fundamental forces acting in the universe: strong, weak, electromagnetic, and gravitational. Messengers dressed up as bosons are passed from one bit of matter to another, and this is how energy is transferred between bodies. The boson I’m most familiar with seems like an old friend: the photon. I spent a few nights collecting these messengers eager to deliver a packet of energy to the CCD camera attached to a reflecting giant and eager to complete a harrowing journey from parsecs away. And how many hours did I spend extracting and reducing the data they delivered? Enough to smile when I think of those little massless packets of encrypted information. And when I enjoy the soft orange sunlight on my living room wall at dusk.

Turns out Higgs Bosons exist in waves in the Higgs Field, much like photons exist in electromagnetic waves. But Higgs Bosons in wave form are spread all throughout the vacuum of space, like treacle. Fractions of a second after the Big Bang the universe increased in size by a factor of 1030, and elementary particles gained mass by trudging through the treacle, holding on to clumps along the way.

My favorite analogy so far involves snow. Imagine that the universe is contained in my backyard, and my niece Geneva’s little feet in snow boots are elementary particles. If there isn’t any snow on the ground, Geneva can endlessly run around in those boots at the speed of light (because the limit of a two year old’s motion as her energy approaches infinity is zero). She is purely energy with no mass. But once it snows, she must slow down as snow sticks to her boots; particles gain mass and slow down as they travel through the Higgs Field.

So I guess I won’t send my plate back this time Mr. Higgs. I certainly don’t understand it, but as Mr. Richard Feynman tells us, if anyone tells you they understand quantum mechanics, they’re lying. At least I’m being honest.

Politics and Poop from June

Posted in Uncategorized on July 8, 2012 by emilymariemay

Politics in the morning, politics at chai time, politics with the ugali and sukuma wiki (kale) lunch, politics through afternoon uji and into the evening! Oh how my coworkers love to talk endlessly about politics. Yesterday the national budget was announced, and Rainman was in a tizzy about the fact that the younger staff members had voted to watch a new, used DVD of a stand up comedian who was talking about how Barack Obama really belongs to Kenyans when I walked in after proctoring my form one physics exam. He was loudly berating them in Dholou, and as I entered the room, he looked directly at me and continued in the same language, throwing in the term “national budget” spoken in my mother tongue. At any given time, conversations between Kenyans are spoken in three different languages. They’ll begin in Kiswahili interspersed with some English and as the mood becomes more intense, switch to Dholuo. By the time I entered the staffroom yesterday afternoon, it was already intense, with the young fellows shouting back at Rainman as he told them what a disgrace it was that we were watching comedy as the national budget was being announced. I smirked and quietly slunk out of the staffroom, as I’ve been known to do the past couple weeks. I go through phases of extreme interaction with the entire staffroom, engaging in discussions, arguments, jokes, laughter and language learning. Then, I tend to close in a bit, and try to be as uninvolved in the daily shenanigans as possible, limiting my interactions to hand slapping with Rainman, smiles and soft conversation with Rose and Irene the secretary, and as from now great language (Kiswahili) lessons with Kezia THE NEWEST FEMALE STAFF MEMBER!! That’s right, after four terms here with no female coworkers, God Ber got a female teacher. She’s only here for one term, but I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth!

Anyway, when I returned, over half the staff members had cleared out of the cramped staffroom (nowadays Rainman, Kezia and I are sharing two desks among the three of us due to overcrowding) and the announcement of the national budget was broadcasting on the television screen. Rainman had a triumphant look on his face as he and Kezia smirked at me when I entered and took a seat at an absent teacher’s desk.

Well the point is I don’t really feel like talking about politics. Last night I diarrheaed into a plastic bag because I had to go so badly when I woke up at 3am and couldn’t make it to the choo. I was awake most of the rest of the night and called Rose in the morning to inform her that I wasn’t going to make it to class. She answered a static filled conversation, clearly indicating that she was in transit up here. “I’m coming to your house immediately!” she exclaimed. OK, I guess I need to go dump this bag in the choo.

So I’m in my house today, trying to remember whether or not it’s normal to make long calls in such a variety of places. Meanwhile, I’m dreaming about Kisumu. I’ve dubbed Kisumu the Boston of Kenya. This is probably highly inaccurate and possibly irrelevant, but I wouldn’t know because I’ve never been to Boston! Just heard all about it from Jenny and company.

The Centripetal Force

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2012 by emilymariemay

I realized the power of teaching students who are not my own last weekend at a fellow PVC’s all girls life skills day camp. While knowing my students is great for day-to-day interactions, I really enjoyed having time with someone else’s students, who did not know me at all. Also, it was like step aside Kenyans, the white bitches are here to take over the school for a day. And the Kenyans loved it, because we’re somehow qualified and know what we’re doing…I never ever thought I’d be able to write that sentence. Teaching alongside my fellow PCVs was an eye opening experience. The host of the camp has the most respected and professional presence at her school. I was moved by her ability to maneuver 170 of her female students, while simultaneously interacting with her Kenyan colleagues. And I got to talk about how amazing menstrual cups are all day! There is no doubt in my mind that this is the first time any of these girls have heard of one, so they were loud, rambunctious, and filled with questions. Just the way I like it! Explaining the way it works, holding up a vagina model (met by an eruption of giggles), teaching the outer parts of the vagina, encouraging them to get to know their own bodies, and demonstrating insertion of the femmecup, left me without a voice or a worry in the world at the end of the day. I returned to God Ber with a slew of new ideas for empowering my girls.

But, the high was very short lived, as I was slapped back into reality on Monday morning, when my arrival to school was met by the worst caning incident I’ve witnessed in my time here. The day floated by in a haze of impossible conversation with my principal, angry tears, and Jenny’s comforting voice leaving me empty and beyond exhausted. I guess coasting through this second-to-last-term at God Ber is not going to be an option. I’ve gotta keep being who I am everyday, no matter the consequences. The great thing is, I finally found the courage to face the most intimidating man I’ve ever met. Before all of this, I don’t know if I was able to face any man in a healthy way. And even better, I’ve formed meaningful relationships with all my colleagues to the point that we can openly disagree. Rainman, Deputy Rose, and even the principal are willing to listen and talk. And after the incident on Monday, Rose promised that conversations on alternative punishment methods will follow.

I knew the day would come when I walked into the classroom and felt overwhelmed with nostalgia about leaving this place. My form 2s chose which subject they’re going to continue with next year, so my physics class can gone from 68 to 11. And I’m loving it! This term is going to be fabulous for getting to know those kids even better in such a small class. Yesterday I almost started crying looking at each of their cheeky little faces. Not that I’ve got a countdown going on or anything, but with a little over six months left, things are starting to look a little different, sometimes. Most of the time they just look weirdly normal. Things that used to be so foreign, so uncomfortable and unknown, are now just, plain normal

A List Of A Few Things I’ve Become Accustomed To

*A muddy compound strewn with bits of trash, avocado rinds and pits

*Being surrounded by students at all times

*Sharing a choo with all the other teachers and the girls who are boarding

*A choo

*Lavin and Frank and Fidel making my house their own

*A staffroom full of paradoxical friendships

*The breath taking sunrise over Kisii-land Hill

*The majestic double rainbow that must have been a painting

*Lake Victoria far in the distance framed by layers of hills

*Soldier’s jagged tooth smile shining as he holds my hand for minutes as we stutter in Kiswahili

*Shaking hands with more than ten people everyday, sometimes more than once with the same person

*The smell of a wood fire from the kitchen, occasionally transporting me to Deer Creek

*The novelty of my whiteness

*Being alone/Feeling alone

*Brushing mud chunks off my legs before getting into bed every night

*Scrubbing my clothes clean with tingling hands

*Tucking in my mosquito net

*Heating my bath water (on the occassions that I actually bath, ahem)

*Sucking down two or three smooth, sweet avacados at a time just after school when my tummy is growling

*The deafening sound of the rain on my tin roof, all night long

*The slippery slope down to Oyugis

*The flooded river at the bottom of the hill

*Mud caked shoes in the dark

*Basins-basins everywhere!

My first class on Tuesday is at 7am: Physics Form 1. I had been looking forward to it for classes, as I had one of my favorite demonstrations planned: swinging a bucket full of water around and over my head. I must have used a smaller bucket or something last year, or maybe I was just still delirious from the previous day’s events, but for some reason I decided that I was capable of swinging a 20 litre bucket full to the brim around my head.

“Alright form ones!” I exclaimed, with way too much enthusiasm for a Tuesday morning at 7am. “I’m going to swing this bucket around my head. Who thinks the water will fall out and get me all wet?” Ten to fifteen students raised their hands. “And who thinks the water will remain in the bucket, and I’ll stay dry?” Five or less students raised their hands. “And who isn’t willing to guess either way?” The majority of students reluctantly raised their hands. With a smirk, I replied, “Okay, let’s give it a try!”

Fearlessly, I started swinging the bucket from side to side gaining momentum. ‘Hmmm, it feels a bit heavy,’ I thought, ‘but this is Physics, Emily, believe in the power of Physics!’ I’ll just say I should have practiced swinging 20 litres of water over my head before attempting it in front of 62 high school freshmen. Laughter may have erupted after I was drenched, but I’m not really sure. I just wasn’t phased by it all. ‘Okay, now I’m covered in water and every form 1 is staring at me,’ I thought. ‘How can I save this lesson?’

“Well, let’s just try again with less water! I’ll empty the bucket to half full.” I proceeded to ask the same questions as above, with most students now voting that the water would fall out of the bucket. With a half full bucket, I began swinging it from side to side, gaining momentum before swinging the bucket all the way over my head several times, without spilling a drop. I did hear the oohhs and aahhs that time around. “Who is brave enough to try?” Crickets chirped. “I’ll give you a small prize.” Julliah’s hand immediately shot into the air. As she stepped forward and succeeded, I glanced down at myself to survey the damages. Yep, I was soaked. ‘No time to worry about that now!’ I thought, ‘Gotta get these kids inside to recap.’ So we all marched back into the classroom, and I finished the lesson, ignoring the fact that I was dripping on students’ exercise books throughout.


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