Saturday, September 20, 2014

Week 2

This week was primarily filled with work.  As exciting as the status of my fellowship applications, the word count on my journal articles in progress, or the state of my burgeoning field of field notes are, I suspect the moments that I was actually out and about are of the most interest to the general public:

Excursion 1: One day this week, I was able to join a group of students on a service trip to a forest near the city. Along with a large team of park rangers, we worked to clear a lake from an aggressive waterweed. It was nice to get outdoors and do something constructive!

Excursion 2: I met a friend of a friend for dinner and a drink this week. I love how connected the world can be when people share their networks and link their friends! I know pretty great people, who in turn know pretty great people.

Excursion 3: Today I spent some time at Nairobi’s Storymoja festival. Storymoja is any English teacher’s dream! The festival brings together regional authors, artists, and creative to celebrate their work. I had the privilege of hearing the famous Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka speak this afternoon. He delivered a memorial lecture for Wangari Maathai, the first female African to with the Nobel Peace Prize for her sustainable development efforts. Soyinka also honored Kofi Awooner, the Ghanaian poet that was killed in last year’s Westgate attack. Soyinka’s lecture, entitled “The Parables of Wangari’s Trees” was both inspirational and thought-provoking. Soyinka spoke on a variety of political and touchy subjects including both terrorism and women’s rights. My favorite line from his speech was the following: “Just as one tree does not make a forest, so does one gender not make humanity.”

All-in-all, a good week.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Settling into Kenya

My first week in Kenya has flown by! It has been seven days of settling in (to the Lavender’s home, to my first research site, to the new time zone). So much is new; I have met dozens of people and learned many new names, routines, directions, and local nuances. I’m still breaking in my research shoes and adapting to life as a full time researcher. Each day is filled with novelty.

At the same time, Kenya feels familiar. There is something oddly comforting about the red dirt that instantly tints my socks, the obnoxious cries of the ibis as they move from tree to tree, the boda drivers huddled in the shade, the fruit stands just off pothole-studded roads, guards reclining in the grass, dogs that look identical to my own…  Kenya is just similar enough to its neighbor, Uganda, to immediately feel like home. I am sure differences will abound. But for now, it feels really great to be back in East Africa.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Bed #1: Istanbul, Turkey

Well, the journey has begun. Just one week ago, I was strategizing ways to fit my wardrobe under my bed to vacate the closet for my subletter. I was chastising myself for failing my “packing extra light” goal. I was laughing at a bar on Hermosa Pier with a few of my favorite Los Angeles friends.
Now, as I relish a few minutes in front of a fan in the very warm but beautiful Istanbul, I am preparing to head to my second country in a week. I can’t believe how fast my four days in Turkey have flown! I have walked countless miles soaking in the Turkish sites. I have had some good windows of friend time, with my hostess Shannon. I have enjoyed the juxtaposition of old and new that this city offers, the milieu of cultures. I have had some delicious food and have enjoyed playing with my camera again.
About a week ago, I was talking to my brother about the uncertainty intrinsic in my next six months. I said something along the lines of “I have no idea where I’ll be sleeping for 90% of my trip.” David responded, “As in you don’t know what the bedrooms will look like?” To which I had to admit, “As in, I don’t even know which countries I’ll be in some weeks, much less who I’ll be staying with.” We both laughed and I felt that flutter of anxiety patter in my belly. But the truth is, when I think about it, I am confidant that things will work out. I have countless offers for segments already. I have a network of people who believe in my project. I just don’t know how all the pieces will fit together.   

This week, I have been sleeping on the couch of a good friend, Shannon, in a suburb of Istanbul. Shannon and I overlapped for one year of graduate study at UCLA and now she teaches at an international school here. She was generous enough to host me during her first week of school (which all educators know is an exhausting week without the added burden of house guests!). I am so grateful for her hospitality!
My beautiful hostess :)