A letter from YAV Josh Orem in Kenya
February 9, 2010
Alright all you newsletter readers. Here it goes. This is actually my first newsletter. I know I was supposed to write this earlier, but I have been too busy enjoying the Kenyan life to get around to it.
Thus far my experience in East Africa has been incredible. Some aspects of the culture were daunting at first, but I think I blend in here pretty well now (yeah right). The bulk of my time is spent in the ridges of Gatundu district, which is about an hour by bus from Nairobi. I am a mwalimu (teacher) at Icaciri Secondary School. The school is primarily a girls boarding school, but there are also local students, some of which are boys. Much of the subject matter is similar to a U.S. education, but a big difference is the structure and presentation of the materials available to the school. A big part of my time here has been forming relationships, not just with the students, but with faculty, as well as with local people I come in contact with. I have enjoyed learning the languages here so that I can try to communicate more with the non-English speakers. On some of my school breaks I have been fortunate enough to do some traveling around East Africa. In November I went with some other YAVs to Uganda to go whitewater rafting on the Nile. That is an experience that I never in my life expected I would do. In December I spent about three weeks living with a Lutheran pastor in the Pare Mountains of Tanzania. From the top of the mountain I was living on, I could see Mt. Kilamanjaro.
Every day was an adventure in T. Zed. as they call it. Also less people spoke English there, hence my Swahili improved greatly. In January we had a YAV retreat on the Island of Zanzibar. This was a very eduational yet relaxing week. Along with learning about the history of the slave trade I also got to swim with wild dolphins in the Indian Ocean. Not everything here is fun and games though (although a lot of it is). There are some projects around here that I have recently been giving a lot of thought. Jacob and I have become good friends with the matron of the Gatundu Children's Home.
This is an orphanage for school-aged kids. I have asked my home church in Shelbyville, Indiana, to give enough money to fund a girl to start her freshman year of high school. There are many other needs at the Children's Home, but this was one of the most pressing. In the future we may help them with their goal to get a washing machine. With 45 kids who like to play, that is a lot of dirty clothes to wash on a daily basis. Another goal of mine is for the students at my school to have access to reading material. Currently there is no library at the school, but I see a desire in the students to read something other than text books. I am currently trying to figure out the most cost efficient way to get used books from the U.S. to Kenya. (Any suggestions?) I would like to have some sort of self-sustainable library going here by the time our term is up. I would also like to get a ping pong table fixed. Some schools in the area have table tennis as a school sport, but right now we don't have a working table.
Having spent many, many hours of my life with my friends playing this sport, I think that it would be fun to get it going at this school.
Anyway, my time here in a nutshell, amazing. This is a trip that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Thanks for reading,