Monday, July 30, 2012

Thoughts in Kiswahili

Unasemaje watu wa dunia, tukilea juuya shida yetu, halafu tutakua tukisikia watoto wanapocheka?
Penda, cheka, cheza
halufa hatakuna matata 

"What do you say people of the world, if we cry about our problems, then how will we hear when children laugh?"
Love, laugh, play
Then there will be no problems"

Passage of the day, Surah 8, ayat 53.

"Because God will never change the Grace which he has bestowed on a people until they change what is in their own souls, and verily is He who hears and knows all things"

Kwasababu Mungu hatawezakubaadelika kurahem amabayo katika watu lakini wanawezakubaadelika katika tegemeo, kwasababu Mungu anasikia na anajua kila kitu.

Ninafikiri kupenda Mungu ni kupenda watu wa dunia. Kupenda watu wa dunia hufai kuua mama na watoto wa dunia kwasababu utakua mpenzi ya Shaitan.

"I think to love God is to love the people of the world. To love the people of the world, you 

must not murder the mothers and children of the world because you will become the lover of 


Sunday, July 29, 2012

"Tell me about Kenya"

People like to ask me from America after a long time
"How is everything?"
This is a perfectly legitimate question considering that at worse, I am person number 400 on their fb contact, and at best, they are living fulfilling lives and weren't sure what to specifically ask me.
Though it's really hard, because I'm just tempted to say the same thing I would to any passing child who screams

"Nzuri sana, na wewe?" (Find, and you?)
And their response is always a mix of confused "What should I ask next?", or "Give me money!"

How about you?

This, so to say, is not a smack in the face for people who care to ask, it's just a question that's difficult to answer in two sentences, which I think is a fair attention span for someone online. And I honestly appreciate it when you ask, I'm just never sure how to respond without boring you all. So I guess if you're reading this and don't have time, read 1, 2, and 3.

1. Foremost, I am staying Loitokitok, which borders Tanzania, and perhaps most importantly, allows me to see Mt. Kilimanjaro from the distance.
2. My host family, Mama and Baba Abdul, are ridiculously nice. Baba has a quiet smile as he shakes your hand, humble about the fact that he works hard at Kenya power while Mama is louder than life, you can't walk down the street with her without saying hello to three of her friends, seriously. She is an entrepreneur who owns three tailor shops and dreams of doing even more. Their children are sweet and intelligent, and I hope to know them more even beyond training.
3.  Safety: The threat to Al Shabab is real, and I take it as such because the Peace Corps and US government takes it as real. I don't mind our travel restrictions because I know it's for my own benefit. The threat so far as been grenade attacks in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Garissa, which makes me nervous because we will be sworn in Nairobi.
4. Safety side note: Road rage is not as bad as Dhaka, but I have been hit by a motorcycle, no real injuries, but still not fun.
5. Nature: I've seen on the sides of highways, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, and even an elephant (covered in red dust, apparently to keep coal in Tsavo). I've been to a waterfall called Gorge 51 and I hope to go to Amboseli next week.
6. Work: In less than a month, I will have been trained sufficiently to work as a public health worker in Sagalla Hills, and I will have to test for intermediate mid level Kiswahili, or, Katika mwenzi, nitajifunza kufaanya kazi kama mshauri wa afya ya uma Katika Sagalla Hills, na, nitapimwa juuya kusema Kiswahili nzuri tu.
7. Food: Food here consists of goat meat, rice, a ubiquitous corn starch blob called ugali, leeks, spinach, and fruits such as avocados and tomatoes. My host mother is amazing at cooking pilau, which is a good stew with goat, tomatoes, Indian style spices, and special rice. She also makes the best chai laced with ginger, cinnamon and alechi
7. What do I miss the most besides family and friends: Toilets, really, that's it. I will miss the hot shower once I leave the house in Loitokitok. Fortunately, these are things I can live without and I don't really miss things like food, especially with fasting going on.
8. How about family and friends: I have a picture of my mom smiling at me whenever I use this computer, and I'm lucky for such great parents to call me every now and then. My friends...I think the first two weeks were so hard just because I didn't feel very connected with people around me, because I remember people like Graham, Haithem, or Tammy.
9. How about myself: What has changed in two months...I think in the sense that I'm okay being on my own. The only person that can validate is God and myself. And just as I learn His 99 names, I'm learning the meaning of my own and the world around me, just like God taught Adam since the beginning of our time.

That's what Kenya is like, for me. As much as I can say for it. It's long, but I think this is good reference if you ask me what it's like.

Then again, it'll probably change when I move to Sagalla. No electricity, no Americans, and hopefully, less of an ego.

God bless you all,
and Ramadan Kareem

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mist morning

Rose dew mist, sun lit tryst
Does a good job of uncurling that fist
To simply just exist

Fall in love with a single raindrop
Then you can forget what disappointment is
When the tear bounces off your skin
In its attempt to cover you all of you

It's clean because its full of life, simple really
How can you ever be disappointed with that effort?

Hayo Macho

Haya macho yanataka kuwashi hiki kikombe
Chemsha, chemsha,

hii mikono, hivi vidole,
Ambavyo vinahisi na dawa ya dunia
Vinataji kuhisi moto tena

Kidogo kidogo

Inua vachopena
Busu kinachokuuma sana

Kwasababu kupenda
Na Kuumwa
Ni kujua Mungu

Hiki kikombe,
tunafaa kunwya salama

These eyes want to light this cup
Boil, boil

These hands, these fingers
Which have felt the blood of this world
Need to feel warm again
Little by little

Raise that which is loved
Kiss that which hurts terribly

Because to love
And to hurt
Is to know God

This cup,
We should drink peacefully

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


We are in Machakos currently to train in HIV awareness and prevention...and it's unsettling (though not in a bad way)

We have toilets, free wifi, people are using their smartphones (which means I am remembering again that people in America don't look at each other during conversations because refreshing facebook takes priority).

I am fasting fortunately, and the hotel staff is so kind that they even bring me food at 4:30 in the morning before sunrise so that I can eat.

I am not ungrateful, just really tired and sorta overwhelmed. There are three supermarkets here, full of bread, chocolate, juice, cheese, and many things that I'm prepared to forget about. I had chocolate milk, just because I could.

Solar panels are about 11,600 shillings if I remember correctly, that's about over 100 something dollars.

Anyway, maybe it's the fact that I get completely exhausted after breaking my fast (ironic I know), or just kind of dumbfounded by this luxury (did I say we have hot showers?), but I just want to forget and move on right now.

We went to a hospital today and saw a special section that is designed for the privacy of HIV infected patients. Care for HIV patients is so subsidized that the drugs and consultation are free, with much focus on educating the patients to continue their course of medicine to ensure health. If an infected person takes his/her's medication properly, he/she can live a full life, and that's at least one positive thing to come out about HIV for me so far in my time here.

Once again, the thing that keeps me going the most is learning the language here. I honestly don't know why I don't spend more time studying, it's well worth the time. I wrote in Kiswahili today my aspirations after the Peace Corps, going to Georgetown to get a Masters in Foreign Policy and Environmental Policy and Development, my maybes, such as joining the Army to pay for my Masters or joining the Foreign Service (either way, it's serve, and that's an important distinction for me), and my hopefully nots, that being in the Peace Corps will make me stop wanting to help people. As for the latter, as I wrote in Kiswahili, I doubt will happen, for if I am loved by my parents, then I can continue to try to make the world laugh.

On an interesting note, as I was waiting for the food to be served to break the fast, I quickly became impatient and went to my room, prayed, and then brought my guitar downstairs. Then I proceeded to play and sing.
I think it's easier for me not to eat than it is for me to try to make music.

Peace be upon you all

PS: There's pizza here?!?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stupid Mzungo, Roads are for Piki Pikis!

You'd think running through speeding traffic in Dhaka would have prepared me for this. You'd think constantly watching my left and right every time I walk would have saved me.

But no, I got blindsided by a damn motorcycle

Now I'll be the first to admit, motorcycles, or piki pikis as they're called here, are BADASS.
But when I made my list of things I do not want to suffer injury from, I thought about how being run over by an air loving motorcycle enthusiast would be on the top for painful!

But somehow things happen for a reason.

Well reason #1 being that I shouldn't have crossed and turned around to make sure my friend crossed the street safely. But I mean a deeper reason.

A sheikh gave me a book on the 99 names of Allah a few days ago, and I started learning some of them. Apparently if I learned anything after reading the Eragon series, it's that there are power in names. And one of the names in particular, was for protection. The one I recited the most though was Ar-Rahman- which means the Most Compassionate. The idea is that if I recite the name enough, the hardness of my heart will leave me.

Well, I woke in the morning, and decided that for I wouldn't bring my knife with me, which is the first time in Kenya. Then, before I left class, something told me that it was really important to put on my gloves. Those funky Everlast gloves that every person who thinks they can hide their opinion on wondering why I wear boxing gloves.

So when I turned around that fateful moment and saw the bike come at me, still having time to veer just a little bit not to hit me, I froze a bit, like a deer in headlights.

But something saved me, no, God saved me.


Think about it. The bike struck me on the inner right knee and I spun a full 360 landing on my gloved right hand. I got up, and though I was pissed off, I feared that there would be mob justice on the piki piki driver and decided to just walk home. Not a single scrape, especially on the hand which I landed.

Every day in this country I have been thinking what would I do if I was in danger, my first thought was always have a knife. But today, I didn't bring it. Today, I forgot about violence and thanked God that He kept me alive, and I walked away.

So yes, I have a bump on my knee and my right pinky is a little tender, but I will live. And those three words make me want to say three more.

Thank you God

And I will recite Your names more.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Everyone's a teacher: Dave and the chicken

The thing about catching a chicken is that even when you have it cornered, you still have to actually grab it and deal with its effort to be free.
And the thing about slaughtering a chicken is that even when you're on top of it, even when it's subdued, and even when you have the knife pressed to its throat, you still have be willing to cut hard.

But the consequence of slicing hard is that you know the consequence of it is watching her bleed away, Knowing you did it, and you better be fine with it because you're willing to eat the food God has given you. Apologies, I use religion here because the first reason why I choose to kill the meat I eat is because I should know the consequences of my actions, and I only use God's name for this heinous action.

Who else would I call out for when I do something so distressing?

I've killed four before in Bangladesh, with the chicken held down for me each time, and each time making some blunder or another, but this time was the first time I caught the chicken, killed it with no one else holding it, plucked it, and cut it.

But everyone's a teacher, including in this case, circumstance.

Dave, who was in Mali for a year as a Peace Corps volunteer, gave some really solid advice, that everyone's a teacher here, and that we can learn so much by just observing and putting ourselves out there. He also told me to stay in site for the first two months and if I ever get the urge to go back to comfort, calling friends, family or other volunteers, just go out and learn.
He told me that as an extrovert, he gained energy just from learning from others, though I'm not sure what I am (I test as an extrovert but I'm pretty sure I come off as introverted), I'll take that to heart and once in a while blog about the people I meet who have become my teachers.

In this case, I came to the Peace Corps to just learn and force myself through harsh circumstances to learn. In this case, circumstance taught me what I'm slowly beginning to conceptualize; you must have the agency to perform the actions you want to do. In this case, catch the chicken, as in, dive in and not be scared off by the energy emitted from her struggle. And in the later situation, be willing to go all the way.

Howa, my host sister, taught me a lot in her patience with me and is always willing to just be helpful. Together, we cut the chicken after peeling it (which unlike Bangladesh, where we just tear off the skin after death, they boil the chicken to then tediously pluck each feather out), and I watched her as she cut through bone and guided me through the process.

After that, we did what I've been doing everyday, practiced martial arts. After reading a manuscript from Bruce Lee, I decided that with her learning, I would focus less on teaching her my technique, and guide her to what makes sense and is comfortable for her.

In his words; "The way is no way", in that we should learn from every situation and let everyone and everything be our teachers, so that our lack of form shapes us into beautiful and unique human beings.

So, the cup is indeed empty, for we are willing to drink deep from life. Thank God we're lucky to be alive here in this universe, for we can change, and we can grow.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fear ends halfway at Fearless

Today, as I was lost in the middle of some sunflower field, quickly losing sunlight and maybe walking my 8th-9th mile of the day, I remembered a poignant conversation I overheard yesterday at Mahrutis (the local hangout bar we all end up after training days)

How the heck am I going to navigate without Googlemap?

I looked into the field and for a split second remembered with glorious dedicated detail of every time I've been late to work, meeting friends, or just too lazy to figure out an actual map and how I just plugged in the address into my smartphone (when its memory wasn't full with pictures of flowers and brownies) and just went out (and still ended up getting lost because I can't tell my north from south according to the sun).

One of my biggest fears I've stated before was getting lost in Kenya, and still is. I don't want to stumble into a different town in transit to some other place, step into the wrong matatu and just...

...wait what? What's the worse that can happen? That I get lost and get robbed or murdered? I find that highly unlikely because

1. I would have to deliberately travel at night
2. Not be prepared enough to keep emergency money in reserve
3. Tattoo on my forehead that I'm a terrorist


And then, as I looked into the sunflower field and not into my phone, which cannot transfer me into the magical land of the internet, refreshing facebook, finding inside joke humor on youtube, or any other way to outsource my ability to enjoy life, I remembered the fear I had earlier when I traveled to Outward Bound on my own, and the accomplishment when I navigated successfully based off of
1. Early preparation
2. Timely departure
3. Genuine determination to understand geography

And so today, I added a fourth category

4. Usage of skills learned relevant to living

And as a result, I used the Kiswahili I've been study and asked several people

"Ningetaka kuenda sokoni" I'd like to go the market. Because the market was near my house and a common landmark, I used the skills I learned here to travel through.

So yes, I'm still scared of being lost, but that shouldn't stop me from understanding things for myself so I can get stronger.

I became an RA so that I can help people who are in the worst of situations around me (suicide, alcohol poisoning, victims of violence) because I was afraid I'd be useless to help those I cared about. I became fire fighter because I was afraid that I couldn't even perform basic tasks (tie a knot, carry someone to safety, throw a ladder), and now I'm a volunteer so I can conquer my fear of being on my own in a different country in the most basic of living situations.

We are afraid of the things we believe we are incapable of handling, but that's okay, because with time and the agency to want to succeed, we eventually will fear them less. We just have to go all the way.
Sometimes technology helps greatly, and sometimes it helps so much that it doesn't actual help us grow from our fear. But technology won't always be with us, believe me, one day we'll find ourselves alone with that knot inside our heart, and the only thing we have is our own ability to say repeatedly, "it'll be okay" and move on through.

So that is why, fear ends halfway at fearless.
Because it's a journey my friends, one that makes us grow muscles in our feet as much as it makes us deal with the blisters.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spin kicks after sunrise

Concentrate, concentrate... you're going to jump, spin, kick, land and front kick forward. But first punch...maybe punch again.

Reality: The jump worked, the spin worked, and the kick worked. But landing back on the ground I faced the reality of not being centered and did a lopsided kick forward.

Then I felt the silent judgement of the kids on the open futbol field.
Though I doubt their judging is on my technique, I pretended it was.
Until next time.

Yesterday, while I took a break from class, I stared into nothing and opened my heart. In each beat I remembered the sense of power from my breath. I felt the energy rush from my chest into the palms of my hands.

And I punched the air with joy.

I have a strange enjoyment in fighting, because, though it might not be the same emptying feeling I get after praying, it's a reaffirming feeling I get when my breath falls in line with my body and I lay naked between the self and the physical realm. It makes me feel real.

There at the field today, when I decided to continue this desire into the early morning before class, I remembered how scary it was to be confident enough to tell myself I'm going to practice expressing myself out in the open. And watching those eyes on me from passerbys, probably shaking their head at that crazy brown possible mzungo, I told myself that it was time to not care and just focus on what I can do. And man, I felt real.

I'm not as homesick as I might've been, if I let myself feel it, but more importantly, I realize the importance of being on my own and enjoying what I do. I don't have to spend sleepless nights preparing for events (not yet at least), but I can just retire early, wake up early in the morning, study, say hello to family, and express myself in the most bare way possible and just be okay being me and being one with my heart.

To end the day, I carved "life is beautiful" on the wooden table at the bar we all hang out. I'm not sure if that was my actual sentiment at the time, or just an act in defiance to any inactive gloom I face. But it's done and the words and actions in making them exist, just like the punches I threw in the foggy first light.

And I encourage you to do the same.

Within the first hour of meeting Louis, I got to witness his passion of swimming, and after leaving Maungu I met a friend of his who told me how Louis would often disappear into the Indian Ocean for hours at a time, swimming, and swimming. This was a man who devoted his two years to women groups, school children, and farmers, yet there in the water, it was his time and his focus.

I respect that a lot, because I'm pretty sure I've been guilty of having no focus, and embarrassed of letting my passion of martial arts get in the way of what I'm supposed to do.
But honestly, at 7 am, is just waiting for class really what I'm supposed to do? I have time because I can make time, and so can you all.

Do you remember your passions? It's not too late, it's never too late. What makes you focused? What makes you laugh. Believe me, even in a situation where you're constantly bombarded with the new and the uncertain, it helps you help others to just remember yourself a bit.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Whispered in the winds of Kilimanjaro

Whispered in the winds of Kilimanjaro
Found in the fogs of Victoria
Here we are in the rifts of Kenya
Building bricks from the blood red soil

Ripped like road signs in the Tsavo rust
Burnt up charcoal from ashes to dust
The taste of fortune is bittersweet
Its kiss is cigarettes, and addiction keeps

We are a typhoon of mirrored change
A safari forecast of dreams deranged
Loneliness that leaves a lingering trace
Within this blanket struggle to better the human race

Screamed from the heights of Sagalla
Brushed by the sand dirt dance of Maungu
Scattered are we in the land of the lions
Missionaries to the God fearing

July 8th, 2012

So someone left the group on Friday, and it's taken me more than a bit to just process it.
I realized, it was less about the person herself, as great as a person she seemed to be, and more about the realization that Plan B in a realistic, and for some, a more viable option.

I think what struck me the most is how much I don't want to be reminded that I miss home, and that by missing it I'd give up a piece of myself and feel, I don't know, weak. That's really the not a healthy way to look at it, and to actually decide to leave the Peace Corps and Kenya must have taken a lot of courage, especially when you just said good bye to people a month ago.

But that aside, I am determined to be of some use to America, and more directly, Kenya. But considering that this post is supposed to be therapeutic in some way, I will admit to things that I miss.

1. Friendships: I always took it for granted that I can find and connect with people anywhere in the world. I found friendships in high school, college, Bangladesh, but for some reason, sometimes I just feel like there is no one I can be comfortable with here. Though I came to the realization before Kenya that I'm never really comfortable with most people, I usually can at least feel some ease. I think it's more of a me thing rather than the people around me. I'm more or less on edge all the time, aware of my money, safety, and being on my own.
2. Family: But that's a given

That's actually really it, surprisingly. I find myself missing Bangladesh actually more than America, just for the feeling of being with extended family and also the freedom of just being able to move around and eat kabobs whenever I feel like it. The food choices here, although not terrible, don't have much variety. Often times it will be something just mashed up together and served dry, not exactly my cup of tea.

Eh that wasn't really therapeutic, maybe because I know that this blog is public and intentionally so.

Things I realized about myself since coming to Kenya

1. Materialism: Man I used to not care that much about things I wanted in America, mostly because the things I really wanted were a given. Such as toilets! I miss toilets! I miss just sitting on one and not having to think (and as a result thinking about everything wonderfully superfluous, or reading, I miss that!). Here, the squats suck! I feel like a princess complaining about them, but I guess that's my pet peeve. I once went to a cho (their term for pit latrine), and saw that someone missed, which is normal sadly, but that wasn't the worse part. A whole gang of cockroaches, seeing how frightened I am of poop near my feet, decide to just chew on the poop till its gone. That was just a wonder flavoring don't you think? So yes, I'm materialistic about toilets.
2. Being a money hoarder: Freak, I get some weird enjoyment knowing that I saved money. Not because I want to spend it, because the only things I really buy are minutes for my phone, food, and chocolate (alcohol is the big expense here for most PCs, but chocolate is double price!!), but just so I know I saved. I need to find a bank to deposit this money so I don't have to stare at the fact that I'm saving. It makes me feel like Scrooge McDuck.
3. Fashion: I am not the most fashionable person in the world, but maybe it's a product of my prep school days and it's definitely a result of my mother and brother spoiling me with nice clothes (I don't think I've ever really shopped for clothes on my own), but for some reason, I get a keen enjoyment in wearing dress shirts. Not just because it's a nice thing to wear, but the very idea of putting on a shirt, one arm at a time, the feeling on my skin, and just buttoning up. Then putting on a jacket and sunglasses. I guess these last points all tie into the first point.
4. Nostalgia: The things you'll find on my person at any given time vary only slightly. If you somehow run into me in Kenya I can guarantee you that you I will be wearing one, if not all of these things:
a. My blue jeans jacket: I think about Bangladesh whenever I wear this jacket, sometimes I just wear it to sleep because I feel comfortable in it.
b. My father's golden aviators: Made in the early 80s, these sunglasses are older than even my brother, they are so old that as my brother quips "they went back in style". I wore these in Bangladesh, and fancy that another Awwal is wearing them as he travels around the world.
c. Grandma's prayer beads: I wear them around my hand less often than I did in Bangladesh, for they are fragile, but I still keep them on me.
d. Firefighter bracelet: A bracelet that can turn into 6 feet of life safety rope, David Hayashida gave it to me at the Fire Academy, and I still hold onto it just in case.
e. Small flashlight: A close friend gave it to me, a close ex friend though. I still use it though
f. Green utility knife: Same as the above, except switch it to ex girlfriend.
g. Leatherman: If I don't carry the green knife or a smaller one that my dad gave me, I'll carry Haithem's leatherman. But because it's so nice, I'm more afraid to take it out.
h. Checkered black and white scarf: Nostalgically, it reminds me of my MSA days, when we used to sell them, though I bought this one in Bangladesh. Realistically, it's good for protecting against wind, though terrible for crossing checkpoints because it makes me look Somali :(

Things that are still the same

1. Sunsets and sunrises: The times when you'll see me stop on the road are early in the morning around 7 am and in the early evening around 6 pm. It's breathless here, along with Kilimanjaro and the fact that the clouds hang so low here, I love it, as I have for the last two to three years, and I hope I will continue to love it.
2. Prayer still makes me calm: Ever since thinking about "the cup should be empty", my realization of the feeling I get after prayer makes more since. Sometimes when I'm lost, I enter the mosque (or mosquiti in Kiswahili) and pray. It makes me calm, and people that greet me with a traditional Muslim greeting reminds me of my faith being larger than just home. It's nice.
3. Poetry and music: I still write and still sing. Maybe it's become now more of a form of venting than expression, because I certainly did lament my thoughts out on Friday when I came home. But I now have a newfound sense of being able to sing for strangers. I'll sing in Kiswahili and that's another way I gain confidence in the language.
4. My principles: Courage, leadership, integrity, Grace, and Zen

They are my constants after God, and that's why I am still me.

God bless you all

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Cup Should Be Empty

The cup should be empty. We heard that a lot, an expression I believe is popularized by Bruce Lee, and one that makes more sense now for me at least. The idea that we let things fill up inside our head and soul to the point that we learn nothing new from the world.
How often do I realize that I do not enjoy the things around me because my own cup is full of my own regret, a regret that is not even cultured with my own young age.
Well so it is, right? Some people sound (and most probably aren't) simpler when they can say easily "I like everyone, they're nice", while I'd second guess everyone, valuing myself more than they are.
As a result, my own cup blocks me from enjoying anything outside. So I'll do my best to empty my cup into the arid ground in Kenya, and stop living inside my own head.

This definition of masculinity, that does not exist, being my heroic self, that has not formulated properly, I guess it's a goal I've been striving forward. How to be the best human possible without letting the chips on my shoulder grow and grow?
No burden should be too much for me at this age. None.

Peace be upon you,

Thursday, July 5, 2012

We are all fallen from here

We are all fallen from here
Each flutter of the eyelash is a heartbeat

Melting into one, then bodies become undone
Until we become nothing, nothing but particles of matter

We are all fallen from here
The jangles of your earrings are my surrender

Into the vacuum of each moment, shuddering and gasping for atonement
Lying to ourselves that is is forever, no,
this is never

We are all fallen from here
Every evening we leave Nirvana to melt in Hell
And how we burn


The nights in Maungu are filled with the practiced laughter of prostitutes and the drunken silence of the truckers passing through. It is a profound emptiness of the human spirit that only the scent of desperation can produce.

Even so, beyond the poverty, beyond the alcohol, children are playing ping pong after school in tournaments, women who were once walking the streets are making jewelry with pride, strangers from distant countries are leading an effort to fill the rusty landscape once again with foliage, and one mother dreams the type of dream that allows her sisters to work knowing that their children are safe in a nursery.

I met a Brit from a neighboring town whose research was the connection between home made pombe (or alcohol) and women in Kenya, and she did the most authentic thing an anthropologist could do, she went to work at one of the pubs. She described the silent addiction, the need that leads to women turning tricks, the violence, and the lack of hope. Even as I watched her curly blonde hair swirl through the wind in our open Tuk Tuk, I couldn't help but admire the sense of determination she had in getting the story of hidden out in the open.

Louis, the volunteer who we were shadowing, represents the best of the Peace Corps, in that he works with those who dare to strive to smile. Even in his last two weeks, he still makes eco charcoal out in the open on a jiko, roasting peanuts afterwards to hand out to the kids, he may have not been born in Maungu, but he certainly earned his Kenyan namesake "Mwademe", which means "Born in the day". He is part of the solution here, in a town where water is so little you have to travel two villages over just to purchase some, and I hope to emulate that. In a place where water is scarce, hope is not.