Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One Year Ago

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.
~Albert Einstein
As I was celebrating my birthday recently I had a reflective evening as to the differences in my life as from now and approximately one year ago.

Where to begin?
One year ago...
  • I was living in an environment with similar climate; hot and dry (at least during the summer). Currently its hot and a bit humid (as it is sometimes in Arizona).
  • I was driving a car to work, to school, to visit friends, to go to a movie theater, etc.
  • I was not sure where I would be the following year...
  • I did not know I would have the opportunity to learn Kiswahili and Somali languages
  • I did not know that I would have the chance to travel to the resting place of the founder of the world-wide Scouting movement.
One year ago, I was still living in my own little bubble not knowing much about the Kenyan culture and sub-cultures.
Well, I think you get the idea of how life was one year ago.

I have not yet been living in Kenya for one year. I came to Kenya last November and up until January I was in training. Following training, all of us volunteers were sent off to our respective communities with pockets full of patience and flexibility (and a sprinkle of humility).

Just before we left for Kenya, we had a brief staging event in the U.S. where we, the future volunteers, were advised to be ready and willing to adapt to the culture.

At the time, I had no idea what I was getting into.

Even still. I knew I was ready for whatever changes I would need to make - whatever I needed to do to adapt and to learn as much as I could about the culture.
After all, how many times in a life will I have the opportunity to travel to a different country and live as the local people do for such a long period of time? What's more, even if I will have further opportunities, I thought to myself, it is important to make the best of the circumstances you are in and learn as much as you can.

So with this in mind, I traveled for approximately 16 hours on two airplanes to arrive in Nairobi, Kenya late last year.

Fresh off the plane, I still had no idea what changes I would go through as I changed to face the challenges as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya.

During training is when the changes began... First, I learned to cook local food as well as food I like to eat with locally available cooking utensils. Next, I started learning Kiswahili as well as learning about the wonderful cultures of the Kenyan people and the different Kenyan tribes.
As time passed, I learned many vital skills: washing my clothes by hand, I learned the importance of learning the local customs to fit in better.

Through our training, and since then, I have had an opportunity to realize how I've changed in many ways for the better.
The most noticeable change I can say is my perception and reaction to time.
I realized how my perception of time has been clearly altered.
One year ago, in the U.S. I would typically get annoyed and impatient while waiting in lines of all kinds: waiting for a light to turn red, waiting for a coffee at Starbucks, waiting for someone to show up to a meeting that will be late, waiting for people at a summon stone (yes, I'm a geek. -- reference to World of Warcraft video game), the list can continue for ages so I'll cut it short.
At any rate, a few days ago, my supervisor had asked the deputy principal to take me somewhere the following day as the principal was traveling. I waited at the school having very little work to do (I finished my Introductory Training Course to become a Scout Leader with the Kenya Scouts Association). As I continued to wait, I found myself not caring so much about the time that had passed. The only thing that seemed to matter was the trip itself. Time passed... we had morning chai, lunch (and a soda), afternoon chai... and still we had not traveled. At one point I finally asked the deputy principal at what time he'd be available to go with me. His response was "tomorrow please".
Now, back in the U.S. such a response may have annoyed me as it would have seemed that I "wasted" the day doing very little work when I could have been more productive doing other things - i.e. meeting more people in the community; buying new clothes (that fit -- approx 60lbs lost); or had a meeting with other community groups I'm working with; etc.

All in all, however, issues of time no longer affect me as much. I enjoy taking my time walking around without having to worry about being on time or late for an event. Its amazing to be able to meet a complete stranger or even an acquaintance on the road and just spend time chatting with them over a cup of chai or even just taking a seat outside a nearby kinyozi (barber) or other duka (shop).

Going back to the list of differences, let's recap where I'm at now

  • I am living in an environment with similar climate; hot and dry (at least during the summer).
  • I walk to work, which is a school, to visit friends, I also walk to visit other community development organizations, to visit the local and provincial adminsitration and goverment development organiztations, etc. There is no movie theatre to walk to in my town, otherwise I might walk there on occasion.
  • I know where I would be the following year...but I don't know where I'll be in 2 years
  • I am grateful to have the opportunity to learn Kiswahili and Somali languages as well as to learn about the cultures
  • I hope to visit the final resting place of Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the world-wide Scouting movement at least once more. Also, in regards to Scouting, I have concluded my training to become an Assistance Scout Leader with the Kenya Scouts Association. Additionally, in regards to Scouting, I also look forward to take part in the Wood Badge training course and to part take in the Scout Moot here in Kenya next August.
I would like to finish this blog entry by saying this: most of the changes come without conscious awareness of it. I suppose the only obvious change is appearance (i.e. weight loss). Other than that, almost every other change that has occurred I've only noticed as a direct result of reflection on the differences in my life one year ago and today.
I'm almost certain if I was living in the U.S. today I would not have taken the time to reflect on how I've changed over the past year...

1 comment:

  1. Daniel,
    Somehow I suspect there are a lot of other things too, that you have been reflecting upon that probably never would have even ocurred to you had you remained in the States. Your grandma Dora was right to sense that there is no greater learning tool than to travel and experience other cultures, languages and customs. Thank you for reminding me of that, and for allowing us to live vicariously, albeit only a little, through you ! You make us all proud !! Love, Tía Raquel