Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting tested again

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~Mahatma Ghandi

“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” ~Buddha

In a previous blog, I recounted the tale of my very first HIV/AIDS test in a Voluntary Counseling and Testing center (VCT) in Kenya at the Mombasa trade fair.

At the end of that blog post I mentioned "In three months, I will go take the test again. I can only imagine what I will be thinking/feeling at that time."

So it is that exactly 3 months after my first test, on Friday November the 13th, I went to a clinic where Rachel works. Though she was not here at the time, I enjoyed a conversation with the staff at the clinic answering the typical question "umepotea wapi?" (Eng: Where have you been lost?). I replied "kazi tu, baado niko shule" (Eng: just working, I'm still at the school).
After about half an hour or so of just chatting, I mentioned to that I was stopping by that day to get tested.

Having been tested before, I thought I would be less fearful of testing positive. Now at this point, the testing procedure was the same as before (brief recap):
First of all, the counselor asked me some things to gage how much information about HIV transmission I know.
Then, the counselor then continued to ask for some information to fill out a form (not including my name).
Next, the counselor and I discussed the testing procedure. Then with little warning, the counselor pricked my finger and gathered enough blood for the test.
During the waiting for the test to be complete, we briefly discussed my role in the community (US PCV; teaching at North Eastern Province Technical Training Institute; working with NGOs) etc.
Then the test results: Negative. I breathed a sigh of relief.
We briefly discussed ways to prevent infection once again and then after that I returned to talking with the clinic staff I was hanging out with.

Realizing I have taken every precaution to prevent myself from getting HIV/AIDS (while still treating people living with HIV/AIDS as human beings) I was still somewhat concerned that there might have been something I missed.

Something was different this time, though, compared to the first test. This time I knew how the test would proceed and yet even knowing this I was still concerned that I might be infected. Yet even though I was fearful of the results, I knew that it did not matter. I knew that whatever the results were, this is what the results are meant to be. No matter whether I were to have tested positive or negative, I knew that the results would have been the way things are meant to be and that I would continue to live my life's purpose either way: A life of service.

Small victories

"To lose your way is to find it." Swahili proverb

So I've come to a realization that I thought I had come to and immersed myself with this understanding however recently I was shaken out of it and have found my way back to this understanding.

One year and a few weeks have passed since I made my journey into the unknown life of a Peace Corps Volunteer. One year has passed as I continue to see the world in a different light.

At one point I thought I had realized that in a short time such as two years, I was more likely to change than the community I was living and working with.
Now, certainly, there are plenty of NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) and other organizations that stay here for a longer period of time and even then they are not always able to make a lasting difference.

I thought I had realized a few months ago that the best thing to do is to make a small difference in the lives of some people in small ways.
I thought I had realized that me making a large measurable impact on my community was something that is realistically not achievable.
I thought I had realized that I would change more than my community when I came.

Somewhere along the lines, probably recently, I lost this understanding and began to think/feel that I have accomplished nothing in my first year. Given that I have not been in one place for the entire time, things have turned out to be slightly different.

At any rate, thanks to a brainstorming session with another volunteer in Garissa, I got my head screwed back on right.

I've realized again that the largest impact I will make will actually be a combination of small victories with smaller projects or planting of ideas or small things to do.
For example, inspiring Kenyans to volunteer: small victory(?), measurable? no.
Another example: passing on computer skills to Kenyans: small victory (individually perhaps?), measurable? no (at least not the full impact of them having gained the skills).

That is how I've lost my way to find it again.

I wonder in what other ways I might have lost my way to and have not yet realized it to find it again.. hmmm.. a topic for another blog another day. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


“Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!” ~Amanda Bradley

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” Frederick Keonig

It's that time of year again.. I'm sure back in the States Christmas music is in the air on every single radio station. Counting down the number of shopping days to the fateful morning when all good little children will received wonderful presents and the naughty children will receive a lump of coal.

At any rate, in November is when the American Thanksgiving holiday falls. Family and friends gather together on the fourth Thursday of the month to rejoice, celebrate, and give thanks for whatever they have.
Since I will not be with my family physically this Thanksgiving, I thought I would write a thanksgiving note.

Now today, as I write this note, I want to briefly reflect on my life: past and present.
Of course, as time is relative, let my focus be in general terms of the many 'years' that have passed.

Through my journeys in this life, I have grown to be who I am today because of the experiences and people I've met and had contacts with throughout my life. I have no regrets of my past as everything that has happened happened for a reason, even if the reason remains unknown to me. As such, I would like to present a brief synopsis of major events in my life.

Birth and childhood:
It is quite evident that I am who I am today, in the form I am today, as my physical body was born on this earth. Throughout my childhood, I had many different role models and friends. Guides and teachers. Each and every person (and animal) I came in contact with left an Impact on my life and for that I am grateful.

Preadolescence/early schooling:
Changes happen in the world. As people grow older they begin to learn new and exciting things... Eventually the children of today begin learning in a formal setting which we refer to as School. School brings new opportunities to learn about things we never knew about before; New friends, new subjects, new knowledge. New ways to have fun and learn at the same time.

Adolescence/ more schooling:
Then as we progress through life more changes come. Old friendships are tested, new friendships are made. Some bonds become stronger as time passes.

Young adulthood (and present):
As the young grow older and have adventures that may take them far from their friends and family, friendships are tested once more. Old friends and new friends alike provide guidance and advice as we continue on our journeys. But even if the journeys take us far from each other physically, the impact of our friends stays with us throughout.
Something as simple as remembering a story (Turn left, turn left! NO, your other left!) can bring a smile to your face even in the worst circumstances.

No man is an island, as the saying goes, and since we are not islands we are social beings. We need each other to support us.

And so I would like to say Thank You to every person who has been a part of my life, past and present. For without each of you I would not be the person I am today.

In particular I want to specifically thank my family for their support and guidance throughout the challenges I've faced and continue to face living in Kenya, Africa - physically far from all of my family members.
Additionally, I want to extend a thanks to my extended family (close friends): you know who you are. Again, thank you for your guidance and support throughout all the challenges I've faced. Thanks also for the great effort to keep in touch with me while I am half-the world away (literally).

Lastly, I want to extend a giant thank you to all of my teachers throughout my life. Not just the teachers in formal settings like schools though they were certainly very important in my development.
Equally important were all the other teachers in life: my friends, family, peers, even people whom I did not formally meet but had some kind of contact with.

A giant thanks to my Scouting family also. We are one light, brothers and sisters world wide. Even in Kenya, I've seen the true nature of the brotherhood of Scouting. So to all my Scouting Brothers and Sisters, thank you.
Similarly, a giant thank you to my fellow Volunteers - whether they be in the US Peace Corps or other service organisations a big thank you goes out to you for your support.

I truly am grateful to everyone who has touched my life and since I choose not to name ever single person let me just end with Thank you to one and all.

May you all be blessed and "may the force be with you".

Friday, November 20, 2009

Write me

Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow... ~Lawrence Clark Powell

OK, I'm coping this from another volunteer but still:

Grab a piece of a paper and something to write with. Now, write down my address:

Daniel Delgadillo
NEP Technical Training Institute
P.O. Box 239 - 70100
Garissa, KENYA

Write me and tell me anything... Tell me what you had for breakfast, what you had for lunch, the last movie you saw and how it was... Tell me anything. Tell me what you'd like to see me write about (or what kind of pictures to upload).
Whatever you write does not matter as much as the fact that you write me!

Thanks in advance for all your mail! :D

Thursday, November 19, 2009


"Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow." ~Henry David Thoreau

For anyone who follows this blog, you can typically guess that I enjoy a good walk around town, even if it's rather hot.
So I got to thinking about my perception of things from my pedestrian point of view.

When you walk you get a different perspective on things than when, say, you drive (or fly in the case of superman).
When you drive somewhere, or in my case take a matatu or taxi or occasionally a bus, you drive quickly and may not really have a chance to stop and enjoy the smell of the flowers. Or stop for a few minutes and look at the beauty of the animals which, even if you see them everyday you never step in the same river twice. When you drive (etc) you don't have a chance to stop for a chat and drink chai with a member of your community that you haven't met yet.

When walking you get a different perspective. For example, when walking I have a specific idea of how to get from point A to point B. If I try to give directions to someone who is driving I might not be able to provide accurate information. On foot, one can easily find a way between buildings and down small side paths etc. On the other hand, typically cars or matatus will not be able to travel through.
I was just thinking about a time when a friend of mine back in the US who is also used to walking everywhere was trying to explain to me how to get somewhere and she didn't realize at first that since I was traveling by car I would not be able to follow the path as she was describing.

Of course, by walking everywhere I also run into people begging and wanting to get something from the "rich foreigner" but in general I tend to make new friends and make new acquaintances and meet new people, share ideas, talk about the differences between the US and Kenya (and the lack of difference in the weather - "no Garissa is not hot, i'm used to the heat" please stop asking :D).

At any rate, walking every where leads to a change of perception. You slow down to appreciate life. You slow down to see and hear and feel a new aspect of life. Walking can also lead to a healthy exercise filled life which can in turn lead to loosing some 80+ lbs of weight :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes quotes

You are speaking English, yet I don't understand what you are saying. Does this situation sound familiar?

Each and every language is likely to have multiple dialects. For instance, the English spoken in New York is different than that of the Mid-west US, different than that spoken in Britain, different than that spoken in Kenya. Taking this one step further, the Kiswahili spoken in Nairobi is different from that spoken in Garissa than that spoken in Mombasa (not to mention the slang language sheng which is a combination of English and Kiswahili).

After spending some time in Kenya, you may find yourself adapting your English and your Kiswahili to the local dialect.

To shed light on some of the language differences, let's consider English in Kenya:

Trousers are worn outside, pants are worn inside. [In American English trousers are called pants and pants are called underwear]
A vest is also worn inside. [A vest refers to what I would call an undershirt in the US.]
People don't ask questions, they pose queries.
Instead of walking, I trek or I travel by footing (typically just referred to as footing).
Peanuts cannot be found in Kenya, only 'groundnuts'.
When someone is looking good, they are "smart".
You will fail to find corn, but you will find 'maize'.

Now that you know, you will be better prepared when you come to Kenya.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's official

“We don't have an eternity to realize our dreams, only the time we are here.” ~Susan Taylor

One year ago I departed from the known world, from my comfort zone, from all the wonderful things like constant electricity, driving a car, having fast reliable internet, and of course the cold water/drinks readily available - day or night..

I departed to explore the unknown, a life I had only read about and thought I was beginning to understand: the simple life. Yet it is one thing to read about simplicity and another thing to live it.

One year later... I miss certain things about the comfortable world known as the US such as cheese, cold water readily available, and most of all Mexican food. (For you all UTO reading this: Chino Bandidos needs to open up shop in Kenya!)
I also miss my friends and family: especially our road trips (Turn left, turn left! Your other left! Among other stories..); I miss going to see a movie and having lunch/diner with my family.

But all these things that are missed have been replaced..
In my new world of simplicity cheese is a rare commodity to find, and when found its all the better. Cold water is not readily available in my house but it is still nice to find once in a while. In fact, up to around 9:30ish in the evening a kiosk that my next door neighbors run has cold drinks available including water (and sometimes even ICE!) Though you really one does not truly appreciate cold water until you live in a place where the weather is terribly hot (similar to Phoenix) while also not having the luxury of having air conditioning in the car you are in (if you happen to be lucky enough to be in a car) and/or not having a fan inside the room you are in (or if you do have a fan - perhaps its not running because there is no electricity). Best part is, the weather is only going to get hotter during the next few months :)

I've also developed new habits and made new friends. Instead of going to the movies with my family, I will typically hang out with some friends around here. Occasionally we will watch a film or a TV show, but most of the time we just chill and talk. There are also other foreigners to hang out with which can be nice - at least we can relate a bit.

I've also gotten into the habit of walking a lot - almost everywhere in fact (as I've mentioned in previous posts). I also enjoy doing Yoga in the early morning or evening time (typically by candle light if there is no electricity). I've also gotten into the habit of cooking diner and eating by candle light.

All these things I didn't really expect as I wasn't really sure what to expect when I packed up my life for two years.
"How does one pack up their life for two years?" I find myself thinking as I write this blog. Well it's definitely not easy not really knowing what you'll need or wont need. The good thing is, you will always find a way to survive (like the locals) even if you don't have the luxuries of the lifestyle you are used to.

These days when someone asks me where my home is, I tell them "hapa Garissa kwa province" (Eng: Here in Garissa in province). (Province is a regional label for the area of town where I live). Occasionally people will clarify, 'I meant where do you come from' alas, that's a different question altogether since my home is, and will be, in Garissa for the next year.