Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Small Changes

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the recent past, I was taken to Nairobi for a medical exam/check up. While in Nairobi, I had a chance to visit with some of my fellow PC-Kenya volunteers, and meet with other aid workers and volunteers from other organizations (such as DirectAida).

During our brief stay in Nairobi, we had dental and physical exmaniations to ensure our well being.
Upon my return to my community in Garissa I noticed a lot of small changes in the short amount of time that have occurred.

Some time during my college years, I once heard a saying that goes something like "if you put a frog in boiling water, the frog will jump out. If you put a frog in water and gradually increase the heat, the frog will boil to death."
Interesting saying with a simple reference: small changes occur over time even if we don't realize it. This is especially true for Peace Corps Volunteers. Often we find ourselves unsure of what to write about in our blogs as to us the many small changes that happen become common for us.
For example, while it may not be common for us to walk amongst sheep, camels, cows, and other wildlife in the U.S., this has become commonplace for me in my community.

Having spent a few days away from my town I noticed several small changes that have occurred:
For one, the gate at my compound has been fixed. No small thing, though since the first rain that flooded the road in front of my house it was a small daily challenge to try and walk out the gate having almost no solid ground to step on on the way in or out.

Another small change I've noticed is that my neighbor's dogs have not been out and about as usual. Two compounds/gates from me, my landlord lives and has a garage. His garage is fairly large and he has many dogs that are typically found outside of his gate playing in the road or resting under the shade outside. As of late, I think the dogs have stayed within the gate as there is more shade there (and the temperature seems to have increased - although this could be just my perception since Nairobi seemed cold to me.

Additionally, the number and types of birds at my school has changed. Before I left, there used to be a great number of carnivorous birds that enjoy eating scraps of meet and bone marrow from left-overs and trash.
Today, however, I was almost knocked out by a sparrow as he was flying and nearly kamikazied into my head.
At present, there are tons of sparrows flying around my school eating up all the insects they can find. They even fly at the walls to provoke the moths to move and be eaten in flight.
What I find particularly interesting/amazing/cool is that there are at least 2 different species of butterflies with particularly cool defense mechanisms. One of the species will be lie with one wing on the ground and the other straight in the air - which makes them look as though they are stones from far away. The second species can't even be seen and cloaks itself rather well with the sand (as the color of their wings is very simimlar to sand).

Yet another small change I've noticed is the way in which greetings have changed at upon returning to site. Typical greetings include "habari ya leo? habari ya kazi? Umeamkaje? Umelalaje? Mambo?" (non-literal translation: how is today? how is work? did you wake up well? did you sleep well?) the list goes on. However, upon return to site (and also typical after not seeing someone for an atypical amount of time) the greetings change to "Umepotea sana! Nimefikiri umerudi kwako/US" or "Umepotealea wapi? Nimefikiri umerudi nyumbani" (eng: You've been so lost! I thought you had gone back to your place/US; Where have you been lost? I thought you had returned to your place/US). In response to these greetings my response is "sijapotea sana. Baado niko hapa. Kazi inanendelea" (I haven't been so lost so long. I'm still here, work continues). Sometimes I might even throw in a "nydio, nimerudi nyumabni hapa Garissa" (Yes, I've come to my home here in Garissa").

Given the small changes that continue, it is very possible that, had I stayed in Garissa instead of traveling to Nairobi, I would not have taken great notice of the small changes as they grew over time with me.
I now reflect on my previous blog about how I've changed and I wonder what other small changes have taken place over time that I have not yet noticed as surely as I would have not noticed the small changes that have taken place during my brief absence from Garissa.

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