Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Times are a changin'

Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep
it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back. ~Harvey MacKay

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to return to Oloitokitok (or the 'Tok for short) where just over 2 years ago to date I began my training to one day become a Peace Corps Volunteer. In the last 2 years, I had not had an opportunity arise when I could make the long journey as the road used to be difficult and travel to the 'Tok would have required at least 2 days in each direction. Times are changin', however, and now there is a tarmac road that goes from Emali (on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway) straight to the 'Tok. Total travel time from Nairobi is about 3.5-4 hours these days. As a result of this new road, I was able to travel to my training site from my home in one day - a feat I would not have thought possible when I first arrived at my site.
Image: Mt. Kilimanjaro as seen from Oloitokitok.

In Oloitokitok, I had an opportunity to meet the new Math/Science Education Trainees (soon to be Volunteers) as I was part of a group of current volunteers - we had a small presentation on what the Diversity and Peer Support committee does, of which I am a member.

The trainees' enthusiasm for their upcoming swearing in, as well as sitting through and reminiscing during the sessions about the "roller coaster" that is Peace Corps I could not help but reflect on what I've seen during my 2 years of service in Kenya.

In my 2 years as a volunteer I have seen many wonderful and amazing things: I have seen countless wild animals in their natural habitats (rhinos, lions, warthogs, giraffes, water buffalos, zebras, etc.); I've seen how the eyes of young children brighten up just from a simple greeting; I've seen a Solar Eclipse without obstructions blocking my view.

I have also seen some very important changes in my community: I have seen youth start their own (successful) businesses; I have seen my students learn and understand how to use computers; I have seen other students understand concepts of psychology - in fact today one of my former students told me "we all did very well Mwalim (teacher). All of us passed the Human Growth paper." [Note: Human Growth is the overall topic of which I teach introductory psychology and developmental theories]. I have seen my town start using old oil drums cut in half as public trash bins; I have seen my school more than doubles the number of computers available to our students' usage.

All the wonderful things I've seen, the places I've been, the things I've done. Does it all matter in the end? Well, yes it certainly does. Experience is one thing that cannot be taken away from me - even if one day I will be bankrupt and loose all my material possessions, or (more likely) if I joined a monastery and gave up all my material possessions - my experiences will always remain with me. And what's more, my students will have with them the experience of having been taught by a person from a foreign land - a foreigner, become local, who has taken time to live in what was once a different culture to show he cares about their well being and advancement.

Alas, the times continue to change... soon I will see most of my fellow volunteers, whom I trained with, heading back to the States, whether directly or after other travels, and I will remain as one of the few wazee (lit: elders; in this case referring to 3rd year volunteers) as I will continue to serve my students, my community, my school, myself for an additional year as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

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