My First Day as a PCV

So welcome one and all again to The Wonderful World of Jon! On tonight’s episode we will explore Jon’s first full day as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) at site: the people he’s met, the observations he’s made, and the hasty conclusions drawn in typical fashion!

So let’s begin. I woke up this morning after a pretty rough night’s sleep due to a) the humidity b)the weird noises and c) the Peace Corps instilled fear that your going to get robbed at any time, all the time, and especially when you sleep (instilled so deeply that I fear even though I am living on a pseudo military complex, guards, gates and all) and d) the new sounds. I don’t like new sounds. They take getting used to.

Breakfast was non existent. This is actually a good thing, as I am on medication until tomorrow that is fixing my stomach. However one of the side effects is that it has reduced my appetite. Whatever. I would rather have a fixed stomach. I wanted to take a shower this morning but the water wasn’t working so I filled my bucket from my sink and had a cold bucket bath. One good thing about being in Mombasa, I won’t ever need to heath bath water. Mama did it in Loitokitok for me, and the humidity makes cold baths amazing!

I was brought food because I had none but I told the gentleman that I wouldn’t mind if he got my supervisor, the principal, Mr. Kamau because I had no means of contacting him, and did not want to be on swahili time for my first day alive. I needed food and water and as quickly as possible because I had neither.

So Mr. Kamau came, and as we waited for the private car to come get us, I met a whole bunch of people whose names I have now forgotten. But I did learn that I can receive mail through the school. The new address will be posted as soon as I get an email from mom with it, because I lost the sheet I had written it on (i.e. I am too lazy to walk to the kitchen to get it, but that may change after writing this, so check the “Contact Me” page for updates).

So into town we drove and stumbled upon some bold letters…

Nakumatt is the original department store of Kenya. Now let me inform you of a general rule of description when I am talking about Kenya. If I say a word such as super market, or store, or restaurant, assume that they are similar to their american equivalents, but not quite the same… There’s always something just slightly different about things in kenya. Maybe it’s the bars across all the serving counters, or the refusals of the waiters in the restaurants to write down your order (but don’t you dare get mad if they get it wrong…which they will… 99% of the time).

However, when I say that Nakumatt is department store, it is. It is 100% western-style through and through. It’s organizational layout is western, it’s brands are western, it’s pricing is fixed like western, it sells alcohol like in western civ. It was basically heaven. And it’s close by. I take a matatu to the ferry, take the free ferry ride over to Mombasa Town and it’s right near the ferry landing.

So at Nakumatt I successfully (though almost not-so) spent my money on the essentials. Now because I have electricity and outlets in my kitchen, I bough a two-burner electric stove top which will save me the hassle of worrying about gas or charcoal or firewood for cooking. And it’s fast, even heat, easily controllable.

Also splurged and got a percolator. Totally worth it. Coffee is a godsend after going without it in Loitokitok. Also bought my water filter. I may go back tomorrow just for the air conditioning and western-feel. There was none of this in Loitokitok, which is good because I guess it prepares us for the worst

After Nakumatt
So then I spent the next three or four hours cleaning. I cleaned dishes with my newly acquired soap. I cleaned countertops and cubbards (to no avail as termites just make the wood flake off all the time) and anything I could get my hands on. However, the water shut off. Apparently pipe water is turned on only at certain times of the day, and no one decided to mention this to me. But I know now and can plan accordingly.

Continuing on water, did you know the water around mombasa is salinated? Guess who was drinking it because he thought that the levels of salt were not high enough to cause problems? Guess who actually did all that and became dehydrated even more?! MEE!!!!

So this was not a good time because I was getting frustrated about the clean water (or lack there of) and the high salinity in the ground water, which makes it great for cooking at least.

I guess the next question might be so where do you get drinking water (because even kenyans don’t drink water with high salinity). Well you get it from the water man. Bring an empty jerry can and he will swap out the empty for a filled one for only 3 bob (smallest unit of currency i a 1 bob but they are phasing out). Of course, hauling the 20L Jerry can the 1km from the matatu stop to my house was not fun, but Karibou Kenya!

Then it was chilling time with the neighbors who live like 5 meters from me. One of the mama’s brought my half of a watermelon and I shared it with them. I love watermelon and Coast watermelon is the best in Kenya.

And then it was back to regular old chores and prepping for dinner. I had Spaghetti with pre made pasta sauce because I was too lazy to make my own and hadn’t had time to get fresh veggies and without a fridge veggies do not last long in this climate. I invited one of my neighbor’s brother Justice over because he is visiting and I met him yesterday and he’s a really smart guy and helped me out a lot the first night. Also made some coffee and some lemon cordial and cut up a mango (also provided by me other neighbor. It was a good dinner. My water pipe burst during it and started flooding my kitchen, but I got Mugo, Justice’s brother and head of the Physical Plant here, to come over with his wrench. As a thank you I let him have an Atomic Fireball. It’s always fun watching Kenyans eat Atomic Fireballs, as their diets are not nearly spicy enough to handle them and most usually spit them out. Hilarious!

So yeah, I am sure I Forgot somethings. Like my fourth neighbor is Mr. Dai Kato, a japanese volunteer who has been here a little under 2 years and is sadly leaving in March. He came with me to get water, and may come with me into the city on Sunday. He wants to learn as much english as possible before going home. I am impressed because he came to Kenya knowing almost no english and no kiswahili and he’s picked up quite a bit in two years. It takes a lot of guts to do that.

So yeah. After writing this I realized that maybe long posts are good. I don’t really like this narrative format much, so I might stop with it. Who knows what next post will be. In the meantime though, I got my address, so head over to the contact me page to send your letters!

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