There is a peace corps volunteer at Mundaha, the village where I was teaching in 2002, and part of the area where I’m doing research. On Thursday, we went to visit a health clinic there and then ended up going to the NGO where she is working to ask for a room where we could type notes. Well, Joyce and Emmy (my research assistants) are good friend with most of the people who work there and we ended up just talking most of the afternoon, they with their friends and me with Jessica. It turns out that she is from the Detroit area, so we are just neighbors even at home. We didn’t get our work done, but it was a really good time. I think it was really good for Jessica to have a chance to talk to someone else who could understand both her own culture and the place where she is now. There were several things that I was able to explain a little bit more about the way things work here. It was also nice for both of us to have a long conversation in fast American English. It was funny, though – when we started talking, I could hardly get a word out in English, because I’m so used to speaking Swahili. It only took a few minutes though, to really get going. She got here just before I did in August and so will be here for a while. She offered to help continue our work if there’s something that we get started while I’m here. On that note, I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do to make sure that my work actually makes a difference here and benefits the community. I think that it will be very helpful, but I need to do good follow-up work.
It’s a little weird to have another mzungu in the village, because I’m used to being the only one. A little bit of me is used to being a novelty and I think that as much as I have days that I don’t like being the novelty, it’s part of my identity here and I think I feel a little weird to be sharing that with someone else. When I got to Mundaha that day, one of the shopkeepers thought that I was here. When I told her that, she said that several people have called here Sarah as she’s been around the village. At least if I lose my status as the only mzungu, I’m still known and loved around. I didn’t realize how much being a mzungu impacts how I see myself here until there was another one. If I’m honest with myself, there’s a part of me that want people to like me more. I also feel a little more self-important that I was here first and that I know my way around and people just know me. Isn’t that all crazy?! Anyway, once I get over it all, I think it will be really fun to have someone else around to share with and even someone nearby in Michigan who knows here.
On the way home from Kisumu yesterday, there was another mzungu in the matatu with me. At first we didn’t say anything to each other. I don’t usually talk to lots of other people, so why should I talk to someone just because they’re a mzungu? It’s always hard to know what to do. Sometimes I think we mzungu are just silly. Anyway, one of the Kenyans in the matatu asked her what she was doing here and they talked for a few minutes and then I asked her again what she had said she was doing. It turns out she is working for an organization that does sustainable development and is wanting to place interns in the area. She’s only been here for about 2 weeks. She also lives very far “inside,” which means far from the main road, not far from where my host mom comes from. So she could be a good contact for my research and also a potential source of partnership with people in the village here. If we had just kept quiet, we never would have known that we were doing complementary work. I told her that the 3 of us would need to get together one of these days to share about what we’re each doing. Maybe we could have a Thanksgiving party.