March 29, 2003 - St John Fisher Chapel University Parish: Peace Corps Volunteer Aaron Boyle in Kenya

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kenya: The Peace Corps in Kenya: March 29, 2003 - St John Fisher Chapel University Parish: Peace Corps Volunteer Aaron Boyle in Kenya

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, June 22, 2003 - 10:23 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer Aaron Boyle in Kenya

Peace Corps Volunteer Aaron Boyle in Kenya

Peace Corps Volunteer Aaron Boyle
Commissioned by the St. John Fisher Community

Welcome Home Potluck Dinner
Saturday, March 29, 2003 at 6:30

After dinner there will be an informal program on Aaron's Kenya experience and an update on the Outreach Kenya project by Sr. Mary Ann. Please sign up on the bulletin board in the gathering space.

Shikamuu!! (a popular greeting in the coastal region of Kenya). Aaron Boyle, age 23 and a lifetime member of the SJF community, has begun his Peace Corps assignment in Kenya, Africa. Aaron has adapted well to the spartan life of a Peace Corps volunteer. Besides learning Swahili and the customs of Kenya, he has resigned to co-exist with the diverse population of animals and insects that inhabit his world. He has acquired all the native skills necessary to maintain a house as he lives by himself and does all his own cooking and cleaning; not a simple task considering his dwelling has no electricity or running tap water. He has become accustomed to reading and writing by candlelight and cooking with hot coals. Aaron teaches biology and chemistry to freshman, sophomores and juniors in a small, all-boys, secondary school in Jilore, Kenya. The village of Jilore is located approximately 30 km west of the Kenyan coast. The school is a four room building; housing 130 students. Aaron has also been asked to develop an AIDS awareness curriculum and begin formal classroom instruction with the students. Aaron would like everyone to know he appreciates your prayerful support of his work in Kenya.

Journal No. 1: Arrival and Training

Aaron's Home Page

My dear friends and family, Hamjambo!!!

Happy greetings from the peace and beauty of Kenya. I arrived safely and smoothly three weeks ago with my training group of 19 educators. And in that purely Kenyan way, we've been intensely busy in an astonishingly laid-back manner from day 1. I'll try to give you a look into the happenings thus far...

I am now in the midst of the mentally demanding, physically draining, emotional gauntlet crash course challenge known as Peace Corps Training. Every blink of the eye brings a new learning experience. The best part so far is all the people I have met. It is quite unbelievable to me how comfortable I feel even though there is not one single person around me I have known longer than 3 weeks. My fellow Peace Corps buds, trainers, and surrounding people of the community are individuals with such a wealth of caring, honesty, insight, support, and friendliness, I know my interactions with them will prove to be nothing less than the most impactful experience of my life.

Training is focused around three main sites here in Naivasha. First there is the actual training center which is a quaint compound of small classrooms, meeting rooms, and a main hall. There we have language class, administrative meetings, health seminars, and other group events. The view from the center never fails to take my breath every time I turn my eyes in that direction. We are perched on top of a hill which slopes down through a stretch of acacia trees and out to the grand Lake Naivasha which sits about one mile from our vantage tucked into a horizon of mountain peaks. It could very well be a Hollywood backdrop they are fooling us with, it is so picturesque. Life at the center is quality. The wonderful staff maintains a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of opportunity for destressing with board games, tossing a football, or just lounging on the soft couches with a warm cup of chai. I of course cannot leave out the first-rate and plentiful food. The center is truly our safety net and sanity saver to fall back on in the trying times.

I am living with a host family close to town and this is the basis of our second mode of training. It is a relatively plush house with electricity and running water. The family is quite accommodating and helpful. Mama works in town during the day and Baba is in Nairobi during the week so I don't see much of him. There are four kids: three girls ages 12-14 who study lots and take care of most of the household work. Then there is a 5 year old boy who is the very antithesis of silence yet an excellent Kiswahili teacher for me. It is here at home where I am learning how to accomplish the day-to-day tasks. I am slowly learning how to prepare all the wonderful African food I have been eating, how to maintain a kitchen and clean house. I have become quite proficient at doing laundry by hand and bathing with ~6 liters of water in a basin. We also have some structured activities with the family to help us investigate cross cultural differences.

The last main component of training is an orientation to the Kenyan Education System. We work very closely with a former science teacher trainer from the University and also carry out a compact student teaching-type experience at a local school. I am at a four room, 7 teacher school outside of town where I have been teaching Bio 1, Bio 2, Chem 2, and Math 1 a few days out of the week over the past four weeks. I will be done soon which is good because I am getting frustrated at how the teachers see me not as a mente but rather as a gopher to dump off as much of their work as possible. I am learning that the Kenyan Education system, put as culturally sensitive as I can muster, is a haphazard, ridiculous mess. Right now, I can just look forward to getting to my school at my site and doing what I can from a more established position there.

Speaking of my site assignment, I should find out where I will be placed this coming Monday. Then, on the week of Nov. 6 I will visit my future home and work place. So far, I have done a little travel with my group on weekends. This Saturday, some of us are going to nearby Mt. Longonot to hike to the top and see the crater. The philosophy of transportation in this country is indescribable. Let me just say that I have no doubts that Kenyans could easily win those asinine college competitions of how many bodies can you squeeze in the little car. But then, they would wonder 1) why are we not leaving on a sweaty, day-long ride, and 2) where are the goats?

Thank you so much to everyone who has written and e-mailed. It is wonderful to hear the news of friends and family. I am very sorry I cannot respond to all e-mails. The IT systems here are monumentally inconvenient in many ways. I will answer all written though for sure!!! I hope everyone is having a great time at home, work and school. Take care and I will be in touch!!

Love, Aaron

Next: Journal 2: Village assignment and life.

Journal No. 2: Home in Jilore

Aaron's Home Page


This is a popular greeting in the coastal region of Kenya, my new home for the next two years. I spent the week of Nov. 6 visiting my future school, community, and house. I will be living in a tiny village called Jilore. To get an idea of where this is, you can locate the coastal town of Malindi on your map of Kenya and put your finger on a dot about 25 km inland from the ocean.

I have a small house in the middle of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. It is in a brief clearing next door to the forester's house but that about does it for any marks of civilization within 2km. It is very peaceful. The village center is really only a small collection of several huts and two dukas (which literally means store, but in America they would be called nothing more than a roadside stand.) Here, you can buy soap, toilet paper, bananas, and soda. And if you think you really need anything else between market days in the town down the road, it's time to bust down some illusions. A defining element in my impression of Jilore and the coast in general comes through the banana situation. First of all, they are wonderful, like all the fruit of the region. Secondly, they cost just one shilling, no need to bargain. They exist in such a combination of abundance and necessity, you could almost forget they are there. To make an American comparison, bananas could very well take over as pennies. Indeed, you can receive them as your change.

My school is a 6km bike ride from my house (Peace Corps is providing me with a nice mountain bike!!) It is a boys secondary school with about 130 students adn 11 teachers. There are four classrooms, a small admin. building, a nice, open-air staff pavilion of sorts, and a quite run-down small lab/library building. I will most likely be teaching Bio 1,2,& 3 and Chem 1 & 2. I am also planning to work on developing the lab, stocking the library, and possibly getting a kitchen/dining facility built. My fellow teachers are a great bunch and I look forward to some great times at the school.

I will be heading out to site for good on Dec. 10. Once there, I will be taking mail at the school address. So all letters/aerograms can be mailed to:

Aaron Boyle
c/o Jilore Secondary School
P.O. Box 818 Malindi, Kenya

Any packages, be they airmail or surface, should still be sent to the Nairobi address and they will be forwarded to me via secure Peace Corps channels. It is the same address I gave you before except with PCV after my name instead of PCT. To account for the delay in international delivery, use these new addresses starting now.

In the meantime, we are into the final stages of training. Having seen houses we can call our own and tasted the more independent life at site, the general mood here is turning to a pressing anticipation to be moving on. We will certainly miss each others company but it is time to get started with our assignment. That is the Peace Corps experience we signed up for. For now, I am really enjoying my studies in Kiswahili. It is such an amazing language. Nouns don't have gender distinction but are instead divided into 7 different noun classes, all of which take their own agreements for adjectives, pronouns, conjunctions, etc. It is complicated but the effect is a very alliterative and rhythmic spoken expression for everything. For example, even some inane sentence like, "today for lunch I ate very sweet pineapple and some good potatoes" comes out sounding like something you'd think was poetry about sunrises and rainbows: "Leo kwa chakula cha mchana, nilikula mananasi matamu sana na viazi vingine vizuri." It is a very fun language to be working with.

Speaking of food, many have asked me about the local cuisine so I'll try to give you an idea. First of all, let me say the ingredients are pretty much the same as in America, it's just the approaches to preparing which sometimes differ. There is a definite focus on all things starch. Each meal usually contains ugali or rice. Ugali is like a pasty oatmeal prepared by adding corn flour to hot water and artfully stirring it to the appropriate consistency. This starch is then usually served with more starch in the form of vegetables fried together in oil. My favourite meal so far is kienyeji ya maharagwe which is boiled beans and potatoes mashed together with onions and maize. In the central area of Kenya I am living now, there is not much spice used but the blandness grows on you. However, where I am headed on the coast, the Arabic and Indian influences bring about much more spicy food. The fruit option is also much more plentiful creating a greater variety of dishes. I had a wonderful breakfast in Mombasa I plan to repeat many times. It is called mbaazi and it is pretty much baked beans with hot peppers topped with some thick coconut milk. sooooo yummy! I'm excited to pick up some Kenyan culinary prowess in my stay here.

I hope all is well back home. I hope you are not being drowned in 24/7 CNN coverage about 19,000 embarrassed Florideans who kicked the demos out of democracy. I miss you, take care, and I'll be in touch.


love, Aaron

Next: Journal 3: Settling in as a Peace Corps volunteer.

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Story Source: St John Fisher Chapel University Parish

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Kenya; PCVs in the Field - Kenya



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