Each day is so different and awing it’s unbelievable. Each day zooms by and yet (when I reflect on it) feels like at least a 2-day day.
The survey is underway and, even though I’m not even doing the hard part of actually administering the survey (which is done all by one person… the Outreach Coordinator, who is beyond amazing and has sat in the all sorts of places in the direct midday sun to administer over 225 surveys in 7 days). I have realized that having only two words (data collection) to explain all the time, effort, energy, patience and everything else that goes into actually collecting the data is just not enough. At least for me, it didn’t convey how draining and rewarding the experience would be.
One of the first days, I sat against a wall in an area I’m not sure how to explain (base 1). Its sort of like a garbage dump, but in other areas people often hang out so its like a messy (and less hygienic) dorm room shared by 20 students. We were there from 12 to 4 (so obviously when the sun is the hottest) and Dan went around talking to like 40 people while I was left to see if I could actually not sink in this situation (on so many levels… just one being that I have never been in a situation even remotely like this one and another that I came from a world so different than theirs that there are lots of different reactions to my presence). Some of my most vivid memories are being stared at so genuinely, eating French fries they made me and was served to me by the cutest 4 year old of one of street married couples, getting my hair braided (painful!!), trying chen’ge and actually having some conversations were I got a few things in Swahili. I’ve since had the opportunity to sit under a bridge (base 2) getting Swahili lessons and observe a baby playing with his mother’s glue bottle as well as see a chicken head be plucked and a finger that had swollen to over to three times its size shown to me. I’ve also been to this alleyway (base 3) where I sat on a trolley and spoke with two really good English speakers (always means I learn a lot about context!!) while sitting behind a glue dealer so I could see how that whole thing works and saw 10 year olds smoking joints later. Its crazy that people have don’t really have anything can be kind and offer to share their limited food with me. There is also always lots of questions comparing their reality with my completely different one (fave was their faces of shock when I said there are street kids in Canada and the US). Base 4 had more Swahili lessons, I butchered the language as I tried to practice it and was given an equal share of the food & drinks that were given to them by an Indian man (part of one of the religions here is to give food to the poor on Fridays). Another day we sat at a store front at one the junctions of the local food market talking with the older boys who sell bags, carry things and push trolleys for a living (base 5). That afternoon we sat in a park where I learned some card games and met some of the smooth talkers of base 6. One base was completely empty when we got there after walking there for over 30 minutes (bit frustrating but, since the population is so transient, its luck of the draw) and the 8th is by a river where everyone swims naked and close to the land the street kidsuse to plant crops that they eat & sell. Dan and I have walked all around town so he could survey them while they are working or begging in town. We have gone to each of the above bases multiple times because the population is really mobile and so there are always new individuals. We went to our first slum on Friday… and after 3 hours only found 5 people to survey – but we did walk in on a free shoe give out by Americans who work at a charity (or are the board of director members who have been to Kenya for 4 days for the first time). I felt like I was on a TV show with the production that this was and how revolutionary this one particular man he thought he was while being clueless about how disruptive they were being to the operations of the centre (Dear Donors, you have an incredible power differential with the people you employ and rely on you for a continued job & ability to help these children. Please be aware of this. Also, why don’t you try asking them how best to do your idea since they actually know how things work? Lastly, and this expands to so many other foreigners I interact with, stop embarrassing me as a fellow Mzunge with just being so out of touch with reality… your way is not always best – to illustrate here are two statements I got told recently: by a visiting doctor = I could go work at the baby hospital if I get tired of working with those street kids and want to remember that children can be good or American volunteer: asking, in complete shock, about if anyone had ever taken a bus here and then just not understanding that most people in the room would say they have because, as he explained, he has a driver drive him whenever he needs to go somewhere.
Life highlights – I went swimming for the first time in ages and remembered how much I love non salt water swimming. I have practiced for the Amazing Race (including trying goat tongue & face followed by a goat ear as well as a whole fish that was just fried [eating the brain or eyes were both beyond me though]). Swahili is consistently getting better. Watermelon and pears are currently in season J. Oh and I have taken over the ship that is the M&E project at Tumaini…. But let me give some background to that.
Three non-Kenyans have been leading the M&E project, which was (unfortunately) designed before any of us got on board with the project. During the revamp stages while I was in Canada, the focus was on photovoice development and getting ethics approval as well as re-defining how to measure the three dimensions laid out. Once I got here, its like the project was one of the foam things that grows 10x its size once put into water. I kept voicing my concerns about the size in the design stage, but everything fell on deaf ears. I even didn’t want to launch the project until we had all (Tumaini staff included) had systems for data collection, human resources feasibly planned and the ethics was written. Again, vetoed (you can imagine how well I was taking this dismissal and having to keep my opinions to myself as I was the new person at the table and so, for the sake of cohesion, could only pick a very few to fight for). We launched when we were suppose to… and then the other two basically disappeared. The survey takes up most of my Tumaini days (as I had told everyone beforehand and they thought would be fine since they would be here) and yet no one else is checking up to see if things are done, trying to hear the complaints of the people doing it and coming up with sustainable solutions, or supporting me at all in the survey data collection design, troubleshooting or entry. To keep my sanity, I had accepted the loss, picked my three areas of focus and was excited about getting to do involved in so many research & life-altering experiences that I have never had before that I was okay with their design choices. The main thing was getting the ethics in because photovoice cannot happen without it. I tried before the launch, but the launch was far more important I was told and would have to wait. After the launch, I did about 80% of all the additions in the billion forms both schools request. I then met with them and stressed that this would need to be done in the next two weeks and I wanted to hand it in on the Wednesday before it was due (that Friday). I was assured how this would be no problem and we all got assigned tasks (even though only 15% of the work was left based on countless hours of my time in Canada and here). Anyways, fast forward to the day I wanted to hand it in. Turns out the editor edited the wrong stuff, the person with the most up-to-date stuff isn’t answering his phone and I find this all out while out surverying across town. I am again assured it’s going to be okay…. That night I find out the guy gets the most up-to-date version at 7pm so assume I’ll have it for the morning (deadline day) and that morning get a message saying he didn’t do it. I call him and he first tries to make it sound like he is doing me the favour of giving me the control back by doing it before saying he wasn’t going to do it because he was ill and so someone should figure it out. He wasn’t even going to call me to tell me this. After a close to tears emotional short circuit, I decided that Miss Nice Team-Player Jennica was getting benched and the angry, tough, likes to lead her vision and not taking anyone’s shit version emerged. I cancel my whole day and met with the first guy. Without being rude, I was completely honest about being upset and let down and forced to do everything. I also told him that when he gets back from America we would need to have a talk about how much time he can put in and, based on this, I would be changing the M&E after the pilot (Month 1) as the new leader since someone needs to step up. I then realized that there was even more than expected and then the stress hit the roof. I went to see the second person, who is the only one with addendum experience, to find out what exactly needed to be done: Editing about 130 pages of this massive application (think Chinese torture).. and this and that and this. Oh, during all this, I find out that the person who must sign it before submission will be at dodgeball tonight from 5:30-6:30 then is gone all of Friday so that’s my only opportunity. He got a second and more refined version of my mutiny victory speech while I had visions of punching him in the face. I wish I could say I didn’t but I was so mad . I then went to work and worked for 5 hours being so stressed I made my head and stomach hurt. At 4:30 I leave IU with everything finished and am racing to town so I print it somewhere and get back. THANKFULLY, I saw two people from Tumaini and they helped me find somewhere closer to print. At 6pm, I had two copies of the massive documents and race to dodgeball…. And have to see a dead cat that has just died by getting hit by a car. The cherry on this outrageously unprofessional sundae from hell is that I was left to sit for 3 games before either the second guy or the primary investigator (Mr. Must Sign) came over. When he did, he signed one page of the 6 and is like there is too many and I want to play this game.I tell him I am in a hurry but can wait for the one game. I then sat there for another 5 games before he signed it and then actually says to me well thanks for doing the work – glad we are all on board for this. I just cannot believe you would treat co-workers like this – like how disrespectful can you really be as if my time is just worthless and they both are all high and mighty. Neither of my two co-investigators have even once said anything that could be remotely be considered an apologize about how his lack of communication or care or even doing what he said he would do could have fucked up any chance of photovoice something the whole team is suppose to be on board for and everyone who has worked with me knows how important it is to me.
Sorry about the play-by-play there, but I just needed to get it out. I cannot believe someone would drop the ball on this so badly and then not tell me… and not just one ball but like your whole set of juggling items.
Now that it’s not Thursday, I can see the day wasn’t so horrible but it sure felt like it. I did find a rock that is almost perfectly shaped like a heart. I am now going to be able to cut the unless parts of the M&E project so the focus can be on more important dimensions. I thought of a really awesome idea to solve one of my one biggest pet peeves and biggest challenges (the board of directors of Tumaini have white medical students who do a rotation here for 7 weeks come once a week to give a talk to the kids… except no one at Tumaini has any say in what they say so they cause disruptive chaos every Monday afternoon where no one’s skills are really being used). Will update once I get it fleshed out a bit more and have talked to people. That night I was also able to negotiate my whole motorbike taxi price in Swahili and get the actual rate… followed by a few sentence exchanges and directions in Swahili!!!
Positive Photovoice note: Ammendments have a different process than the original protocol so should be faster. I still believe it’s going to happen so sijali (Don’t worry!).
Thanks for supporting me on this journey… the believe, support and love from home helps me on the really hard days (especially combined with a delicious $1 latte at this café that looks like one from home).
Enjoy your last week of March!