A Travellerspoint blog

I like too many things.

And I look too far ahead.

So I am getting better at Kiswahili. We had a pre-test to our penultimate test (which is at the end of training in August) that precedes the final battle taking place at COS (Close of Service) two years from now.
Now, speaking purely in terms of long run consequences, the only test that really matters is the close of service test since it is the one that would or would not provide me with a letter testifiying to my ability.
That said, I feel delightful today because I am pleased with my performance on my language test this morning.
I feel as though I am actually beginning to be able to communicate in another language. This is not something that I have ever experienced before and - as verbal as I am - I find it quite pleasing.
I am worried as well though about the realistic possibilities of my maintaining and improving my ability. Many volunteers have already spoken to us about sites that simply have little use for Kiswahili. It's either regional dialect or english. And I would really love to leave with a language near fluency.
This leads to the topic of my entry here. Which is what the hell am I going to do after this.
And I know, you are saying, "Nate, considering that you don't even know where you will be working or what you will be doing for the next two years, isn't premature to be getting concerned about what comes after?"
What you don't know is that this is a problem I actually began wrestling with before I even found out I would be coming to Africa. In fact, I have thought about this since I first conceived that joining the Peace Corps would be a good experience in the first place.
So, entreaties to be patient are well intentioned, but - sadly - tardy.
ON to the over analytics!
This world is just so much bigger than I have ever had the chance to experience and I am having trouble imagining simply returning home after this and starting again where I left off.
I feel like I am on a trajectory and I am gaining experience in a certain realm and it would be foolish to simply break off and start over. Both practically and personally (as in I am excited about the idea) it seems like continuuing in this vein would make sense.
If I am fluent and I do feel comfortable in Development and in East Africa, I would love to work for a consultancy firm that evalutates aid efforts. (This is also where I have to admit that I have been reading nothing but development theory books for the last month). I would really enjoy the tight and focused analytic work that I think my education prepared me well to do combined with the pleasures of exploring and talking to people in different places.
If we can bypass ( as I constantly do) the fact that I am way under qualified for such work, it sounds ideal.
But that means staying away from home...and that means not doing improv for at least a few more years.
It is a trajectory that goes increasingly away from the activity - among all my activities - that has never been a question. I want to do improv for the rest of my life. It is everything good in one little box. Its team dynamics, performing, humor, intelligence and totally free creation in one. Its perfect.
But its not possible hopping around the world.
I know very well that to do it seriously (or to be taken seriously in it) i need to be based (for me, in chicago) for a good 8-10 years.
So when does that start? How do I feel comfortable about where my energy is going, the kind of money I will be making and the life I am constructing?
Also, when am I going to be able to publish my short stories? And go back to camp? When will I get to improve at skateboarding and study capoiera and teach english in Southeast Asia and go sea kayaking in Alaska and and and and
WHERE IS ALL THIS GOING? WHAT WILL I DO WITH MY LIFE?
...
And, at first, this might seem to make being here that much harder. Thinking about all these big things and their final and infinite destination makes the slow steps and pace of life here, as well as the prospect of the frustratingly slow work that is approaching, might seem to make life unbearable.
But Hannah said something that stuck with me. That these two years are a gift. A chance to actually not worry about any kind of big picture. A chance to simply get up each day and work hard to make the day a good one.
At the end of my life, I can't see regretting waiting two more years to enter the rat race (if that is to be my fate).
And the time for daydreams and hobbies, for exploration and free thought will never be better than right now. When, again, will I not have to worry about paying for anything or doing any work that I don't set out, conduct and evaluate myself?
So I struggle with my planner's mentality and I try to enjoy the little things. The day to day. The little successes. The first language test.

Posted by Natyb25 23:57 Comments (0)

How can I have nothing to say?

Oh wait. Nevermind.

The power was out today and I as going to be unable to check my email. Then it came back on and I rushed to the post office.
I paid my 50 shillings and sat down to take care of a few things.
They are done now. And as my final 15 minutes rolls out...I find that I am...empty. It seems.
There are tons of things that I could talk about, but nothing that impels me to speak about it.
Its the same experience that I had on the phone with my mom over the weekend.
Lots of long silences where I couldn't think of anything to say.
Ask me a direct question and get a dragged out vague answer.
Then more silence.
Then I go into a tangential (but really unrelated) story and talk rapid fire for several minutes about no one particular thing.
Then more silence.
There is tons to pour out, but it doesn't really lend itself to easy to digest narratives.
It just sort of comes out when it comes out.
Yesterday, I had a good cry. I came back home and was changing, so my shades were drawn. And as it happened there was a radio playing near my window and for the first time since I have arrived here, I felt like I regained my private space. No one could see me and (with the newly present radio) no one could hear me. And I just kind of released.
I had come back from a basin bath and was getting dressed and I sat down on my bed and just sort of cried myself out for 5-10 minutes.
It wasn't depression or a tragic and dramatic day. It wasn't cruelty or even lonliness really. I just sort of felt private again for a second and it was so relieving, I just welled up.
I suppose we had just had a fairly emotional day as well. My language cluster has reached the open conflict stage.
Or at least, I seem to have forced the issue. So we had a few problems and had to hash them out.
I think things are okay now, but we are still in the process of rebuilding and re-evaluating.
I would be lost without them and I am doing everything I can to get things back on track, but it takes time.
And I won't discount that the madonna album playing in the background is affecting me.
I will be in Nairobi the weekend after this one and hope to upload photos.
You can text my phone at +254 0723-718-1

Posted by Natyb25 06:34 Comments (0)

UPdated contact info

Packages are Duty free until September 28th!

ALSO!
Phone number:
+254 0723-718-167
Incoming calls are free and text messages are cheap.
(For me)

Posted by Natyb25 06:22 Archived in Kenya Tagged volunteer Comments (1)

ADDRESS IN KENYA

I LIVE FOR MAIL!

sunny

[b]Nate Baumgart
C/O Peace Corps Kenya
PO Box 30518-00100
Nairobi Kenya
Label packages "Bibles"
Cover with Crosses
and write: "Jesus is watching you."

Posted by Natyb25 05:47 Archived in Kenya Tagged volunteer Comments (4)

HOW ARE YOU? And othe things Kenya Children Yell

Narcissism is a place within yourself

I believe, that in a certain sense, travel makes us all narcissists. Placed somewhere that is so unfamiliar, everything becomes personal. The social competency that makes a trip into downtown Chicago pleasant and relaxing is a combination of things, but of considerable importance (and vital in a way I would not have grasped before) is a sense of yourself as belonging. A feeling that whereever you are, it is, to some extent, your place. A place you belong and have every right to be.
Being here, a place where I am so apparently different, it becomes much harder to mark the line between myself and the world. Narcissistic because you can't help but read yourself into every situation. Every thing that happens (and particularly the bad or uncomfortable things) has to do with you. You become the locus for all meaning (in your own mind). It is no longer possible to simply dissmiss an interaction as a misunderstanding or suggest that someone was having a bad day.
Combine this with a location where I am visibly different and infrequent enough to be a novelty, and you get what can be a fishbowl of a life. Its not quite possible to describe.
Coming from the US, I am exposed enought to media that I have seen a significant number of ways that people dress and look. Most important is that I have seen enough to feel that I know how people will/can look. The various differences in their appearance or manner are not something that appears as truly novel or unique. In other words, it is not something that I feel I have never seen before.
So it has been difficult to grasp for me what there is to gain from staring at me as I eat. Or touching my arm. Or trying on my shoes.
But many of the kids in Kitui have never left it. And their world is largley mono-chromatic.
The closest analogy I can think of to put myself in their shoes is my reaction to an actual alien from outer space. If I met an alien, I would certainly want to watch them eat. I would want to touch their arm, and I would want to try on any part of their clothing that fit me. And I would certainly want to watch them shave. (Which is a weekly event that I feel fairly certain I could charge admission for)
All that said, things are great here.
A lack of electricity or running water is the least of my concerns. They are difficulties that still retain the pleasure of novelty and simplicity.
My host family is extraordinarily good to me and I am very happy and comfortable with them. Mostly. I am getting used to and more comfortable with the reduced level of conversation and affection that occurs in Kenyan households (or at least in mine).
...
It is hard to summarize. Life here is day to day; that is to say that the tasks that make up a day are so enveloping, so filled with anxiety and unfamiliarity that a way to step back and really make some broader judgments seems absent.
Life is...ongoing, I suppose. And thats good.
I miss my home and my family. I miss cold drinks and swimming pools.
But being here is engaging. It is challenging and it happens everyday.
I am sending letters, singing songs and writing short stories (or at least one so far).
Look to hear more from me soon.

Posted by Natyb25 05:15 Comments (0)

D Day!

OVER THE WALL! OUT OF THE BOATS!! ONTO THE BEACH! IN BUSINESS CASUAL! IN PHILADELPHIA!

AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Natyb25 06:18 Archived in USA Tagged preparation Comments (2)

Silent and premature departures.

Lonely in a city full of people.

It's hard to realize that your departure can never be as important to others as it is to you.
As I approach leaving, it dominates my thoughts and actions. Everything I have done over this last week is directed towards my departure. But for those whose attention I hope to merit; for those whom I hope to engage, my departure cannot help but be of a minor significance.
Of the 30 or so people I invited out tonight, only one came. And Jon Golbe I dragged from his house. None of those I hoped to see, came out to see me.
Which makes sense. I understand it. It seems reasonable.
When I talked to Gus about his service in Honduras before I left Chicago, he told me that upon his return people wanted to hear 5 stories. 3 that made them laugh, 1 that made them cry, and one that showed how hard I worked. Beyond that, they did not possess the patience to really understand the reality of such an experience.
For me, this coming moment is everything. But for those whom I feel so impacted to be leaving...I am but one person amongst a life of many. I am a single light in a room of candles. And the extinguishing (to use dramatic terms) of one cannot really make too much of an impact on the light of all.
And though I can understand it, sitting tonight in Pete's Candy Shop in Brooklyn; by myself; forgotten by my 3rd hand host ( the person whom I followed out after my first host had to go to bed and another had an audition to practice for) I saw that this is one of my last nights to be here. One of my last night's to be in this life and surrounded by those who know me and enjoy me, and I sat, forgotten, in a dark and declining bar.
I felt like crying. Crying for myself and crying out for the lost significance of this moment for me.
I have less nights left than can count on a single hand... and yet I sat alone tonight. And there was no one to help me build this moment into a powerful and caring moment for my future memory.
I haven't felt all that sad yet. But I was deeply wounded tonight.
I was wounded to find that beyond no one understanding my return, no one seems quite able to really resonate as I do with my departure. I came here to feel filled; to enjoy and relish the experience of being with those I loved.
Instead I find myself - at least this evening - as lonely as if I had already left. I feel I have left already...and saddest of all; no one seems to have noticed.

Posted by Natyb25 00:08 Archived in USA Tagged preparation Comments (2)

East Coast in Progress

Denial is also a river in Africa

I have left my parents and the city of my birth. I won't see them again for a long while.
I have packaged my life into bags and boxes and stored them or put them on my back.
I have jettisoned the parts of my life that seemed unnecessary.
I won't see my dog again for years.
Even if my family comes to visit, they won't bring him.

But so far, nothing. No real tears or disconnects. No overwhelming emotions.
The closest thing is the stomach twirling anticipation and excitement I feel to be engaged in another big adventure. A truly unknown journey.
Which may also be why I don't have much of a sense of loss yet.
The past few weeks, I have made real efforts to apply significance to what I saw or ate, to who I was with or where we were. All such efforts have failed.
It does not seem possible for me to simply decide to make a moment meaningful or memorable. I cannot summon up the emotions that would seem to be appropriate for the last time I see the puppy or my mother or father.
I am not particularly worried about it. It seems more like a strange but not unpleasant smell. I noticed it periodically, but don't really dwell on it or feel there is much to be done about it.
As I approach the cliff edge, I continue to inventory my bag, making sure I have enough magazines for the free fall.
So denial might be a good description of this emotional void.
It will hit me when it needs to. I will be fine.

Posted by Natyb25 09:03 Comments (0)

My life fits in a bag.

See?

IMG_0061.jpg

Posted by Natyb25 00:07 Archived in USA Tagged preparation Comments (1)

East Coast Trip Map


View East Coast Visits on Natyb25's travel map.

Observe the power of the intranet.

Posted by Natyb25 20:51 Comments (0)

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