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“I don’t smile, I laugh” and Shitting in a Moving Hole

(I got tired last night because it was stifling hot in my room here in Lunga Lunga.  Literally felt like I was sleeping in a coffin.)

Lillian wants me to hang out at her place when we get back to Nairobi, but I’m kinda nervous about doing that, in a way.

Lillian and I

Lillian and I

Our last day of KICOSHEP was probably our most productive day.  We were split into groups to help with patients.  While Alia and I prepared cards for patient registration information, Sido and Karly talked to the people about dental hygiene.  They gave everyone a toothbrush too.  Speaking of which – did you know that toothpaste isn’t really necessary?  It’s the brushing that truly what matters.  I stopped using flouride toothpastes years ago, and this made me feel even better about that decision.  Some of the patients were selling goods like necklaces and baskets and bracelets.  I bought a necklace for 200 shilling and a table hot pad thing for my mom.

Goods for sale.  (photo by me)

Goods for sale. (photo by me)

The people of KICOSHEP had a going away reception for us with cold bottled soda.  We all were taking photos with each other, and when we told Anne to ‘Smile,’ she said, “I don’t smile, I laugh.”  That woman is a character.

Meet Anne. (photo by Liliane Calfee)

Meet Anne. (photo by Liliane Calfee)

My snot continued to be black, especially since we all crammed into a van and a truck and were stuck exhaust-heavy traffic.  Our trip to the train station was estimated to take 3 hours to go 10 miles, but it just took us about a half hour or so.  The traffic is really bad.  Though there are some stop lights, there are police at the intersections directing traffic instead.  Sometimes the police will make some lanes wait over an hour while all the other lanes are moving.  It’s nuts.

The Train

We arrived at the train station 2 1/2 hours early … so we drank some Tusker beer!  (So much for not drinking on this trip.)  The bar at the train station was playing some awesome jams such as “Whatta Man” by Salt N Pepa.  I got a nice buzz off one beer after sharing a lot about my life story with Tracy.  I also chugged the remaining half of Alia’s beer, so I was in a happy place.

TUSKER  (photo by me)

TUSKER (photo by me)

Figuring out who was rooming with who on the train was dramatic, so I opted to get away from it all and stay in the car with the outliers of the group so far.  For the most part, it was pretty fun.  We shared two bottles of wine (one from the mall that I bought, and one from the dining cart).  Dinner was in the dining cart, but the tablecloths were stained and some of the dining ware was dirty.  We had fried chicken because we heard it was better than the beef.  The four trendy Kenyans next to us were stoked for the fried chicken too – and it was actually pretty good.

Alia, Brit, Jordan, and Tasha got pretty drunk in their cart and were incredibly loud until about 2:30am, as were Bri and Karly who were in deep conversation until past 3am.  I ended up going in by Alia and them to ask them to sleep – especially since they were probably keeping others awake in our train car, too.

The sleeper train is unlike the ones I was on in Viet Nam.  The hallway was tiny, meaning people had to squeeze sideways to get past – and sometimes that wasn’t enough.  The windows could be fashioned so the top part was a screen and the bottom part was glass.  It’s one of the last colonial trains left – it was apparent with the completely unsteady tracks.  There were points in the night when I was literally bouncing.  Swaying from side to side was how the whole ride went.  Luckily they had straps for us to keep us in our beds.

Here you can see the straps.

Here you can see the straps.

Going to the bathroom on the train was an experience that I was familiar with, but I took it to a completely new level this time – I shit.  I shit on the train.  This means I shit in a hole.  When I looked down the hole, I saw tracks moving past.  Shitting in motion.  Shitting in a moving hole. I really should get some style points for how I was able to keep my balance.  As the train moved from side to side, I had to squat down and hold myself steady enough to shit in the hole.  It was fun, actually.

The Chrome Throne (photo by me)

The Chrome Throne (photo by me)

The train arrived 3 1/2 hours late.  It was only supposed to be a 12 hour ride and it ended up being nearly 16 hours.  I took some nice photos.  We went through many small villages that had huts.  The children everywhere ran up to the train or alongside the train because they are in the habit of having people throw them food, toys, and money.  Not safe.  As much as I would have love to give them something, I didn’t.  I didn’t want to encourage that behavior.

Eventually we got off the train. I had my backpacking backpack (35L) on my back, my carry on backpack on my front, my medical supplies suitcase in one hand, and my camera case slung on my shoulder.  I wonder how much I was carrying because that shit was heavy.

The million bags we brought make us look like divas – but one third of them are intended to stay here and are filled with medical supplies.  Most of the supplies were strapped on top of our van, but those that didn’t fit were crammed in the walking isle.  It sure was cozy, if you want to call it that.

Our Cozy Ride (photo by me)

Our Cozy Ride (photo by me)

We took a ferry over one of the tributaries of the Indian Ocean – I’ve finally seen the Indian Ocean.  To get on the ferry we had to wait in a very long line of vehicles.  Many people wandered next to the vehicles selling stuff, but most of it was stuff we really didn’t need (ex. water/soda because it would make us have to pee when peeing wasn’t an option for the next three hours). We wanted ice cream sooooooooooo bad because a man in a cart was selling it outside.  Of course when we found a vendor we actually liked, the vehicle finally started moving.  Brit did buy a soccer ball from one guy so we could play with kids and stuff.  (Seriously random stuff for sale.)

I tried to take in as much as possible while we were driving though Ukunda (south of Mombasa) and the rural areas.  Thee was so much trash on the side of the road, piled up, flat, everywhere.  There is no trash collection here.  I actually saw three cows literally grazing in trash.  It was so sad.

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Hot & Sweaty

In Lunga Lunga

My mosquito bites have never been bigger and my body has never been so sweaty.  It all started yesterday.  After helping with registration at KICOSHEP we got ready to leave Nairobi.  A woman who works with KICOSHEP exchanged numbers with me – Lillian.

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Kibera Slum: Kibera School and AMREF Clinic

Because of all the exhaust and pollution from burning trash, my boogers turned black yesterday.  It looked like I had a bunch of little bugs in my nose.  My throat burned from direct inhalation of exhaust – I had no choice.  I could only hold my breath for so long at the twenty minute stops at intersections while the exhaust from the vehicle next to us blew in my face.

Abid eventually got us to the school we were visiting in Kibera.  After hot-boxing us in the van for about 15 minutes, I was ready to get out of that vehicle coffin ASAP.  We met the lead teacher at the Kibera school, a woman with a matching dress and head wrap, who showed us their library.

The Kibera Head Teacher (photo by Liliane Calfee)

The Kibera Head Teacher (photo by Liliane Calfee)

This school is run in part by KICOSHEP but resides on government land.  The library is the only library in Kibera, with 1/3 of it being textbooks for the children.  Children ages 3 through 15 attend the school where the grades go until grade eight.  After this school, the children can move on to secondary school, which is a government school.  Last year the students had a 100% passing rate, but I do not know if that means they all moved on or not.  If they do, they can go to boarding school if its affordable or they can go to day school and return to the slum every night.  Classes go from 7am to 5pm, but they a lunch break from 12pm to 2:15pm and recess from 3:15pm to 4pm.  Lots of playing is encouraged – which I love.

We got to meet about 100 of the 320 students.  They were all playing outside to practice for their competitions today. Nearly all of them were very excited to meet us.  We got a lot of “How are YOU?!” and handshakes.  When asked in return, “How are YOU?!” they always respond, “Fine.”  Not “good,” not “ok,” not “bad,” but “fine.”  I had a lot of kids shake my hand and ask my name and respond with theirs.  One handsome little boy with a huge smile asked where I was from.  I said the USA.  His eyes lit up and he said, “The United Stated of America…”

Jordan and some of the students (photo by Liliane Calfee)

Jordan and some of the students (photo by Liliane Calfee)

Since we were meeting them in a side playing area, we had to walk back through all the kids to leave.  Many followed behind us or ran ahead and kept shaking our hands.  Typical little boys shook my hand and got all excited and showed off to their friends.  I felt like the old high school senior who had 15 little boys have a crush on me.  One girl asked what grade I am in and I said I just finished school at the University.  She said she was in grade seven.  I’m either getting used to the accents or these children didn’t really have accents.  Could be because their voices haven’t dropped yet?

Walking by through the children as I left the school (photo by Liliane Calfee)

Walking by through the children as I left the school (photo by Liliane Calfee)

I couldn't help but smile after seeing all those beautiful, bright, shining faces. :D (photo by Liliane Calfee)

I couldn’t help but smile after seeing all those beautiful, bright, shining faces. 😀 (photo by Liliane Calfee)

We eventually left the school of matching uniformed children to go to the AMREF clinic.  “Time was not on our side” once again because we needed to get to the clinic and back before dark.  It wasn’t good to be on the street after dark.  We were actually led by armed guards.  (They way they handled their weapon was … somewhat concerning.  Just swinging it back and forth, over the shoulder, laa dee daaa, no big deal.)

So we walked.  We walked down the train tracks.  To our immediate left was the school.  Just beyond the school?  A golf course.  Right there.  Two men were playing golf in a wiiiiiiiiidddeeee open space, while, to our immediate right, were thousands upon thousands of homemade shacks with rusty metal roofs, sheltering the Kibera slum’s massive population.  I wonder how the people of Kibera felt about that golf course.  I wonder how the men playing golf felt.  Nothing?

View of the Kibera Slum from the golf course (photo cred to ShoeStringGolfer)

The Kibera Slum and golf course – the slum is what I saw to my immediate right. (photo cred to Felix Features)

We kept walking down the tracks, getting glares from some, no expression from others, and “How are YOU?!” from children with big smiles.  We jumped over ditches (small ones) of sewage and garbage.  I saw how they reused their garbage to make toys (like bottle caps) or to use as storage (old bottles).  Needless to say, there were no sidewalks, everything was a dirt path.  And no vehicles except ours because everyone walked by foot everywhere.  There were kitties and dogs, ducks and chickens, baby chicks and a pig.  I saw a few public toilets (well, two).  Kibera’s nearly 1.5 million residents share 600 toilets.  Since there is no running water except in schools and clinics, everyone must share.

We eventually arrived to the public hang out area.  It was a space about the size of two football fields next to each other.

This shows about half of the public space, but this is exactly what it looked like. (photo cred to a Flickr account)

We arrived to AMREF (The African Medical and Research Foundation) clinic and were escorted upstairs.  Here one of the doctors explained what AMREF does.  They are one of the seven biggest clinics, but there are many more private, NGO, and four other government clinics that exist.  One of their missions is to reduce stigma of HIV/AIDS by treating it like any other disease (because, really, it is).  They do this by having patients get all their medication from the same desk.  This way no one knows who has HIV/AIDS because they must get their medications from a different desk.  They also have a maternity ward, pediatric ward, etc – like any other clinic.  Anything too serious that they can’t handle gets referred to the hospital outside of the slum.  Like I mentioned before, adults can get care for 100 shillings (just over a dollar), and children can get care for 50 shillings.  If someone cannot afford care, they are not refused.  They get it for free.

The clinic helps over 300 people daily.  During the tour, the doctor brought us into the maternity ward, a large room with nearly twelve beds.  Two women who had given birth were laying there in the same room when 14 of us walked in.  I felt like we were totally invading their privacy (because, well, we were).  I didn’t know if I should look at them to acknowledge them (or would I be treating them like they were in a zoo) or should I not look at them (or would I be treating them as less than human beings by not acknowledging their existence)?

We also saw a little boy who was bit by a dog in the waiting room.  He had two great friends – they carried him from the incident, to the waiting room, and to the care room.  Then our tour was done.  (To learn more about AMREF, check out http://www.amref.org.)

Time was not on our side AGAIN because it would be getting dark soon, so we left AMREF and headed back to the school.  We ran into two of the women we had taught earlier that day, one of them was Stella.  It was a moment of realization for me.  There were the women’s conditions – they had to sleep many of the grungy, dirty men we saw to make a living.  It’s not like they had the cleanest conditions to have sex in either.  I mean, we may say that one needs to keep themselves very clean and yadda yadda, but if one doesn’t have running water, what are their options?

The drive home was a little more bearable because I got a window seat.  I was tired, crabby, and irritated by everyone in the van with me.  Sleeping in such close quarters with five other women is taking its toll on me.  Being around the same eleven women 24/7 is taking its toll on me.  I’m so used to living on my own that being around so many people constantly is more of a culture shock to me than much of what I have seen so far.

I fell asleep shortly after we got back from Kibera for about an hour and a half.  I missed dinner.  I eventually woke up for about two hours, but zonked out writing in here last night.  I think I may almost be over my jet lag.

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TIME IS NOT ON OUR SIDE.

I forgot to mention that the clasp of my cloth pad caused me to get padded down at the Heathrow airport.

“TIME IS NOT ON OUR SIDE!” said Sophie at least five times today.  We woke up early to get a lecture rom Sophie and Anne about home-based care.  Our breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs today- thanks to Lilli.  Her and Sophie argued back and forth about who was going to cook the eggs – and Lilli won.  The lecture was very interesting.  I like seeing what is working for this community and the topics they feel are necessary for success.

With time not on our side again, we rushed out to the courtyard to meet sex workers form the Kibera slum.  The Kibera slum is the largest in East Africa and among the largest in the world.  There were about 25-30 women, all younger college-aged women.  One woman named Besh had a beautiful daughter (age 1 or 2) who was TERRIFIED of muzungu.  I eventually was able to look at the little girl without her crying, but to say the least, she was not havin’ our presence very well.

Besh and her daughter (photo by Liliane Calfee)

Besh and her daughter (photo by Liliane Calfee)

Bri and Molly talked to the sex workers about STIs, TB, HIV/AIDS, and Jordan, Kerry, and I talked about menstruation, how to not get pregnant and female anatomy.  We’re teaching this in Lunga Lunga so we were thinking this could be a good first time run through for us.  I would say that a majority of the women were receptive, with Stella asking questions about how to make your vagina tight and Besh who asked how to figure out when one is ovulating.  When I talked about the vulva I emphasized that lips can be different sizes and that perineums can too – largely based on my own anatomy.  If we’re teaching about such topics, I think that it is important to express that there is no “normal.”

Teaching in Nairobi (photo by Liliane Calfee)

Teaching in Nairobi (photo by Liliane Calfee)

Bri and Molly did the STI portion and that went on FOREVER.  Meanwhile I figured out a calendar chart to help the women figure out when they’d be ovulating.  During the break, I chatted with Besh about the bird tattoos on her chest that she’s had for eight years.  I told her I was trying to figure out where on my body to get my next tattoo.  She touched my hairy calve and said, “There.”  Not a bad idea.

Me showing women how to calculate when they are ovulating (photo by Liliane Calfee)

Me showing women how to calculate when they are ovulating (photo by Liliane Calfee)

The teaching thing seemed really weird to me.  I tried to talk to the women like they’re my peers – because they are.  Molly and Bri seemed really patronizing when talking, as if they were talking to little kids.  The catch is that these women deal with STI/HIV/AIDS/TB exposure on a daily basis, and they have two young white girls reading out of manuals to teach them.  Obviously not only are these two white girls not well versed on the topics at hand, but obviously they are lacking the first hand experience.

When my group was talking about contraception, I did a lot of the talking.  I asked Kerry if she wanted to explain the “morning after pill” because I didn’t want to be a micromanager and she said she didn’t know how it works.  Literally my exact concerns from this whole semester played out.  Because I’ve used it before myself, I was able to talk about it more comfortably.  I knew this teaching thing would be a little … interesting.  To say the least.

The other girls on the trip had many of the women ask them for their hats, or bracelets, or necklaces – you name it.  No one asked me that so maybe my stuff wasn’t desirable enough – haha.  Bri decided to go grab the eight extra baseball caps she brought, which I didn’t think was such a good idea – especially since there were not enough for all the women.  It we’re going to get all Jeffrey Sachs, we need to at least have enough for everybody.  The women ended up tugging and arguing with each other for the hats.  It probably wasn’t a good move on Bri’s part.

The Kibera Sex Workers (photo by Liliane Calfee)

A pair of women asked me to buy a pair of sandals.  I had conflicting feelings about it at first – especially because of my experiences in Viet Nam (http://exploringvietnam.wordpress.com/) – but I bought a pair for 1,000 Kenyan shillings (about $10).  KICOSHEP tries to give sex workers activities for them to make alternate forms of income besides sex work to eventually get them out of the sex work industry.  Not buying, to me, would have made me feel like I was defeating the purpose of KICOSHEP’s goals.  The women were very happy Kerry and I purchased them.  They gave us hugs.  Later, as I’ll eventually get to, we learned that the clinic called AMREF gives basic care/check-ups to adults for 100 shillings and to children for 50 shillings.  1000 shillings has the potential to go a long way in Kibera.

After this we left KICOSHEP to go to Kibera and AMREF.  Twelve of us squeezed in a van with Abid as our very talented driver.  The streets were very packed and the traffic is similar to Britain were everyone drives on the left side of the road and the driver seat is on the right side of the vehicle.  Vehicles were all over the place, cutting each other off to turn, yet being very cooperative at the same time.  Confusing.

Abid told us to close all of the windows at one point.  I thought it was so we wouldn’t inhale all the smoke that we were about to drive through.  “We have entered Kibera,” he said.  The smoke, as I soon learned, was from burning trash.  As we drove in, people looked at us from this stands that sold phone minutes, suits, shoes, toys, and anything else you really don’t need.  Shortly we were on a small road/alley that had homemade shacks on each side.  Many of them were shops.  There were some alleys between the shacks too that led to the rest of the slum.  We were not allowed to take our cameras along because we were not there to gawk.  We were there to learn and to meet people in the community.

Little children smiled and waved vigorously, and said, “HOW ARE YOU?! HOW ARE YOU?! HOW ARE YOU?!”  It was so cute. Luckily Abi didn’t hit any children, because that alley was narrow and people had to move out of the way to let us through.  And he was driving a manual vehicle on a tiny, bumpy dirt alley.

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Jet Lag and KICOSHEP

I zonked out on my second flight from London to Nairobi.  I think it was from lack of sleep and surplus of alcohol.  After a six-hour nap, I awoke to unobservant flight attendants.  I was actually really sad that I missed two meals because I was SO HUNGRY.  The landing was one of the smoothest though – granted chatting with the Rwandan former UN employee helped distract me.

I was really nervous as to who or what I was going to discover when I got off the plane: angry/concerned Ara or …. NO ARA.  I got the first … but mostly she was just concerned.  And had never received my email.  Like I figured would happen.  What can I say?  I tried.

We hopped in KICOSHEP director Anne Owiti’s car – Lilli, Ara, Anne, myself and about seven bags.  Since it was past midnight, the streets were clear, but the speed bumps were still relentless.  Eventually we turned onto a pot-holed  dirt street that shortly led to my new home for the next four days – Kibera Community Self Help Programme (KICOSHEP).  Literally 45 seconds after I set my bags inside the electricity went out and stayed out for about 15 minutes.  Poor Tasha was naked and about to jump in the shower.  Molly also found herself in the middle of a shower when the electricity went out again 20 minutes later!  Ara ran in there with a flashlight and her hands over her eyes saying, “I prOmise I’m not looking!!”

So at 5pm home time, I fell asleep on a small mattress in a room with five other girls with a mummy sheet, two airplane pillows and two British Airways airline blankets to comfort me.

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Breakfast this morning was supposed to be at 9am.  Then it got pushed back to 9:30 or 10am.  Then we got called to a room in a separate building for breakfast around 10:30am, where we continued to wait for 15 minutes because we weren’t sure whether the bunch of bananas, loaves of bread, container of fake butter and the tin can of jelly were all we were getting.

It was.

Our First Breakfast

Our First Breakfast! (photo by Liliane Calfee)

I took a short nap after breakfast.  The jet lag was really hitting me today.  After about 20 minutes of awesome nappage, we were called down to the courtyard to meet a group that KICOSHEP works with.  (The only thing was – the twelve of us women on the trip didn’t know what KICOSHEP did.  We had no prior information about anything, just that we were staying here in Nairobi – WE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW IT WAS AN ACRONYM.  Yeah…)  About seven women and four children met us there.  One little boy – maybe two years old – kept sticking his hand out to shake all the wazungu (plural form of mzungu meaning “white people”) hands.  Then he wanted to sit on out laps.  Then allllll four of the children wanted to sit on our laps.  It was adorable.

The women all introduced themselves, with the first woman asking,
“Do I look like a person who has HIV?  What do I look like to you?”
I said, “Beautiful” – she was very beautiful.  Other said “healthy.”  We learned that everyone we were about to met is HIV+.  I have only met one other HIV+ person in my life and here I had seven women in front of me who were diagnosed.  These women are all community health workers (CHW) in their community of Kibera.  Kibera is one of the largest slums in world, located smack dab in Nairobi.

We had lunch a bit after this.  I had a hard time eating the orange beef stew because it smelled like cat food.  Straight up dry cat food.  But I ate it.  After lunch I took another nap, a better nap.  The ear plugs and eye mask sure make for great power naps.  We had a short meeting that was supposed to happen at 9am.  Typical Kenya.  Nothing happens on time and no one is in a rush.  Administrative business seems to take forever.  The meeting went over what KICOSHEP does and our itinerary for the week.

Our First Meeting (photo by Liliane Calfee)

Our First Meeting (photo by Liliane Calfee)

It would have been nice to have known more about KICOSHEP before we arrived so we could truly appreciate the organization while we were there.  Even encouragement to research the organization would have been helpful – because it is hard to know what you don’t know.  One day we meet with sex workers from Kibera about hygiene and sexual health and we also go to Kibera.

Going to the mall after the meeting ended up taking forever.  Exchanging money took forever, buying group cell phones took forever, buying internet modems took forever, waiting for the group to stop lollygagging around took forever.  Two hours later we made it back to finally contact loved ones to let them know we arrives safely.  But all the minutes ran out by the time it got to me.  So I waited ten minutes per webpage to load until I was able to post on Mom, Dad, and Jeff’s facebook walls that I made it in one piece.

Dinner was chapati and lentils.  Yum!

Yum! Chapati!

Yum! Chapati! (photo by Liliane Calfee)

Things for next year’s trip:
– Call your bank!  Alia and Jordan forgot to do this.

(Also – I forgot toilet paper.  I bet it’s sitting at my apartment on my dining table.)

Harbari ya usiku!!

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Too Tipsy for a Longer Layover

I left Chicago at 7:05 pm on Monday the 20th.  Jeff gave me a ride – he’s such a great guy.  We went to his friend Josh’s house concert on Sunday night (my graduation day).  I finally met a bunch of his friends – I hope they like me!  Saying “Bye” to Jeff sucked.  “See you in a month,” he said.  I think he was tearing up because he didn’t look directly at me after the hug.  Awww.

My first flight was to Heathrow London airport.  The flight was about seven hours I think.  I had a glass of wine at the airport (a $14 Kim Crawford – holy shit).  I kept up the drinking trend with two mini bottles of white wine and a mini bottle of red wine – all complimentary through British Airlines.  I got a bit tipsy and ended up standing in the back chatting with the flight attendants for 45 minutes.

I sat by a girl named Danielle.  She was pretty nice and ended up being my drinking partner… until she fell asleep.  I only slept for an hour – thanks to the wine.  I was pretty excited to only have an hour and a half layover in London.
… until I walked up to the counter and the lady told me that my flight was delayed almost two hours.  This normally wouldn’t be a problem – but I had NO WAY of contacting my professor, Ara, to let her know I would be flying in even later to Nairobi.  Everyone else flew in at 8:10pm.  My original flight was supposed to fly in at 9:20pm.  Now my flight was scheduled to land almost two hours later.

Letting Ara know became a simple email and facebook status, neither of which I figured anyone would get.  I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

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The Journey

The trip to Kenya alone is not the journey I am about to embark on.

The journey starts now.

Now, a couple months before the trip, I am creating the curriculum I am going to be teaching in Kenya and slowing collecting the items I will need while I am there.  My section is anatomy, including natural processes, diseases, and such in this area.

And I’m scared shitless, for many reasons and on many different levels.

I am scared that the curriculum won’t be perfect (not just mine) because I’m traveling with other young women who seem to be clueless on much of what we are to be teaching other women.  It’s frightening.  Why am I traveling halfway across the world to teach women about their bodies when I could stay here at home and teach it?
That’s the other thing – teaching.  This will be my first time not only teaching, but teaching women and a man from a completely different culture on topics that are controversial even in the United States (ahem, birth control).  I’m nervous.  My group is the first to teach.  What if our teaching style is not effective?

These young women are not taking the same journey I am taking, which is totally fine, bu I’m concerned about their motives for participating (just to get the certificate?).  I have been on a lifelong journey with my body – inside and out and I feel like I am ready to share this passion for self-understanding and self-love with other women.

How will this trip be successful if not all the women going on the trip are on the same page?  How will I share my experiences without sounding pretenious or condescending or patronizing?  How will I have to present myself to my colleagues in a way that they will understand me and not judge me?  Is it my problem if they judge me?  Or is it theirs?  Will we be able to understand each other despite our lack of shared activities or level of self-realization?

Keep smiling, self.
It’ll all be fine.
❤ Katie