Charlotte Bourdillon

Charlotte Bourdillon (Kakenya Center for Excellence – KCE): In the summer of 2009, Charlotte worked with an indigenous women's weaving group in Temuco, Chile. She received her B.A. in Community Health and International Relations from Tufts University in 2010. Prior to her AP fellowship, Charlotte also worked with a health and community-led development initiative in Haiti, called RESPE:Ayiti. Charlotte also interned at Physicians for Human Rights in Cambridge, MA. After her fellowship Charlotte wrote: “I can look at so many deliverables that I am proud of; things I am especially happy to have been able to achieve in the low-resource area I was working in."

One Month in Enoosaen

15 Apr

Greetings from Enoosaen! I arrived here more than a month ago and I think I have finally gotten my bearings. That has entailed the ongoing process of learning a lot about how things work around here, and how they don’t – the more common subject matter from blogs about brief stints in Africa. From here on out, the two will intermingle in my reflections here on this blog. For now, I’m drafting this post on my wrinkled pages to savor precious battery on my computer, and I’m moving on to how to make things work for me.

This is an interesting subject because, actually, it seems, some things do work better for me because I am a muzungu (“European,” or white-ish person). Since I’ve arrived, certain things that had been inexplicably on hold for a long time (i.e. since Kakenya herself was last here) have started to “get a move on” at the school. I have been told on a number of occasions that this may have something to do with the fact that people see that an “American has come” so they’re anticipating that I want things to happen “the American way.” I’m trying not to take offence to this and instead taking it to mean “in a timely, organized, and accountable fashion.” Somehow, however, I doubt that this eagerness and momentum will hold for my entire tenure here.

So, what is my life like here?

I wake, sweep my room (so much mud gets in here!), make my bed under its glamorous mosquito net (embedded with a few dead many-legged visitors), try to find a bucket in which I can heat some water to take to the outhouse for a bucket bath, study a little swahili, and walk to school. It is about a 30 minute walk from here on Mama Kakenya’s farmstead (Mama Kakenya, of course, is Kakenya’s mama). There is almost always something unexpected waiting for me at the other end of this walk; today it was that the person I was meeting hadn’t prepared a thing for our meeting and instead had me sit with him for an hour while he wrote me the required document, and quite often it is something a bit more urgent. But I love my walk, because despite the constant onslaught of “Muzungu! Muzungu!” cheers from the masses of toddlers along the road, the morning brings the most wonderfully cool breezes along the main road to town.

Once I get to school, or whichever meeting I am headed to, I am tackling a wide variety of tasks, from evaluating the performance of programs at school to organizing a camp to photo and film documentation and production of advocacy materials about the school and community to overseeing construction of the new dormitory.

Also, I live in a veritable zoo. I do have quite a sanctuary of a bedroom, with its mosquito net, two windows, solitude, and privacy. Alas, in addition to the many livestock animals who stare at me as I open the door to the bucket bathing room in the outhouse, the following is a list of sightings in my room: hornets nests, a variety of spiders, a spider and biting ants in my pants on the first night (discovered while in bed), lizards, mice, a kitten that accidentally got locked in my room all day (chasing the mice), “safari ants”, weird juicy larger than a caterpillar thing, cockroaches, and the occasional lost goat or curious hen. Let’s keep in mind that these are only sightings and there is no electricity at night so it is difficult to know what else I am sharing my space with…although recently there has been something with large powerful sounding wing flutters outside my mosquito net that I am quite sure is a bat – updates to come. At least it is lambing season, so that’s cute.

How to account for my weeks of absence? A lot of work, very little power to charge my computer, internet connection problems, and the newly arrived rainy season which only compounds each of those things. My plans to go charge or buy internet credit apparently mean nothing to the rain and the impassibly muddy roads when the rain arrives. Unfortunately I don’t really have the capacity to upload photos easily, the so more of those will come when I get a better connection. Tomorrow I will go into more detail about some of the things we have accomplished over the past few weeks.

I have now finally taken a couple of days off and, to be honest, it has been great to completely check out for the first time since being here. With my sanity in jeopardy from having been too all-consumed with the goings-on at the Centre (and sometimes the general inability to get anything done here), I’ve discovered that I can go to to Kilgoris to have some peace and quiet and solitude. Aside from being the nearest town on the map, Kilgoris is also the nearest place to buy real chocolate, to buy a newspaper, and to have a drink as a woman.

As this photo demonstrates, IT capacity is a little behind in this region…

IT capacity in the region is extremely limited. It took me 12% of my computer battery just to upload this photo!

Lastly, the girls have given me a Maasai name! I am now Nashipai. It means something roughly like “full of happiness.” Moreover, people have started to tell me I am no longer a muzungu… so as you can imagine, I am feeling more and more at home.

Posted By Charlotte Bourdillon

Posted Apr 15th, 2011


  • Sarah Craven

    April 16, 2011


    Hi Charlotte

    What a wonderful post! So glad to read the update. You have painted a vivid picture and I can just see you on your morning walk. Sending good wishes and courage from Washington, D.C. and a hug too. Sarah

  • iain

    April 17, 2011


    Bravo Nashipai! Your words bring it all to life. Looking forward to hearing more about the school and the people in your new life. We’re with you in spirit.

  • Patrick Bourdillon

    April 19, 2011


    I may be biased but it is a wonderful post Charlotte Nashipai. It is great to to get such a detailed picture of how your life is out there, and to be reassured that there is not much larger than roaches and bats sharing your room with you, none of those lions and leopards we had fun with there a few years ago.

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