My name is Janelle King and I'm 29. I grew up on a farm just outside of Winton. I went to Central Southland College.
From there I went to Otago University to complete a bachelor of arts and diploma of secondary teaching.
Where are you?
I'm living in Kenya, in an area alled Nakuru, about three hours' drive northwest of Nairobi.
What are you doing there?
I'm working for a charitable organisation called So They Can. So
They Can originated as a result of the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya, which left a huge number of people homeless.
In 2008, each family left internally displaced was given a small financial compensation from the Kenyan Government to rebuild their lives - 900 of these families pooled their money and bought 16 acres of land near Nakuru in an area known as Pipeline.
This became known as the Pipeline IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) Camp.
So They Can supports the wider Pipeline community, including members of the Pipeline IDP camp.
It has a variety of projects that include creating and managing the Aberdare Ranges Primary School to improve the quality of education, and therefore future prospects, of the 520 pupils.
By 2017, the Aberdare Ranges Primary School will educate 1080 students.
I am working with the teachers and students at Aberdare Ranges Primary School to help improve their use of English and the general teaching strategies in an effort to raise achievement.
Why did you choose to go there?
I initially heard of STC through a friend and got in touch with them to inquire about volunteering for a few weeks, but they were keen to have me stay for longer so I decided to resign from my current job in Indonesia and move to Kenya.
I've always wanted to travel to a developing country and contribute in some way, particularly to anything involving children/young people, so to have the chance to do it as a job rather than just for a few weeks was something I didn't want to pass up.
In short, though, I came for the kids. I understand that it takes a lot more than what I'm able to do to change their lives, but I also think that any small difference you make to a child's life here counts for something, and it doesn't take much to get a wide smile out of these kids.
How long have you been living there? When will you move back to Southland?
I've been here for nearly two months now. I'm contracted until the end of November, and there's a possibility that my position may be extended, but if not I would like to stay longer anyway.
If my position isn't extended, I'd like to stay and help out other organisations, particularly the smaller ones, but I would need to find some funding or sponsorship in order to do so.
In saying that, though, I do miss New Zealand and would like to return at some point. I would definitely consider moving back to Southland, I miss the people!
What is your favourite thing about the place you are living in?
The children, and knowing that what I, and what everyone I work with, is doing will hopefully give them and their families the opportunity to build a better life and break the poverty cycle.
What is the weirdest, or coolest thing, you have seen while you have been there?
There are so many to choose from. There is a nightclub called Samba in the local town.
It has all the hallmarks of a typical nightclub, males and females drinking, chatting and dancing, except everyone is dancing to gospel music.
There's also Kenyan dating. It's not so common for a guy to ask a girl out for coffee or dinner here, instead he'll ask her to ''walk around'', and this means exactly what it says.
He will pick her up and they will literally walk around while talking and getting to know each other. Needless to say, I dug myself into a bit of a hole when I first arrived and someone asked me to ''walk around'' - I thought they were just being polite and offering to show me around because I was new!
What is the worst and best thing you have eaten?
The worst is easy. It's called ugali. It's a mixture of cornflour and water put in a pan and cooked until it's so dense you could throw it against the wall and it would go straight through it.
Kenyans break it up and roll it into a ball with their hands then eat it with meat or vegetables, and boy do they eat a lot of it! Me, I tend to push it around my plate until I resign myself to the fact that this is the only option for lunch and so I suck it up and eat it (with a fork).
It actually tastes like nothing. I don't understand why Kenyans love it so much, but then they don't understand my addiction to chocolate either! As for the best thing I've eaten, it would have to be Christine's chapatis.
A chapati is a type of flatbread also known as roti. It's similar to naan, but denser. For my first six weeks in Kenya, I lived in a homestay with a local couple called Christine and Charles. They are lovely people and, among the variety of local food I didn't get attached to while living with them, Christine's chapatis were the exception. I've moved out of their home now but I still visit for a cup of tea and to pick up my weekly supply of chapatis.
What does your typical day involve?
For my first six weeks in the homestay, I would get up in the morning and breakfast would be waiting for me.
It would usually be sausages (cooked in the microwave, no such thing as pan-fried sausages there) with bread, or eggs.
Then I would walk through paddocks filled with maize, goats and cows to school. I spend the day at school working with the teachers and students and finish up about 4pm.
If I needed something from town, I would jump in a Matutu, which is a beat-up old 11-seater van holding 14 to 24 people (they used to hold up to 40 by piling people on the roof but the government eventually made that illegal).
The Matutu trip takes about half an hour and is usually pretty entertaining. If you're really lucky you'll get one with a stereo and you'll be treated to the sounds of artists such as Cher, Celine Dion, Westlife or Bob Marley.
Dinner in the homestay was usually something involving ugali, maize or beans. Meat was a treat once or twice a week, and it was usually peas with some mince thrown in, rather than the opposite that I'm more used to of mince with a few peas added.
Having grown up on a Southland sheep and beef farm, to say that I struggled with a primarily vegetarian diet would be an understatement.
After dinner, given that I was living a long way out in the country, nights were usually spent drinking tea and watching English-dubbed Mexican soap operas. Things are a bit different now, however. I've moved into an apartment in the local town with another Muzungu (white person).
The local town has a few Western style bars and restaurants. These were a real treat when I initially moved into town after living on a Kenyan diet for six weeks, and I'd hate to think how many burgers and chocolate brownie sundae's I demolished in that first week. So much for living the hard life in a developing country!
What do you miss about Southland?
The people. I've been living away from Southland for a while now, and outside of New Zealand for nearly three years, so I've seen my family and friends only once or twice a year, which is hard at times. I also miss that ''she'll be right' attitude that can be found in most New Zealander's. It's so nice to come home to where, as the saying goes, ''everybody knows your name'' and everything is so familiar.
What don't you miss?
The cold, and four seasons in one day. Before coming to Kenya, I was living in Indonesia, where the temperature averaged 30 degrees all year round.
It's a bit cooler than that in Kenya at this time of year, but I never have to pile on the layers like I did in a typical Southland winter. I don't miss that one bit!
What was the hardest thing to get used to over there?
Kenya time. It's basically the same as what we call ''Island time''. If you're Kenyan and you arrive somewhere within a couple of hours of when you were meant to, you're still on time.
Have you learnt the language?
Not yet. I've learned a few of the standard greetings and key words I need to get by and to show that I've made an effort to embrace the culture I'm living in.
What advice do you have for other Southlanders?
I think we should really appreciate how lucky we are to live in or come from such a great place. I've seen some amazing things, some crazy things and some things that break my heart, but I always come back to feeling so lucky to be a Southlander and a New Zealander.
How does the cost of living compare to New Zealand?
Fruit and vegetables are much cheaper in Kenya and beer is so cheap it's almost free; a bottle of Heineken is about 150 Kenya shillings, which is about NZ$2.20, and if you're drinking Kenyan beer, you can get the equivalent of a pint for about the same price.
The price of beer in itself is a good enough reason to extend my stay in Kenya!
Have you travelled anywhere else?
In the past few years I've travelled to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, London, Scotland, various places in Southeast Asia, Rarotonga, Hong Kong and India, and now I'm living in Kenya.
I enjoyed them all, but I definitely liked some more than others. Vegas was a lot of fun, Scotland felt a bit like I was back in Southland, Asia and India were really interesting and, at times, crazy and insanely frustrating, but I think Kenya would have to be my favourite place.
I love working with the kids, and the simplicity of life is something I haven't found anywhere else.