My name is Boima Kemokai

Two Sundays ago, (June 30th), Peace Corps hosted an adoption ceremony for trainees and their host families.

All of us trainees lined up expectantly to meet our new families…


While all the families tried to guess who was going to be their new child.


One by one we were called and got to meet our families. I was ‘born’ to Robert and Helena Kemokai:


They promptly named me Boima (pronounced Bwema). In the Vai dialect, it means elder. A Boima is someone you go to for advice, and is a part of the final decisions that are made for a village.

On the far right is Doug Brewey… who is now officially my brother, because he was adopted by the Kemokais last year (his name is Varney, which also means elder in the Vai dialect). Doug happened to be around for the adoption because he was called from his site to help with the training.

It was quite the coincidence that we were born to the same family, since Doug and I share so many interests – we’re both electrical engineers, musicians, clowns, teachers, and we will both talk your ear off if you get us talking about anything related to those subjects.

Before I even got to Liberia I contacted Doug because I was super excited about his teaching philosophies and practices after reading his blog. I’ve been talking with him extensively over the past couple of weeks, having a blast brainstorming with him.

But I’ll be talking more about teaching later. I want you to meet my new family!


From the left, there is Ma, Jimmy, Jelsee, Robalin, and Carlotti. And then G-ma is in the pink in the front. Carlotti is actually a cousin of mine, but she often hangs out at the house. In Africa, its common for children to live with relatives.

This is the house that we live in:


We live in ‘Vai-town‘, which is just a 5 minute walk from Doe Pallace.

My Pa runs a little business on his front porch. It’s part bar and part general store. Local men stop by at night to drink ‘gana gana’, a locally made whiskey distilled from fermented cane juice. Gana-gana is dirt cheap, tastes like airplane fuel, and gets you intoxicated very quickly. (And the hangovers are the worst, so I’ve been told)


Even so, all the men here say that gana-gana makes them strong and protects them from malaria. (“When a mosquito bite you, nofing happen!”) I told them that in America, we’d say “it puts hair on your chest”. They liked the thought of that too.

When ever I hang out on the porch with the men, its not uncommon to be gifted with a shot of gana-gana. (And its on the house, because my Pa owns the place). Because this is not condusive to my rigorous training schedual, I sip slowly and only end up only drinking about half. I’ve discovered the culture of sharing with people that stop by can help me get rid of the rest. It’s really handy to have a cup with gana-gana in hand though… whenever I forget someone’s name, I blame can it on the gana-gana. They love it.

Here’s another view inside the porch, with G-ma for size.


And then here’s Robalin on the porch. Some of her hobbies include wrestling and being cute. Look out for this girl, she’ll knock you down.


Here’s the view when you enter the front door:


On the left is the attached kitchen. On the right leads to my room, Jelcee’s room, the kid’s room, the parent’s room, and the bathroom.

Speaking of the bathroom, here it is:


There’s no running water so bucket showers and bucker flushes are required. Kids are not allowed to use it… they all go outside. I actually have a nicer bathroom situation than a couple of the other volunteers… one told me he just has a hole in some concrete.

Here’s my room:


You can see my bughut on the right, and my water filter on the far left. The light bulb you see hanging there turns on when the generator turns on, which is usually only for a couple hours at night. But right now the generator is broken, I think, because it hasn’t been running for the past week.

Here’s Ma in the kitchen lighting the coal pot:


Rubber is used to start the coals, or a plastic bag. But Ma discovered that styrofoam works the best. (If you can find it)

Outside the kitchen, on the side of the house, dishes are done in buckets. The kids are expected to do all the chores. It’s actually pretty great, you can tell a kid to do something here and they do it.


Here’s G-ma again!


And Jimmy!


And Ma and Jelcee!


And Robalin, of course.



(But don’t worry Mom, you’ll always be my real mom!)

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5 Responses to My name is Boima Kemokai

  1. Becky Husmann says:

    I love your new family!! And tell your Ma that I’m more than happy to share you. I’m just jealous that I don’t get to spend time with your new family too!!

  2. Doug Hutchinson says:

    Well be sure to listen to Doug since all Dougs are smart wonderful fellows! lol
    It looks like you are settling in nicely Kyle. Any chance you two EE majors can figure out what is up with the generator? 🙂 Do you have a way to receive packages? Any way we can ship you goods now and again?

    • khusmann says:

      Haha, apparently so! I suppose there’s some chance, but it’d be more likely if I was a ME. 🙂 And yes! Packages / letters are like gold here. When I get the chance, I’ll make a post on here about how to do that…

  3. Evie says:

    Love your new family, Kyle! Their smiles are beautiful.

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