Last Full Day in Kenya

Day 28
What was meant to be an easy day turned into a rather stressful one. Kristyn was leaving this morning to do cultivation work in Masailand and Barnabas and Jackson were taking her around 7:30 a.m. Barnabas said he would be back to pick me up around 11 but I don’t think Jackson got the memo when he came in my room at 7 to ask if I was coming because they wouldn’t be stopping back at the house. I jumped up to take a quick shower and then we were on our way.
The trip took about an hour as we drove through the beautiful Ngong Hills and somehow the conversation turned to politics. Barnabas was talking about the corruption in the government down here. Half of th it cabinet was recently fired for spending taxpayers money on themselves, according to Barnabas. He also started sharing his opinions on American government. The majority of people down here love Obama, but they hate Trump for, in my opinion, understandable reasons. But I prefer to never discuss politics or religion, so moving on.
We dropped Kristyn off at a families modest home. It was apparent she would be getting the real African experience. With the exception of the outhouse, I was a little jealous that she would get to live there for a week. The bedroom had two beds covered in a mosquito net and a chair in the corner. The only other room was a living area consisting of a table, some chairs and two small couches. A wooden hutch stood against the wall next to the entrance to complete the ensemble. The only technology visible was a small black radio on the edge of the couch.
The couple had three adorable daughters and seemed impressed when I addressed the middle child, all of 3-years-old and said “sasa” meaning hi or how are you. Daniel, the father, asked in a surprised tone if I speak Swahili. Unfortunately I had to admit I only speak very little.
We sat and chatted for a few minutes while Kristyn and I lavished attention on the baby who was only 10-months-old. I have to admit, the hardest part about this trip is having to continuously say goodbye to people I have come to care about in such a short time. I gave Kristyn Iine last hug goodbye, we promised to keep in touch and visit next year and then I was on my way.
We were supposed to go to the city market but I was informed we had to make some stops first.
The first stop was to the doctors office, I don’t know why and didn’t ask, but Barnabas took some medicine.
The second stop was to Milla’s relatives house. He was surprisingly wealthy, living in a massive villa surrounded by a cement wall and a gate. On our way out he asked if I liked Kenya, I told him I have enjoyed being here very much. He then asked where I lived in America. Turns out he worked at Hopkins for three years which is about 45 minutes from my house. When I informed him of that he made the comment “the world is getting so small.” I couldn’t help but agree wholeheartedly, I was just saying the same thing to someone the other day.
Barnabas had one more stop to make at the police station, it had something to do with his car, and I sat in the car we drove over and waited, and waited, and waited. I always carry a book with me just in case I ever have down time and need to occupy myself and I was so glad I did. Three hours later I had finished my book and it was nearly four. We were still at the police station and I began to get upset as I hadn’t rated and they just had me sitting in a car all day. So I got up and went searching for them.
When I found them I walked up and wanted to know how much longer we would be waiting because I was hungry, tired and cranky and had been sitting in a hot car for three hours.
At long last Jackson took me to get food while Barnabas continued to wait. Turned out karma is a real thing because after eating a chicken croissant, around 6 when we finally got home I became fairly sick. I can’t determine if the chicken was bad or if my stomach just isn’t used to that kind of food; I think it’s the latter. It will be interesting to see how I react to food once I’m back in the States. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it.

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A Little Culture Shock

Day 27
I swore I would get out and about today and that’s exactly what I did. Kristyn and I went into the city to do some quality shoppingc which i guess was a new experience for her. Our first step was grabbing a bite to eat before walking over to the tents that were set up aroud the downtown area containing clothes, jewelry, shoes and more. We picked a good day to go into town as these tents turned out to have some really great finds. I ended up spending a lot more money than i planned to on gifts for people back home, but with two days left I guess it doesn’t matter.
We walked past street performers who were doing a lot more talking than performing. We stopped briefly to see what they were doing but as they were talking people started looking at us an laughing a bit. So we started to walk past when I heard “Mzungu! I know you can see us!” The only thing more funny than being part of a joke is not being able to understand the joke.
After buying several items we walked to the familiar coffee shop as the weather chose that time to pour down rain. Once seared, I with my cappuccino and her with her Americano and cheesecake we began talking about the comments a man was making to her. He requested for her to pay for his rent for two months, upon hearing this I was shocked! And then Kristyn mentioned that she didn’t know if she could be mad about it. She told me of a taxi driver whom she talked to and after haggling for the price of the ride asked if that was a fair price. He laughed and told her that because she is white she will always be charged more. It is a capitalist country and North Americans taught them that. So if someone agrees to pay 1,000 KSH then it is a fair price because they agreed to pay it. It was an interesting discussion to have, but I guess it goes along the lines of what my mom says. “If you never ask, then the answer is always no.” I guess the people down her abide by the same theory. I know I say all the time that I’m poor or I’m broke but compared to the people down here, I’m rich. The mere fact that I own a car in and of itself makes me rich in comparison.
Many people down here don’t even have a license because it’s too expensive to learn how to drive. It really puts things into perspective. How often do we complain about how little we have, we complain that our car is a piece of crap. But people down here will save money for thirty years just to be able to drive. I’m learning to be very appreciative of all that I have.
Relaxing at the house this evening was enjoyable as we all sat around talking. Leonard, (the cook from the school) asked us what our biggest challenges were here. I declared that it was getting adjusted to the school, I had to find my niche and find a way to make an impact and form a relationship with the kids. Kristyn asked if I felt I did that. I told her absolutely! The way the kids said goodbye and begged me not to go left no doubt in my mind that I left a mark on their lives.
It’s a wonderful feeling knowing I have gotten everything out of this trip I was looking for and more. If theres any advice I can give, its that everyone should do this once in their lives. It is truly an eye opening and life altering experience.

Saying Goodbye

Day 26
In all honesty today was the most uneventful day I have had since I arrived, which I suppose is good, everyone deserves a day of doing absolutely nothing, but it was difficult for me. I wanted to go out but being a small, young white woman held me back. Yesterday I walked to the Nakumat with Ian, he crossed the road but I didn’t and as soon as he was away from me men started to make comments about my relationship status. It quickly caused me to cross over to where Ian was, so today I was not keen on reliving that experience.
I was up very early this morning and after video chatting with my family I decided to take a shower and start my day.
Ian showed up shortly before he was due to head home to Ireland and pulled a small plastic bag out of his pocket. He told me he got me a gift but I wasn’t allowed to open it until he left. I’d be lying if I said my curiosity wasn’t peaked but I refrained from searching it’s contents.
We sat and talked for a while before he left and I finally could open the little bag. Inside was a note that said simply “because you didn’t get to go back to the bone store that time.” I looked inside the bag to find a necklace from the store I had wanted to revisit but never did. I was so touched, it meant a lot.
The rest of the day was spent reading and watching Netflix. It was very relaxing but I felt incredibly lazy. I’m ready to get out and interact with the world tomorrow.

Last Day at Havilla

Day 25
Today was my last day at Havilla Children’s Centre. The school is closed until the beginning of January and for anyone who doesn’t know, I shortened my stay in Africa. Originally I was supposed to be here for three months, however upon arriving I realized that the didn’t know what to do with my once the school was closed. I decided it was in my best interest to come home early rather than waste time and money. I will be home next week and I am very much looking forward to it. I will miss the people I have met here.
All of the volunteers made this trip so much easier than it would have been. I was so lucky to meet all of them.
I am going to miss the children at the school so very much. Their smiling faces can turn a bad day right around. At the school today I had to give a small speech to say goodbye. I told them how special they are to me and I will never forget them. I told them they have a special place in my heart and I will miss them very much. My eyes began to water and I felt a tear slowly roll down my cheeck. I quickly wiped it away and focused on spending time enjoying their company.
At the end of four weeks I do feel like I’ve impacted these children’s lives. I requested that they all make Christmas cards for me, and I  them they all wrote notes. They all had one thing in common. They said, “I will miss you” and “Dont go.”
If that isn’t reassurance that I have impacted their lives then I don’t know what is. One little girl, Venter (pronounced Benta) told me in her card “please please please don’t go. If you do I will run crying through the rain after you.” I love that little girl. I would take her home with me if I couls. She told me today about how her brother cut her. She showed me a scar on her arm and said he cut her with a nail. It looked more like a knife wound.
My heart broke for this little girl who acted like it was the most normal thing in the world to be stabbed by her sibling.
She held my hand all day long and it made it so hard to say goodbye, not just to her but to all the kids in class two. They asked if one day I would come back to visit them, I hope one day I can. I know when this is all over I won’t be quite the same, I can feel it. It’s a change going on deep down and the thing is, only I can see it and know it’s there, and that’s okay.

Thanksgiving in Kenya

Day 24
It is Thanksgiving and so far it is highly uneventful for me. I have spent the day in the car heading home from Masai Mara. I spent 8.5 hours in the car in complete silence. I don’t know if I’ve ever been quiet for that length of time in my life. The past three days have been spent in near complete silence, one of the perks to getting home will be having people to talk to again.
I may be having a second wave of homesickness given that it’s Thanksgiving and I’m alone in remembering this holiday here. Or it could be not being able to talk to anyone in three days, I can’t really be sure.
On the drive home I was surprised by how everyone else in the van was able to just sit there in silence the whole ride with nothing for a distraction. I brought with me two books and my ipod for entertainment. If it werent for those things I would have gone crazy from sheer boredom. We stopped a few times, once where I got a small present, once for lunch (Where I ran into Kristen, go figure) and once to check out the view from a mountain. I was too afraid to go near the edge, the platform was made of wood poorly pieced together that didn’t look very sturdy so I decided to keep my distance and appreciate the view from afar. I deemed it safe that way. It was the same mountain we had seen on our way in, it was picturesque with mountains forming a barrier and green plains stretching as far as I could see.
Once we arrived safely back at the house I set all my technology up to charge, most people use their phone for everything, I have a camera, iPod and phone. I’m a little behind on the times. I then sat down at the dining table where more silence ensued.
I am convinced that everything in the U.S will seem so loud and deafening in comparison. I know I already am going to be very low key my first few days home. I’m going to have to readjust to my life in the States. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

My First Safari

Day 23
Today we had to be up by 7 a.m., we ate breakfast quickly before leaving for our safari. We spent ten hours driving through the rolling hills and looking at all the animals. Our new friend Pam (from Spain) was I’ll so she couldn’t participate much but we still managed to have fun pointing out the different types of animals as we saw them.
We spent the majority of the ride in silence, which gave me WAY too much time to think. Five hours into the ride we came upon a lake. There were tour guides waiting to take us around. They were wearing camouflage gear and had massive guns that I assumed were for any animals that might attack us. One man led us past a sign that declared no one was to pass that point without a guide. I looked out to see a gorgeous view and for the first time in my life, hippos. When the tour was finished the guide shamelessly asked us for a tip and wouldn’t walk away until we gave him one.
I gave him 100 KSH and then asked to take my picture with him, which started a trend as everyone else got one as well.
We relocated after that to an area across the river to have lunch. The cooks back at camp packed us meals so large I couldn’t finish half of mine. It was an overall entertaining lunch as I watched a monkey run over and take a banana right out of a man’s hands. Using the restroom became an interesting experience when I went to wash my hands and looked up to see a snake chilling out above my head. It was at that point I decided hand sanitizer would work just fine.
After we finished our lunch we made our way back toward camp. On the way we stopped to watch a family of lions, the cubs were adorable. They ran and played with each other and fought over a plastic bottle, it was like watching a bunch of overgrown kittens playing together.
Upon arriving back at camp, there was a man from the Masai village waiting to show us around. We were greeted at the village by several men with large gauges in their ears and bright colorful clothing which we later found out was to keep away animals. The Chiefs’ son walked out to explain what we would be doing in the village but last minute told us the fee would be 1,000 KSH. None of us had much money and were surprised that after spending $400 USD and 500 Euro to go on the safari here we would be charged extra. Unfortunately as great as that would have been to see, they were not getting 4,000 KSH from us and we had to walk away.
We walked back to camp in uncomfortable silence before grabbing a cup of tea and talking for the first time all trip. We all ate dinner and then retired to bed after what had been a long day.

Headed to Masai Mara

Day 22
Today is the day we finally left for Masai Mara. There has been no shortage of interesting things occuring.
I was informed last night that our van would arrive at 6:30 a.m. and we would leave at 7:30 a.m. at approximately 7 I was in the shower when Milla came to the door telling me the van was there and the driver was waiting. My first thought was he can wait, he was four hours late yesterday. I refused to rush and continued with my shower. Milla came to the door two more times; I still refused to rush. He could wait for me. At 7:15 I was done and we were on our way.
It took over an hour to actually get moving, we had to pick up two other passengers, a guy from Japan just visiting and a girl from Barcelona who has been here for two months doing volunteer work in an orphanage and who looks 20 but I later found out she is 34. Apparently women in Spain have eternal youth.
Shortly after picking them both up, the van started making strange noises and we had to pull into a gas station and wait for a replacement van while our current van was worked on. That took around an hour and we all stood around waiting. Ian sat down and made friends with a man selling fruit  while the rest of us just stood around awkwardly, waiting.
Being on the road again was a relief, we were looking at a six hour drive in front of us still. We stopped at a buffet for lunch which included a lot of the same things I have been eating, spinach and rice. It was a quick lunch before too long we were back on the road. I took a short nap and was woken up by a rough rumbling noise we had transferred to a dirt road that had a bump every three inches or so. It became a very rough ride after that. We drove around the side of a mountain that overlooked a beautiful valley, on the side of the road we passed monkeys, giraffrs, zebra, cows, sheep and more.
Unfortunately it is the rainy season so it was slow going on the muddy roads. At one point our van got stuck and we had to get our and help push. We stopped several times and most of those times I had no idea why. Each time we stopped children ran up to the window asking for sweets and one time they asked for a book. Ian turned around and said, “I imagine this is how a zombie apocalypse must feel like.”
Finally after 9 hours in the car we arrived at the camp ground. I was expecting tents, but instead we were shown into individual to oms, the girls each got their own room and the boys had to share. Personally, I think us girls got the better end of the deal.
After settling into my room I went to meet everyone else and we found out we were going out to see some of the animals.
So we all hopped back in the van to go on a safari adventure. We saw giraffe’s and elephants and lions, oh my! The animals were so close you could almost reach out and touch them.
We stayed out for almost two hours before heading back to camp. Once back we got some dinner and it was low key after that. I expected it to be more lively and for there to be things to do, but so far it is a tad disappointing. I’m in bed at 8 p.m.
If there’s one thing I’ll be looking forward to when I get home it will be having something to do and a reason to stay awake.