Finding Myself in Africa- Chapter 12

Finally, some semblance of normalcy today. The rooster gave it a break this morning, hopefully he made himself hoarse and lost his voice yesterday.

We have a variation at school today, we only have to do arts and crafts until around 11 a.m. At that time we are asked to take the kids outside to practice for graduation. Five kids are chosen from each class to do the catwalk and the children walk up and down the “runway” and strike a pose while the other students clap and chant their name. It’s adorable to see them act like any other child I’ve interacted with, they have fun and put a little sass into their routine. It’s touching to know that not much changes between cultures; sure we speak different languages and look different, but when you get down to the core, we are all inherently the same.

While we are practicing for their graduation, kids from the area stop to watch. Their clothes are in poor condition. One girls’ stockings are so visibly old that her toes are no longer covered and holes are scattered throughout revealing her skinny legs. All of the children are dirty, their clothes tattered and torn, they sit and watch us and I can’t help but wonder if they look upon our students with envy. They don’t appear to have much other than the clothes on their back and an old basketball they kick around as a soccer ball.

There is an old abandoned, beat up car that sits in the side alley next to the school where we are practicing for graduation. I look behind me and the kids that previously were watching us are now climbing on the car, using it as their own personal jungle gym. It is incredibly sad to watch these kids get so much enjoyment from an old abandoned care because they have nothing else.

I’m losing weight drastically here and it’s no wonder why. At lunch time the other teachers are getting worried because I won’t eat more than a banana. I don’t have the heart to tell them that it’s because I’m squeamish about flies in my food, I feel like that might offend them. They constantly ask if I’m okay or tell me to eat or ask if I’m hungry. I figure the best answer is I’m not very hungry, I just like bananas for lunch.

I’ve been here a little over a week now and when I get home it’s time to do laundry and oh, is it an experience! There are no washing machines her, everything is by hand. I really give the people down here credit, my back is killing my back is killing me by the time I’m done from squatting hunched over a small plastic basin.

The process is time consuming, everything takes a little longer down here. Lydia and Virginia were kind enough to show me the process and laughed when I gave them an incredulous look at the effort it takes. We have to fill one basin with cold water and pour detergent mix in before mixing it around in the water. We put a few items in and scrub them and then put them in another basin to rinse off the soap and then hang them on a clothesline to dry. The problem is it’s the rainy season and I’m just praying that my clothes dry before the overcast sky decides to let the rain fall.

So now I wait until my clothes dry, and let me just say, I am NOT pleased about my undergarments being out there for the world to see.

Tonight is bible study for the family and since I’m trying to be engaging more, I sat at the table to work on my blog, however, it is near impossible to sit in a room and not hear what they are saying.

Near the end, Barnabas begins talking about our sins and says to not become a drunkard. He says (and I’m paraphrasing) that “those who partake in drinking will die young, go to hell, and your soul will belong to the devil.” So, bad news for all of you out there who enjoy a good drink, you will live a short life and go to hell apparently.

Every night after writing my blog in my journal I go to bed with my phone and type the blog up on my phone. It is usually a two-hour process in all but tonight I am hindered by an unexpected guest in my room. I am walking toward my bunkbed when something small crawls out from my mattress. It looks kind of like a stinkbug, it takes me a minute to realize it is actually a cockroach when Rose walks in. I begin hyperventilating and yell at her “what is that!?” She starts laughing, grabs it with her hand, throws it to the ground and stomps on it with her bare foot. Laughing, she says “It’s just a cockroach.” I respond with “Oh is that all!?” I miss home, I did NOT sign up for that, on second thought, I guess I kind of did.

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Day 29
It is so strange to me that I am leaving to go back home. Has it really been four weeks already? It’s strange that this is the last time I will be waking up in Kenya, the last time I will sleep in this bed. I almost want to walk up to the Nakumat one more time to take everything in.
Every time I think of the month I’ve spent here I smile. I have to many good memories to bring home with me and I can replay the trip over and over again in my mind and see how this beautiful, amazing country changed my outlook, my appreciation and myself. When I arrived I felt very much like a child, even at 24, I didn’t feel like I was making progress. But after four weeks, I don’t feel as though I am the same person I was when I arrived.
I’ve learned to be grateful for all that I have, I’ve watched children with absolutely nothing be ten times happier than children at home who have everything they could possibly want. I’ve seen poverty in its truest and most heartbreaking form. I used to think seeing a person begging on the side of the road was sad, and it is. But you don’t understand the extremity of poverty until you see children using piles of trash as their playground or watching twenty people rummage through those same piles of trash at 8 in the morning to ensure they get the best options.
I’ve had the opportunity to teach children who live in shacks without a bathroom, without running waters sometimes without even a place to sleep and watched them be the happiest kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I then was lucky to grow close enough that I developed a special place in my heart for each and every one of them. I know I will keep that with me forever.
Here in Kenya it is a different world, a simple world. Aside from the rooster waking me every morning at 6 a.m., it is incredibly quiet and serene here. The people take their time, they are never in a rush and I believe they are happier for it. Kenyans often don’t keep Time, 10 a.m. can mean 1 p.m. and it is just accepted. Its something we can learn from them, why is the westernized world always in such a rush to go nowhere?
And I dare every woman to go a month without wearing make up, without doing your hair, without dressing perfect all the time. It is a guarantee that you will discover your self worth.
Looking back on this trip I have no regrets, I immersed myself in a new country, I ate new and different food, met new and interesting people, I learned to take a five minute shower (which was more like a sponge bath), I learned to navigate the streets of Kibera, ride on a matatu and find my way into the city.
Coming to Africa has been something I have wanted to do since I was 10-years-old. Over half my life it has been my dream to come here and make a difference. 14 years later I finally achieved my dream and it is bittersweet.
But the best part of fulfilling a dream….now I get to go out and find a new one which will consist of backpacking through Europe. Stay tuned.