8 Trips You Need to Take in Your Lifetime ~ Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

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Finding Myself in Africa- Chapter 14

Day 11

I had such an incredible day today. Maybe it’s because I’m finally getting comfortable with the kids and I know what I’m doing at the school. But today I was sitting in the courtyard thinking about why I’m here and the experience I wanted to get and everyone back home. I was thinking about everything I was missing out on by being here, it’s mom’s birthday and while I got to talk to her this morning it is the first birthday in 24 years that I won’t be spending with her. And then I started to think about something a friend of mine said. He told me he is jealous of where I am and what I’m doing. At the time I was really missing home and feeling bitter about my living situation. I told him there is nothing to be jealous of, I wish I could be home. And then I started thinking about it today, I am so lucky. I’m having the kind of experience many people crave but don’t have the nerve to seek out.

I have the opportunity to meet so many new people and learn about different cultures, not just the Kenyan culture. I have been blessed to meet other volunteers, people from such different backgrounds and from different parts of the world. And I have had been able to experience that while we are so different, we are also very much the same. I am so immensely lucky for this opportunity. It took me two weeks to realize it, but better late than never. I am ashamed of telling my friend not to be jealous because there are so many things that break my heart to see, things I never wanted to see, but it is the most wonderful, annoying, crazy, saddening, incredible experience I could have hoped for.

I step out of my epiphany to take pictures of the kids. I’m smiling and laughing and have finally become completely immersed in the experience I am having here. I don’t think I have smiled that much in a long time.

It is dirty here, and the streets are unpaved and lined with trash, but I’m falling in love with the people here. Their positive outlook is unparalleled and contagious.

We played with the kids all day long and took endless pictures. It is pure fun involving piggy back rides and throwing the kids up in the air. They enjoyed most of all getting their pictures taken and taking mine. I’ve never seen so many kids enamored by a camera, but it was amusing to me that they all knew how to use it perfectly. Children somehow never cease to amaze me.

When the kids go down for naptime us volunteers made our way into the storage room where we spend most of our time. Virginia pulled out a guitar that she brought to school and insisted on singing. She asked Ian to teach us a song which he refused so we ended up singing the same four lines we all knew to Galway Girl.

“And I ask you frien, what’s a fella to do.

Cause her hair was black and her eyes were blue.

And I knew right then I’d be takin’ a whirl

‘Round the Salthill Prom with a Galway girl.”

The end result… the song was stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

After naptime I decided I wanted to do something special for my momma on her birthday, even though I was so far away. So we all went to Class One where I filmed the kids singing happy birthday to my mom. My favorite part was when the kids started singing “Are you one, are you two, are you three, are you four, are you five…” We couldn’t do that forever so finally Virginia stops the class and yells “No, she is 50!” The kids burst out laughing and wouldn’t stop, it was contagious.

After walking the kids home from school the four of us decided to do some vendor shopping. The girls leave tomorrow and I’ll be so sad to see them go. They made the hardest days enjoyable, but we will keep in touch and with any luck I will see them next year.

Life is improving here, the family is very considerate and have started cooking things I like for dinner. This means a lot of pasta, but I’m not complaining, at least I’m eating. My stomach is shrinking I think, I don’t require much food now which is fine and I’ve come to realize I like Rose a lot more after 10 a.m.

Things are looking up and I’m feeling good. Let the good days keep on coming!

Finding Myself in Africa- Chapter 13

I didn’t sleep well last night. As a result of seeing the cockroach I had constant, vivid nightmares; I woke up throughout the night terrified that bugs were crawling all over me. After a restless night’s sleep I wake up to Rose turning on the lights, talking in the room, being in and out and leaving the door open so I can hear the music from the kitchen loud and clear. I am beginning to put her on the same level as the rooster.

It’s an easy day at school today, as me and the girls have decided to leave early, around 1 p.m. to take a short trip into the city. We are plus 1 today as we received a new volunteer from Ireland last night. So it goes like this, I finish taking my shower and come into the living room to find our new volunteer looking roughly 20-years-old sitting on the couch that no one ever sits on. I say hello, take my seat and pull out my book. Its Jane Eyre I’m reading this week, but I can’t focus because he is asking me 20 questions; none of which I can fully remember because his accent had me stunned. Having never heard an Irish accent before I am floored, and that doesn’t happen often. But after my childhood obsession with Harry Potter, this is really no surprise.

Our trip into the city is fairly quiet with the exception that we can’t stop talking. Everyone wants to know about the new kid. In order take the bus into the city it costs 50 shillings which is equivalent to 50 cents; everything is so much cheaper here for us. I saw laptops today selling for 18,000 shillings which is 180 USD.

After an hour ride, we are finally in the city. We do a lot of walking around and are supposed to go to the masai market, but after finding out it’s only open on the weekends, we settle for walking around and looking at the shops.

The city is much cleaner than in Kibera where we live. The sidewalks are not ideal with potholes scattered throughout and the pavement risen in places and after my third time tripping Ian smirks at me and tells me I’m about as graceful as a Giselle.

We walk along the streets and look through the windows on the right while on our left people are lining the sidewalks selling all things from jewelry to books to fruit. People shout at us to buy their products and at one point my hand is grabbed by several men and I have to pull away to get them to let go; shortly after that Lydia, Virginia and myself are whistled at. I guess they are trying to make us feel right at home.

It’s lunchtime in the city and I am relieved to have so many options that don’t consist of rice, ugali or cabbage.

After lunch Lydia and Virginia declare they need to go to the store, so we walk in a massive grocery store that is four levels tall. There are no escalators, only ramps to get from one floor to the next.

Back outside there are bookstands laid out every half block, it is a bookworms dream. And for those of you who know me, yes, your suspicions are correct, I bought a book. I couldn’t help it. Yes, I know I have an illness; because who goes to Africa and buys a book? Oh yea, I do.

The way home is quite eventful as I get to know the new volunteer. I am getting to learn a little about Ireland and he asks plenty of questions about America, (Its surprising how similar our countries are) and we start to swap embarrassing stories. It soon becomes a competition of who can level the playing field with the more embarrassing story. At one point I mention my record player and Polaroid camera and he starts laughing and tells me I am a hipster. I begin to argue that I am definitely not, but I think I am losing this argument. I tell him, “I just appreciate older things and don’t conform to mainstream technology and everything.” He starts laughing and says “you literally just explained what a hipster is!” Apparently all that combined with my love of travel, used bookstores and writing a blog make me a hipster.

Two hours later we finally stop in Kibera and get off the bus. Realizing my shoe is untied I step off to the side to tie it. People skirt around me and without paying much attention to where I am walking, I stand up and take one step forward before slipping and landing right in the deep puddle I was trying to avoid. Dirt, water, and I’m sure some diseases shoot up my leg covering me in this smelly substance. Ian shakes his head and starts laughing “Like I said, graceful as a Giselle” he says. What a fabulous end to the day.

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.