May 2, 2010 Dispatch from Kenya
I’m going to start this blog post with a checklist – one that I have successfully completed today:
1. Walked over 4 ½ miles in gum boots (wellies, galoshes, etc), splashing through the puddles like you’re 6 again
2. Fell in love with all of Kenya’s youth
3. Followed the music wherever it leads
4. Got side-tracked by an adorable boy named Bennett
5. Got lost… and don’t care
6. Used a river for blister therapy
7. Ate mkate (bread) for lunch with chai©, tea with fresh milk and sugar
8. Ate lunch in a small hoteli (restaurant) with our group of nine and there was only enough room for two others to sit
9. Met headmasters and planed my future profession as a teacher, at least for the next two weeks
10. Willingly planed out all of my free time for volunteer projects
11. Found out that I am expected to call corn “maize”
12. Ate goat meat for the first time and realized it may have been one of the goats I saw this morning
Before we left Batian’s View for our first full day here, we were told many of the major differences between what we may see here and what we are used to at home. But the most ginormous difference I’ve noticed today is how everyone is so incredibly friendly. When you pass someone on the road you’re expected to say “Habari,” which simply means “how are you?” or “hujambo” (hello) in Kiswahili. This always ilicits a response of “Sijambo” or “mzuri” which means fine. This isn’t just to a few people, but to everyone you pass!
We walked to two of the schools that we will be teaching, Manyatta and Irigithathi Primary Schools this morning, and along the way we gained about a dozen new friends. One of them, a 14-year-old boy named Bennett, was especially talkative and incredibly intelligent. He told us about how me makes necklaces out of “all different colors, like, you call it rainbow?” A few of us were sidetracked by our conversation and pictures, and we ended up pretty far behind the group. As we were chatting, we heard some women singing and wanted to “follow the music.” We did, and ended up sitting in on a part of a church service. The congregation was incredibly nice, telling us “welcome to the visitors.” We didn’t really know where we were, but we didn’t care – we didn’t feel out of place or uncomfortable at all. With Bennett as our guide, we could do no wrong. And that is the incredible thing about this place – we weren’t uncomfortable, and we weren’t out of place. We were totally welcomed and could have stayed all day. I would have been terrified to do that kind of thing in the US.
The rest of the group had walked ahead and hadn’t noticed our detour. We came to elarn that they were a good half mile ahead of us when they stopped to look back, and couldn’t see us. Lucas ended up walking back expecting to find us near the road talking with some children. No, we were not to be found. Near the church Lucas asked “wapi wazungu?” and he was directed to the church. We had no idea so much time had passed and we probably shouldn’t have strayed off the road, but the experience that we had was so magical and we saw such a special snipit of the Kenyan culture, that it was totally worth it.
Yesterday when we arrived at Batian’s View Mr. Roberts, many of us are beginning to simply call him Fred, told us that each and every day here we had to do something different, try something new, and push our comfort zone a little more each day. That way we will make the most of this amazing experience. I think I did a pretty good job on my first day and I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow.
A phrase which seems very fitting now is “We’ve been kidnapped by the culture here” – and we’re getting Stockholm syndrome.
P.S. Chai!!! ©