Home at last………July 20, 2012

A typical day in Nairobi….no traffic laws but NO rode rage either!

Andrea posing with Solomon, the boy who is her son Jamie’s Pen Pal!

On our way to deliver the goats and chickens to a Maasai widow….chickens in the bag!!

The Phillips family resting at our favorite giraffe lookout…….yes, they really are there most days, just not when I bring people to come see them?!  Really?!

 Rest, relaxation, water, electricity and beauty beyond belief during our time in Zanzibar!

Our final delivery of my daughter Kayla’s goats and Peyton’s chickens to this destitute family!

Amazing memories of Shaffer’s “special occasion,” Day!  Very humbling and fun!

Giving Ronesa children their NEW uniforms……the smiles say it all!!

Mischel and Janet reminding us why they melt our hearts!

Our 18 “destitute,” students in their first year of school……all in English!

My fun friends from Olosho-Oibor government school who love photos!!

My Amazing “Welcome Home,” sunset leaving DIA last night….there’s no place like Home!

Greetings Everyone~

Seems just like yesterday, and also like a year ago that I was leaving for another amazing journey to Africa!  That pretty much sums up the dicotomy of Africa!  It is a place of extreme opposites. Upon arrival it quickens all your senses like never before.  What you “see,” is filth, poverty, horrid living conditions, crowds of black faces wandering to places unseen, animals that pose danger amidst playful children, endless matatus and kiosks of small businesses, and roads that you and I wouldn’t dare to tread. BUT, when you take a closer look what you really SEE among the filth and poverty are people who are content, happy even, who have an unexplainable thankfulness for just having their daily needs met.  The sea of people briskly walking the streets, or spilling out of the matatus are people who are so thankful for their jobs or who are looking for something, anything to do to provide for their families.

When you “smell,” Africa it’s a very distinct scent that reminds you that you are very far from home. It is a combination of trash, smoke, and pollution. You wonder how they get used to the smell, but THEN the day comes when you find yourself back home inhaling your African souveniers…….in hopes of recalling the memories of the people that are forever etched in your heart.

What you “hear,” in Africa is noise………..a lot of noise from the busy streets of Nairobi, the endless matatus that wouldn’t have a chance of passing an emissions test, and out in Maasailand the sound of bleeting goats, bells from cows, eerie hyenas that remind you that you of where you really are, dogs barking during the night to ward off the wild animals, children shouting their English lessons in the classroom right next to the classroom filled with singing that you pray will never stop. These “noises,” quickly become part of the whole adventure, one that you dread will end far too soon!

What you “feel,” in Africa, physically and emotionally, is perhaps the thing that most of us can not, and may never, be able to wrap our hearts and minds around completely. To hold the rough hand of an old Maasai woman knowing those hands have to fetch water every day, miraculously produce “food,” that isn’t there,  and then create beautiful bead work in the hopes of providing enough money to send their daughters to school in hopes they too won’t become someones 3rd or 4th wife at the ripe old age of 11…..is enough to make even our men pause in disbelief.  To feel the skin, the beautiful black skin of the children, makes you wonder how they stay so soft despite the dirt they live in every day. But harder still………are the things you really FEEL which you can not explain. When you watch the kids learning at our school, you feel complete joy in how smart they are, especially given this is their 3rd language they are learning.  When they are singing and dancing, you feel like your heart is going  to explode.  When you meet others from the community while walking through the bush, you envy the time they take in greeting one another and wish we had even a sense of that at home anymore. When you watch the “girls,” from the Safehouse dance in church, you feel an angst and a ripping of your heart knowing that each of those girls has taken a very risky stand against their fathers who have tried to force them into marriage or who have refused to become part of the 90% of girls who are circumsized. Their only choice is to run away, or to find a Safehouse where they are “protected,” from their fathers who wish to trade them for more cows and goats. There are 28 girls living together and the youngest is Everline.  She is 8 years old!  We ache for them in our silence knowing that education has been, and will remain the only hope they have for a better (different) life than their forgotten mothers.  Yet they are happy, they are fierce, they wear their school uniforms with pride knowing that just maybe, somehow, they will find a sponsor who will allow them to go to school past the 8th grade. They have the same dreams our girls at home have, but their journey to see their dreams come true is plaqued by obstacles our girls could never quite understand……..and for that we are so thankful!  These girls are my heros and they are leading the way in showing this beautiful tribe that while they have many, many respectable traditions……..that there are some “traditions,” that HAVE to change!

The other 9 people (Andrea our current PTA president, my teacher/friend Deb who came last year also and our husbands, and our former PTA president and his entire family) who joined me this year all have their own stories now to tell of “their Africa.” What a blessing it has been for me to be part of their African Adventure. I’m humbled that they trusted me enough to bring them to such a place as this! But, I’m especially proud of how each of them found the courage to step out of our daily lives in an effort to explore this amazing world and somehow redefine their place and value in it! Each person, each group brought something different to the Maasai community and they are deeply loved and remembered amongst the Maasai forever. We came knowing we had things to give, things to share with them, things to teach them about the Mzungu (white-faced people) way of life. BUT, whatever “good will,” we brought to the Maasai, I’m sure we would all agree, pales in comparision to what the Maasai and beautiful people of Africa gave and did for us! I tell people often to not even try to process your African experience until long after you are back home.  It takes awhile to get your head and heart back together in the same place…..if that’s even possible.  What I do know for sure is that the world is an amazing place, people are innately GOOD, and we all have something to contribute to make bad a little better, o.k. a little easier, good can become great, and great can become something beyond your wildest imagination! 2 years ago I had a little dream of building a school in a little village where no one could say the name. Today WE have a thriving school called Ronesa (means Caring community in Swahili), we have 50 students whose lives are forever changed because we looked at them and told them that they matter. What we do here in America, in our daily lives for those we love matters also. We can even be happy and content in it and that’s o.k.  But for most of us, for whatever reason, slowly and quietly, life can slip away from us.  The dreams we envisioned living in our childhood are replaced by harsh realities and demanding responsibilities.  But deep within all of us there exists a need, I choose to believe God put it there, to disrupt the comfort of our daily lives and challenge our view of the world……and how WE fit in it?! To live a good life is good.  To live a life with others in mind, and in actions is even better!  I will close with the simple words that Josephine, a mother of one of our students said to me after she rehearsed with Mama Shiela the Mzungu words she wanted to say to me.   She said to me, “Thank you Mama Kayla. I am very much happy and life is very much good now.”

I hope your lives are very much good also!!

Julie