After a long few days of travel, I am happy to report I have arrived safe and sound at our home in rural Kenya. And, I couldn’t be happier! In September of this year, I returned home to America. Thank you to everyone who made my trip home so welcoming, happy, and productive! Between seeing family and friends, traveling to California to attend an amazing Arrive fundraiser organized by Board of Directors member Lauren, getting so much accomplished, and being able to squeeze a little fun in between, I couldn’t have asked for a better trip home. But, now that I’m back, I feel really at home!
Living in Kenya for an extended time, it took a trip back to America for me to remember how much I love life here in the African countryside. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic to see the kids and they were just as excited (I think) to see me! Only one day in Africa has brought on a number of worthy events, and while I can’t remember them all, here are a few:
- For the first time in my life, I stopped over in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I gave myself just enough time to see the city, which I now think is more of a toy store for adults. I walked through a “spice and gold” market, saw the tallest building in the world, saw the biggest mall in the world, explored the coolest man-made, palm-tree-shaped island in the world, among other attractions. By the end of my few hours, I may have been the most tired person in the world!
I arrived in Nairobi to a welcome of…a broken airport shuttle, a non-moving line for customs, and other debacles that reminded me quickly that I landed in a third world country. Saying that, I wouldn’t have had it any other way! I also was happily welcomed by Daisy and Nicolas, two Arrive kids who got the invite to travel from our home 8 hours away to come pick me up from the airport. I don’t think they realized that the invite included helping lug my bags! They were quickly rewarded though; at our one stop in Nairobi, I was able to buy for Daisy her first ice cream sandwich after we all enjoyed what was my last pizza for a while.
- The roads in Kenya proved again to be the most dangerous aspect of my life here. Kenya is notorious for having extremely dangerous roads with extremely reckless drivers. It is quite sad how many people I have personally known who have died on the roads for a careless reason, like choosing to conserve energy by not putting on their headlights at night. We witnessed a matatu (a public transport van which, while has only 12 seats, carries 25 people) slam head on into a cow crossing the road in Maasailand. Luckily, nobody was hurt…except the cow. I would venture that once they cleared the accident, they treated themselves to a steak dinner. By the time we got closer to home, the 18-wheeler parked in the very middle of the street (so the yellow line split the truck down the middle) without its lights on at 3:00 am, looking straight into the headlights of two oncoming side-by-side trucks, one in the oncoming lane and one in ours, passing each other around a blind turn forcing our car off the road (or be made into a chapatti), and the many other mishaps were no less normal to me then the random police checks by machinegun-wielding officers throughout the night.
- Thirty-four hours after stepping through my door in Connecticut, I arrived to our home in Kenya at 4:30 am local time. Due to the torrential thunderstorms of the rainy season, we tried a few different mud roads before we found one that was passable. As the car rumbled into the driveway with its distinguishing loud roar, there was not one child who stayed asleep.
- Back at home, I gave the kids all of the gifts which fit into my three 50 lb bags of luggage. They say thank you to everyone who was kind enough to contribute something, big or small!
- In my first day back in Kenya: I helped retrieve water from the river and carry corn to the maize mill, we fished 30 large tilapia from our fish farm to cook for dinner, I have greeted what seems like half of this country, I fell into a river, and we’ve exchanged stories and laughs throughout the day.
Today, the kids were given part of their Christmas gifts. As most of the kids still use the same mattress as when they first came here over two years ago, I was surprised to see how worn the mattresses had become. Arrive bought each and every kid a new mattress! Pastor, Madam, and I expect the kids’ wake up time to be about two hours later tomorrow morning. As today is the last market day before Christmas, we gave each child a small gift of money to use at the market. Most of the children expressed interest in buying new clothes to wear on Friday, but I must assume that sodas and mandazi were also bought. By this point, the older kids have become so responsible that not only is it OK for them to travel to the market, but they look after the younger ones and help them buy whatever they need.
If you have never been to Kenya or a similar socio-economic environment, you’d be blown away by how appreciated the smallest gifts – a pencil, a mattress, a photograph, a smile – truly are.
A final gift will be given to the kids on Christmas – hand-sewn pillowcases generously made and sent to us by a lovely couple in America. With 35 different fabrics, these gifts will be a practical and beautiful addition to the childrens’ beds.
As I mentioned earlier, I forgot how truly happy, lucky, and grateful I am to live in this beautiful part of the world. Everyday I wake up with a smile on my face because I know that with your support, Arrive will continue to help the most impoverished and underprivileged kids around. Of course there are challenges and frustrations, but those are easily dwarfed by the truly amazing aspects of a life lived helping people in rural Kenya. While it may take me a bit longer to watch the new Star Wars or eat another bacon, egg, and cheese sandwhich (although we do grow all the ingredients right here at home), I am truly blessed.
From the entire Arrive family around the world, to yours, have a Merry Christmas and very peaceful New Year!
Now, as Onyoni is not telling me but showing me, it is time to sleep…