*disclaimer: i started writing this on tuesday, before my need for sleep took over. i’m completing it on d-day. (thursday.. last day in kenya. *weeps softly*) and yes i do pack two days in advance, because i literally ALWAYS get it wrong on the first try. also i haven’t really edited it, so it’s slightly disjointed.
It’s 3 AM in the morning, and I’m packing things. It’s a funny task, packing. In one moment, everything has its rightful place, and in the next they have been completely uprooted. (Which is what will happen to me shortly after packing – funny how that works.) Suddenly all the trivial things that make up everyday appearances, that seemed significant and numerous when scattered throughout a room at once are reduced to a black bag with wheels and a little maple leaf tag.
Looking back on the last 7 months, I can already feel my experiences slipping into the recess of my mind, much like my bobby pins will all find the bottom of my suitcase. (Though we know half of them will somehow skydive and never make it back to Edmonton.) Slowly, memories are fading into one singular event. I don’t want that to happen, but I can’t see a way to prevent it entirely, as I have a notoriously bad memory. I do want to remember that there were more than the major events. There were late nights christened with laughter, early mornings spent in companionable silence; days lost in the shock and confusion of foreign accents, overwhelming colours, and bustling life that shouted for my attention throughout Nairobi.
I’m not sure when this became a classic sentiment of mine, but often, when I grow impatient, I say “I don’t want much out of life, but I do want.. *insert trivial “want” here.* I realized a few weeks ago that, albeit my saying it only as a joke, I’m totally lying every time that phrase rolls off my tongue, for one simple reason: I do want much out of life. As a matter of fact, I’m expecting much from life.
Even at a young age I was an old soul. I don’t know if it was my premature thought processes or what really triggered it, but somewhere around that age I had this premonition-like-conviction that I would die young. Perhaps I still will – I’d like to think “young” is entirely relative. But because of this weird (and let’s be real, I was a weird kid) attitude I had, I only grew increasingly somber as I grew old. I’m not saying that I never laughed, or anything too eccentric.. More that I was hypersensitive of how short life is. As I reached young adulthood, I started to feel the “infinite” attitude of youth, and the acute reality of a short lifespan has dulled to small ache in the hollow of my heart.
I want a life full of family and friends, I hope for health. I want tattoos. I desire to be educated and well read, and especially well travelled. I long for meaningful, worthwhile work. Maybe it seems audacious or presumptuous to say I expect, or anticipate, all this from life. Perhaps I have a life of great sorrow ahead of me and I’ll read this in some years, jaded and bitter. It’s possible that grief might break me and mould me into a gentler, and humbly healing soul, in which case I’ll read this wistfully, marvelling at the innocence and ignorance youth grants us for too short a time.
I love books. There are certain books that I have read over and over again, there are series that I continuously escape into. Returning to the worlds within those covers is like meeting an old friend unexpectedly: happiness washes through you and familiarity overcomes you. I hope that Kenya and I will have a relationship like that. I found a home and a family here while I wasn’t looking.
This probably seems like a hodgepodge post (or at least that’s what it feels like), but my thoughts are scattered as I prepare myself to leave one home and return to another. I initially thought I would make this a post about all I’ve learned, but I was emailing a friend who asked me the same question, and I realized that I have yet to realize the extent of my education here. I’ve learned a billion things in some ways, and in other ways I’ve only really learned one or two key lessons. I’m fairly certain it all depends on which angle you’re admiring the experience from. Anyway, I started this post by talking about how my memories are already fading in some ways, so I want to give you a few small moments that I hope not to forget:
One) When I was on a missions trip in Isiolo, we came across a group of women grouping potatoes into bags so that they could be sold later. We stopped and helped them. They began to peel the final bag, with the huge knives; seeing the look on my face, they offered to teach me. I think I peeled one potato for every three they had peeled, much to their delight and laughter!
Two) I once mentioned that I wanted a Masai blanket to give as a gift to a friend. A few weeks later, one of my fellow interns gave me a bag with a blanket in. When I tried to pay him for it, he shook his head, grinned at me, and walked away. I don’t know why the gesture stands out as significantly as it does in my mind, but there it is. And there’s no chance I’m regifting that blanket!
Three) I was in a meeting with four pastors who are about a mile above my payroll, if you get my meaning. They’re all phenomenal leaders, and are preciously humble, but when one of them asked me to pray for them to conclude the meeting, my heart just crashed to the floor. My first thought was, “Shouldn’t you be praying for me?” aka “PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME.” I’m not usually nervous praying aloud, it’s just talking, really, but this was not one of my shining moments in the Spirit. After about three sentences my entire vocabulary aborted the mission. So I’m praying, praying, and then bam. Silence. Followed by an abrupt, “In Your name we pray, Amen.” Humiliating at the time, hilarious looking back on it now.
Four) I was buying a gift from a vendor, but all I had was 1,000 shilling bill – no change.. And the vendor didn’t have any either. “One second!” I ran into the nearest Nakumatt and bought a pack of Juicy Fruit. To be honest, Juicy Fruit tastes like every childhood disappointment I ever tasted. You chew that stuff twice and then it’s like chewing paper, all the delicious flavour disappears instantaneously! They should call it “Juice-is-Gone.” So it wasn’t like it was some huge sacrifice to offer a piece to the cashier who handed me my change. It made him so happy, I offered one to the guy bagging groceries, and then the security guard, and then the vendor haha. It was one of those moments in life that just feels pure – no bad could corrupt that simple pleasure.
Five) I poke a Dot on a frequent basis. No that wasn’t a typo. Get it? “Polka dot.” You’re welcome.
Six) When we were in Amboselli, we must have watched this one little herd of elephants for half an hour. They were perfect. There was one elephant mama that was unbelievably photogenic, so I named her Daphne, naturally. But Delightful Daphne soon became Distracting Daphne. She would flap her ears or do something cool so that I would turn my camera back on her.. Simultaneously, another elephant got out of the little swamp thing they were all grazing in, and starting throwing dust on herself and her baby. IT LOOKED SO COOL. But of course, I’d sit there, waiting and waiting, ready to get a shot of awesome dust throwing, only for Daphne to distract me just before the other elephant (ahem, She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named-Something-Cute-Because-She-Clearly-Wanted-To-Frustrate-Me.) would just do an amazing splash of dust. My theory is that they were sisters, vying for my attention.
Seven) There is a German girl, Vela, who came to intern 3 months ago. We are the same age, which was so nice. I was getting tired of being so alone in my youth! Anyway, yesterday, as we said our goodbye, she told me with great conviction that if I ever made it to Germany – no matter how far into the future, that I need to visit her. It was kind and endearing. Also she made me schnitzel earlier this week.
Eight)Jacaranda trees are purple and absolutely gorgeous.. They’re Dot’s favourite tree. Caroline’s favourite colour was purple, and right around the time she went home to Heaven, the trees stopped blooming.
Nine) I’m just going to say “cooking with Joy” for now, because I intend to blog on that particular memory sometime in the near future.
Ten) One time I went a liiiiittle too long before seeing another mzungu, and I was coming down the stairs in the office with some of my friends to go get lunch, and exclaimed, “White people!!” when I saw a whole group of them outside of our building haha. Oops.
I’m positive I’ll have more to say at a later date, but for now, that’s all.
I can’t say “thank you” enough to all of the people here who hosted me in their homes, fed me, cared for me, made sure I was safe.. You are an incredible family, and I love each of you dearly.
“‘I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. ‘ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:36-40
much, much love and many, many blessings, Kenya