It’s now been 5 weeks since I arrived in Kenya, and I am feeling totally at home and content. It’s hard to describe exactly why I love life here…I could tell you about how great the kids are. How they run to me when I walk over to the children’s home, and take turns grabbing my hands. Or how they pile in my lap and squeeze next to me on any sitting surface and braid my hair. I could tell you about how welcoming the adults are, and how open and friendly the Kenyan culture is. How everyone treats me like a most welcome guest wherever I go. Or maybe I could describe the beautiful scenery. The green maize fields compliment the red dirt roads and the grey blue skies, and the almost nightly rains make everything fresh in the morning. All of those things and more make up my world in Kenya. I understand now why people say there’s something magical about this place. It draws you in and makes you want to stay.
I’ve seen some harsh realities, too, during my brief time here. Living and working at an organization like Empowering Lives has kept me pretty protected, but I have had a few brushes with poverty. Like yesterday, I visited a neighbor who had recently taken in an abandoned two-month-old baby. Children are abandoned fairly often here, but this one was different. She was found inside a pit latrine. I cannot fathom what would make a mother so desperate as to drive her to leave her baby by a waste filled hole in the ground, but I know it has to do with deep poverty and hopelessness. Then there are the kids at the children’s home. They are all healthy and well taken care of, but each one comes with a story. Most of the children have histories of malnourishment, abandonment, neglect, parents dying, hunger and more. They smile and laugh and play like children do, so it’s sometimes hard to imagine they were once in any kind of bad situation, but I catch glimpses of their pasts sometimes. Like when one of them cries too much over something small and then goes limp and stares at nothing for too long. Or when another eats his food too fast and lines up for seconds before I’ve finished serving the other kids their first plate. Or the way many of them wet the bed beyond the usual age, a sign of trauma in their past.
So there’s a contrast in life here, and I know I haven’t witnessed even a small fraction of it. There’s beauty and joy and peace and there’s also suffering and sorrow and pain. And I am just here, taking it all in, absorbing life in Kenya and feeling blessed to be in this place.
Sitting in a pile of kids from the children's home
The big boys preparing a bull for slaughter
Dinner will be bull's head soup, complete with bone and the occasional tooth
The small boys watching the big boys play soccer
It's hard to catch the kids not posing for the picture
Afternoon drawing class
Two of the youngest boys at the home playing