Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 9: More teaching, learning, and growing


When I came to Africa I expected to step off the plane and begin to cry my eyes out. But after 28 hours of travel, a new time zone, little sleep, and all sorts of new scents tears weren’t high on my list. I think it took a few days for me to begin to really settle in here and realize that I was really in Kenya! As my team has seen over the last couple of days, I am a HUGE softy. The first few days I think I had a wall up and I’m sure one is still up but a few days ago it started to crumble. I walked into the classroom of the younger kids at Ray of Hope and they asked me to teach them a song. I in turn asked them to teach me a song; which they were more than happy to do. As they were singing Robin came in with the Flip video camera and recorded them. When the song was finished she turned the camera around and let them watch themselves singing. The kids are so excited by technology that seeing them in awe was not surprising, but as the video played the kids began to sing along with themselves. I don’t know exactly what it was about this moment but my eyes welled up and I had to run out of the room before the kids saw my tears. I have said this before and I will say it again, they are so in awe of the things we take the most for granted. I can take a video on my cell and send it to a friend without the slightest of thought. I was so touched watching them watch themselves and hearing them sing along with themselves that I was literally brought to tears. This moment really opened the flood gates. After that first good cry it seemed that everything and anything could good me started and I don’t think I’m done! And to be honest that is exactly what I expected when I decided to come on this trip. But being a softy is who I am and I’ll being worried when the tears stop falling!

Benita (a late Day 8 addition):

We returned to Riruta for church this morning and were greeted as old friends. It felt like the perfect “spiritual book ends” to our work week.

The deep faith expressed/celebrated by the members of the women’s chorus through song is something to behold. And the children’s choir is beyond precious.

Pastor John and his wife Anne head, from what I understand, one of maybe three churches in the entire country that practice inclusivity for all sexual orientations. This puts them at tremendous risk since an individual that is of “sexual minority” as it is called here, can be jailed or even worse. They are courageous beyond measure. And I am so encouraged by their example to stand strong against intolerance, and to continue to speak up for the equal rights of others.

I have been marinating…in what is still so familiar 11 years later. To be taken off guard by the things that I had become so comfortable with when I was last here, but had forgotten, is a continuous delight. And to be reunited with a culture and a people who occupy such a meaningful place in my soul is truly indescribable. With that being said, I’ve realized that it’s been an impossibility to absorb things as fast as they’ve come our way, and I have been experiencing a bit of emotional delay. Every day, I feel as though my heart and head race to keep up with my physical body, and every day, they are behind. I say this because I’ve struggled night after night to bring our experience to life on the page; to choose the right words so that thousands of miles away you can hear the laughter and the song, revel in a newborn baby’s first cry and feel the immense love that surrounds us.

Unfortunately, the technology here is not quite what it is at home and we’ve been unable to upload flip videos—a medium I am much more comfortable with—that I’ve recorded. Thus, my heart, head and body are in the process of reuniting, and as pen meets paper, I hope you will allow me to revisit special moments in time over the past week in my up and coming entries.

Preparing porridge
“There’s no where you can be, that isn’t where you’re meant to be.”

I have been marinating…


Today we returned to Riruta United Methodist Church, to see the Children of Africa Hope Mission.  Nearly one hundred and fifty students--from pre-school age to grade four--receive instruction, food, and care.  The teachers and support staff are incredibly committed, willing to take great risks on behalf of the children's well-being. With little resources and a relatively small facility, they provide an anchor of love and care in the midst of poverty and disease.

We spent time in the classrooms (which had no electricity and were terribly crowded--one small room was divided into four classrooms. It was not easy working on ABC's with my class while Craig was teaching math to his class and Robin was having her class read aloud!

We helped feed the children porridge mid-morning and then the school held an assembly for us and parents of the students. Each class recited bible verses and poetry and sang songs. The joy on their faces was contagious!

Robin telling a story
We then helped serve lunch: a large pot of ugali (a starchy dough-like glob) and greens, with two cubes of meat per child, plus a mango for dessert.  Kelli prepared the bowls with ugali, Benita and Katie put greens on top of the ugali, Craig and Naima put the meat cubes in each bowl, and Robin and I handed out the bowls to the children. It was nerve-wracking, trying to figure out how much food to put in each bowl. Knowing that this would be the children's last meal before porridge at school tomorrow, we wanted to give them as much food as possible, but we didn't want to run out and some children go without food. But like the story of the loaves and fishes, there was enough for all. It was so moving watching the children finish their bowl of ugali and greens and then bite into their mangos, eating the skin along with the fruit, savoring each sweet, juicy bite.  Their faces showed such delight in something we often take for granted.

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