Sierra's View: June 2011

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lunch Time at Bahakwenu.

There was a day while I was teaching at Bahakwenu that hit me so hard. All of the students had lined up for lunch--they received some corn porridge stuff (I'm not sure how to explain it. See below) They all line up by the kitchen, as they all waited patiently in line. A task, which I'm not sure is even possible by American students. The little ones went first. As they came halfway through the group, they ran out of food.
My heart sank. I looked around to try to solve this issue for them, but the students were just fine. They shrugged their shoulders, walked off, and went back to their classrooms or continued to play in the school yard. I found myself in tears. I couldn't believe my eyes. For some of these students, that was their only meal of the day. They assured me that this sort of thing did not happen often, but my world was completely torn apart. I wanted to feed these kids.
This experience, that happened in 5 minutes, instantly changed my perspective. Can you imagine? I shook my head in disbelief. How calm, humble, and selfless these children were! They were okay with not having a lunch, not having a meal for that day. Why? Because they realized that's their life. That is their everyday. And they don't have a choice. To sit their and complain would do no good. We are SO FORTUNATE here in the states. I complain if I haven't eaten in two hours.
How could I not look up to these children?

Chizi, one of my favorites (I know, you are not supposed to have favorites but she was BRILLIANT. She answered all of my questions) And look at THOSE EYES. Would you die?!

An average Kenyan Kitchen. I couldn't even be in there for 30 seconds due to the high amounts of smoke.

Waiting patiently in line.

The lunch they receive every day.

Monday, June 27, 2011


A journal entry I wrote while in Kenya.

-I love these people's sense of community. When one child is struggling in a class, they all pitch in to help. They walk to school together in the morning and afternoon. If a little one falls, they rally together to put her on their backs and walk them.
-I love that they are so strong mentally and physically. They have to be in order to survive. Particularly, the women.
-I dislike how women are treated, that their say is not important and that a dowry is put on them--like they are objects for sale.
-I dislike their lack of knowledge when it comes to sex. I dislike that sex is supposed to just be for the men and that they refuse to wear condoms.
-I love the children's eyes and smiles. When I see them, I love how their entire face lights up. I love the innocence in the children. They are not bombarded with all of the world's interests. They live their lives the best they know how.
-I love that they put education first. Because the test they take, the KCSE, is their only chance to survive and make it in this world. Can you imagine? One shot for their entire future.
-I love that they eat up every word that you teach them in the classroom or in conversation. I love that the Kenyans don't judge you based on your appearance. They love you for your personality, your mind, and your heart.
-I dislike that sometimes I feel like I'm a ticket to America. I don't like the way some of the men look at me.
-I love walking home with the African children when the sun is setting. I love how curious they are. I love our conversations.
-I love the way some of them look. :) (JUNGLE FEVER).
-I love when I walk down the dirt roads and I recognize people and they yell "Sisi!"
-I love when they sing and dance.
-I love when I walk into a classroom they all, in unison, claim "Good morning teacher! We are fine." in their British accents.
-I love how hard they work because all they have is education and each other.

I heart Kenya. And miss it so much.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Taru is a little village in the middle of nowhere in Kenya. (Yes, that's the logistical, ACTUAL location of it too) It is what you would call the "bush of Africa." I thought we may die on the two hour drive from Mombasa, but alas, Mbote, got us there safely.

When we arrived in town, the little kids turned around, saw our van and chased after us yelling, "Mzungu's! Mzongus!" (meaning "white people") This is Kenya Keys sixth year being back, so the people recognized who we were--and the van. I was, once again, overcome with emotion. (Get used to this emotion idea, FYI). It had hit. Again. I was here. I was actually here. These kids were running with us as we approached Joseph and Mwaka's home. We got out of the van and were swarmed. My hair was down so Mulongo and her friends instantly started playing with it--totally amused with this chunk of blonde horse hair. I had to laugh. I had a feeling I needed to get used to this. Words can't describe how funny the neighborhood kids were. They were used to us "Mzungus" and their English was wonderful. They just wanted to play and play and PLAY. It helped that they were, most definitely, some of the most beautiful children I had ever seen.

Playing with my hair.

Posing for the camera.

The boys starting climbing up the trees BAREFOOT. The little girls wanted to play hand games. I had to stop for a second and soak it in.

The next day, we woke up and Mwaka had cooked us breakfast. She was up at 4 am cooking for us. Joseph is the head of Kenya Keys in Kenya--and Mwaka is his wife. That is where we ate all of our meals. (more than them later). Mwaka's chai tea is TO DIE FOR. I am craving it currently, actually. We then went to the Catholic Church. Oh, how I wish I could upload the video from church. It was absolutely, undeniably, the most amazing church EVER. Not only do these people worship God, but they celebrate Him as well. The choir sang (which in itself was phenomenal). They had little girls dancing down the aisle in their little outfits. Everybody was standing up and singing. It was amazing. It was probably the three longest hours of my life, but you know what? I loved it. I found that I looked forward to watching these people worship. Kenyans all have such a natural sense of rhythm. All of them can dance. All of them can sing. It's not fair. I found every Sunday I was standing in the back with the Taru students dancing, or watching the choir, or playing with the kids. Not exactly the most reverent moment for me, but I relished in watching them worship. These people believed in something--and they celebrated it. They walk from many kilometers away to sit and worship, to believe in something better and bigger than themselves. To give themselves a little bit of hope.

The church.

as we walked home in the blistering heat, I had recalled what my friend had told me about Africa. "Remember to take it all in. And write down everything that you are feeling." I thought to myself: "ridiculously hot. I have sweat dripping down my face. My hair is wet due to the sweat--it's up in a bun with a headband. THAT'S what I'm feeling." Haha. But it was okay. I didn't care. That's the wonderful part about those people. They do not care what you look like.
Their judgment of people is based on their actions, on who they are. Isn't that how it should be? We walked through a compound of homes with their Shamba's (gardens), down the long path as I sang with all of the children.

a "shamba."

Homes. Which, actually, are considered nicer homes in Taru.

All of the children played with tires.

chickens, children, and a compound. (three points for alliteration).

I had noticed, though, that I was much quieter. I had realized that I was in Kenya, essentially, by myself. All of the other interns sort of had a buddy. Whenever I got sad, I shook the thought instantly and reminded myself that I was lucky to be there. Regardless, it was difficult. I won't paint a cookie cutter portrait of this experience. It was hard. No, it was REALLY hard. I experienced and felt things that are difficult for me to write. I was hurt by other members of the group. I have seen children sick and suffer. But as I sat in that church, as I walked home that day, I knew that my life was already gonna be different because of Taru, Kenya.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kenya: From the Beginning.

Where do I even begin?
I am sitting here at my computer in my over-sized, rather beautiful home. After losing 10 pounds, you would think that my excitement consists of hopping in a swimsuit and soaking up the summer sun. Yet, that does not sound appealing currently. Yes, a good nights rest (consisting of 10 hours) was wonderful. A warm, long shower was more than pleasant. But, after I was rejuvenated, my first instinct was: "Okay. Now take me back to Kenya."

This is so difficult for me to even begin writing. I have put off writing about this entire "trip" because I cannot convey the experiences I've been through in words. But I will try my best. So, I will begin my journey of the past month of my life.
Let's start from the beginning. I will take you one day (or a few days) at a time.

The flight to Mombasa (the second largest city in Kenya) was painful. Literally. I had gotten four hours of sleep on the airplane. I was restless. I was excited. I was nervous. I was sad because I felt like I had left something back at home (no, not a material thing, but some big event or person). After an expontentially long couple days of travel, we landed. As I saw (felt?) the plane descend, my heart beat faster. I made it. I'm finally here. I thought to myself. I have dreamed about coming to Africa since I was 12 years old. I have been drawn to these people for some unknown reason. (Despite popular belief, it has nothing to do with my Jungle Fever. Which, in fact, was solidified while in Kenya. But that's besides the point).

While driving through the city, my eyes subconsciously continued to get bigger. Our entire lives we hear about garbage and filth. But as I drove through this unbelievably crowded city, holding onto my seat tightly due to the constant energy the people and cars were exposing, I was taken aback. You do not know filth until you have actually been in it. You do not know poor until you walk in it. And I was doing that. I thought I was ready for this place. I thought it was going to be no surprise. And it wasn't a surprise, but how I was feeling certainly was.

Old Town in Mombasa.

We walked around Fort Jesus, an old slave trade. We walked through Old Town, with the accompaniment of Mbote, our incredible driver (more on him later). We saw Old Port and came across teenagers smoking weed. Felt a little like home in that moment :) For one night, I had a flushing toilet and a warm shower. There was a beautiful pool and I swam in the Indian Ocean for my first time. The first couple of days, we were tourists. And yet, I knew that these experiences in the city were already widening my eyes to a completely different world.

We, then, went to Haller Park. (yes, pronounced like HOLLA). I got to 1. Feed a giraffe. 2. Pet a giant tortoise. and 3. Sit right next to a monkey. Yes, I felt like I was in Africa.

I had fulfilled my tourist duty. I was ready to hit the bush.