North America, Africa · 35 Days · 55 Moments · June 2018

Elli's Kenyan Adventure!

30 July 2018

And that’s a wrap folks! I was welcomed home by my whole family in Detroit! It was the best surprise I could have asked for. I spent five weeks looking forward to those hugs. Can’t wait to share even more hugs and stories with you all 💜 Asante Sana for all your support along my journey! It’s been the greatest blessing. - Nafula (Mama Bryan)

29 July 2018

Ended the trip with a bang learning how to drive a motorbike and visiting the monkey park! There’s still so much I wanted to do in Kenya but I’m not worried about missing out. I’ll be back soon. But in the meantime, I’m checked in for my flight to London, and waiting to board now. T-28 ish hours til I’m home!

28 July 2018

After such an emotionally draining day yesterday, I spent today in. Enjoyed an early sunrise, made some breakfast and began my packing. It’s slightly easier to get excited about home now that most of my goodbyes have been said. I do miss you all so much!! But there’s something about this place and these people too. I wish you all could meet them. It is the most overwhelmingly loving and welcoming community I have ever been a part of and I’m not ready to leave. They see the tragedy and choose to address it. They fight for the world to be fair and kind. They are actively changing lives and it has been an honor to serve with them, to be a part of that movement. Gihon Women’s Empowerment, Rehoboth Learning Center, all the volunteers and Mama Lucy will be in my heart forever. I am already trying to finalize the plans for my return trip. All I can find the words to say is thank you.

27 July 2018

Said my goodbyes to everyone at the center today. I don’t have any words to describe how they’ve touched my life and changed me for the better. I already miss them immensely. But we’re going to stay in touch, and I’ll be working along with them just from afar. So it’s not goodbye, it’s just see you later. That’s the only way I can cope.

26 July 2018

No rest for the wicked. I woke up again early ready to start the day. I made another trip to the market for a backpack for Bryan and a hat for his sister, Claudia. Realizing they don’t get dinner at home I stocked his backpack full of granola bars. Still neither of them could believe that I had gotten them gifts. They were so shocked. And their Mom was very thankful. I greeted her again yesterday when returning her ID and she was bed ridden with some sickness amplified by HIV. She can’t hardly stay awake let alone take care of her kids or get a job. After giving Bryan and Claudia their gifts (note Bryan was still repping his new clothes from yesterday 😝), I continued filming for the “stories”. Not before baby Gift fell asleep on me though. 💞 Finally the other volunteers and I headed to Nairobi for a hot meal and some market shopping. My bargaining skills are getting better but still aren’t good hahaha. Luckily I walked away without paying $90 for postcards this time. 😅🙃

25 July 2018

And there’s more! After giving Bryan his new clothes I walked to the chemist to get him some medicine. Antiobiotics, cough syrup and a fever reducer. Considering he doesn’t get food at home, he was thrilled to take the syrups. And from what I could tell, they made him feel better too! Then Agnes, Aisha and I made one last trip to Kajiado to track down the birth certificates. After a week of hassling the govt officials we finally got them! They misprinted Bryan’s TWICE but luckily we had the contacts to get that fixed. First it was Bran Simani then it was Bryan Simania lol. But we got it!! Bryan is now official!!! He can get an ID, a passport, apply for loans and go to college! His future is limitless. I can’t wait to watch him grow and prosper. His jovial spirit has already outgrown the dreariness of the slums. I finished the day with some ugali and cabbage made by Mama Lucinda (yum!) and some light dancing in the common area. Today might be tied for the most rewarding of them all.
WOW BIG DAY!! I was up and at em with a little shopping for Bryo in the morning. Cameo sneakers, tall socks, a jacket and a hat! Bryan wears the same thing everyday, a raggedy, spare uniform given to him when he was taken into the school just a few weeks ago. It’s wasn’t nearly warm enough for him, hence why he is sick. And you can see the state of his old shoes. So I made the time to start his new wardrobe. Though he was still ill and grumpy in the morning, he lit up when he saw his new clothes. He kept asking “who is this for?” in Swahili. He couldn’t believe it. His smile was so full. The other kids were so excited for him too! He walked to class and all I could hear was “Bryan! Bryan!” They ran out for recess and swarmed him, pretending to be The Joker. They screamed and ran around the yard for an hour celebrating his new identity as Batman. I’ve never seen him happier. He hugged me with gratitude the rest of the day. I think it’s safe to say this makes me the cool mom 😉😋

24 July 2018

I spent today filming for the Gihon Women’s Center and Rehoboth Learning Centre. I am trying to put together a “story” to publish online so that people like you, across the world, can see the amazing work happening here! Both the school and the center are honest and effective nonprofits. Their transformative work needs to be shared with the world! My little Bryo wasn’t feeling so hot today. With a fever, runny nose, wet cough and chest pain, I had to take him from class to calm his tears. A quick nap on my shoulder and he was back to his cheery self. Though when I left there was another meltdown. He cried out for me while resisting his sister coaxing him home. I could tell he was really not well. I crushed some ibuprofen for him but if he’s not better by tomorrow, I will likely take him to the hospital. The last two pictures are of my afternoon snack and dinner. The first is “sim sim” (packed chia seeds I believe) and the second is spaghetti with meat and veggies! Both delicious!!

23 July 2018

Woohoo for round two of the acute bacterial infection! (Not). I spent the morning in the hospital again with similar symptoms as two weeks ago. Luckily we caught it earlier so there was no passing out or vomiting. My blood-work showed the same results, no malaria and a high bacterial count. I’m back at the apartment and resting now, feeling much better after the painkillers and antibiotics. But the timing couldn’t have been worse. Today was Snider’s ultrasound appointment. Luckily her results came back clear! No problems in any of her organs. The government has scheduled her to see a specialist on August 31st. I’m heart broken that I couldn’t be with her today. More than that my heart hurts to know I’ll be gone when she sees the specialist. This is the most treatment Snider’s ever gotten for her condition. I want to be there with her through it all! And I’m upset at myself that I can’t be. I’m not ready to leave at all.

22 July 2018

Just a chill day in the apartment for the most part. Caught up on some sleep, took a nap and then conquered the Masai Market in Nairobi with Aisha! I had a great time. We bonded even further over our shared hatred for haggling lol. We bused there and back and made it home with just enough time to take out my braids before bed. HUGE s/o goes to Lucinda (Lucy :), Aisha and Emily for helping me take them out. While I loved every second of the weave, my hair had grown too much and accidentally dipped it in paint in it yesterday. It was messy so I had no other choice. Stay tuned for a new potential doo! Peace ✌🏼

21 July 2018

Today I traveled two hours to help Kim paint her special needs classroom. Communication and travel was a little iffy but I got there in the end and helped them paint for four hours! It was long and solitary but kind of peaceful in that way too. At the end I made some new friends, Josh and Liv from Pika. It was another rewarding day. I came home to a hot dinner and a movie with Aisha, Lucy and Lucy’s nephew Bryan. After we finished the movie, Lucy shared her stories from school and we shared some hardy laughs. I don’t even want to think about leaving this place.

20 July 2018

Extra tidbit - we met a crazy little baby while waiting in the hospital who had the cutest yogurt mustache 🙈
... she has cursed Snider now with the same pain. Snider believes that there is not solution to the problem, that she is just cursed. It took a week of talking to Agnes and Aisha about her beauty and a talk with me about my legs to convince her to go to the hospital. She went against her fathers orders and went for a consultation today, I am so unbelievably proud of her. She refused to get even near a hospital until I showed her my scars, my x-rays and the pictures of me in the hospital. I told her my story and convinced her to at least get a check up. She held my hand all the way there. She was so strong. We waited for three hours before we were seen and an hour after than to get lab results. Nothing conclusive. We’re going back for an ultrasound on Monday. I was so proud of her I treated her to Chicken Inn (Kenyan KFC). She’d never been on account of money. She absolutely loved it!! She downed her meal and asked for ice cream after. We were all thrilled to see her so happy!
After we got back, we went to the hospital with one of the women from the women’s center. She is suspected to have elephantitis in her legs. They swell and make it especially painful in her joints. Not only does she live a life of pain and have a hard time walking but emotionally she hurts too. She’s very sensitive about her legs and she gets bullied for them a lot. She comes to the center crying some days because of the way the men yell at her and tell her she’s ugly. They tell her she’ll never get a husband and that she’s pregnant because her ankles are so swollen. Her condition has really been bothering her these last two weeks but she fears the hospital. Her sister died in hospital of leukemia and Snider’s grandmother and parents tell her the hospital will cut off her legs entirely or kill her if she has surgery. Moreover, Snider is from a tribe that believes in witchcraft. Snider’s grandmother is a self proclaimed which with the same condition and has told her that...
Another longgg day at Kajiado. We arrived and went straight to the boss trying to expedite the process but still the people we needed to process the papers had left on a meeting. We waited for two hours again before we found out they won’t be available until Tuesday. So we went home. Kenyan govt offices are very disorganized and as Agnes says “corrupt”. Because I’m white and they want to make a good impression to the mzungus, we’ve gotten it easy. For most people, partially because everything is kept in paper files, it takes almost a year to get certificates. That is if the application doesn’t get lost. Agnes and the women call it “mzungu magic” when we get so much favor from the officials. It’s hard as it is fighting through all he red tape as a white person. I can’t imagine trying to go through the process as a native.

19 July 2018

Today Agnes and I traveled an hour by matatu to the Kaijiado govt offices. After a breakfast of mandazzi and chai, we wrote letters for the kids saying that they are enrolled in the school and in need of birth certificates. With the forms, IDs and letters, we went into the offices and asked for the certificates. It turned out that in each case we needed to prove that the mother was a single mother. For Agnes, she was able to fill out a form and stand in court to prove she is a single mother. That took three hours. And for the other two, we had to go back to Kitengela to get the chief to write a letter on Bryan and Jerrod’s mother’s behalf. Considering it’s an hour trek and it was already 1pm, we went back for the letter but are waiting to take it until tomorrow. It was a long day as considering we left at 7am and got back after 2pm. Still we worked on beadwork with the women until 4pm. It was so much different/harder than I thought I’d be. But so much fun!!

18 July 2018

The second half of the day we spent at Geneveva’s house, the mother of one of the women at the center. She has 12 children the youngest of which are 6 and 10 and she is addicted to alcohol. Because of the way she neglects and starves the children, we had to give her an ultimatum. Move out willingly or by force. We had already made the chief aware of the situation and gotten him on board while we were getting our forms signed. She agreed to go willingly but we caught her on a rare occasion when she’s was sober. Hopefully she’ll stick to her word a leave amicably this weekend. We’ll see. We also passed a salon on the way owned by an alum of the Gihon Women’s Center! It was so cool to see the potential that this program really has. Mary (the graduate) has taken out a loan and started a successful business. Agnes was so unbelievably proud and happy to introduce her to us. It reinforced in my heart just how meaningful this program is.
Today was dedicated almost entirely to trying to get the birth certificates. Agnes, Em and I photocopied all the IDs, filled out the necessary forms and took them to the chief to be signed. Because neither his mother nor Bryan knows how old he is, we had to estimate that he was about five. I made his birthday the same as mine and determined the official spelling of his name. It turns out my second name Nafula and his second name Simani come from the same tribe!! The odds of that are slim to none. Agnes thinks it’s meant to be. That God made us to find each other. I couldn’t be more excited to help him in this way. I truly do consider him my son. While I can’t legally adopt (I’ve looked into every outlet) in every other form I take responsibility for him and consider him family. The women at the center now call me Mama Bryan and every time he sees me, whether he’s playing, in class or in line for food, he dances and runs into my arms. He evens calls me Mom. He has my whole heart.

17 July 2018

The kids won’t be able to own a business, go to school or get a loan among many more things. Their destined to stay impoverished and isolated without it. So we headed over to my Bryan’s one room house across the road to get his mothers ID. Because his mom is a single mother and suffers from HIV, she is unable to get the birth certificate herself nor did she have the intentions to. She has four children. Three boys and one daughter and one on the way. She doesn’t have an income to feed any of them. Claudia (Bryan’s sister) and Bryan rely on their lunch at school to make it through the day. Lucky Claudia is sponsored and Bryan will be now too. With the ID and her permission I will forge the application for him. He’s got too big of a heart to be confined to a one room hut for the rest of his life!
Emily and I tag teamed the topics of decision making and stress relief in the women’s center today! It was so nice to get to work directly with the women after playing and teaching their children for the last week. I’ve started to build relationships with them already through casual conversation and by supporting their businesses but teaching them was different. I could tell they really appreciated the time we were taking for them and that they genuinely wanted to learn. They are general shy because of the language barrier so it was so gratifying to see them engage in the lesson and with us. They opened up about what’s most important to them and what they like to do when their stressed. I’ve loved them all from the start but I felt a lot closer to them after today. After lesson, Em, Agnes and I started on the process to get birth certificates for our “sons”. Without any form of identification, the kids are living illegally in Kenya.

16 July 2018

For our last day of safari we were on the trails by 6 am for a game drive. We were hoping to see a lion in action catching it’s prey but we settled for some priceless views of a lion family all together!! I said the hippos were my favorite yesterday... but it just might be tie with the lions now. They were adorable they they played together. We headed back on our six hours trip to Nairobi and had to say goodbye to a couple of friends who’s trip had come to an end. The ending was somber but overall the safari was easily one of the best experiences of my life!

15 July 2018

Here are a few more photos from today as well as the blister from one of my brandings 😳😝
Woke up early again to get a full day of driving in the Masai Mara National Park! We had a stunning view of the mountains while we ate breakfast and then jumped in the vans by 8 am. They said it was a bad day in terms of seeing animals but I felt like we saw so many! In total we saw zebras, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, gazelles, antelope, lions, ostriches, buffalo, warthogs, hippos and a lot of really colorful birds!! I have to say I think the hippos were my favorite! Maybe the best part of the day was getting the chance to debrief with Emily and Kim. I’ve met some truly incredible people over here. It’s by far one of the greatest blessings of this trip to now have great friends all over the world. (And even close to home @Kim :)

14 July 2018

After getting settled in our tent we went to the local Masai Village. This village is one of the few remaining traditional African villages in Kenya. They’re an agrarian community depending on cows, goats and sheep primarily and no electricity. One village is equivalent to one family. The chief has several children with different wives. And when the children have grown, the men bring women from other tribes to marry and the women end up leaving the village. This way, all the men in one village are all related by blood without any health risks. They showed us their dance traditions and dressed us up in their paint! Several of us even got branded, a mark in their tribe that symbolizes a warrior. I got two. Finally, we split up and toured the inside of the dung huts. In out hut we get to hold a one week old baby!! He was so precious. And it was so dark haha. After the huts we bargained at their market and headed home for a night under the starts. I’ve never seen a sky like that.
Started safari off right with some 7 am tea at Java and an early start toward The Great Rift Valley! After for some beautiful sight seeing, photos and lunch, we continued on our six hour treacherous trek to the Masai Land. The roads were something haha at one point I was sitting three feet higher than Emily sitting next to me lol. I wouldn’t have had it any other way though. And the hotel was phenomenal! Accommodations were still modest enough to appreciate the nature around us, but comfortable enough to even feel luxurious after the last three weeks. We were housed in groups of 2-4 in tents. Each tent has a ceramic bathroom attached to the back with a toilet and hot shower. I had my first overhead shower in weeks. And honestly, though it felt amazing I can’t even say I really missed it that much. I enjoy the peace of mind bucket showers give knowing I’m conserving a resource I do regularly take for granted.
Headed on safari now! Service will be spotty so I’ll most likely post again on Monday or Tuesday. Have a great weekend!

13 July 2018

Agnes pulled me aside and showed me the only ball they had before today. It was merely a bundle of shirts and paper all tied up. She said the kids used to fight over it every day. They had one ball and four tires. That’s what they played with. Now, there is one ball for every four or so kids. I wish you could’ve experienced the joyful noise that these pictures are missing. I’ve never been happier seeing so many people so truly ecstatic. Sweaty and all, they didn’t have a worry in the world.
I could not live my placement anymore than I do. I am so thankful to be working with such caring and selfless people. Today I was finally able to pump up the balls I brought and give the school my sports equipment. I could have cried. None of them had ever seen basketballs, footballs or playground balls before. Only soccer balls. And even then they had never seen a new one let alone many! We attracted a crowd on the street where we were filling them up. The boys who walked with us were so excited that they ran the balls back to the school!! By the time I got there the kids were already screaming. Many of them ran up to me and gave me the biggest hugs. I taught them how to throw a football, dribble a basketball and play with the parachute. But for the most part they figured it out for themselves. Agnes had to cancel classes for the day so that they could just have a field day. They played for hours. We had to take the balls away in order to get them to eat!

12 July 2018

Last thing - highlight of the day was when I donated my sports equipment to the school. They only have two balls and they are both very old and tired. So when I handed the balls to Agnes and a little boy saw, he fell on his back and put his hands and screamed “Thank you God!!!” at the top of his lungs hahahaha. That right there made the whole trip worth it lol.
... Julia headed home for Michigan today after being here for six weeks. I was lucky enough to experience two with her although I wish I could’ve been more! It was the first of many goodbye I’m going to have to make here in the next few weeks. I didn’t expect it to be so hard considering my trip is only five weeks. But you grow close quickly experiencing such a dramatic change in life style and working together to help others. I’m so thankful to have met her, and can’t wait to meet up with her again soon!
... And the girls got to play! Normally the boys don’t let them join in. But I made sure they got to, and many of them outshined the boys!! I taught the younger class Music and Art today as well. The usual teacher was stuck in a riot in Nairobi so I turned on my speaker and taught them the Macarena, the Cha Cha Slide, Cupid’s shuffle and the Chicken Dance. They LOVED it!!! There’s moves were priceless. My boy Bryan had the hip swivel down lol. They we drew. Using the colored pencils I brought, the kids drew for and hour and were fascinated by the options for colors. And they were so eager to show me their work. They couldn’t even spit out “Teacher Elli, look” it was just “cha, look! look!” Until I nodded with approval or smiled at their picture. It warmed my heart. And was so exhausting. They have so much energy! Finally we had to say goodbye to my good friend Julia...
I officially changed my placement to the Gihon Women’s Empowerment Center and School!! It was very difficult to say goodbye to the teachers and students at Noonkipor, but I knew I would be more useful at the center. It took me a week and a half to come to terms with the break, but after sitting in the teachers lounge all day yesterday and talking to Agnes (Gihon Center Director), I was eager to work with such passionate and determined individuals! It was a GREAT day! I was constantly on the move. First I taught PE for the older class of children (grades 3-8). I organized them onto two teams, self named Belgium and Russia, and they played a close game of “football,” with a 3-2 Belgium victory! The kids had the time of their lives with the make shift goals and dusty field. They never get to play anything organized. Just having me there to call goals and monitor fouls, even if in another language, kept it civil enough to maintain a 40 minute game...

11 July 2018

Finally got out of the house today and it feels so good!! I’m still wrestling with some aches and an overall weakness but it’s nothing compared to what it was. I’m blessed just to be out and about, no thanks to all the thoughts and prayers sent my way. With my whole heart - thank you. I spent most of the day in the teachers lounge again at Noonkipor but I made good conversation with Margaret and Beatrice (my self-proclaimed Kenyan moms). They are so sweet, always making sure I’m fed and occupied. And boy do they love to laugh hahaha that’s maybe the best thing about them. I have no clue what they’re saying but I love being around them because they are always either singing or boisterously laughing at their own jokes.

10 July 2018

Another day of rest for me. Still feeling weak, but better. Not much to update you all on but I can introduce you to some of the kids! First up is Bryan! The first day I walked into the center he ran into my arms and had me pick him up. I was his jungle gym at first but by the second day, he had found enough comfort in me to fall asleep on my chest. He doesn’t speak English but he loves to play with my watch and my hair. He’s one of the ones who likes to try and rub off my moles too. He is the absolute sweetest. Every free minute he has out of class he runs and clings to me. Then there’s Pamela! Pamela is the epitome of a sweetheart. She toddles around from Mzungu to Mzungu, giving us hugs, resting on our chests and playing with our phones and hair. And Gift 💜 He is just a baby but he is a BIG boy with an even bigger spirit about him. He always has his tongue out and loves to coo. All the children are so delightful. I can’t wait to see them again tomorrow!!

9 July 2018

It’s another rest day considering I’m still feeling weak. But I can still share with you all the food I’ve been eating! Here are some pictures of the unique meals I’ve had. (Featuring Pinapple Fanta! I didn’t even know that was a thing!!)

8 July 2018

They both waited with me for my blood work and stood with me while I was hooked up to an IV. The doctors found “a lot of bacteria in my blood” and concluded it was an acute bacterial infection. But they don’t know what kind of bacteria. They gave me some antibiotics through my IV and made me finish my fluids before sending me home with medication. By that point the pain killers were helping and I could manage to walk. Now I’m resting. The headache and nausea are still there along with an overwhelming weakness but I’m happy to be feeling better than I was this morning! Even more than that, I feel blessed to have met such outstanding friends in such a short time. Not only did I have someone with me at all times but I felt genuinely cared for and at peace while in a third world country hospital. Even the girls who couldn’t make it to the hospital joined me in my room that night to check in on me and share stories of their day. The world is full of truly incredible people.
Today was one day that maybe wasn’t the best, but memorable nonetheless. I woke up very weak with fever of 37.7 degrees C, body aches, nausea, a headache and slightly blurry vision. My more than amazing friend Aisha helped me walk me over to the hospital and stayed with me while through the consultation and blood-work. After getting my blood drawn though, I quick deteriorated and collapsed on my way out of the lab. Thank goodness Aisha was there to catch me!!! She and others sat me in a wheelchair while I was semiconscious and puked four times. They rushed me around the corner to the tiny emergency room and got me on one of the two beds before I passed out. After waking up they gave me a big shot of painkillers in my “bum” lol. All the while, Aisha stood beside me and comforted me. My awesome friend Em rushed over too as soon as she her I collapsed...

7 July 2018

... and it appeared as if all the women who showed up to the conference got tested too! It was truly a wonderful experience. I loved every second of it. We sung, we danced, we worshipped, we learned and we celebrated the amazing accomplishments of the women from Gihon Women’s Empowerment. I felt empowered leaving that night, no thanks to Agnis and the community of AMAZING people she’s built. They even gave me a Kenyan name, Nafula, meaning the one who was born in the cold season (because I joined them at the beginning of their winter). Happy third anniversary to Gihon Women’s Empowerment! I can’t wait to continue working with these people and see the great work that is guaranteed to come. I am dreading leaving already.
Saturday we finished the HIV Conference! What a moving experience the whole event was, Friday included. I wish I could have been there for the March. Julia, Aisha and Casey all said it brought them to tears watching the women hold up signs advocating for getting tested for HIV despite the enormous stigma here. They said when the idea of doing a march was first brought up, the women wouldn’t even look at them when they talked about HIV or sex let alone talk about it. Yet they came to parade through Kitengela proudly working against the stigma and encouraging women to join their conference (put on by Agnis, head of Gihon Women’s Empowerment and The Gihon School). Unfortunately I was at Noonkipor for the march but I hope to get pictures up soon! Agnis coordinated worship, lunch and speakers for this two day conference. On top of that, there was free HIV testing offered. All volunteers and members of the women’s empowerment group were tested ...

6 July 2018

I taught only one class at Noonkipor today before heading back to the march. It was class 8 math. After reviewing all the homework problems the kids asked me to stay after, during their lunch, to answer questions about myself and American culture. Every single one of them had a question. They asked me about my hobbies and talents. They asked me what I wanted to be and what I was studying. They asked me to how I liked Kenya and what my favorite part was! And they were so genuinely invested and curious. I answered questions for probably thirty minutes before the teacher came back and made them eat lunch. But not before they taught me how to break dance!! Miguel, one of the students in the class (pictured dabbing with me) came to the front and showed me his moves while I played American music from my speaker. Then he made me do it along side him. I wish I could’ve captured that moment but we did take a selfie afterward. And the kids and I continued to dance all the way home.
It was the first day of the Gihon Women’s Empowerment HIV Walk and Conference today! I walked over there early so that I could help them wherever necessary. We handed out uniforms to sponsored students (students who’s education has been paid for by donation and allowed them to receive necessary school supplies and uniforms). Here are some of the sponsored students in their new jumpers. But unfortunately only a few of the many students were sponsored. After that I walked to Noonkipor. seeing this school in comparison to the Gihon School (where the women’s center is) I can’t help but find they well off comparatively. The resources are scarce, but they have enough teachers. When I go to teach class, I am only relieving a teacher to grade or take a break. Meanwhile at Gihon I know there are two overpopulated classes and a need for teachers. I feel compelled to change my placement. But at the same time, I can’t find it in myself to leave the kids of Noonkipor.

5 July 2018

(Cont.) It doesn’t hurt that the weave makes it possible to avoid the havoc of trying to wash your hair in a bucket shower. Still the best part was being able to give my business to the women of Gihon Women’s Empowerment Center. Paying $40 total to the three women who worked on my hair would feed them and their families for a week.
I taught one class of math today and graded a few papers before heading over to the women’s center. For as strict as the school is, the class times are not very rigid. If the English or social studies teacher has not finished their lesson by the time for math or PE, they will simply continue teaching until they are finished. So classes get pushed back or just missed. The teachers will even cut deeply into their lunch or break times to finish a lesson. So it was a light day. I didn’t even stay for lunch because I knew they could use my help at the women’s center. While I was there, I entertained the kids while their moms prepared for their HIV conference. And those same women did my hair 😆🙈. Three hours later and I now have a full weave!! It’s taking some getting used to, but I couldn’t be happier with it. When in Kenya, you have to do as the Kenyans do! Lots of us did it. The natives are flattered to see a white person assimilate and acknowledge the culture.

4 July 2018

(July 4th continued) .... I cannot help but smile with all these kids!! They are just so curious! They all have to touch me and they always seem to want to rub off my moles lol. More than just a fascination with me though, they want to know about American culture and they want to share with me theirs. In PE, the students lined up to teacher me songs and handshakes and dances! They are absolutely precious. They made me pinky promise that I would sing to them American songs and that I would let them teach me Swahili. They beg me to teach their classes rather than their normal teachers and they fight over who gets to hold my hand on the way back to class. It’s been one day and I can’t possibly imagine leaving. Many of the students even walked home with me holding my hand today!
Today was probably the best July 4th to date. While I missed celebrating the holiday with my friends and family, I was welcomed into a new family here. Despite a hesitant first impression, I was greeted very warmly at Noonkipor on the second day. The teachers gradually opened up and invited me into their conversations. I travelled 2+ mi to the school by myself at 8 am on just the SECOND day! It was frightening to say the least with men yelling at me from every corner but about .5 mi in, a piki piki driver I met just yesterday called me out by name and offered me a ride. It was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life lol. I hopped on the back of his motorbike and zipped through the hilly, dusty terrain. It honestly was like a roller coaster, I loved every second of it. Once I got there, I taught two classes of math and two classes of PE today! On top of that I graded probably two and a half classes worth of notebooks. They definitely put me to use and I was happy to help!

3 July 2018

...continued from below. I sat in the school for six hours waiting for the administration to find a place for me. Compared to the school in Kibera, Noonkipor is doing really well. While low in resources, it appeared as if they had enough teachers and help. They even had a cook who made a delicious lunch of ugali and greens for us! I almost feel as if I'm not necessarily needed. Tomorrow I am teaching a math class and I'll be assistant teaching the rest of the week. Depending on how much I'm able to help, I may end up teaching at the women's center where I know there is great need. I'm eager to see how tomorrow goes and to get some pictures of Noonkipor!
I got to meet my students today!! Although the photos are from the Women's Center. I went there first with the rest of the volunteers (a 30 minute walk) before splitting off to go to Noonkipor! The kids everywhere are all so unbelievably sweet. They know very little English but insist on proudly greeting you, "hello! how are youuu?" It's funny actually, many of them haven't been exposed to people of a lighter skin tone. They shout out "Mzungu!" (white person) with curiousity and then quick approach. The young ones associate white skin with money and good luck. Thus they all want to touch us and our skin hoping that the good luck will rub off on them. It's beyond cute and endearing. But at the same time, it's incredibly sad that skin tone has been assigned so much meaning. ...continued above...

2 July 2018

Had to say goodbye to Mama Sarah and the Volunteer House today. But we had a blast at orientation! With somewhere around forty newcomers, we had the US, Australia, China, Chile, Mexico, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Spain, New Zealand, France and England represented! And five from Columbus, Ohio!! What a small world. We listened mainly to presentations but we also received our final placements. I miraculously ended up with my friend Em from Australia in Kitengela! It’s about an hour and a half south of Nairobi. I could not have asked for a better placement. I was hesitant at first considering it was somewhat of a cold entrance but the girls already here opened up quickly and welcomed us. Outside myself, there’s Em from Australia, working in women's empowerment; Julia from Michigan, working in childcare; Casey from California, working in women’s empowerment; Aisha from England, working in women’s empowerment; Selly from China working in women’s empowerment and Lucy our host Mom!

1 July 2018

Walked to church this morning with Bre, Hannah, Sadie and Kim (new arrival from Grandview!!). Man, what an experience. Almost entirely in Swahili, people were smiling, shouting, laughing and even crying as they worshipped. There was just so much energy! Maybe the coolest part was witnessing the baptism. It was so powerful to see a child from across the world adopted into the same Christian family. The promises made by her parents and the community were the same that we make back in Upper Arlington. It’s truly remarkable to see how widely God’s Love spans. And did you even go to church if you didn’t get to play with the children?! Everyone was so open and kind there, families (including the one who just had their daughter baptized) simply handed their babies to us! I feel incredibly blessed to be so warmly welcomed in a culture so different from my own.

30 June 2018

Saturday is for visiting the animals! We took an über to an elephant orphanage and got to hear their stories and interact with the babies. Then we headed to the Giraffe Centre were we got to feed and kiss Eddy!! (See the last picture 🙈😳🤪)

29 June 2018

I got to visit the Olympic School in Kibera on the way home from the airport today too! Found my luggage and got to play with absolutely adorable children... could you ask for a better day?! I stepped out of the car and immediately received a hugs. Then nearly every kid (of 500) came and shook our hands with big bright smiles. They were so joyful and so polite!! Despite the language barrier we made up handshakes and played games until it was time for our tour of the school. What a humbling and moving experience. It was almost exactly how I expected it, and somehow still utterly shocking.
We drove just around the corner from our house today to the biggest slum in Africa (Kibera). Unbelievable. The degree of poverty, hunger, pollution and crowding... I was and still am speechless. Many kids were not in school, there were starving cats, dogs, chickens and goats roaming the streets and the trash was piled up and left to burn. The endless piles of burning trash paired with the harsh smell of the exhaust was out of this world. And the commotion! I am still working to comprehend the entirety of what I saw.
Here are a couple pictures of my accommodations! We’re living very fortunately here in the volunteer house with occasional running water, cold bucket showers, tight bunks and electricity. No WiFi so communication is challenging (😞 sorry!) but still I’m so incredibly grateful! I’m not sure how much longer I’m here, I could end up here or I may live with a host family. I get my official placement on Monday so...we’ll see! (I can’t wait to start working with the kids)

28 June 2018

The first night was slightly terrifying. Everyone at IVHQ was more than welcoming! But it was very intimidating walking into a dark home outside the slums at 4 am. Johnson (the IVHQ driver who waited at the airport for seven hours to make sure he was there on time) handed me off to Mama Sarah (my host Mom) who promptly led me up a narrow flight of stairs to my mosquito netted bunk. I was sleeping among two other people whom I had never seen, let alone met. I was terrified laying there. Yet it was hard for me to leave my bunk in the morning not knowing what awaited. Nevertheless after sleeping in, I met the first of the volunteers downstairs for a lunch of ugali (doughy bread) and stew. There was Elise from Rhode Island, Juliana from Vermont and Noah from Canada. It was nice to make a connection with fellow volunteers and finally be able to put a face to the image I had of the people I was staying with. It was hard that first day but I still couldn’t help but smile. I’m in AFRICA!!!

26 June 2018

After 36+ hours of travel and 24 hours on planes, I finally made it! It was more than a little hectic with three delays, one reroute and one lost bag but I wouldn’t have changed a thing! I couldn’t help but smile knowing I was on my way to Africa 😊 (Here you can see me arriving in Detroit, making my way through security, on the plane to London, at the UK border, with my new Ghanan friend, Hassan, and on the bus in Ethiopia!!) It’s all very exciting and new! Stay tuned for more of the adventure as I get WiFi!