Believe it or not, it has been almost an entire year since I set off for Kenya. Within the past year, I have worked on a dude ranch in Colorado, visited friends in Paris, lived in New York and am now on the move to California to pursue my passion of photography. It has been an amazing year!
I must say though that not a day has passed where I have not thought about my time in Kenya. Maybe I’m obsessed, maybe I’m crazy, or maybe Kenya (the country, the people, the culture, etc.) impacted me in a way that I could have never imagined it to. For this one-year anniversary post, I would like to reflect on all the reasons why I miss Kenya but first I think it is important for me to continue where I left off on the blog because I left out an entire month’s (February) worth of incredible experiences. To keep organized and to keep this post from being a million pages long, I will write a separate post following this one of reflections.
I spent the majority of my February with Arrive in the small village of Nyaturubu in Keumbu. A lot happened this month, so this is going to be a long one..
We had a lot of visitors at Arrive!
The two boys (pictured) that Brian is talking to were the first of our visitors. They are two street boys that walked a whole 11.5km (about 3-5 hour walk) barefoot all the way from Kisii town to our home in Keumbu. Word had gotten out on the street that the Keumbu Rehema Children’s Home (Arrive) is a pretty nice place to live and yeah it is, but unfortunately the home cannot support all of the street dwellers of the area as there is not nearly enough space. Brian respectfully interviewed the two boys. The older of the two did most of the talking. It was hard for me as an outsider to watch this interaction, not only because they were mainly speaking in kiSwahili but also because of the emotion built up in the younger, timid boy (he was wiping his tears away the whole time). Unfortunately, the older boy did not seem as if he were being honest with Brian and Brian had to ask the two to leave. It was not easy for Brian to tell children to go back to the streets (in fact, it’s extremely difficult for him to do) but again, there is not enough space to house all of the 200,000+ street dwellers of the area.
Duke, Enok, Brian and I took a field trip to visit Duke and Enok’s “homes” before Arrive. I gave Duke and Enok each a camera to play around with for the day. Watching them reintroduce themselves into their old terrain, clean and sober, was incredible and how they documented this experience on camera is even more amazing!
Brian and I took a weekend trip to Nairobi to visit Gretta.
Gretta works for General Electric and had been on assignment in Nairobi for some time. She has been a HUGE contributor to Arrive! One of her biggest accomplishments was in helping Arrive receive a grant from GE to build a running water system and fishpond. (both in which were installed in the Spring and look awesome!) While in Kenya, Gretta also had a whole bunch of authentic Kenyan bags and shoes made at a Nairobi marketplace to sell when she got back to the states as another way to fundraise for Arrive. Did I mention that she’s amazing!
Pastor Robert, Mama Terry, Brian and I took a visit to Kisii town to do some back to school shopping for the girls going to secondary school.
Thanks to a few extremely kind people, five of the girls in the community (2 from the home) were able to go on to secondary school!
A couple weeks passed, and it was time for one of the greatest visits of them all! Max, my older brother, came to visit for my last two weeks in Kenya. I had just two weeks to show him how truly incredible Kenya is. I knew that that would not be hard, but that is not enough time to see everything.
I travelled into Nairobi the day before Max’s arrival to spend some time with some friends. I met up with Simon, Martin, and a couple of the other boys that I regularly hung out with while I was living in Nairobi. I almost instantly noticed that one of the boys that regularly meets with us, Kennedy, was missing. “Where is that little punk?” I had wondered and went on to ask. The boys told me that he was back on the street. He was having problems at home. My heart sunk. I almost instantly grabbed my phone, called Kelvo (good friend/taxi driver) and asked him if he could pick me up and help me find Kennedy. We both agreed that we would search for him the following day because it was getting late and was starting to rain. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty irritated. I wanted to go find him just at that very moment. I couldn’t fathom the idea of this little guy sleeping in a dumpster. In reality though he had been sleeping on the street for some time (I had to keep telling myself at least) so one day more would not hurt.
After spending countless hours with the boys at the mall, I decided it was about time to get back to Winnie (my first host/where I stayed that night) so that I could eat dinner with her and catch up on things. I said my goodbyes to the boys and agreed to meet them the following day and then got on the bus. I was on the bus for less than a minute when it started up. While it was moving I heard a knock on the window to my right, I looked over and it was Kennedy! He saw me from a distance get on the bus. He wanted to say hi. I immediately got up from my seat and banged on the bus door and ordered the driver to stop the bus. I jumped off the bus while it was practically still moving and then ran over to hug Kennedy (regardless of the filth he was in). I could not help but start tearing up at the sight of him. From just looking at him, I could tell he was not doing well, at all. I sat him down to talk and he was high. He was unhappy. Above all things he was hungry. I called Winnie and postponed our dinner date for the following evening so that I could get Kennedy some food. I made an agreement with Kennedy: I would get him pizza if he came back and met me the next day, sober (I had nowhere to keep him that night). He agreed. We went into the mall to get pizza and boy can I tell you that that was an experience getting Kennedy as street kid into the mall. Now I have been to this mall several times before with Kennedy but never had I been there with him as a street kid. The mall security at “mzungu” malls despise street children (as some of them do try to steal/ torment the cops). Generally, the security/cops will beat the kids if they even get close to the mall entrance. I had to practically hold Kennedy’s hand for them to allow me to take him inside.
Max’s Arrival Day
The next day rolled in. I went to the mall first thing in the morning to meet up with Kennedy. I waited and waited for a while and then he showed up! I was not expecting it but he came with a friend. Both boys were dirty! It was about time these two got cleaned up so the three of us went on a hunt through the streets of Kawanguare for some new clothes and shoes. After, we went on an even bigger hunt searching for a public shower where they could clean off in and then we went to get them haircuts.
After getting the boys cleaned up, we got lunch and hung out for some time. Then, I had to go get prepared for Max’s arrival that evening. It was too hard for me say goodbye to Kennedy that day so I didn’t. I had him meet me a couple of hours later for dinner and had him come pick Max up with me at the airport.
Max arrived safe and sound! Kennedy was so excited to meet his “long lost brother” as he called Max. Kennedy spent the night with us at our hostel. The next day, was day one of our two week adventure.
Day One Nairobi
In the afternoon we met up with Brian to bring Max to Mlango Kubwa, a slum on the east side of Nairobi in Eastleigh (the dirtiest and most dangerous slum region in all of Nairobi) to show Max a less touristic, more “real” side of Kenya.
On day two, we departed Nairobi and headed west. On the previous day both Brian and Max fell in love with Kennedy’s personality just as I had, and Brian decided there was no way he could go back to the street. “Kennedy’s coming home with us,” he said. Boy was I happy! The four of us rode together to Narok (about 2hr30min from Nairobi) and then parted ways. Brian and Kennedy took another car further west towards the home in Keumbu while Max and I went on a safari in the Maasai Mara Reserve with the coolest safari guide, Mike Githari.
After an incredible three-day safari, Max and I were introduced to some Maasai people and were invited into their village. The Maasai are a group of semi-nomadic people that are known for their distinctive customs and dress. What makes the the Maasai unique is how they stick true to many of there age-old traditions.
Max has Arrived
After our safari, Max and I headed further west back home to Keumbu. At this point, I do admit, I was really really missing the kids a lot! I was so excited for Max to finally meet them all! For his first day in Keumbu, we welcomed Max with a beautiful sunset hike and the following morning we went to visit the school.
Last night in Keumbu with Arrive.
What better way to celebrate Max’s and my last night in Keumbu than with the kid’s first ever bonfire, first ever s’mores and with some soda pop!
Back to Nairobi
Back in Nairobi, Max and I went to visit Meta Meta Orphanage.
Mombasa & Diani Beach Max and I spent our last couple days on the Kenyan coast at a backpackers hostel just south of Mombasa on Diani Beach.