Life as I Know It

What a whirlwind. Two weeks in and I feel like I’ve been here 2 months. So much has happened! While I don’t intend for this blog to be solely chronicles of my travels, I do feel like it’s appropriate to share a bit of my life so far, then we can dive into details of the project another time. As I sit here eating chapati with peanut butter and jam (don’t knock it ’til you try it), I’m having a hard time finding the words to describe this experience thus far. So many beautiful moments, plenty of nerves, some sleep-like-you’re-dead nights, and some conversations that have reminded me again and again why I’m here. I’ve learned a few words of Kiswahili, practiced some very rusty soccer skills, learned to peel and  chop carrots into my own palm, and spent time with a lot of incredible people. Rahab and I preparing for the venture home after school last Saturday.     There certainly isn’t a typical day here in Njabini. I’ve only been here 14 days and I’ve already ridden a bus halfway across the country and back. Nevertheless, I’ve heard some people like to know what I get up to so here’s a “typical” day if there ever was one… 7:00 am — Good morning! Kate, the other Global Advocate whose time overlaps with mine, is usually awake and the boarding girls who live at the house are leaving for school. We drink coffee, make eggs with avocado toast (never had better avos than here), and bum around on our computers for a while. This is when I typically intend to go for a run. I blame my laziness on not knowing all the tiny winding roads yet, but let’s be real, I just don’t want to have to take a shower. Our social worker, Edwin, promises to drag me with him one of these mornings. 11:00 am — After wrapping up some project research, we head out for school, leaving Alice, Christine, Edwin, and Amos hard at work in the office. The walk is a gorgeous 30 minutes and includes some intense hills that caused me great distress when I wasn’t used to the altitude. 11:30 am — I help Mom (Phoebe, the head matron whose been with FK since the beginning) chop vegetables from the farm for lunch– my cabbage slicing and carrot dicing skills are coming along nicely. I sit with the teachers during break to drink chai while the kids have porridge. We chat and joke about how Mom is going to make Teacher Robert marry her daughter. 1:00 pm — Lunch! We’ll usually have mshenye (potatoes, beans, and corn mashed) or rice with lentils and a banana. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a fresh pineapple from the farm. After eating with the kids, we play games and clean up. 2:00 — I sit in on a meeting Kate is having with one of the teachers regarding the health programs she’s implementing. Although my project is focused around Monitoring and Evaluation, it’s been helpful to absorb as much as possible about everything that goes on here. Sometimes we have meetings with people we’re trying to partner with, like the incoming book club, Vitabu Vyetu. 4:00– I catch a ride back to the house with the girls or sometimes I take a motorbike home. Riding by motorbike is hands down the best way to appreciate how beautiful Njabini is. 4:30– More research, emails, journaling, or video calls with the Mama Hope crew. If I’m lucky, it’s time to play hide and go seek in the yard or practice handstands with the kids. 5:30 — Dinner time! Chapati, cabbage, and pea stew… Ugali with sautéed kale and fish… The list goes on. We seriously have the best cooks. 6:00 — Family Meeting. The girls read aloud or lead (a very squirmy) meditation. We talk about our peaks and valleys of the day, what we learned, and what we’re grateful for. The matron on duty might make an announcement and then we close out with a big “D-O-N-E.” 6:30 — The girls head to tutoring in the dining hall for 90 minutes. The Flying Kites kids work so hard and it shows. They are smart, inquisitive, and unique. One of the boys, Isaac, is an incredible artist who just spent hours painting a beautifully intricate flower onto an empty frame at the house (picture to come). I am constantly learning all the ways that make them amazing. 8:00 — The girls come hang out in the volunteers’ room or we all watch a Kenyan soap opera in the family room (auntie Leila doesn’t approve, so sometimes we’ll watch cartoons instead :)) 9:30– BEDTIME. I chill with a book and am out by 10 pm. It’s a beautiful thing.   Even as I write this, there hasn’t been a single day that went exactly this way, but that’s the beautiful thing about this experience: my days aren’t ruled by schedules; they’re ruled by conversations, children, an unforeseen need, and the option to remain in the moment. This week in particular has been hectic and inspiring. I’ll be posting about our time spent in Lwala and Nairobi in a couple of days. For now, I’ll end with some questions I’ve been asking myself lately… How do we define impact and the people whose lives are touched by the work we do? Can we slow down in moments when we feel stressed or frustrated? Can we find the roots of those unmet expectations and toss them out the window? When we look at a place from the outside, what are the things that make it beautiful that can’t be seen with the naked eye?