I’m sitting here in the office at Mudzini Kwetu after an amazing week and an amazing day, with a young coconut sliced open for me to sip while I write. I just finished my whole-hearted (but slightly unsuccessful attempt) to learn to climb the coconut tree in bare feet with a rope around my ankles, went SCUBA diving yesterday for sights of beautiful fish and sea life, and have been continuing to nosh on mangos and passionfruits far too often. We ventured into Mombasa two days ago, and I’m waiting for the tailor down the road to finish making me my dress out of my kanga (the colorful fabric wraps the women wear around Kenya).
I was invited to the girls’ school today to give a presentation on health (water, sanitation, hygiene, HIV, and STIs) to the 5-6 form students in the morning, and the 7-8 form students in the evening. Apparently I pull off being a teacher pretty well, since all of the girls said they really enjoyed my presentation and thought that was my actual job! The students are really well informed, as health education is part of the national curriculum every year, and they make a point of teaching about safe water practices, hygiene, sanitation, and HIV.
The topic of HIV is specifically introduced in the fifth form, and they continue to talk about it every subsequent years. As most of the girls at the home have been orphaned by HIV, one is positive, and the Coast province has a high prevalence of the disease, it’s particularly important for children in the area to be informed. The Bhari Parents Academy, where the girls attend, has a very open policy about the information shared with their students; they greatly encourage teachers and staff to be open with students and answer any questions they might have, which created some very long, lively question-and-answer sessions after each presentation. I had them write the questions down on paper, to avoid anyone feeling uncomfortable asking something in front of their peers, and got quite the variety, including a, “Do you have a boyfriend or a husband?” from one of the 8th form boys. It was a great experience to get to work with so many of the students, play with the little ones at lunch (if you ever come to Africa, bring loads of bubbles!), and get to know the headmaster and one of the teachers.
I head back to Nairobi early Sunday morning, so I only have one more day with the girls. Then some errands and last minute sight seeing around the city, and it’s back to the States late Monday night. I can’t even believe I’ll be back in Chicago at 10:30 on Tuesday morning…Many people told me, before I left in May, that once I visited Africa I would never want to leave, and would spend my time at home longing for my next trip. I never understood quite what they meant until now. It tears me up to think about leaving these wonderful girls, and not having a gaggle of children around my ankles when I walk out of my house in the morning. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I have such a great appreciation for all of the work the people here at Mudzini Kwetu and so many other homes in the area do to make the lives of these children better than they could ever be on the streets or on their own.
I’ve become so accustomed to life here, with the rice and beans, fresh fruit, laid back lifestyle, walking everywhere, matatus, kangas, and the genuine, pure love of life each person I’ve encountered has shown me, that I can hardly imagine going home to what now seems to be a sterile and commercial lifestyle back in the States. Of course, I’ll enjoy having constant access to flush toilets (with TP) and the ability to get any kind of food I want at a moment’s notice, but there are so many things here that make my cup of joy overflow, as Okello would say, which I won’t have back in the US. Africa and especially Kenya, with its people, culture, and love, will always have a dear place in my heart, no matter where I am.