Kenya Journal – Day One in Kiria

July 30, 2011

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I took the picture in the village we stopped in to buy our gumboots. The kids loved making faces.

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It’s 6:25pm Kenya time on Saturday and we just checked in to the Panorama Hotel where we are staying for the remainder of our time here in Kenya. The hut where we are staying is small. Very small. But we have mosquito nets for our beds and an actual toilet. You have absolutely no idea how valuable an actual toilet is right now. More on that later. Dinner is at 7, so I thought now might be a good time to dump my brain of everything in it from today.

So today: woke up (late – silly alarms), had breakfast, devotion with the team, and then loaded the bus and we hit the road to Kiria. The city of Nairobi is huge – I would ask what city we were in like every 20 min or so I felt like and they’d still say Nairobi. The people are beautiful, but the city is dirty. There’s trash everywhere and since they don’t have landfills, they burn everything… And so the air smells like smoke.

We passed by Kibera, which is the largest slum in Kenya (and I believe it is also the largest slum in Africa, but I won’t swear to that). There are 3 million people living there. 3 million. And let’s just say, it’s not a large area. I know there’s an organization at UNC called Carolina for Kibera that raises awareness and money for the community.

Once we got off the highway about 45 minutes into the drive, it was a lot of dirt roads. And bumpy ones. Oh my. Really bumpy. But the landscape here is beautiful. Mountainous and lots of flora (yeah, I just used the word flora).

We passed through a few different villages and then stopped to use the restroom at a little market and Great Rift Valley overlook. It’s 8,000 feet above the valley and unbelievably beautiful. It was tough because we weren’t allowed to buy anything from the market, but the moment we got off the bus we were swarmed with sweet girls selling us their handmade goods.

Then it was time to use the “bathrooms”.

Okay, now I was a girl scout, I enjoy the outdoors, bugs (outside my home) don’t really bother me, etc. But I don’t think I was properly prepared for the pit latrines. They’re little wooden shacks covering a hole in the ground. That’s it. Nothing to hold on to, no TP, and about an inch of muck, whoknowswhat, and a whole lot of flies and mosquitos. It was definitely a team building experience between Brit, Amy, and myself.

We left and headed further north to Kiria. We stopped one more time in a little town about 20 minutes away and bought gum boots. This was our first real interaction with the kids and the people. The kids are so amazing. So happy and they wave and smile. Many without shoes on just run around playing without a care in the world. All they want you to do is take pictures of them and show them. Many of them would point and ask which one they were because they’d never seen themselves. Then they’d laugh and laugh at their photo and run away.

Got the gum boots, and headed another 20 minutes or so to Kiria. The drive from Nairobi to Kiria took about 4 hours with two stops.

As we pulled up the final leg of the mountain, the image I saw will forever be with me. Waiting for us at the end of the road was about 100+ kids and their families from the Kiria primary school dancing and singing to us. They are the most joyful, grateful, and (you’ll hear me use this word a lot) beautiful people.

As we stepped off the bus, many of my teammates who came last year hugged kids and elders they remembered and all of a sudden I look down and there’s at least 6-7 kids like latched on to me – holding my hands, tugging my shirt, and saying “Jambo! What is your name?” Adorable. (On a side note my name is hard for them to pronounce so they all think my name is Mary and/or Maury – awesome – I love it).

We walked the group to the primary school and received our formal welcome from the elders and children. I was so emotional and overwhelmed looking at all of them that I just started to cry. I leaned over to a teammate who was on the trip last year and asked if it was too early to cry… She said no way. It’s never too early.

The kids left and we walked around the schoolyard for a bit before heading out for home visits. My group was me, Sarah, and Dave and we met up with Nithiri (NIH-tear-ee – I am probably spelling his name way wrong) and Sampson. Nithiri is 82 and has lived in Kiria his whole life. He liked Sarah and me so much that he dubbed us his grandchildren and in turn, we dubbed him gramps. Sampson is 30 and spoke English the best so he helped to translate and tell us what was going on. We toured Nithiri’s family farm and talked about the crops they grow, the animals they keep, and they asked questions about our home. Their best crop is potatoes, so I told him about French Fries. 馃檪

We then went to visit the home of Lucy and Margaret and Lucy’s daughter Mary was there, too. Lucy is 67 and is in very poor health. It appears that she had a stroke (the signs were evident, but they didn’t say) and overall, she just wasn’t doing well. So Nithiri, Sampson, and one of the pastors that was there asked us to give Lucy some words of encouragement and pray for her.

It was one of the most powerful moments I’ve witnessed. Two completely different cultures bonding together over the love, prayer, and hope of this woman. Watching the tears fall from Mary’s eyes as we sat there fellowshipping broke me. It may sound cliche and trite, but this was definitely a defining moment for me. These people who have nothing more really than a small roof over their heads, clothes on their back, and the love of each other – yet, they couldn’t be happier.

They are truly inspiring. We should all be so grateful of everything that we are so blessed to have. Yet the most superficial day-to-day stuff can consume us and make us forget how lucky we really are.

Lucy, Margaret, and Mary – three amazing women who I will truly never forget.

We left home visits and headed to our hotel which is about an hour and fifteen to an hour and a half away. Oh, and we stopped again to go to the bathroom. The number of flies and Mosquitos is indescribable. I am going to be totally frank and honest when I say that the bathroom situation is going to be the biggest challenge for me. Working, serving the people, traveling, etc etc etc I can do. But getting used to squatting over a hole in the ground surrounded by bugs is going to be tough to get used to.

Well, that brings us to present time. Eating dinner, laughing, and sharing experiences from day with my amazing team. Oh! And I’m have a Coca-cola Light (like Diet Coke) in a glass bottle! They have them here for 100 shillings (equals like $.80 cents).

On a side note, I’d just like to say that I’m honored to be a part of this team. There are some really amazing people with huge hearts here and it’s a pleasure to serve alongside them. I hope that I can learn from those who came last year, I hope that I can learn from those who didn’t and who have other gifts to share, and I hope I can learn a little more about myself along the way.

I’m not going to apologize for my long-windedness like I usually do. I want to make sure I don’t forget anything.

And if you made it this far and you’re still reading this, I’ll buy you dinner.

Just kidding.

But seriously.

I will. If you honestly made it this far, the least I can do I feed you.

All for now and much love,

Molly / Mary / Maury

(finished writing at 7:37pm – my golly I write a lot)