Another week has past and we’re well into March which means the beginning of the rainy season here in Nairobi, which translates to “cold water.” It surprisingly rains almost as much here as in Vancouver in a year but all in 3 months. The road gets really muddy and we take the long way home from school but overall it’s kinda pleasant. It clears the dust in the air and gives the city a lush, tropical smell (sometimes mixed with a hint of sewage). I am surprised by the number of days which I reach for a sweater or a scarf since we’re so close to the equator but the roughly 5 and a half thousand ft elevation makes for some surprisingly chilly days (by this I mean like 15 Celsius).
Last week we still made it into the slum to visit Haki in the morning for the children’s program. We thought we’d be going there to play with the kids (who are aged 2-11ish) but when we arrived they asked us to run a session. We respectfully declined offering to participate in theirs and so they jumped right into it. The topic? Sexual abuse and rape. For a someone who thought we were just gonna play with kids, it was a heavy morning when small children recite that you must visit the hospital within 72 hours and don’t bathe or wash your clothes to preserve evidence.
On the right is Mark who’s 10. He wants to be a carpenter and built this little house out of scraps he found on the road.I also met Jessica, a 7 year old with a million dollar smile. She has some sort of disability but we managed to have a great conversation about her family and life. Every now and then you meet people who are just so jubilant that it puts everything in perspective. She was definitely one of these stars and I can’t wait to spend more time with her. This kids group and building her up is especially relevant in Kenya, as the trend now is that rape and sexual abuse among the mentally and physically disabled girls and women in the nation is on the rise.
One of the highlights of late was being able to gift the students with a new volleyball. They love playing volleyball during break and lunch and Fridays after class has ended early and there’s some pretty intense rallies. We noticed last week that they had to stop and pump their old ball up every couple of hits and one of the students explained to us that they stuck little pieces of dried grass in holes to keep it from leaking. After the break, Hannah and I looked at each other and almost at the same moment said, “We should buy them a new ball.” So we went looking that very day and managed to come up with a pretty good substitute.
It did cost us a bit but seeing the happy smiles on their faces when we unexpectedly showed up with a new ball was worth it (although Francis is not smiling in this photo, trust me he was happy) . We tried to take a photo of when we gave it to them but they ran off to show their friends too quickly. One guy even wanted to leave his class to start playing right away but the mother in me promptly scolded him. It is a fine balance when to give and when not to. We don’t want to come across as if we want to “save” them with our money and you want to be careful what kind of precedent you’re setting. But in this case, we intended the ball as a gift and we explained it as such and it was well received.
Finally, as an unexpected surprise last weekend Hannah and I got to visit Bob and Tricia in their new home at Rift Valley Academy in
Kijabe which is about an hour and a half outside Nairobi. RVA is an AIM boarding school for missionary kids in Africa. The school is in the BEA-U-TI-FUL Rift Valley and it was such a great getaway. It was refreshing to be out of the city air and just surrounded by the trees and where there’s no garbage on the ground. I also had my first taste of real, freshly percolated coffee in two months and although I’m no connoisseur it sure was delicious and infinitely better then instant coffee. A gallon of ice cream was also consumed in two days…
We also made a visit to Kijabe Hospital where we ran into Jeremiah, a surgical intern who was part of Hannah’s orientation group in the US, and he was kind enough to give us a tour of the hospital. We even saw some photos (much to Hannah’s chagrin) of a couple of the procedures he’s been involved in. You know the usual: an enlarged thyroid, a thickened pocket of pus that compacted ribs and one involving a large intestine that I’ll spare details of. Many of you know that I was once a nursing student and so I’m quite comfortable being in the hospital and really interested in medicine and who knows, maybe I’ll find myself there again.
Basically, life sometimes catches you off guard. Like a splash of cold water. It can be refreshing and revitalizing and other times it’s a shock and inconvenient or even painful. It may be as small as needing a sweater in Equatorial Africa or as jarring as hearing a 6 year old tell me what rape is. Either way, it’s what makes life interesting and dynamic and I cannot wait to see where my next splash comes from. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be a tidal wave…